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Home » Choosing the Best Dry Food for Your Dog

Choosing the Best Dry Food for Your Dog

In this Springtime Dog Health Spotlight, we examine each of the four major dog feeding styles: dry, wet, raw, and homemade. We’ll go over the basics for each style, the pros/cons, best practices, and things to avoid.

Dry Dog Food: How It’s Made

Dry dog food is created from a process in which protein, grains, minerals, and other ingredients are mixed into dough, cooked under high temperature and pressure, and cut into a consistent nugget of food. This nugget, or kibble, is typically sprayed with animal fat (to enhance smell and taste) and vitamins (to provide complete nutrition). Finally, the nugget is dried to remove any moisture and packaged, resulting in a safe food source with a long, stable shelf life.

Dry Dog Food Summary


• Relatively inexpensive
• Convenient and easy to store
• Can be left out for hours without spoiling
• Government-regulated for nutrition and safety
• Good as training treat


• Often contains inferior protein sources
• Often contains grain and other fillers, which can lead to obesity
• Products containing grain can have mold known to cause liver issues
• Often contains unhealthy additives and preservatives
• Lack of water can have negative impact on digestion and kidneys
• Coating on kibble can cause dental disease
• Processing often destroys nutrients
• Does not provide live factors for wide spectrum nutrition

Choosing a Good Dry Dog Food

Choosing a good dry dog food is pretty straightforward: The more digestible animal protein it contains, the better it is. How can you tell? That’s the tricky part. First, make sure it meets the minimum requirements for a dog’s dietary needs by finding the words “balanced and complete” somewhere on the packaging. Those words on the package mean the food meets a government-enforced standard that separates dog food from dog treats (and dog mystery food). It also sets the “acceptable” limits on toxins and other substances you don’t want in your dog’s food. You might see a “Stated Protein Content” chart, which breaks down how much of the weight is protein, fat, fiber, etc. This is semi-helpful, but it can easily overstate the amount of protein, because the protein percentage includes indigestible protein and poorly absorbed protein sources. The best information is within the ingredient list.

The ingredients in your dog food are listed in descending order, based on the percentage of the weight they represent. Generally speaking, the top five ingredients comprise the bulk of the recipe, and the rest are in such small quantities they barely register. Of course, certain essential nutrients are only necessary in small quantities. However, if you’re buying a product that’s advertised as “lamb,” and “lamb” isn’t listed in the top-five ingredients, you and your dog are getting scammed.

Ideally, your first ingredient is a “single word” animal protein source with a name you recognize, such as “chicken” or “beef.” Typically, these are not human-grade cuts, but they still contain muscle meat. Following your “single word” ingredient, it is acceptable to find a “multiple word” protein source, such as “chicken byproduct” or “chicken meal.” These powders come from rendered animal carcasses and contain high levels of protein, fat, and other nutrients found in skin, bone, and organ meat. Dogs actually need essential nutrients they get from organ meat and bone, so these are appropriate ingredients, assuming the company’s rendering process hasn’t robbed them of their value. As a general rule, a meat “meal” is better than a meat “byproduct,” in terms of quality. A byproduct can legally contain indigestible protein sources, such as beaks and hooves, which inflate the overall protein content.


One main reason that dry dog foods are cheaper is because they include inferior vegetable-based protein sources, especially grains and cereals, but also peas, potatoes, and others. Vegetable protein sources are viable for dogs, but they have much less “usable” protein relative to their weight than animal and egg protein. Non-animal proteins, such as grains, are also high in carbohydrates, which can contribute to obesity in dogs. Grains are also susceptible to molds, which can introduce aflatoxins to your dog, which are known to present dangerous liver problems.

Additives & Preservatives

Like most processed foods, commercial dog foods can contain a long list of additives; however, dry dog foods tend to have the most. Some of these additives are essential vitamins to complete the required nutritional profile. Others are used to improve the look, taste, and consistency of the product to compensate for cheap, inferior ingredients. Natural preservatives, such as ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) are preferable to less healthy, synthetic preservatives. There is a long list of additives of additives found in various commercial dog foods. Here are some to avoid:

• BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)
• BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
• Ethoxyquin
• Food Dyes (Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, 4-MIE)
• PG (Propylene Glycol)

Live Factors

Wolves in the wild consume their kill in a specific order, beginning with the internal organs, moving on to the muscle meat, then the connective tissue, and ultimately the bones. By consuming the stomach contents of their prey they ingest the vegetable matter and live factors eaten by their vegetarian prey. The connective tissues provide important nutritional building blocks for their own joints. These live factors and other key nutrients are not found in commercial products or processed out of them, and should be supplemented.

To learn more about another feeding style, click one of the links below…

Intro on Dog Food

Wet Dog Food

Raw Dog Food

Homemade Dog Food

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No matter which feeding style you prefer, you can replicate the diet nature intended with these all-natural supplements for dogs:

Fresh Factors
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Joint Health Chewables
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The Combo
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Advanced Hip & Joint
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Joint Health Formula
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Powerful supplement blend, including chondroitin, MSM, glucosamine HCL, spirulina, and bee pollen, in a powder formula, to support multiple health functions.
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Chewable tablets with chondroitin sulfate, MSM, and glucosamine HCL for healthy joint support, and boswellia for comfort & mobility.
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Bee Pollen
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J-Flex Concentrate
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Spirulina Wafers
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Bee-collected pollen is a superfood that contains protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and live enzymes for optimal health and vitality.
An economical, single-ingredient supplement to support healthy joints and cartilage and to maintain a normal inflammatory response.
Nutritious raw blue-green microalgae to maintain the body’s immune, circulatory, and detoxifying systems. Great support for normal, healthy allergy response.
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