1．Find the list of ingredients on the bag.
The first 5 to 10 will play a significant role in the nutritional make-up of a food; however, it’s important to remember that pet food labels provide limited information regarding the nutritional value of a food. Labeling regulations do not allow manufacturers to describe the quality of ingredients on the package. A reputable pet food manufacturer will be able to explain to you their specific methods for evaluating and assuring the quality of ingredients used in their products.
2．Identify the source/sources of protein.
Because dogs and cats need meat, it’s best to pick a food in which the first ingredient is an animal-based protein source, such as chicken and chicken meal, lamb, lamb meal, fish meal, or egg. These ingredients contain a full complement of essential amino acids, unlike vegetable-based protein sources, such as soybean meal or corn gluten meal. By-products are not a good source of protein because they are the left over parts from production, such as feathers, feet, heads, beaks, fur etc.
3．Identify the source/sources of fat.
For a glossy coat and healthy skin, your pet needs fat in the diet. Make sure the fat is meat based, since this fat is taken out from the rendering process it should be added back in. Fats are made up of fatty acids, and there are two important types of fatty acids for dogs and cats—omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids, found in chicken fat and corn, are essential for maintenance of skin and coat and proper membrane structure. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oil, all other sources of Omega-3 are hard for cats and dogs to digest. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be important in blood clotting and decreasing inflammation, among other things.
4. Identify the source/sources of carbohydrate.
Cats and dogs need very little carbs in their diets because they are carnivores. Ideally there should be no grain in their food. The grains that are known to cause kidney damage from their poor protein are corn, wheat and soy. Fruits and vegetables are good carb sources for pets as long as there are not too many of them.
5. Identify a source of fiber.
Research has shown that moderately fermentable fiber, such as beet pulp, enhances intestinal health. The fermentable part of the fiber is broken down by intestinal bacteria to provide short-chain fatty acids, an energy source for intestinal cells. The non-fermentable component provides bulk for normal feces. Using highly fermentable fibers can cause problems, such as excess gas, while using non-fermentable fibers, such as peanut hulls, promotes excess stool volume because they are of little or no nutritional value.
6. Look at the preservatives.
Copper Sulfate and Ethoxyquin are toxic and very bad for pets. These ingredients should be avoided. Salt should also not be on the list.
7. Look at the guaranteed analysis.
If your pet is on the chunky side you should pick a food with higher protein than the competition. If your pet is skinny get a food with average protein.