Dog Food Glossary: The Terms you Need to Know


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  • What Ingredients to Look for in Dog Food
  • Dog Food Ingredient Checker: What You Need to Know
  • Are There any Dog Food Ingredients to Avoid?
What owners choose to feed their dogs varies widely. Options include wet, dry, raw or even home-cook meals! Whatever you pick, knowing what dog food ingredients are in the meals you give your pup is vital to understanding to feed and which to avoid.
Nutrition is a key aspect of keeping your pets healthy, and understanding what you’re looking for will make it easier to make sure they’re only getting the best. Additionally, avoiding any ingredients your fluffy family member is allergic to can be difficult if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to knowing exactly what is in your mutt’s meals, so you can make sure they’re getting the best nutrition and staying healthy and happy.

What Ingredients to Look for in Dog Food

A balanced dog diet needs to contain six key nutrients:
  1. Protein

  2. Fibre (usually in the form of carbohydrates)

  3. Vitamins

  4. Minerals

  5. Fats

  6. Water

Most dog food on the market is sold as being a complete diet, which means it contains all the nutrients your pup needs on a daily basis and you don’t need to add anything else.
The most important nutrient most owners will prioritise is the protein content. We know dogs eat meat, but finding the right source is important. Common proteins in pet food are usually the same meat humans eat, as they’re highly digestible and good for your pup.
For a long time, chicken has been the most popular source of protein in dog food. It’s easily digestible, readily available and a good, lean source of meat. Sales of this kind of food have gone up 24.8% in the last three years, so it remains popular. Other popular sources are beef and pork with duck, and turkey is often used as it is suitable for dogs with allergies to the most common meats.
Although dogs are omnivores, protein is still vital in their diet as it helps with growth, energy and supports their immune system. Growing or working dogs will need a higher protein diet, while older dogs don’t need as much. The average amount needed in your pooch’s diet should range between 18.5-28.0% to meet their needs.
Carbohydrates often appear in the form of grains and cereals in your pup’s diet. This is where they derive their fibre content from to support their digestive health, but carbohydrates also provide energy.
Pomeranian lying on the floor

Dog Food Ingredient Checker: What You Need to Know

You may already be aware of the most common ingredients your pup needs in their diet but when it comes to the vitamins and minerals, many owners don’t know where to start looking.
Vitamins can be broken down into fat and water-soluble vitamins, which can require slightly different approaches when it comes to feeding. Fat soluble vitamins can be stored within the body, whereas any excess water-soluble vitamins are simply excreted. It’s important to keep an eye on the levels of fat-soluble vitamins you’re feeding your pup, as they could become toxic as they body won’t remove it.
One particularly important fat-soluble vitamin is vitamin A, which is needed to maintain good vision, reproduction, growth, healthy skin and to keep the immune system healthy. Good sources of Vitamin A are:
  1. Fish

  2. Egg

  3. Dairy

  4. Liver

An example of a mineral your pup needs in their diet is Calcium. Calcium helps to maintain the strength and structure of bones and teeth, but a lack of calcium will inhibit growth in younger dogs. Dairy products are a common pet food ingredient to add calcium, along with chicken and fish being.
The life stage of your pooch will determine what you need to look for in their foods, but brands help us out by marketing towards these different needs. A puppy food like Orijen Puppy contains a total of 38% protein to support your pup’s growth, while James Wellbeloved Dog Senior Turkey & Rice only contains 20% protein, as a senior dogs are no longer developing.
It can also help to look for food specifically made to help with certain ailments. For example, if you have a pooch that suffers from arthritis. The Royal Canin Maxi Breed Joint Care is made with ingredients like hydrolysed collagen to support ageing joints, so is perfect for an aging pooch.
Close up photo of dog treats

Are There any Dog Food Ingredients to Avoid?

When you turn over a bag of dog food, you should be able to recognise most of the ingredients listed on the back. If it’s difficult to understand or is a very long list, it’s not likely to be the healthiest choice for your pup.
Additionally, if the feeding amounts seem unusually high, this can also be an indicator that there are some less healthy choices included, or the food may be less nutritious. Good options will have lower feeding amounts with readily available and digestible ingredients in their formulas.
When you’re looking for bad ingredients in dog food, keep an eye for words like derivatives. If your meat content is largely made from meat derivatives, this will mean that there may be different meat sources with no real guarantee of quality, meaning it may be less nutritious.
Just like with human diets, avoiding food containing artificial colours, additives and preservatives can also be beneficial to your pup.
Sometimes, the things to avoid can be dependent on your dog and if they have any health issues or sensitivities. If your pooch struggles to digest cereals, then you will want to avoid any kind of grain and need to opt for a grain free diet to make sure they remain happy and healthy.
A dog eating from a bowlWhile it can be difficult to know exactly what you’re looking for on the back of dog food, understanding what your pup needs and what to avoid can help demystify the whole process. If you understand a few important elements, it makes the whole process much easier. Every dog is an individual, so it’s important to find something that suits them. Take a look at our wide range of dog food to find the perfect diet for your beloved family member today!