Are you buying the right dog food?

You might think you’re buying the right dog food… but are you sure? Use this checklist to see if Fido’s diet is as good as he deserves.  

When you first pick up a dog food bag or can, it can be difficult to determine whether it’s a good choice or a not-so-good one. To make things easier, we broke down some “dog food fundamentals” that’ll help you make the best choice for your furry friend.


AAFCO stands for The Association of American Feed Control Officials. They have standards outlined for pet food companies to meet when creating their foods. With that said, it’s important to make sure any food you’re considering for your pet has the AAFCO statement. This means the pet food has been formulated to AAFCO nutrient requirements or has undergone AAFCO feeding studies to ensure it meets your dog’s nutritional requirements to stay healthy.

First five ingredients

Ingredients on your pet’s food label are listed by quantity – in other words, the ones that appear first are the predominant ingredients in that food. The dog food you’re considering should have a meat protein listed as the first ingredient as opposed to a grain or vegetable. If the second ingredient is a protein or protein meal as well, that’s even better! An example of a company that exceeds this standard is Essence Pet Foods, in which the first five ingredients are a protein or a protein meal (see image at right).


Because protein plays an important role in your dog’s bodily development and functions, it’s important to ensure there’s enough of it in your dog’s food. “Make sure that the guaranteed analysis (the label that is usually on the side or back that gives the percentages) shows at least a minimum of 18% crude protein for an adult dog and 22.5% crude protein for a growing dog,” says veterinarian Dr. Bradley Quest. “Most premium pet foods contain higher levels of protein that meet the minimum required amount by AAFCO.”

Amino acid balance

Amino acids are considered the building blocks of protein. They are organic compounds that play an important role in a number of essential bodily processes. Your dog requires 22 different amino acids to thrive; however, his body can only produce 12 of these. The remaining 10 are essential amino acids that need to come from what he eats. “This means a diet should contain sufficient high-quality protein to satisfy a dog’s metabolic needs providing the essential amino acids they need to stay healthy,” says Dr. Quest.

Vitamins and minerals

It’s important that the food your dog eats contains enough essential vitamins and minerals. Look for a dog food that consists of vitamin E, vitamin D3, vitamin B12, and others. Minerals such as zinc proteinate, iron proteinate and copper proteinate are also important. It’s a bonus is if the pet food contains superfoods such as chia seeds and pumpkin, which deliver an extra boost of vitamins and minerals. An example of a pet food recipe that has these vitamins is the Essence Air & Gamefowl Recipe.

Food sensitivities?

Because every dog is different, it’s important to take into consideration any food sensitivities your dog may have. If he reacts to a certain protein or turns his nose up to it, it’s best to try different varieties to see which one works best for him. “Food allergies are an allergic reaction of the dog’s immune system usually to a certain protein,” says Dr. Quest. “In certain cases, true food allergies are the result of repeated exposure to the same protein. We are not really sure why one individual dog can develop allergies to a certain protein and the next dog will not.”

Choosing your dog’s food is a very important decision – one that will have a huge effect on his life. With so many options and multiple pet food brands to select from, it’s only normal that questions may arise. Talk with your veterinarian about the various dog food components listed in this article, and don’t be afraid to call companies directly to get answers!