Dogs — we don’t deserve them. But they definitely deserve the very best food we can find, because the longer we can enjoy a great life with our best friends, the better.
Given the preponderance of information about the best ways to feed your dog, it can be hard to sort truth from fiction. Our complete guide to finding the healthiest dog food will walk you through it from start to finish. Start by considering your pet’s unique needs, and how they can be met through the right diet. Then we’ll take you through the ultimate list of things a healthy dog food must have.
Finally, you’ll learn how the best dog food brands prioritize gut health, and how something like a Good 4 Life System can make big changes in your dog’s health.
What to consider when selecting a dog food
Before you can choose the best food for your dog, you’ll want to consider the unique needs of your pet, how they’re feeling and how they’re responding to their current diet.
Does your dog have allergies or intolerances?
Is your dog showing signs of stomach upset after his dinner? If gastrointestinal distress is a regular post-meal event, you may suspect that your pooch has developed a food allergy. While you’ll want to identify the cause of your pet’s aggravation, it’s important to know that it’s far more likely your pet has developed an intolerance to something in his regular diet.
While allergies and the intolerances overlap in symptoms, the two reactions have different causes and differing outcomes.
- Food allergy
- Caused by an immune system overreaction, after identifying an ingredient as a harmful invader
- Animal proteins are the most common food allergens to canines
- In addition to vomiting and other GI issues, allergy symptoms include itchy ears and paws and difficulty breathing.
- Ingredient intolerance
- Does not activate the immune system
- Reaction is mostly confined to GI distress
- Root cause is usually an overexposure to an ingredient from eating the same diet.
Think an allergen is disrupting your pet’s system?
The best dog food for allergies starts with a limited-ingredient diet, which uses a single-protein formula to help you rule out the allergen by process of elimination.
Is it an intolerance?
The best dog food for a sensitive stomach is a high-quality brand, one that features nutritional concepts that improve gut health, so your dog’s system can start accepting the offending ingredient again.
[For a deep dive, read: Is It Food Allergies or Intolerance? Decoding Your Dog’s Sensitive Stomach]
Dog’s size and age
When choosing the best food for your dog, you’ll also want to consider life factors, such as their size as well as their age so you can meet their unique dietary needs at all stages.
Best food for small dogs: The reduced-sized kibble found in small bites diets makes mealtime more comfortable for smaller breeds — particularly toy breeds weighing less than 15 pounds.
Best food for large breeds: Does your large- or giant-breed dog inhale their dinner? Large-breed diets can solve your problem, as they’re made up of jumbo-sized kibble to encourage your pet to get back into the habit of chewing.
Best food for puppies: Puppies could safely eat any diet that’s formulated for all life stages. But its is best to switch your puppy to adult food when the time is right. That’s because puppy diets can better support the growth and health of your new pet:
- Small-sized kibble for those tiny (but needle sharp) baby teeth
- Right amount of calories and macros (carbs, fat, protein) to support healthy growth, along with nutrients like DHA to support healthy brain development.
- Large-breed puppy diets have the right balance of minerals to support bone growth at just the right pace, greatly reducing the risk of painful bone disorders later in life.
Best food for seniors: As your aging dog’s activity level starts to diminish, it’s time to recalibrate their calorie intake to help your best friend maintain a healthy weight. Senior dog food diets take the guesswork out of the task by providing balanced nutrition at a lower calorie count and more fiber that helps them stay satisfied after every meal. Keep reading about how to feed a senior dog.
What to look for in a healthy dog food
In your search for healthy dog food, do your research. As you pursue the bag and the brand’s website, these are some of the key markers of a high-quality dog food that will support your dog’s health.
The best quality dog food will list meat as the first ingredient — not corn or processed grains. Dogs both crave and require animal protein to maintain healthy skin, hair and nails, build and repair muscle and tissue, and keep their body systems functioning properly. Also, look for nutrient-dense sources of carbohydrates that provide good fuel for your dog’s brain and body. This may include whole, unprocessed grains like brown rice, quinoa, barley and oats, as well as legumes like peas and lentils, and healthy starches like sweet potatoes.
An important measure of quality in dog food is bioavailability, which refers to the proportion of food that’s digested and absorbed by the body. In other words, the greater the bioavailability, the less poop there is to clean up in the backyard.
The gut is the source of health. A healthy gut environment supports immune defenses and nutrient absorption, which is why high-quality dog foods contain probiotics.
Probiotics require a food source to grow and support the beneficial microbial population. This is where prebiotics come in. By pairing prebiotics with probiotics, you can further improve your dog’s microbiome.
The supplements included in your dog’s food says a lot about its quality and how much the brand cares for the health of your pets.
Each of the components contribute to a healthy gut and the gut is the center of all-around health. To ensure your dog is getting the healthiest food and the best nutrition, follow the Ultimate Guide to Full Circle Feeding. Your dog will thank you.
Get serious about your dog’s gut health with the Good 4 Life system
What is the Good 4 Life system?
Good 4 Life is a proprietary supplement system included in all NutriSource canine and feline formulas.
What makes Good 4 Life unique? It’s the core of our nutritional philosophy: “healthy gut, healthy mutt!” Good 4 Life has a powerful blend of probiotics, prebiotics and minerals that rebuilds gut health, supports immune function and facilitates better absorption of nutrients.
What makes Good 4 Life amazing? After feeding on NutriSource for several weeks, all that inner work Good 4 Life has been doing on your dog will start showing up on the outside. You’ll notice a big difference in how your dog looks, feels and smells:
- Fewer, firmer poops
- Fresher kisses
- A healthier, softer, richer-colored coat
- No more itchy skin or paw licking
What’s in Good 4 Life?
Good 4 Life provides your dog’s gut with the probiotics and prebiotics that work together to build a healthy microbiome in the gut.
Probiotics: Good 4 Life feature five different strains of bacteria plus nutritional yeasts to cultivate a healthy microbiome for optimal gut health.
Prebiotics: These are the resistant starches that provide the necessary food for live bacteria and yeasts to thrive and flourish.
What else does Good 4 Life offer?
- BioPlex: Provides trace minerals that support immune function and aid in digestion.
- Sel-Plex: Organic selenium that supports metabolic function and neutralizes free radicals in the bloodstream.
What are the benefits of Good 4 Life?
Builds gut health: The probiotics populate the gut with a colony of beneficial microbes to establish a healthy microbiome, which has three functions that are crucial to your dog’s overall health.
- Break down food to release nutrients — amino acids, energy, vitamins and minerals — into the body.
- Promote the body’s immune response.
- Break down ingested toxins and pathogens.
Regulates the lower GI tract: The probiotics in Good 4 Life absorb and colonize quickly in the lower GI tract. This regulates the gut, because the bacteria that cause gassiness and diarrhea are replaced with good bacteria. The prebiotics assist by clearing the gut of harmful pathogens, such as salmonella.
Bolsters immune support: While the healthy gut environment established by the probiotics supports your pet’s immune defenses, selenium minerals bolster that immune function. Good 4 Life has bonded organic selenium, which is better absorbed and utilized than inorganic, supporting metabolic and antioxidant activity while also reducing inflammation.
Enhanced nutrition absorption: BioPlex offers important trace minerals, including zinc, copper, manganese and iron, all in organic form for better bioavailability. As the Good 4 Life system rebuilds the gut, it improves your pet’s ability to absorb these minerals and other nutrients.
Ready to get started with the best dog food?
Before you get started with Full Circle Feeding and help your dog access supreme gut health from Good 4 Life, take our quiz. You’ll score a Full Circle Feeding plan that’s tailored for the needs of your pet.