Good quality nutrition is essential to an animal’s long-term health, and our dogs are no exception. Any balanced dog diet is based on six elements: carbohydrates, fats, minerals, proteins, water and vitamins.

The nutritional content of the food your dog ingests will affect their mood, behavior, general health, and longevity. A 2007 study of the effects of diet on dog behavior found that inadequate nutrition inhibits the brain, nervous system, and every metabolic process. And because a dog’s behavior is a direct result of what happens in its central nervous system, good nutrition is of paramount importance to a well-behaved, high-functioning, happy dog ​​that can enjoy many years of quality.

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There are many dog ​​foods out there, but not all are created equal. A pet nutrition plan is very individual and can depend on variables such as age, weight, or underlying medical conditions. Nom Nom has compiled a list of 15 things to look out for when buying dog food, from veterinarian recommended brands to artificial additives to avoid.

Top of the list are considerations such as the freshness and nutritional value of the food dogs eat, as well as recommendations from a trusted veterinarian. Depending on your dog’s health and current status, secondary considerations such as dry or wet food and the frequency of meals can be important.

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Recommendations from your veterinarian

The person most closely related to your dog’s health is your pet’s veterinarian. These trained professionals are aware of the medical history, physical or behavioral issues, and conditions your pet may be suffering from, whether it’s weight control or ear infections. Always consult a veterinarian who has seen your dog before changing brands of dog food or making a selection yourself. He can advise you on ingredients to avoid or any special considerations for your dog’s specific needs.

FreshnessNataliya Schmidt / Shutterstock

Freshness

The possibility of making dog food stable in storage consists in adding preservatives. Fresh foods with shorter shelf lives often mean higher nutrient levels and fewer additives – two great benefits for your dog’s health.

To avoid the usually higher cost of fresh food, some pet owners opt to prepare dog food themselves. This can be time consuming and dangerous as home cooking lacks the nutrition tests that are regularly done for commercial diets. All homemade meals for your dog should follow the directions of a veterinary nutritionist.

Nowadays there are a number of fresh food services delivered right to your doorstep. If you go down this route, make sure the service works with veterinary nutritionists for information on serving size, ingredients, and more.

Guaranteed analysisalexi_tm / Shutterstock

Guaranteed analysis

Many states require pet foods to clearly state minimum and maximum percentages: specifically, guaranteed minimum percentages of crude fat and protein; Maximum proportion of moisture and crude fiber. Almost all dog food labels contain this information. Many manufacturers also offer additional nutritional guarantees such as minimum calcium or maximum ash.

Declaration on the adequacy of dietTwin Sails / Shutterstock

Declaration on the adequacy of diet

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary organization of feed control officials in the United States who set basic pet food regulations, including optimal guaranteed analyzes, recommended ingredients, and other pet food labeling guidelines. AAFCO’s nutritional adequacy claims in relation to pet food confirm that the food you receive is fully optimized for dogs.

FatsJaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock

Fats

Fat is an essential source of energy that is an integral part of cell structure, the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and even hormone production. Look out for good fats that are unsaturated (e.g., animal-based ingredients) and rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Breed and weight specific foodBest dog photo / shutterstock

Breed and weight specific food

A Newfoundland has completely different nutritional needs than a Chihuahua, and an overweight dog will have a completely different diet than a dog that needs a few extra pounds. Always pay attention to your dog’s specific needs.

Age-appropriate foodAngel Beata / Shutterstock

Age-appropriate food

Like your dog’s breed and weight, age is an important factor in nutritional needs. The type of food – and how much of it – you feed your dog depends on their age. For older dogs, many foods provide additional support for things like joint pain.

Properly sealed packagesFayzulin Serg / Shutterstock

Properly sealed packages

Dog food that is delivered without proper packaging or that has broken the seal should not be consumed by your dog as the food may have been tampered with or lost its freshness. Opened containers may also contain other ingredients or contents, rendering their nutritional information inaccurate or invalid.

Whole proteins as the first ingredientsAfrica Studio / Shutterstock

Whole proteins as the first ingredients

Any food you feed your dog should have whole proteins as the first ingredients, such as: B. ground beef, chicken cubes or dried yeast. Avoid chicken-flavored, natural-flavored dog foods, or soybean meal at the top.

Whole vegetables and fruitsDvorakova Veronika / Shutterstock

Whole vegetables and fruits

Similar to protein, look out for ingredient labels on whole vegetables and fruits like sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, and even blueberries. Whole products can help with anything from shiny coats to improving eyesight.

Lack of artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or preservativesLucia Romero / Shutterstock

Lack of artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or preservatives

Certain preservatives can trigger reactions in your dog’s metabolism that can lead to weight gain and diabetes, while artificial sweeteners and flavorings can add excessive amounts of sugar to a pet’s diet. As with human nutrition, look for ingredients that you can pronounce – not to mention the easy-to-see ones.

Ingredients without corn and soyNew Africa / Shutterstock

Ingredients without corn and soy

Corn, soy, and other grains in and of themselves are not inherently unhealthy – they can actually be beneficial to dogs – but they are also allergens to many dogs and can cause weight gain with no significant nutritional benefits. If you were to list optimal ingredients for a dog’s food, corn and soy wouldn’t make the top 10.

Brands with veterinary nutritionists / studies to secure the foodPumbastyle / Shutterstock

Brands with veterinary nutritionists / studies to secure the food

Brand life doesn’t necessarily mean trustworthiness. Research dog food brands to find those who have done their own research and studies, and employ a veterinary nutritionist.

Food that suits your dog's activity levelotsphoto / Shutterstock

Food that suits your dog’s activity level

Does your dog guard a chicken coop, a horse stable or several acres of hilly fields? Or do you take short walks with your pet a few times a day? How much energy a dog uses each day is a great indicator of the specific nutrients needed to support that lifestyle.

Cost pointJaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock

Cost point

In the world of dog food, you get what you pay for – but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to get basic, healthy nutrients into your pet. At the start of your study, determine the average monthly dog ​​food cost for the breed and age you are interested in before you bring the dog home. From there you can set a budget for reliable food that will ensure optimal nutrition for your pet without compromising. You should never be in a position where you cannot support your pet’s overall health.