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Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Dog Food Ingredients—What's in the Bag?

By Anton Hout, author of The Guide to Aussie Training & Care

Dog food ingredients vary from one company to the next. Some are wholesome and pure. Others are not so great. Reading the label can be confusing. Everyone is familiar with meat and grains. But what are all those other things?

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) Notice

DCM is a heart condition that has been reportedly linked to certain low carbohydrate dog foods. However, the FDA has still not confirmed a specific cause and its latest study is also inconclusive. As such, at the time of this writing (July 16, 2020) there have still not been any recalls. For further information see: FDA, Dog Food Advisor article, and an article by Daniel Schulof, the founder and CEO of KetoNatural Pet Foods, Inc. addressing potential Bad Science and Financial Conflicts of Interest Plaguing the FDA's Investigation Into "Grain-Free" Pet Foods and Dilated Cardiomyopathy.


Even the meat and grains might need better definitions. Some companies list beef, chicken, lamb or another meat, although they are not required to do so. Pet owners trying to isolate and eliminate allergens need to buy a brand that lists the exact kind of meat that is used. Otherwise, they may never be able to relieve their dog's symptoms.

The grains commonly found in pet foods include wheat, rye, barley and corn. Wheat is a commonly used grain. When pets experience allergic reactions to the foods they eat, it is sometimes due to wheat. Humans are not the only creatures to experience gluten intolerance. Dogs have the problem, too. For more info on that see Dog Food Allergies.

Blue merle Australian Shepherd, Ms. Chloe, laying on grass.

Bruce and Lynda Chansky

The health of your Australian Shepherd depends on the quality of the dog food ingredients in the food you buy.

This is our Ms. Chloe. This photo was when she was 10 months old. She is very mouthy and she patrols the yard very aggressively to make sure the squirrels don't violate her territory.

Let's Define Some Other Dog Food Ingredients

Meat and Bone Meal

Meat and bone meal is a byproduct of the slaughtering industry. Animal parts such as bones, blood, tissues and internal organs, as well as the animal's stomach contents and butcher shop trimmings are rendered using high heat and dehydration to create a meal. The nutritional content of the meal varies, but it is usually around 50% protein and about 10% fat. The rest is ash, which is sometimes counted as a carbohydrate in the nutritional analysis.

Meat Byproducts

Meat byproducts include the animal parts listed above, but they are not rendered. Manufacturers typically process them in some way to make them seem more appetizing to humans. Most "wet" pet foods contain meat byproducts.

Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Chicken Byproduct Meal

The term "meat" can only be used in the industry to refer to parts that come from cattle, hogs, sheep and goats. So, sometimes you will see chicken byproduct meal listed on a label. The only difference between chicken byproduct meal and meat and bone meal is that the parts used are those left over after slaughtering chickens. Backs and rib bones, necks, feet, etc.

Australian Shepherd at the beach.

Steve and Sheila Shull

Copper, enjoying a day at the beach, has the sweetest disposition you have ever seen.

Fish Meal

Fish meal is not one of the common dog food ingredients, but it is typically found in cat foods. Some manufacturers use fish meal to increase protein content or because it goes well with ingredients like lamb. In the process of rendering fish meal, all parts of the fish are used. Only the oils are "squeezed" out, because they are used in the supplement industry.

Beef Tallow

Beef tallow is rendered fat. Like lard and vegetable shortening, it is solid at room temperature and has a relatively high melting point.

Clearly, many dog food ingredients are not appetizing. They wouldn't even be appetizing to the dogs were it not for the addition of salt and artificial flavorings.

Most of the items mentioned above have little or no nutritional value. The meals, for example, contain few nutrients. Because of that, manufacturers fortify their products with vitamins and minerals. Many of the vitamins used are synthetics derived from petrochemicals. The same is true of human dietary supplements.

The dog food ingredients in higher quality products are better. Some companies do use real meat and less wheat. For example, one company that takes the quality of its dog food ingredients seriously is Wysong Pet Foods. Find out more about Wysong dog food here.

Alternative foods have emerged in recent years. Some became popular after so many animals died from tainted products, most of which were made in China.

Hypoallergenic foods have been introduced due to increased number of food allergies among dogs. Frozen, dehydrated, fresh, homemade and even vegetarian foods are also available from a variety of manufacturers. You can find them in specialty stores or purchase them over the internet.

Learning more about dog food ingredients is a good idea for everyone who loves dogs. The knowledge makes it easier to choose a good brand for the dogs you love. icon

Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

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