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Guide to Common Ingredients found in Dog Food

The best way to determine the quality of a dog food product is to examine the ingredients list. The ingredients list for dog foods is arranged in descending order by volume – this means that the ingredients at the top of the list are used in the highest volume. For a high-quality dog food, you would expect to see high-quality ingredients at the top of the list. Below you will find a comprehensive list of common dog food ingredients divided by category.

To learn more about interpreting the information on a dog food label, click here.

High-Quality Ingredients:

Proteins:

Beef – A red meat protein and a complete protein. Contains all essential amino acids as well as high levels of iron and zinc.

Beef Heart – Nutrient-rich organ meat of beef origin, rich in thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, iron, zinc, phosphorus and taurine.

Beef Kidney – Mineral-rich organ meat of beef origin, rich in protein with little fat.

Beef Liver – Nutrient-rich organ meat of beef origin, rich in Vitamin A and other nutrients.

Beef Meal – High-quality beef muscle meat that has been cooked to remove moisture. A highly-concentrated source of complete animal protein.

Bison – A lean source of complete animal protein. Rich in zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.

Chicken – The clean flesh and skin of the chicken, an excellent source of lean protein and essential amino acids.

Chicken Heart – Nutrient-rich organ meat of chicken origin, rich in riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, Vitamin B6, iron, zinc, phosphorus, and taurine.

Chicken Liver – Nutrient-rich organ meat of chicken origin, rich in protein, iron, vitamin A, niacin, phosphorus, and selenium.

Chicken Meal – High-quality chicken muscle meat that has been cooked to remove moisture. A highly-concentrated source of complete animal protein.

Duck – The clean flesh and skin of the duck, an excellent source of lean protein and essential amino acids.

Duck Meal – High-quality duck muscle meat that has been cooked to remove moisture. A highly-concentrated source of complete animal protein.

Eggs – A complete animal protein.

GreenLipped Mussels – A rich source of animal protein, omega-3 fatty acids and DHA. Also a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin.

Herring – A small, oily fish similar to sardines and rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Herring Meal – High-quality herring meat that has been cooked to remove moisture. A highly-concentrated source of complete animal protein.

Kangaroo – Another lean source of protein, kangaroo is also rich in zinc, iron, and vitamin B-12.

Lamb – Fresh meat from a sheep less than 1 year in age. A rich source of complete animal protein as well as phosphorus, selenium, niacin, and zinc.

Lamb Meal – High-quality lamb muscle meat that has been cooked to remove moisture. A highly-concentrated source of complete animal protein.

Menhaden Fish – A type of cold water fish rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

Menhaden Fish Meal – High-quality menhaden meat that has been cooked to remove moisture. A highly-concentrated source of complete animal protein.

Ocean Fish Meal – High-quality ocean fish meat that has been cooked to remove moisture. A highly-concentrated source of complete animal protein.

Pork – A rich source of complete animal protein. Also contains phosphorus, potassium, zinc, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6.

Pork Meal – High-quality pork muscle meat that has been cooked to remove moisture. A highly-concentrated source of complete animal protein.

Quail – A source of complete animal protein rich in iron, zinc, copper, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamin B6.

Rabbit – A more highly-concentrated source of protein than both chicken and beef. It is also rich in iron, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium.

Salmon – An oily fish and a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein. It is also rich in Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, selenium, phosphorus, and Vitamin B-6.

Salmon Meal – High-quality salmon meat that has been cooked to remove moisture. A highly-concentrated source of complete animal protein.

Sardines – A small oily fish rich in animal protein and omega-3 fatty acids as well as selenium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Turkey – A lean source of complete animal protein also rich in iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins.

Turkey Meal – High-quality turkey muscle meat that has been cooked to remove moisture. A highly-concentrated source of complete animal protein.

Venison – A lean source of red meat, venison is also rich in iron, niacin, riboflavin, and Vitamin B-6. It is also particularly rich in L-carnitine.

Fats and Oils:

Chicken Fat – The fat obtained from the tissues of chickens and the highest animal source of linoleic acid. Also rich in other nutrients as well as citric acid.

Coconut Oil – Obtained from the kernel of the coconut palm tree, a rich source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and essential fatty acids.

Flaxseed – The seeds of the flax plan, a rich source of soluble and insoluble fiber as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Flaxseed Oil – An oil derived from the seeds of the flax plan, a rich source of soluble and insoluble fiber as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Herring Oil – An oil derived from the herring fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids and DHA.

Menhaden Fish Oil – An oil derived from the Menhaden fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Olive Oil – The oil extracted from olives, rich in polyphenols and monounsaturated fatty acids.

Pork Fat – The fat obtained from the tissues of pigs – rich in linoleic acid and medium-chain fatty acids.

Salmon Oil – An oil derived from the salmon fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids and DHA.

Grains and Carbohydrates:

Barley – A cereal grain and member of the grass family. Rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, niacin, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E.

Brown Rice – A nutritionally intact source of whole grain – rich in fiber, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin E.

Chickpeas – A type of legume and a gluten-free, grain-free carbohydrate – rich in plant protein as well as dietary fiber, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, folate, and manganese.

Cracked Pearled Barley – Whole grain barley that has been polished to remove part of the hull and bran – this makes it easier to digest but strips some of the nutrients.

Ground White Rice – White rice that has been ground into a flour.

Millet – A type of seed rich in dietary fiber as well as folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and magnesium – naturally gluten-free.

Oatmeal – Coarsely ground whole oats – rich in dietary fiber, beta-glucans, and B vitamins. Naturally gluten-free.

Peas – A rich source of plant protein as well as fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, and vitamin K.

Potatoes – A digestible source of carbohydrate and dietary fiber – also rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese.

Quinoa – A gluten-free carbohydrate derived from quinoa seeds. Rich in plant protein, dietary fiber, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus.

SunCured Alfalfa – Made from the cut, dried, and ground portion of the alfalfa plant that grows above ground. A source of folate, niacin, calcium, iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K. Also contains plant protein.

Sweet Potatoes – A starch root vegetable rich in dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Tapioca – A gluten-free, grain-free carbohydrate derived from the root of the cassava plant.

White Rice – Whole grain brown rice that has been milled to remove the nutrient-rich bran – easy to digest but relatively low in nutrients.

Whole Grain Brown Rice – A nutritionally intact source of whole grain – rich in fiber, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin E.

Whole Grain Oatmeal – The whole oat groat, rich in fiber, protein, and vitamins.

Fruits and Vegetable:

Apricot – A fruit rich in phytochemicals including carotenoids – also rich in fiber, copper, potassium, Vitamin C, and vitamin A. Do not feed your dog the pits of this fruit.

Apples – Rich in dietary fiber as well as Vitamin C, beta-carotene, boron, and potassium. Do not feed your dog the seeds of this fruit.

Asparagus – A vegetable rich in dietary fiber as well as folate, copper, selenium, phosphorus, manganese, vitamin C, Vitamin K, and vitamin E.

Avocado – Rich in monounsaturated fatty acids as well as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and Vitamin K. Do not feed your dog the pits of this fruit.

Banana – A fiber-rich fruit that also contains potassium, folate, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6.

Beets – A root vegetable rich in fiber as well as manganese, phosphorus, potassium, copper, vitamin C, iron, and Vitamin B6.

Blueberries – One of the highest food sources of antioxidants. Also rich in dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin K and vitamin C.

Blackberries – A dark-colored berry rich in dietary fiber and low in fat – also rich in vitamin E, potassium, copper, vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese.

Bok Choy – A member of the brassica family – rich in beta-carotene, folic acid, Vitamin C, and calcium.

Broccoli – A cruciferous vegetable rich in dietary fiber as well as calcium and vitamin C. Always cook this vegetable before feeding it to your dog.

Brussels Sprouts – A member of the cabbage family that is rich in dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids as well as copper, choline, B vitamins, potassium, and folate.

Cabbage – A leafy vegetable and excellent source of dietary fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Always cook this vegetable before feeding it to your dog.

Cantaloupe – An orange melon rich in vitamin A and vitamin C as well as fiber, potassium, vitamin K, and B vitamins.

Carrots – A root vegetable rich in carotenoids as well as beta-carotene, potassium, and vitamin K.

Cauliflower – A cruciferous vegetable rich in dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids as well as biotin, manganese, vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin B6. Always cook this vegetable before feeding it to your dog.

Celery – A low-calorie vegetable rich in water and dietary fiber as well as vitamin K, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin B2, and folate.

Cranberries – These little red berries are loaded with dietary fiber as well as vitamin E, copper, vitamin K, vitamin C, manganese, and antioxidants.

Cucumber – A member of the gourd family, these vegetables are rich in water and dietary fiber as well as magnesium, biotin, vitamin B1, vitamin C, copper, and potassium.

Eggplant – This vegetable is rich in phytonutrients and dietary fiber as well as vitamin B1, copper, folate, potassium, and vitamin K. Always cook this vegetable before feeding it to your dog.

Green Beans – These vegetables are an excellent source of calcium as well as dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and various vitamins and minerals.

Honeydew – A green melon rich in water and dietary fiber as well as potassium, vitamin c, and B vitamins.

Kale – A form of cabbage and leafy green vegetable rich in phytonutrients and dietary fiber. Also a good source of beta-carotene, calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K.

Kiwi – A small green fruit rich in dietary fiber and nutrients but low in calories – contains vitamins C and K as well as copper, potassium, folate, and manganese.

Lettuce – A leafy green vegetable rich in fiber and low in calories – contains plenty of B vitamins, copper, iron, calcium, and magnesium.

Mango – A juicy orange fruit rich in fiber and potassium as well as vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B-6.

Peaches – A stone fruit low in fat and rich in fiber – also contains vitamin A, potassium, vitamin C, and niacin. Do not feed your dog the pits of this fruit.

Pears – Do not feed your dog the seeds of this fruit.

Peas – A rich source of plant protein as well as fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, and vitamin K.

Peppers – Colorful vegetables rich in dietary fiber as well as potassium, folate, vitamin E, vitamin C and B vitamins.

Pineapple – A tropical fruit rich in vitamin C and manganese as well as dietary fiber, copper, folate, and B vitamins.

Pumpkin – A type of squash low in fat and rich in fiber – also rich in phosphorus, potassium, copper, iron, folate, and vitamin E.

Raspberries – Juicy red berries rich in antioxidants, dietary fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids as well as potassium, vitamin E, folate, biotin, vitamin c, and vitamin K.

Spinach – A leafy green vegetable rich in fiber, magnesium, calcium, iron, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, and antioxidants.

Strawberries – A bright red berry rich in dietary fiber as well as folate, iodine, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and vitamin C.

Squash – Rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients as well as fiber, phosphorus, potassium, folate, copper, and vitamin C.

Turnips – A root vegetable rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber as well as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin C, folate, vitamin A, and Vitamin C.

Watermelon – A red melon rich in water, dietary fiber, and carotenoids as well as magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin B1, copper, biotin, and vitamin C.

Zucchini – A summer squash rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C as well as vitamin A, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, iron, and potassium.

Supplements and Additives:

Ascorbic Acid – The nutrient Vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant that supports immune health as well as the metabolism. Found in citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables.

Beef Broth – Made from cooking beef bones in water. Used to add moisture and natural flavor to wet dog foods.

Chelated Minerals – Mineral supplements that have been chemically bonded to amino acids, making them more easily absorbed during digestion.

Chicken Broth – Made from cooking chicken bones in water. Used to add moisture and natural flavor to wet dog foods.

Chondroitin – A component of joint cartilage, used as a supplement to support healthy bones and joints.

DHA – An omega-3 fatty acid essential for brain and nervous system development.

Dried Chicory Root – Derived from the chicory root, a source of soluble fiber (inulin) that can help to support healthy digestion.

Dried Fermentation Products – Direct-fed microorganisms (probiotics) that can help to support healthy and regular digestion.

Duck Broth – Made from cooking duck bones in water. Used to add moisture and natural flavor to wet dog foods.

Glucosamine – A component of joint cartilage, used as a supplement to support healthy bones and joints.

Inulin – A type of soluble fiber that may benefit digestive health.

Kelp – A sea vegetable rich in iodine, potassium, and calcium.

L-Carnitine – A nutrient essential for cellular production of energy and transport of fatty acids.

Mixed Tocopherols – A mixture of Vitamin E isomers – acts as a natural preservative while also providing the benefits of Vitamin E.

Prebiotics – Insoluble fiber used as food for beneficial bacteria to encourage healthy digestion.

Probiotics – Beneficial bacteria that live in the digestive tract and ferment insoluble fiber to produce amino acids, vitamins, and volatile fatty acids.

Proteinated Minerals – See chelated minerals.

Rosemary Extract – A natural preservative derived from the rosemary herb.

Taurine – An amino acid that helps to support heart and eye health.

Yucca Schidigera Extract – A type of botanical known to support urinary and digestive health.

Questionable Ingredients and Ingredients to Avoid:

Protein:

Animal By-Products – The rendered parts of slaughtered mammals and poultry which may include feet, necks, undeveloped eggs, and intestines but not feathers. An inexpensive source of protein.

Animal Digest – A cooked broth derived from unspecified parts of unspecified animals exclusive of horns, hair, teeth, hooves, and feathers.

Bone Meal – A rendered product from animal tissues exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach, and rumen contents. An inexpensive source of low-quality protein.

Brewer’s Dried Yeast – A waste product of the beer industry, may cause problems in some dogs.

Chicken By-Product Meal – The ground and rendered parts of slaughtered chicken which may include feet, necks, undeveloped eggs, and intestines but not feathers. An inexpensive source of protein.

Corn Gluten Meal – The dried residue leftover after the starch and germ has been removed from the larger corn kernel. An inexpensive by-product that contains plant protein.

Dried Egg Product – Made from the waste products of the egg industry, free of shell – an inexpensive and low-quality source of protein.

Fish Meal – The rendered product from undecomposed whole fish or fish cuttings, with or without the extract of oil. An unnamed source of protein.

Meat Meal – The rendered product from animal tissue that does not include hair, hoof, blood, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach or rumen contents – may include 4-D animals.

Pea Protein – The ground concentrated protein derived from field peas – less biologically valuable than animal protein.

Poultry By-Product Meal – The ground and rendered parts of slaughtered poultry which may include feet, necks, undeveloped eggs, and intestines but not feathers. An inexpensive source of protein.

Poultry Meal – The cooked flesh and skin of unnamed poultry with or without the bone – does not include heads, feet, feathers or entrails. May include fowl obtained from any source, including 4-D animals.

Soybean Meal – A plant protein derived from grinding the flakes that remain after processing soybeans to remove the oil. A low-quality filler.

Fats and Oils:

Animal Fat – Fat obtained from the tissues of animals and/or poultry during the rendering process – may include 4-D animals.

Beef Tallow – Also known as beef fat. Made from the rendered tissue of cattle, often used to make low-quality pet foods more flavorful and palatable. Low in linoleic acid and inexpensive to produce.

Canola Oil – The oil obtained from hybridized rapeseeds. Low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fat, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Corn Oil – An oil derived from corn that contains polyunsaturated fatty acids but may trigger food allergies.

Fish Oil – An oil derived from unnamed fish – a source of omega-3 fatty acids but the quality cannot be determined when it comes from unnamed sources.

Lard – The rendered fat of pigs and other swine. Low in linoleic acid, used to make low-quality pet foods more palatable.

Poultry Fat – Obtained from the rendered tissue of poultry – may include rendered fowl from any source, including 4-D animals.

Rendered Fat – A low-quality fat rendered from the meat of unidentified animals – may include 4-D animals.

Soybean Oil – A source of omega-6 fatty acids but may trigger food allergies.

Vegetable Oil – Obtained by extracting the oil from seeds or fruits processed for human consumption.

Fiber, Grains, and Carbohydrates:

Beet Pulp – A source of insoluble fiber, a byproduct of the processing of sugar beets – may cause dangerous side effects in some dogs.

Brewer’s Rice – The milled fragments of rice kernels devoid of nutritional value.

Cellulose – Disintegrated cellulase obtained from fibrous plant materials, including dried wood. A supplementary source of fiber with no nutritional value.

Corn Flour – Ground whole grain corn.

Dried Beet Pulp – The fibrous material left over from processing sugar beets, often used as a supplementary fiber in dog foods. Sometimes considered a low-quality, inexpensive ingredient.

Ground Yellow Corn – Ground whole grain corn.

Milled Rice – Brown rice that has been processed to remove the nutrient-rich bran and husk.

Oat Hulls – The leftover product after whole oat kernels have been harvested and dehulled – an inexpensive filler with no nutritional value.

Pea Fiber – An insoluble fiber derived from peas, used as a supplementary source of fiber. Some dogs have trouble digesting this type of fiber.

Pea Starch – The starch derived from green or yellow peas, used as a supplementary source of fiber.

Rice Hulls – The outer layer of rice – an inexpensive filler with no nutritional value.

Tomato Pomace – A dried mixture of tomato skins, pulp, and seeds often used as a source of supplementary fiber. Sometimes considered a low-quality, inexpensive ingredient.

Wheat Flour – Ground whole grain wheat.

Whole Grain Wheat – A whole grain derived from the wheat plan – rich in dietary fiber and contains some plant protein but generally considered hard for dogs to digest.

Supplements and Additives:

Artificial Colors – Coloring agents like Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 used to make dog food products look more appealing – no nutritional value.

Artificial Flavors – Used to make dog food more palatable, no nutritional value.

BHA – Butylated Hydroxysanisole, an artificial preservative that may have carcinogenic effects.

BHT – Butylated Hydroxytoluene, an artificial preservative that may have carcinogenic effects.

Corn Syrup – A syrup derived from cornstarch, used as a sweetener.

Guar Gum – Used as a thickener in dog food, has been shown to cause dangerous side effects.

Monosodium Glutamate – Also known as MSG, used as a flavor enhancer – has been linked to brain damage in dogs.

Propylene Glycol – A colorless liquid used as a solvent and an ingredient in antifreeze – used as a humectant in dog food and may cause dangerous side effects.

Xylitol – A sugar alcohol and sweetener toxic to dogs, even in small doses.

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