How to choose the right dog food

What should I feed my dog? We dig into some of the common terms found on dog food labels to help you make a more informed choice.

Written by Editor Medibank

When it comes to putting food in your dog’s bowl, it’s no longer a simple choice of wet or dry. Now there’s adult, puppy, all natural, organic, prescription, holistic, grain free and more on the menu. Is it any wonder pet parents are a little confused? Here’s some information to help you make the right choice.

Think about their age

There’s no one size fits all when it comes to feeding your dog, so a good place to start is with their age. 


Puppies need extra nutrients for this stage of their growth and development. Look for quality commercial kibble labelled for puppies. 


Small or medium dogs are generally deemed adults after 12 months of age, whereas larger breeds take a little longer to become adults at around 18 – 24 months. Again, look for age appropriate food marked suitable for adult dogs. 



As your dog ages their energy levels and metabolism may slow down leaving them prone to weight gain. Senior (around 7 and older) dog food features a different balance of protein and fat to help address this issue. 


Look for balanced or complete

Any dog food labelled ‘balanced’ or ‘complete’ must, according to the Australian Pet Food Standard, meet requirements set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This means food with these descriptions should provide a nutritionally balanced diet and can be your dog’s sole food. In Australia, signing up to the pet food standards is voluntary but nearly all pet food companies do. 

Wet or dry food?

When it comes to what’s better for your dog, there’s no real difference between wet or dry food so this really comes down to what they prefer. 

Holistic, natural and organic 

Although the term ‘natural’ isn’t regulated in Australia, pet foods labelled with it should contain recognizable whole foods with no additives and preservatives. 

Pet food labelled organic must follow the same rules as human organic food. 

Holistic is a marketing term with no legal definition and can be applied to any food. 

Grain free 

Among the recent trends in pet food is the notion of ‘grain free’. This means the food is made without grains and uses other carbohydrates such as potatoes. Contrary to popular belief however, allergies or intolerances to grains are rare in canines and grain-free isn’t necessarily better for your dog. 


Sometimes, dogs may have a health condition or specific nutrition requirement that needs to be addressed through food. If this is the case, your vet may recommend a ‘prescription’ diet which is usually a food sold exclusively by vets. 

Speak to your vet

Just like us, our dogs are individuals and it’s important to remember that what’s right for your friend’s dog, may not be right for yours. If you’re unsure about what you’re putting in your dog’s bowl you can always speak with your vet and ask them to assess your dog’s diet and nutrition.

Looking for Pet Insurance? 

Get peace of mind with Medibank Pet Insurance. Plus, health members save 10%.

Important things you should know

Medibank Pet Insurance is issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd ABN 78 090 584 473, AFSL 241436, is arranged and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd ABN 95 075 949 923, AFSL 420183 (PetSure) and is promoted and distributed by PetSure’s Authorised Representative (AR) Medibank Private Limited ABN 47 080 890 259, AR 286089. Terms, conditions, waiting periods and exclusions apply. Any advice provided is general only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Please consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure this product meets your needs before purchasing. PDS and Target Market Determination available at medibank.com.au/pet-insurance

Written by Editor Medibank

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