Nutrition 101 - Understanding Your Dog Food

Nutrition is the act of providing the body with everything it needs to grow, repair itself and stay completely healthy in all life stages.

Nutrition is made up of nutrients that do many different jobs as they enter the body. To run perfectly the body must receive every nutrient that it needs.

The body can run without every essential nutrient for many years, however if this happens, the body will show signs of illness and other health issues later on in life.

This is why it's very important that even when dogs are young and strong, we must ensure the dog is provided optimum nutrition to ensure they stay healthy for the entirety of their lives. 

A great balanced nutritious diet can clear up many issues but also prevent many canine health problems ever appearing in the first place.

The first step to ensuring optimal nutrition for our dogs  is first understanding what is in the food we are giving them. 

I have compiled below a list of commonly used terms and ingredients in commercial dog food and their definitions to help you next time you are looking to buy dog food.

  • PURE MEAT - pure meat from a specific animal is described accurately. Beef, Chicken or similar are that. This type of ingredient is in more premium foods and will be accompanied with a preparation method such as “pure” or “fresh”.
  • DERIVATIVES - Means “derived from”. This term is more common than fresh meat. Chicken derivatives could refer to any part of the bird, inclusive of bones, beaks, feet, the ingredient is unspecified on purpose.
  • MEAT - This term means an unspecified mixture of meat types from varying animals. It is difficult to find any nutritional value with this type of description.
  • MEAT DERIVATIVES - A term used for unspecified parts of unspecified animals. This allows the manufacturer to be able to swap ingredients around whilst maintaining the ingredient list on the packaging.
  • MEAL - This is the word for ground bones and other areas of an animal. These are converted into a fine powder and added to pet foods. It is cheap and used as a bulking agent.
  • BONE MEAL - Ground up bones of unspecified animals, it is added to provide calcium. If listed unspecified it can lead to concerns around quality.
  • HYDROLYSED ANIMAL PROTEIN - Protein of an animal which has been broken down to its smallest form. This process prevents the immune system recognising the substance and means it can be sold as hypoallergenic food.
  • DAIRY PRODUCE - Added to some dog food/treats in order to make it more palatable. 
  • SUGAR BEET - It is a common fibre used in dog foods. The sugar is generally removed from beet sources and added to pet foods. There are currently conflicting opinions on the effect of this fibre source on our dogs.
  • FAT - Fat is necessary in the diet of our dogs. Manufacturers often spray animal fat onto finished kibble to make the food more palatable. Like other ingredients, if it is unspecified it is hard to distinguish true nutritional value.
  • VEGETABLES - Many vegetables appear in dog food. Similar to meat, they can be listed as derivatives which means from any source. If vegetables are pure, they will be clearly noted.
  • GRAINS - Until recently most dog foods have been heavy on wheat and grain ingredients. This is id due to them being used as cheap fillers to bulk out the food. Wheat is quite commonly avoided in foods now as some dogs can be reactive. Rice however, is still seen as mild enough to be a safe grain for dogs.
  • BOTANICALS + PLANTS - The addition of herbs, plants, botanicals is usually for health enhancement. 

With all the terms and marketing picking the best dog food can be quite confusing.  Generally I would say that the more transparent the ingredients and the less vague words like “meal or derivatives” the better the quality of the dog food/treats will be.

Here at DSC good nutrition is at the core of what we do. To see the wide selection of fantastic health products please go to the nutrition and wellness section on our website.

Shop now