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A Short-Hand Guide to The Best Nutrition for Your Dog

Table of Contents

You are what you eat and that's no different for your dog. We know you only want the best for your pup's plate, so today we'll be discussing what to look for and what to avoid in your pet's dinner.


Whole Meats

A Short-Hand Guide to The Best Nutrition for Your Dog

Your dog is an omnivore with a strong emphasis on the carnivore side of that coin. That means the first ingredient that your pet's food should have is meat. A whole meat, such as "whole lamb" or "whole chicken" is mostly water. If you're feeding kibble, that means a lot of that goes away during the baking process. Don't despair, most of the items in your dog food will "bake out" and have a great deal of water reduced, too.

However, this is why most companies back up their protein ratio with a hefty dose of mealed meats. In the best dog food brands, the protein is specific. Never go for a brand that has "meat meal" listed as an ingredient for your dog’s diet. Legally, this could be any kind of meat. Why is important to know what kind of meat your dog is eating? In the case of an allergic reaction, which has become all the more common these days, it makes it much easier to track down the source and eliminate it from your pet's diet.

A meat meal is the dried, ground form of whole meat. Sort of like the jerky crumbles at the bottom of the bag, this stuff is extra-concentrated protein and will lose almost no water when the baking process happens.



A Short-Hand Guide to The Best Nutrition for Your Dog

This is one hot button topic, so we'll be gentle. Grains work for some dogs. Grains don't work for others. Things like oatmeal, rice, and barley are food items that dogs have eaten for centuries. In fact, dogs in working positions prior to the advent of kibble survived on pretty high-carb diets. This was to keep them going throughout the day and in good body mass when feed got scarce, such as during war times. 

Today, our dogs aren't on duty around the clock. Instead, they lead quiet lives on their backs, kicking their legs until they fall off the couch. That's great! But it does bring up some questions about having grained foods for your dog’s diet.

With the rise of grain-free dog food, there has been some concern about dilated cardio myelopathy, especially in giant breeds which are already prone to the unfortunate chronic heart disease. At the time of this writing, there is debate within the veterinary nutritionist community as to the role of grains, the safety of grains, and the safety of a grain-free diet. When it comes down to it, feed what works best for your pet. Experiment. There are numerous canine diets on the market and even more for homemade recipes and raw meals. At the end of the day, you want to make sure you are only using a high-quality dog food that complements your dog’s lifestyle.

The sole grain we recommend against is corn high on the ingredient list. Corn offers little nutritional value, is often used as a filler, and is one of the most common allergens still in dog food today.



A Short-Hand Guide to The Best Nutrition for Your Dog

Not all by-products are made equal.

What is a by-product? And why isn't it listed individually? By-products span a wide variety from livers and other organs, which your dog needs, to feet and hooves, which do little for your pet's nutritional profile. The ideal pet food will list the by-products that they use instead of simply listing them as "beef by-products" on the back of the bag. If your food does list by-products like this, it may be because they're dropping the entire slaughtered animal into a large grinder and using the whole thing. This can be a big pro. Or they may be buying a big tub of rendered animal fat, hooves, horns, and the such to solidify their product and make the kibble shaping easier. That one? Not so good.


Fruits and Vegetables

A Short-Hand Guide to The Best Nutrition for Your Dog

The process of making kibble means that fruits and vegetables are ground, smashed, baked, and thoroughly hammered to bits. While dogs can't process heavy cell-walled produce raw, once those cell walls are broken down via these methods, they have every opportunity in the world to embrace the green and utilize all the vitamins and nutrients found in these ingredients.

And most dogs readily do. Though your pet may not be interested in iceberg lettuce, many dogs love chewing up carrots and apple slices (without the seeds, these are poisonous). A healthy pet may welcome an additional cold fruit or veggie treat on a hot day, and those warm months are coming soon. You can even find fruits in vegetables in some supplements, like cranberry supplements for dogswhich helps support urinary health. Some raw food options can add a variety of nutrients into your dog’s diet, however, make sure you first talk to your veterinarian to see which ingredients are safe for your four-legged companion. Give it a try and let us know what your pet thinks!


Vitamins and Minerals

A Short-Hand Guide to The Best Nutrition for Your Dog

This is where stuff gets kind of tricky for dog owners! You want to feed your dog natural foods, but you need to also make sure they are getting all the vitamins and minerals that’s needed to support a dog’s body. Just like you and me, our meals can't possibly fulfill every daily quota every single time we sit down to eat. I know that my never-ending pasta lunch yesterday definitely didn't and I have absolutely no regrets about that.

But your pet can't figure out when they're deficient in a particular nutrient and when they start to show problems from it, it's often too late to avoid a visit to the veterinarian. That's why most high-quality dog food companies have a tried and true vitamin and mineral additive to their canine formulas. This guarantees the uptake of crucial vitamins and minerals to keep your pets happy and healthy.

This can be a powder, a gel pack, or even a fluid poured into the kibble mix as it is ground, stirred, and prepared to form into tiny kibbles for your pet to enjoy. There are even dog chews out there now, like Pet Honesty’s line of dog supplement chews, that are both tasty and super nutritious and filled with the vitamins and minerals your dog needs.  If you're home-making pet food, we strongly recommend that you consult with a veterinary nutritionist to be certain that your recipes aren't lacking in any vitamins or minerals. As always, find out which ingredients are safe for dogs and discuss how you can improve your dog’s health. If it is, it's very easy to supplement your pet's diet as necessary.


Supplementing Your Pup

A Short-Hand Guide to The Best Nutrition for Your Dog

If your pup is experiencing health issues, you might want to take a look at their diet and the points above and see where there could be deficiencies. Below is a list of common issues dogs experience and the supplements/ingredients that can help:

Seasonal Allergies:

Colostrum, Probiotics, Turmeric, Vitamin C

Urinary and Bladder Issues

Cranberry, Marshmallow Root

Joint Issues/Immobility:

Glucosamine, Turmeric, Green Lipped Mussel, Hemp Powder, Hemp Oil


Probiotics, Pumpkin, Digestive Enzymes


Chamomile, Valerian Root, Ginger Root, Hemp Powder, Hemp Oil

Hotspots/Itchy Skin/Dry Coats, Skin Allergies:

Salmon Oil, Omega 3-6-9, Kelp


Colostrum, Probiotics, Turmeric, Vitamin C

UTIs/Bladder Infections/Incontinence:

Cranberry, Marshmallow Root


Always try to look for the natural, premium forms of these ingredients.

If your dog is suffering from common ailments like joint pain, allergies, hyperactivity or chronic diarrhea, considering eliminating table foods, supplementing their diet and revisiting what’s in their food and treats. Feeding your dog a nutritious diet will ensure his health and well-being in the future. As pet owners, it is our job to feed our dogs the best diet possible.

Here’s to helping our pups live long, happy and healthy lives! 


Camille Arneberg and her dog
Camille is a co-founder of Pet Honesty and VP of Pup Parent Education. After watching her own family dog suffer from joint issues for years she became passionate about improving dogs' quality of life. With the help of a team of veterinarians and dog nutritionists she now helps educate other dog owners about the small but powerful things they can do to positively impact their dogs' health and wellness! She lives in Austin, TX and loves cuddling puppies, being outside and reading.