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How to Evaluate the Nutritional Content of Your Dog’s Food

Last Updated on February 22, 2024 by Dogs Vets

Traditionally, pet foods are based on animal- or plant-based ingredients. A growing trend is toward grain-free food options (such as beans, sweet potatoes, quinoa, or barley) that provide healthful fiber and other nutrients.


When reading the Guaranteed Analysis on your dog food, the percentage of protein listed will normally refer to “crude protein.” However, it’s important to understand that not all proteins are equal.

Some protein ingredients are better quality than others, offering a richer blend of amino acids that dogs easily digest. These are known as protein ingredients of high biological value.

The best pet foods, like Nature’s Blend, will list animal protein like chicken, beef, and eggs as the first ingredient in their Guaranteed Analysis. Avoid foods that use animal by-products of low quality, which can include feet, beaks, and undeveloped eggs.

These ingredients often dilute pet foods’ protein content and offer little nutritional value.


Dog food labels often display percentages, but the numbers are misleading because they don’t consider the amount of water in a can of dry kibble.

To determine the actual nutrient content of the food, one must calculate the percentages on a dry matter basis.

It’s also important to consider how the proteins are processed when comparing different foods. High temperatures decrease the bioavailability of the proteins, so it’s best to choose foods with low processing levels, like raw and gently cooked foods, freeze-dried or dehydrated food.

For your dog’s overall health, you want to aim for a diet that contains plenty of lean meats and fresh fruit and vegetables. Avoid feeding your pet foods that contain a lot of starchy ingredients.


Carbohydrates provide energy, and they are found in grains, vegetables, fruits, and sugary foods. But not all carbohydrates are created equal – where they sit on the Glycemic Index determines how your dog’s body uses them and provides your pup with a range of important nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, vitamins & minerals.

It can be difficult to compare a food’s carbohydrate content because Guaranteed Analysis figures don’t include the amount of moisture present in the product, which can vary between wet and dry foods or canned and home-prepared raw diets. For this reason, it is best to look at the nutrient content on a dry matter basis.


Although dogs are technically “facultative omnivores,” their natural diet comprises whole prey animals with muscle meat, organs, glands, skin, and bones. To meet this nutritional need, pet food makers have created plant protein extracts that contain gut-nourishing fiber and a high amount of protein.

Look for named animal proteins or meat meals like lamb, chicken, or whitefish instead of generic meat, bone, poultry, fish, or other by-product meals (heads, tails, feet, etc.).

Also, avoid foods that list their protein content on a “crude” basis. This method removes the moisture content of the product, which can vary widely from brand to brand, causing inaccurate comparisons.


There are six essential nutrients required by all dogs: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins. A good dog food will provide levels of these nutrients in its Guaranteed Analysis.

Concentrations of these nutrients will be higher in dry foods than in canned foods because most of a canned diet is water. Therefore, nutrient concentrations should be evaluated on a dry matter basis to make more accurate comparisons.

Look for a “complete and balanced” claim on the label, which indicates that the food contains all the nutrients a dog needs in its life stage. Check for “high in” claims on ingredients such as fatty fish (for Omega-3) and whole meats and legumes for trace minerals.


Dogs require essential fatty acids for growth, skin and hair health, and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Linoleic acid is a good source of fatty acid, as are vegetable oils, meats, and fish.

Calcium (Ca) is important for bone and tooth formation and balance phosphorus levels. It is also involved in blood clotting and muscle function.

Deficiencies can result in decreased eating or anorexia, lameness, skeletal abnormalities, and fracturing of bones. Excess amounts can lead to urinary tract stones and calcification of tissue.

The nutrient percentages listed on a food’s Guaranteed Analysis must be calculated on a dry matter basis, which removes the water content to give a more accurate picture of the nutrients in the dog food. This is why it is challenging to compare the nutrient contents of different foods.




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