How Dog Food Is Made

Published: 20 Apr 2024
Ashley Marlton
Ashley Marlton
Dr. Marlton spent her first two years in practice working as a veterinary assistant at a 24-hour emergency care animal hospital in Michigan prior to moving to Miami. Following graduation, Dr. Marlton attended Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biochemical Sciences in Fort Collins while participating in volunteer spay neuter trips.
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Have you ever considered how the ingredients in your dog’s food are transformed into the different shapes and sizes of kibble? Or, are you curious about how your dog’s food is made tasty and nutritionally rich? Moreover, you might be keen to learn about the manufacturing process of your dog’s commercial food and wonder if this kibble is beneficial for your pet’s health.

No need to worry as this article provides you everything you want to know bout how dog food companies make tasty food for your furry companion.

History Of Dry Dog Food

Some experts claim that the origins of today’s dry dog foods can be traced baked to the early civilizations in Ancient Roman times, around 753 BC to 476 AD. This claim cannot be ruled out since it is quite plausible, considering the idea that agriculture plays a huge role in the progress of Ancient Rome, and dogs were of great use for guarding all the crops and herding livestock. Dogs were also great companions whenever they go hunting. Ideally, Romans should be feeding their dogs for them to perform their tasks.

Fast forward to the 1800s, dry dog food was first sold commercially in England but before the commercial wet or dry dog foods, dogs were fed mostly raw meat, table scraps, or sometimes other dogs. Pet food makers during that time use horse meats and pack them using cans. In 1860, Spratt’s Patent Meal Fibrine Dog Cakes became commercially available. However, it was until the end of World War II that dogs are fed with commercial dog food and became a norm. As time progressed, the pet food companies have devised ways to better improve their dog food product, addressing the issues that arise from pet owners’ complaints and suggestions.

Pet Food Is Made By Rendering Plants

What’s In Dry Dog Food

Pet food companies can’t just simply pinpoint and use any type of ingredients. Pet food labels face a long list of requirements the should be met to ensure safety on how dog food is made. The production of dog food is regulated from federal and state levels to ensure the safety of the dog foods that dog owners give to their pets. The U.S. Food and Drug https://www.wellpet.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/Featured-Image-Kyoto-Subways.jpgistration is involved with establishing rules for dog food brands, the definition of ingredients (including warnings for food allergies), as well as ingredient approvals.

Additionally, the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) implements state regulations that are relatively more strict than the federal rules implemented by the FDA. AAFCO acts as an overseer of the nutritional guarantees of the individual products together with the information at the back of the packaging. Both institutions regulate and define the standards on how dry dog food should be made. For a more detailed explanation visit dognerdz.com

The components used in dry dog food may vary depending on its price, nutritional value, purpose, and branding. Generally, dry dog food contains any and are not limited to the following:

  • Meat Meal made or meat by-products (chicken meal, lamb meal, )
  • Cereals and Grains (excluding grain-free kibble)
  • Corn Gluten Feed
  • Fruit & Veg (soybean meal, potatoes, carrots)
  • Preservatives
  • Stabilizers
  • Gelling Agents
  • Synthetic vitamins and minerals
  • fat, sweeteners, or concentrated flavors
How Kibble With Meat Broth Is Made In High Temperatures

In making high-quality dry dog food, high-quality ingredients must be used. Pet foods typically begin with a recipe of ingredients and every food is made different depending on the proprietary blend of ingredients established by the manufacturer themselves. generally speaking, quality products that promote balanced nutrition must contain essential vitamins and minerals, fat, carbohydrates, and protein sources.

Dry dog food differs depending on the life stages of the dog. Particularly senior pet food is made to contain naturally occurring glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. This is to meet the needed nutrients of your senior pet. Ingredients also differ depending on the dog breed size. For instance, small dogs need to have specific food formula that is slightly different from large breed formula.

Finally, ingredients vary whenever your dog has special needs. For example, the dogs that have difficulty eating may be given wet pet food that may contain other components absent in dry food. Likewise, dogs that need weight loss are given foods that are tailored for this need. Although some companies manufacture their own dry foods in their own plant, keep in mind that some brands do not make their own food. They usually sign a contract with other manufacturers to create the product and the packaging for them.

Placing Food In Extreme Pressure To Prolong Shelf Life

The Manufacturing Process

The process of how dog food is made involves several steps and can be very intricate. The most common methods used to produce dry dog food kibble include baking, extruding, and pelleting. These methods involve similar initial processes and differ in final pressing and cooking methods.

To give you an overview, here are the following steps that are involved in pet food processing generally used by put food manufacturers:

Assembling Raw Material

Gathering all raw materials that are needed for the entire process must be collected prior to the actual pet food production. The raw materials for dry pet food include fat, meat (meat meal or fresh meat), grains, bone meal, together with all the good stuff like essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. The concentrated vitamins and minerals typically come in large bags that weigh approximately 50 pounds while the other raw materials are brought to the factory in loads ranging between 10,000 to 40,000 pounds and are stored in various holding areas before the actual dog food manufacturing process begins.

Rendering The Meat

Rendering the meat involves the use of heat to separate meat solids from water and animal fat. Generally, the main component that undergoes rendering can vary from meat trimmings to euthanized pets. After being separated from the fat and water, it will now proceed to the grinding process to yield a meat meal.

Grinding And Pre-Cooking

After rendering the meat and procuring all the raw materials, Pet food manufacturers begin grinding them down to the correct particle size using the most common equipment for grinding material – a commercial hammer mill. The act of grinding not only renders the raw ingredients into the appropriate size but will also break down the ingredients in order for the nutrients to become readily available for your dog. The uniformity of the particle sizes is significant for the water absorption and later steps -like the cooking process.

Compounding And Mixing

After grinding all-natural ingredients, the next step before the extrusion process is compiling and mixing the ground raw materials using the appropriate rate. Typically, a large ribbon blender is used to mix the ground material in batches that can hold up to 2,000 pounds at a time. During compounding and mixing, no wet ingredients are involved.


Just like in making bread, the extrusion process involves the materials being mixed, proofed, kneaded, shaped, and sliced. Initially, a pre-conditioner is used to measure the dry mix and to combine it with the appropriate amounts of liquid ingredients to create a wet mix before putting it to the extruder. The Extruder is a barrel in a cylindrical shape having multiple segments and a large mobile screw that mixes and cooks the material before forcing it through a die and from there, it is cut into proper sizes.

Collecting Grain-Free Ingredients In Precise Amounts

This extrusion process faces a growing volume of critics that scrutinize the extremely high temperatures involved in the process as it may destroy all the nutrients in the dry food. On the other hand, some analysts see that dry food cooked during the extrusion process will be free from any parasites and will have improved digestibility. In spite of it all, there are other alternative cooking methods like baking that do not involve extreme temperatures and high pressure.

Drying And Cooling

After the extrusion, the kibble will contain moisture, making it soft and spongy. this step tries to achieve a dry kibble by slowly drying and cooling the dog food. This step is highly regulated because if the kibble is dried too quickly, it will break easily. Similarly, skipping the cooling process will lead to the development of condensation and molds due to raised moisture content.


This process is the final step through which dry dog foods undergo before packaging. During this stage, a powder of liquid is added to the surface of the kibble to improve the palatability and flavor of the final dry dog food.

Packaging And Labeling

After the tedious process of converting the raw ingredient into the final product (dry dog food kibble), it is now ready for packaging and labeling. Like the previous steps, pet food manufacturers usually use a packaging system to cut all manual packaging and labeling legwork.

Colorful Mixed Kibble With High-Quality Ingredients

Quality Control

The most important factor that all manufacturers make sure of is the safety and hygiene of the cooking method used for making the dry kibble. Unsanitary conditions, badly sourced ingredients, and poorly packed products can clearly define the quality of the dog kibble. Manufacturing with these types of conditions can cause contamination and may lead to sickness or fatality in dogs. Hence it is very important to follow certain safety regulations to restrict contamination.

Companies would be able to evade expensively and time-consuming recalls from customer complaints by ensuring that the safety and the health of the consumers come first in every step in the entire process of manufacturing the kibble dog food. Apart from following strict protocols and food safety guidelines that ensure a clean and pathogen-free kibble and treat, best practices can also be employed like using non-porous, stainless steel equipment, regular testing for bacterial contamination, and ensuring that ingredients are used meet the quality standards, and are delivered fresh. [1]

Grain-Free Dog Puffed Breakfast Cereals Great For Heart Disease

Frequently Asked Questions

What is dog food made up of?

Dog food is made up of nutrient-dense ingredients mixed with many vitamins and minerals to ensure its overall well-being and without any health problems. However, some low-quality dog foods contain cheap ingredients that add nothing to the overall nutritional value of the food.

How is dog food made of meat?

High-quality dog food is made of meat as this is generally recognized as an ideal animal protein source. The flesh products used in dog food recipe begins with a process that separates the flesh from fat and water. The flesh is then grounded to expose the nutrients and mixed with all other ingredients of the dry kibble.

Is there dog meat in dog food?

Yes, there may be dog meat in dog food. Food companies are not obliged to disclose information about where they source their meat ingredients. Some dog food is made from unspecified meat meals and meat by-products and this may include euthanized pets from the pet shelter. In support of this idea, some companies buy raw goods from facilities that process euthanized animals which means that some dog food is made out of meats that humans would not eat. This then could be a great motivation that you choose only the high-quality ingredients for your dog’s food.


Knowing all this information about the entire process – from raw ingredients to palatable dog food – will help you gain richer insights on how to choose the right kibble for your pup. Always make sure that the dog food manufacturer holds no record of recalls and is trusted by most of the other dog owners. You should also make sure that the manufacturers use only quality ingredients as the health of your dog is at stake.

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