Just walk in to any pet shop or supermarket and you'll get a taste of just how many foods are out there for your dog. There's dry, wet, raw, fresh - and innumerable options within those categories.
With so many possibilities, it is so easy to get 'decision fatigue', where the propect of choosing is so draining that you just pick the first one, the cheapest one, the one your friend down the road recommended.
After all, they must all be pretty similar, right? It can't really matter too much which one you pick, right?
Whilst it's true that all dog foods have to meet certain regulations, these still allow a huge amount of room for variation. This means that the different foods out there are VERY different, and which one you pick can have significant effects on your beloved dog's health, behaviour, and overall well-being.
Carbohydrates - the friend you need in small doses
People often believe that carbohydrates are the enemy, but this isn't the case. Whilst carbohydrates aren't essential for your dog, they are a good energy source, and should be included in the diet. It is true that dogs can get all the energy they need from protein and fat, but these nutrients are also needed for other vital things, such as muscle growth and repair, and skin health. By including a small to moderate amount of carbohydrates in the diet, your dog is able to use the proteins and fats more appropriately for long-term health.
However, the source of carbohydrate does matter. Sources such as refined grains (e.g. white rice) or white potato release energy very quickly, whereas sweet potato gives your dog a nice, steady release of energy throughout the day. It's always wise to opt for a food with sweet potato because of this, as it will help prevent against any hyperactivity, as well as reduce the chances of developing health issues like diabetes and elevated blood pressure.
You can read more about this in our article, "Are Grain-Free Dog Foods Better?"
Allergens, allergens everywhere
If you're lucky enough to have a dog without any food allergies, congratulations! However, 36% of us have a dog with a beef allergy, 15% of us a dog with a wheat allergy, and plenty more with allergies to ingredients such as chicken and soy .
It's important to know that your dog may be intolerant to these foods, however, without showing a classic allergic reaction. In fact, even more of our dogs than the percentages mentioned above have a food intolerance of some sort . Symptoms of an intolerance are wide-ranging, but include things like itchy skin, diarrhoea, and even ear infections [2,3].
If this sounds familiar, it's wise to try avoiding the common allergens, like those listed above, and see if your pup improves.
The little things matter
We so often overlook the preservatives, colourants, and other additives of our dog's food. They're usually listed at the end of the ingredients list, and it's tempting to think that anything used in such small amounts can't harm us or our dogs. But, in fact, they can have devastating consequences.
One major example of this is when brands list "antioxidants" in their ingredients. A vague term like this should always set off alarm bells in your head but, generally, a little bit of digging on the internet can start to reveal what you need to know. Antioxidants are important, especially in kibble, as they help to preserve the shelf life of the food. Natural antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and rosemary oil, are brilliant, and often come with additional benefits. However, all too often, artificial antioxidants, such as BHA (E320), propyl gallate (E310), and potassium sorbate (E202) are used. These ingredients have been linked to several issues, including impaired learning, respiratory issues, and even cancer [4,5,6]
The emerging science of the aliens in your dog's gut
This is a relatively new and exciting area of research, but there's a growing body of evidence that the bacteria that live in your dog's gut, known as their microbiome, have a huge impact on their overall health and even their behaviour. Too much of the 'bad' bacteria, and your dog may experience diarrhoea , anxiety , and memory loss , among other things. The 'good' bacteria, meanwhile, can reduce these symptoms, and stop the bad ones from taking over.
What you feed your dog can make a massive difference on the bacterial profile of their guts, in several different ways. One thing to look out for though, is the inclusion of FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) and MOS (mannan-oligosaccharides). These are something called prebiotics - they are essentially food for the 'good' bacteria, helping them to dominate, and keeping your dog healthy.
So, yes, what you feed your dog DOES matter, and it can shape the very essence of your dog's life.
Want someone to tell you what's best for your dog?
Every dog is different, and has different needs, and that's vital to consider when you're choosing a dog food. To make your life easier, we offer FREE 10-minute consultations with our own qualified canine nutritionist - just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book in.
Hungry for more?
You can read more information about how your dog's food can impact them in these articles:
 Laflamme, D., Izquierdo, O., Eirmann, L., and Binder, S. (2014) Myths and misperceptions about ingredients used in commercial pet foods. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice. 44(4): 689-698. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cvsm.2014.03.002
 Craig, J.M. (2018) Food intolerance in dogs and cats. Journal of Small Animal Practice. 60(2): 77-85. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsap.12959
 Zur, G., Ihrke, P.J., White, S.D., and Kass, P.H. (2002) Canine atopic dermatitis: A retrospective study of 266 cases examined at the University of California, Davis, 1992–1998. Part I. Clinical features and allergy testing results. Veterinary Dermatology. 13(2): 89-102. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-3164.2002.00285.x
 Kahl, R., and Kappus, H. (1993) Toxicology of the synthetic antioxidants BHA and BHT in comparison with the natural antioxidant vitamin E. International Journal of Food Research and Technology. 196(4): 329-338. https://doi.org/ 10.1007/BF01197931
 Mamur, S., Yüzbaşıoğlu, D., Ünal, F., and Yılmaz, S. (2010) Does potassium sorbate induce genotoxic or mutagenic effects in lymphocytes? Toxicology in vitro. 24(3): 790-794. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tiv.2009.12.
 US Department of Health and Human Services (1981) Carcinogenesis bioassay of propyl gallate in F344 rats and B6C3F1 mice (feed study). Available at: https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/
 Xu, H., Zhao, F., Hou, Q., Huang, W., Liu, Y., Zhang, H., and Sun, Z. (2019) Metagenomic analysis revealed beneficial effects of probiotics in improving the composition and function of the gut microbiota in dogs with diarrhoea. Food & Function. 10(5): 2618-2629. https://doi.org/10.1039/c9fo00087a
 Cannas, S., Tonini, B., Bela, B., Di Prinzio, R., Pignataro, G., Di Simone, and Gramenzi, A. (2021) Effect of a novel nutraceutical supplement (Relaxigen Pet dog) on the fecal microbiome and stress-related behaviors in dogs: A pilot study. Journal of Veterinary Behaviour. 42: 27-47. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2020.09.002
 Kubinyi, E., Rhali, S.B., Rhali, Sandor, S., Szabo, A., and Felfoldi, T. (2020) Gut microbiome composition is associated with age and memory performance in pet dogs. Animals. 10(9): 1488. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091488