Volhard Dog Nutrition 101: Determining Which Food Is Best For Your Dog (Part I)

Whether you’ve recently acquired a new canine best friend as part of your family, or you’ve had your dearest doggy companion since you were a wee little chap, it’s important to be continually evaluating the nutritional content of your dog’s diet.

For many, selecting your dog’s diet is as easy as grabbing the cheapest and largest bag off the shelves of your nearest big box store, while other pet owners spend hours crafting a homemade pet food made solely out of grass-fed beef and other organic ingredients. No matter which of these camps you align closest with, or if you fall somewhere in-between, here are some principles to determine which food is best for your dog.


A great jumping off point to finding out if your dog’s food is high-quality and full of good nutrients is looking to see what the chief component is. Both a dog’s interior and exterior structure were designed to consume meat; from the shape of their teeth, to the qualities of the acid in her stomach, a dog’s digestive system is that of a carnivore. This does not mean that dogs are unable to digest anything other than meat, it simply means that meat should be the first ingredient on your dog’s food label. Dogs are able to absorb and require nutrients from other dietary groups, like grains and vegetables, but again, they were made to be meat eaters.

Two loopholes to be aware of when you look at both the ingredient list and the label of your dog’s food.

1. The name of the product can be very telling about the contents. Regulations state that if a product is to be termed “Beef” the contents must be at least 70% beef. However, if the name of the product only contains the word “beef” paired with another term like “dish” or “entree”, there only needs be 10% actual beef in the contents. If the label claims to be “with beef” or “beef flavor” that requires 3% or less to be beef. This is consistent for chicken, pork, lamb etc.

2. When you turn the bag or box over and peek at the list of ingredients, the first item should be meat (or beef or chicken etc). However, many manufacturers use the loophole of labeling the “beef” as “meat meal” or “animal fat” or some type of offage or other descriptive word to claim that the ground up bits of whatever was on the factory floor actually resembles meat. You want to flip that bag over and see standalone words like turkey, bison, or venison. This lets you know you are feeding your dog real, quality meat that contains actual nutritional benefits. A great read on this subject is “You’re Paying for Real Meat but You’re Getting Meat Powder “by the https://truthaboutpetfood.com/youre-paying-for-real-meat-but-youre-getting-meat-powder/



On the flip side, many dog food products simply ride the wave of carbohydrates; these dog foods will have ingredients such as wheat, soy, corn, and even legumes listed as the first component. This is absolutely something to be aware of as many of these food groups, when consumed in large quantities by your canine, are not only nutritionally lacking, but actually detrimental to your pet’s health.

Many dogs have gluten allergies or sensitivities to other types of grains that can cause itchy and dry skin, lethargy, or other digestive issues. Some dog foods depend on legumes as both a source of protein and a filler; recent studies have shown that legumes are an antinutrient and actually may block other nutrients from being absorbed.

Starchy vegetables are also occasionally used to bulk up a product, and while vegetables are wonderful for your dog’s health and diet in appropriate quantities, when overused, are GMO sourced or if the wrong vegetables are chosen it can impact blood sugars for the worse. This can result in insulin resistance or diabetes. 

Animal Digest

Finally, one of the most concerning ingredients you may find listed is not an ingredient at all, but rather something that manufacturers would like to pass off as food, or even food like. If the list of ingredients contains a phrase like corn gluten meal, or animal digest, you should run in the opposite direction. The definition of animal digest by the Association of American Feed Control Officials states that animal digest is produced by the chemical or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean animal tissue that has not undergone decomposition. While including already broken-down meats in pet foods is not in of itself concerning, the fact that you have no idea what is hiding behind this label is. Everything from diseased or contaminated animals to roadkill can be included in pet food behind the banner of animal digest.

Reading the labels and list of ingredients with a discerning eye is one of the best ways to determine which food is best for your dog! Stay tuned for Part II coming next month!