Food & Feeding

How to Choose the Best Dry Dog Food

How to choose dog food

The short version:

Indicators of good quality dry food:

  • Protein percentage is between 25-30%.¬†
  • Brand uses words like ‚ÄúComplete‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúComplete and Balanced.‚ÄĚ
  • Package specifies the right life stage and breed size.¬†
  • The first ingredient listed is a meat product.
  • It contains whole ingredients (not refined proteins or starches).
  • The manufacture date is available. This is different to a best before date. You want to know how recently it was made.

Feeding yourself is confusing enough, but understanding the right grub to give your dog can feel impossible. Spend five minutes in a pet store and chances are you’ll become overwhelmed with the choices. Shelves and shelves of different brands promise the world and insist they’re the best dry dog food. But it can be tricky to decipher what’s cleaver marketing and what’s valuable guidance.

Luckily we’re here to help you navigate the literal hundreds of different kinds of dry dog food available in Australia. Of course, many people prefer wet or raw food for their dogs. But considering that dry is still the most common choice for Australian pet parents, we’re starting there.

Ask Your Vet

Obviously your vet is always a great starting point for any pet queries. They’ll often have the most detailed information about health, and will be developing an ongoing knowledge of your pet. Just remember that in some cases they may have an agreement with a brand to recommend their product. Any good vet wouldn’t work with a brand they didn’t also trust, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Ask the Breeder or Rescue Centre

For many owners, breeders or rescue centre employees will be the first people who offer advice about their pet. It can be a good idea to keep them on the breeder’s food for at least a little while, as they would have got used to it.

Again, as with vets, they may be members of food company clubs that get them substantial discounts if they recommend their food.

Ignore the Front of the Pack

The one thing all pet food can guarantee is that they’ll promise you the world on the bag. Remember, this is the work of the marketing department–not a nutritionist. No matter the quality, we’d bet you’ll see the following:

  • Photos of healthy and happy dogs (who probably don’t eat the food).
  • Photos of beautiful ingredients that don‚Äôt match the recipe.
  • Product names that make you think it’s full of meat (rather than mostly cheap grains and carbs).
  • Statements like ‚ÄúGut Health‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúSkin & Coat‚ÄĚ that don‚Äôt really mean anything specific.

Check the Side or Back Panels

Basically, the less time you spend reading the front of the bag the better.

  • Look for phrases like ‚ÄúComplete‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúComplete and Balanced,‚ÄĚ that’s a better indication of quality.
  • See if it meets the guidelines handed down from the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA).
  • Make sure it meets the right life stage and breed size. For example it will state if it’s for adults, puppies, large breed puppies, or all life cycles.
  • Check the protein percentage. Protein is expensive, so more premium products should have levels that are 25-30%.

Understand the Ingredients List

  • Ingredient lists are arranged in descending order. That means the first ingredients make up the bulk of the recipe. In most cases that should be a meat product.
  • Be specific, you want it to say something like animal meal or dehydrated animal meat rather than just ‚ÄúChicken‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúLamb‚ÄĚ.
  • Look for whole ingredients rather than refined proteins or starches.

Fresh is Best

Dry dog food, when stored properly, has a long shelf life. But vitamins, fats, and oils do degrade over time. Try find a brand that prints the manufacture date on the pack. Most will only have a best before date.

Get Online

Do a quick Google search of the brand to see if people are reporting issues of ill dogs or foreign objects. Dog food in Australia is not yet regulated, so there’s no central database for complaints or mandatory recall powers. But if a brand has had issues it won’t take long to find out about them by reading customer reviews.

Consider Australian Made & Owned

Most dry dog food is made in Australia but owned by multinationals based in USA, Switzerland, and China. If you can find a local brand there is a higher chance it hasn’t been sitting around for weeks. Also, it’s great to support local businesses (like Scratch)!

For more information on dog food in Australia, check out:

How the Pet Food Industry Got Hooked on Bad Chicken

Understanding the Invisible Economics of Pet Food

Are CBD Dog Products Safe?

Frequently Asked Questions

Scratch designed the best kibble for dogs by cutting out all the middlemen and spending more on the ingredients. Their recipes are delicious (4.95 average rating), 100% nutritionally complete for puppies through to senior dogs and come in grain free dog food and ancient grain options.

No, high quality kibble (like Scratch) is nutritionally complete, containing:

  • ¬†No processed grains and corn to reduce inflammation.¬†
  • Lean, 100% locally and sustainably sourced Australian proteins.
  • ¬†Transparent ingredient lists.
  • Good oil, suck as salmon and coconut for brain development and healthy coats.¬†
  • Additional vitamins, formulated with an animal nutritionist.
  • Fiber to promote good digestive health and boost the immune system.

Yes, high quality kibble (like Scratch) is nutritionally complete, containing:

  • ¬†No processed grains and corn to reduce inflammation.¬†
  • Lean, 100% locally and sustainably sourced Australian proteins.
  • ¬†Transparent ingredient lists.
  • Good oil, suck as salmon and coconut for brain development and healthy coats.¬†
  • Additional vitamins, formulated with an animal nutritionist.
  • Fiber to promote good digestive health and boost the immune system.¬†

Yes, if it’s a nutritionally complete brand like Scratch that contains:

  • ¬†No processed grains and corn to reduce inflammation.¬†
  • Lean, 100% locally and sustainably sourced Australian proteins.
  • ¬†Transparent ingredient lists.
  • Good oil, suck as salmon and coconut for brain development and healthy coats.¬†
  • Additional vitamins, formulated with an animal nutritionist.
  • Fiber to promote good digestive health and boost the immune system.

Yes! Dry dog food, when stored properly, has a long shelf life. But vitamins, fats, and oils do degrade over time. Try to find a brand that prints the manufacture date on the pack. Most will only have a best before date. You want a product as freshly made as possible.

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Written by Wendy Syfret
Wendy is Head of Media at Scratch. Which is a good fit, because she's never met a dog she didn't like. Although she has a special place in her heart for muts: three legs, one eye, missing fur, bit of a weird walk? The scruffier the better. Her favourite dog in the whole world though is her terrier-mix Stevie.