How Many Ingredients are in Dog Food?

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imageToday we begin a multi-part series on dog food ingredients that are typically secondary to the protein, fat, and carbohydrates.  We are going to parse out some of these and explain why they are included in the food recipe and what you should look for when evaluating your dog’s food.  To start, we will focus on the number of ingredients in an average dog food.

How Much is A Lot?

Anyone who has read the ingredient list on a dog food label knows that these can be very long and contain items that are both unfamiliar and sound like they are born out of a laboratory.  The first question we would like to answer is:

How many ingredients are in an average dog food?

Any guesses?  We analyzed our data and calculated some interesting statistics (yes, we love the statistics!).  The chart below shows you the average number and maximum number of ingredients in the dry and canned foods in our data set of about 1,700.  On average, dry food and canned food contain 44 and 31 separate ingredients respectively.  Interestingly, the maximum number of ingredients for dry and canned was 91 and 57 respectively and in both of these cases, the specific foods are very highly rated by us and others.  (This raises another question which we will have to do some further research on to answer: Is there a correlation between food quality and the number of ingredients?)


Remember last week when we wrote about using the rule of 5, which says that you can assess a dog food’s quality by examining the first 5 ingredients?  The numbers above suggest that this is not a great strategy!  The first 5 ingredients are only about 11% of the total number of ingredients in dry food and 16% of the total number of ingredients in canned food, on average.

Maggie tries to learn statistics through osmosis.

Maggie tries to learn statistics through osmosis.

What do you think about these numbers?  Would you have guessed more or less the averages?  Do you think there is a correlation between ingredient list length and food quality?

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. Mom says she is going to count the ingredients in her cereal. She compares dog chow to human cereal. 44 is a lot more than we would have thought. Had you asked, we would have guessed 10-20. We only eat dry, so we are only commenting on that.
    emma recently posted…Camping With Friends | GBGV | Mischief MondayMy Profile

    • Let us know your cereal count. That’s a good idea for comparison– we would do it but we rarely eat cereal here.
      steve recently posted…How Many Ingredients are in Dog Food?My Profile

      • We got 25 on the fiber stuff and 21 on the whole grain cherrios, so much less than dog food.
        emma recently posted…Camping With Friends | GBGV | Mischief MondayMy Profile

        • That’s interesting, thanks for doing that Emma. Of course, dog foods are generally formulated to provide a complete diet where human cereals are not. This could explain the difference.
          steve recently posted…How Many Ingredients are in Dog Food?My Profile

  2. Holy cow! 91 never would of guessed. Guess I’ve been out of tech school too long and haven’t done to much looking at labels.
    joann stancer recently posted…Channel Blinds ~GamblerMy Profile

  3. Great info I’m not surprised as I read the bags I feed orijen and acana and wellness
    Urban hounds

  4. Maggie! That’s how I used to study in college! It doesn’t work.

    Holy crap, that’s a lot of ingredients! Makes me glad we eat Jones Chews here. I’ll have to check the ingredients in my dogs’ food again. Huh. I’d guess that the more ingredients, the poorer the quality, just based on human food.
    Flea recently posted…The Crown Knuckle or the Steer Sticks? GiveawayMy Profile

  5. Not surprised, but then, I’m an ingredient reader on all food products. Love that photo of Maggie 🙂
    Sue at Talking Dogs recently posted…Natural Balance Jerky Dog Treat from Product ReviewMy Profile

  6. The math is getting complex here, but I would think that the Rule of 5 is still useful if you consider the important ingredients by weight/percentage of total…When you get down to the items at the end of the list aren’t you looking at trace amounts of supplements?
    GizmoGeodog recently posted…Smart Cookees on Tasty TuesdayMy Profile

  7. I wish foods had less ingredients in them. I think it would be better for dogs that have food sensitivities. Of course in many foods, they add a lot of supplements which increases the number of ingredients.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Freighter’s Junior Test Part 1My Profile

    • You are correct– the ingredient lists can get ‘bloated’ with the supplements (vitamins, etc.) which isn’t necessarily bad, I guess. But I would think that the more whole foods are included, the less would be the need for added supplements.
      steve recently posted…Wordless Wednesday 7-24-13My Profile

  8. This is actually something I have been looking into a fair bit recently. Not just how many ingredients but the quality of the ingredients (especially the main ingredients). I have found that even in the super premium foods the quality of the ingredients has declined (eg. chicken by-products instead of chicken). A lot of extra grains and other fillers are also becoming more common.
    Online Pet Accessories recently posted…How to Keep Bored Dogs from Behaving BadlyMy Profile

  9. Wow! I think less is better. Mostly I make sure I know what each one is. Big unknown words usually find me placing the item back on the shelf.

  10. Well, my own standards when shopping for our human food, is that the longer the ingredient list, the more likely I am to pass on something. So I would say the same would go for pet food.
    Jan K recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – Do You Know?My Profile

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