One of the most common concerns of new dog ownership is what food is best for my puppy or adult dog.  Pet supply stores have dozens of foods to choose from and it is easy to be distracted by pretty pictures and lofty health claims.  Important information is often easy to miss.  Learning to read a food label is essential to ensure the food you are providing will not be harmful to your dog. 


  1.  Some foods have an abundance of soy, wheat, white rice, oatmeal, barley, and other grains.  These are cheap fillers used in place of meat, fish, and poultry.
  2. Sugars are bad for a dog’s teeth and can cause obesity. 
  3. Xylitol, a sugar substitute that can be toxic to a dog.  Xylitol can also be found in peanut butter.
  4. Meat and Poultry By-Products.  By-products usually consist of the leftovers after the parts of a slaughtered animal fit for consumption, are removed.  By-products can include feet, bones, and organs you don’t want in your pet’s food. 
  5. Plant Proteins.  Dogs are carnivorous by nature which means their bodies are biologically adapted to deriving nutrition more efficiently from animal products than plant products.  Plant proteins such as pea, potato or bean proteins are not necessarily bad but offer little nutritional value.
  6. Artificial Preservatives such as BHT, BHA and Ethoxyquin.
  7. Coloring Agents.
  8. Artificial Flavors.
  9. Unnamed or Vague Meat Ingredients such as meat or bone meal.


  1. Meat, Poultry and Fish as the first ingredients.  Labels organize ingredients in a descending order based on volume, so the first listed ingredients will be the ones that make up the most volume.
  2. Nutritional values for each ingredient.
  3. Natural Preservatives, such as Vitamin C, E, or plant extracts such as rosemary.
  4. Life Stage and Breed Appropriate information.
  5. Minerals, vitamins, and probiotic additives.

Healthy animal-based fats are a valuable addition to a high-quality diet.  Fat provides your dog with a concentrated source of energy as well as omega fatty acids for skin and coat health.  These can include salmon oil, chicken fat and fish proteins.

Your dog can’t pick out his own food, so it is up to you to make a smart and healthy choice on his behalf.  The diet you choose will have a significant impact on his total health and wellness.