Protein in Dog Food: Common Meat Sources

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Last week, we discussed the use of unnamed proteins in dog food and found that they are more commonly used than I would have expected. We also asked our readers to try and guess the order of the most frequently used meat proteins in dog food. The choices were:


  • Salmon
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Duck
  • Turkey


It turns out that no one guessed the correct order. The graph below shows the correct order as far as the relative frequency these ingredients are used in dog foods.


common dog food proteins


Most people underestimated the use of Turkey and Salmon, both of which are in about 20% of all foods. What is most astounding is how much Chicken is used. If your dog has a chicken allergy, you will have to eliminate about 2/3 of all dog foods from your set of possible food choices for your pet. If you suspect that your dog might have a food allergy, you might want to start by eliminating chicken from all foods and treats—no easy task for sure.


As part of this analysis, i was curious to know how common are single protein foods vs. multiple protein foods. This can be important for dogs with known or suspected allergies and for those who would like to use a rotational diet for their dog.


As the graph below shows, only 24% of the dog foods use a single meat proteins source, while a total of 74% of dog foods contain 2 or more meat proteins in their recipes. For those of you who are wondering about the nearly 2% of dog foods that don’t contain a meat protein, these are usually very low quality foods with ingredients that look something like: “Brewers Rice;Soy Protein Isolate;Vegetable Oil;Brown Rice;Flax Meal;Powdered Cellulose,..” Yuck.


In some instances, foods without meat proteins are specially formulated diets for dogs that require vegetarian diets due to health issues.


number of proteins in dog food


For the final installment in this analysis of dog food proteins, I will research the usage of vegetable and legume proteins in dog food.  Both of these types of ingredients can provide some health benefits, but they are not optimal protein sources for most normally healthy dogs.

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  1. I can also say that “natural flavors” in dog food and treats often means chicken. Most companies will not answer if you ask. So, if you are trying to eliminate chicken, you have to cut natural flavors as well.
    Jessica recently posted…Product Review: Salty Dog Canvas ToysMy Profile

  2. Luckily, we are chicken lovers and don’t have any food issues. We take for granted our ability to eat chicken as you are right. Most dog products, food and treats, have chicken.
    Emma recently posted…Can A Dog Make Freeze Dried Turkey At Home? #Chewy.comMy Profile

    • One of the risks is that by feeding your dog chicken based foods each and every day, year after year, is that they might develop a reaction to Chicken (or any other protein that is fed daily).

      I think we should have a “no chicken” month and have everyone use foods and treats that don’t contain it.
      steve recently posted…Protein in Dog Food: Common Meat SourcesMy Profile

  3. Interesting post. But the thing I found most interesting was that some dogs could actually exist on a vegetarian diet.

    Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats.
    Susan and the gang from Life with Dogs and Cats recently posted…Haiku by Dog: LostMy Profile

  4. I’m a fan of chicken and I dislike beef, seems the doog food makers know that fact :o) btw: I always get an error message, it says: Error Code: ms07…probably the wordpress-gremlin lol

    • We are now big proponents of rotational diets. Switching the proteins sources periodically to improve their overall nutrition and to reduce the odds of developing food reactions over time.

      BTW- when do you see that error? Is it after posting a comment?
      steve recently posted…Protein in Dog Food: Common Meat SourcesMy Profile

      • it appears after posting the comment and I have to go back to try it again… bet that’s wordpress :o)
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  5. Interesting! I am looking forward to the next part of this!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  6. Luckily none of my dogs have food allergies, plus not picky eaters. Good thing since chicken is in so many pet foods and treats!
    Sue recently posted…Paws Up for Newman’s Own Organics New Zealand Lamb and Barley Dog Treats from | #TastyTuesdayMy Profile

    • If fed the same proteins over long periods of time, there is a possibility of developing food reactions. This is what happened with SlimDoggy Jack. He wasn’t born with a chicken allergy. But no doubt he was fed chicken daily for most of his life and eventually his body said “no mas”!
      steve recently posted…Protein in Dog Food: Common Meat SourcesMy Profile

  7. When we thought Mauja had a chicken sensitivity, I couldn’t believe how often chicken was used. It was like it was in every food and treat!
    It’s Dog or Nothing recently posted…Caru Means “to Love”My Profile

    • It is kind of crazy. That is why you have to read the food labels carefully. So many recipes have chicken in them even if their formula name does not suggest so.
      steve recently posted…Protein in Dog Food: Common Meat SourcesMy Profile

  8. Luckily I’m fine with Chicken, but is definitely something to be aware of
    Misaki recently posted…Squiggle invasion!My Profile

  9. I am not surprised chicken is first, but I am surprised chicken is second. I would have guessed lamb or salmon. When we were considering beef for Freighter, I did not find many to choose from. We ended up with bison and he is doing well on that. Thunder and Storm are on salmon. They do well on that where Freighter did not. Of course I believe there are other proteins in both foods that we feed.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Freighter’s Second MajorMy Profile

    • Bison is a ‘novel’ protein and is a good choice for a pet with known allergies or as part of an elimination diet to test for allergies.
      steve recently posted…Protein in Dog Food: Common Meat SourcesMy Profile

      • Freighter doesn’t really have allergies. We picked the food because it had high protein and fat so we could put weight on him.
        2 brown dawgs recently posted…Freighter’s Second MajorMy Profile

  10. The salmon is a surprise although we have tried several foods and treats that include salmon as the main ingredient. I didn’t realize it was so prevalent.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Tractor Supply Stores Can Keep Your Pets Happy #PAW2014My Profile

  11. I’m surprised salmon is used as often as it is.

    Ace does seem to have a food allergy. He gets itchy when I give him certain commercial foods or treats. I have not taken the time to try to eliminate certain ingredients, but he does seem to do better without grains in his food.
    Lindsay recently posted…My dog is scared, so he must’ve been abusedMy Profile

  12. And here I thought I had it pegged. Thanks for the great information.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Tasty Tuesday~Yummy Human TreatMy Profile

  13. Very interesting and informative. I could not imagine buying a dog food with no protein and those other yucky ingredients! Sadly, I’m sure there are plenty of people who don’t know better. We’ve started rotating the dogs’ diets as well, but I never thought about the two proteins being in there so will have to check that.
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