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19 January 2023


The 7 Best Dog Food Ingredients to Look For

With all the choices available, it can be difficult to pick the best food for your pup. Understanding the best ingredients to look for can help you select a nutritious, well-balanced diet.

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Feeding a nutritious, well-balanced diet is paramount to your dog’s health, but dog food options are plentiful and can be overwhelming when you are searching for the best food for your pup. Some owners opt to prepare homemade foods for their dog, but recipes posted on the internet often lack the appropriate nutrient composition, which can lead to significant health complications such as skeletal abnormalities, thiamine deficiency, electrolyte abnormalities, and heart problems.1 When evaluating a particular diet for your dog, ensure you read the label to determine if healthy ingredients are included. A complete and balanced diet contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals in the correct proportions. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a private nonprofit organization that ensures dog food products undergo rigorous analysis and have the necessary nutrients. Every Ollie dog food recipe meets established AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life Stages nutritional levels, but you may be wondering what the best dog food ingredients are. Keep reading to learn what ingredients you should look for on your dog’s food package label.

Healthy dog food ingredients

Your dog’s body uses foods’ nutrients as energy to perform metabolic functions necessary for maintenance and growth. The six essential nutrients are water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, but not all nutrients are created equal. The best dog food ingredients include:

1. Meat

Essential for growth, maintenance, reproduction, and repair, proteins provide the basic building blocks for cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones, and immune cells. While protein can be obtained from several sources, high-quality animal-based protein sources—such as beef, lamb, chicken, and turkey—have the highest essential amino acid amounts, providing the best nutritional value for your pup.2 As their first ingredient, all Ollie’s fresh recipes contain a high-quality animal protein source.

2. Organ meat

When a wild carnivore eats a prey animal, they consume more than the meat. They also ingest the animal’s organs, which provide an array of nutrients. These superfoods include:

  • Liver — The liver provides a whole-food source for the important fat-soluble A, D, E, and K vitamins.  
  • Heart — Heart tissue is high in taurine, an amino acid that is vital to proper heart function. In addition, the heart is an excellent food source for CoQ10, an enzyme important for energy balance and preventing oxidative stress. Heart tissue also contains iron, zinc, selenium, and B vitamins.
  • Kidney — Kidneys are incredibly nutrient-dense, containing protein and folate.

Organ meats are important Ollie recipe ingredients. The beef recipe contains beef heart, kidney, and liver. The chicken recipe contains tasty gizzards and liver. The turkey recipe contains turkey liver, and the lamb recipe contains lamb liver. 

3. Carbohydrates

Unlike cats, dogs are not strict carnivores, and they can derive nutrients from grains, fruits, and vegetables—non-meat ingredients that can be valuable essential vitamin, mineral, and fiber sources.3 Ollie provides high-quality carbohydrates—such as pumpkin, squash, kale, rice, and berries—appropriate for your dog’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

4. Healthy fats

Fats are concentrated nutrients that provide more than twice the amount of energy as carbohydrates and proteins. These healthy dog food ingredients also help your dog feel satiated after a meal. Fats used in dog food should be easily digestible and come from a high-quality source.2 Your dog’s food should contain these two main fat types:

  • Omega-6 fatty acids — Omega-6 fatty acids are in animal and poultry fat, and sunflower and coconut oils.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids — Omega-3 fatty acids are in flaxseed, canola, and fish oils

5. Fiber

Fiber is an important dog food ingredient to help maintain a dog’s GI function and health. Total dietary fiber includes2:

  • Soluble fiber — Soluble fiber retains water and helps prevent constipation. Common sources include fruits, such as blueberries and cranberries, and polysaccharides in seeds and plants. Many soluble fibers are fermentable and promote dogs’ normal gut bacteria.
  • Insoluble fiber — Insoluble fibers, which come from grains, increase fecal bulk. 

6. Vitamins and minerals

High-quality dog food should contain vitamins A, D, E, K, and B vitamins, choline, and trace minerals such as zinc gluconate, ferrous sulfate (iron), and manganese sulfate. If your dog’s food is complete and balanced, you don’t need to add vitamins or mineral supplements unless your veterinarian prescribes them.

7. Superfoods

Superfoods are healthy dog food ingredients that are rich in compounds such as antioxidants, fiber, and fatty acids. Examples include chia seeds, blueberries, pumpkin, and kale, all of which are in Ollie’s fresh recipes.

Dog food ingredients to avoid

Typical kibble often contains unsatisfactory ingredients that are unhealthy for your dog. Some dog food ingredients to avoid include4:

  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) — BHA is a chemical preservative added to fats and oils. The U.S. Department of Agriculture allows BHA use in small quantities, but the ingredient can adversely affect your dog’s kidneys and liver. 
  • Melamine — Melamine is typically used as a filler ingredient to reach a dog food’s required protein content, but the substance is a plastic that contains nitrogen and can cause kidney failure.
  • Meat meal — Meat meal is produced by rendering leftover meat scraps to remove the fat. The process is not quality controlled, and the leftover meat scraps may be expired or infected. In addition, this ingredient typically contains little nutritional value. 
  • Corn syrup — Corn syrup is a concentrated sweetener that is often used as a cheap flavoring in dog treats and food. The ingredient has a high glycemic index, which can cause your dog’s blood sugar to rise abruptly. Foods that contain corn syrup put your pup at risk for diabetes and obesity. 

Reading the label on your dog’s food packaging is the best way to know what they are eating. Here at Ollie, we only use the best dog food ingredients in our recipes to ensure your pup receives exceptional nutrition. The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com


  1. https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2022/03/TVP-2019-0506_Fresh_Diets.pdf

2. https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/evr_dg_whats_in_a_balanced_dog_food

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9291198/


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