Dog Food Analysis - Good, Questionable & Bad Ingredients in Dog Food
Chicken, turkey and beef, hey that's all good but what the heck are dog food ingredients we can't even pronounce? Our dog food analysis will give you the upper hand when evaluating the best possible dry food for dog nutrition.. and a healthy dog to boot!
Many folks aren't aware of the bad ingredients in dog food, we'll cover those too and set the record straight on all dog food ingredients, good, questionable and downright terrible.
Why is Dog Food Analysis Critical?
Phrases like "You are what you eat" and, "Garbage in, garbage out" should be fresh in mind when thinking about what's good to feed your dog. Physiologically, a dog is a carnivore with a body designed to eat meat. We can mimic a nutritious meat based protein diet that carnivores thrive on with a high quality kibble. But we can also mess a dog up pretty bad feeding cheap kibble full of corn, grains and additives.
While dogs can live life on plant based proteins found in poor quality dog food, it's not what nature intended for our beloved canines. We believe that as dog lovers, we must be diligent to provide the best possible nutrition and assure the longevity of all dogs in our care.
Dog Food Analysis of Good Ingredients
GOOD PROTEIN SOURCES
We love to see a good specified meat protein source and preferably as the first ingredient, the first two or three ingredients even better! Quality protein sources include;
Meats like beef, chicken, turkey, duck, lamb, venison, buffalo, rabbit, salmon, especially as the first ingredient, awesome!
Specified Meat Meal:
Second best to named meats and good to see listed as one of the first 5 ingredients. Chicken meal, beef meal, salmon meal, lamb meal, etc. (Note: Meat Meal is not a specified meat species, see poor ingredients in that section below)
Specified Meat By-Products:
Less desirable but often found, even in quality kibble. OK if used as a secondary protein source and if the by-products are defined as a specified species of meat, "beef by-products" as an example, not just "by-product", or "meat by-products".
By-Product Meal (Should be avoided):
Confusing but, named meat by-products are OK, meat by-products meal is questionable even if a specified meat such as chicken by-product meal. (See meat by-product meal in questionable ingredients section below)
DOG FOOD ANALYSIS OF GOOD FATS AND OILS
All canines require fats and oils for skin and coat health, brain development and critical bodily function. As pet food ingredients, some fats and oils are more important than others. When added to dog food they should be of a named quality source. (See our questionable ingredients below for oil and fat sources that are best avoided)
Quality named fats and oils:
Oils like flax, canola, salmon, sunflower, etc. Fats such as chicken fat, turkey fat, etc. Omegas like Omega-3 and Omega-6.
Stay away from generic unspecified animal products or oils such as fish oil, animal fat, poultry fat, vegetable oil, mineral oil, etc. (See our list below)
GOOD CARBOHYDRATE SOURCES
Carbohydrates provide energy and can be sourced from grains like wheat, barley, rice, oats, corn, potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes and more. When properly processed and included in dry dog food, these ingredients are easily digested and offer important sources of energy to dogs. Don't be overly concerned seeing such ingredients on a dog food label as long as they're farther down the ingredients list.
Quality Carbohydrates Include:
Whole ground grains such as rice, oats, barley, millet, sweet potatoes, peas & potatoes. Corn gluten may appear on a recipe and is OK if not a main protein ingredient at the top of the ingredients list. It is actually used by some manufacturers as a carbohydrate source in combination with other ingredients. Whenever you see corn products in a kibble, note that larger stools may result and some dogs may have allergic reactions. Be careful the kibble blend you're considering does not include large amounts of corn. And again, make sure corn is nowhere near the top of the ingredients list.
DOG FOOD ANALYSIS GOOD FIBER IN DOG FOOD
Fiber is common and part of carbohydrate ingredients that dogs cant digest. Because kibble dog food has high carbohydrate levels, dietary fiber is necessary to make it work with a dog's digestive tract.
Common Fibers in Quality Kibble:
Oats, Rice, Fruit & Vegetables. A controversial product called Beet Pulp can be found in many mid-grade formulas. Derived from sugar beets, this fiber source in typically easy on a dog's digestion and can also provide nutrition to support flora bacteria in a dog's gut.
Avoid processed fiber ingredients like brans & hulls of many varieties, and similar. (See our list below for more info)
FRUITS & VEGETABLES
It's nice to see see unprocessed whole fruits and vegetables on an ingredients list as they provide various nutrients like vitamins & minerals. Customarily however, the amount of fruit and vegetables contained in any given brand do not offer a significant amount of these nutrients when diluted by the bulk ingredients.
Good fruits and vegetables can include:
Unprocessed Apples, Pears, Carrots, etc., preferably listed as "organic".
Stay away from processed ingredients such as citrus pulp, apple pomace, grape pomace, tomato pomace. (See our list below for additional info)
If selecting a good quality kibble dry dog food, flavoring agents are typically left out. However, many mid-grade brands will add flavors and as long as they're from specified sources, there's really nothing to worry about.
Acceptable Flavoring Agents:
Beef Stock, Chicken Stock, or other flavor from specified animals.
Keep away from processed, rendered and unspecified products like "digest", "meat" and "meal". (More info below)
No need for sweeteners in dog food but often used in poor quality kibble to make food more attractive to dogs. If the brand you're looking at has sweeteners, they should be listed towards the end of the ingredients list and at the minimum, be of natural origin.
Natural sweeteners like molasses & honey.
(See poor sweeteners below)
Typically added to make food look attractive to humans, dogs don't care, so really an unnecessary ingredient. Try to stay away from food that includes dyes. (See list below for bad dyes)
Just about every dog food includes supplements as all dog food must meet specified nutritional guidelines. Some manufacturers of good kibble may actually include supplements for joint health like glucosamine & chondroitinsuch, or beneficial digestive enzymes and probiotics.
Good Supplements Include:
Chelated or sequestered minerals, a.k.a. (chelates, proteinates, amino acid chelates, complexes, polysaccharide complexes). Non-acidic vitamin C, a.k.a. (Ester C, Calcium Ascorbate, Stabilized Vitamin C, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate). Naturally sourced Vitamin E, a.k.a. (Tocopherol, Natural Tocopherol) plus natural sources of Vitamin K from egg yolk, liver, oats, kelp, alfalfa). Also, minerals, chelated minerals, amino acids, vitamin C.
Steer clear of "Menadione" in all variations of names used to specify it on the ingredients panel! (detailed info below).
Also avoid Yeast Culture, sulfate and oxide based mineral supplements, a.k.a. zinc oxide, iron oxide. (See list below for more info)
Dog Food Analysis of Questionable Ingredients
Please note that "questionable" does not mean terrible. Many of these ingredients are found in high end and mid-grade dry dog food. Some ingredients are worse than others, you be the judge when accessing their inclusion on the ingredients panel of the kibble you are considering.
A flavoring additive made from cooking down unspecified animal acquired from any source. This includes animals dead prior to slaughter, spoiled grocery meats, diseased animals, road kill, rats, vermin and animals that have been euthanized. Loose quality control standards increase risks of contamination.
When generically named on ingredients panel with no named animal specified. Animal fat can be rendered from any animal including dead prior to slaughter, diseased animals, including road kill, rats, vermin and animals that have been euthanized.
Apple Pomace, Citrus Pulp:
Neither as good as real fruit, both by-products of human food processing and often added to low quality dog kibble as some form of a fiber, or to make ingredients look good by including fruit! Minimal nutritional value and can contain seed, twigs, leaves, pesticide residue, etc. If you seek fruit in your dog food be sure it is not in the "pulp", or "pomice" form.
Beef & Bone Meal:
Inexpensive ingredient used to boost protein in cheap dog foods. Rendered from beef tissues, including bone.
Beef Fat, a.k.a. Beef Tallow:
Fat rendered from processing cattle used to enhance the taste of dog food. Used frequently in cheap kibble blends rather than more expensive, more nutritional fat sources like chicken fat, fish, or more nutritious oils.
Used as an inexpensive protein source in poor kibble blends. Produced from clean, fresh animal blood but species of animal is not disclosed. No way to know if any residual vaccines, hormones or other substances were in the animal's blood.
Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5:
All artificial coloring dyes you won't find in high quality kibble dog food. Some studies on mice resulted in brain tumors. Mild allergic reaction was noticed in other studies.
An additive meant to balance the calcium & phosphorus levels in dog food. This residue of bones is produced by drying bones after treating them in caustics, acid & lime.
Brewers Rice, a.k.a. Ground Brewers Rice:
Use as a carbohydrate source but nutritionally lacking. I see this in a lot of pet foods! Brewers rice is a processed rice product that lacks nutrients found in whole ground and brown rice. Make sure your "chicken, lamb, beef & rice" dog food actually includes the higher quality rice.
Cane Molasses, Corn Syrup, Sorbitol, Sugar:
All are sweeteners meant to make dog food more palatable and aren't necessary. Excessive sugar in a dog's diet can cause uneven energy, energy spikes, nervousness and make a puppy difficult to train. Fed over a lifetime, sugars can cause physiological problems like tooth decay, cataracts, obesity, arthritis, allergies and canine diabetes. Sugar is also addictive and a dog on sweetened food over the course of years may shun healthier dog foods if you ever try to switch.
Cereal Food Fines, Feeding Oat Meal, Grain Fermentation Solubles, Potato Product:
All carbohydrate sources that are cheap by-product waste of human food processing. Available by the tons for poor quality pet food manufacturers, these ingredients offer no nutritional value and can also contain residue or particles, chemicals, sweeteners, additives, peels, hulls and more. Processing waste is not fit for human consumption, if not for the pet food industry, it would be trash. Whole oat and potato products would be more desirable on an ingredients panel, yet of course, more expensive.
Chicken By-product Meal:
Used as a protein additive and consists of dry, ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines. Much cheaper than using good cuts of chicken meat but less digestible. Nutritional value of by-products can vary by source and is never consistent.
Corn Distillers Dried Grains With Solubles (DDGS):
Used as protein in poor quality kibble, DDGS is obtained after the process of fermenting corn starch when distilling ethyl alcohol. This by-product does not digest well and nutritional value is never constant.
Corn Bran, Corn Cellulose, Oat Hulls, Peanut Hulls, Rice Hulls, Soybean Mill Run, Wheat Mill Run, Wheat Middlings:
All poor fiber additives sometimes find in low quality dog food. Bulk of these additives are the waste of human food processing by milling, pressing, or chemical processes. These waste ingredients are of no nutritional value and some may even include pesticide residue, floor sweepings and mill/ press clean down debris.
Corn Germ Meal, Corn Gluten Meal:
Two plant based protein/ binder dog food additives derived from corn. Both are by-products from the commercial processing of corn and while not really harmful, never good to see too high up on your dog food ingredients list.
Corn Gluten & Wheat Gluten:
Both are binders that are by-products of food processing and cheaply available by the tons. Neither have any nutritional value and can be found in some cheap kibble mixes as a thickening agent.
Digest, a.k.a. Chicken Digest, Turkey Digest, Poultry Liver Digest, Etc.:
A flavoring additive made from cooking down specified, or unspecified animal parts. If unspecified, just like "Animal Digest" parts can be acquired from any source. This includes animals dead prior to slaughter, spoiled grocery meats, diseased animals, road kill, rats, vermin and animals that have been euthanized. Loose quality control standards increase risks of contamination.
Protein source rendered from dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish or fish cuttings. If the fish species is unnamed, you will not know what, or where the fish originated. Unless this ingredients includes "for human consumption", it is most likely preserved with Ethoxyquin! Avoid this if you can. (See Ethoxyquin below)
Another protein source derived from the liver of "an animal". Without an animal specified, who knows from where, and of what species the anamal.
TIP: The word "meat", or the name of an "organ", without being an animal species listed, means either ingredient could be from any species, from any corner of the globe. Doesn't Skunk or Opossum sound tasty?
No further explanation needed. We recommend that "flavor" is naturally sourced and not a chemical additive.
Another sweetener found naturally in fruit and honey. Used sparingly, provides nutrients for bifidobacteria probiotic activity which in turn produce beneficial enzymes.
Fat rendered from pigs with little nutritional value. Used to make dry dog kibble more appealing to our dogs.
Meat & Bone Meal, Meat Meal:
Same inexpensive protein trick as "fish meal" and "liver meal", except it''s generically called "meat"! And, it can be sourced from anywhere including animals that died of cancer, disease, and worse. Decomposed tissue, spoiled tissue... disgusting.
Mineral oil functions as a laxative and stool softener and can be found in some dog food. I'd probably steer clear of any such brand and expect to find excessive binding agents somewhere on that ingredients panel.
Phosphoric Acid (H3P04):
An additive used to flavor poor quality dog food, also used to prevents discoloration.
Pork & Bone Meal:
An inexpensive protein booster added to dog food. A by-product made from pork parts not suitable for human consumption. This can be an entire pig and include bones.
Poultry By-product Meal:
This cheap protein booster is the reason poultry slaughterhouses don't have to rent a dumpster. Less digestible than poultry muscle meat, these carcasses and parts of "slaughtered poultry" ship right out to pet food manufacturers and end up in our dog's food. Not a terrible concept if you're a raw feeder but nutritional consistency of these bins of chicken parts is never steady.
Rendered from the tissue of poultry. Like animal fat, if no specific fowl is identified or disclosed as slaughtered, can be rendered from any source. This includes dying or deceased prior to slaughter, diseased or disabled fowl, any birds, euthanized birds, roadkill, etc. A better ingredient would be chicken fat (a specified fat).
A protein additive derived from the clean combination of poultry flesh and skin with or without bone. Does not contain feathers, heads, feet or entrails. If from a particular source it may state so (i.e. chicken, turkey etc). Omission of the term "by-product" in "poultry meal" means the manufacturer does not name the product source or disclose the species. Once again, this opens the door for bad meats described in other ingredients which can come from anywhere. Even dead crows fit the bill here!
A necessary mineral yet customarily present in good quality kibble without additional quantity added. Just like for humans, can make food tastier to a dog but everything in moderation, right? Just like humans, too much salt for a dog can cause health problems.
A poor quality protein filler used to boost the protein content of low quality pet foods made from grinding the flakes of soybean left over after their oil has been processed.
Carbohydrate in the form of rendered from processing soybeans using mechanical or chemical processes. Minimal nutritional value and can contain hull and offal from other materials processed by the mill.
An flavoring agent composed of yeast added mainly to make inexpensive food more attractive to dogs. Lacks the nutritional value of higher quality yeast supplements and the media on which the yeast was grown is not specified. Can cause allergies in some dogs.
Yeast Fermentation Solubles:
A vitamin B supplement consisting of yeast grown on media. Considered harmless yet less nutritious than higher quality yeast supplements. Can also cause allergic reactions in some dogs.
Downright BAD INGREDIENTS in Dog Food
(BHA) Butylated Hydroxysanisole:
A preservative found in poor quality dog food to preserve fats and oils. BHA is found to be carcinogenic in animals and has is also linked to kidney damage.
(BHT) Butylated Hydroxytoluene:
Also used to preserve fats & oils. More potent than BHA and has been linked to certain cancers in both humans and pets.
A source of fiber, but not any fiber you'd want to eat. Cellulose is used to add bulk to pet food and is often processed dried wood in a powdered form. That's not a typo, I said wood!
A preservative common in many dog foods. Used also as rubber stabilizer, herbicide, pesticide, fruit & produce preservative and in many other industries. Known to be associated with reproductive, thyroid, liver, immune, and kidney issues, plus linked blindness, leukemia and of course, cancers.
An emulsifier additive often used in processed foods, and for processing plastics, cosmetics and medicines. Can also contain the presrvative (BHT) butylated hydroxytoluene.
Added as a source of fiber, grape pomice is a waste by-product rendered from pressing grapes for juice or wine and can contain grape skin, pulp and crushed seeds. Of almost zero nutritional value, grape pomace contains a substance known to be toxic to dogs.
(Any of These Names - Same Bad Ingredient) Menadione, Menadione Sodium Bisulfate, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite, Menadione Dimethylprimidinol Sulfate, Menadione Dimethylprimidinol Sulfite, Menadione Dimethylpyrimidinol Bisulfite, "Vitamin K3", "a source of Vitamin K Activity", "Vitamin K Supplement":
Menadione, known also as Vitamin K3, is a synthetic version of Vitamin K. While the natural forms of Vitamin K (K1 & K2) can be absorbed by a dog's body, synthetic Menadione (Vitamin k3) cannot. As an inexpensive alternative to natural Vitamin K, Menadione is added to pet food to assist with blood clotting. Menadione (and as named above), can cause liver problems in dogs, anemia, immune system weakness, allergic reactions, calcium imbalance, and more. You'll find most dry kibble brands have eliminated this ingredient yet I still find it listed on the majority of ultra-cheap brands.
A preservative hygroscopic liquid used in antifreeze and solvents! Used to control moisture in kibble dog food and dog treats. If part of a dog's diet over life, or if consumed in large amounts can become toxic. Reduces moisture that is needed to aid in digestion and good bacteria levels in the gut. Has been linked to intestinal blockage and intestinal cancerous lesions.
Propyl Gallate, a.k.a. Propyl Ester/ Gallic Acid:
A preservative derived from Gallic Acid used as an antioxidant. Some suspicion of association with cancer and liver disease.
Yellow 6 (food coloring):
Animal testing has linked this dye to adrenal gland and kidney tumors. Several carcinogens are found in small amounts in Yellow 6 and it has also been certain allergies. Since yellow 6 is still widely used, we suggest you avoid pet foods that include it. Of interest, the FDA advises the dye causes no significant risk of cancer to humans.
Note: I'm sorry for this long page, this dog food analysis, good ingredients & bad ingredients in dog food article took a while to put together. We feel the information provided is of extreme importance!
Our aim with this page was to list pet food ingredients in a simple format, we hope it helps everyone with good dog nutrition that results in a long lived healthy dog. If you have suggestions to simplify this page, please send us feedback using our "contact page" located in the top navigation menu.