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Shopping for the best dog food with the highest nutritional value is a huge challenge today. Just reading the labels sometimes requires a degree in chemistry and nutrition. Whether you shop at the grocery store or a dedicated pet shop you will often get no help from the staff since it is not their job to know exactly what each product offers. Thirty years ago you had a better chance of getting knowledgeable staff at such places.

So what is a dog owner to do when shopping for the best dog food. Well you could take a veterinary course in the area of pet nutrition. But that would only make you a little more intelligent when shopping for dog food.

Another approach is to use common sense and follow the advice below. It's not perfect but these are some things that are common to all dog foods.

The first and most important thing to realize is that ingredients must be listed on a package by amount in descending order. For instance, if meat is the first ingredient the food should have more meat in it than any other ingredient. The preferred meat is beef for pet foods. If it says chicken be careful. Chicken is a heavy meat because it contains a lot of water. So the food could have only a little bit of chicken and have grain filler comprising 80 to 90 percent. This is low-grade food.

Next, make sure that the first ingredient on the label is always meat with a name. Do not by dog food that says meat by-product. That is usually scraps that we wouldn't even consider eating.

Third, dog foods should have more meat protein than grain protein. With today's labeling laws there is still no way to tell just what the proportions are. Perhaps in the future we will have better laws.

The first five ingredients on the list are the most important. This list should contain one or more types of meat, or high-quality dairy products such as eggs. If only the first ingredient is meat and the rest are grains it is best to check other brands. Such types of food have a very low nutritional value.

Be careful of marketing terms such as "natural" or "premium." Other things to watch out for are if the labels have phrases such as "human-grade ingredients" or "70-percent organic." When you see any of these you should give the company a call to find out exactly what they mean. Every can or bag of dog food must list contact information for the manufacturer on the label.

Hopefully by following these steps you will find better quality dog food. However, if you find that you are feeding more food to your dog than he should have that is a really good indication that the food is of low quality. If you are feeding good high-quality dog food your dog should eat less because it will be more filling.

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