Healthy Ingredients

Ultimate Guide to Dog Food Ingredients & Their Benefits

Ultimate Guide to Dog Food Ingredients & Their Benefits


There are many options for dog food out there, and pet owners often wonder whether or not their dog is getting proper nutrition. It can be challenging to decipher labels on pet food and how to ensure what will best provide the nutrition they need. 

If you got a new puppy, you might feel overwhelmed and confused by what ingredients are best for your dog. Selecting dog food depends on numerous aspects of your dog, such as its breed, age, and weight. Other factors include looking at the actual ingredients and determining where your dog’s nutritional needs fit.

As pet owners become more aware of their dog’s diet, multiple dog food companies are working to produce nutritious food. However, if you’re unsure how to choose the right food for your dog, Here is an ingredients list and their benefits that can help you with what to look for when you are picking out the best dog food.

High-Quality Proteins

The first ingredient you should be looking for in any dog food is meat or high-quality protein. It is the best source of amino acids to aid your dog’s muscle development and energy. Therefore, you usually see meat or some sort of protein listed as the first ingredient on a dog food label.

There are many ingredients you’ll find in dog foods that contain protein. Some of the top protein ingredients you can see when searching for dog food include:

  • Black Solder Flies (Insects)
  • Fish (Asian Carp, Salmon, Shrimp, Sole, Sardines, Tuna, Trout) 
  • Bacon
  • Alligator
  • Beef
  • Beef, Pork, Turkey, or Chicken Liver
  • Bison
  • Chicken
  • Chicken or Beef Cartilage
  • Pork
  • Turkey
  • Rabbit
  • Lamb
  • Venison
  • Yogurt

  • Benefits of Proteins in Dog Food

    Many of these ingredients have excellent sources for providing your dog with helpful muscle development and aiding in hormone and enzyme production in their body. Proteins also contain glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health. Other vitamins include Vitamin A, C, B6, B12, Niacin, Magnesium, and Antioxidants to support the metabolic process. 

    If you find fish in the ingredients, they are an excellent source for providing omega-3 fatty acids and protein. In addition, they help support energy and muscle growth in your dog because they contain healthy fats. If you can find lamb in your dog food, it is a highly digestible protein for dogs and provides good coat condition.

    Fruits and Vegetables

    Fruits and Vegetables in dog food are highly digestible and give dogs essential enzymes, phytonutrients and natural fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Important fruits and veggies to look for when choosing a dog food include:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Alfalfa
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Potato
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin
  • Kelp
  • Pomegranate
  • Cranberries
  • Barley
  • Peas
  • Parsley
  • Sweet Potatoes

  • Other soluble fibers include Tomato Pomace or Dried Tomato Pomace, which helps provide lycopene for health development. 

    Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables in Dog Food

    Fruits and vegetables promote essential health and wellness for your dog and are packed with vitamins A, B6, C, K, and iron, and fiber supports healthy digestion. In addition, many of the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables support your dog’s immune system. Parsley also helps give dogs fresh breath.


    The next important thing to look for includes Carbohydrates, which help provide dog food with the ability to feel full and satiated. Carbs also help “brush” your dog’s teeth and prevent tartar from building up.

    Carbohydrates you can look for in your dog’s food:

  • Brown Rice
  • Barley
  • Potato Flour/Starch
  • Psyllium
  • Cassia and Carrageenan Gum
  • Chondroitin Sulfate
  • Rice Bran
  • Flaxseed
  • Tapioca Starch
  • Glucosamine
  • Oat Fiber/Flour and Oatmeal
  • Xanthan Gum

  • Benefits of Carbohydrates in Dog Food

    Your dog doesn’t necessarily have a dietary requirement for Carbohydrates. However, they provide your dog with metabolism, providing your dog’s body with energy. 

    Carbohydrates are made up of sugars, starches, and fibers. According to expert veterinarians and techs with Bond Vet online, active dogs typically should be on a diet containing around 20% carbohydrates. But, they also say that it depends on your dog’s lifestyle and characteristics. For example, intensely active dogs may need more carbohydrates for energy than a lazier dog breed that does more sleeping than activity.

    There are two fibers found in carbohydrates - soluble and insoluble. The soluble fiber comes from fruits, seeds, and plants and helps to soften stool. Insoluble fiber comes from grains and promotes more bulk in stool. These fibers regulate bacteria in the colon and help with the digestive process.

    Vitamins and Minerals

    The ingredients vital for your dog’s health contain specific minerals and vitamins that play a role in aiding certain systems. Some of the essential minerals and vitamins that help in your dog food include:

  • Beta-Carotene
  • Calcium
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
  • Vitamin B5
  • Vitamin B6 
  • Biotin
  • Potassium and Potassium Iodide
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium Iodate/Carbonate/Phosphate
  • Copper
  • Folic Acid
  • Salt
  • Zinc
  • Taurine
  • Amino Acid

  • Benefits of Vitamins and Minerals in Dog Food

    The vitamins and minerals you’ll find provide dogs with healthy skin, hair, nails, taste, and eyesight. Amino acids offer bone growth and development and support organs such as the heart and connective tissue.

    The systems that assist include the immune system, nervous system, muscle system, and digestive system. Potassium Iodide, in particular, gives your dog essential iodine for its thyroid and promotes cell function.

    Fats and Oils

    Lastly, fats and oils such as Chicken Fat, Fish Oil, and Vegetable Glycerine give your dog energy and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids that promote a healthy luscious coat, support healthy weight, and aid in kidney function. In addition, some oils like Salmon oil can help with your dog’s cognitive development.

    What to Watch Out for in Dog Food

    According to the AAFCO, meat proteins in dog food such as real meat or metal meal cannot contain any remnants of hair, feathers, horns, or hooves. By-products are another questionable ingredient found in dog foods; they can provide some nutrients or proteins, but they could be sourced from diseased or dead animals and have poor quality.

    Fillers can depend on your dog’s requirements since they are there to help make your dog feel full but have no real, nutritious value. Some of the typical fillers you see on dog food labels include corn, wheat, soy, and rice.

    Sometimes, supplements are added to dog food to help provide more nutritional value. Often these supplements are intended to target a specific breed of dog. For example, dogs with more fur may need dog food with supplemented omega oils for better hair growth, and others may require probiotic supplemented foods to help with digestion.

    Whole Grain and Refined Grain

    Grains are found in two forms: whole and refined.  The whole grains listed indicate that all parts of the grains are located within the ingredient, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. Refined grains are processed with the bran and germ removed. 

    Grains in your dog food may be necessary when considering specific health problems. Diabetes makes it vital to minimize starches found in the endosperm to reduce blood sugar spikes. Obese dogs need to find more dietary fiber-rich foods to aid in helping them to feel full but not adding to their calorie intake.

    Dogs can sometimes find themselves allergic to certain ingredients within their food. Consult with your veterinarian if you notice that your dog becomes sick or breaks out with red, swollen, and itchy skin, and see if you need to alter your dog’s diet or change its nutrition to help with food intolerance or allergy. 

    Qualities of Dog Food

    Good dog food will give your dot nutrients in the proper quantity that works in tandem with your dog’s life stage. In addition, it should have enough calories to maintain your dog’s body weight, so check for labels pertaining to those stages like puppy chow, adult, etc. Pet foods can be labeled as “all-natural” or “organic.” Organic means that it is made of 95% according to the USDA, FDA, and AAFCO, while the term natural is looser. Natural doesn’t mean that the ingredient hasn’t been processed, as many natural flavors can be derived from manipulation in a laboratory.

    It is always a good idea to consult your veterinarian regarding your dog’s health to ensure that the pet food you choose provides it with enough balanced proportions and will be the most appropriate for its development and growth. Ensure it has a good amount of nutrients, is easy to digest, and that your dog will eat it. 

    Take care of your dog by paying attention to its nutrition. The essential ingredients that matter to your dog’s growth and development can vary, but paying attention to the ingredient label and locating the necessary proteins, fruits, vegetables, vitamins, minerals, oils, good fats, and carbohydrates, will ensure a healthy and happy life. 

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