The Five Most Important Items on a Dog Food Ingredients List


Dog Food Shopper
Imagine… by the end of this article you’re able to consistently identify a superior dog food… all because you’ve learned a simple rule that can narrow an extraordinarily long list of ingredients (sometimes containing a hundred items… or more) down to just five.

Now, not to be overly dramatic… but these items are probably the most important ones you’ll ever find on any dog food ingredients list.

Want to know what they are?

Easy.  They’re simply the first five items on every list.  That’s it.

You see, dog food manufactures are required by federal law to list all of a product’s ingredients in descending order of their pre-cooking weights.

And that automatically… and mathematically… makes the first few the most abundant items anywhere in a product.

Now, since companies rarely divulge the actual amount of each ingredient in a dog food, the consumer is left to try to figure out the proportional break-down for herself.

And I can assure you… that’s no easy thing to do!

Trying to make heads or tails of a dog food’s proportional content is nothing less than a game… a game of odds and probabilities.

Why Five… and Not Six?

I already know what you’re thinking.  Why the first five items?  Why not the first six… or seven?

When looking for an answer to this question, one of the more intriguing ideas I found suggested that all the initial ingredients up to and including the first added fat be considered “the main ingredients”.

I must congratulate Sabine Contreras of The Dog Food Project for this original and thoughtful idea.

So, don’t get hung up on the number “five”.

When evaluating any dog food… you’re always looking for a high quality, digestible meat-based protein… as close to the top of the list as possible.

So, if you haven’t found quality protein in those first few ingredients… whatever the number… it’s game over for that dog food.

Wouldn’t you agree?

Valuable Ingredient… or Nutritional Window Dressing

With the possible exception of nutritional additives… like vitamins and minerals… the further down the list you find an ingredient… the less it contributes to the overall quality of the food.

For example, when you see sweet potatoes at position #12… don’t be too impressed.  From a nutritional standpoint, items located that far down a list should probably be considered little more than “window dressing”.

To keep things simple, here’s a rule of thumb that can help you more consistently identify superior dog food…

The first few items on any dog food ingredients list tend to be the most important

Simple enough.

To learn more about using these priority ingredients to screen for quality be sure to read my article… The One Crucial Piece of Information Dog Food Companies Willfully Conceal.

  • Neville Mistri

    No, no no! Dogs never ate corn until Purina came to town!

  • leannwalters

    Agreed …corn…NO

  • Kirnath

    Corn is NOT a good protein substitute it inhibits serotonin prodtction which can contribute to behaviorial issues and they can’t digest it properly. But go ahead and get the products with corn them if you want to, you’re only hurting your animals.


    I think GUEST is a pusher of cheap food industry

  • wisepati

    Yep..I’ll bet the person who posted this is affiliated with a dog food manufacturer. Dogs are more carnivore than not. Corn is a high glycemic food and not appropriate for dogs in large quantities.

  • Think about it

    The part of the kernel that is undigestible is the bran coat, which is mostly cellulose. If we process the corn-i.e. CHEW-the corn is then digestible. If pet food manufacturers process the corn-i.e. GRIND-it is digestible. Of course they will poop out the kernels, if fed whole!
    “Anti-corn” folks will push and push its “indigestibility”, without providing complete information.

  • Shawna

    For the sake of argument let us say that yes, corn is “digested” just as well as the meat components in dog food. But I think what Sean is meaning is that the amino acids in corn (or more specifically corn gluten meal) are not as well utilized by the cells of the body when compared to meat proteins. Sean wrote, “given alone, without complimentary foods containing the other needed amino acids”. I don’t think there is any disputing or misunderstanding of that statement. He was obviously discussing the protein components of corn not the starch components. “Even when given with complimentary foods the corn doesn’t digest well so the dogs still lack the full protien.” You made this about the digestion of starches. When looking at the protein portion of corn, Sean is correct IF the corn isn’t carefully combined with other incomplete protein sources.

  • Shawna

    You wrote “Whole corn doesn’t fully digest and meat is a better source of protein.” Totally agree with you. Corn is a very poor source of protein and corn gluten meal should never be used as a protein source in a food in my opinion.

  • sean

    Lol, this is getting funny. It seems like your picking down to the finest Crack looking for a mistake. Now we are dining completely digested. I don’t recall saying meat was completely digested, so why mention it?
    You “think” corn gluten meal is 88% digestable and you “think” meat doesn’t fully digest either, but no percentage given for meat. And it doesn’t matter because I know it digest Bether than corn, example the undigested corn kernal. You don’t see that with meat.
    If your referring to the fact that we have bowl movements because not everything we eat stays in the body then duh, nothing fully digest under that deffinition, but still I’m pretty sure the last time I got a steak it didn’t come out the other end looking like steak. Corn does. How can you give a percentage preceded by the words “I think”. Where did you get the number from? I don’t recall any studies being done on the percentage rate of corn absorption for dogs lol.
    And why are we even talking about corn gluten etc. Wasn’t even my original topic.
    And for guessing. I eat meat I know I’m getting a certain amount of direct complete protien. It never has undigested amount of meet visible even remotely to the extent of a whole corn kernal whether connective tissue or not.
    Your focusing on different topics and on the minutia of things that aren’t related to anything I’ve said or any point I’ve made. Trying to somehow find something I’ve said you can prove wrong or show up.
    It’s simple. My point was simple. Whole corn doesn’t fully digest and meat is a better source of protien.
    Nothing can refute that.
    I’m done with the back and forth if you need to feel like you have proven me wrong on something then wonderful go ahead.
    But read the words I’ve written. They are facts.
    And none of them were meant to insight anyone, lol. That’s why this is sad.
    Everything someone replies it sends me an email. I don’t want to get any more emails. Either your completely mistaking or misunderstanding my point or your not listening.
    Either way I’m done.
    You said you did the tests yourself, you typed out the results. It proves all I’ve said and all I meant.

  • aimee

    The comment don’t assume collect data was made in the original post over a year ago.

    I collected 2 kernels out the roughly 840 ingested. .2%, The nutrients of 99.8 % of the kernels were utilized.

    Corn is highly digestible. Not fully digestible if you only consider fully digestible to mean 100 % digestible. By that definition very few things are fully digestible.

  • aimee

    I think we all can agree that there isn’t anything that fully digests if you mean 100%. Corn certainly isn’t 100% digestible, It contains fiber. Corn starch is nearly 100% digestible. I think corn gluten meal is about 88 % digestible. Meat isn’t fully digestible either and depending on the amount of connective tissue present and the processing can have variable digestibility. I don’t know that we can say less guessing is involved when predicting corn vs meat digestibility. The overall diet composition will play a role.

  • sean

    I’m not sure how the meet components digest in dog food.
    I was referring to actual food and meet. I was talking about what I do know of corn. Nothing more.
    But I think we agree corn doesn’t fully digest.
    The only point I was making was why not use a complete protien which digest better than corn and requires less guessing about how much protien was truly absorbed etc.

  • aimee

    Ok then we agree that corn is digested just as well as the meat components in dog food.

  • sean

    Yeah, that about what happened to my dog.
    It never fully digest and it’s not a great source of protien since it’s so depended on how much digests and metabolism…
    Much nicer to use a food source that’s fully digestable.

  • aimee

    The link is to a comment under the video It takes a little while to load but I’ll copy it here for you.

    “The final results are in! Brooke passed a normal looking stool but
    when when of the “logs” cut open the entire inside was corn skins. I
    collected an additional whole kernel and about 5-6 what I’d call partial
    kernels: It appeared that the skin wasn’t empty. All the rest were
    passed as translucent empty shells. The contents of the kernels were

    The volume of skins was about 1/2 cup so there may be a
    few stragglers but this is the bulk of it. I also found about 80-100
    tiny dense yellow uniform pieces they may be the end caps of the grains

    there ya have it.. there was enough disruption of the seed coat to
    allow digestion of the interior contents. Of roughly 840 kernels
    ingested only 2 made it through unscathed. Don’t assume…… collect

    My previous Lab was born with a congenital liver abnormality the only food she tolerated was a home made diet of corn starch and dried milk.

  • sean

    I can’t find the video… the link goes to a dog health advisor website, but the video playing is a nutritional tips video from a veterinarian.
    Where do I search for it?

  • aimee

    Hi Sean,

    Actually i did just that. I fed my dog corn right off the cob then evaluated the output.

    I posted the results here

  • sean

    Dogs are unable to digest corn fully. Similar to humans.
    Don’t believe me… give your dog a bowl of whole corn kernels and let them eat them. Then watch their poop. The corn will be almost whole and undigested.
    Lastly corn is an incomplete protien. Meaning given alone, without complimentary foods containing the other needed amino acids it is not something you can live or survive by earing alone.
    So to recap. You can’t fully digest or survive by eating corn alone. It’s not a great source of protien for dogs, but it is cheape.
    Like I said, don’t believe me then screw the Internet grab an actual science or nutrition book, talk to a veterinarian and feed your dog whole corn and watch. Duh!!!

  • carolyn

    I could not disagree more! You must work for Hills or Purina. Corn is cheap filler! Readers go to (dr.becker dvm, or Born Free, whats really in pet food, or Dr Royal dvm (chicago) or whole dog journal

  • Shawna

    One final thought before I have to retire for the evening. This is no longer available on the original site but MANY of us saw it when first posted on the “Fully Vetted” blog on PetMD by veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly. Susan Thixton of the Truth About Pet Food website copied and commented on the article. I viewed and printed the original article but, as noted, it has since been pulled.

    Dr. Khuly was responding to a poster commenting “‘What’s everybody’s problem with Science Diet?”

    Dr Khuly wrote

    ““This is, we’re in the midst of a sea change in how we treat our pets now that so many of us consider our pets family members. And that means that what we view as OK to put in our pets has changed too.”

    “When the very same conversation is taking place with respect to higher quality human foods, it’s no wonder foods like Science Diet (foods that have traditionally been viewed as the best of the bunch) no longer cut it compared to those that offer much more in the way of highly digestible animal protein and higher quality carbohydrate sources.”

    “Many of us now want to see more biologically appropriate, recognizable ingredients, a variety of them, more animal protein than veggie protein, and an obvious commitment on the part of the manufacturer to the kinds of ingredients we’d be willing to serve our human families, too.”

  • Shawna

    Thought this might help as this is “industry research” making the statement.

    In a Purina Research Report they state

    “Dietary carbohydrates are not required by normal, healthy cats and dogs with two possible exceptions. Reproducing bitches may need some carbohydrate in order to produce and nurse healthy puppies, although even this is in question.1-3 Hardworking dogs, such as hunting dogs and sled dogs, may benefit from carbohydrates after exercise to help
    restore muscle glycogen.4”

    Don’t get me wrong, I do see a benefit to healthy carbs in the diet but not everyone will agree on what is healthy. The gluten in the RC diets I mentioned before is known to cause a whole host of disease in humans. Everything from worsening and/or causing arthritis (I mentioned why in previous post) to brain damage. This is called gluten ataxia and the symptoms are white matter brain lesions, temporary blindness and stroke like events. If gluten can do this kind of damage to susceptible humans, what can it do to our pets???

  • Shawna

    I’m not sure about Canada and regulation but foods sold in the US as complete and balanced would surely have to meet US laws.

    Someone at one point posted AAFCO data listed on the FDA’s website but I always use Dr. Foster and Smith’s website when I want to look at the data.

    There are a lot of different ideas about what is ideal for a diet. I just happen to be in the camp where as close to nature is the best possible. There are simply nutrients that can not, as of yet, be utilized in highly processed foods. As just one example, there are eight KNOWN forms of vitamin E. They are alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocopherols and alpha, beta, delta and gamma tocotrienols. The tocopherols, at least some, are added back in to foods as d-alpha tocopherol, dl-alpha tocopherol or mixed tocopherols. But not one of the tocotrienols are added back in. Science has discovered that it is one of the tocotrienols that is the cancer fighter of the E family. It’s just been in recent years that omega 3 has been added back in. Surely all those researchers knew before the last several years that omega 3 is a necessary nutrient.. It is expensive and easily goes rancid though so……. It wasn’t that long ago that cats were dying of heart disease because science didn’t know that taurine was an essential nutrient for a cat. What else do they not know?

    Back to the ideal diet — Veterinarian and Nutritionist Dr. Meg Smart says this

    “Variety is the Key (My conclusions after over 30 years of teaching veterinary clinical nutrition)

    Do not be afraid to add variety to your pet’s diet. Variety in the diet can include healthy table scraps (not leftovers often laden with salt and fat), homemade diets, kibble, canned, freeze-dried and dehydrated foods.”

    She goes on to say about commercial diets.
    “Choosing a Commercial Diet

    If you wish to feed a commercial diet find a company that is small, family owned and accountable.”

    In an interview with The Angry Vet Dr. Smart says this

    “I see a benefit in feeding whole foods whether cooked or raw. Genetically the dog and the anatomy of its digestive tract are closely aligned with that of the wolf. So we can use this as a dietary model when designing diets for the domestic dog. – See more at:

    There are a number of additional vets, like Drs Karen Becker and Martin Goldstein, and nutritionists, like Mary Straus and Lew Olson, that suggest whole foods and diets higher in meat protein. Or, feeding closer to the ancestral diet. I can name at least 25 off the top of my head that can be easily verified on the internet.

    Earlier today someone asking questions about a diet for kidney disease linked to a Vet/Nutritionists website and when I read the vet suggested avoiding corn I thought of you. I’ll see if I can find it again.
    People are becoming more aware of the foods and ingredients in their own diets. Pets are becoming more like family. It is only natural that we start looking at their diets as we do our own. I try to eat “real” food as much as possible and it is what I feed my eight dogs as well. Including one born with kidney disease that will turn eight years old next month. You will find, if you look for it, a lot of veterinary professionals, like those I’ve listed above, are recommending “real” food for our pets as well.

    There are some that view “real” food as the ideal but, for whatever reason, are not able or willing to feed raw or home cooked exclusively. They are the ones that are more likely to look for “real” food ingredients in kibbled foods. Some here, like Melissa if memory serves, have no issue with corn but look for whole corn versus by-products of industry like corn gluten meal.

    A final thought, science can be contradicting. Take as an example industries science that states dogs on a weight loss diet need to eat high fiber foods which are generally lower in protein and fat. But independent research shows that diets high in protein and low in carbs are an excellent way for canines to lose weight. I use HIGH protein, low carb diets to get weight off my foster dogs that need it. Works like a charm.

  • Guest

    Just curious,
    I know that Canada does not regulate pet food. and I also know that AAFCO has no legal authority in Canada, RC voluntarily follows AAFCO’s guidelines so isn’t that a good thing??

    Shawna do you have the link for AAFCO nutrient guideline? I had a hard time and couldn’t find it anywhere???

    Also I found this blog interesting too if anyone is interested!

  • Kimi_Forever

    Mike i was wondering if i could ask you a question. i was wondering if you reviewed dog foods made in the UK? or if you did not review all ‘foreign’ brands of dog food.

  • Your comment was not deleted. It never appeared because it was withheld by the Disqus spam filter. I have since released it.

  • Guest

    I appreciate the apology.

  • Kimi_Forever

    I am sorry. I should have been more courteous. You have a right to your opinions and to express them.

  • Guest

    I didn’t see your comment and I’m glad. I simply stood my ground and made statements and yes took quotes based on what I thought about pet food. Just like everyone else on here has. I even stated “your word is no better than mine, we all are getting our information based on what we’ve been told, what we have read, what we have experienced, and personally for me what I have seen. And that’s how each of us have come to the conclusion we have made. But truthfully I’m not a scientist, I’ve not personally made a dog kibble and done years of studies on it and i’m sure i’m not the only one. So there is no right or wrong here.” So how does that make me quote “a piece of work?” I thought this was an open forum not a roast. Its unfortunate I feel like I was scrutinized and pounced on so easily based on the brands of food I like.

  • Kimi_Forever

    I’m sorry i made a comment that got deleted, i did not mean to break any rules….that being said, i call a spade a spade. Sorry

  • Meghan

    I’m over this forum so everyone can have a nice day 🙂

  • Meghan

    When I said “some clients” I was directing towards people who own pets. Not my own personal clients.

  • Kimi_Forever

    Yeah and Purina also claims food dye’s and animal by-products are safe and nutritious but who would actually believe that?

    Why would Hills make a food, then claim it’s unhealthy? Even if it is. If i ask a kia dealer if they make cheap cars they wont admit they are crap but will provide ‘evidence’ that a kia is a solid buy. I am not impressed.

  • Meghan

    I’m not a vet professional so no its no ones business 🙂

  • Storm’s Mom

    Actually, it’s against the commenting policy of this site to not disclose who you are if you’re a veterinary professional. Alternatively, it’s also against the site’s policy to misrepresent being one if you’re not:

    So, it kinda is my business and everyone else’s here.

  • Shawna

    Hi Meghan,

    How exactly is protein “problematic for dogs and cats, especially when they get older.” Current research has demonstrated that “senior” dogs can need as much as 50% more protein than adult dogs.

    The prolamin protein in corn, called zein, as well as the protein in wheat, called gliadin, can both cause a zonulin response in the gut of susceptible individuals which can lead to gut permeability which causes a whole host of other issues.

    “As we all know, increased intestinal permeability
    is as a common underlying mechanism in the pathogenesis of allergic, inflammatory, and autoimmune diseases (ie, most chronic diseases).”

    Why do you suppose those researchers you trust at Royal Canin would put foods that could cause this much damage in the food without warning those that would eat it?

    Corn is also quite a good source of omega 6 fatty acids — the inflammatory kind and, at least in human foods, usually at least partially hydrogenated.

    Corn aside, they also use a concentrated source of a food known to cause auto-immune diseases — “wheat gluten”.. In addition to gliadin (in the gluten), wheat is a source of WGA which causes even more issues. Also the glucosamine added to foods with gluten in them are likely basically a waste as the gluten proteins bind with glucosamine. If it is bound up to gluten it can’t be available for the joints.

    The FACT is that Waltham, Purina and others admit that dogs have absolutely NO nutritional requirement for carbs. They can get everything they need from protein and fat. That isn’t to say that “healthy” carbs can not be of some benefit when fed in appropriate amounts however. If you look at the AAFCO nutrient guidelines you will see there is a minimum for fat, for protein, for vitamins and minerals but no mention of carbs.

    Dr. John Symes Vet does a lot of research on what he refers to as the “Big 4” — corn and gluten are two of the four. He refers to corn (including “quality” corn) as a “toxin”.

    Corn is not even a suitable “food” for herbivores like a cow.. It makes them fat and sick.. Cows have to be weaned on to corn. I can’t imagine why anyone would think these “foods” are appropriate for a dog (or worse a cat)?

  • Meghan

    Sorry I didn’t realize this forum was a formal essay! here’s the link!

    And that’s none of your business 🙂

  • Storm’s Mom

    Good point, I’ve deleted the link. Thanks!! “Just want people to see the information if they don’t know were (sp) to find it” is no reason to plagiarize.

    What is your veterinary expertise such that you have “clients”, by the way? (the ones you mentioned before, who are squeamish about feeding rabbit and kangaroo)

  • Meghan

    I’m well aware of that thanks for providing the link! 🙂 Just want people to see the information if they don’t know were to find it.

  • Storm’s Mom

    You may want to cite your’ve cut and pasted directly from the Hills website:

  • Meghan

    Corn is an excellent ingredient because of the benefits it brings to the product. Corn is a highly nutritious ingredient chosen as a source of protein (for muscle and tissue growth), carbohydrates (for energy), fiber, antioxidants (Beta-carotene, Vitamin E, Lutein) and linoleic acid – an essential fatty acid that promotes healthy skin and a luxurious coat.

    GRADES 1 and 2 corn are the grades traditionally used for human food products.

    While some individuals are concerned about allergies in pets, corn is NOT a common cause of adverse food reactions in pets. Studies have shown that corn causes no more food allergies than any other grain.

    Most grains, including corn, are poorly digested BEFORE they are cooked. ONCE cooked, however, they become highly digestible. Corn is also highly digestible, higher than several other grains such as rice, wheat, barley and sorghum.

    Some individuals believe that meat-based foods are more natural and thus better. However, meat is not the only protein source. For example, corn gluten meal and eggs offer high quality protein, too. High meat diets are usually EXCESSIVE in calcium, sodium and phosphorus which are not appropriate for older pets.

    Higher protein levels do not mean that a food is of higher quality. After the protein / amino acid requirements are met, additional protein provides no additional benefits. In fact, excess dietary protein can even be problematic for dogs and cats, especially when they get older. Protein intake needs to be carefully monitored.

    Sometimes consumers question if dogs are carnivores. DOGS ARE OMNIVORES by nature. They use BOTH meat and plant-based nutrition. Dog food should have a balance of nutrients, not just protein, but also fats, carbohydrates, fiber, etc.

  • Meghan

    Sure whatever floats your boat 🙂

  • theBCnut

    If they were the exact same quality, but didn’t have the big name, they wouldn’t cost so much. That is paying for the name.

  • Meghan

    Nope actually I choose to buy ridiculous expensive purses because I like them and they last forever! Makes it all worth it to me 😉

  • Meghan

    And yes, I will call it quality corn because that’s what RC calls it because I trust them, just like you trust the information you’ve read. There’s no win or lose here, just one opinion against another.

  • theBCnut

    You pay ridiculous sums of money for a name brand purse because you are buying a name. The purse is not worth anything like the amount you pay for it, and yes, that is a very apt comparison for RC and like foods. You are paying for the name and they aren’t worth nearly that much.

  • Meghan

    How did i spin my words? and no I did not edit anything. Clearly if you could read I clearly stated above why I thought corn was ok. And obviously your not getting the hint that I’m trying to be civil and open minded when I said there is no right or wrong!!!

  • Betsy Greer

    I didn’t spin your words, you did. Then you edited your comment when you realized you couldn’t back up your statement with facts.

  • Meghan


  • Meghan

    Your spinning my words. What makes it a high quality product is how it is processed and yes to trust that it is from a reputable supplier (no one likes contaminated veggies), I trust them just like you trust your food. As far as I’ve been told and what makes it superior is when processed PROPERLY, grains like corn can be a healthy part of any cat or dog’s diet. In fact, properly processed corn contains far more nutrients than ingredients commonly used as replacements for it in grain-free diets. The only indigestible portion of corn is the hull, which is why Royal Canin removes the hull and grinds the corn very finely before it’s added to any of the formulas. This makes it a very effective and digestible carbohydrate source.

    I’m sorry but another link to this website is not “firm” evidence. And quite frankly I don’t care to read it. Like I said before there’s no right or wrong here, everyone has their own opinion.

  • Betsy Greer

    So, you called the corn in RC’ s food, “high quality” because that’s what RC calls it, but you don’t know what makes it superior to other corn?

    There is plenty of firm evidence that dogs have no nutritional need for carbohydrates. I’ll start by citing Dr. Mike as a source:

  • Meghan

    Well I could say the same about those that don’t believe it should be In food. You have no firm evidence. I took that quote directly from the source. Sorry didn’t mean to sound like you claimed it was an allergen, I meant it’s a common rumor.

  • Betsy Greer

    Sorry Meghan,

    That sounds like speculation, the forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence, that RC’s corn is “high quality” as you stated.

    I also don’t believe that every dog is allergic to corn, in fact I never said I thought that was the case; regardless, corn is essentially an antinutrient for dogs, which have no biological need for carbohydrates.

  • Meghan

    Quality is defined by the standard of something measured against other things of SIMILAR kind. Every buy a knock of coach purse – way cheap compared to a real one because of the quality of material used. Royal Canin obviously purchases their product from a reputable supplier but it’s how they cook and process he corn is what makes it’s useful. Corn has been given such a bad rap because it’s an allergen to dogs – well no not every dog is allergic to corn.

  • Storm’s Mom

    Where is the “actual animal protein” in most, if not all, RC and Hills products?!? – it has to be non-chicken, remember, because the original poster’s dog is most likely allergic to that

  • Betsy Greer

    What exactly is “high quality” corn and how exactly is the “high quality” corn in Royal Canin different from other corn?

  • Meghan

    Side not the first ingredient is suppose to be 90% of the bag right? Well theirs is always a protein meal. Saying that 10% of it is made of corn is an overstatement. I’ll be the first to say I don’t think corn is evil. Lol

  • Betsy Greer

    The fact that her dog is having a reaction to what is eating

  • Meghan

    I guess my comment was directed towards raw food.

  • Meghan

    I agree same reason why a chihuahua gets the same amount of vaccine as a great dane.

  • theBCnut

    Another great reason to switch foods is because the food you feed supports specific populations and strains of probiotics, so feeding a variety of foods supports a wider range of probiotics in the gut and a huge part of the immune system is those probiotics in the gut. Just like how people who don’t eat variety are not as healthy as they can be, so it is with dogs. Getting used to lack of variety is the reason that dogs get upset stomach with change. If you keep them used to variety, they don’t get upset stomach.

  • theBCnut

    Their digestive tract has gone through next to no change, so your chihuahua needs the same nutrients as my Border Collies and as HDM’s Bloodhounds and as a wolf.

  • Meghan

    That’s good to know.

  • Meghan

    And it doesn’t take a genius to know that my chihuahua isn’t gonna go out and hunt its own deer down. Dogs have been domesticated for so long they aren’t what they use to be 100 years ago. Just look at how the bulldog as evolved over time, poor things can’t even breath now. Things change. Your entitled to your “research” and opinion. I’m sticking to mine.

  • theBCnut

    Allergy testing is NOT a reliable way to determine food allergies, because it gives both false positive and false negatives. And it doesn’t even cover food intolerances and hypersensitivities.

  • Akari_32

    It doesn’t take a degree to simply do your own research on companies and where they source their food. Just takes a phone call or email. Vet recommended means absolutely nothing to someone who knows what to look for in pet food. It doesn’t take a genius to know that dogs do not walk out into corn and grain fields for food, so why should we think that a food composed of almost entirely corn and grains is even remotely healthy? Because the people that made it chocked it full of synthetic vitamins and minerals in amounts that they think dogs need, based off 6 month feeding trials where the animals tested are allowed to actually lose body mass? Yeah, that sounds healthy.

  • Meghan

    Petsmart usually carries a larger stock but I’m quite surprised your vet doesn’t sell food, don’t hear that too often! Its unfortunate because the Hypo and d/d are what I’m most familiar with. Maybe they can order it for you? Those are my vet’s first choice. But like I said there’s no way of knowing what she is exactly allergic to – most common is beef and chicken but from the sounds of it she’s not done well on lamb so I would avoid it. Try not to be overwhelmed with the %, they confuse me too. Pick a new protein (fish, venison, duck..etc) and feed only that food, otherwise how will you know if its truly working. And preferably no table foods aloud unfortunately 🙁 Its like a diet, you can’t expect to lose the weight if you don’t stick to the plan. As for which company to chose, I’ve stated my preference but its up to you. I’ll provide you with links and hopefully they can answer any questions you have about how the food is made and ingredient questions and see if you can find the same on other food sites. Best of luck 🙂

  • Jerry Sue Martin

    I am sure the Proin has completely stopped Amber’s incontinence. She is not wet at anytime. You have given me something to check on though. I am going to ask the Vet to check for urinary tract/kidney infection/cyctitis and Metabolic disease. I don’t think that he did that and if he did he did a long time ago. Thank you so much for telling me about this- It is very important that she is healthy although she doesn’t show any signs of illness.
    She is a good weight -not overweight.
    Thanks again for being so concerned!

  • Meghan

    Sorry didn’t mean it like that

  • Storm’s Mom

    Apologies! It just seems like a lot of people come on here and, when defending a food like Hills, RC, Ol Roy, etc, immediately hit back with an “oh you must be one of those Blue Buffalo or whatever people” sentiment …. like “whatever” is in the same category as Blue Buffalo. It’s annoying, and gets my gills up. It’s a really annoying comparison because I – like many people on here- won’t feed Blue Buffalo any sooner than I would feed Hills or RC.

  • losul

    Hi JSM, my feeling is that the chewing on such a localized area only (her hind legs) is probably not an allergy at all.

    I assume your vet has already checked for urinary tract/kidney infection/cyctitis? (even metabolic disease) Are you sure that the proin has completely stopped her incontinence? She might still be leaking/dribbling, overnight especially. Constantly being wet with urine can cause skin scalding, inflammation, and even secondary bacterial or fungal infections of the skin, sort of like a diaper rash.

    Some things that might help; don’t restrict her water during the day,, but maybe remove it a couple of hours before bedtime. Let her out right before bedtime to pee, and first thing in the morning wash her affected areas, I think just a clean wet cloth will do. They may be some protective and/or antibiotic or antifungal ointments/sprays that might help also.

    If she’s overweight, work on getting that under control, and, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to explore different foods for her anyway.

  • Meghan

    Woooooah I never suggested feeding Blue Buffalo… It was an example of another random food people choose to feed. The comment wasn’t directed to what you feed.

  • Jerry Sue Martin

    I am really confused about all the posts so I will just read your message. I have looked at the suggestions – now I need to know where to buy them and if they will work. My Vet does not sell dog food and I guess he isn’t knowable about what may be the problem. He just may not know. Looking at the ingredients on the dog foods you recommend make no sense to me as I am not knowledgeable about percentage of anything. I will go to a feed store and try one of the foods that you recommend-buying a small pack at first to see if Amber will eat it. Then try changing the food as often as needed so she will be eating something different perhaps this will work on her problem-thank so much-you have tried and I appreciate it.

  • Storm’s Mom

    What personal experience turned your preference into Royal Canin/Hills??!?!

    The only Blue Buffalo version of anything my dog can eat would be some of the Basics or Life Protection lines ..because all the rest have chicken meal. Both lines are waaay too low in protein for my liking, and thus I’d never feed them. But we digress…

  • Meghan

    Absolutely by all means if you can figure out what food works best for you dog then I wouldn’t change a thing. I just mentioned the Royal Canin/ Hills because those are my dog food companies of preference based on personal experience. But if you have success feeding the Blue Buffalo version of Duck or whatever then that’s awesome! Whatever helps the dog!

  • Storm’s Mom

    She mentioned that she’s really only been feeding 1 food – a lamb & rice one – for an extended period of time (and perhaps a chicken & rice one before that), so it’s entirely possible there’s only 1 ingredient that posing a problem not “allergies”, and a simple switch to a food without that ingredient will do the trick. There’s no point getting all complicated about it yet. It’s also important for people to know, I think, that there are still a world of options available if a dog is allergic to one protein, and you don’t have to be scared to just feed that one food that works because, in all likelihood, a whole bunch of different foods will work. And it is very possible to know which protein/ingredient is causing the issue wihtout allergy testing!

  • Storm’s Mom

    What I said was “If switching to a grain-free, chicken-free, lamb-free food works…”. I didn’t say she should switch once and then switch again without the requisite knowledge that the 1st change worked. I suppose I could’ve been more explicit in clarifying that “works/”worked” means “you may not see a dramatic change for a couple of months” …I was thinking of doing so, but edited it out.

  • Meghan

    I’ll admit if i absolutely had no other choice of grocery store brand food, I would go with either Purina or Iams. And I only say that because they each carry a veterinary line. But there’s no reason to say that Royal Canin is utter garbage.

  • Meghan

    Which brings be back to “actual protein” once something is cooked it not longer weighs the same as it did before … therefor not the 1st ingredient…. were is the actual animal protein in that? That is an exaggeration of cost. Their life stage foods do cost a bit more but not an arm and a leg. Research and clinical trials cost money. I will pay the extra $5-10 any day if I know that I am getting the best quality inspected food I can get. Its vet recommended for a reason…. last time I checked Dr.Google didnt’ go to university for 8 years…..

  • Meghan

    I get that you all want to switch the food regularly so that they don’t form an intolerance/ allergy – if that theory is true I have no idea, I doubt it but I don’t know. But this poor ladies’ dog clearly has allergies. I really doubt that switching ingredients constantly is going to help. She is best to trial a bag of food with a new protein …. see if that helps… if it hasn’t made a difference after 8 weeks time to try a new protein. Its impossible to know without allergy testing what she is allergic to. And plus she is a golden it is solo common for that breed. I would personally rather feed my dog something consistent if he/she is doing well on it, I wouldn’t risk triggering a reaction even if she doesn’t show signs of gastric upset. But that’s just me.

  • Akari_32

    I never said anything about chicken (or even what kind or quality) as the first ingredient. I simply said that Royal Canin is way over priced for a food that that contains nothing a dog actually needs. I would touch neither dog chow or Royal Canin with an 80ft pole, but atleast dog chow has some actual animal protein in it. I’d rather pay $20 for 50 pounds of crap than $100+ for 20 pounds of complete and utter garbage that has “Vet Recommended” slapped on the bag.

  • Meghan

    You mean the chicken that’s listened as the first ingredient? When in fact its not. Chicken by-products are the edible parts of chickens such as necks, organs (liver, lungs, kidneys, etc.), feet, undeveloped eggs, but EXCLUSIVE of feathers. High QUALITY corn that is finely ground provides energy, protein (specifically, amino acids that are good for the skin and coat), omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid), vitamins (vitamin A and B-complex), minerals and antioxidants (lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene). The key word here is “quality.” I’m sure your $10 bag of “Dog Chow” is full of that.

  • Betsy Greer

    That’s a common misconception developed by manufacturers of dog food in an effort to establish brand loyalty.

    My dog with food intolerances reacts pretty quickly, when he reacts, to foods. If he reacts, I immediately remove the offending food from his diet and switch him to something else. I know what his triggers are, because I have kept track of each and every food he eats, its ingredients, and my dogs reaction.

    Because my dogs eat a rotation of a wide variety of foods that change frequently, they can switch with a lengthy transition to a new food with no gastrointestinal upset. Diet rotation supports a wider variety of healthy gut flora.

  • Akari_32

    Royal Canin is nothing more than glorified dog chow. I don’t see how a food that uses feather meal and corn as their protein sources is any good. Actually, at least dog chow does have some chicken in it…

  • Meghan

    I don’t agree with that. If you are trying a new bag of food for allergy purposes it is recommended to stay on this food for at least 6-8weeks before you should see more dramatic results. I don’t understand your theory on switching food regularly? One how is that good for her digestive health, that just screams gastric upset. Second how are you suppose to determine what allergen is affecting her if your keep trying new food with different ingredients? If anything that will cause more allergic reactions. I wouldn’t trust any of “that” food with a 10 foot pole. I don’t understand why people are so against royal canin/ hills? At least their formulas are based on scientific studies/trials, the ingredients used are actually selected for the quality of the nutrients they provide and for their nutritional benefits, not for “looks.”

  • Storm’s Mom

    Remember when I suggested (6 months ago) to stay away from chicken and grains? Rice is a grain..and you’ve been feeding it for at least 6 months. You really should try switching to something without chicken, grain, and now lamb, actually, asap and see if that clears things up. Check out the link I provided above for ideas. Budget friendly ones include Nutrisource, Victor, Pure Balance, and Whole Earth Farms. I wouldn’t touch Royal Canin or Hills with a ten-foot pole unless I had to (and you don’t yet).

  • Meghan

    Well it certainly wouldn’t be the first thing I would order! lol Just not for me lol

  • Betsy Greer

    Back in the day, when I was at Purdue, there was a fast food restaurant that served fried rabbit called Hop Scotch.

  • Meghan

    Ok great, I was just stating my experience with it, not the point I was trying to make. Its a different source of protein not commonly seen in dog food, so dogs with high food allergies would hopefully do well on it.

  • theBCnut

    Lots of people eat rabbit or know of people who eat rabbit.

  • Meghan

    No I do not have a specialty in pet nutrition.

  • Meghan


    I will be honest I have never heard of any of these brands of food. It is possible your pup has a sensitive tummy and I hope by now you’ve found a food that better suits him. It could have possibly just been due to the quality of protein. It is simply impossible to compare the ingredients on one bag of food to another. People don’t realize there where bag A purchased their protein and other ingredients from can be different than bag B. Are they a reputable company? How is their quality control? How is the protein cooked/ processed? Is it tested? Is it of good quality? All these things will greatly impact the digestible of that kibble. I personally stick to the veterinary prescribed food. Or at least stick to the same companies that sell vet food and pet store food. Royal Canin for instance both pet store and vet food derive from the same factory. I’ve personally seen it myself. Which is great to know that the same care is going into that food like the others, their just formulated differently. I would pay more for that food any day when I know that it is probably safer than the food I eat.

  • Betsy Greer

    Clients? Are you a pet nutritionist?

  • Meghan

    Its one of the reasons “holistic” dog foods are thriving so much. Their based on a marketing scheme not science. People see potato and carrots and veggies in their dog’s food and associate that with something they would/should eat so why not their dog?

  • Meghan

    Because duck and fish are quite common in dog foods and a lot of people eat it themselves. Rabbit and Kangaroo not so much, some clients find it “gross” because they associated food they would eat to what they would feed their dog.

  • theBCnut

    Why does rabbit and kangaroo seem gross to you but duck and fish do not?

  • Meghan
  • Meghan

    Aw poor Gal. I’m wondering if she suffers from both season and food. Typically I know that duck based or fish / venison based food are best to try for food allergies. Royal Canin and Hills I know sell these formulas specific for this and I know/seen for a fact they do work on most. Hopefully she isn’t too unique she would fit into the “most” category 😉 Unfortunately with a large dog such as yours a specialized food like this will cost more. However one of the bonus of buying it from the vet is they can have consults with the company. For instance they would call Royal Canin and they would present your case to them and their team of vet experts provide their opinion and its all free. And guaranteed money back if she doesn’t like the food. Another new food out there that apparently is gonna be good is called “Rayne.” A lot of their protein source derives from rabbit / kangaroo, which seems gross but hey if it works. I would definitely look into it. And I hate to say it but my in laws dog her allergies are just so bad especially in the summer she has to be managed on steroids, its not what every pet owner wants to hear but sometimes its the only option, especially if its just through those tougher most in the summer. I’ve seen so many golden’s with ear infections and hot spots too. You can always do yearly blood test to ensure that they aren’t damaging her body too.

  • Jerry Sue Martin

    Amber is still having the biting off her hair on her hind legs problem. We are now feeding Exclusive Lamb and Rice. As a pup she didn’t do this. But we noticed a leaking urine -the vet gave up Proin for that and she does not have the incontinence any longer. I am wondering if the Proin affected her chewing on her hind legs -I just thought about that – The food we are feeding doesn’t affect our other Golden in any way. Ruby is very healthy and doesn’t have any problems. Amber does this during any weather. I have tried feeding her raw vegetables -didn’t help. She just maybe a dog that has this unique problem-other then that she is gorgeous- the rest of her coat is shiny and she is a dark Golden but still purebred. She has feathers on her front legs and a very bushy tail. She has a lot of coat other then on her hind legs. Any other suggestions would be welcome. Thank you very much, Meghan☺

  • Meghan

    Jerry I’m curious as to what diet you switched to and if it worked? Golden’s are notorious for allergies, especially seasonal in the spring/ summer.

  • Jerry Sue Martin

    Thanks’ Storm’s Mom. I will stay away from Chicken and grains and search your website above. I am on a food named “Professional Lamb and Rice”. Amber has changed to this after her puppy food and trying other foods. As a pup she didn’t bother her hindquarters. I have changed food several times trying to figure this out. Thanks again for the site – I’ll try to find something for her. My other Golden doesn’t have this problem. Any other ideas would be very appreciated. Thanks again.

  • mfulton7

    I posted over on the large breed forum but thought I may be able to get some feedback over here as well. Ive had my Doberman pup (14wks) , shihpoo pup and chi on Earthborn Holistic Coastal Catch for 4-5wks now. The dobie and shihpoo are having room clearing gas and the dobie has loose stools off and on. We had them on the Zignature Trout before this and the dobie had loose stools with that as well. So Im thinking a food intolerance? What other budget friendly foods can/should we try?

  • Storm’s Mom

    What are you currently feeding now? I would suggest staying away from both chicken and grains, as both are common allergens. Check out foods on this list of “best grain free dog foods”:

    I would suggest taking it to your local store(s) to see what’s available and in your price range… if you’re willing to order online it opens up a lot more options (unless you’re not in the US).

  • Jerry Sue Martin

    My Golden has an allergy to something(I am guessing) is in her dog food. She is not letting her hindquarter coat grow out and they appear to have chew marks on them. Her coat on her hindquarters is very blotchy and short. I have heard of gluten free cat food for cats that have problems with their food. There coats look much better and the cats are very healthy. Is there a food that is gluten free possibly that can help get my dogs coat on her hindquarters free of itching? Thank you so much!

  • Hound Dog Mom

    If you’re looking for a budget friendly dry food I’d recommend Whole Earth Farms, NutriSource, Fromm Classic, Victor, Eagle Pack, Pro Pack, Healthwise, Earthborn, Sportmix Wholesomes, 4Health Grain-Free (available at Tractor Supply) or Pure Balance (available at Walmart). All of these foods are rated at least 3.5 stars and under $50 for the largest bag. Many can be found online.

  • so tired of searching

    Can anyone tell me the best dog food to feed a great dane , that will leave me money to also feed my kids! And that is available to the southern usa states?

  • Pingback: Add Fiber to a Dog’s Diet | Dog Lovers()

  • Pattyvaughn

    When Storm’s Mom says any animal, she doesn’t mean it might be beef or it might be chicken, she means it might be diseased or died a while before being made into dog food or in some other way be harmful to your dog.

  • Storm’s Mom

    Yes, as long as it’s a named meal (ie “salmon meal”, “chicken meal”, etc). You don’t want to buy a food with “meat and bone meal” for example, because that meat and bone could’ve come from ANY animal. Ideally, you want a food with more than one named meat meal in the first 5 ingredients.

  • Pattyvaughn

    This is so wrong!! Senior dogs are less able to extract the protein from their food, as much as 50% less, but they still have the same protein requirement as an adult dog. They need high quality protein and plenty of it.
    They started decreasing protein in senior foods because of an erroneous belief that it would speed the demise of the kidneys in senior dogs, but they have proved that this is not the case. Please feed your senior dogs a quality food.

  • Zyro W

    It depends on the age of your dog. For puppies, it’s advisable to fed them sufficient amount of protein from the range of >25% but less than 30% whereas for senior dog like I am fostering now, it can only consume low protein food which is advisable less than 20% / serving. 😉

  • karo

    Does anyone know if meal protein is a healthy ingredient in dog food?

  • Thanks, Shawna! I do know he pours the water off and cooks the beans in fresh water. I’ll tell him the science behind what he’s doing ~ he probably knows the outcome of not using fresh water, but just not exactly why it happens.

    Ahhh, Amish ingenuity! Dad was raised Mennonite in a big Amish community ~ they figured out all that stuff a long time ago.

  • Shawna

    I messed up on my post. I said “not a one of them are overweight.” That is not true. Mimi the foster dog that came in at 29 pounds is still heavier than she should be. However, it is not due to her “normal” diet. As long as my 3 and 2 year old grandkids are living with me I highly doubt the weight issue will resolve. Mimi is the first on the scene if even a crumb falls and has been known to actually take food out of the babies hands and mouths. She’s a naught puppy…

  • crazy4cats

    Very interesting! I don’t think we have that food in our area anyway. Thanks for your quick response.

  • Shawna

    Morning Betsy 🙂

    Yes, that is partially the reason. Beans are a pretty significant source of lectins though and the lectins are water soluble. So by soaking the beans you can remove a good deal of the lectins. That is also why you pour the water off and cook with fresh water.

    I LOVE ham and bean soup and we used to have it several times a month. The last time I made it I soaked the beans overnight but forgot to pour the water off and start with fresh when cooking. I was fine but hubby was VIOLENTLY sick that night. That was probably 10 years ago and he’s refused to eat pinto beans ever since… 🙁

  • Shawna, is this the reason why my dad soaks dried beans in water overnight before he puts them on the cook the next morning. Maybe he should try adding a bit of ACV to the water in which he soaks the beans.

  • I priced Carna4 a while back. Holy smokes! I wouldn’t use it either because I wouldn’t be able to buy food for the humans in my house.

  • Shawna

    Hi Crazy4cats,

    Grains and seeds have these anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors to prevent them from germinating and becoming a baby plant before conditions are right for them to survive the environment.

    Humans can germinate and sprout grains, seeds, legumes which performs the same function as seen in nature — making the grain a living plant/food. Another way to deactivate some of the antinutrients is to long soak in an “acidulated medium” like. Some grains (rice I think is one) require sprouting and soaking.

    Carna 4 is the only kibbled dog food that I know of that sprouts most of the grains/legumes etc in the food. This greatly increases the nutritional value of the grains etc but at only 27% protein I still wouldn’t personally use the food..

  • Crazy4cats

    Hi Shawna-
    Which manufacturer, in your opinion, properly prepares grains to eliminate the anti-nutrients?

  • Shawna

    Hi PetFoodGuy,

    Yes fresh meats do lose water content when processed. But certain amino acids in proteins are subject to damage with processing. Lysine as an example is damaged by heat and time of exposure to heat and therefore a meat that is heated twice may likely have significantly more lysine damage. Additionally, we are capable of reading the guaranteed analysis and ingredient list and determining exactly how much protein is present be it vegetable, named meals or named fresh meats.

    I definitely agree with you on variable qualities of ingredients.

    Dogs have not “evolved” to handle carbohydrates. Even teaching books like Waltham say they do not require complex carbs in the diet if enough protein and fat is fed. Additionally, just like humans, dogs do not produce the enzyme cellulase and therefore can not digest the cellulose in carbohydrates. Unless the food is first processed (cooked, pureed etc) the dog can not utilized it. Humans chew their food to break down the cellulose.

    There’s only one manufacturer, that I am aware of, that “properly” prepares grains to eliminate the anti-nutrients in them like phyates. Phytates can cause mineral deficiencies like zinc, calcium, magnesium etc. Grains (as well as other foods like potato etc) also have lectins which can be extremely damaging to suseptible dogs causing illnesses like IBS, IBD, gut permeability, allergies, autoimmune diseases, malnutrition etc.

    High protein does not cause obesity. On the contrary. Protein and carbs have the exact same calorie count. Newer research has proven that dogs can lose just as much weight on a high protien, moderate fat diet while maintaining muscle mass and are less likely to feel hungry and beg. My foster dog came to me at 29 pounds. She is a Papillon. She lost 15 pounds on a high protein kibble with high protein canned and raw toppers. She was too obese to exercise too. The vet thought she’d have a heart attack. Once she had lost enough to exercise it was the dead of winter and improper conditions.

    I have eight dogs ranging in size from four pounds to fourteen pounds. ALL of them are on HIGH protein diets and not a one of them are overweight.

    Excess fiber can also cause mineral deficiencies. Fiber is an important part of the diet but it certainly can come from sources other than grains.

    I feed my eight as well as my foster dogs a “wolf diet” (as commercial products go that is) and sometimes I have to add pumpkin when transitioning the foster dogs but I don’t add extra fiber ongoing. More important than the pumpkin, in my opinion however, is the probiotic I add too. None of the dogs in my care get grains of any kind. Actually, I did add barley for it’s fermentable fiber to my congenital kidney disease dogs diet but after only a very short time she developed a reaction to the barley and I had to stop it. I opted for acacia fiber as it is an excellent nitrogen trapping fiber. At least I’ve had excellent results with her on it.

  • PetFoodGuy

    To note: “wet” or “fresh” meat/fish ingredients lose about 80% of their weight in the extrusion process. This is a gimmick made popular by Pro Plan and instead of demanding labeling changes, more and more companies try to dupe the consumer. “Meal” on the other hand, gives you the true value by weight. What you don’t know, is the grade or quality of i.e. ” chicken meal” used. PF Mfrs. have dozens to pick from. This is true for every single ingredient in the bag. You can call the company or check the amount to feed per body weight to determine feeding efficiency. The proof is in the performance. Watch out for hype and fads. You don’t have a wolf on your couch. Dogs have adapted to be able to utilize starches/carbs/grains/veggies that we eat. Properly cooked grains are hugely beneficial to dogs & cats. Improperly cooked (or raw) grains are unhealthy. If a dog eats a raw potato, you’ll get brown spray paint in about 4 minutes. Raw sweet potato is more orange and takes about 3 minutes. Poor quality meats are as much to blame as the undercooked carbs in overall lack of digestibility and poor health results. Far too many pets are obese and do not warrant high protein, high fat foods. There is a spike in reports of pets becoming constipated or very, very loose on these foods with improper fiber levels. There has been too little focus by these GF advocates on intestinal transit time and optimal soluble and insoluble fiber requirements. So, you get a can of pumpkin mush and a box of oatmeal with your wolf food just in case things don’t come out all right. Some kibble makers are doing it right but it takes a lot of research to weed out shysters. My .02 for today. JLK

  • Pattyvaughn

    Seriously??? Fail reading comprehension in school?? Often??

    And you had to reply to something written a year ago to do it.

  • Moey

    Fromm’s 4 star Duck & Sweet Potato has a Carb rating of 49% and Protein of 27%, is this a recommended amount or should I find a dry kibble with a little more protein and less carbs. It also has pearled barley and potatoes in first five ingredients, and brown rice as 6th, even though review states it’s the 5th. isn’t this just carbs, in addition it also has white rice. Just seems that this should have a lower rating than 4 stars because of all these carbs.

  • Really?

    “Want to know what they are?
    Easy. They’re simply the first five items on every list. That’s it.”

    Did you even read it?

  • Olmsted Falls Cat Rescue

    I know! Poorly written article for sure!

  • makemineirish

    I appreciate the information and link to other dog food concerns. However, I would love to know if you have an article/list I have not yet been able to find that goes into detail on noteworthy supplements and red flag ingredients. While I am familiar with the importance of the top ingredients, I would love to find a reference on ingredients I should take notice of further down the list (good or bad) as more than “window dressing”.


  • HuskyCrazed

    ok, hope i can find that Fromm though. thanks

  • Alexandra

    I agree with Bryan. You can do better. There has been a fair amount of complaints this year.

  • Blue is an okay food, but I think you can find a number of better foods at the same price… or even less.

    The problem I find is that Blue is low in protein, leaving their carb levels fairly high. The Wilderness formulas are better, though, as they are grain free and higher in protein.

  • HuskyCrazed

    yea it sounds really good to me to, i am going to see if i can find it though because i dont remember ever seeing it…..What do you guys think of blue buffalo? I go on the site called Dogster and they all say blue buffalo is great?

  • Alexandra

    Fromm is a very good food. I have fed it and had good results one dog. My shepherd can’t handle potatoes.

  • My problem with dog foods that use the cheapest ingredients possible with chicken is that chicken meals also use preservatives which can include BHA/BHT, ethoxyquin or the preferred Naturox but this is never stated on the bag. Bags will state what the fats are preserved with and maybe that the fish meals are ethoxquin free, but what about the chicken meal?? And then that begs the question…what about all other meat meals? Now instead of contacting a company to find out whether or not their fish meals are ethoxyquin free, it seems like we should also ask them about what preservatives are in their other meat meals.

  • HuskyCrazed

    LOL ok thank you

  • Not even a year ago I was in the same boat, as I figured Science Diet was the top of the line. Boy was I wrong. LOL

    So don’t worry about it at all. Good luck.

  • HuskyCrazed

    oh ok i will check those out to, i think i should take a drive to the pet store later and see if they have any of these, thank you both for your help, i appreciate it…i didn’t even want to say the brand of dog food to you because i knew it is walmart brand….thank you for not judging me on that, i do want my dog to have the best she is my baby, but price has been an issue, i will check these foods out and let you know what i have found, thanks again

  • HuskyCrazed

    wow they gave that Fromm 5 stars

  • Alexandra

    A grain free that is budget friendly is Earthborn Holistic. That should be found up there. Have you thought about Acana? They are pricey but the food is excellent.

  • HuskyCrazed

    ok will do thank you guys

  • Alexandra

    Don’t beat yourself up. We are all here to learn.

  • Fromm is one of my favorite dog food companies. Very good quality food. DFA has reviews of it here, so check them out.

  • Note that the Classics is not grain-free, and only comes in chicken (that I know of). So doing something like adding salmon oil would be idea.

  • HuskyCrazed

    that food you mentioned, ive never heard of it. Is it a quality food then? I will have to see if i can find it……dont think i have ever seen it

  • HuskyCrazed

    ok well what i’m paying for her food now is $25 for a 15lb bag i think, and it lasts her a while, she only eats what she needs, she is good that way.

  • The Walmart foods could very well be good, but it’s nearly impossible to get questions answered about things like sources.

  • If somebody is looking for a good food but price is an issue, I show people the Fromm Classics. We sell a 33lb bag of it for $40, so I’m sure it’s similar elsewhere. The only issue is finding it, as it’s a smaller company that doesn’t sell in most of the big stores (PetSmart for example).

  • Alexandra

    I agree with Bryan.

    What kind of budget are you thinking? When you get into better quality foods, oftentimes you do feed less. So while it is more upfront, the bag lasts longer.

  • HuskyCrazed

    i need to find something affordable but also good for my dog if thats possible

  • HuskyCrazed

    yes i am looking to change food now….i thought i found a good one because it scored so well and is affordable, but i guess it’s not so good then huh?? oops 🙁 she is a Siberian Husky 3 yrs old, she is very low energy however witch is weird for a husky…when i got her she was on Purina so i switched to this holistic baked food, thinking it was better for her, her energy is still low though

  • HuskyCrazed

    yes this is very true… bad i guess it was to good to be true….lol

  • Alexandra

    Ok: this food is average at best and exclusive to Canada, which explains why I didnt hear of it. As far as Wal mart foods go, it is a good kibble. However:

    This food has only two meat ingredients, meaning the majority of protein comes from plant sources and for our dogs not as high in bioavailability for them.

    The grains are fillers and of little value to our dogs.

    For me it is too low in protein. I feed Brothers Complete when I feed kibble and it ranges from 31-38%. I feed mostly raw now so the protein is much higher.

    Are you looking to change foods?

  • When Walmart released a grain-free food called Pure Balance I thought it looked fairly good, but somebody here pointed out to me that we don’t know where the ingredients are sourced from, therefore it may not be good after all.

  • HuskyCrazed

    thats a good point. I would like to find out where it’s made

  • BryanV21

    Personally I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it, and for two reasons.

    1. It’s from Walmart, and no matter what the ingredients list or guaranteed analysis is, I wouldn’t feel good about feeding that to my family due to where the ingredients may be sourced from.

    2. When I searched “Actr1um dog food” six of the results on the 1st page were from people wondering what it was. Not a link to any solid information, like from the manufacturer. I shouldn’t have to go page to page in order to find real information on a food.

  • HuskyCrazed

    sorry i spelled it wrong, it’s Actr1um Holistic dog food, but the one that is bakes, the 2 baked actr1um is duck and sweet potato, and chicken

  • Alexandra

    Hi HuskyCrazed,

    I have not heard of that brand. I googled it and found nothing. Can you supply a link?

  • HuskyCrazed

    i meant baked sorry

  • HuskyCrazed

    well, it’s Act1um, witch i know it’s from Walmart, but i used the dog food score chart and it scored well like 122 or something like that, it is bakes and holistic, also has lots of fruit

  • Alexandra

    Hi HuskyCrazed,

    I would say they are average. First, after cooking the chicken won’t be first. So the chicken meal since it is already processed would be the first ingredient.

    I like grain free diets personally as they are higher in protein and lower in carb.

    You also would want to find out the companys sources for their ingredients.
    What brand is it?

  • HuskyCrazed

    ok so the first 5 ingredients in my dry dog food are chicken, chicken meal, pearled barley, oats, herring meal. So is that good or bad?

  • Pingback: Basic help please for dry dog food ingredients - Poodle Forum - Standard Poodle, Toy Poodle, Miniature Poodle Forum ALL Poodle owners too!()

  • You can go to a feed store or tractor supply store or pet boutique (fancy pet store) or even the small family owned store and they usually have samples.  Petco and Petsmart do  not have samples. Call and ask ahead of time to be sure.  Look at the 5 star dog food list.  You can print it out and take it with you to the store and see which samples they have.

  • Hannahrosexxx

    Hi my name is Hannah Mitchell Im having a science fair at school in a couple of months is it possible any of uses could give me some advice on whats the best or how to find the best? Where to find or ask for samples?
    Thank you

  • Saro

    Loved this article. Very true and right on. All dog owners should know this and this is one way of educating dog owners about what they feed their dogs.

  • Bob K

    J Hohman – Hint Hint – Its the first 5 ingredients listed on the dog food bag or can that you need to pay close attention to and them make the desision if the product is something you want to feed your pet.    For example: Corn, wheat, Soy, Meat and Bone meal, Rice, Chicken Meal, Turkey, Fish Meal, Lamb, Lamb meal.   The first 5 ingredients will form the basis of the food that’s in the bag or can and make it the most important 5 ingredients.  Psst.  read the label.

  • Hi J Hohman,

    Per the article, “The first few items on any dog food ingredients list tend to be the most important”.

    In most (but not all) cases, that tends to be the first five ingredients.

    Hope this helps.

  • J Hohman

    So, what are the five ingredients????

  • Hi Tatiana… When I make those statements, they represent our “initial” impression based only upon the ingredient analysis. I’m pointing out that we still need to estimate the meat content before we judge the overall rating of the product. Some of my older reviews can be a little over the top. I’m trying to go back and edit out the hypey sounding stuff our of the ratings. I’d like to stick with words like average, below average or above average. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Tatiana

    Mike, thank you for the site, it is very helpful. When you write ‘a bottom line’ in your reviews and say that ‘ judging by ingredients alone, the food is quality/ high quality/top quality / top drawer/superior/excellent/exceptional ‘ would you range this characteristics same way I wrote (where ‘top drawer’ means probably one of last tree) or differently? I am trying to understand which characteristic reflects better ingredients? Thank you.

  • Jonathan

    Josh, have you read any of Mike’s articles about protein yet? He gets into biological value, I assure you.

  • Josh

    What I mean is that you can’t just feed a dog a food based on what the protein level is. There is the whole “what is the protein?” thing, the caloric value of the food and thus feeding amount, and only using kibble as a base. A dog’s diet is just as complex as a human’s.

  • Hi Josh… Not sure everyone would agree with your opinion about protein. Please see our FAQ page regarding the topic, “Dog Food Protein”.

  • Josh

    High protein diets are not to be ventured into without caution though. When feeding puppies, especially large breeds, you don’t want to have high protein levels because the dog will grow too fast for it’s structure to keep up.

    The Great Dane Lady feeds Precise Holistic, that is 23% protein and she moves them up to 25% when they are grown. Now, these might seem low, but this kibble is highly digestible, whereas other kibble might boast 30% protein but not be very digestible. To compare; you feed 1c/day for every 25lbs when using Precise, whereas a grocery brand will be at least double that.

    Just because a dog food is high protein does not mean your dog can digest it. Many premium dog foods include ingredients that help with digestion, such as quality fiber and pre/probiotics.

  • Hi Jack… High protein is a concern for many and can be the subject of controversy. Protein issues for seniors seem to focus upon whether or not a high protein diet causes kidney problems. Although some may disagree, more recent studies have confirmed high protein not to be a contributing factor. That is, unless a dog is already suffering from advanced stages of renal failure. As a matter of fact, it has now been shown that a low protein diet is actually not healthy for most older pets. For a more detailed explanation, be sure to read my article about “Low Protein Dog Foods“. Hope this helps.

  • jack

    is a high protein diet good for an older dog?

  • Jonathan

    This would all be far less confusing if the dog food manufacturers were ordered, like human food makers, to put the actual nutrition breakdown on the package. It’s so deceitful. The GA is nearly pointless because of how much it can be fudged.

  • Hi Jonathan… Actually, fat is a very small component of most grains. In an unprocessed state, one can expect to find primarily carbohydrates and (to a lesser degree) protein and fat. So, yes. In the case of fat, there would probably be only minimal affect on the fat reported in a finished dog food.

  • jonathan

    I get that… I always jump down the list to point out good or bad small ingredients. my concern now is how much the protein and fat percent is effected by the grain used in the food. it would seem the protein and fat boosting potential of corn and some other grains is more significant than i was thinking.

  • Hi Jonathan… Your deductive reasoning skills are still sharp. However, the only thing I always have to remind myself is that some ingredients are more “potent” and can have a more significant effect on the dog food than others. An example would be fish oil (or flax seed oil) or a synthetic preservative (like BHA or BHT). Even at position ten on the list we would pay more attention to them than we would to a position five corn. Hopefully, that makes sense.

  • Jonathan

    Barley is 10% protein but only 1% fat. Oatmeal is only 2.3% protein and 1.4% fat. Whole wheat flour is 13% protein and 1.6% fat. Sorghum is 11.4% protein and 3.1% fat. White rice is only 6.6% protein and 0.5% fat.

  • Jonathan

    oh… I found a problem with my math. I just looked up the nutritional info on corn. 1 cup of corn (166 grams) has 8g of fat, 123g of carbs, and 16g protein. That means corn is about 10% protein and about 5% fat. that’s an entire 15% of corn that is affecting the potential meat content. Hmm. This throws my entire theory off. And it means that corn may need to be noted for it’s protein and fat enhancing potential in dog food. I checked brown rice, too. In one uncooked cup (185 grams) there is 5 grams of fat and 15 g of protein. That’s about 3% fat and 8% protein. That’s still 11%. It would appear that any starchy grain can have a significant effect on the GA protein and fat of a dog food.

  • Jonathan

    I always tell people to look at the list up to fat. I figured, if the fat content of the given food is say, 15%, than everything after the fat must be less than 14%. So, the more ingredients after the fat, the less % there are of each of them. Pro Pac is an easy one to show people. There isn’t much to it. The first ingredient is chicken meal, then Ground Yellow Corn, then Chicken Fat. I show them the GA and point out that if the fat is 15% of the food, and the protein is 26%, which is the chicken, then 41% of the food is actual chicken product. Then there is the 10% moisture. That’s 51%. That just leaves 49% for carbs. of that 49%, we know that the corn has to be less than 26% of the total food by it’s 2nd place after the 26% chicken. More than likely the corn is about 25% of the food. That leaves 24% of the food to what is after the fat… Rice Flour, Dried Beet Pulp, Natural Flavoring(?) Flax seed, Yeast Culture, Salt… then all the vitamins. So if rice flour has to be no more than 14%, then every thing after that can be no more that 10%. We know that salt isn’t going to make a substantial %. Probably with that we would be getting into the fractions. Same with the Yeast, flax, and “flavor”. SO if the Rice Flour is 14%, I’d say the beet pulp is more than likely about 8 or 9%, with the rest of the list falling into the remaining 1 or 2%. I usually don’t take it this far down the list with customers… I just stop when I get to the meat vs. carb part. (I can’t just do the “dry weight” math on the fly, you know.) But does my math make sense to you? Or have I screwed something up.

  • Hi Linda… I can sympathize with your concerns. As hard as it is to believe, dog food companies frequently change the recipes of their products (including supplements) without advising the public. Unfortunately, I’m not personally aware of any laws which require them to inform the public.

    Maybe another reader can provide more information about this frustrating problem.

  • Linda Palmiere

    On Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 7:07 PM, Linda Palmiere wrote:

    Is there any info regarding disclosure to the public when ingredients are changed on dog food supplements? Specifically, the brand, Show Stopper for coat and skin for dogs. I had been purchasing for 1 year via mail. I received my last container at the end of May 2010 and my dog became ill with gastric upset after consuming. I examined container’s ingredients and noticed the formula had changed with some ingredients deleted and others added. There was not a notification to the consumer that the ingredients/formula had changed.
    I am very concerned about this and would like to know if the supplement distributors are required to disclose a change in ingredients to the consumer. My dog is the one who suffered the consequences, and this is a shame.

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