Dog Food Ingredients – Labels Simply Explained

dog food ingredients cover

Wouldn’t it be nice to believe that the dog food ingredients in your dog’s kibble was  healthy and risk free.  However when it comes to the food our dogs eat, it has developed for them on a parallel in quality with the food developed for us peeps.

Food, like anything else is big business, we need it to live and lately it has become quiet the trendy obsession, with new products being developed daily.

Anywhere there is profit to be made we will always find people or companies attempting to sell their products whilst making them as cheaply as possible. Sadly food is no exception to this nasty little fact.

dog food ingredients kibble

In the Western world food is a profitable industry and one which most of us are not educated in. We can now easily shop for fast food, ready meals, and high saturated fat addictive food which can all make us fat and even sick.

Dog food is no different. And even thought we all try to avoid giving our dogs junk food, or bad table scraps, we are often not aware that the problem could lie in the very dog kibble we are feeding them.

This is because dog foods are created according to budget and profit in much the same way cheap human food is made. However there are fewer rules around the quality of food made for our dogs.

Know the rules on dog food ingredients

Not all dog foods are bad, but there is a huge range of dog kibble out there to choose from and it’s important to choose the quality over the bulk.

Dog food ingredients are confusing and it lets manufacturers play with ingredients that might not be best for Fido. In fact some manufacturers will spend more money on advertising that on the composition of the food itself.

The Law in the UK: Pet food manufacturers have the option to declare them by category — e.g. ‘meat and animal derivatives’, ‘oils and fats’, ‘cereals’, ‘vegetable protein extracts’. Declaration by categories allows for fluctuations in the supply of the raw materials used and provides flexibility for labelling ingredients without incurring unreasonable cost.

The material of animal origin used by the pet food industry comprises those parts of animals which are either deemed surplus to human consumption or are not normally consumed by people in the UK, and derived from animals inspected and passed as fit for human consumption prior to slaughter. Animal material of this nature, which is not intended for human consumption, is classified as ‘animal by-products’ under the EC Regulation on Animal By-Products for which Defra is responsible, and assigned the lowest risk rating.

Read the whole set of rules governing dog food – Source:

As you can see from the info box, a lot of the dog food ingredients are allowed to be described in a fuzzy way.

Only when you have the facts can you be an informed buyer of a healthy diet  for your dog.

Common Ingredients in a bag of dog kibble

dog food ingredients meat

Pure Meat: The label will tell you exactly what kind of meat it is. It could be beef, chicken, duck, or fish for example. Sometimes the words fresh or organic will also be used to describe the protein.

Derivatives: Basically means “derived from” For example chicken derivatives could refer to any part of the bird inclusive of bones, beaks and feet. The ingredient is unspecified on purpose.

Meat: without using the name of the protein can be a mixture of any meat type from varying animals.

Meat Derivatives: contains unspecified parts of an unspecified animal or more than one animal.

What this means is that a manufacturer can swap ingredients around whilst maintaining the dog food ingredient list on the packaging.  Which makes it difficult to find any idea of nutritional value with this type of description.

Meal: is made up of ground bones and/or other non-meat areas of an animal. Usually ground into a fine power and added to pet food. The animal may or may not be named in the same way as meats are labelled.

Bone meal: is the ground up bones of unspecified animals. It is added to provide calcium.

The nutritional benefits of “meal” are questionable. It’s a cheap and easy bulking agent.

Hydrolysed animal protein: This is protein that has been broken down to its smallest form. This process prevents the immune system to recognise the substance and it can also be sold as a “hypo-allergenic” food. However the animal type and the body part used is usually not specified in this type of food.

Dairy Produce: May be added to some dog foods and treats in order to make them flavorsome.

Fact: Dogs are known to be long-term dairy intolerant.

dog food ingredients beets

Sugar beet: A common fibre with the sugar removed used in dog kibble. The debate is still out on the effect of this fibre source on our dogs.

Fat: Dogs need fat in their diets and it is something they also crave. some manufacturers will often spray fat onto  finished kibble in order to make the food tasty to dogs.

Know your fat

Fat is removed by heating up meat produce at a high temperature, as the fat floats to the top it is scraped away. Unspecified animal fat is just as questionable as all other ingredient types.

dog food ingredients veggies

Vegetables: listed by name

Vegetables derivatives: Veggies from any source.

Grains: Until recently most dog foods used wheat and used grain as a very large part of the ingredient list. This was because it was a cheap filler to bulk out the food and fill the dog up. today most brands will often avoid using wheat in foods due to serious allergic reactions in a huge number of dogs. Rice is still seen as mild enough to be a safe grain for dogs to consume.

dog food ingredients rice

Plants & botanical: This includes the addition of herbs, plants and botanical that are beneficial health enhancements to your pet.

Dog food ingredients can be confusing, but if you keep it to a simple rule of knowing that the words derivatives, meat, and meal are not the ideal choice for your pet you’ll already be a step ahead on finding a healthy choice of pet food.

What to look for in your dog’s kibble

Your dog’s kibble should contain:

  • Meat should be the first ingredient on the list. The source and quality of meat in the formula is crucially important for your pet’s health. Make sure the meat is described such as chicken, beef, or fish for example. If it’s organic even better!
  • Meat meal with the meat source  being identified such  as in chicken meal for example. This type of meal is considered a relatively high-quality protein source by processed pet food standards.
  • Ingredients three and four should be vegetables.
  • a whole grain source like brown rice. Organic grains are even better. Some Grain-free formulas will frequently use potatoes as the starch, which helps holds the kibble together.

If you see these dog food ingredients, put that bag back on the shelf:

  • Any formula that uses unidentified sources, described non-specifically as meat, animal or poultry or as a derivative. Also any kibble containing by-products, especially those that don’t tell you the type of meat in the meat by-product.
  • kibble containing corn or soy in any form. Corn is a cheap filler and non-nutritious for pets, and a known allergenic. Soy is estrogenic and wreaks havoc on your pet’s endocrine system.
  • Artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives. Or any of these words: BHT, BHA, ethoxyquin and propyl gallate
  • If your pet has allergies stay away from wheat products.

The good news is that here in the UK there are many small companies that really care about the nutritional needs for dogs. So the next time your out shopping for your dog’s dinner, make sure that you check the label and feel good that your giving the pet the best dog food ingredients possible.