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What Is Animal Digest in Dog Food? Is It Good for My Dog? (Facts, & FAQ)

Melissa Gunter

By Melissa Gunter

woman feeding her dog

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Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

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Worrying about the ingredients inside your dog’s food is part of being a responsible pet owner. Anyone who loves a four-legged friend wants to make sure they have not only tasty grub in their bowl, but a portion of food they can trust. Due to these valid concerns, debates are often sparked over certain ingredients and whether they are good for our pets.

For example, if you type, “what is animal digest in dog food? Is it good for my dog?” into a search engine you’ll be bombarded with articles both in favor and against this dog food ingredient. It seems that this ingredient may not be as bad as most people think, but let’s learn more about it so you can understand exactly what you’re feeding your pet.

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What Is Animal Digest?

When trying to decipher information regarding ingredients in your pet food, it’s always best to turn to the experts. In this case, one of the experts is the AAFCO or Association of American Feed Control Officials. If you aren’t familiar with this entity, they are a non-profit organization that is tasked with setting the standards when it comes to pet food regulations. In layman’s terms, they’re the people who tell us what should be in our pet’s food.

Animal digest is defined by the AAFCO as, “material sourced from any species of slaughtered or non-slaughtered animal carcass or animal part that has been partially processed through chemicals and water–hydrolysis. Animal digest does not include hair, horn, or hoofs. Any animal species is allowed in this ingredient.”

Now, when looking at that definition, as a pet owner, the wheels in your head may start turning. Yes, it sounds a bit strange, but let’s break it down. The process used, hydrolysis, is where the term ‘digest’ comes from. Dog food companies use this method to basically digest unused portions of animals. It’s very similar to how food is digested in the stomach. The result is a liquid, although it can be made into a paste or powder, that they refer to as animal digest.

man buying pet food
Image Credit: LADO, Shutterstock

What Is Animal Digest Used For?

As you can most likely guess, due to being made from animals, animal digest is high in protein. When it comes to your dog food, protein is something that is in high demand. Animal digest is also quite tasty for your pet. Many pet food companies use animal digest as part of their ingredients in hopes of adding a little flavor to kibble. When this flavoring comes in the form of something that is also packed with protein, the company considers it a win.

pouring pet food in a bowl
Image Credit: Rawpixel.com, Shutterstock

Where Things Get Messy

As we’ve already mentioned, the animal digest in dog food is a topic of great debate. Why? There aren’t a lot of regulations on it currently. Many people worry about the type of protein being added to their pet’s food thanks to animal digest. With no actual regulations on this ingredient, it is up to the dog food manufacturer to show their customers they are using regulated meat sources and facilities to provide their pets with the best nutrients available.

The AAFCO themselves state, alongside their definition of animal digest, that this ingredient can be sourced from USDA-inspected and approved animal tissue, USDA-inspected and condemned animal tissue, or tissues from animals that haven’t received USDA inspection including animals that have died in the field or those that were euthanized. This means when it comes to animal digest, as consumers and pet lovers, we need to be extremely careful considering pet food manufacturers can add this product without USDA backing.

woman buying dog food
Image Credit: Caftor, Shutterstock

What You Can Do

Whether you want to feed your dog a brand of food that has animal digest in it or not, ensuring that you choose a trusted company is always important. Always check your ingredient labels. For the best results, look for animal digest that is sourced from USDA-inspected and approved tissue. This will give you peace of mind when it comes to this ingredient and ensure that your pet isn’t eating a product that is sourced from questionable practices and standards.

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Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, the controversy over animal digest isn’t going to end anytime soon. When created and added correctly, this ingredient can make your dog’s food tastier and offer an extra protein punch. The key is to only use brands that use USDA-inspected and approved sources. If you do this, your pooch will get tasty food they can enjoy while you can relax knowing you’ve given your dog the best option when it comes to what’s in its bowl.

Melissa Gunter

Authored by

Melissa was born and raised in the mountains of East Tennessee where she spent her time writing in an old notebook and playing outside with her pets. As an avid animal lover, she has brought many into her home over the years. Currently, she is the mom of 5 fur babies. Her 2 cats, Princess and Pepper are total opposites who demand attention. Her dogs Jazzy, Whitey, and Demon are full of spunk and keep the entire family on ...Read more

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