My dogs eat a raw diet now, but when they were on kibble I did a lot of research on choosing food for them.
Here’s a set of “rules” I came up with:
1) When I chose a dog food, I chose one high meat content. I want to see preferably at least 2-3 out of the top 5 ingredients be meat or meat meal (first ingredient must be!). “Meal” has the water removed, so “chicken meal” actually has more meat thant he same weight of “chicken”.
2) I want to see higher quality grains, such as barley, brown rice, and oatmeal, instead of seeing wheat and corn. Or an alternative starch/carbohydrate such as potatoes or sweet potatoes. (Dogs actually have no nutritional need for carbs; but all kibble must have a carb/starch, otherwise it wouldn’t hold it’s shape and would be “crumble” instead of “kibble”.)
3) I don’t want to see any byproducts.
4) I don’t want to see a lot of fillers (beet pulp, brewers rice, etc).
5) I don’t want to see preservatives that are believed to be carcinogens (BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin).
6) I don’t want to see artificial colorings such as the Red, Blue, and Yellow dyes.
7) I don’t want to see added sugars (sugar, corn syrup).
8) I don’t want to see mystery meats (meats identified only as “meat” or “poultry”.)
Here is an article about byproducts:
And an article on what ingredients to avoid:
This website has a pretty good rating system: http://www.dogfoodanalysis.com/dog_food_reviews/
(I recommend only feeding foods rated 4, 5, or 6 stars.)
And remember that your vet is one of the worst people to ask about nutrition for your pet. They haven’t been trained in nutrition, and it’s really not their job. They just recommend brands they know that send out sales reps.
If you’re interested in raw feeding, here’s a good starting place: http://www.dogster.com/forums/Raw_Food_Diet/thread/431875