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Dog Food Recommendations by Vets & Why Vet-Approval Matters


A female veterinarian checking the heart of a tan dog

Finding the best food for your dog can feel like a long-winded endeavor. It can also seem like there are no clear answers to what makes one diet more beneficial than another, especially when there are so many conflicting philosophies and approaches. Luckily, dog food recommendations by vets can help dog owners sort out the valid information from the misleading. 

In this article, we will cover the different types of vet-recommended dog food along with why following a vet-approved diet is vital for your dog’s health.

Why Does Feeding Your Dog a Veterinary-Approved Diet Matter?

Your priority as a dog owner is to provide your dog with the most enjoyable and longest life. This requires specific nutrition. When you consult your vet or feed your dog a vet-recommended diet, your dog reaps a great array of health advantages. 

Health benefits of a vet-recommended diet:

      • Better muscle tone and muscle regeneration
      • Usable, healthy energy
      • Weight control (which improves joint health)
      • Decreased inflammation for long-term physical engagement
      • Greater satisfaction and less doggie-junk food cravings
      • Decreased risk for health issues such as cancer
      • Improved digestive health
      • Better mental health with decreased anxiety [1]

How dog owners benefit from feeding their dog premium diets

There are reasons dog owners choose lower-quality diets–most of which centre on budget and convenience. However, these are myths. Feeding your dog a vet-recommended diet also comes with benefits for you as a dog owner. 

A higher-quality diet saves dog owners money

Many dog owners save money on unnecessary treats since their dogs tend to beg less. They also save money by being able to feed their dog a small volume of food–a little goes a long way when your dog’s food is optimized for their health. Finally, when your dog’s diet promotes better health, you save on veterinary bills in the long term.

More energy = More fun

When your dog has more energy, you can partake in more adventures, make more memories, and also benefit from better cardiovascular health [2]

Peace of mind

You always want to do right by your dog. And many dog owners experience a great deal of guilt towards the end of their dogs’ lives in regards to what they could have done differently–done better. When you feed your dog a nutritious diet, you can enjoy the peace of mind that you’re doing the best you can for your dog.

Most Common Dog Food Recommendations by Vets

A female veterinarian showing the viewer dog food recommended by vets

So, what do vets recommend for dogs? Well, there are some basic foundational guidelines that can benefit almost all dogs. There are also prescriptions diets that tailor their ingredients to unique needs for individual dogs. This section will go over both.

General Veterinary Recommendations for Choosing a Dog Food

While it would be nice to be able to simply choose a dog food from the grocery store that has an AAFCO approval or the PFIAA label, the standards for these still remain below optimal nutrition. So, while these are a great start, most vets suggest you look a bit deeper into your dog’s food. Here’s what they suggest:

1. Develop a Better Understanding of Product Names 

What’s in a name? Well, a lot actually. There are regulations on how a product can be labeled in regards to how the label reflects its ingredients.

“Meat Dog Food”

Food labelled as “meat for dogs” must contain a minimum of 95% of the named meat. For example, “beef for dogs” must be 90% beef before considering the meat’s water levels. The other 5% must be nutritionally beneficial to dogs.

If a product’s name contains a meat source on its own, the product must be composed of 70%+ of that meat. For example, “Ground beef” must be at least 70% beef after accounting for water weight [3]

Modifiers, including “with” and “flavour”

By attaching a modifier, dog food producers can get away with far less of the meat promised by the product’s name. 

“Beef dinner” and “beef entree” only need to contain a  minimum of 10% beef.

“With” implies that the food must have at least 3% of the mentioned meat. So, a treat named “Dog Chews with Real Chicken” may only have 3% chicken.

Products labelled as “beef flavour” can have less than 3% beef–in fact, they only need enough real beef to claim that the beef provides the product with flavour.

Instead of relying on the name of the product, you should look into the product’s guaranteed analysis.

2. Don’t Read Ingredient Lists without a Critical Eye

While ingredients must be listed by a hierarchy of level of ingredient inclusion, dog food manufacturers do not have to divulge exact ingredient amounts or the quality of those ingredients. Some dog food producers also find loopholes when it comes to misrepresenting the true balance of their ingredients.

Be mindful of:

  • Multiple forms of low-quality ingredients within one recipe. If you find a dog food that has corn listed in three forms, there’s a good chance corn is the recipe’s top ingredient, but separating it into its forms allows the maker to suppress its total inclusion [4]
  • Meat forms: meat meals versus whole meats can be confusing to many pet owners. A meat meal is a processed form of animal meat that removes all moisture in the process. This can result in a high percentage of meat without water weight. Whole meat contains more moisture and less raw protein.
3. Look for “Complete and Balanced” Dog Food

When a food has an AAFCO statement, you know that it meets your dog’s minimum nutritional needs. However, when a food has the AAFCO label, you also want to look over the food’s guaranteed analysis, and ideally, find food that exceeds these minimum requirements.

When evaluating a dog food’s guaranteed analysis, pay close attention to the food’s protein, fat, fibre, and water levels.

Dogs need about 4% fibre at a minimum for healthy digestion.

You will want to select a food that has the right amount of protein and fat for your dog’s age and needs. Here are some general guidelines:

Puppies need 28% protein and 17% fat

Adult dogs need at least 18% protein and 9% fat

Active dogs need 30% protein and 20% fat

Senior dogs need 21% protein and 13% fat

Vet-Recommended Prescription Dog Diets

Dogs with unique health issues require a diet with unique formulas to support their body’s needs. These can include:

  • Dental diets: for dogs with poor dental health
  • Digestive diets: for dogs with gastrointestinal issues
  • Allergy-specific diets: these often omit individual allergens or proteins
  • Diabetic diets: Low-glycemic levels
  • Heart-health diets: for cardiovascular health support
  • Joint-support diets: for dogs with a high risk for joint dysplasia or dog with arthritis
  • Dermatology support: for skin and coat health
  • Weight management diets: for dogs that need to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight
  • Post-surgery: often highly palatable dog food that’s easy to digest
  • Cancer diet: provides nutritional support for dogs with cancer or going through cancer treatment

Vets Know Best: Choose Your Dog’s Food with Their Nutrition In-Mind

Vet with a clipboard writing down a recommended diet with a German Shepherd on the exam table

Not all dog diets are created with the same level of care and attention to a dog’s wellbeing. When you select a diet that follows veterinary recommendations for the best nutritional support for a long, healthy, happy life, you can rest assured that your dog is receiving the best diet. Always select a dog food that provides transparency and a guaranteed analysis that meets your expectation for protein, fats, and fiber.

The you feed your dog, the better their life will be.