How to Compare Dog Food Ingredients to Choose the Right Food

How to Compare Dog Food Ingredients to Choose the Right Food

You have so many things to think about when choosing the right food for your dog. Beyond your dog’s own preferences, you have to consider the ingredients used in making the food. Failing to properly compare dog food ingredients could lead to you feeding your dog food that doesn’t benefit the animal in the long run.

So what do you need to think about when you compare dog food ingredients? There are several things to keep in mind.

The Dog’s Age

Dogs need different types of food during each stage of their lives. For example, puppies need foods that offer plenty of protein, calories, and vitamins to ensure they grow into healthy adult dogs. That’s not to say that adult dogs don’t also need these things as well. They’re a priority at all stages of the dog’s life. But puppies benefit most from specially formulated foods that contain high amounts of these key ingredients. In fact, feeding an adult dog foods designed for puppies could lead to weight gain.

You will also compare dog food ingredients differently when buying food for senior dogs. As dogs age, their joints and muscles undergo wear and tear. The foods they eat need to account for this so they enjoy a healthier old age. They benefit most from easily digestible foods containing special ingredients to improve joint, digestive, and muscle health. You may also find older dogs that have lost some of their teeth prefer moist foods.

The Food Type

You have a choice between canned, moist, and dry foods when selecting a type of food for your dog. Each will contain different ingredients, but they should all meet the nutritional needs of your dog.

You may prefer dry foods because they keep your dog’s teeth healthy. This benefits the animal later in life. But, many dogs prefer to eat canned and moist foods because they usually contain the meats that dogs would eat in the wild.

Which option you pick, depends on your dog’s needs. It may be worth speaking to a vet to find out if which type of food would benefit your dog most.

The AAFCO Nutrition Chart

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary organization that consists of state and federal officials, alongside pet food experts. Together, they monitor pet foods and determine the correct amount of each ingredient that animals should consume to stay healthy.

You can use the AAFCO’s Dog Food Nutrient Profile to compare dog food ingredients. The profile examines the ingredients commonly used in dog foods and tells you how much of each your dog needs to stay healthy. You may notice that some foods carry the AAFCO’s “complete and balanced” label, which signifies that food has passed the organization’s feeding tests, or that it meets the nutritional needs of your dog.

Check the Guaranteed Analysis

Each bag or can of dog food has a Guaranteed Analysis, usually located on the back of the bag or label. This is a chart that lists the ingredients used in the food and tells you how prominent each ingredient is. This is usually done using percentages.

But you need to consider the amount of moisture in the food when you compare dog food ingredients using their Guaranteed Analyses. The analysis does not take the amount of moisture present in the food into account. This can represent a problem with canned and moist foods, which can have an 80%-moisture content. In these cases, the Guaranteed Analysis will only tell you about ingredient content in the solid parts of the food.

You need to convert the numbers in the Guaranteed Analysis to the Dry Matter number to find out the actual volume of each ingredient in the product.

So how do you find the Dry Matter number? You need a simple formula that provides a more accurate percentage of each ingredient.

Let’s say you have a dog food that contains 20% moisture. That means the other 80%, or 0.8, is dry food, whichis where the vital ingredients are. Now, look at the protein level. Let’s say that it reads 20% for this particular type of dog food.

Now, it’s just a case of dividing the protein percentage by the dry food percentage. In this case, you’d figure out 20 divided by 0.8. This provides a Dry Matter ingredient percentage of 25%. Apply this same sum to each ingredient to find accurate percentages. And remember, the higher the moisture content, the less actual food the dog receives.

The Ingredient Weights

You need to look at more than volume when you compare dog food ingredients. Cheap brands may have similar percentages to premium brands when you look at the Guaranteed Analysis. But, you need to consider where those ingredients come from when you compare dog food ingredients.

This is where you need to look at the weight of each ingredient. Pet food manufacturers have to place the weight of the ingredients they use on their foods’ labels. Ideally, the food you buy will have either fish, meat, or eggs as the primary and secondary ingredients. These are natural sources of protein and other ingredients. Be wary of any foods withimportant ingredients lower down the list than the top two positions. Generally, on ingredient lists, the main ingredients appear first, with low-content ingredients listed last.

Why does this affect your dog? Foods using natural sources for their ingredients allow for better digestion. That means your dog benefits most from the food it eats. Man-made or inexpensive ingredients may not digest as easily. This means a lot of the ingredients will pass through your dog’s digestive system before the animal absorbs the vital nutrients.


With this information, you should be able to compare dog food ingredients accurately. In doing so, you will ensure your dog gets everything it needs to be healthy at all stages of its life.

One final thing to remember is to compare dog food ingredients of any new foods with the food you currently feed your dog. The animal’s digestive system will often take time to adjust to new ingredients, which could cause it some discomfort for a week or so. Many transition their animals slowly, introducing the new pet food bit by bit over the course of a week, until the animal has adjusted properly.


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