For loving pet parents, finding healthy dog food is a must. Just like humans, dogs are what they eat and a balanced diet will help to ensure that your dog is happy and healthy for many years to come. Research shows that a fresh, vet-approved diet has an enormous impact on a dog’s well-being. Studies indicate that a diet based on the best, whole-food ingredients prevents heart disease, improves sleep, increases brain function, encourages a shiny coat, and even helps your pup sleep.
Your dog’s food needs to be not only fresh, but balanced. Many dog owners make the innocent mistake of cooking their dog’s food at home, thinking that this is the most natural route, only to accidentally deprive their dog of essential nutrients. When it comes to commercially-produced dog food, you’ll often find some healthy ingredients and a lot of other difficult-to-pronounce fillers and potentially-dangerous additives. Remember that when you’re reading a dog food label, the ingredients are listed by weight. Look for as much of the good stuff at the top as possible and avoid any food with words you don’t recognize.
Here are the most important components of your dog’s diet. Every recipe from Ollie dog food includes these ingredients in a formulation that meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life Stages.
10 Healthiest Dog Food Ingredients
It should be no surprise that meat is the most important component of your dog’s diet. Dogs are pre-programmed to go crazy for meat for a reason! Every dog is different, but a general rule is that your dog food should be 30 percent lean protein — dogs will not thrive on an all-meat diet. Meat helps dogs maintain a healthy weight and keeps their muscles and joints strong as they age.
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2. Organ Meat
Right up there with lean, muscle-based protein, organ meats are an important ingredient in dog food. Feeding a dog organ meats mimics how is ancestors would eat in the wild, and provide critical vitamins and nutrients for your pup. Avoid terms like “made with organ meat” and look for the actual organs listed: kidneys, heart, liver, and gizzard (for poultry) are the best.
Right after meat sources, carbohydrates are critical. Carbohydrates, like those found in vegetables, fruit, and rice provide instant energy for dogs, and are part of a balanced diet. Soy, corn, and wheat are considered lower-quality ingredients, and many dogs are sensitive to these. Look for carbs like pumpkin, squash, kale, rice, and berries.
4. Healthy Fats
Fats are not the enemy! In fact, they are an essential part of a dog’s diet. Healthy fats, including those found in meats, do everything from encouraging proper cell function to improving your dog’s coat. Other sources of good fat include sunflower oil, coconut oil, fish oil, flaxseed oil, and olive oil.
Both soluble and insoluble fiber make sure a dog’s digestive tract is chugging along, while helping to maintain a healthy weight, prevent anal gland disease, and ward off obesity. Finding the right amount of fiber for your dog can be tricky, so if you’re not sure what’s right for your pup, check these basic guidelines.
Electrolytes like sodium, chloride, and potassium should be lower down the dog-food ingredient, and can sometimes be found in whole foods (e.g. pumpkin is rich in potassium). However, they are important for almost every aspect of your dog’s health from organ function to muscle use. When a dog’s electrolyte balance is off, this can lead to kidney or other organ failures.
Dogs require that their food sources contain vitamins, including vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, and choline. While a dog can get the majority of his vitamin needs from natural food sources, sometimes dog foods will contain an extra boost. If your dog food is “complete and balanced,” you don’t need to supplement with additional vitamins unless recommended by a vet.
8. Essential Fatty Acids
Dogs can produce certain kinds of fatty acids on their own, but require two types to come from their diet: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids can be delivered through fat found in meat or poultry, but omega-3 comes from sources like fish oil and flaxseed. Make sure your dog food contains both.
Minerals in dog food are sometimes referred to as “trace minerals,” because your dog needs them in such small amounts. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important! A mineral deficiency can lead to health problems including bone and joint disorders, impaired immunity, and anemia. Trace nutrients to look for on labels include zinc gluconate, ferrous sulfate (iron), and manganese sulfate.
Superfoods for dogs aren’t exactly a unique category, but they do deserve a shout out. Superfoods are like superheroes of dog nutrition. The very best foods will list these in their ingredients. Superfoods for dogs include chia seeds, blueberries, pumpkin, kale, and quinoa.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.