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As a dog owner, it is your job to take care of your dog and that means providing for his nutritional needs. In the same way that your own health depends on your intake of quality ingredients, your dog’s health does too – if you don’t feed your dog a high-quality dog food, he might not have the energy and nutrients he needs to live up to his full potential. For your dog’s sake, take the time to learn the basics about dog nutrition and learn about the differences between a high-quality and a low-quality dog food so you can make an informed decision.

What Does It Take for a Brand to Earn 5 Stars?

A 5-star dog food is one that is made with fresh, natural ingredients and processed in a way that preserves rather than destroys the nutritional content of those ingredients. There are many ways to evaluate the quality of a dog food brand, but most of the information you need will be right there on the package. The first place you want to look is the guaranteed analysis – this is a percentage breakdown of the protein, fat, moisture, and fiber content of the dog food. A 5-star dog food will contain at least 22% protein for puppies and at least 18% protein for adult dogs as well as at least 8% fat for puppies and at least 5% fat for adult dogs. The key words here are “at least” – a 5-star dog food will not just meet these minimum requirements, it will exceed them.

You can often tell the difference between a 5-star dog food and a 1-star dog food by looking at the first five ingredients. Dogs require a diet that is rich in animal protein, so a 5-star dog food will always list a high-quality source of meat, poultry, or fish as the first ingredient. Both fresh meats and meat meals are good examples, as long as they come from named sources (chicken meal, not poultry meal). If the first ingredient on the list is not meat, it immediately disqualifies the product as both a 5-star and a 4-star dog food. In fact, most 5-star dog foods will have more than one source of quality meat-based protein within the first five ingredients. This is not always the case, but very common. Some manufacturers use plant protein like pea protein to increase the protein content of their product without adding more meat – 5-star dog food brands do not.

Another factor that sets a 5-star dog food apart from the rest is the type of fat used in the product. In the same way that dogs need plenty of animal-based protein in their diet, they also need animal-based fats to provide energy and to help them absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Some high-quality sources of animal-based fat include salmon oil and chicken fat – again, look for named sources. Listing a source of plant-based fat does not automatically disqualify a dog food from earning 5 stars unless it is the primary or only source of fat. The amount of fat in the product will vary depending on the life stage and breed size the recipe is formulated for.

When evaluating a dog food brand, you also want to check to see what kind of carbohydrates are used as well as their digestibility. A dog’s body is more biologically adapted to digesting and deriving nutrition from animal products than plant products, so a 5-star dog food will be very meat-heavy. Quality carbohydrates you might find in a 5-star dog food include digestible whole grains like brown rice, whole grain oats, and cracked pearled barley. Gluten- and grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potato and tapioca are also acceptable. Any corn, wheat, or soy ingredients automatically disqualify a dog food for 5-star rating, as does an ingredients list that is too heavy in carbohydrates. A good value to look for is a crude fiber content less than 5%.

Finally, you also want to take a look at the length of the ingredients list as well as the items that appear toward the end of the list. As a general rule, shorter ingredients lists are better because it usually means that the nutrients in the food come from natural sources so a long list of synthetic supplements isn’t necessary. A 5-star dog food will not contain and artificial additives like colors, flavors, or preservatives and it won’t contain any non-nutritive or low-quality fillers. Natural sources for vitamins and minerals (like fresh fruits and vegetables) are always better than synthetic supplements but chelated minerals are always a valuable addition. These are minerals that have been bound to amino acids to make them more biologically valuable for your dog. Many 5-star dog foods also contain dried fermentation products for probiotic support.

Top Recommended 5-Star Dog Food Brands

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on 5 Star Dog Food

If you value your dog’s long-term health and wellbeing, you should make the smart choice and feed him a 5-star dog food. Don’t just assume that because a dog food brand uses buzz words like “natural” or “premium” that it is a good brand – you also can’t assume that an expensive dog food is a good one. Fortunately, choosing a 5-star dog food is as easy as picking a brand from the list below. Here are some of the top-rated dog food brands on the market that get our 5-star rating:

If you are feeding your dog one of the brands on this list, it is clear that you value his health and wellbeing. Even though it might be a little more expensive to buy one of the brands on this list, it is always worth it, for your dog’s sake.

Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and is the published author of several self-help books and nutrition guides. Also an avid dog lover and adoring owner of three cats, Kate’s love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. Kate holds a certificate in fitness nutrition and enjoys writing about health and wellness trends — she also enjoys crafting original recipes. In addition to her work as a ghostwriter and author, Kate is also a blogger for a number of organic and natural food companies as well as a columnist for several pet magazines.

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