What’s Really in Your Dog Food?

The Truth Behind the Ingredients Label on Your Dog Food

You’ll hear it from different sources: your vet, your groomer, friends, and family: “look at the ingredients label on the back of your dog food to make sure it’s the best for your pet.”  But what’s really in your dog’s food?  Those labels can be extremely confusing and misleading.  Worry no more!  We’re here to help you understand the differences between the good stuff and the bad that goes into various  types of foods.


Meat is the major protein source for dogs.  They NEED meat to survive and to thrive.  There has been much controversy on whether or not too much protein can cause kidney damage, but studies have found no evidence of this except in one study that didn’t use dogs as test subjects so it’s been thrown out.  You cannot give your dog too much protein!  Now that we know there is no such thing as too much meat and protein, let’s address what to look for in your dog food as far as meat content goes:

Always look for named meats such as chicken, beef, lamb, or duck to be at the top of your ingredients label.  They are relatively unaltered and contain the highest percentages of proteins as well as vitamins and minerals.  Other great sources of protein include eggs, yogurt, and cottage cheese.

Meat meal (chicken meal, beef meal, fish meal etc) is another form of meat which has been cooked and dehydrated.  It’s not necessarily bad for your dog, but not great. The good thing about meat meal is that it contains a more concentrated amount of animal protein since the moisture has been removed.  It makes for a high-protein, low-carb dry food.  The bad thing about it is it’s just a mixture of animal parts like liver, bones, neck, brain, etc which are also not terrible for your dog, but not as good as muscle meat.  It’s a more processed form of food, having already been cooked and dehydrated once before turned into kibble forms and cooked again.  It’s like eating top ramen every day.  You’ll get some good things, but processed dog food, like human foods are never the best option when natural foods are available.

Meat byproduct is something we’ve all heard of and most of us already know that it’s not good for anyone, even our four legged companions.  So what is meat byproduct? Basically, it’s anything left over from an animal carcass after the meat has been stripped from the bone.  It can include the head, beaks, liver, stomach, lungs, blood, bones, etc.  We’ve even heard of roadkill being turned into dog food.  Byproducts should never be given to your pet because you can never tell what kind of animal it comes from or even if it’s sanitary.

Fats and Oils

Fats and Oils are essential to your dog’s diet and should be one of the components you look for when choosing your dog food.  There are good fats and oils as well as bad ones.  The average healthy adult pet requires 10-15% fat in their diet.  Fats are bad when your pet is receiving extras such as table scraps or extra treats.  If  the levels of fat are too low, dogs can develop skin and coat problems as well as weakened immune systems and potential heart problems.  Why are fats important in your pet’s diet?  Fat is the first thing before carbohydrates and proteins that gets burned as energy.  It contains almost twice as much energy as carbohydrates and proteins as well. Fats keep your dog’s coat shiny, skin healthy, are very important in reproduction, and help to absorb essential vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Good, quality dog food will include a proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Oils contain essential fats in them too.  Good oils you should look for in your dog food include salmon oils, flax seed oils, and safflower oils.  You want to be wary of unidentified fish oils, soybean, corn, and cottonseed oils.  Some animals have allergies to these oils and they can cause health problems.  Absolutely stay away from vegetable oil when selecting your dog food.  Dog’s don’t process vegetable oil and it can make them very sick.

 Fruits and Vegetables

Yes, dogs need fruits and vegetables in their diet too.  It’s a common misconception that dogs should ONLY eat meat.  When we think about the wild dog and what their diet consists of, we typically think of their hunting abilities and the fact that they kill to eat.  While this is true, it only accounts for a part of the dog’s diet.  Some vegetables are difficult to digest for dogs, while others contain essential nutrients.  These good vegetables include leafy greens, sweet potatoes, broccoli, zucchini, celery, carrots, green beans, potatoes, and yams.

Vegetables to void when selecting your dog food include peas, onions, tomatoes, potato product, and potato starch.

Fruits are also a great source of vitamins and minerals in dog food, but be cautious because many fruits have harmful toxins in certain parts like the pit of certain fruits.  While fruit is not a necessary part of a dog’s diet, they are a great, healthy treat alternative and give the greatest balance in diet and providing your dog with an improved immune system Good fruits include apples, melon, mango, banana, papaya, blueberries, and cranberries.

Fruits to avoid because of toxins and other such factors include grapes, raisins because of a toxic chemical compound, as well as fruits with pits because of the choking hazard and some pits have a toxic chemical compound.

ALWAYS stay away from nuts when feeding your dog.  Macadamia nuts are particularly toxic for dogs.


Most people agree that dogs are meat eaters and have been that way for generations.  Today’s dogs still cannot process plant material efficiently.  Herbivores do that.  They do, however retain some vitamins and minerals from certain grains through an internal synthesis.

So when reading your dog food label, look for either no grains or non-gluten, whole, millet, quinoa, teff, spelt, oats, barley, rye, amaranth, and organic grains.

Avoid such things as corn, soy, wheat, soybean meal, wheat, and gluten.  Husks, apple pomace, peanut meal, sorghum, rice gluten, and brewers rice are awful.

ALWAYS make sure your dog food is not baked, canned, or extruded.  The best dog food is always fresh, freeze dried, dehydrated, frozen, or raw.

Follow these tips when trying out new brands of dog food and you’ll have a happy four legged companion for a much longer time.

Our suggestions for healthy dog food brands

As you can tell, we are all about the best for our furry friends.  Whether it’s dog food, grooming, or even play time, we want all dogs to be as happy and healthy as possible so we have them in our lives longer and they can have us in theirs.  Hot Shot Dog Grooming ONLY promotes the best brands of dog food, treats, toys, and grooming tools.  Our selection of dog food that is the most beneficial to your dog includes:

The Honest Kitchen



Stella & Chewys


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