Dog Food Ingredients Overview

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imageDog Food Ingredients – an Introduction

Today, we are embarking on a long series of posts on dog food and dog food labels.  We kick-off with an overview of our dog food criteria (and why).
We thought that these would be a fitting entry in the Tasty Tuesday blog hop, hosted by our friend Sugar, so you can expect to see new installments every Tuesday or every other Tuesday (depending on our schedule).

Please don’t be shy about using the comment section to share your opinions and experiences as well as submit specific questions about dog food.  We will do our best to respond.

 In the Beginning


The Paleo Diet

In the health and fitness community, there is a dietary trend toward eating more foods that are closer to their natural state and fewer foods that are overly processed or artificially made.  A real good example of this is the so called “Paleo Diet”, which is an increasingly popular diet that closely mimics that of the humans that existed during the Paleolithic era (which lasted for 2.5 million years and ended about 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture).  It is essentially a “hunter/gatherer” diet of animals and wild plants.

Although I am not “Paleo” with my eating, I do believe that humans should consume more things that are found in nature and fewer things that are highly processed, and strive to live by that as a lifestyle.  I believe the same holds true for dogs and thus, believe that if you are going feed yours commercially available dog foods, you should choose foods with less processed and artificial ingredients.

Dogs are descendents of  (a subspecies of) the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the mammalian order Carnivora.  Despite this lineage to a carnivore, dogs are generally classified as either carnivores or omnivores (which eat meat and non-meat foods, like us humans).  It is true that dogs can adapt to a wide-ranging diet, no doubt a result of them hanging around with us for the past 15,000 years or so. That said, dogs should be fed a high protein diet and obtain a majority of their protein from real meat sources and not processed meats or non-meat sources.  Steve Brown, author of “The Canine Ancestral Diet” provides an interesting examination of what a dog’s ancestral diet might have looked like.


A Snapshot of a Good Dog Food

Example of raw food diet

Example of raw food diet

There are a lot of people that have switched or are considering switching from commercial to home cooked or raw diets for their dogs, no doubt in part due the alarming amount of dog food recalls.  We think that this is a great way to go as long as the meals are well balanced and provide the essential nutrients.  If taking this route, it is best to consult with a vet knowledgeable in diet and nutrition or a pet nutritionist to ensure that your dog’s meals are balanced.

For those using commercial dog foods, which are convenient and, for the most part provide a balanced nutritional profile, it’s time to start scrutinizing what is in the can or bag.  At a very high level, your dog food should have the following attributes:

  • High in protein (meat as a first ingredient).
  • Real, named protein sources (e.g., beef or chicken, not meat or poultry).
  • No by-products.
  • High quality fats (e.g. named fats like chicken fat” or pork fat and/or healthy oils like canola or herring oil).
  • High quality carbohydrates (e.g. oats, peas, sweet potato, not mill run or cereal).
  • No artificial ingredients (e.g. food coloring like red 40, yellow 5, or preservatives like Propylene Glycol , which is used in anti-freeze and Ethoxyquin which is used in pesticides).
  • Little or no fillers.  If you see corn in the first few ingredients, be wary.  You don’t want things like cellulose, hulls, or mill runs.


In summary, feed your dog products that contain real food, minimal amounts of processed foods, and no artificial ingredients.  In future installments of this series, we will provide more details on the different food components and what to watch out for when scanning the ingredient lists.


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

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  1. Great article! We (including the canines) eat very little highly processed food, garden organically, and these days are worried about GMOs.
    Sue at Talking Dogs recently posted…Jeffie’s Birthday Party: The Grand FinaleMy Profile

  2. I am a big fan of raw feeding and so are the dogs – their meals are always varied and they have all sorts of goodies in their dishes, so they LOVE mealtimes. Before we started raw feeding, Hannah had a terrible appetite and would stare at her dry food for half an hour before mustering up the enthusiasm to eat a tiny bit of it.
    Human Rescues Dog recently posted…I’m In Love!My Profile

  3. It really is amazing how much processed food we eat — humans and dogs. It is a good thing that the public is starting to understand that things like Red #40 and Animal By Product are not real food and should be avoided.
    slimdog recently posted…Dog Food Ingredients OverviewMy Profile

  4. Woof! Woof! PAWsome it is important to get educated with the ingredients in dog food (commercial). There’s are shocking ingredients we learned. Looking forward on reading your future posts. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar
    SUGAR: Golden Woofs recently posted…Tasty Tuesday: Banana (Yogurt) Frosty HolesMy Profile

  5. Thank you! We give the dogs bagged food. I’ve never looked at the ingredients. I freak out more about the flea meds and keeping poison off their skin and out of their bodies. I’m going to go read the label now.
    Flea recently posted…We Found a Hoof!My Profile

  6. The dogs are on raw and I am personally trying to eliminate all processed foods. I’m having the harder time eliminating dairy though. 🙁
    Jodi recently posted…Tuesday’s Tails – April 30, 2013My Profile

  7. We are still learning a lot about what it means to eat healthy and well for dogs. I think this is a wonderful summary and has excellent key points! Looking forward to the future posts.
    Beagles and Bargains recently posted…Monday Mischief: Where is the squeaker?My Profile

    • Thanks – we will be talking about food & nutrition consistently, so keep on coming back!

  8. Great intro to finding a quality dog food. Like you, I don’t think that there is one way dogs should eat (that raw is the only option). There are many quality kibbles out there but also many that are very poor nutritionally. The key is being a wise consumer and buying the best quality that you can afford for your pet.
    Jessica recently posted…Me? I Would Never Let My Dogs Near Chocolate!My Profile

    • You are so right Jessica. Great point!

  9. This is great…I am so excited to see this series you’ve started. I have worked hard to cut out processed foods in my own life, and it never really occurred to me that what I was feeding the dogs was probably just as bad. I knew what we fed them was on some of the bad lists, but I just didn’t know where to start to figure out what was good. I’d love to feed them a raw diet, but with four dogs and very little spare time (I can hardly find the time to make them homemade treats), I just can’t see it happening. you’ve kept things simple and basic which will be a great help in finding the right food for our crew.
    Jan K recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – Miss BonesMy Profile

    • Hi Jan- we are so glad that you are excited about our series. There is so much to write about.. we will be busy for the rest of the year (at least).

      Your approach to your own food is a perfect way to start with your dog– cut out the processed stuff. It is a simple way to begin the quest for healthier food and doesn’t require a lot of specific knowledge.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Very informative, I’m starting to slowly feed my dog raw food, precisely because I eat paleo and think the same principle should apply to our pups

  11. Great post very informative and well written!

  12. I also do all the cooking for my dog. It is my habit since my friend recommended me to try it. This is huge relief for me, especially because all the horror stories about dog food going around.

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