Most Common Proteins in Dog Food

Share Button

As a pet parent of a dog with Osteosarcoma, I have been forced to deal with the reality that my dog Maggie is in need of modern medicine and modern medical care to enable her to live a high quality of life for the time she has remaining. Yet, my belief in using food as a ‘weapon’ to fight disease is as strong as ever. Maggie has been treated by some of the top veterinarian oncologists in the country, and she is also a patient of Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a holistic vet who is well known among pet bloggers.


Dr. Mahaney and I have discussed Maggie’s diet at great length, and I will be sharing some of that information in an upcoming post. As an introduction to that post, I thought it would be a perfect time to update some statistics on dog food, starting with an analysis of the most commonly used protein sources in dog food. Protein is the lynch-pin of a dog’s diet, due to the dog’s carnivorous nature.   My discussions with Dr. Mahaney served to confirm and elevate this knowledge as it relates to managing a serious illness like cancer.


Common Dog Food Protein Sources

There are a variety of different meat or fish based proteins sources that are used in commercially available dog food, and I wanted to find the most commonly used proteins. The results of my analysis are shown in the chart below.


 common dog food proteins


Chicken is by far the leader when it comes to dog food protein usage. In some form, it is included in 68% of all dog food recipes. Salmon is a distant second at 21%, nudging out Turkey by a few decimal places.


For those of us with dogs requiring special medical attention, this is a pretty significant bit of information. If, for example, your dog should avoid chicken (as Maggie should), you are forced to eliminate almost 70% of all foods from your consideration pool!


Unfortunately, a pet parent cannot rely on the dog foods recipe name to provide much insight into the protein sources that are included in the food. The chart below compares the ingredient usage frequency (in the food recipe) of the top 5 most common dog food proteins with the food recipe name. As you can see, you can’t judge a dog food by its ‘cover’ (name).


dog food proteins and food name


Although Chicken is in 68% of the foods, the word Chicken is in only 24% of the recipe names. Interestingly, a similar although less drastic result obtains for each of the proteins.


The big take away from this data is that a pet parent should be careful when choosing a food, especially when that pet parent is trying to use a rotational feeding strategy or if they are trying to avoid certain ingredients. It is important to read the ingredients and understand the macro nutrient profile in a food before deciding what to feed your pet.


Share Button


  1. Thanks for this information… I’ve checked a food what we sorted out because Easy’s stomach was a little upset …. it contents 23% of chicken proteine… I wonder what chicken has to do in a food what says “fish&seafood” on the package :o( maybe they meant the malaysian chickenfish?
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog MISCHIEF MOANDAYMy Profile

  2. I remember avoiding foods that contained chicken when we fed the pups kibble as Buzz didn’t do great on it. He seemed to have digestive upsets whenever he ate anything containing chicken. I read so many different ingredient labels from top to bottom, and you are so right – the vast majority contained chicken somewhere, somehow…even when the main protein was fish. Interestingly enough, now that Missy & Buzz are on a raw diet, they both do fine with chicken (not grocery store chicken, but purchased pre-ground from a raw retailer online).
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Comment on Busted-Series: 5 Myths About Raw Feeding | Part 1 “Raw-Fed Dogs Are Aggressive” by K9sOverCoffeeMy Profile

  3. When we decided to eliminate chicken from Bentley’s diet in an effort to stop his allergies, I realized how often it is hidden in the labels. It is so difficult to find a food without chicken in some form. Many of the dog food companies can be very tricky hiding in among the ingredients.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Uncanny Caru Means To LoveMy Profile

  4. I used Jean Dodds’s Nutriscan test to see which (if any) foods were causing g.i. issues in my two girls. Different dogs = some overlap and some unique results. Turkey is not good for either dog. Chicken was at the top of the offenders for one dog while the other one should not have rabbit or venison. They had different reactions to different grains and carbs. I have had to call and/or email some companies to find out more information about their ingredients. When the label simply states fish or ocean fish, I want to know exactly what fish is included in the recipe. The dog food companies have been good about responding to my inquiries.

  5. This is great information and good timing for it, thank you!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Halloween After The Fact – Costumes, Pumpkins And Fun!My Profile

  6. We don’t have any chicken food in our variety and we don’t see it included, but it is sure popular. Hopefully we will never develop any food issues with chicken.
    Emma recently posted…Simple Pumpkin Cookies And A Baking CalendarMy Profile

  7. I’ve been reading dog food labels religiously for about 18 months now. Mostly in an attempt to find a better-than-average kibble without added probiotic/prebiotic/digest enzyme powders; but also to make sure there are no by-products like “elephant noses and chicken toeses” (remember the old Boars Head commercial?) in the food I choose for the girls. This post provides excellent information, and I thank you for it. Like Easy and Lab Lover, I’ve often wondered why in h-e-double-toothpicks chicken in any form is part of a fish-recipe food!
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky\’s Mom recently posted…Ducky’s Disappearance/Shadow’s NonchalanceMy Profile

  8. Definitely be aware of what is going in and how a lot of the companies try to hide. Yikes!! We really do have to be their advocate and make sure we know what we are getting.
    Julie recently posted…The story behind the pictureMy Profile

  9. I figured chicken was going to be the most common protein, but it never occurred to me that it could also be in a food that was labeled as another protein. That is great information and definitely something to watch for. We try to choose novel proteins these days and our current food is trout, no chicken included.We think Luke might have a chicken allergy, so we\\\’re avoiding it right now.

  10. interesting, never heard of menhaden guess I better google it.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Yes Yes This Is My CGCA Therapy DogMy Profile

  11. Navigating through this food maze can be so complex and confusing. Much love for all you do to help us along our way. Seafood is not a big hit with Harley, so I struggle with other sources of protein to give them. Chicken is popular – but I try to balance with beef and venison. Thanks again for all you do!

Comments are now closed on this post.