My Blog

What’s REALLY in Dog Food?

What’s REALLY in Dog Food?

What ingredients are in our dog’s food?  Do you know what you are feeding your pets?  What are our dogs eating?  Check out the ingredient labels on your dog’s food.  Do you really know what each ingredient is?  The picture on the label and in the advertisements give us the impression that the food is fresh and wholesome.  This article will serve as a guide so that you can better understand what is in processed commercial dog food. Kibble, most wet dog food, and many other commercial food products for dogs pose problems.

ANIMAL FAT:  This is the derived from a process called “rendering.”  The rendering process is a heating process performed at a rendering plant.  Euthanized and slaughtered animals (including diseased dogs, cats, hamsters, horses, and other pets), road-kill, and even circus animals are required to have a special manner of disposal.  They cannot simply be discarded into trash cans so they are gathered and sent to rendering plants.  This is where the bodies are processed.  At the rendering plants, the liquid ingredients that are typically used in commercial dog food are prepared using a special process.  Basically, the bodies are boiled causing the fat to rise to the top.  That fat product is called tallow and is named as “animal fat” on the food labels.  BHA and BHT are preservatives used for animal fat.

MEAL:  When we see the word “meal” in the ingredient list, it refers to the tissue of the animal including pulverized or burned ash skeletal material produced at rendering plants.  This does not include hoof, blood, horn, hide or blood.



MEAT:  Pet food manufacturers use vague terms deliberately.  When the meat ingredient is not specifically named (i.e., beef, lamb…) then the manufacturer will list the ingredient as “meat” which is usually animals described above that are suitable for rendering.  Simply put, “meat” in this context is defined from any mammal.  By the way, FDA testing has identified phenobarbital in such meat product due to the presence of euthanized animals.  Also, when an animal is in the slaughterhouse and there are infected areas, those parts are often cut off and sent for processing for pet food.

BY-PRODUCTS:  The definition could differ from source to source so I chose to quote the following excerpt from the article, Pet Food:  The Lowdown on Labels  “proteins that have not been heat processed (non-rendered) and may contain heads, feet, viscera and other animal parts not particularly appetizing.”  Of course there would be manure and fins when referring to fish.

ETHOXYQUIN, PROPYL GALLATE, PROPYLENE GLYCOL, TBHQ, BHA & BHT:   The Department of Pathology, Nagoya City University Medical School in Japan is one of the may studies on these chemicals.  I am naming them as a source because it could be assumed that they have no conflict of interest in their research.  These chemicals are toxic to our dogs as well as humans.  These are chemicals linked to serious illnesses including cancer.  Much higher levels of these chemicals are permitted in dog food.  BHT is a chemical related to BHA which is also used in dog food products.  Ethoxyquin is a pesticide and also used as a preservative.

FOOD DYES:  Many of the dyes are known to be carcinogenic.

CORN, SOY & WHEAT:  Grains (especially corn) are very common allergens. for dogs.  I have begged dog owners to change their dog’s food to a non-grain diet.  Usually, I have found that skin issues disappear shortly after the transitioning away from grains.  These ingredients do not address the nutritional needs of our dogs.  They are used as fillers in order to keep the manufacturing costs down and to keep their profits high.  There are NO benefits to those ingredients.  These ingredients break down into sugars which have adverse effects of their me their sugar levels which is harmful to their metabolic system.  Grain-free products usually add potatoes which are still carbohydrates which are a poor choice for dogs, but it is cheaper to produce that adding meat (even if it is an inferior quality of meat).  Kibble is the cheapest type of food to produce and arguable the least healthy for several reasons.

VITAMINS & MINERALS:  The extensive processing of dog food destroys virtually all the nutrients that our dogs need.  Let me put it this way, if the dog food has more than 5 vitamin and minerals added, it is not a good sign.  After baking, cooking and processing, most processed commercial dog food has no nutrients whatsoever.  Therefore, the food needs to be “enriched” with vitamins and minerals.  In other words, vitamins are added to the food.  This is why there is a long list of vitamins and minerals that are on the ingredient labels.  China has cornered the market on these vitamin premixes that are sprayed onto the dog food.  China???  Yes.  Pet food products can declare that they are USA products.  They are only required to mix and cook the product in the USA in order to make this declaration.  If the label on your dog food shows a list of vitamins, minerals, and names of chemicals, then it can be expected that a premix has been added.

I hope that you will be able to look at an ingredient list with a better informed perspective.  As consumers, we deserve respect.  The pet food industry needs to stop taking advantage of us.  Please be aware that what I have written in this article does not describe every product in the pet food industry.  The majority of commercially produced dog food engage in the above-mentioned practices, but there ARE some reputable companies out there.  You just need to look closely at the products and study the labels in order to make your own assessments.  To see my article about the food I give to my dogs, CLICK HERE.



 Bren, Linda.  “Pet Food:  The Lowdown on Labels.”  FDA Veterinarian Newsletter July/August 2001 Volume XVI, No IV. is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) veterinary treatment. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet is taking, including herbal remedies and supplements. Please do plenty of research so that you may equip yourself with the knowledge necessary to be an effective advocate for your dog’s well-being.

Tagged: , , ,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *