Dry dog food selection guide

This article is intended to provide some quick guidance on selecting a dry dog food based on various nutrients.

Before we start,  if you are new to being a dog owner, we would like to remind you have the option to supplement your dog’s meal to further maximize the nutritional completeness of your dog’s diet.

This guide will cover the following nutrition components:

  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • Fat
  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals


First thing you need to consider is the protein content, but really you need to think deeper and think amino acids. Amino acids of various types are what each protein molecule are constructed of. The body can synthesize some amino acids, but the rest must be dependent on the intake in their diet. More precisely, dogs cannot make 10 amino acids, which are referred to as essential amino acids.

The 10 Essential Amino Acid for dogs:

  1. Arginine
  2. Histidine
  3. Isoleucine
  4. Leucine
  5. Lysine
  6. Methionine
  7. Phenylalanine
  8. Threonine
  9. Tryptophane
  10. Valine

It is very important that you dog receives a healthy daily dose of each essential amino acid through proper selection of the protein source(s).  

Amino Acids are the building blocks of your dog’s flesh and bone; it builds cells, tissue, organs, hormones, etc… Also, it is critical in various bio processes. Without all the essential amino acids or without sufficient amounts the body’s system cannot function properly.

Now that we have an understanding of proteins and amino acids, you need to consider a dog recipe that can confidently deliver all 10. Meats are the best sources for providing all 10. Other sources such as grains, vegetables, and fruits may not provide all 10 and/or they may not provide enough of certain types of amino acids (unbalanced source).

Just a few examples of good meat sources to look for:

  • Beef
  • Bison
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Various Fish
  • etc..

For the same amount of volume, meals have more protein than straight named meats, since they have the water removed when compared on the ingredient list.

Thus, near the top of the ingredient lists of a dog food recipe, it is preferred:

  • First ingredient is a meat
  • First ingredient is a straight named meat (no “meal” or “by-product” descriptors)
  • There is more than one meat ingredient


Recipe 1 (high Carbs) Recipe 2 (Lower Carbs)
 Corn   Chicken
 Chicken  Chicken Meal
 Brewers Rice  Turkey Meal
 Turkey Meal  Pea protein
 Whole Grain Oats   Sweet Potatoes 
 Peas   Pork Fat
 Chicken fat  Oatmeal 
 Egg Product  Brown rice 
Barely Fish Oil
 Oat Flour  Flaxseed


Dogs can metabolize fat much better than humans. Of course, any in excess will lead to problems, thus don’t give the dog too much fat in their diet.
Fat provides various functions that include:
Provides energy

  • In the right amounts it helps promote metabolic rate
  • Is vital to absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, K, E,
  • Makes the food more tasty / palatable
  • Absorption of soluble vitamins
  • Amoung the listed above there are other

Fat is also important for reproductive efficiency, kidney function and the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. As a less well known fact, it also serves as a metabolic source of water, so a hard working dog is less likely to get dehydrated when fed a diet higher in fat.

Essential Fatty Acids

Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids are important because:

  • Support growth and reproduction of cells / tissue / body organs
  • Various systems bio functions
  • Helps reduce risk of diabetes, obesity , cancer, dementia, diseases, and other health issues

Sources of these acids are typically:

  • Various oils. A few examples:
    • flax/linseed oil
    • rapeseed or canola oil
    • hemp oil
    • soybean oil
    • cottonseed oil
    • sunflower seed oil
    • corn oil
    • safflower oil
    • other..
  • Various nuts. A few examples:
    • Cashews
    • Flaxseed
    • pecans
    • pine nuts
    • walnuts
    • other..
  • Various fish and fish oils

What to look for:

  • Nutritional information that shows Omega 3 and 6 fatty acid content
    • Omega-6 is typically around ~2% to 3%
    • Omega-3 is typically around ~0.25% to 0.35%
  • If not no nutritional information available look for ingredients that contain these fatty acids
  • Look for higher Omega-6 content than Omega 3. Select a ratio (Omega 6 : Omega 3) between 10:1 to 1:1 to get good health benefits. Within this range, there are various studies that suggest different ratio of the two as the optimal range. There is no clear agreement or find on what is best, and you will need to select something that you believe is best for your dog. Large ratio values beyond 10:1 may increase chances of diseases.


Fiber are complex carbohydrates that are typically not absorbed by the intestine system. The main purpose of fiber is to aid the digestive to form and make it easier to push out waste in the form of stool.

Fiber helps promote healthy bowel movements, and plays a partial role with weight management too.

Excessive fiber may lead to

  • the dog expelling gas
  • loose stool
  • more frequent bowels

Insufficient fiber intake can lead to:

  •         Diaherra
  •         Constipation
  •         Weight gain
  •         Blood sugar fluctuations  (This maybe a concern for dogs that are diabetic or close to being so)

On the label, the minimal requirement by the AAFCO is the guaranteed crude fiber level. The typical average values are about 3 to 4%. Of course, you may wish to explore and try something higher for your dog.



Vitamins are important for many body bio processes and functions, we don’t go into the details here, and rather just list what is needed.
Here are the two main vitamins to look for:
Fat soluble

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
  • Vitamin K (Naphthoquinone)

Water soluble

  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin)
  • Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid, Folate)
  • Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin, Cyanocobalamin)

Optional Vitamins as extra supplement:

  • Vitamin C is not on the list, since a dog’s body can synthesize it.
  • Vitamin D is also synthesized by the dog’s body provided it is exposed to UV / Sun light. As a good dog owner you should take your dog out frequently and let it get some sun. For whatever reason it does not receive the proper exposure, then you need to look for a dog food recipe with Vitamin D.



The body cannot synthesize minerals and therefore all the essential minerals must come from its food intake.
Some dog food offer have their minerals chelated, proteinate, or sequestered, which is better because the body can more easily absorb it. Here are some examples of what you may see on the ingredient list:

  • Manganese Amino Acid Chelate
  • Copper Proteinate
  • Zinc Amino Acid Chelate
  • etc…

First these five minerals are essentials in relatively larger quantities:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Sulfur
  • Potassium and Sodium

These remaining minerals are required in very low quantities. Typically you will need to examine the ingredients list to see if they are present.

  • Boron
  • Cobalt
  • Copper
  • Fluoride
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Molybdenum
  • Silicon
  • Manganese
  • Zinc

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