As a dog owner, you know the importance of providing adequate nutrition to your four-legged friend. After all, they’re a part of the family and you want them around for many years, right?

Unfortunately, giving your dog the best dog food isn’t always easy when there’s so much debate over brands, practices, and ingredients. There are so many dog food brands and varieties, it can be hard to know which ones are reputable, which ones have the best-quality ingredients, and frankly, which one your dog will actually enjoy.

So, what ingredients should you really be looking for in your dog’s food for optimal health?

Meat and/or Meat Meal

The first ingredient in any dog food you’re going to buy should be meat. If you’re looking for one tip to take away from this, let it be this one! Wolves in the wild need almost four pounds of meat each day to maintain their health. While your dog might not have the appetite of a wolf, the fact is that dogs are carnivores.

Dog food manufacturers list their ingredients in order of how much of that ingredient is in the food. So, if meat or meat meal is the first ingredient, you can feel good knowing your dog is getting the protein they need.

Grains

Don’t assume that carbohydrates or grains are bad for your dog. Just like people, dogs need carbs for energy. If you want to choose healthier grain options, look for foods that contain oats, rice, or barley instead of soy or corn. Additionally, make sure any grain ingredients are listed lower than meat or meat meal.

Fruits and Vegetables

Dogs benefit from the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables just as much as we do. Veggies like sweet potatoes can provide potassium and Vitamin B, and they’re also full of antioxidants that can help your dog fight off different illnesses. Fruits like blueberries also can help to fight disease and offer a great source of fiber.

Water

Water probably isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind when you’re buying dog food. But, each bag should have a moisture percentage listed. It’s always better to choose food with high moisture content. This will help to keep your dog hydrated and often indicates that the food is made from fresher ingredients. Of course, it’s equally important to always make sure your dog has fresh water available.

Preservatives – Good or Bad?

The word “preservative” usually doesn’t seem like a good thing when it comes to food. While they’re not necessarily beneficial, preservatives also don’t have to be bad. They’re actually needed to help your dog’s food stay fresh, especially if it’s going to sit on a shelf for any length of time.

So, look for preservatives that come from natural sources, like ascorbic acid. Avoid preservatives like BHA and BHT. Those are actually banned in food made for human consumption because they have been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers.

As you can see, all it takes is a few extra minutes to read the label of your dog’s food, and a little knowledge about important ingredients to make the smartest and healthiest choice for your four-legged friend.