Health & Nutrition

The Truth About Fillers in Dog Food

Dog Eating Kibble from Bowl

The conversation about fillers is everywhere on the internet. At every turn, there seems to be another list of ingredients in dog food that simply take up space – or worse, harm your dog. You want to provide the most nourishing food possible for your dog, and so do we. Let’s take a look at what dog food fillers are, what dog food fillers aren't, and put ingredients to the test.

What Are Fillers in Dog Food?

Dog food fillers can be hard to define and are often subject to trends. AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) doesn’t give a definition, and fillers aren’t recognized as “a thing” by the nutrition community. But dog food fillers are worth discussing.

Generally, the term “fillers” describes unhealthy ingredients in pet food that have little or no nutritional value, could have been replaced by higher quality alternatives, and aren't biologically appropriate for your dog. However, the ingredients typically thought of as dog food fillers (corn, wheat, soy, rice, etc.) don't actually fit this description. In fact, they provide essential protein, vitamins and minerals.

Detailed chart showing that quality ingredients should be safe for species, wholesome and nutritiousDetailed chart showing that quality ingredients should be safe for species, wholesome and nutritious

Nutritional Value vs. Empty Calories

Some don’t agree with using ingredients like corn gluten meal to "artificially boost" the protein level in a dog food. This can be misleading and ignores the scientifically proven ways that nutrition works for your dog. For example, corn gluten meal (the ground, milled protein from corn) is a concentrated form of protein. While this form of protein comes from a plant, a dog’s body uses protein – whether the protein comes from animals or plants – in the exact same way, so your dog gets the quality protein that the ingredient label promises. In fact, including plant-based protein in a dog’s diet actually helps complete all the amino acids they need to thrive, which wouldn’t be possible using animal-only protein sources.

Nutritional value doesn’t stop at protein. Corn goes even further beyond the label of a filler with all the benefits it provides – corn gluten meal is an efficient and affordable carbohydrate for energy, provides 3x the amount of protein as chicken, plus fatty acids for healthy skin, coat, and immune system, and a variety of vitamins and antioxidants. When ingredients like corn are ground and processed during the dog food manufacturing process, the carbohydrate inside is 99.4% digestible.

Veterinarians and animal nutritionists will tell you that looking at the ingredient label does NOT tell you everything you need to know about a dog food. There’s so much more involved in determining what a quality dog food is than just the ingredients.

When it comes to Just Right blends, they are carefully balanced by our nutritionist. Every ingredient and nutrient works together to provide your dog with a diet that is complete, balanced, and designed to support a happy and healthy life. If you'd like to exclude corn, wheat, and soy from your dog's personalized blend they can be.

Ready to create your dog’s ideal blend?