Dog Food 101: Guide to the Best Food for a Healthy Dog

Any dog owner is very likely to tell you his or her dog can eat 24/7. And what’s even worse, dogs will eat anything. When it comes to majority of health issues that dogs have, your vet will ask you two things: what kind of food is your dog eating and is it having an adequate amount of exercise. The wrong kind of food can open a Pandora’s box of health issues for your dog so you want to choose wisely. And besides doing a research beforehand, you also need to track its reaction. Obviously, a loose stool is a clear sign your dog is having trouble digesting the food in question. But there are also ‘less obvious” signs such as itching, sneezing, dry paws, ear infections, all of which can indicate food intolerance. This guide will hopefully help you to entirely avoid this scenario.

Soft food Vs Dry food

Any vet will tell you that dry food is better for your dog’s teeth. Kibbles just do an additional job. But there’s no denying that they go nuts when it comes to soft food, so treat your pup with a delicious treat in a can once in a while. There are cans even in the medical segment: from stomach sensitivities to urinary tract health, low fat for neutered dogs, the list goes on and on.


There’s no denying that dogs cannot thrive without protein. Being the most important ingredient of your dog’s food, we will explain the most common and not-so-common sources so you can be fully equipped in deciding on your dog’s diet and list some of the best quality options for each one.


If there is one ingredient that is the most common, it has to be chicken. It is pretty much everywhere, so if your dog is not a fan of chicken or is intolerant to it, odds are you’re in trouble. But, this is not that common and the good news is that you can really choose from a variety of brands to suit both your dog’s taste and your wallet. Acana, for example, has a great Senior dog mix of free-run poultry.


The tender lamb is always a good choice for sensitive stomachs. You have Lily’s Kitchen Lamb with peas and parsley, Acana’s Lamb but also cheaper brands like Brit Care Lamb and rice.


Acana has Yorkshire Pork option with fresh butternut squash. Although some dogs might be intolerant of pork, this is a great quality single protein source.


Lily’s kitchen has a combination of salmon and trout whereas Orijen has a Six Fish mixture with as much as 38% of protein: pacific pilchard, mackerel, hake, flounder, rockfish and sole. Orijen is known as the emperor when it comes to dog food, but for some dogs this heavy protein mixture can also be too much so it’s always individual. And you also have Acana which is a brand produced in the very same factory as Orijen just with less protein and less wallet-burdening. Notably, they have two types: Acana Pacifica (herring, pilchard, flounder, hake, and rockfish) and Wild Coast (herring, flounder, hake, but the ratio is 50% protein and 50% vegetables). For dogs requiring a hypoallergenic diet, you might want to choose a single protein source, i.e. VetLife’s hypoallergenic Fish and Potato, with the fish being only herring.


Venison is a very powerful source of protein and it also works wonders when dogs are intolerant to more common allergens like poultry. A hypoallergenic brand in particular, Trovet, has a great option of venison-only dog food and just to give you an idea: it contains only 19.5% of protein so the risk of an allergic reaction is kept to a minimum with this easily digestible yet premium quality mix.


A pricey option but could be a miraculous solution for hypoallergenic dogs. Acana has a great offering inside its “single protein source” line – Duck and Pear. It will surely be more difficult to find in pet stores as it’s pricey for them too, but lucky for us all – the internet has no limits!

Unorthodox combinations

Lily’s Kitchen for example has Chicken and Duck, Venison and Duck, the list goes on and on. And if your dog doesn’t have a sensitive tummy and you have the budget for super premium food, treat your dog with a versatile diet by trying them all out!

Vegetarian options – yes, they do exist!

Even the cheap Royal Canin has its vegetarian can with soy protein. But these are usually for dogs with medical conditions or intestinal difficulties. But considering the number of sustainability-aware owners, this trend will surely trigger many brands to make their own alternative. You even have dog owners who go at it DIY style: just cook rice, pumpkin, lentils, raw veggies, quinoa, etc. Like any diet, vegetarian also has its own pros and cons, but one thing is certain: it requires a lot more effort by the owner to ensure the dog is getting ALL the necessary ingredients for its optimum health.

And guess what, your dog can even eat insects….

Entomophagy, the process of consuming insects is not at all strange in Asia when it comes to humans. And guess what, dogs can eat them too. In fact, it is this year that such dog food went on sale in the UK. And there isn’t just one brand that claims that this is the healthiest choice for your dog, but also the planet as meat farming is considered one of the main sources of global warming, Yora Insect Dog Food  claims to be world’s most sustainable dog food that is also hypoallergenic due to having only one source of not-common protein, so it’s great for sensitive tummies and also skin conditions. The afore mentioned Trovet also has an insect edition but please note that it is not advised for puppies and dogs who haven’t completed their growth cycle.


They come in forms of rice, potatoes, oats etc. Usually, sensitive tummies respond well to rice, but potatoes are also found in hypoallergenic mixtures. Oats, on the other hand, can cause problems if your dog is prone to allergies: and it even goes as far as avoiding shampoos that have them because it may lead to ear infections as a consequence of food allergy.

Healthy additions

Don’t forget the dental hygiene dental chews. Lilly’s Kitchen has a great meat-free option. You also need healthy treats to enhance your training. Lilly’s Kitchen has an assortment, from bedtime biscuits to cheese and apple to meat options, all of which your dog will adore. Pooch & Mutt also has many healthy treats.

Ingredients to avoid

Corn and wheat gluten only add calories and not the quality ones. Avoid preservatives (BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin) of any kind, so best to choose foods with natural alternatives like Vitamins C and E which are definitely safer choices.

One more thing to keep in mind: let’s say you are taking a lamb-based brand. If your dog is food-intolerant, you need to check whether that brand is clear of allergens as many will have poultry traces in them, usually in the form of fat. This is why you ideally want to get a super premium food like Lilly’s Kitchen, Orijen, Acana, etc. Brit Care for example, has chicken fat with preservatives in its lamb and rice dog food, and for that reason is more affordable than the brands above.

Many dog owners reported their dogs suffered from severely dried out paws despite the food solving their anal gland issue… So, read the label and don’t worry if some ingredients are unfamiliar: just visit your old friend Google. But one thing we guarantee you: you will have far less of those unknown words in Lilly’s Kitchen than in Royal Canin or Brit Care. And Lilly’s Kitchen Lamb has lamb fat, lamb gravy – and only lamb, period. Also, don’t forget the importance of probiotics and prebiotics, with many good products like Protexin’s Synbiotic which has both. One thing to note: if your dog is prone to allergies, avoid powdered ones that contain yeast. And many don’t even need refrigeration like LactoBif Pet Probiotics.

The bottom line…

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the best for your dog is bound to be the most expensive on the market as this is often not the case. If your dog does not have intestinal difficulties, you would even harm its immune system by giving him or her hypoallergenic food straight away. Moreover, when dogs have trouble with diarrhea, vets will often recommend Hills Science Diet Plan which is on the lower end. And just because Orijen has the greatest percentage of protein definitely doesn’t mean it is the best choice for your dog as dogs with anal gland problems and sensitive tummies might have trouble digesting it. So just like humans, each dog has its own story, and it is up to you as the owner, to figure out what that story is.

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