10 Must Have Dog Food Ingredients

Must Have Dog Food Ingredients

What type of dog food do you feed your dog? If your answer is ‘just some generic brand that you found at the local grocer’, then you definitely need to continue reading. Dogs require certain nutrition, and if they don’t get it, it can be detrimental to their health. This is why it is not recommended to feed your dog table scraps of human food. Human food is not formulated to contain the adequate amounts of nutrition that a dog requires in order to be healthy and balanced. That doesn’t mean that all of the dog foods on the market are made equally.

When you buy your dog’s food, do you ever stop to take a look at the label? If not, then you may be doing your dog a big injustice. Knowing and understanding the ingredients that are included in your dog’s food is very important. After all, you wouldn’t eat something if you weren’t sure what it was made up of. The problem is, many pet owners just don’t know what to look for on the label. Sure, you need to take a look at nutritional values, but what about the ingredients list?  What do you make of it once you read it?

Dog Food Ingredients


One question that we are often asked is, ‘how do you read the ingredients list?’ Basically it reads much like the ingredients list on regular food packaged for human beings. If you don’t know anything about reading labels, then this doesn’t tell you a whole lot. The good news is that we are here to help you gain a better understanding of it. Here are a few tips that will help you out:

How to Read Dog Food’s Ingredient List

Pet food ingredients are listed by weight, starting with the most prominent ingredient. That means that the first ingredient on the list is the one that makes up the highest percentage of the formula, and so on and so forth. Generally, the first ingredient will be a meat or protein source, and it should be. You should be aware of the fact that real meat is made up of a high percentage of water, but ground meat meals don’t include the water, because it has already been taken out of it.

Dog Food IngredientsAs you get further down in the list, you may start to see ingredients that have long names that are very hard, or even impossible to pronounce. Most of these ingredients are preservatives, chemicals or stabilizers that are added to the food. The good news is that the ingredients that are found in pet foods must be approved by the FDA, or at least be recognized as being safe.  The bad news is that sometimes you won’t know what these ingredients are unless you do your research. Generally, choosing a high quality, premium dog food will ensure that you stay away from potentially harmful ingredients.

So, what about by-products? This is a debate that has been in the media for years now. Veterinarians actually say that it is really just a matter of preference. There are some by-products that can actually be great for your pet, such as liver and bone, which offer vitamins and other nutrients in high levels. It is really up to you if you want your pet to eat foods that contain by-products, but we recommend super premium dog food blends that contain 100% real meat or real meat meal.

Now that you know a bit more about how to read the label, and the importance of doing so, here are the ten must have dog food ingredients that you will want to look for:

Protein#1 – Protein

The number one ingredient found in your dog’s food should undoubtedly be a protein source. Protein comes in a variety of ways. Some pets eat a vegetarian diet, but still get the protein that they need. It doesn’t have to come from animals, although that is the most common source. Some commercial foods are made up of meat, or meat meal, which gives it the protein. Other foods may have other sources of protein, including eggs, fish, corn or wheat.  No matter what, your dog cannot function without protein, so make sure that it is in abundance in their diet.

Carbohydrates#2 – Carbohydrates

Carbs are also really important, because they help to give your dog energy. Some people focus solely on the protein and fat contents of their pet food, but it is worth looking into the carbohydrates as well. You will find that an optimal pet food contains around 30% carbohydrates, give or take. While a chunk of your dog’s energy should come from protein sources, carbs shouldn’t be discredited. Carbohydrates come in a variety of different forms in your dog’s food. Most often, you will see it in the form of beans, rice, soy, oats, barley or corn.

Veggies#3 – Veggies

So, you wonder why veggies are an important ingredient in dog food? Sure, veggies are really not a part of a dog’s natural, instinctive diet, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t good for them. Most dog foods have added ingredients, other than meats, and veggies are a great way to add in vitamins and minerals to your pet’s diet. There are, however, certain veggies that are not safe for pups. These include garlic, onions and mushrooms, and are very toxic for dogs. Other veggies, including sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and kale, can be very nutritious, and a great added bonus to your pet’s daily dietary intake.

Fruits#4 – Fruits

Fruits are just as important as veggies when it comes to the food that you feed your dog. Fruits may not be a part of a dog’s instinctive diet, but there are certain fruits, including blueberries and apples, that give your pet dietary fiber and antioxidants. These nutrients improve digestion, and fight free radicals. Some foods even have super fruits, like avocados! Just remember that there are certain fruits that are not suitable for dogs, including grapes and cherries. They are actually poisonous to dogs, so it is likely you won’t find them in any high quality, premium dog food.

Fat#5 – Fat

Okay, so fat could actually be good for your pup? Fat sometimes has a bad reputation, but there are actually good fats out there. Fatty acids help to improve your pet’s health in a variety of ways. They not only help to encourage optimal vitamin absorption, but they also help to keep your dog’s coat shiny and healthy. Commonly, fats will be found in dog food in the form of chicken or pork fat, vegetable oil, fish oil, or other type of healthy oil. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are the best for your pup’s health.

Vitamins#6 – Vitamins

Vitamins are important for your pet if you want them to remain healthy. They boost their metabolism, and also help to ensure that your pet has healthy digestive and immune systems. Vitamin B is one of the most important vitamins for your pup. Great sources include pyridoxine, thiamin, beta carotene, biotin, and riboflavin. Vitamins A & E are also important, as they are essential for their immune system and their skin and coat. If your dog is lacking in vitamins, then they are lacking in their overall health. This is something that you must keep in mind as you look for a great premium diet for your pup.

Minerals#7 – Minerals

A dog’s natural diet contains a lot of natural minerals, and they are essential when it comes to their overall health and wellness. Minerals can help to coordinate body functions, improve muscle function, bone health and even boost the health of their skin and coat. Most minerals in dog food can be found in healthy grains, fruits, veggies and meats. A few of the minerals that are needed in larger amounts include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, and sulfur. Check your dog food label to see the daily percentages of minerals included in their diet. You may be surprised to find that they aren’t getting enough.

Natural Preservatives#8 – Natural Preservatives

Some people think that preservatives are a bad thing, but that is a common misconception. What you don’t want to find in your dog food is artificial preservatives. Natural preservatives are actually a critical ingredient. If you are looking at your pet food label, then look for preservatives such as ascorbic acid or tocopherols. These preservatives help to lock in the taste of the food, and keep it fresher for longer. Some of the natural preservatives are even a great source of Vitamin E, which is an added bonus. So, for the record, not all preservatives are bad. Don’t forget it!

Water#9 – Water

Water is critical for your pet’s diet, just as it is critical for a human’s diet. Most of the pet foods on the market will contain a high percentage of moisture content, but that doesn’t mean that it is enough water for your pet. It is important to keep fresh water available for them at all times. Remember that canned food will contain more moisture, but dry kibbles are also important for your pet because they help to clean their teeth and keep their gums healthy.  If you are going to feed them canned food, do so sparingly, as a supplement to kibbles.

Grains#10 – Grains

We already covered carbohydrates, which includes grains, but we think that it is important to have a section devoted entirely to grains. Grains are important, because they can help to improve your dog’s digestion. They are also an excellent source of expendable energy. So, what is it about grains that gives it a bad reputation? The truth is, there are some dogs that have sensitivities to grains. This is why there are grain-free formulas, which contain other forms of carbohydrates. If your dog is sensitive to grains, it could be due to an allergy. Keep this in mind as you shop for your pet’s food.


What Dog Food Brand Do You Feed Your Dog and Why?
Tell us in the comments below!


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I've been a dog lover since the day I was born but it's the current four legged love of my life, Phoebe who inspired me to create the Munch.Zone.

We moved together from Israel to New York in 2013, love hiking together, and never pass up a trip to the dog park. Watching her over the years sparked so many questions about dog behavior and health needs, and it wasn't always easy to find answers. Thus, the Munch.Zone was born.

On any given day you'll find me watching Netflix originals, eating popcorn, and thinking about how to get into house flipping.

Latest posts by Shay Atik (see all)

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6 thoughts on “10 Must Have Dog Food Ingredients

  1. Bookmarked this post! I haven’t really given too much though about thoroughly reviewing the ingredients list of the chow my dog is eating. Are there any ingredients that I should look out for? Like, stuff that should be avoided?

  2. I will make sure to look for these ingredients next time I go shopping. I used to be one of those bad owners who bought the cheapest stuff on the shelves, thankfully I stopped being a fool and started buying foods that had mostly these ingredients. Anyways, thanks for the ingredients to follow and look for.

  3. The sad thing about ingredients in most dog foods is that there is too many fillers. It’s great to have a guide like this to know the proper food to feed our dogs. I used to feed them store bought brands that have filler, so it’s time to check what’s in the food more often.

  4. Excellent information for all pet owners to know! So many dog foods are packed with ingredients that are of inferior quality. If more people would look at the labels and find foods with these key ingredients, dogs everywhere would be healthier! Thanks for sharing this great info.

  5. I can honestly say that I have never looked at the ingredients list on my dog’s food. Shame on me, I know! This article has really helped me to understand the importance of knowing what’s in their food. I am going to get better about reading labels so that I can offer the best possible nutrition for my pup!

  6. I’ve been doing a lot of research as I just was informed my dog has a perianal hernia. I need to put him on high fiber diet & still make sure he is getting protein & everything else good for him. I found a site called the munch that has holistic herbs for dogs & explains the benefits of 10 of them as well as herbs that are bad for them. … I found it very helpful because with his condition any extra anti inflammatory or antioxidants I can give him the longer he will be around & the less I will have to give him prescription drugs. ..also coconut oil is a natural anti bacterial & my dog loves it but I am going to add olive oil to his list if ingredients because every bit helps. & yogurt is good for dogs too because they benefit from the probiotics. I read to give them plain yogurt but since blueberries are good for dogs I give him that flavor. Hope this can be helpful to someone. I didnt realize all the good things i can feed my dog until his health condition lead me to do research. It is very important to watch what you feed your pet and can help avoid future vet visits so I would say it’s worth the investment. Also I did not know pepper is bad for dogs.

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