Pet Food

Glossary of pet food ingredients

Glossary of Dog Food Ingredients“To be of use in this world is the only way to be happy."

...Hans Christian Anderson

“Speak up for the animals who can’t speak for themselves.”

Please get involved.

Below are definitions of the most commonly used phrases that describe the ingredients in dog food.  

BEEF: meat unfit for human consumption. This may consist of diseased material or meat containing high levels of drugs, heavy metals, or pesticides.

LIVER: source of the liver is not stated. Unfit for human consumption, liver used in pet food can be diseased and riddled with liver flukes.

MEAT: ( e.g., lamb beef, chicken) - Meat is the clean flesh derived from slaughtered mammals and is limited to the part of the striate muscle which is skeletal of that which is found in the tongue, in the diaphragm, in the heart, or in the esophagus; with or without that accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels.

CHICKEN: animals deemed unfit for human consumption. These may be chickens that have died from disease of have been found to contain excess levels of drugs or hormones.

POULTRY- poultry is the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone.

POULTRY LIVER (ENZYMATIC) HYDROLYSATE: liver of poultry, unfit for human consumption. It is subjected to acid hydrolysis.

DRIED WHOLE EGGS: this can be broken eggs, rejects from hatchery operations or eggs unfit for human consumption.

FISH: Heads, fins, tail, skin, bones, and viscera. As this is not the whole fish it does not contain many of the fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, or omega-3 fatty acids.

MEAL-Though the meat has been cooked, dried, and ground, it’s still meat, and has not had any added blood hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. Anything less than “Meal” is not fit for dogs.

MEAT MEAL (e.g. lamb meal, beef meal)-Meat Meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. Need not state what animal; any mammal can be used.

Poultry Meal is the cry rendered products derived from a combination of clean flesh and skin with or with out accompanying bone.

FISH MEAL is dried ground tissue of fish. As this is not the entire fish, it does not contain many of the fat-soluble vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids or minerals.

LAMB MEAL, BEEF MEAL OR CHICKEN MEAL is the rendered product of those meats. Though the meat has been cooked, dried, and ground, it’s still meat, and has not had any added blood hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.

MEAT AND BONE MEAL is the same product as above, but with the addition of bone. The percentage of meat to bone included is not stated.

BY-PRODUCTS-When you get to by-products you’ve really departed from a product of any quality. These are the things other than the meaty muscle tissue. This in reality is a deadly mixture of contaminated animal heads, toenails, bones, pus, intestines, chicken feathers, stomachs, hair and lungs.

MEAT BY-PRODUCTS - Meat by products is the non rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines.

POULTRY BY-PRODUCTS - Poultry by products must consist of non rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera.

POULTRY BY-PRODUCTS MEAL- Poultry by products meal consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines, birds that are condemned for human consumption, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.

ANIMAL BY-PRODUCTS MEAL - Animal by products meal is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents. This ingredient definition is intended to cover those individual rendered animal tissue products that cannot meet the criteria as set forth elsewhere in this section.

"Digest" is the worst of all. Digest is a by-product which has been treated with heat and water to create a slurry.

Poultry Digest: material that results from chemical or enzymatic hydrolysis of poultry tissue.

When it comes to meat, in general, the more specific the ingredient description, the better the quality is. Chicken is better than poultry. And, in turn, “chicken meal” is better than “chicken by-products”, which is better than “chicken digest,”which is better than “Animal digest”.

If a label says it is “Beef dog food,” it must be at least 95 percent beef, minus the water required for processing. If a label identifies the product as a “Beef dinner platter,” “Entree,” or “Formula”, beef must comprise anywhere from 25 to 94 percent of the ingredients. If the dinner is a “Combination of meats” (i.e. ”lamb & rice dinner”), the lamb and rice combined must comprise at least 25 percent of the content.

SATURATED FATS such as those found in meat, poultry and dairy products may contribute to cancer and heart disease.

MONOUNSATURATED FATS such as canola oil are beneficial in the management of blood cholesterol.

POLYUNSATURATED FATS such as flax seed and fish oils contain omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids which help maintain the fluidity of cell membranes and fight diseases such as cancer.

ANIMAL FAT PRESERVED WITH BHA: from tissue of animals or poultry extracted in the rendering process. Devoid of free fatty acids.

POULTRY FAT: (preserved with BHA): obtained from the tissue of rendered poultry. Devoid of free fatty acids.

SUNFLOWER OIL: Obtained by extracting the oil from sunflower seeds; loaded with Omega 6. If heated it is changed to toxic derivatives and can contribute to tumor formations.

SAFFLOWER OIL: loaded with Omega 6; if heated it is changed to toxic derivatives.

SOYBEAN OIL: loaded with Omega 6; if heated it is changed to toxic derivatives.

CORN OILS: If heated it is changed to toxic derivatives.

FLAXSEED OIL: Obtained by extracting the oil from flaxseeds; they stimulates the immune system, helps absorb calcium and has anti-tumor properties, anti-oxidant, helps with diabetic conditions, and lowers triglycerides and cholesterol...

VEGETABLE OIL:  nonspecific as to the type of oil.

GRAPESEED OIL: A rich oil in Vit. E and loaded with Omega 6 and (linoleic) fatty acids.

DIGESTIVE ENZYMES/PROBIOTICS:  (microbial inoculants) To facilitate good health, live digestive plant enzymes assist your pet’s digestion and absorption of essential nutrients; they control harmful bacteria.  Dried streptococcus, faccium fermentation product, dried lactobacillus, Acidophilus Fermentation product, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation product, Dried Saccharomyces cervisiae permentation product .

ANTIOXIDANTS: Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin C.

AMARANTH: (A grain from Central America) - called “the grain of the future” by nutritionist.  This grain is used for stamina and endurance. Amaranth has a relatively high mineral, fat and protein content and its well balanced amino acid profile make it a desirable protein source.

MILLET: A nutritious, ancient grain, thought to be one of the first ever cereal grains used for domestic purposes. Millet is renowned for being a “soothing”, non-allergenic and easily digestible grain.

BARLEY: A wholesome grain, which helps to keep the arteries clear. Barley is recognized as one of the most  readily assimilated grains for dogs and is commonly recommended for dogs with joint problems or allergies.

BROWN RICE : Brown rice has a rich source of B-Vitamins. Rice bran has an important part of the whole grain, which has cancer and heart disease fighting properties.

OMEGA 3 & 6:  The correct ratio of the Omega 3 to Omega 6 essential fatty acids is 1-to-4. Flaxseed and canola oils are balanced and provide the Omega 3’s necessary for health.

YUCCA: breaks down food particles into smaller pieces in the intestines to give better absorption of the nutrients and make the stools smell less. Good for arthritis, bone and joint problems, any soft-tissue swelling.

BRAN: bran contains the B vitamins, Its fiber helps keep the intestines clean, good for the heart and helps to protect against cancer.

FLAX MEAL: compounds that are extremely protective against cancer. improve nerve function and prevent diabetic nerve disease.

BLUEBERRIES (Vaccinium myrtillus) renowned for their ability to improve vision and protect the sensitive mechanisms in the retina. Inhibits bacteria such as E. Coli to adhere to the urethra and bladder wall.

Soybean is the #1 allergy of dogs, wheat is the #2 and corn is #3. The dog may scratch at the base of  his tail & lick his feet, although no fleas are seen. CORN is the #3 allergy of dogs.

GROUND CORN: ground or chopped corn is a good source of carbohydrates. And, because it contains the entire kernel, it contributes additional protein, corn oil, corn bran, vitamins and minerals to the diet.  According to the AAFCO, must not contain more than 4 percent foreign matter.

CORN FLOUR is the fine-size hard flinty portions of ground corn containing little or none of  the bran or germ.

CORN BRAN is the outer coating of the corn kernel, with little or none of the starchy part of the germ.

CORN GLUTEN MEAL is the dried residue from corn after the removal of the larger part of the starch, bran and germ. No nutritional value.

WHEAT is the #2 allergy of dogs. WHEAT is a constituent found in many pet foods. Again the AAFCO gives descriptive terms for wheat products:

WHEAT FLOUR consists principally of wheat flour together with fine particles of wheat bran, wheat germ, and the offal from the “tail of the mill.”  Tail of the mill in nothing more then the sweepings of leftovers after everything has been processed from the week.

GROUND WHEAT:  same as wheat flour only a courser grind.

WHEAT GERM MEAL consists chiefly of wheat germ together with some bran and middling or shorts.

WHEAT MIDDLING and shorts are also categorized as the fine particles of wheat germ, bran flour and offal from the “tail of the mill.”

WHEAT MILL RUN/MIDDLINGS/MIDS: consists of coarse and fine particles of wheat bran, wheat shorts, the waste from the tail of the mill from commercial flour milling.

GROUND BROWN RICE: the entire product obtained in grinding the rice kernels after the hulls have been removed. A very high quality source of carbohydrates and natural fiber.

GROUND RICE: The dehulled rice kernel, without the pericarp, ground or chopped.  A very high quality source of carbohydrates,  The most digestible grain for pet foods.  also considered to be relatively hypo-allergenic.

RICE: nonspecific as to the form of this rice, i.e., rice flour, rice bran, rice hulls, chipped and broken rice of rice polishings.

WHITE RICE:  is useless and is missing 75% of its nutrients, especially the B vitamins.

BREWER’S RICE: rice sections that have been discarded from the human food manufacturing of wort or beer, which contain pulverized, dried, spent hops. It is the broken grain of the white rice missing nutrients.  It used to be swept out. Now it is dumped into dog food.  Little, if any, nutritional value but better than rice flour..

RICE FLOUR; This is a very highly preprocessed ingredient.  all the naturally occurring vitamins have been leeched out of this ingredient. Very low nutrition value.

SOYBEAN is the #1 allergy of dogs. SOY FLOUR: Powdered material from screened and graded product after removal, by a mechanical or solvent extraction process, of most of the oil from selected and dehulled soybeans.  Removing this oil reduces the essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamin content.

VEGETABLE FIBER: Ground up corn husks, peanut shells and sawdust.

PEANUT HULLS: the outer hull of the peanut shell used for a filler; this has no nutritional value whatsover.  there are concerns regarding the level of residual fungicides that soak into the peanut hulls as they are grown.


GUAR GUM: mucilage (glue). Used as a stabilizer.

BEET SUGAR: is the dried residue from the sugar beet..

BEEF PULP:  (saponins) may irritate and even inflame the intestinal tract causing a range of gastrointestinal disorders up to and including death.

SOYBEAN MEAL is the product obtained by grinding the flakes that remain after the removal of most of the oil from soybeans by a solvent extraction process.

POWDERED CELLULOSE is purified, mechanically disintegrated cellulose prepared by processing alpha cellulose obtained as a pulp from fibrous plant material. In other words, sawdust.

SPRAY DRIED WHEY:  dried by spraying on the surface of a heated drum. High in lactose.

SUGAR FOODS BY-PRODUCTS result from the grinding and mixing of inedible portions derived from the preparation and packaging of sugar based food products such as candy, dry packaged drinks, dried gelatin mixes, and similar food products that are largely composed of sugar. SUGARS: as in beet pulp, cane molasses, corn oil and in white rice bran  require almost no digestion.  Sugar may contribute to chronic ear infections, diabetes and pancreas problems. They are rapidly absorbed into the blood stream, flooding it; Insulin is secreted by the pancreas to take up the excess. Eventually, the overloaded pancreas breaks down. SALT: may contribute to heart and blood pressure problems.

GROUND ALMOND AND PEANUT SHELLS are used as another source of fiber; they have no nutritional value..

BREWER’S DRIED YEAST: dried residue from the brewing industry. Cooked yeast fractions that the brewers cannot use. A rich source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

IRON PROTEINATE, FERROUS CARBONATE, AND FERROUS SULFATE are minerals that are necessary for the production of hemoglobin. Deficiencies will manifest themselves as anemia and fatigue. Ferrous sulfate can deplete the vitamin # which many “natural” pet foods use as preservatives.

COPPER OXIDE, COPPER PROTEINATE, AND COPPER SULFATE minerals that are necessary for converting the iron into hemoglobin.

MONOSODIUM PHOSPHATE: emulsifying agent.

CHOLINE CHLORIDE: member of the B complex.

DI-METHIONINE: an amino acid.

POTASSIUM CHLORIDE: mineral. Potassium salt of hydrochloric acid.

ASCORBIC ACID: Vitamin C. used as a preservative.  The potency of vitamin C is completely dissipated within 12 hours after the manufacturer opens the bag.  Not only does heat destroy Vitamin C, but light destroys it also. Vitamin C containers are dark brown or opaque white to keep the light out.

ETHOXYQUIN: a preservative.

ZINC OXIDE: mineral.

ZINC SULFATE: mineral.

MANGANESE SULFATE: manganese salt of sulfuric acid.

MANGANESE OXIDE: mineral. Oxide form of manganese.

BIOTIN: Vitamin H


VITAMIN A ACETATE: water-dispersible source of vitamin A.

CALCIUM IODATE: mineral. Calcium salt of iodic acid (iodine)



VITAMIN B12: supplement.

NIACIN: Vitamin B6.


MENADIONE DIMETHYLPRIMIDINOL BISULFITE: source of Vitamin K, classified as “commercial feed grade vitamin.”.







VITAMIN D3:  from animal origin.

POTASSIUM IODIDE: potassium salt of iodic acid (iodine).

POTASSIUM CHLORIDE: mineral. Potassium salt of hydrochloric acid.

FOLIC ACID: Vitamin B9.

SODIUM SELENITE: mineral. Sodium salt of sulfuric acid.

CELLULOSE: a pulp from fibrous plant. Also has been described as sawdust.


VITAMIN E ACETATE: water-dispersible source of Vitamin E.

VITAMIN E: used as a preservative, but works for only one month after manufacture date; heating up Vitamin E changes it from the CIS form which is helpful, to the TRANS form which is harmful and may cause tumors to form.

VITAMIN D3: D-activated animal sterol.

TAURINE:  amino acid.


NATURAL FLAVOR: no nutritional value.

BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) this poorly tested preservative is implicated by some scientists as a cause of liver damage, metabolic stress, fetal abnormalities and serum cholesterol increase.

ETHOXYQUIN: originally developed for use in the production of rubber, this common preservative is among the compounds most suspect as causes of severe health problems in dogs.  The makers of ethoxyquin state that it is a hazardous chemical, it may cause skin problems, eye problems, and problems in the kidneys and liver.  In addition, there may be a reduction in the survival of the offspring. The law says that if a manufacturer puts ethoxyquin in the dog food, they have to list it in the ingredients.  But if it’s in the animal/poultry fat when he buys it, he doesn’t have to list it. “No ethoxyquin added.” That doesn’t mean that there is no ethoxyquin in their fats or oils - it only means that they have not added any to the product.

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) This preservative is known to cause liver and kidney dysfunction.

PROPYLENE GLYCOL ( a first cousin to anti freeze)  This compound causes the fatal destruction of red blood cells.  This compound is used to maintain the right texture and moisture and to tie up the water content, thus inhibiting bacterial growth, it is added to some “chewy” foods to keep them moist.

POTASSIUM SORBATE. This preservative is known to cause liver and kidney dysfunction. This is a commonly used preservative chemically similar to fat.

AMMONIATED GLYCYRRHIZIN Add this to the list of sweeteners. It is also considered a potent drug that should be tested further for safety.

PROPYL GALLATE. Manufactures add this chemical to retard spoilage, but it is suspected of causing liver damage.

SODIUM NITRITE. This compound is widely used as both a preservative and a red coloring agent. Sodium nitrite used in food can produce powerful carcinogenic substances known as nitrosamines.

ARTIFICIAL COLORS: Red no. 3 Red no. 40 ( a possible carcinogen) Yellow no. 5 Yellow no. 6 Blue no. 1 Blue no. 2 (shown in studies to increase dogs’ sensitivities to fatal viruses)

ARTIFICIAL FLAVORINGS or synthetic flavorings are called safe with little or no testing.

SWEETENERS including corn syrup, sucrose, and ammoniated glycyrrhizin, added to attract dogs to unappealing food.

SYNTHETIC VITAMINS AND MINERAL COMPOUNDS:  pyridoxine hydrochloride, calcium pantothenate, iron carbonate, potassium chloride and manganose oxide.

DISODIUM GUANYLATE: a flavoring commonly used in instant soups.

Recommended Reading:

Food Pets Die for: Shocking Facts About Pet Food

NEW EDITION Food Pets Die for: Shocking Facts About Pet Food

By Ann N. Martin, foreword by Shawn Messonnier, DVM

Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats

Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats

By Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D. & Susan Hubble Pitcairn

Give Your Dog a Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs

Give Your Dog a Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs

By Dr Ian Billinghurst, B.V.SC, B.Sc.Agr., Dip. Ed.