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Best dog food ingredients

I took a close look at some popular brands of dog food to find out the ingredients.

I am not a vet or a nutritionist, but I can read.

If you are reading this blog you should be able to read the ingredients in your dog’s food. Take a look, and let me know what you find out.

The first two ingredients in a healthy dog food should be high-quality proteins, according to Michelle Smith, owner of Natural Pet Center in Fargo. The dog food should also include high-quality fruits and vegetables.

If it contains any grain at all, it should be high-quality grain like oatmeal or brown rice. Stay away from corn and by-products.

Animal by-products are any part of an animal other than meat, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials. By-products could be any combination of feet, lungs, brains, blood, spleens, kidneys, fat, etc.

In addition to the list of ingredients, pet foods also list a “guaranteed analysis” that tells you the food’s overall protein, carbohydrate, fat, fiber and moisture content, according to a Petco press release.

I took a look at dog food ingredients from the following brands of dog food: Purina One lamb and rice; Iams ProActive Health Chunks; Nature’s Variety Prairie lamb meal & oatmeal medley; and Innova Evo.

Dog food ingredients are listed in order of weight, making the first five to six ingredients the most important.

These dog food brands speak for themselves:

Purina One dog food

Black lab mix walking on a path in the woods

I chose to look at this food because it’s what my mutt Ace currently eats. I wasn’t surprised it failed to meet the above requirements. It was the worst one out of the four foods I looked at.

Here’s what Purina One lamb & rice formula contains:

Lamb, Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Corn, Poultry By-Product Meal, Oatmeal, Animal Fat Preserved With Mixed-Tocopherols, Lamb Meal, Animal Digest, Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Caramel Color, Choline Chloride, L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Niacin, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Rboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Garlic Oil, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Biotin, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex, Sodium Selenite

Purina One says its “highly digestible rice” gives dogs healthy energy. But according to the AAFCO, brewers rice is an inexpensive rice by-product that does not contain the nutritional value of whole grain brown rice. It’s a cheap carbohydrate.

Corn gluten meal is used as a weed killer.

Animal digest is a broth made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals, according to the AAFCO. These animal parts can come from anywhere as there are no regulations on this. They can come from animal shelters, euthanized horses, etc. Yes, there is horse meat in dog food. It is in the form of “animal digest” or “animal by-product.”

Iams dog food

Iams ProActive Health Chunks comes in a green bag. This well-known brand is sold almost everywhere. Here are the ingredients:

Chicken, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal, Chicken Fat, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Meal, Chicken Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Dried Egg Product, Brewer’s Dried Yeast, Salt, Flax Meal, Fish Oil, Caramel, Choline Chloride, Minerals, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamins, DL-Methionine, Rosemary Extract

Nature’s Variety dog food

Nature’s Variety is marketed as a natural dog food, so I was not surprised it contains higher-quality ingredients. Here’s what’s listed in Nature’s Variety Prairie lamb meal & oatmeal medley:

Lamb Meal, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Barley, Canola Oil, Menhaden Fish Meal, D-calcium Phosphate, Ground Flaxseeds, Montmorillonite Clay, Natural Lamb Flavor, Alfalfa Meal, Potassium Chloride, Vitamins, Sea Salt, Minerals, Lamb Liver, Inulin, Flaxseed Oil, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Apples, Carrots, Peas, Freeze Dried Lamb, Freeze Dried Lamb Hearts, Freeze Dried Lamb Liver, Pumpkin seeds, Ground Lamb Bone, Butternut Squash, Broccoli, Lettuce, Spinach, Dried Kelp, Salmon Oil, Apple Cider Vinegar, Parsley, Honey, Blueberries, Alfalfa Sprouts, Persimmons, Olive Oil, Duck Eggs, Pheasant Eggs, Quail Eggs, Sage, Clove, Rosemary Extract

Innova Evo dog food

Innova Evo dog food is an all-natural, meat-based, grain-free dog food. I chose this food because some readers mentioned this is what they feed their dogs. Here are its ingredients:

Turkey, Chicken, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Herring Meal, Chicken Fat, Natural Flavors, Egg, Apples, Tomatoes, Potassium Chloride, Carrots, Vitamins, Garlic, Cottage Cheese, Minerals, Alfalfa Sprouts, Ascorbic Acid, Dried Chicory Root, Direct-Fed Microbials, Vitamin E Supplement, Lecithin, Rosemary Extract

Sounds good to me. I think I’ll have some! I can pronounce all the ingredients, and I don’t have to look up what they are.

Switching dog foods

If you plan on switching your dog to a healthier food, gradually switch foods because this is easier on the dog’s digestive system. Slowly increase the amount of new food as you decrease the amount of old food.

If you want to save money, you could always feed your dog a high-quality brand mixed with a lower-quality brand. That way the dog is still getting all the good nutrients.

I know I eat a variety of healthy and less-healthy meals myself. You may also want to look into making homemade raw dog food meals for your dog.

Take a look at the dog food ingredients from the brand of food you buy, and let me know if it meets your expectations.

Remember, you have until Wednesday to win some free samples from Natural Pet Center by leaving a comment on my natural dog food post saying what kind of food your dog eats.


Wednesday 12th of October 2011

yes i prefer just to make my own to its stupid to put all this in dog food no wonder why they get sick and have problems i rather give my dogs raw hamburger meet instead of this becuase heck they even put a weed killer im thier so thank you so much about makin me see the importance of checkin the labels and do you no what dog food that dosent have it

Lindsay Stordahl

Wednesday 12th of October 2011

Look for natural or organic brands of dog food. Some of the brands I trust include Canidae, Evo, Innova, Solid Gold, Nature's Variety and Nutrisource - but there are many others. You likely won't find these brands at the usual grocery store or a Target or Wal-Mart. Petco and PetSmart carry maybe one natural brand. They seem to be getting better, though. I shop at a local natural pet food store in my area called Natural Pet Center. Perhaps there is somewhere similar in your area.

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 14th of November 2009

I've heard of others who do this. For some, it works out great because they have done their research like you have. For many others, they end up with sick dogs or dogs lacking certain nutrients because you can't just feed a dog raw hamburger and call it good.

Burns Dog Food

Saturday 14th of November 2009


Great breakdown of the common food ingredients in many of the popular commecially made dog foods. It's amazing how rare it is that I see someone reading the food labels of dog food.

Because of the recent illnesses that have occurred due to contaminated dog food, I have startd to make dog food at home.

It's much easier than you would think and I'm satisfied with the knowledge that I know exactly what my dog is eating.


Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 9th of November 2009

Yeah. One way to look at it is that you are saving money in the long run by buying healthier food. Cheaper food will be more likely to lead to diseases and obesity. Science Diet is not a food I would recommend either. And I have also heard many vets say that any dry dog food is fine, I've had vets recommend all three of those brands.


Monday 9th of November 2009

GREAT post! It makes me so sad when people don't pay attention to dog nutrition. I have to bit my tongue whenever I see someone with Iams or Purina in their cart at the super market. Even Science Diet is no good! Vets only recommend it because most get kick backs from the company.