A Canine Nutritionist Explains How To Choose the Right Dog Food for Your Dog
Step 3 of 9 in the Dogly Improving Kibble Channel
with Alicia Boemi of HolisticPetWellness, Wellness Advocate

Recorded on
Thursday, May 27, 1 PM EDT

Choose how you would like to access the recording below

How do I choose the right dog food for my dog? That may be the question I hear most from pet parents as a Canine Nutritionist.

What to feed our dogs has become overwhelming, frustrating, and even controversial these days, and it doesn't have to be this way!

So let's all take a breath and talk dog food with an open mind and question and answer step-by-step guide. I'm here to help you navigate the nutrition world for all types of food for dogs. Whether that's commercial kibble or raw, or homemade and even everything in between.

Let's start with 5 questions/concerns I hear often from pet parents that cover areas of confusion and worry around their dog's food.

And feel free to ask your own questions in the Improving Kibble Community discussion here on Dogly -- the more we share and learn together, the better off all of our dogs will be! (You can also watch the replay of my live learning/support group q&a on this topic by either registering or hitting the "watch" button above.)

5 questions & answers to help navigate finding the right food for YOUR dog:


Q. 1: With so many conflicting judgments on different types of dog foods - kibble, raw, homemade, etc., what's the right choice pet owners should make?

First, what I hear in this question is the stress that too many pet parents feel in somehow being judged for making the right or wrong choice in dog foods and type of diet for their pet's health.

As a canine nutritionist and multiple dog mom, I have to say there are way too many judgmental opinions flying around when it comes to pet food, and allowing any kind of shaming when it comes to dogs is unacceptable. You wouldn't be here and weighing options if you didn't care and weren't committed to doing your best for your dog.

Forget opinions, let's go with facts & good pet food options

Yes, there are pet foods and brands that are better than others, but there are good, nutritionally balanced dog food options to be found in each type of diet - from commercial kibble/dry dog food, to raw, fresh, cooked, home-prepared, and combinations of each.

Finding what's right for you and your dog depends on your individual dog, any specific nutritional value needs your dog has, and what works with the way you live.

So relax, ignore the judgmental pet food noise, and yay to you for being committed to feeding the best you can for your dog's health. That already gets us more than halfway to the factual answers that will work for YOUR dog and you.

Q. 2: Are all commercial kibbles bad?

No, of course not. Many commercial pet foods including kibble, and almost always the higher level kibble dog foods with higher quality ingredients, are formulated to be nutritionally balanced in keeping with AAFCO standards for required nutrients.

What does that actually mean?

If you choose a kibble-type dry dog food with AAFCO on the dog food label, at the very least, you have the assurance that you don't have to worry whether the food you're giving your dog is balanced in its delivery of required essential nutrients to support your pet's health.

That's important for all dogs, and even more so, for example, for puppies who need a carefully balanced meal at every single meal without nutrient deficiencies while they're growing and their bones are forming.

Any favorite recommended kibbles?

Everyone always asks if there are kibbles that I, as a certified nutritionist, like and recommend for pet owners who want to serve kibble as part or all of their dog's diet.

You can hear my list & reasons in the video above my registering or clicking "watch" or see my dog food recommendations here. (A couple of the brands I've listed aren't technically kibble but freeze-dried or air-dried raw with the convenience of kibble.) You'll see that I've chosen very clean kibbles with good sourcing.

What do you look for on dog food labels?

When you look at a commercial dog food label, you'll want to have a sharp eye on the dog food ingredients and steer clear of foods with animal by-products, chicken meal, rendered fat, corn syrup, and other harmful ingredients like food dyes and artificial preservatives. The simpler the ingredients, ones you recognize and can pronounce, the cleaner and better the food is for your dog.


Q. 3: What factors should I consider in choosing food for my dog?

In addition to reading the labels for ingredients to be sure to get the cleanest, most recognizable, high-quality ingredients as possible, checking the sourcing and considering the processing (high-heat cooked vs freeze-dried, for example), and confirming that it is complete and balanced according to AAFCO, here are a few other factors to keep in mind...

Make sure you're purchasing pet food for the right life stage - particularly for puppies and senior dogs

Dogs have very different energy and nutrient needs at different stages, so it's important to choose food geared to your dog's needs at each stage of life.

It's particularly essential that your puppy gets a complete and balanced diet for puppies for at least the first year of his/her life. A solid foundation is important for those growing bones and the health of every developing system in his/her body!

Senior dogs often have different caloric needs as they are less likely to be super active, and we want to maintain their ideal weight to be sure to keep extra weight off of joints. Maintaining ideal weight also helps protect from diseases that are more likely to appear with extra weight.

You'll find more details and my recommendations for each life stage here in the Life Stage Feeding Channel here on Dogly.

Analyze pet food with your dog's health conditions in mind

Of course, you'll want to factor in any known health conditions your dog may be experiencing. For example, if your dog has or tends toward pancreatitis, you'll want a high-protein, low-fat diet. A range of issues large and small can benefit from the right nutrition choice; it's helpful to consult a canine nutritionist or your vet if you want more personalized help in choosing a pet food.

Be honest about your dog's "body condition" when choosing the best pet food

What's termed "body condition" is another key factor to keep your eye on as you plan your dog's food and nutrition (and exercise!). You can eye-check your dog for this continually by taking an honest overhead view of your dog to be sure you can always see a bit of a tucked-in "waist" above your dog's rear.

Conversely, if your dog's ribs or spine are too obviously visible, your dog is likely underweight and would benefit from an increase of nutrients and energy in his/her food.

Why body condition/ideal weight matters for your dog

Almost 60% of America's dogs are obese, and obesity is a leading cause of illness and death among dogs and is a risk factor for heart disease, kidney and liver disease, and diabetes. Excess weight also puts stress on your dog's joints, which can cause pain and mobility issues.

Just as with humans, it's important to be honest about our dog's body condition and make sure we're feeding our dogs accordingly to help keep them lean, active, and healthy throughout their lives.

Take into account any allergies and/or food sensitivities your dog may have when choosing pet food

If your dog shows symptoms of food sensitivities or food allergies, you'll want to be especially careful to choose clean food (no preservatives, chemicals, or meat meals) with fewer ingredients limited to ones you recognize (not "byproducts," etc) in addition to avoiding your suspected food sensitivity (chicken, for example). Many times it's those mysterious dog food ingredients that can cause allergic-type reactions in your dog.


Q. 4: How can I look for solid information and resources when it comes to dog food and choosing my pet's foods?

We all know social media is overflowing with misinformation - opinions, even judgement - from everybody and his brother, largely without any expertise or basis in fact. And googling more often than not gets you paid-for search words and phrases from commercial interests with a perspective and products to promote...

That's why I recommend you seek out sources who are certified in nutrition specifically. If you come across a news article or report, be sure to see that the source behind it is a Certified Nutritionist (some "research organizations" are created as the consumer face for a corporation's interest).

Along with my Certified Nutritionist/Dogly Advocate colleagues, I'm sharing knowledge and open to all your questions here in the Improving Kibble Channel and lots of other Nutrition Channels like Basic Nutrition, Home Cooking, and more here on Dogly. It's one place you know you can trust what you learn - which is why I'm here. And if you don't see what you're looking for here, you can always run it by us in the Community discussion for answers.

Q. 5: Can I take a 'holistic' approach to dog food if I feed commercial dog food?

"Holistic" is one of those words that's gets thrown around a lot in pet health and it has no regulatory or nutritionally accepted definition, so beware when you see it applied merely for marketing-speak. As most of us think about taking a holistic approach with our choices, we think of whole-body health with everything connected and each good choice working together in support of our whole dog.

With that in mind, the answer is, yes, you absolutely can take a holistic approach if you're feeding your dog commercial food, and here's how:

Just topping your dog's food or removing 20% of your usual food and replacing it with fresh can not only complete the holistic circle you want to achieve but studies have shown a profound reduction in incidence of cancer, diabetes, and other disease with just that 20% switch.

Here are a few easy, but big-impact hacks to freshen your pet's food:

Blueberries - frozen or fresh organic blueberries (1 per 2lbs dog weight), extraordinarily high in antioxidants

Greens, especially kale or spinach - fresh or lightly steamed, super high in antioxidants and key vitamins and nutrients like iron

Eggs - raw, hard-boiled, or lightly cooked, eggs are considered a complete protein. Easily digested by dogs and loaded with nutrients. (1 per larger dog, 1/2 per smaller dog)

You can learn more about each of these easy nutrition hacks in the Improving Kibble Channel here on Dogly plus additional fresh foods from your fridge or foods from your dinner plate that can supercharge your pet's food.


Next up in the Improving Kibble Channel on Dogly

Now that you have an introduction into how to choose the right diet and dog food for your dog, let's take it a step further in the next guide to learn why complete & balanced matters in pet food, red flags to watch out for when selecting a pet food, and more!

If you have any additional questions on what's the right food for your dog, I'm here. Jump over to the Improving Kibble Channel here on Dogly and ask any questions in the Community discussion. Or, if you think you would like more individually focused help on your dog's nutrition, you can work one-on-one with me here.

Alicia Boemi of HolisticPetWellness

Wellness Advocate
Dogly loves Alicia because she gives dog parents tools to be proactive and feel reassured in their dog's health journey.

Alicia guides you

Basic Nutrition - Home Cooking - Joint Support - Life Stage Feeding - Aromatherapy - Herbs

Alicia is certified

Canine Nutrition & Massage Therapy - Canine & Equine Aromatherapy - Canine Herbalism