Dog Food Ingredient Splitting

Share Button

We decided to re-post and update our important article on ingredient splitting. We updated the statistics and found that there are a lot more instances of ingredient splitting in dog food than we first thought :-(. Remember that glancing at the ingredient list can be misleading. Make sure you look for split ingredients before assuming that your dog’s food is what you think it is!

Mom, this has FILLER in it...

Mom, this has FILLER in it…


Looking at the ingredient list on a dog food label is tricky. In many cases, the lists are long and contain names of ingredients that we are not familiar with. Simply looking at the first few ingredients is not always good enough, as label ‘tricks’ can disguise a food’s real quality. One type of label ‘trick’ is known as ingredient splitting.


First Ingredients Matter

Like human food, dog food labels are required to list ingredients in order of their prominence in the food. Specifically, according to AAFCO, ingredients are required to be listed in order of predominance by weight. The weights of ingredients are determined as they are added in the formulation, including their inherent water content.[…]


In theory, this means that the first ingredient on the label is the most predominant ingredient (by weight), the second ingredient is the second most predominant, etc. Pretty straight forward, and why many people look for foods with a protein as the first ingredient.


Splitting Hairs

Still, we must be careful when looking at the ingredients as the lists can sometimes be deceiving. Why? Because lower quality ingredients can be ‘split’ on the label so that it appears that their contribution to the food formula is less than it actually is while simultaneously improving the position of higher quality ingredients. An example can help illustrate.


Here is a list of the first several ingredients of an actual dog food:

Chicken Meal, Ground Whole Wheat, Wheat Flour, Corn Gluten Meal, Ground Rice, Rice Bran, Chicken Fat.


Although Chicken meal is the 1st ingredient, notice that a form of wheat is the 2nd and 3rd ingredient, and a form of rice is the 5th and 6th ingredient. It is quite possible that if you added the wheat and rice ingredients together, that the food list might look a little different.

For example, the ingredients might really look like:

Wheat, Rice, Chicken Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Fat.


Not quite the same story, especially if you look for a food with a protein as the 1st ingredient. What appeared to be a predominantly meat based food now looks more like a grain based food.


How Common is Splitting?

Ingredient splitting has been called a “trick” (and worse) that some dog food manufacturers intentionally use to make inferior products look better to the average consumer. That may or may not be the case! Yet, we couldn’t help but wonder how prevalent split ingredients are in today’s commercially available food. So we combed through our database of foods and looked for cases where ‘filler’ ingredients were named more than once in their ingredients list. In this experiment, we defined filler as being rice, corn, or wheat. We found 33 % of dog foods have 2 or more ingredients listed with some form of rice, corn, or wheat. About 56 % of these cases were for rice, 28% corn and 16% wheat.


Wow. One third of all dog foods are splitting filler ingredients! Whether this is done to make poor quality foods look better or not is not for us to say. Nor can we comment on whether or not these statistics are improving over time (e.g. is splitting less prevalent than 10 or 20 years ago). Our hope is that these numbers are lower than they were in the past, which would be a reflection of the increasing proportion of higher quality foods and food brands that have been created to satisfy consumer requests for high protein, low grain/filler diets.


What food brand and formulas are you feeding your dog? Have you checked the label for filler splitting?


We’re joining the Tasty Tuesday Blog Hop sponsored by Sugar, the Golden Retriever and Kolchak from Kol’s Notes:

Share Button


  1. Learning new things everyday. This is the first time I’ve heard of filler splitting so I never thought to check that. That said, we rotate through several different brands that are around the same price band as Addiction and TOTW, etc so hopefully it evens things out. Also starting to cook more regularly so Donna has been getting a more consistent supply of fresh cooked meat to supplement the protein content of her diet overall.
    weliveinaflat recently posted…Phoneography weekly: Getting in the mood of Chinese New Year (CNY)My Profile

  2. I find ingredient splitting both very common and very annoying. Presently, beside home-cooked stuff, the main dog food we use is Orijen Freeze Dried. Expensive, that it is. I love the ingredients, though. First SIX ingredients are animal protein source! Impressive.
    Jana Rade recently posted…Tasty Tuesday: Home Cooked Kong FillingMy Profile

  3. We feed fresh cooked meals and Easy gets some dry food in the afternoon. We currently try Happy Dog supreme sensible, it’s not bad and well-tolerated for Easy. But he dislikes it :o) Thanks for this interesting post!
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog LISTEN…My Profile

    • Good for you on the fresh meals which is a great way to augment the dry food.

      We don’t have the Happy Dog food here in the US, but a quick look at their site and I notice the Sensible line is rather low in protein, high in carbs. No wonder why Easy dislikes it.
      steve recently posted…Dog Food Ingredient SplittingMy Profile

  4. We all switched over to Innova, so we have puppy, adult, and senior. We love it and it seems to be fairly healthy.
    emma recently posted…Winter is a Season, Not an Excuse! | GBGV | #ScoopThatPoopMy Profile

    • We had used Innova for many years, until last years recall debacle. The original Innova recipes were great and healthy, for sure.
      steve recently posted…Dog Food Ingredient SplittingMy Profile

      • We just recently heard about the recall, but we also read up on it to find that no dogs actually were sick, they just recalled because there was a chance. We just switched a couple months ago. It seems like almost everything edible in the world has been recalled these days.
        emma recently posted…Winter is a Season, Not an Excuse! | GBGV | #ScoopThatPoopMy Profile

        • I know – it’s hard to know what’s right. Sometimes I think the ones that have been recalled make a double effort to be safe…but who knows.
          mkob recently posted…Dog Food Ingredient SplittingMy Profile

        • Just to be clear, we totally understand that recalls can happen, even to the best brands. Innova, actually P&G, did a horrible job managing the recall. Both in terms of announcing to the public (they made a series of announcements each one down playing the severity only to expand the recall each time) AND in terms of how they treated the pet store owner who was stuck with the bad stock. Not much support or apologies to their life time customers (like we used to be).
          steve recently posted…Wordless Wednesday 1-22-14My Profile

  5. good point!!! I never really thought of that before! I know the first ingredients are the most important ones to look at. The first 5 especially, i’ve been told. But I never really gave a second thought to them splitting the ingredients like that!
    Thanks for the great advice!
    ((husky hugz))
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…♥ Finishing off the Pack ♥My Profile

  6. Thanks for this post! Mom says she never thought about splitting, and will have to keep it in mind from now on. I’m good with that, because I want more delicious meat in my food!
    Olive recently posted…Bare Bites Review – Tasty TuesdayMy Profile

    • You are welcome Olive. The more Mom knows about the food she buys, the better off you (and she) will be!
      steve recently posted…Dog Food Ingredient SplittingMy Profile

  7. Never thought of that before, is there any data base that lists all dog foods so consumers compare?

    • Why yes there is. Slimdoggy has collected calories and ingredients for over 2,000 dog food and treats. You can check it out from our iPhone app which you can download at the App Store :

      Stay tuned because we are doing a major update to our foods, adding lots of new ones, and will be publishing a web based dog food directory very soon.
      steve recently posted…Dog Food Ingredient SplittingMy Profile

  8. Wow! I never even thought of this. GREAT post!
    Kristen–well minded recently posted…living with canine addison’s disease: kermit’s story, part two (our lives before the disease)My Profile

  9. Great update. When considering what goes into our dogs’ bodies (and our own), “splitting hairs” is a very good thing, imho!
    Sue at Talking Dogs recently posted…Easy Cranberry Dog Biscuit Recipe | Tasty TuesdayMy Profile

  10. Very interesting. I actually never noticed or thought about this before. It’s really annoying that dog food companies can get away with this but at the same time I can see how they CAN get away with it. It’s that fuzzy grey area corporations love to dabble in. Thanks for the informative article! 🙂
    Nailah Bone recently posted…Tasty Tuesday – Low Calorie Veggie and Chicken Ice CubesMy Profile

  11. intresting and who knew? not me because again it’s been forever since I visited food labels and forget what I am looking for. This was a great reminder and will have to check out my bag of food. Thank you!
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Dental Health and Chewy.comMy Profile

  12. Interesting. This is something I will be sure to remember and keep an eye out for if I ever have to feed commercial food again. Currently Petal eats homemade, so it’s not an issue for me. My sister’s dog eats kibble though, she eats Acana which seems to be a pretty good brand. I just checked the ingredient list again for the formula she eats (chicken and burbank potato) and oats are listed twice, but chicken is listed 4 times (5 if you were to count the chicken liver oil; not sure if you would) and is the first two ingredients. There’s fish and fish oil too. So hopefully this is still a good choice.

    Thanks for sharing this information!
    Marquie recently posted…Review, Giveaway & RecipeMy Profile

  13. I remember reading this last time, but for some reason understood it better this time! I haven’t checked our labels yet. We feed Fromm’s….Adult Gold for the beagles, large breed for Sheba, and large breed puppy for Luke.
    Jan K recently posted…Fruity GoodnessMy Profile

  14. My senior dogs don’t get good food. I’m seriously considering making their food. *sigh*
    Flea recently posted…Lambly Links, the All Natural Dog Candy!My Profile

  15. Very interesting. I see our foods split even the better ingredients. It is something to keep an eye on for sure.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…A New Collar For FreighterMy Profile

  16. Thanks for this very interesting article and topic covered. I was never aware of this and I’m sure many others aren’t either…which is sad. I’ll make it my mission to let my readers know this as well, especially on our sister site over at

    Many thanks!
    Ruan recently posted…Puppy Socialization TrainingMy Profile

Comments are now closed on this post.