October 4th, 2011

8 Tips for Choosing Healthy Dog Food

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8 Tips for Choosing Healthy Dog Food Groovy Green Livin

October is my favorite time of the year. The disappointing performance by the Red Sox put a big damper on my usual October obsession with baseball playoffs,  but there are still plenty of October highlights to look forward to. The leaves are beginning to change colors (they never disappoint), Halloween is on the horizon, routine is back on track and the dry weather brings on plenty of “good hair” days. October is also National Pet Wellness month, an annual event that encourages year-round pet wellness and owner education.

We have a 12 year old chocolate lab that rules the roost. She has free rein to climb on furniture, track in mud and sleep in our bed. She’s been through it all with us and still manages to provide us with that unconditional love that dogs are so wonderful at giving.

Over the years we’ve searched high and low for a dog food that’s full healthy ingredients, but free of toxins and harmful chemicals. The number of choices are overwhelming, each claiming to be the best.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the best commercially packaged dog food for your pet:

  1. Carefully read the ingredient label on the package.
  2. Look to see where the meat (i.e. chicken) is listed on the label. The closer it is to the beginning of the list the more actual meat used in the product. Protein is the most vital substance in a dog’s diet.  You want a quality meat product.
  3. The type of meat should be specified. If the label says “meat” without specifying the type, don’t buy the product.
  4. Avoid any products that list a “by-product” of any kind.
  5. Avoid products that list “meal” instead of an actual meat. I have read some conflicting information on this and thedogfoodscoop.com says that meal isn’t necessarily inferior to fresh meat.
  6. Check where the fat is coming from. The dog food should specify the source of the fat-which meat or oil it’s coming from.
  7. Avoid dog food with grains as a top ingredient. Most commercial dog foods contain grains-and lots of them. There’s a lot of debate as to whether grains should be part of a dogs diet. Some claim that dogs do not have the digestive system to cope with grains and grains are one of the biggest sources of allergies in dogs.
  8. Don’t buy dog foods with added chemicals, food preservatives and synthetic colors.

We use Wellness Super5Mix Healthy Weight Recipe for our chocolate lab. She would eat anything-most labs would-but this food keeps her at a good weight and provides her with the nutrition that she needs to stay healthy and energetic.

In addition to her dry dog food we also feed her raw vegetables. Bananas and carrots are her favorites.  There are a few foods that are big no-no’s (don’t ever feed these to your dog):

  • Onions and garlic
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Dairy

I have always been intrigued by raw diets-both for humans and dogs-but have never taken the plunge.

Here are some reasons to go raw:

  • Feeding raw is cheaper than commercial dog foods.
  • It’s what your dog would eat if it lived in the wild.
  • Cleans teeth naturally-by chewing raw, meaty bones.
  • Less visits to the vet because your dog is healthy.

In honor of pet wellness month-this month and every month, take steps to keep your pets healthy.  If you’re looking for natural ways to prevent fleas and ticks click HERE. Also, check in with  Healthy Child Healthy World and their information on pesticides in pet products.

What type of food do you feed your pets? Have you tried a raw diet?

Disclosure: There is an Amazon link in this post. If you purchase the product it will place a few pennies in my pocket. Thanks!

34 Responses to “8 Tips for Choosing Healthy Dog Food”

  1. Good tips! I also look for pet food made in the US, since manufacturing regulations in other countries can be a bit lax. And I avoid artificial colors and flavors on the grounds that they’re not necessary (and if the cat vomits, they stain the carpet). Brie eats Evo grain-free, 76% animal protein cat kibble, and then gets a rotation of Organix, Newman’s Own Organics, Wellness, and Blue something or the other canned food. I’ve contemplated raw, but let’s face, it, I went vegetarian because the thought of dealing with raw meat made me nauseated.

    Sadly, having a cat may be one of the least green choices I’ve made because of her diet. I should try harder to find local, organic sources for her meat, but I’m just so grossed out by meat that I don’t even like walking by the meat booth at the farmers’ market.

  2. Great article. I am bookmarking it for future reference. Once we find our dream house a dog is tops on our to-buy list and I have already been researching food options.

  3. One of our dogs was diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease about three years ago so we put her on an expensive prescription diet food. Recently I decided to try a limited ingredient diet instead and switched both dogs to Natural Balance Potato and Duck. They seem to love it. (But like you said, labs will eat anything!)
    I just looked up our current food and thedogfoodscoop.com gives it five scoops.
    Thanks for the great information!

  4. Great point Jennifer-pet food made in the US. I also didn’t think about the artificial coloring staining the carpet-there really is no need for any of it in pet food. I have to agree with you on the raw meat issue. Not sure I could handle watching Mico tear apart a bone filled with raw meat. Are all the brands you feed Brie vegetarian? Mico’s food has chicken-and I’m fine with that. My family eats chicken too!

  5. Thanks Tiffany. There is nothing like having a pet. I’m partial to dogs, but any pet is a wonderful addition. Mico gives me the best greeting every time I walk in-much better than my kids! Let me know when you take the plunge 🙂

  6. Hi Marsha! Isn’t it amazing what labs will eat-there really isn’t much they won’t eat. Mico has eaten some pretty crazy things over her 12 years. Glad to hear the food you chose did well at thedogfoodscoop.com and is working well for inflammatory bowel disease. Does Natural Balance have few ingredients and is that how you chose it?

  7. Choosing a dog food is so difficult nowadays – and there are SO many differing opinions. I just read a review of a dog food that had corn listed as the 2nd ingredient, and the reviewer gave it 5 stars – out of 5! I just shook my head and made a note to never visit that website again. Thanks for the great info and I will definitely visit thedogfoodscoop.com!

  8. I want to complete your list of NO’s : Do not feed your dog bones, especially cooked bones. Fragments can become lodged in the digestive tract. Other foods to avoid that are dangerous for dogs are chocolate, avocados, mushrooms, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, onions, and garlic.

  9. I’m so glad that it’s easy to find out which ingredients and brands are good for our pets, and which aren’t. We’re lucky to live in a time where that kind of information is available at our fingertips, and we have options when we go shopping. I just wish someone local would make the dry and wet food I buy for my cats. Those bags and cans have a big carbon footprint!

  10. Great tips, I would like to “thank you” for so much being concerned about your dogs health. They give us so much happiness so it becomes our duty to take care of their health.

  11. Thanks so much for stopping by Pamela!

  12. There are so many different choices out there-it’s overwhelming! Hope you find a good dog food-let us know what you find.

  13. Hi Andrea-it is nice to have access to ingredients lists very quickly. I have come across several companies that don’t list their ingredients. I would never buy from those companies. There needs to be complete transparency when it comes to people and pet food. That’s the only way we can make informed and educated decisions about what goes into our bodies. I would love to find someone local who makes a quality dog food. Hmmmm-business opportunity??

  14. Thank you so much for these additions to the No-No list!

  15. Glad it doesn’t go live til Wed! Still need to get mine up! 🙂 Took cute pix this weekend of a natural dog show!

  16. […] celebration of  your pet and National Pet Wellness Month, check out these posts from BeliefNet and GroovyGreenLivin for more great tips on green and healthy pet […]

  17. Can’t wait to see the pics and your post Lynn. I would love to go to a natural dog show 🙂

  18. I started feeding my dog food made from human grade ingredients when one of my friends tipped me off after researching dog food due to her dog’s food allergies. It really made it difference.

  19. Lisa-do you make your own food?

  20. I yet to check my dog’s food label but now I know I should start doing it..Thank you Lori for the great tips.

  21. To be honest, I have no idea-it’s my husband role…:-)
    I should let him read this article.

  22. You are so welcome Reut. What type of food are you using?

  23. I love how we all have our set roles Reut! Pass the article on to him 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  24. I wish I would have read this article two months ago – I was feeding my dog a food with avocado and he had so much diarriea – I didn’t know it was on the list of bad things to feed your dog. I thought it was good for his coat? It’s not good for digestion apparently. We got him a food that is specifically for digestion with probiotics called Synergy that cleared all the problems up. I’ve also thought about going raw but this natural balance food had good results so we’re sticking to it.

  25. Hi Linda, was there avocado in the dog food? Or were you adding to his food? The list of foods to avoid is long-glad you caught it early enough and his problems cleared up. I always find once we settle on a food that works well, why change it up? Sounds like you have found a good fit with Natural Balance. Thanks for stopping by!

  26. […] And for help deciding what you should feed your dog, Groovy Green Livin has shared some great tips for choosing a healthy dog food. […]

  27. Great tips! I was introduced to a website, dogfoodadvisor.com, that lists all the ingredients in every dog food brand and then explains why or why not they are good for your pet. We found out we were feeding our dogs a very low quality food and were fortunately able to find a higher quality one that fit our budget. Food is so important, and often underlooked!
    Anna recently posted..Groovy Green Livin Favorites: Top Picks for Safe Sunscreens for Kids (Adults Too!)My Profile

  28. I’ve never heard of dogfoodadvisor.com Anna. Thanks for sharing!

  29. I would like to choose a low protein food for pug dog, Please suggest me some kind !

  30. Hi Chang, You are going to have to do some research on this. Please take a look through the comments on this post for suggestions and ask your vet for additional ideas. Good luck!

  31. Hi Lori,

    Great article on finding healthy dog food. I think pooch parents are becoming more aware of what’s in their dog’s food.

    I think if an owners wants to feed kibble, finding companies that manufacture in small batches and who can trace their ingredients back to the source is the way to go.

    I feed a 100% raw diet and have done so for almost 4 years. We’ve never looked back.

    Thanks for spreading awareness through your article.

    Rosemary recently posted..The Best Safety Harness for Dogs in CarsMy Profile

  32. my dogs eat Merrick freeze dried bits with kibble and then organic wet dog food and i change it every other day and noticed they have diarrhea so i called their vet and she said i need to feed them white rice and chicken until it gets solid again. well today it looks more solid but i know they wont go back to what i was feeding them so how can i add in the healthy beneficial foods to their diet without hurting their tummies again.

  33. I just recently adopted a husky puppy. It’s 6 months old and quite great in his shape. His owner told me he had always eaten packed dog foods. Can I give him some home made foods which contain vegs or some very cheap steak meat things? I’m a bit confused about it.

  34. Hi- congrats on your new puppy! I would check with your vet for advice on what to feed him. Good luck!

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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