Things People Don’t Know About Dog Food: Part 4

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This week is part 4 of the continuing series on things that people don’t know about dog food.  The first three installments are available by clicking the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Dog food contains an average of 39 ingredients.

Anyone who has looked at a dog food label knows that the ingredient list is often long and full of ingredients that are hard to pronounce.  To figure out exactly how many ingredients are in dog foods, I updated my previously conducted analysis on ingredient lists. The results are as follows:

Average number of ingredients in all dog foods: 39

Average number of ingredients in dry dog foods: 45

Average number of ingredients in wet dog foods: 31


Interestingly, the most ingredients that I found in any of the dog food recipes was a whopping 91.  And there are 41 foods that contain 70 or more ingredients.


The primary reason that there are so many ingredients in dog food is because dog foods are created to provide complete and balanced nutrition to a dog, and thus, must provide minimum amounts of all the various nutrients that a dog needs.  This is vastly different from human diets, where each individual meal rarely provides all of the nutrition that the human body needs.


Having a lot of ingredients in a dog food is therefore not necessarily a bad thing.  However, as pet parents demand higher quality recipes, it would seem to me that the ingredient lists would shrink a little as the nutritional targets are more frequently met with whole foods instead of vitamin and mineral supplements and other additives that bloat the ingredient lists.
TopTen Things 4

Carbohydrates content is not the same as fiber content.

The dog food label is required to report a guaranteed analysis (GA) of the food.  The GA typically lists:

Protein %

Fat %

Fiber %

Moisture %

Nowhere on this label are carbs reported.  Some people mistakenly use the fiber value as carbs and this is not correct.


In order to calculate the carbohydrate content, the food must be rebased to a dry matter basis.  I have written about how to do this in the past, but for those who want a quick and dirty rule of thumb, you are in luck.  The general idea is that a species appropriate dog food should never contain more carbs than protein and fat combined.  In fact, a normally healthy dog should eat more protein and fat than carbs!  The pet parent needs to find foods where the protein and fat content, together, is greater than 50% of the macronutrients.


For dry food, which contains on average, around 10% moisture content, the sum of the protein and fat amounts from the GA label should exceed 40%.  For wet foods, which average 77% moisture content, the sum of the protein and fat content from the GA label should exceed 11%.  In both cases, this will ensure that the total carb content is less than 50%.  In practice, I recommend using even higher targets for the protein and fat content: 50% for dry and 15% for wet, ensuring that the carb content is around 1/3 of the macronutrient profile.


Of course, this rule of thumbs applies to healthy dogs that are able to eat a species appropriate diet and does not necessarily apply to dogs with special medical conditions that require low protein or low fat diets.


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  1. Okay, this is the kind of post that makes my head spin. Which is why I’m so thankful for your app to help me analyze the options.

    I recently made an adjustment to Honey’s diet and found your site very helpful.
    Pamela recently posted…3 Must Knows For A Perfect RecallMy Profile

  2. Interesting! 90 seems like a bit much. We were curious, so we counted and our dry has 30 and our wet has 22, pretty average I guess. Then we thought about our canned roast dinner having 22 and counted what Mom puts into a human roast dinner and she counted around 20 ingredients including the spices, so we are feeling alright with our food. At first we were a bit shocked. A lot of the ingredients in our foods, at least half are food like cranberries, salmon, peas, green beans, etc. which is good.
    Emma recently posted…Best Bully Sticks – Give Your Dog The Very BestMy Profile

  3. This ongoing series has been fascinating to follow and I’ve learned quite a lot, most notably when reading dog food labels. It’s been great confirming some of my suspicions where dry dog food is especially concerned. 🙂

  4. Great information! I shared on Twitter and Pinterest. ♥
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Orijen Free-Run Duck Treats ReviewMy Profile

  5. Oh goodness that is too many ingredients!! Crazy. I like real food that I know what it is!!
    Julie recently posted…Stuff and ThingsMy Profile

  6. What an awesome rule of thumb! I like that. I’m going to check the kibble that Shyla eats to make sure it fits the bill. It has very few ingredients, which is one of the reasons why I chose it.
    KB recently posted…Wordless Wednesday – Shyla has Hops!My Profile

  7. Gads 91!!!! That sounds like a whole lot of garbage.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Hat’s And PuppiesMy Profile

  8. Your article is very very interesting. It is very important to know which are the ingredients and their percentages of pets’ food. Many people are confusing regarding the carbohydrates, proteins and fiber that their pet’s food contain. Some of them tend to offer their pets lots of products that can be toxic for dogs.
    I’ll save the information from your article and forward it to the persons that own dogs.
    Thank you!!!

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