​Even the smartest dog owners can feel lost when looking at dog food ingredients. What exactly are you supposed to look for in dog food? How much protein content do you need? How much should you spend?
Today, we’re going to help make your next trip to the pet food aisle easier. The next time you’re shopping around for pet food, pay attention to the following three nutrients.

Protein

Protein is the cornerstone of a healthy dog’s diet. Proteins are the building blocks of muscle and body tissue. When your dog gets lots of protein in its diet, it speeds up the muscle and tissue repair process. An ideal adult dog diet consists of 18 to 25% protein. Puppies should get slightly more protein, accounting for 21 to 26% of their diet.
If your dog is particularly active, aim towards the higher end of protein content (25 or 26%). 

Protein Sources

It’s equally as important to consider the source of the protein in your dog food. Typically, dog food protein comes from meat (organs and muscles), animal byproducts (lips, hair, etc.), or grains (soy or corn). Many dog foods have protein from all three sources. Dogs and breeds differ widely when it comes to preferred protein sources. Talk to your vet to determine which protein sources work best for your dog – or try out several different dog foods and see how your dog responds.

Carbohydrates

Carbs are a key part of any dog’s health. They give your dog energy. Just like us, dogs get most of their carbs from grains. Cheaper dog foods get their grains from wheat and corn. More expensive dog foods use rice, barley, and oats. 
Dogs with a healthy weight typically maintain a diet of approximately 30 to 70% carbohydrates.
Some dog foods will use small amounts of carbs as fillers – often in the form of leafy green vegetables. These vegetables provide carbs while also containing high levels of fiber. Fiber helps a dog feel full (which means it’s less likely to overeat). It also helps push food through the digestive tract.

Consider Going Grain-Free

​Good dog foods often contain carbs from a variety of different sources. Some vets will actually recommend that your dog goes on a grain-free diet to help with common digestive problems like gas or bloating, in which case you can find plenty of high-quality grain-free dog foods to try.

Fat

Fat isn’t a bad word for dog food. Fats are just highly-concentrated forms of energy. They give your dog twice as much energy as proteins and carbs. Fats are also crucial for a healthy skin and coat on your dog. Plus, they boost brain, nerve, cell, and muscle development. 
Aim to have 10 to 15% of your dog’s diet consist of essential fats. Having a significantly higher amount of fat can lead to obesity, although a slightly higher amount of fat likely won’t do much harm – especially for active dogs.

Types of Fat

Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are commonly found in dog food. Popular sources include fish, flaxseed, canola oils, and cottonseed oils (the more expensive dog foods typically use seed oils). 

​Just Add Water

If you can balance the above ingredients with the right blend of vitamins, minerals, and water for hydration, then you’re well on your way to having a healthy and happy dog. 
Vitamins E and A are particularly important for dogs. Typically, dog food manufacturers load their foods up with all of the vitamins and minerals your pooch needs to stay healthy – so tracking the vitamins on dog food labels isn’t as important.
Buy the right food and keep your dog’s water dish clean and filled and you’ll have a happy, healthy, and active dog in no time!