What Is In Dog Food: Label Tells All

Picking out dog food should be easy right? You just grab a bag off the shelf.

What you probably already know is that there are many different brands and many different types of dog food. What you probably don’t know is that there are good brands and bad brands for your dog. We’re going to talk about what to look for in a good brand and what to stay away from; Dog Food: The Good, The Bad and The Truth.

What Is In Dog Food: Label Tells All #dogfood #bestdogfood #petfood

What’s on the front of the bag is generally a lie

There aren’t a lot of regulations for advertising on the front of the bag. You may have even seen some dog food bags have a full Thanksgiving dinner sitting on a plate and you think, “Yeah, I love Thanksgiving dinner so of course my dog will,” but you know it comes out of the bag is still kibble.

We don’t think about how there’s no way they can mash a Thanksgiving dinner into kibble and it still taste like Thanksgiving dinner. We just see the plate on the front of the bag and relate to the good things we enjoy with a Thanksgiving dinner.

What is in the name? 

The food name is the first part of the label noticed by you. Fancy names are used to emphasize certain features of a food so you’ll buy it. AAFCO has established four rules about ingredients: (brought to you buy PedMD)

  • The 95% rule: at least 95% of the food must be the named ingredient. For example, “Chicken for Dogs” or “Beef Cat Food” must be 95% chicken or beef, respectively. If the food is “Chicken and Rice Dog Food”, the chicken is the component that must be 95%. If there is a combination of ingredients such as “Chicken and Liver for Cats”, the two together must make up 95% of the total weight and the first ingredient must be the one in higher percent in the food.
  • 25% or “Dinner” rule: when the named product contains at least 25% but less than 95% of the total weight, the name must include a descriptive term such as “dinner”. For example, “dinner”, “entrée”, “grill”, “platter”, “formula” are all terms that are used to describe this type of product. For example, “Chicken Dinner Dog Food” must contain at least 25% chicken. This food could contain beef and possibly even more beef than chicken. It is important to read the label and check what other meat sources the product contains.
  • 3% or “With” rule: this one is tricky. Many times the “with” label identifies extra or special ingredients, such as “Beef Dinner for Dogs with Cheese” is a food containing at least 25% beef and at least 3% cheese. But beware of this type of “with” label: “Dog Food with Chicken”. This dog food need only contain 3% chicken! Don’t confuse that with “Chicken Dog Food” which must contain 95% chicken. Confusing, right?
  • “Flavor” rule:  in this situation, a specific percentage of meat is not required, but it must contain an amount of flavor sufficient to be detected. For example, “Chicken Flavor Dog Food” may contain a digest or enough chicken fat to flavor the food, but there will be no actual chicken meat added to the food.

The Top 3 Ingredients Make Up The Majority Of Your Dog’s Food.

Forget the front of the bag. Companies advertise to you, the consumer, on the front of their bags. They’re made to look appealing to you so that you’ll buy it. In reality your dog has probably eaten their poop at one point in time or gotten into the trash. They have different standards than we do.

The best we can do for our pets is look at the ingredients label.

What sounds better? Ground yellow corn, corn germ meal, beef and bone meal or chicken, chicken meal, and brown rice?

The top three ingredients make up 95% of your dog’s food. We’ll touch on percentages later on. While the rest of the ingredients are less than 5% they can still have an impact on your dog’s gut.

Ingredient Meanings

  • Chicken: Chicken meat, skin and possible bone. A combination of clean flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone. Does not contain feathers, heads, feet and entrails.
  • Chicken Meal: Chicken meat skin and bone that is ground up into tiny pieces. It is a dry, solid material that can be processed into kibble
  • Chicken By-Product: Chicken necks, unborn eggs, feet and organs. Parts of the chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines. Does not contain feathers, except in minimal amounts that were unavoidable in good processing practice.
  • Chicken By-Product Meal: Ground up necks, unborn eggs, feet and organs. Same as Chicken By-Product only it’s ground up into tiny pieces.

Ingredients to avoid

There have been lots of links to problems with Red-40 or artificial food dyes. Taste of the Wild’s article on Food Coloring in Pet Food gives you a better idea on why to avoid it. It’s added in to look more appealing to you, but your dog cares about what it tastes like not the look. We’re pretty sure they can’t see in color.

Corn syrup, propylene glycol, and MSG are artificial flavors frequently used in pet food manufacturing to disguise poor food quality and some of these additives give dampness and flexibility to semi-moist foods and treats.

**Side note- soft and moist are not good for your dog’s teeth as it helps plaque and tartar build up. Check out Cleaning Dog’s Teeth Without Brushing for more information on that.

So, that side note makes those ingredients even worse and aren’t good for your dog’s gut. Check out Dealing With Loose BM’s for products to have on hand if your dog gets diarrhea or an upset stomach.


If you’ve had a dog before you have a general idea of dog food brands. Most major dog food companies have different names under one brand that you have to watch, such as Purina.

Purina is a good, well-known brand that has Purina One, Beneful, ProPlan and more under Nestle Purina. It’s hard to tell which is the better sub-brand so you need to look at the ingredients label.

Pedigree is one to stay away from as it carries multiple dyes, additives and generally made from corn. Check out the label.


Over the past couple years it’s been a hype to get your dog on a grain-free food. Then in July 2019 the FDA released an article where they’re looking into grain-free foods causing heart disease. Check that out here and see what brands were listed.

Unless your dog has an allergy to grains they need the grains in their food.

You don’t have to go through the store flipping over every bag of dog food. Start out online with an idea of brands you want to go with and you can find the ingredients label listed on the company website under the specific food.

Make sure to gradually change your pet’s food over a weeks time so they don’t get an upset stomach and have diarrhea. If you order your food online go ahead and grab some Pro-pectalin too just incase. It’s a probiotic for loose stools, a must-have to keep on hand. I love this stuff!

Brands to consider

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