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Is there horse meat in dog food?

Pet food companies in the United States cannot use horse meat in dog food, according to the Equine Protection Network, which is a group dedicated to making a difference for abused, neglected and slaughter-bound horses.

The main reason dog food companies do not use horses in the U.S. is because U.S. companies make more profit by selling horse meat to countries where people eat the meat.

This does not stop horse meat from making its way back into the United States as unspecific “animal” by-products, “animal” meal or “animal” digest.

Can horses be used in pet food?

“Animal” digest is the ramains of pretty much any part of any animal (blood, teeth, hair, spleen) from anywhere (roadkill, shelter animals, euthanized pets and horses, etc.). Cheaper dog foods contain by-products and animal digest (see my post on dog food ingredients).

The only way to be absolutely sure horse meat is not used in your dog’s food is to read the label. Look for dog foods with ingredients like lamb, duck and chicken. The first three ingredients should be specific proteins. Avoid dog foods with unspecific ingredients like “animal” by-products, “animal” meal and “animal” digest.

Is there horse meat in dog food?

The reason the horse meat issue came to my attention was because legislators in North Dakota are sponsoring a bill that could lead to the building of the only horse slaughterhouse in the United States.

A North Dakota plant would slaughter horses.

I know this is totally unrelated to dogs, but as an animal lover, the headline “Plant may slaughter horses …” in Saturday’s issue of The Forum caught my attention.

Let me say that I am not a horse person. I’ve never owned a horse, I’ve gone riding maybe five times in my life, and I’m actually a little scared of horses. What bothers me is that horses can be slaughtered in our country and the way it would be done.

The EPN describes on its web site the way horses were killed in our country up to 2007 when the last two U.S. horse slaughterhouses closed.

First the horses were hit in the forehead until they were (hopefully) unconscious. Then their hind legs were shackled and the horses were lifted into the air upside down to have their throats sliced.

This all happened after the horses were shipped for sometimes thousands of miles and then lined up into the slaughterhouses, hearing and seeing their fellow horses being hit in the head and bleeding, according to a PETA forum. Of course, this is how pigs and cattle are also inhumanely killed in our country, but I won’t even get into that.

I hate to think of how horses are killed in Mexico and Canada, which is where the U.S. currently ships its horses for slaughter. Something tells me that if you are going to be slaughtered, you’re better off being killed in the United States than in Mexico where horses are stabbed to death, according to the EPN (just do a YouTube search for “horse slaughter”).

In 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an act to ban horse slaughtering. But it failed in the Senate, making it still legal in our country, according to The Forum.

The North Dakota plant would slaughter horses that are no longer used for recreation, farming or racing, said The Forum. Slaughtered horses are used for meat, gelatin, glue, pet food and leather products, according to the article.

I could not find any pet food brands that admittedly use horse meat. Instead, general words such as “animal” by-product and “animal” digest are used. This could be any animal.

Would you care if your dog’s food had horse meat in it? What’s your opinion on slaughtering horses, and should it be done in our country or elsewhere?

The photos are from a horseback riding trip I took with friends in Costa Rica a few years ago, one of the few experiences I have with horses.

For more information on what is found in pet foods, check out my raw food page which explains why dry food is unhealthy for my dog.


Tuesday 14th of June 2022

Why are we exporting the horses to be euthanized inhumanely? Why aren't we humanely euthanizing here in the US? We are fighting for assisted suicide for humans and people. If a horse can no longer live a happy horse life and needs to be euthanized what is the issue with the horse being food for dogs? We feed them other animals like beef, chicken, lamb? As long as it is done humanely in this country. Isn't that the point? Shipping the horses south will not insure a humane death.

Hale April

Wednesday 6th of October 2021

No horse slaughter!!! No


Saturday 7th of July 2018

I am a horse owner. Horses are not raised as livestock or animals meant to be consumed. The reality is that horses are large animals with long lives. They get shots twice a year. They are given high doses of PESTICIDE dewormers 2-4 times/year, sometimes DAILY as additive to their grain to prevent flies/worms. Every 3 weeks mine have Equispot put on which is absorbed through their skin to pass through their whole system to dramatically helps repel ticks/flies. Any horses that have arthritis or joint pain are very commonly given Adequan or Legend, and Phenylbutazone(a BAD CARCINOGEN banned from the HUMAN FOOD CHAIN in every country). Every single thing I use on my horses says on the label, "Not for use in horses intended for human consumption" because they STAY in the animal and have been PROVEN to cause cancer in people who eat horse meat. OMG people, DON'T EVER FEED YOUR PETS HORSE MEAT! They've also had cases, despite the dog food industry SAYING they don't use horse meat, where pentobarbitol has been found in dog food. This is because they LIE and are sourcing the "animal byproducts" or "animal fat" from rendering facilities where some people send their horses as a cheap alternative to burying them. When this has happened, DOGS DIED from the LEFTOVER pentobarbitol, after all the intense processing. Can you possibly imagine what your pet would get if you fed them unprocessed horse meat? JUST SAY NO!

northern lights

Saturday 12th of September 2015

Good info about int'l econ laws re animal products. Poor knowledge of Canada. Brush up on that before comparing it to Mexico.


Sunday 3rd of March 2013

Why no dog food has horse meat in it is not correct -- apparently there is some kind of sensitivity to it by certain breeds but I can't recall exactly which breeds but I think it's collies. Since most dog food is made for many different kinds of breeds, and there are many mixed bred dogs whose ancestry is uncertain, the dog food industry has eschewed the use of horse meat so they wouldn't get sued by dog owners whose dogs were sensitive to it.

The slaughter process does not start with the horses hit in the head until they are unconscious. For horses slaughtered in EU approved facilities captive bolt stun gun is used just like with other livestock. Captive bolt doesn't work as well on horses as it does with other livestock because horse brains are further back in their head so they wake up within 30 seconds or so to find themselves strung up by their back legs and are bled out while they are conscious; whereas other livestock don't wake so quickly.

The puntilla knife is used in Mexican slaughterhouses which are not approved by EU standards and the meat harvested can not be sent to the EU market for human consumption. Some of the Canadian slaughterhouses use a rifle to kill the horses before slaughtering them.

Another reason not to slaughter horses for human consumption is they generate huge amounts of adrenaline (also known as cortisol which is a banned substance) when they are frightened and the endocrine system in horses is so efficient that adrenaline is dispensed extremely rapidly throughout their system. Horse run fast because of this adrenaline - they are bred to run fast! I suggest you read this for more in-depth information about adrenaline in horses:

To quash the myth that slaughterhouses are necessary to accommodate those people who can not take care of their horses anymore and need a place for old and sick horses - that's not what the kill-buyers purchase to send to slaughter! They buy younger healthy horses. Keep in mind the beef industry sends steers not older than 3 years old to be slaughtered - anything older would not have tender meat and brings a lower price on the market.

Here is a recent investigative report on a slaughterhouse in Canada owned by Bouvry Exports: