Dog Food Decoded: What’s Really in Your Pet’s Bowl?

Dog Food Decoded: What's Really in Your Pet's Bowl?

As a dog owner, you want to give your furry friend the best possible nutrition. But with so many options at the pet store, how can you tell what is actually good for them? Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at popular dog food types and decode those ingredient lists.  

Traditional Dry Kibble: The Processed Pellets

If you grew up with a family dog, chances are they ate those dry crunchy nuggets we call kibble. This type of baked dog food offers convenience and a long shelf life. But take a close look at that ingredient panel.

Many mainstream kibble brands use a lot of low-quality fillers and byproducts to keep costs down. Things like:

  • meat and bone meal (instead of identifiable meat sources).
  • corn, wheat, and soy (common allergens for dogs).
  • artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.

While affordable, this kind of highly processed pet food just doesn’t provide great nutritional value compared to fresher options. It is like eating fast food every day versus a balanced diet of whole foods.

Wet Canned Foods: The Gravy Trains

In the canned food aisle, you will find a lot of those loaf-style or gravy products. These wet dog foods tend to be more palatable and moisture-rich than dry kibble. But reading those can labels is still important.

The higher quality options will list real, identifiable meat sources as the first few ingredients. But steer clear of anything listing vague ingredients like “meat byproducts” or “animal fat”. And avoid excessive thickening gums, artificial flavors, and preservatives.

You are really aiming for just clean, simple whole food ingredients in that can. Things like chicken, turkey, beef, veggies, and natural fats. The plainer, the better for your pup.

Fresh, Gently Cooked Foods

Fresh pet food is one of the hottest trends for good reason. These minimally processed diets allow your dog to enjoy all the nutritional advantages of real, recognizable whole food ingredients. No baking or extreme heat to destroy nutrients.

Whether gently cooked, raw, or fresh frozen, quality brands will feature human-grade proteins like:

  • chicken or turkey.
  • beef or bison.
  • fish like salmon or whitefish.

Along with:

  • a rainbow of fresh fruits and veggies.
  • healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and oils.
  • limited carbohydrate sources like sweet potato or lentils.

These make for a much more biologically appropriate diet than ultra-processed kibble or cans. Just be sure to check for limited ingredients and no funky additives.

The Cold Pressed Difference

One new category that deserves a spotlight is cold pressed dog food, made through a special process called HPP (high pressure processing). 

With HPP, fresh whole food blends get sealed in flexible pouches, then subjected to intense cold-water pressure. This eliminates any potential pathogens to keep it safe while maintaining maximum nutrition, flavors, and textures. 

The end result is one of the best cold pressed dog food options out there. The people at Nextrition say that these meals look and taste freshly homemade because, essentially, they are. Just open that pouch and your pup is ready to chow down on premium, human-grade ingredients.


With so many options, from kibble to cans and fresh pet foods, choosing the best dog food can feel overwhelming. Remember, real, identifiable protein sources should be the basis, whether that’s chicken, turkey, beef, or fish. In general, the simpler and fresher the ingredients, the better it will nourish your pup’s body, just like a whole food, human-grade diet nourishes ours.

No matter which type of dog food you choose, take time to thoroughly read and understand those ingredient lists. Your dog’s lifelong health and happiness deserves nothing less.