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What is the best main ingredient in dog food?

5 Essential dog food ingredients

Written by Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS is an expert veterinary working in the field for over 10 years after graduating from Bristol University. Andy fact checks and writes for Pure Pet Food while also working as a full time veterinarian. Pure Pet Food Pure Pet Food are the experts in healthy dog food and healthy dogs featured in media outlets such as BBC, Good Housekeeping and The Telegraph. Working with high profile veterinary professionals and nutritionists, Pure Pet Food are changing dog food for the better. — Our editorial process

We all know that a balanced diet is absolutely essential for staying fit and healthy, and it works the exact same way for our dogs. But even though we know what constitutes a healthy diet for humans, our canines have a totally different set of nutritional needs.

Plus, our dogs usually aren’t that fussy with what they gobble up (we’re looking at those pups who like to shove their head in the bin!) So, it’s up to us as responsible pooch parents to make sure we’re giving our dogs the right food that contains all the ingredients they need to thrive. Healthy food equals a healthy dog!

So, keep on reading and we’ll tell you all about what ingredients to look for in your dog’s food.

What are 5 essential dog food ingredients?

Here we’re going to list some of the most important ingredients that your dog needs in their food, but just keep in mind that every single pooch is unique, with their own set of dietary needs.

For example, dogs with ailments such as a sensitive stomach, diabetes, pancreatitis and others may need a different set of ingredients and nutrients to the average canine. That being said, we’re about to list 5 essential ingredients that all of our furry friends will need no matter what.


We all know that most pups will go barking mad for a delicious, succulent chunk of chicken, and rightfully so!

Meat is not just tasty, but it’s also absolutely fundamental to your pup’s diet. Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids, which help with many functions such as supporting your dog’s growth, tissue repair, energy, skin, coat and more.

Protein truly is an integral part of a complete and balanced doggy dinner, so it’s important that you’re looking for a dog food that contains a real meat source, rather than food where the meat is listed as ‘animal derivatives’, as this could be any of the bits and pieces from an unspecified animal, rather than high-quality meat from one specific animal.

Another thing to note when it comes to the meat in your dog’s food is to check that it’s the first ingredient listed on the back of the packet.

The first thing listed on the label will be the ingredient that’s included in the food in the highest quantity compared to the other ingredients, so it’s important that the meat source is listed first as this needs to make up the largest proportion of the food.


It can often be misconceived that carbs are a negative thing in your dog’s dinners, but this is only the case with low-quality, sugary simple carbohydrates.

Complex carbs such as brown rice can prove really beneficial, providing your pooch with slow-releasing energy that lasts throughout the entire day, rather than the sugar rush spike and dip that occurs from eating a simple carb.

Unless your dog has a sensitivity to grains, brown rice is an excellent choice of carb, providing fibre for good gut and digestive health. However, if your dog does have a grain allergy, there are plenty of other healthy ingredients that your dog can get their carbohydrate needs from.

Fruit and veg

Many people think our dogs are carnivores, as they evolved from wolves who lived out in the wild, surviving on whatever prey they could get their teeth into. However, after years of living domesticated by our sides, dogs actually thrive on an omnivorous diet.

So, this means your dog’s dinners are super beneficial when they’re made up of meat and lots of delicious fruit and veggies. Fruit and veg pack in a load of vitamins, minerals and fibre into your dog’s dinners, which have a whole host of functional health benefits.

From helping to support your dog’s immune system and overall wellbeing to helping keep their fur shiny and glossy, vibrant veggies and fruity additions can have a real benefit to your dog’s health.

And not only that, but they also pack a punch in terms of flavour, alongside adding a whole new texture to your dog’s meals, helping make mealtimes much more appetising.


Yep, you heard it right! Fat is actually a key ingredient in your dog’s food, it’s just important to get the right type of fat. There’s plenty of good, healthy fats that your pup should be eating, but there’s also unhealthy fats that can be damaging and lead to all sorts of problems like obesity and pancreatitis.

Good fats are absolutely fundamental in helping maintain your dog’s cells, nerves, muscles, body tissue, digestion, as well as providing your pup with much-needed energy. Fat is a concentrated energy source, and it’s used for energy before protein and carbs. Healthy fats also work to help your dog in absorbing essential fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K).

If you’re into your healthy eating, you’re probably aware of the importance of essential fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3. These are fats that your dog absolutely needs no matter what, but they can’t produce them themselves, so these fats must be supplied in your dog’s food.

Omega-6 works to increase inflammation, helps with blood clotting and supports cell growth, things that are all useful for healing purposes. Omega-3 on the other hand does the opposite, helping to reduce inflammation (as well as maintaining cognitive health and promoting a shiny coat and soft skin). So, it’s important that the two are balanced to keep everything ticking over.

Vitamins and minerals

There’s various vitamins and minerals that your dog needs to stay happy and healthy, and any ‘complete’ dog food should have every one of these already included. However, some dog foods will pack in more vitamins and minerals than others.

Vitamins and minerals can be found in all sorts of ingredients, such as fruit and veggies like blueberries, carrots and apples.

So, with the right combination of meat, carbs, fruit and veg, healthy fats and all the essential vitamins and minerals, you’re well on your way to providing a healthy diet for your dog.

But do ingredients matter in kibble?

Obviously, one of the main things to consider when you’re choosing your dog’s food is the ingredients it’s made up of, ensuring it’s packed with all of the above. However, the way these ingredients are processed makes a huge difference too.

No matter how high-quality and well-balanced the ingredients are, if they’re processed under extreme temperatures and shaped into kibble biscuits (this process is called extrusion), the nutritional value is damaged.

These high temperatures can kill vital nutrients, meaning that your dog is left with burnt brown biscuits that aren’t half as nutritious, despite the high-quality ingredients. That’s why it’s the best to get minimally-processed food that’s packed with nutrient-dense ingredients.

So, what’s the best dog food?

The best dog food should be made up of high-quality, natural ingredients and be subjected to a minimal amount of processing to retain all the goodness those ingredients hold. And although kibble is super convenient and usually inexpensive, the extrusion process has a severe detrimental impact on the nutritional quality of the food.

You might think that cooking your dog’s meals up at home is the best way to do things because you know exactly what you’re putting into the food, as long as you include all the ingredients listed above, but this isn’t always the case. It’s almost impossible to balance all the ingredients and nutrients perfectly to your canine’s exact needs, it’s extremely expensive and it’ll be a real hassle slaving away over the hob cooking up your dog’s dinners every single day!

Raw feeding is also great, but it can often lack the extra ingredients like fruit, veggies and carbs, which provide your dog with a load of extra goodness. It’s also extremely inconvenient to store and feed, as well as carrying dangerous bacteria, posing a potential risk to both humans and hounds.

So, what is the best food for your dog? Well, it needs to be minimally-processed and packed with all the nutritious, delicious ingredients your dog needs to thrive.

That’s where Pure comes in. It’s made up of only the best, natural ingredients like real meat, fruit, veggies and a load of vitamins and minerals to give your dog perfectly balanced nutrition.

Here at Pure, we don’t subject our ingredients to extreme heat, we just carefully remove the moisture from them under a low, gentle heat, which naturally preserves the food, removing the need for artificial preservatives, and locks in all the goodness from the ingredients. It’s healthy, tasty and convenient, never compromising on its nutritional quality.

We also know that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to our furry friends, which is why we tailor every recipe and our ingredients to suit your dog’s dietary needs. We take into account your dog’s breed, age, weight, allergies, ailments and activities, so we know that we’re giving your dog the best food for what they need.

What are the Best Ingredients for Dog Food?

fresh ingredients for raw dog food diet

When it comes to ingredients, you’ve probably heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” But what does that mean for our four-legged best friends? Well, we’ve come a long way when it comes to understanding canine nutrition over the past few decades. And like our diets, your dog’s diet is vital to their overall health and wellbeing . So, if you’ve been wondering if your dog’s diet is nutritious, delicious, and filled with the best ingredients for dogs, we have the answers you’re looking for. When it comes to the best ingredient for dog food, look for these on the ingredient list:

Meat, Meat, and More Meat!

flatlay of meats and proteins including chicken beef salmon lamb

Our dogs eat meat and high-quality meats cannot be beat. The best dog foods will always have meat as the top ingredient, and you should look for recipes that emphasize real animal proteins, rather than just meat meals. Because your dog’s food should have more meat than any other ingredient , it’s vital to choose a meat source that will benefit your dog’s health.

1. Kangaroo

This is often a preferred meat choice for dogs since dogs love its flavour, it is low in fat while being high in protein, and it is rich in vitamins and minerals. Because kangaroo is free-range, their meat is packed with micronutrients and an ethical alternative to other proteins . Dogs with allergies often thrive on this novel meat.

2. Beef

Beef is a high-protein option that is rich in iron and B vitamins. Most dogs go crazy for the rich meaty flavour of beef. Opt for pasture-raised beef if you can, since the meat will have a higher nutritional value, and avoid beef sources that use antibiotics and other chemicals.

3. Chicken

When it comes to commercial dog food, you’ll find chicken is overwhelmingly the most common meat. Does this make chicken the best ingredient for your dog’s food? Not necessarily. It all depends on the quality and source of the chicken. Free-range chicken sources have a higher nutritional value due to the diversity in their diet and higher levels of vitamin D because they get to enjoy natural sunlight.

4. Rabbit

Rabbit is low in fat and high in nutrition (similar to kangaroo). This meat is high in protein and can promote a healthier immune system for dogs. Because rabbit is less common than other meats, it’s an excellent alternative for dogs with dietary intolerances and restrictions.

5. Salmon

Wild-caught salmon is a safe and delectable meat source that dogs adore. This protein source is rich in Omega fatty acids, high in B12, and selenium. Salmon can boost your dog’s skin health and joint health.

Carbohydrates and Fiber

carbohydrates and fiber ingredients flatlay

Carbs may seem like an odd choice for dogs, but they’re not. Carbohydrates along with fibre are found in fruits, vegetables, and grains, and these ingredients give your dog the energy to enjoy life. But not all carbohydrate sources are created the same. When choosing your dog’s food, be sure to avoid low-quality carbs like corn and soy. Instead, opt for one of these excellent sources of canine-energy and health:

1. Carrots

These orange root veggies are rich in fibre, Vitamin A, and beta-carotene. This natural source of energy supports your dog’s eye health, immune system, skin and coat, along with a healthy digestive tract. Not only are carrots highly beneficial, but dogs find them irresistible.

2. Brocolli

Raw or cooked, broccoli provides pups with a blast of low-fat fibre and Vitamin C. This green veggie is also loaded with Vitamin K, calcium, and potassium and supports strong, healthy bones. It is also a great ingredient to improve your dog’s digestion.

3. Blueberries

You’re not the only one that loves these tasty berries. Dogs enjoy blueberries, and it’s a good thing they do. Blueberries are a wonderful source of antioxidants, fibre, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K. These work to support your dog’s brain function and prevent an upset tummy.

4. Peas

Green peas are a small but mighty ingredient. These itty bitty legumes are a great source of protein, fibre, and vitamins. Peas provide your dog with vitamins A, B, C, and K. They also have folate, thiamin, and manganese.

5. Lentils

While lentils may not come to mind when you think of your dog’s diet, they should. This highly beneficial ingredient can be linked to lower cholesterol for dogs and increased weight loss. They’re also a wonderful way to increase your dog’s intake of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, and B vitamins.

Healthy Fats

selection of healthy fats and oils avocado salmon nuts

Don’t be afraid of the word “fat.” Healthy fats are highly beneficial for dogs . In addition to the fats found in the meat in your dog’s diet, you can also increase your dog’s intake of healthy fats with a spoonful of:

  • Sunflower oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Fish oil
  • Coconut oil

Vitamins and Minerals

flatlay of ingredients high in vitamins and minerals

These seem like a no-brainer, right? But getting the balance of vitamins and minerals for your dog can be quite the challenge. Most of your dog’s vitamins and minerals will come from fruits and vegetables, but better quality dog foods will also incorporate them into their recipes. Which vitamins does your dog need to thrive?

  • Vitamin A
  • B Vitamins
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Choline
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus

Herbs and Spices

different herbs and spices flatlay in spoons

You may be thinking that your dog doesn’t care about spices and herbs in their food, but they do. Not only do these ingredients make your dog’s dinner taste better, but these ingredients provide dogs with well-rounded nutrition . What herbs and spices will your dog benefit from?

Beneficial Herbs and Spices for Dogs:

  • Rosemary has antimicrobial properties, and it contains antioxidants to reduce the risk of cancer while boosting heart health. It is also calming for your dog’s digestive system and can improve mood and memory.
  • Parsley is an anti-inflammatory ingredient that improves urinary health and is rich in antioxidants.
  • Basil is antibacterial and fights free radicals. It also lowers the risk of diabetes while reducing pain and inflammation.
  • Oregano smells terrific and contains polyphenols that fight cancer. Oregano also improves digestive health and knocks out free radicals. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory herb.
  • Tumeric has been a holistic choice for natural pain relief in joints for centuries. This tasty spice also improves brain function.
  • Ginger is a zingy ingredient and is a great way to calm your dog’s stomach and improve cognitive function. It also reduces joint pain and helps balance your dog’s blood sugar.
  • Cinnamon can help your dog’s body combat heart disease and regulate blood sugar levels.

Your Dog Deserves the Best Ingredients In Their Dog Food

When it comes to your dog’s diet, don’t skimp on quality. Your dog’s food is key to their overall health, happiness, and wellbeing. Providing your dog with the best is as simple as reading the ingredient list and selecting a food that is worthy of your dog.

Looking for an affordable way to provide your dog with wholesome ingredients without any unnecessary additives and fillers? We have what you’re looking for. Learn more about Petzyo’s Kibble That Counts!

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