Canned Dog Food Ingredients

What your dog eats ultimately affects his health.
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Adding canned food to your dog’s diet is a way of giving your pet a more palatable option than dry food alone. Even though it can boost the yummy factor, not all canned foods are created equal. Some actually contain very little meat, and their nutritional value is low. Check the labels carefully when you’re shopping, and give some thought to why the food is so cheap before you drop that bargain brand into your cart.


Canned dog food almost always contains meat of some sort, usually as its main ingredient. The type of meat is listed on the label, either as part of the name of the product or on the list of ingredients. Common types of meat include beef, pork, chicken and lamb. Premium dog foods use high-quality meat, often good enough for human consumption. Many of the less expensive dog foods use meat byproducts, something that’s usually low quality and includes ground bones and organ meats. Byproducts can also include chicken feet and beaks, skin, ground up intestines and lungs.


Filler is a way of making a lot of dog food without having to use a lot of meat. While filler is not necessarily bad for dogs, it doesn’t always benefit them, either. Its main purpose is to keep the cost of the product as low as possible. Common types of filler include beet pulp, brewer’s rice, corn, wheat and soy. These do provide some fiber but also reduce the amount of meat contained in each can. It’s not unusual for dogs to develop allergies to fillers, especially because these products are also used in most dry dog foods.

Fruits and Vegetables

Many dog foods contain vegetables, fruits or both. Dogs are omnivores, so the addition of these is generally beneficial. Some of the more common additions to canned dog food include strawberries, bananas, carrots, peas and green beans. While not all of these are found in the cheaper types of canned dog food, many of the premium types routinely add one of more of these beneficial ingredients to their canned food. Even the inexpensive brands add peas, potatoes and carrots, both for the benefits they provide and to reduce how much meat the manufacturer needs to use.

Reading Labels

The label on the can of dog food will tell you what’s going on inside. If it says it is “lamb dog food,” it must contain at least 95 percent lamb (this applies to all meats), though the percentage of meat goes down to about 70 percent when water is added during processing. If it’s called “lamb dinner,” it only has to contain 25 percent lamb, and if it’s “dog food with lamb” it only has to have 3 percent lamb. The ingredients are listed in order of quantity used, so the main ingredient in the food is the first thing listed.