Comparison of the Ingredients in Dog Foods

You could be surprised at what's really in your pooch's dog food.
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The dog food market has become flooded with a huge selection of products all claiming to be healthy, balanced and "the best." While having selection is great, trying to decide what's best for your furry friend can be difficult when trying to decipher confusing labels and the claims on the package.


Meat by-products are a main ingredient in many commercially available dog foods. They're cheap to add to the food and still give your pooch some protein, but by-products aren't the good stuff. Meat by-products consist of remnants of animals left over from the slaughter for human food. These by-products include necks, feet, intestines and various organs. Because all of these leftovers are thrown in together, it's never certain which parts are ending up in your pooch's food. These parts aren't as nutritious as the muscle meat, either, and some aren't as easily digested.


Like meat by-products, anything called "meal" is a lower-quality product left over from the manufacturing process. When it's meat meals, it could be any part of the animal not suitable for human consumption including bones, tissues and blood. Again, these leftover products don't contain the quality protein of muscle meats and are added simply because they are inexpensive and boost the amounts of protein in the food.

Fillers and Carbohydrate Sources

As a whole, your pooch doesn't need as many carbs as the dog food manufacturers put in. Dogs get more energy from pure proteins than they do carbohydrates, and many of these ingredients are simply fillers. Brewer's rice, oatmeal and corn are all unnecessary fillers and carbohydrates in dog foods, some of which provide very little to no nutritional value for your pampered pet.

The Real Stuff

The "real stuff" is anything that is a whole food or product in the dog food as opposed to leftover ingredients from producing human-grade foods. Real chicken, beef, turkey or other meat -- without the addition of the words "by-product" or "meal" after them -- should be a primary ingredient in a meat-based food. Fruits and vegetables should also be whole foods and not have words like "meal" or "pomace" after them.

Basic Vs. Premium

Like in most instances, you get what you pay for when it comes to dog foods. Premium foods have complete ingredients and are formulated to be 100-percent balanced for your pup. They don't contain fillers, dyes or artificial flavorings. They're more expensive up front than basic foods, but they're also easily digestible and you typically feed smaller portions. Basic foods, on the other hand, often use inconsistent products that are available at the time of manufacture, have more sugars and are not nutritionally complete.