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What’s in dog food that makes it healthy or unhealthy?

dog food that makes it healthy
dog food that makes it healthy. Image Source Pixabay.

There are more than 170 ingredients available in the dog food world. And most manufacturers use most or some of these ingredients.

But have you ever imagined what’s inside your dog’s food?

We can’t describe each and every ingredient under the sun in this brief post. But we will try to cover the most important ones.

We categorized these dog food sources into two types.

Type 1 contains healthy sources which are expected in any good dog food. And the second type is some substandard sources that are present in most dog foods.

Type 1: Healthy sources.

1. Named meat protein and meat meals.

Some of the best dog foods have named meat proteins in their list. Named meat proteins means the protein include will have a name like chicken or beef. This helps you to know exactly what types of meat you are feeding your dogs.

The same goes for meat meals. If you see a dog food has a chicken meal or beef meal, it will indicate the food is of high quality.

Some of the most common meat sources are:

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Turkey
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Pork

2. Named plant and animal fats.

Named fats like pork, chicken, etc. indicate the quality of dog food. But plant fats are also vital for dogs. Fats from tallow and lard are to be totally avoided.

Based on the breed of your dog, the proportion of fat might vary. But in general, it should comprise 25-30% of the overall food.

You should expect some of these fats to be included in your dog food, if not all:

  • Duck fat
  • Chicken fat
  • Fish oils
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Canola Oil

3. Carbs and vegetables.

Carbs and vegetables are normally present in most dog foods. Though the presence of these ingredients is controversial, they still can contribute if chosen wisely.

Complex carbs like potatoes and peas can help to regulate the digestion process in dogs.

Vegetables are good sources of fiber and might add some value to the overall food.

4. Vitamins and minerals.

Some of the vitamins and minerals are vital for the health of dogs. And good dog foods have them in the right proportion.

Here are some of the most common vitamins and minerals present in dog food:

  • Vitamin A: Good for eye and skin health. Found in sweet potatoes and fish oils.
  • Vitamin C: Boosts healing. Found in green beans and potatoes
  • Vitamin B: Maintains cell development. Found in beans and vegetables
  • Vitamin E: Good source of antioxidant. Found in seeds and whole grains
  • Calcium and Phosphorus: Deficiency can cause abnormal growth. Found in fish, eggs, and meat.
  • Sulfur: Good for skin and hair. Found in fish and meat.
  • Selenium: Support the immune system. Available in meat and seafood.
  • Zinc: Aids in protein digestion. Found in lamb mear, pork, and eggs.

5. Yucca schidigera.

Yucca schidigera is an extract from the Yucca plant. You can find this in almost 20% of all commercially available dog foods.

If you are buying dog foods Pitbulls to gain muscle, in most cases, you will see this in the ingredient list. Because studies support that this plant extract can reduce waster odor by 26%.

6. Natural flavor.

Many dog foods contain natural flavorings. These help to enhance the taste of the food. You can find dog food in chicken and turkey flavor. Other than that, Vitamin C and rosemary extract are also commonly used.

If you find natural flavors in the ingredient list, it means the food is safe.

Type 2: Substandard sources.

Not all substandard dog food ingredients are bad. But these are usually not of the highest quality and only a few of them might be detrimental for health.

7. Generic meat by-products.

When manufacturers don’t name a meat by-product, it’s hard for consumers to know what sort of by-product meat is in there. It might contain lungs, brains, intestines. These are in general good for dogs, but you don’t know exactly what animal parts are used here.

8. Generic meat meals.

Let’s face it. The amount of named meat protein included in dog foods is not sufficient enough. And you can’t afford them if manufacturers started putting everything real meat.

Meat meals are concentrated animal proteins that complement the main meat protein. But substandard meat meals might be from any source of animal that we don’t know of.

9. Grains and starches.

Biologically dogs have no real value from grains and starches. But the exclusion of them from the diet is also controversial. Substandard dog foods have plenty of grains and starches to keep the price low. One or two grains should be enough to keep a balance between health and price.

10. Gluten based ingredients.

Gluten based food is total junk. But you can still find this in dog foods. The most commonly used one is corn gluten meal. When I buy any dog food for my dogs, I always avoid the ones that have corn gluten meal in them. Manufacturers use them to increase the protein amount in the level. But in reality, dogs cannot utilize them to gain proteins.

11. Beet Pulp.

Beet pulp is a highly controversial dog food ingredient. Though many vets and pet experts say that it’s a good prebiotic, it’s still an unnecessary filler as far as I can understand. If your dog food has it, make sure it’s there in very less proportion.

12. Chemical preservatives and dyes.

Some dog foods even contain artificial preservatives and dyes. BHT, BHA, Ethoxyquin, and Propylene glycol are usually found in dog foods.

They might not be detrimental in the short run, but these can leave a long term effect. So, avoiding them is best

Yellow 5, red 40 and Blue 2 are among the many dyes that are found in dog food. Although these are totally banned from use in human food, manufacturers use them in pet food.

About the author


I am Jhumon .My Favorite animal is Dog. I love my dog from very young age.Now I am 36 and I am sharing my Experience in this Blog and have some review about dog food and dog bed etc.