Step # 1: Make sure it is Human Grade Dog Food
All the best commercial dog food companies will make sure their ingredients are Human Grade. The problem with this is that the AAFCO, which stands for Association of American Feed Control does not allow the dog food companies to make any statements on their labels relating to the quality of the food they use. The best thing to do is to check the websites of dog food companies before you buy them. They will tell you whether or not they use Human Grade. If you find that it's hard to get "in depth" information on their ingredients, realize that this is a warning sign for you, so do not buy from that company.
Step # 2: The dog food ingredients should be sourced locally from USDA inspected facilities.
This does not mean you can not find good ingredients in others countries, just do your homework. Canada and Australia have excellent dog food companies.
Step # 3: Look for all the ingredients listed on the label BEFORE the fat source.
These ingredients will be the majority of your dog's food. The ingredients after the fat source make up a much smaller percentage of the food source. Some of the best commercial dog food will have as much as ten quality ingredients before the fat source.
Step # 4: Make sure you study the "Protein" content which is the meat source.
Dogs are natural carnivores (meat eaters) and you want the protein mentioned first without your dog has kidney problems. (dog's with kidney problems can not have too much protein) Check the position of the meat source on the label and see how many times they list it BEFORE the fat source. Also check the "type 'of meat it is – ie chicken, chicken meal, beef, beef meal, etc.
Never buy a food that contains "meal meal or bone meal." It needs to state which meat it is such as chicken meal. Also, NEVER buy anything that has by-products of any kind in the ingredients!
NOTE: When it indicates a protein meal such as chicken meal, beef meal, fish meal, this means that they have discharged the meat to get the excess moisture out of it and then grind it up as a meal. It's a very good meat source as long as they specify which meat it is.
Step # 5: Make sure it has a quality fat source
Quality fats are olive oil, canola oil, chicken fat, flax seed, etc. It's always good to have Omega 3 and Omega 6 in the ingredients. It's one sign of a good commercial dog food. Always avoid brands that have something called "meat fat, poultry fat, vegetable oil or lard." These are NOT good sources of fat. NOTE: Poultry does not mean chicken in this case.
Step # 6: Make sure You Have Quality Grains
Even though grains are not essential for a dog, the best food companies will use good grains instead of bad grains. They will always appear AFTER the fat source. Examples of good grains are brown rice (not white) barley and oats. Steer Clear from fillers. Examples are ground whole corn, wheat gluten meal, corn gluten meal and soy bean meal. Bad grains include peanut hulls, corn bran, rice hulls, oat hulls and soybean hulls.
Step # 7: How About Fruits and Vegetables?
As with grains, fruits and vegetables are not necessary for your dogs overall health, but if good ones are used it definitely can not hurt them. Good veggies include potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, beans, broccoli and spinach. NEVER give your dog onions … very toxic. Good fruits are blueberries and apples. (always cut out the seeds as they are very toxic to dogs) Citrus pulp is also bad.
Step # 8: Check the dog food label for preservatives, artificial coloring and chemical additives.
Make sure it contains natural preservatives like Tocopherols which is Vitamin E and Ascorbic Acid which is Vitamin C. NEVER buy dog food containing Ethoxyquin. BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole, BHT (Butylated HydroxyToluene. Stay away from all artificial colors such as Blue 2, Yellow 5 and 6, Red 40. Artificial flavors include any flavors that do not state the specific source such as "meat" broth.
You do not want sweeteners such as corn syrup, sugar, sorbitol, cane molasses, glucose, fructose, sucrose, glycyrrhizin, and propylene glycol. Another bad sugar is Menadione which can be listed as vitamin K3 or Dimethylprimidinol Sulfate. This is a synthetic version of Vitamin K and should not be used.
Wow, there is a lot to learn, is not there? You may want to print this out to take the pet store with you. I realize it's a lot of information to absorb, but once you learn it you will know your beloved canine is getting the best nutrition possible and they will love you for it.