What Should I Look for on the Dog Food Kibble Label?

Knowing which dog food is best for your furry friend isn’t always easy. The best way to choose the best food is to know what to look for when it comes to the dog food kibble label.

As the pet food industry becomes more and more dependent on artificial ingredients, preservatives, chemicals, flavor enhancers, synthetic colors, and harmful ingredients to keep dog food lasting longer, looking yummier, and tasting better, it can be a challenge to find nutritious, clean kibble for your dog to eat.

The best way to navigate the aisles of dog food and find the best option for your pup is to know how to read the kibble label. You want the best food for your best friend, so settling for food that has harmful ingredients isn’t something any dog parent wants to do.

There are a few ways to look at the dog food kibble ingredients to tell if the food is the best for your furry friend, or if you should pass on it. This guide walks you through what ingredients to look for, and which labels to be wary of when it comes to what you’re putting in your dog.

Why You Can’t Trust the Label Itself

One of the key principles to remember when looking at the kibble label is that you can’t always trust what the label itself says. You need to take a look at the ingredients listed on your dog food bag to know what’s really in your dog’s food.

But why? Shouldn’t the label mean what it says? 

Unfortunately, pet food regulations don’t have many requirements. For instance, the term “natural” can be slapped on the packaging of many dog foods, even if they undergo processing and contain preservatives. 

The American Association of Food Control Officials is the body that regulates the term “natural” and will allow these foods to have the natural label as long as they don’t contain harmful chemicals, chemical preservatives, and undergo processes that strip the ingredients of their nutrient content.

While this is certainly a step in the right direction, this still allows for many unnatural ingredients to pass as natural dog food, so trusting the “all-natural” or “100% natural” dog food label isn’t the only thing you should look for when it comes to finding good dog food.

Instead, it’s best to take a look at the ingredients listed on the back.

Dog Food Ingredients To Look For 

All kibble is typically made of the same basic ingredients. Some protein, some grains, and some other ingredients like preservatives or fortifying minerals. However, the difference between good dog food and not-so-great dog food is in what kind of ingredients they are.

Here are some of the most important dog food kibble ingredients to look for.

Real Meat 

Protein is an essential part of your dog’s diet. Protein contains essential amino acids that help build muscles, repair tissues, perform bodily processes, fuel the immune system, and provide energy for your dog.

While protein can be found in other places, meat is one of the best sources of protein for your dog. However, when looking for dog food, be sure to find specific meat labels and names. 

For instance, look for USDA beef, or beef heart. You can look for organs listed by name, or other meats listed by name as well.

You always want to avoid fake meats, which we’ll talk more about in just a bit.

Fruits and Veggies 

You may not think of fruits and vegetables first when you think of ingredients your dog needs, but fruits and veggies are a vital part of your dog’s diet, too. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, moisture, and so much more.

If you can, look for fresh ingredients, or ones labeled as “all-natural”. While the natural label can be deceiving, there are a few other ways you can make sure it’s the best for your pet. For instance, look for a “human-grade” label, or an “air-dried” label, as well as a label that says there are no preservatives or artificial ingredients.

The best fruits for your dog are strawberries, oranges, blueberries, and tomatoes, and the best vegetables include carrots, pumpkin, zucchini, spinach, kale, and beets. Providing your dog with a rich diet full of fruits and vegetables is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a well-rounded dog food.

Whole Grains 

Lastly, look for whole grains on the dog food kibble ingredients. While gluten, wheat, rice, and corn can wreak havoc on your dog’s digestion and act as fillers instead of nutrient-dense foods, you don’t have to avoid all grains.

Aim to find a grain like quinoa or oats on the ingredient list. These are packed with amino acids, vitamins, fiber, and all the goodness your dog needs to stay healthy.

Dog Food Ingredients To Avoid 

While you’re keeping an eye out for the ingredients listed above, you will also have to keep an eye out for which ones to avoid.

Meat Meals 

Finding clean, healthy sources of protein for your canine is key, but what about foods with meat labeled “meat meals.” These meats are actually ones you want to stay away from.

Any meat labeled as a meal, whether it’s “chicken meal,” “turkey meal,” or just “meat meal” can include any amount of by-products and leftovers from the animal it was harvested from. In other words, it can include blood, hair, horns, trimmings, beaks, feet, eyes, and more that you just don’t need to feed your dog.

The amounts of each by-product that are allowed in meat meals aren’t regulated either, so you won’t know what your dog is really getting in each bite.

Corn or Wheat Fillers 

Ingredients are listed in order of weight. So, the first ingredient is the ingredient that the food is mostly made of, and so on until you get to the least included ingredient. The first ingredient should be one that’s good for your dog, one full of nutrients, preferably a meat or plant protein. 

However, this isn’t always the case.

If you see corn, wheat, soy, or rice listed as the first ingredient, this is not a food you want to feed your dog. These are likely just fillers to make your dog feel full, but that have little to no nutritional value themselves. They act as empty calories, which doesn’t fuel your dog the way they need to be fueled.

Grains like quinoa and oats are wonderful to see on the list later on, but these still shouldn’t be the very first ingredient in your dog’s food, so pay special attention to where they’re listed on the ingredient list.

Artificial Ingredients 

Real food is the best food, but many companies are using artificial and synthetic ingredients to help keep their food fresh and cheap. This does much more harm than good as they have no real nutritional value.

You may see artificial colors, artificial additives, artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin. 

Instead, look for natural preservatives like Vitamin E and C.

Labels To Look For 

As far as labeling goes, it’s a good idea to always check the ingredient list. But you can keep an eye out for a few terms that should put that brand on your good side.


Human-grade dog food is an excellent option when it comes to healthy dog food. While the pet food industry has unfortunately low food standards, human-grade dog food is made to meet all the standards set in place by the FDA for human food!  

You can look for the natural label and the human-grade label together to get the most out of your dog’s food. Not sure where to look? Start here!

Minimally Processed

Many dog foods are processed at extreme temperatures or with methods that strip the natural ingredients of their nutritional value. Look for dog foods that are minimally processed or use processes like air drying to get to dry food. 

This ensures the dog food retains its original nutrient content and is safe and healthy for your dog to eat. All of Sundays’ food is gently air-dried and human-grade for your pup so they enjoy every nutrient-packed crunch.  

Complete and Balanced 

Lastly, look for dog food that is complete and balanced. This claim is even better than the natural claim. 

This label describes two aspects of dog food: The “complete” portion represents the claim that all products contain the specific nutrient requirements set in place, and the “balanced” portion represents that all the nutrients are represented in their correct ratios.

These dog foods are easier to decipher as they are in their correct ratios and show you upfront that the food meets all the nutrient requirements your dog needs.

Spoiler: Sundays meets all three of the above requirements and is an excellent option for nourishing your dog, making us your one-stop-shop for all food healthy. 


There’s a lot to consider when choosing a dog food, and even more to look out for when it comes to reading labels. Luckily, we’re here with you every step of the way. From showing you what labels to look for on dry dog food and what ingredients to avoid, you’ll be able to parent your puppy like a pro.

To learn more about how to get your dog started on healthier food, shop Sundays dog food here!



Try Healthy, Easy Sundays