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Ingredients & Nutrients

Posted Thursday, 22 Jun 2023

Affiché : Thursday, 22 Jun 2023

Puzzled by Pet Food Ingredients?

At some point during your dog's life, you are likely to consider what food is best to feed. You may ask your breeder, your veterinarian, or even friends and family, or you may go for a stroll down an aisle of your local pet retailer. You will likely soon realize there are a lot of options out there! How do you choose what is best for your furry family member?


While it may seem obvious to look for familiar ingredients first when selecting a pet food, remember that our pets (as well as us) need specific nutrients to meet their daily needs.




Proteins play critical roles in almost every aspect of the body, including muscles, enzymes, the immune system, bones, blood, and within cells. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Some amino acids are essential, meaning the body cannot make these amino acids in sufficient quantities. Dogs have 10 essential amino acids that need to come from food.




Fat, made up of fatty acids, is an energy-rich nutrient, important for providing fuel to the body. Fats play many other important roles when it comes to body function, including absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, formation of cell membranes, and signaling in metabolic pathways. Fat is also an excellent palatant; it affects aroma, flavour, texture and moisture of the food to make it more appealing to our dogs.




Carbohydrates include sugars, starches and fibres. Sugars and starches are digestible and are an excellent source of energy. Starches are also important in the formation of kibble shapes and textures, which encourages chewing and promotes good digestion. While fibre is not digestible by dogs, cats or humans, it can still provide many benefits for a healthy digestive tract. Probiotic fibres help support the microbiome, and keeping an optimal balance of these microorganisms is a key part of a healthy gastrointestinal tract.


These macronutrients, as well as vitamins and minerals, are obtained from food and are essential to health and survival. A variety of different ingredients can help meet these nutrient needs, which will provide a complete and balanced diet.


We can think of ingredients and nutrients like a puzzle. We know that a complete and balanced food will provide a finished puzzle, with all the necessary nutrients our dogs need. Let's imagine our puzzle is of a forest landscape. If we chose to only build the trees, we may be getting a large part of the puzzle, but it is unlikely we will be completing the entire picture. What about the sky? The grass? The rocks? Likewise, if we select a diet because it contains blueberries, an ingredient we know is healthy and we've heard provides nutritional benefits, this does not tell us whether the diet is providing the complete nutrition our dogs need to live healthy lives.


Now, that doesn't mean that the ingredients used in our pet's food does not matter. The ingredients need to provide the specific nutrients necessary for that diet to create that completed puzzle. Beyond that, there are a variety of factors that can affect the quality of ingredients. Plant-based ingredients can be affected by the seed variety, climate and soil quality. For animal-based ingredients, the species and health of the animal can play a role. Raw ingredient selection should take into consideration the variation that can occur, and how this may affect the nutrients provided.

Raw ingredients can also be affected by how they are stored prior to use. Temperature, moisture and oxygen levels are just a few of the things that need to be considered with storage. Improperly stored ingredients could develop mold and bacteria or could become infested with pests.


Finally, how ingredients are processed is also important. For example, fine grinding of ingredients prior to cooking can increase the digestibility of many ingredients. Proper cooking is important to remove any potential microbial contamination, and to ensure optimal digestibility of certain ingredients. Starch, which we know is important in kibble formation and structure, needs to be cooked properly for ideal digestion by dogs.


If you look back at your ingredient list on your pet food label, you'll likely notice there is nothing indicating the selection, storage and processing of those ingredients. These important features tie in directly to the manufacturer's quality and food safely protocols, and you'll need to contact the company directly to get this information. A good resource for questions to ask a pet food manufacturer comes from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Nutrition Committee.

Check out the 
Guidelines for Selecting Pet Foods. Additionally, your breeder or veterinarian may also be a good resource!

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