5 Essential dog food ingredients

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Written by Dr Andrew Miller MRCVSDr 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 FoodPure 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.