An insider’s dog food guide: pick the right food for your dog

These days, there are lots of dog foods on the market. So, finding a good one can be overwhelming. There are thousands of various dog food reviews online, lots of different recipes and claims of superiority in the name of “marketing” … so, we thought a dog food guide would be helpful!

Really, how can you find a good brand? Here are 8 tips to help you find a superior food for your dog.

Insider’s Dog Food Guide

Tip #1: Check the Dog Food Label

Pet food labels are loaded with lots of valuable information but they can also be difficult to read.

So, save yourself a lot of time and effort and use this dog food guide to focus on dog food brands that include:

  • Meat as the first 2 ingredients
  • Pre- and Pro-biotics
  • Biologically appropriate fruits and vegetables

Lower quality recipes are more likely to contain things you should NOT feed your dog:

  • Animal by-products
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Controversial preservatives
  • Anonymous meat ingredients
  • Ingredients from China

Tip #2: Consider the Company

At Dee-O-Gee, we tend to distrust larger pet food companies that are ultimately responsible to shareholders and often make production decisions based on the “bottom line” and NOT on the health of your dog.

Consider this: 90% of all pet foods sold in the U.S. are produced by just 3 companies — Big Heart, Mars and Purina.

Although there are always exceptions, it’s important to keep on the lookout for pet food companies that:

  • Employ real food scientists and animal nutritionists to design their products
  • Test raw materials for impurities and nutrient content
  • Conduct regular safety and quality control procedures
  • Verify finished goods before they are shipped
  • Maintain in-house testing laboratories

Tip #3: Identify the Dog Food Manufacturer

Most dog owners assume their pet food company actually makes the products they sell. However, today, many companies use third-party co-packers to manufacture some — or all — of their foods.

In any case, whether or not a company makes its own dog food is neither good or bad. It is more important to know the identity of the manufacturer of any brand you feed your pet. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to track its recall history or judge the safety of its products.

Tip #4: Question Product Formulation

Did you know – there’s no legal requirement that a pet food be formulated by an animal nutritionist or any other veterinary professional. To ensure the nutritional health of your pet, you should contact the brand you are considering and determine who actually formulates its recipes. Additionally, make sure you verify that person’s credentials. Just knowing who formulates a product is not enough. You’ll also want to know what qualifies that person to do so.

Tip #5: Confirm Nutrient Testing

It’s also important to know how the company can be certain each formulation is well balanced and nutritionally complete. Also, make sure to ask how often nutritional content testing is actually performed. Does the company conduct laboratory analysis? Or do they run feeding trials? Find out what a company does to test each product to be sure it actually meets AAFCO nutritional guidelines.

Tip #6: Investigate Ingredient Sources

No dog food can ever be magically better than the ingredients that were used to make it. Yet labels reveal little about the quality of the raw materialsactually used to make the food. Some ingredients are purchased from commodity brokers on the open market — from the cheapest bidder. Others can come from countries known to have inferior food quality standards.

Superior companies tend to source their ingredients only from established local or regional suppliers they do business with on a recurring basis. What’s more, Federal law does not currently require any pet food company to disclose country of origin — or any other sourcing information — on its label.

That’s why it’s so important to use this dog food guide to help you …

Know the source of all ingredients that are used to make any dog food you buy. Avoid brands that will not share this information with you.

By the way, imported ingredients aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, many can be of exceptional quality. For example, some vitamin and mineral supplements are pharmaceutical grade and can actually be superior to those sourced from the U.S. or Canada.

Tip #7: Demand Transparency

Some pet food companies work hard to conceal critical information about their products. For example, we’ve actually stumbled upon a number of companies that attempt to create an artificial sense of customer support by using voice mail to take messages. Yet no one ever returns the calls.

Some brands don’t even maintain a product website.

And others resist being questioned by independent websites like The Dog Food Advisor. These companies make it difficult (or impossible) for us to get important answers — while blaming their own unwillingness to cooperate on the fact we are not veterinarians.

Think about it. Are there any questions presented in this article that would require the knowledge of a veterinarian to answer? Obviously, hostile or defensive companies like these are the ones that most likely have something to hide — and should not be trusted.

For all these reasons…

Never buy any dog food made by any company that is not transparent about its products or its manufacturing practices. You have a right to know.

Tip #8: Verify Quality Control

At the time of purchase, all pet foods are at risk for containing:

  • Disease-causing pathogens (Salmonella, Listeria)
  • Mold toxins (aflatoxin, vomitoxin)
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Unsafe nutrient levels

And although many pathogens can be killed (pasteurized) during cooking, deadly toxins can remain in the food throughout the manufacturing process. What’s worse, re-contamination can occur anytime living germs from uncooked food accidentally come in contact with a finished food product.

That’s why we created this dog food guide to advise you to …

Never buy a pet food from any company that ships finished goods before obtaining negative test results for any form of contamination. Some companies are more diligent about this safety measure than others. A few test every batch while others test only randomly. And yet some never test anything at all. In any case, even for us, it can be extremely difficult to determine just how carefully any brand administers its own quality control program.

Need Help?

It's confusing, we get it.

Stop by any of our Dee-O-Gee locations or use the Ask An Expert feature at to ask questions directly.