What ingredients should we look out for in complete dog kibble?

We’ve collated some information of the good, bad and the ugly when it comes to dog kibble ingredients. Have a read, then go check out your own dog's food and see how it stands! 

It’s amazing how many companies can paint a pretty picture on the front of their dog food and suck us in thinking it must be healthy, especially if it happens to have a high price tag. We urge everyone to read the ingredients on the back as well as the information on the front! Just because it’s expensive, doesn’t mean it’s good!

Point number 1 is that ingredients are always listed from the highest percentage to the lowest, so if the first ingredient isn’t meat, it’s already questionable!

HOWEVER, “ingredient splitting” is also one to watch. To make inferior ingredients appear lower down the percentage list they can split them up (even though essentially it’s the same thing). For example “corn” and “corn flour”, “brown rice” and “white rice” etc can split something that is 30% into two 15% amounts. So if meat is at the top but there’s a lot of ingredient splitting – question it!

To watch:

  1. Cereals/grains
    • Used as a filler to make a dog’s food cheaper to make. Although some carbs will help give your dog energy, they don’t necessarily need cereals in their diet. It is also very vague meaning the cereal ingredients can vary bag to bag. This can lead to poorly tums if your dog is sensitive to certain things (and a fair amount of dogs are sensitive to grains). It also means they can hide exactly what they are putting into the food. We conclude that if a few grains are used, it’s not the end of the world, but it definitely should not be making up a large percentage of the kibble.
  2. Meat and Animal Derivatives
    • Again, vague. This term can mean any part of any species of animal, including beaks, feathers, carcass, wool etc. which is nutritionally poor. On the other end of the scale, it can sometimes include actual animal meat. Generally it is used to keep costs down and uses poor quality meat without specifically saying so. It can vary bag to bag so again, not great for sensitive tums. Overall, generally best to avoid a dog food if this is a top ingredient.
  3. Derivatives of vegetable origin
    • “Ooooh vegetables” you think! That must be a good thing! Think again. Vague, cheap bulking ingredients once more! It’s impossible to tell from such an unclear ingredient, but is likely to have little nutritional value and can include anything from charcoal to compost!
  4. Vegetable Protein Extract 
    • Unclear – what a surprise! There is no indication on the vegetables used although commonly it is soya, maize and wheat – not great for sensitive dogs. Nor is there an indication of how the protein is extracted (most common methods use chemical reactions not generally regarded as particularly natural). There is speculation amongst Nutritionists that vegetable protein extracts might also be a hidden name for MSG (monosodium glutamate), a food additive that some believe to be mildly addictive.
  5. Oils and Fats
    • Again vague and can include anything such as old chip pan oil! It could be fine, but it could also not be. Who knows! Fat is important in a dog’s diet, but we’d like them to be more specific before we trust an ingredient like this.
  6. BHA and BHT
    • These artificial additives are controversial in dog food as they are banned by human consumption and studies have alluded that they are carcinogens that may lead to cancer, and also have behavioural impacts. Some companies will cover up these by labelling them as ‘anti-oxidants’.


The good stuff:

  1. Fresh Meat & Died Meat
    • A sign of a good dog food will have a higher meat content. 30% or above is preferable! Fresh meat is great but still has a lot of water in it, so to add dried meat is a positive thing, as most of the water will be removed and you’ll be left with more nutritionally concentrated meat. Meat Meal isn’t necessarily a bad product as again, it’ll have lower concentrations of water and does have nutritional value, but is a vague ingredient that could have any species of animal in it, so better to avoid if possible. Meat Meal "should be virtually free of hair, bristle, feathers, horn, hoof and skin and of the contents of the stomach and viscera" as well, unlike animal derivatives which we've talked about above. 
  2. Specific ingredients – “beetroot”, “carrot”, “sweet potato” etc.
    • You know what you’re getting, they aren't playing around with the ingredients depending on what is cheapest at the time, and they’ve likely sourced what is going to give the best nutritional value for your dog. Potato is usually included as a healthier bulker – note that sweet potato has a better nutritional value than regular potato.
  3. Supplements
    • For example Fructooligosaccharides and Mannanoligosaccharides are great pre-biotics, Glucosamine, Methlysulfonylmethane and Chondroitin Sulphate are all good for joint health, fish oils such as salmon oil, seaweed also has a range of benefits.


So, I urge you to now go and read your kibble ingredients. You may be shocked! The result of feeding your dog a poor diet can be an array of health issues; cancer, lower life expectancy, poor digestion (and increased flatulence!), poor coat health, premature joint issues, obesity, behavioural issues and more. You may think you are saving money in giving your dog a cheaper food, but in the long run it’ll likely cost you more in vet bills.

Food for thought… 😉.


Check out some healthy foods here.


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