Canine nutrition

Understanding Complete dog food

In order to feed your dog we must first look at what they require to ensure they are provided with the best nutrition to improve their health and allow them to flourish. In this blog we will be looking at Complete dog food.

An average adult dog requires a food with a minimum of 60% high quality meat, minimal amounts of fruit and vegetables, with grain absent from their diet. Dogs are classified as scavenging carnivores meaning their primary source of food must be the flesh, muscle, fat and organ meat of other animals. A small proportion of your dogs diet may contain fruits and vegetables and 10% raw bones to aid teeth health (never feed cooked or roasted bones).

Although dogs have been domesticated for the past 33,000 years their digestive systems have barely changed from that of their ancestor the Grey Wolf. Wolves naturally eat a whole prey diet eating as much of the animal meat and organs as possible including the often herbivorous preys gut content which would provide them with a small proportion of pre-digested plant and vegetable matter.

Although their dietary needs have changed little, the way in which we feed our dogs has since the introduction of the first manufactured dog food. Today there is near to 1000 different dog food companies, so it can be difficult to know which is best for your beloved dog.

When choosing a food for your dog the key is to know what to look for and what to avoid when reading the ingredients. Never be swayed into buying a food due to its fancy packaging, low price, claims of being a natural diet or complete diet, advertising on TV, at your vets or by recommendation of a friend or family member. It is your job as a pet parent to do your own research and to seek a nutritional consultation which will aid your dog in the long term.

Categorising dog food

Manufactured Dog food comes in five main forms

– Kibble – Cereal based kibble, Average kibble, Premium kibble
– Wet food
– Complete raw diet


Cereal based kibble
These low meat quality and quantity foods are high in cereals which is not ideal to maintain good health. Cereals to avoid include, maize, corn and wheat, which commonly cause allergies and provide little to no nutritional benefit. Typically these foods are low in price due to their cheap nutritionally lacking ingredients including “meat and animal derivatives” which are the scrap or left overs of the animal instead of highly nutritious muscle meat.

Foods such as these can also change the species they include meaning dogs with dietary sensitivity or allergies are at risk as their owners may not know what they are eating bowl to bowl. This is common with foods stating for example “including min 4% chicken” (remember dogs require a minimum of 60% high quality meat). Some brands fill their low meat foods with salts, sugars, artificial flavours and E numbers to make them more palatable. None of these should be in a dogs diet as they can affect the kidneys and liver, cause a dog to be at greater risk of obesity, diabetes, and behavioural issues such as hyperactivity.

Average kibble
In the middle quality range of dry food these contain primarily meat meal – i.e. chicken meal, lamb meal etc. Others use dehydrated animal proteins or hydrolysed animal proteins, such as dehydrated poultry protein. It is important as with all ingredients that they are clearly labelled, be wary of grouped ingredients such as “poultry” and “animal” these allow the meat used to change regularly.

As a carbohydrate source these foods commonly use brown or white rice, barley and oats as these are easier to digest compared to some cereals. Others can include potato, sweet potato and pea flour. Average kibbles contain a minimum of 30% meat product and will include additives which may be natural or artificial so it is important to read the ingredients. A lower meat level may be appropriate for dogs with severe digestive upset although it is important to note that nutritional levels may not be suitable for a long term diet.

Premium kibble
Containing a minimum of 60% high grade meat “fresh chicken, dehydrated chicken” these food list every ingredient clearly allowing pet parents to know exactly what you are feeding, this is especially important for dogs with allergies. Premium kibbles are commonly grain free enabling your dog to digest as much as possible absorbing all those high quality nutrients. Although premium diets are more expensive than cereal or average kibble they provide a range of health benefits and reduce the risk of digestive issues, skin allergies, behaviour issues, kidney problems and more. Less dietary related health issues means less trips to the vet and with an increased level of digestible ingredients less is required to be fed meaning the food will last much longer. Premium diets are often small businesses that source their ingredients from the UK. This personalised care of their food assures you they are making the food to benefit your dog not their income.

Wet Food

As with kibble food wet food comes in various quality levels.

Low quality wet food
These are the foods you will find in supermarkets, corner shops and petrol stations. These cheap wet foods typicallly provide the minimum levels of meat (remember that dogs need minimum 60% high quality meat to thrive). The meat used in these foods are known as meat and animal derivatives, a broad term for the left overs from manufacturing human grade food products. Food manufacturers do not use these for human consumption as they provide low nutritional value, however artificial additives will be added for dog food production so a dog can survive but not necessarily thrive long term on these foods. Cereals will be included to bulk up the food and keep the dog full, along with sugar and salts to improve the taste.

Medium quality wet food
Containing from 40% meat, these foods clearly label which species the meat is derived from such as chicken or beef. Although these may contain grain they typically use rice which is easier to digest or other carbohydrates such as potato; vegetables will also be clearly labelled. If additives are included these are often natural with no salt, sugar, colorants or e-numbers added. These are suitable diets and may be an appropriate diet for dogs who struggle with higher meat levels in wet foods.

High quality wet food
Hitting the minimum required 60% mark or higher meat content these diets use high quality muscle meat and organs providing the maximum level of nutritional value for your dog. These grain free wet foods use fruits and vegetables such as cranberries, coconut, and carrot creating variety and enabling better digestibility. With clearly detailed ingredient lists allowing pet parents to know exactly what their pet is eating, these ingredients do not change where as many cheaper foods will change the level of ingredients used depending on which is cheapest at the time. High quality foods keep to the same composition and are perfect for those who suffer from dietary intolerance or allergies. Some additives will be included but these are beneficial natural additives such as probiotics for digestive health and glucosamine for improved joint movement and health.

Raw Food

Complete raw foods come in various frozen forms including nuggets, blocks and tubs with a verity of meat proteins and life stage choices from multiple companies which specialise in this diet form. The basics of a raw complete food should consist of a minimum 60% raw meat, 10% bone and 10% offal (5% of which should be liver), some variations may include fruits and vegetables. This is the most natural form of complete diets and provide multiple benefits for health and behaviour as it allows your dogs digestive system to process the foods in a raw state as they were designed to. When reading complete raw food ingredients it is important to note some will be quite short as they list the meat, bone and offal source and any additions such as vegetables. For example “chicken (70%), chicken bone (10%), beef green tripe (5%), beef liver (5%), carrots, apple, spinach, butternut squash, Scottish salmon oil”.

Some raw food ingredient lists may not indicate that there is glucosamine in the diet as the protein used contains natural forms of this joint aid, such as beef trachea, chicken feet and any parts of the animal high in cartilage or connective tissue. Much like other complete diets all raw food diets are different so it is important to try a verity to know what protein source your dog prefers and what percentage of meat to bone aids their digestive system.
Dogs’ are very much part of our family and it is our responsibility as pet parents to ensure they are provided the best possible diet for their individual needs. To check the quality of the food you currently feed your dog visit the website All About Dog Food for independent ratings on most brands of dog food.

For a comprehensive, personalised dietary plan to benefit your dog book a nutritional consultation today at pooch Dog Spa. To learn about our Nutritional services please click here. To schedule an appointment with our Canine Nutritionist please call the Spa on 01252 216 100 or book an appointment here

(Always remember no matter what type of food you feed always provide your dog fresh filtered water daily)