What is in Dog Food & How It Is Made – An Ingredients Guide

What is in dog food you give to your pets on a daily basis? Chances are it’s a good mix of meat, complex carbohydrates and vegetables. However, it makes sense to keep your eye on pet food so that you give your four-legged friends the right nutrition! In this guide, we dig deep into what’s in dog food bags and pet food products available on the shelves.

You want the best for your pups, and that means choosing pet foods and pet food manufacturers that are clear and honest on what they have to offer. Have you considered vitamins and minerals? What about pet foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids? Also – did you know that dairy products could harm your pet?

You owe it to your pet to be careful with the ingredients and by-products in their food. Not everyone knows exactly what nutrition their pet needs from daily meals – and we’ve spent serious time looking at these needs and researching tasty ingredients with all the vitamins and minerals your pet demands.

Carnivores or Omnivores – What Dogs Like to Eat 

When most people think of what is in dog food, they tend to think of meaty ingredients. Most dog food is primarily portrayed as being made from chicken, beef, pork, lamb, etc. Due to this, many believe that pups are carnivores when, in fact, they are omnivores. Canines need some plant-based foods to have good, balanced nourishment. 

Thankfully, it is becoming increasingly popular to incorporate veggies into our pups’ diets; however, it is essential to know that not all fruits and veggies are good for dogs, and some are highly poisonous! 

For example, they cannot eat raisins, grapes, currants, nuts, garlic, onions, avocado, and more.  Some can be extremely harmful in even the smallest quantities, so even if they have a sweet tooth, keep your pet off the fruitcake.

How is Dry Dog Food Made? 

Dry food is made in one of two ways: by baking or by extrusion. The extrusion process consists of heating dough under high pressure and then pushing it through a die machine. The machine cuts the dough as it begins to expand with the change in pressure. The pieces of food are then cooled and dried and coated in a spray.  

This artificial process might not seem too healthy for many dog owners, but there are plenty of responsible brands out there that offer the right nutrition. But what is dog food made of when it comes to kibble?

Most dog food bags mention using animal derivatives or ingredients. This means that they are using the parts of the animal that are not suitable for human consumption, such as the kidney, the liver, the lungs, etc. They also use animal fat, meat byproducts, and other human food such as vegetables. The meat has to pass an inspection before being sold.  Along with the meat, there are also cereals, carbohydrates, vegetables, oils, fats, vitamin c, minerals, and grains which are usually ground up.

However, this process is a pretty general overview – there are some differences depending on the producer you buy from. Check out the best quality dry dog food from our list to ensure your pup only eats the healthiest mix out there that fulfils their dietary needs.

5 Common Fillers used in Commercial Dog Food

As well as knowing what meat is in dog food, it’s good to clue up on fillers. Filler ingredients are added to processed dog food to add bulk. Some companies use fillers (such as nutritious beet pulp) that add a great source of fibre. However, fillers aren’t always a good thing. Here are a few:

Corn 

Corn is often used as a filler in pet food, however many contest that it is not just a filler, as it has nutritious value, such as protein, fibre, amino acids, and complex carbohydrates.

Wheat 

Wheat is commonly found in pet food as it does create bulk and is an excellent source of energy, carbohydrates and protein for your dog and us, too! 

Rice 

Although certain types of rice can have some nutritional value, most people consider rice in dog food to be a filler. It will add little to no nutritional value. 

Soy 

Be careful with soy, as some pets can be allergic to it! When properly made, it can be a good source of fibre and cellulose for your pup.

Animal By-Products 

These are parts of the meat that we tend to leave behind that are mainly sourced from rendering plants, such as poultry by-product meal.

What’s in Tinned Pet Food?

Tinned pet food, otherwise known as wet pet food, is made by combining meats and other sources of protein with carbohydrates in a gravy that is full of minerals and vitamins, the food is then cooked and sterilized before being put into a tin. 

As you can imagine, wet pet food is full of moisture, making it easier for the canines to chew and, in some cases, to digest. It is also a good choice if your dog is not great at remembering to drink to help keep them hydrated. 

Tinned dog food generally has the same ingredients as dry food; however, it usually contains more meat. You can adequately see a tin full of chunks of meat, whereas we know that dog biscuits are ground up with other dry ingredients, sometimes proving less nutritional value.

It’s good practice to balance wet food with dry and to use reliable producers.

Does Grain-Free Food Help Dogs with Allergies 

Some pooches have allergies that could prove fatal – and sometimes, it can be challenging to find out what is ailing your dog. It can be an expensive procedure of multiple tests and checks with your vets – and that also means being really careful on pet food, too.

For pups who appear to have food allergies, they are rarely allergic to grains. However, in case of any doubt, you can try feeding your dog on a grain-free dietary regime with alternative carbohydrates. It could be worth the test, especially if your dog ends up feeling better! However, the likelihood of them being allergic to only the grains is very small. 

Learn about wheat-free dog food and make your own choice. Grain is still very controversial in some respects; it doesn’t offer much nutrition, although many attest that it’s unlikely to cause any major issues for man’s best friend.

Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs

Allergy symptoms in man’s best friend can manifest themselves in multiple ways, and you need to pay attention to them. Your four-legged friend cannot tell you that they are suffering but, just as is the case with us, certain allergies can cause them a lot of discomfort and pain. You will be able to notice symptoms such as: 

  • Itchiness
  • Swelling in the ears or on the face 
  • Red patchy skin 
  • Losing fur 
  • Sneezing 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Vomiting

The Importance of Protein for Dogs

As you know, protein is a staple part of our nourishment, and it is definitely as important in a dog’s sustenance! Your Canine companion needs nutrition from the protein in meat and bone meal, but it can also be derived from plant sources such as soybean meal. 

Protein is essential in canine diets and foods as it provides amino acids to help nourish their skin, muscles and tendons, ligaments and cartilage, nails, heart, eyesight, fur, and hormone production. They help with tissue and cell regeneration and are essential for a healthy immune system to help your dog fight off allergies and sickness. 

As you can see, the list is quite extensive, and our pooches need protein in their daily diets.

For more information on the best protein sources for man’s best friend, check out our article on quality high protein food for dogs.

Controversial Dog Food Ingredients 

  • Garlic is hugely beneficial for humans and other animals like horses; however, it can prove to be fatal for your pets. Any dog food with garlic in it – take caution!
  • Yeast: Yeast can be found in some dog food products, but some worry that certain pooches can be allergic to it. 
  • Corn: Corn is often found as a filler in dry food, and it should cause no harm to your dog; however, some claim that this ingredient has no nutritional value for our four-legged friends.
  • Dairy products: Dairy can be tough for pups to digest.

Worried about accidentally buying the bad stuff? These are all safe dog treats without any dangerous additives.

Dog Food for Different Life Stages

Puppy Food 

As you know, puppies need to eat more frequently than older dogs, and it is essential that they get all of the nutrients they need to grow and develop well. 

For a puppy to have a balanced dietary regime, they need a daily intake of protein, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. 

When it comes to your puppy, it is best to buy food from a known, reliable and well-reviewed company. No matter the size of your dog, it makes sense to check out the ingredient label to ensure they’re getting the best nutrition.

Working Dogs 

Working canines need a regular source of protein, and that is best found in meat. Protein can be found in soy, though it is not as significant as it is in meat.

That means providing genuinely good meat, as opposed to a basic meat meal. You may even find that buying your four-legged friend big cuts of meat, like chicken breast, steaks, and pork cuts mixed in with healthy vegetables like green beans, broccoli, and carrots, will best ensure their health and longevity.

Nutrition, of course, is important for all pets, working or not. Always eye up the ingredient lists on animal feed for hard-working animals to make sure they get the protein, vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids they need.

Senior Dogs 

Senior mutts need less caloric food, as their capacity for exercise and play has decreased.

That won’t stop older pups demanding their favourite treats, however – so it’s an excellent idea to keep portions of the extra tasty stuff to a minimum if it’s not always good for them! Some dogs, such as Labradors, will never tell you they’ve had enough!

You may also find that they prefer wetter foods like tinned food, or biscuits with water, making it easier on their teeth. Wet food will also help to keep them hydrated, which is increasingly important in their older years. 

Raw Food- Fad or the Perfect Doggy Diet?

Homemade raw dog food and cat food have significantly increased in popularity. The idea is that it is a more natural way for them to eat, and you know exactly where it comes from! 

Those who feed their dogs and cats purely on raw pet foods claim their pets have better coats, healthier skin, good teeth, more energy, and better stools. Many choose this option instead of diving into the unknown with your average pet food product.

Some vets, however, claim that raw pet diets can be dangerous if not administered properly. They lack some essential nutrients, and if you’re not careful about where you source the food ingredients and the food processing, it can carry diseases and parasites. 

You should buy prepared raw dog foods from dog food brands that you know. They come in a wide variety, meaning that your four-legged friend is more likely to get a balanced regime that fulfils their needs. You will find out on the packaging or through the company product name where precisely all of the ingredients have come from. 

We have a great list of raw food brands for dogs to help you get started.

Fish or Meat? 

Fish as an ingredient can be very beneficial to mutts as it contains omega-3, which is great for their health. Many pet food manufacturers include fish oils in their products for this very reason. 

Giving your four-legged friend a fish-based meal will be a nice change for them and will definitely supply them with some good nutrients; however, many dog owners have found that giving your pup fish over meat is a bad move. They should have a good balance of the two to benefit from them both, but the animal protein in meat should definitely be their primary food source.

Dangers of a Raw Food Diet 

Raw pet foods and diets can be very dangerous for our four-legged friends, especially if they are homemade. Unless you have done extensive research and carefully plan each meal, you could be depriving your pup of some of the essential nutrients they need. 

Not cooking the food also increases the chances of having harmful bacteria and carrying diseases such as salmonella, which could otherwise be dealt with during the cooking process. 

Sometimes, the best thing for your pup is to boil the food to ensure that it is cooked through and cleaned during the boiling process.

Beneficial Additions to Your Dog’s Diet 

Adding certain foods to a dog’s nourishment could show an array of benefits in a concise amount of time! For example: 

  • Apples: Apples are great snacks for dogs and are often suggested as treats by vets. They help to keep your dog’s teeth clean, and most of all, contain vitamins A and C and fibre.
  • Fish oil: Fish oil is a great source of omega-3 that can be easily added to your dog’s dinner. Check out these reviews of salmon oil good for dogs.
  • Tumeric: Tumeric is a natural anti-inflammatory that is great for dogs with joint and muscle problems 
  • Pumpkin: Pumpkins are full of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E, as well as iron and potassium, all of which are great for your dog’s immune system and digestion. 
  • Carrots: Carrots are another great snack for dogs and can be added to their dinners, too. They are high in fibre and vitamin A. 
  • Kefir: Kefir is rich in many dog-healthy nutrients such as vitamins A, D, and K, as well as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and biotin.

Before upping the nutrition for your pet, no matter their size or age, always check with veterinarians first that it’s healthy to do so.

Changing Your Dog’s Diet 

Suppose you have decided that it is time to change your dog’s dietary regime a bit – do so with care. Just like us, having a radical change in diet could endanger your pup more than benefit them!

Taking the time to change things slowly will allow their bodies to adapt to a new way of living and these new nutrients that are being introduced to them. Over time, benefits will begin to show, and your dog’s health will only be better for it.

Again, your vet will be able to tell you more about nutritional needs, 0ff-shelf products, food ingredients, vitamins and more to look out for.

The Bottom Line 

Learning more about dog food products, nutrition and manufacturing processes is a responsible decision. What’s more, there is no shame for pet owners in changing your dog’s diet at a later age in their life, to tailor to their needs as long as you do so gently.

It is always best to consult your vet about the good changes you could make to benefit your dog. Your vet will know your dog’s body better than anyone and will be the best placed to advise you on this. 

The pet food industry has set new standards for itself, and there are more pet food products sold today than there ever have been before. You can easily find pet food companies and dog food labels that ensure a good protein source for your cats and dogs – with healthy meat, omega three fatty acids, plant ingredients, vitamins and minerals, and altogether good nutrition for your pets.

Now you know more about dog food ingredients and how dog food is made – don’t be afraid to stray from the same old pet foods/pet food manufacturers and try some new ingredients.

John Devlin

Blogger and owner of George and Henry. Two gorgeous goldens that couldn’t be more different. One is a dream loving and caring, and his sibling is as naughty as can be. When I am not blogging about dogs, I love watching sport and travelling with the family.
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