10 Unusual Dog Food Ingredients

10 Unusual Dog Food Ingredients

Health & Safety

1. Nucleotides

Nucleotides sound like chemicals, but they are naturally derived from a special strain of nutritional yeast. Nucleotides are the building blocks of DNA and RNA, just as we know amino acids to be the building blocks of protein. Pet food companies use them because of their ability to enhance metabolic function. By increasing the surface area of the intestinal villi, they are able to allow nutrients to be absorbed very efficiently, and can facilitate more rapid cell replication is response to challenges such as allergens. Although nucleotides occur naturally in every cell, production is slow and energy is required for this. Animals who are suffering from metabolic stress will reap the greatest benefits from nucleotide supplementation be this as a result of illness, psychological stress (e.g. behavioural problems) or strenuous exercise.

2. Cranberry

Cranberry may aid in maintaining urinary tract health. It contains a sugar substance (D-mannose), which may prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to the mucosal walls. Cranberry also contains arbutin, which is effective against certain bacteria and fungi, including Candida. By limiting these harmful bacteria, conditions such as cystitis and bladder stones may be less likely to affect your pet. Cranberry’s antioxidant properties may also help to safeguard against the potentially harmful effects of free radicals. It also has antiviral properties.

3. Seaweed

Seaweeds such as kelp contain many phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. Seaweed is a very good natural source of iodine, which is an important trace mineral with many functions. Iodine is necessary for efficient cell respiration, nerve and muscle functioning, the growth and repair of tissues, and helps to promote healthy skin, hair, teeth, and nails. Pure seaweed is generally preferred over extracted products such as carrageenan which is more often used as a thickening agent rather than for any particular nutritional benefit.

4. Prebiotics

FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) are derived from the chicory plant. This type of prebiotic promotes the growth of beneficial intestinal flora, and helps to limit the growth of pathogenic bacteria. It may also aid in enhancing the immunity within the gastrointestinal tract and improve the utilisation of the nutrients.
MOS (manno-oligosaccharides) are derived from yeast. This prebiotic limits pathogenic bacterial development. It has a positive effect on nutrient digestibility, improves faecal quality and assists with natural immune defences.
Some owners are get prebiotics confused with probiotics which is understandable as they sound so similar. Put simply, prebiotics act as a “food source” for the probiotics, which are a dose of the friendly bowel flora themselves.

5. Feathers

Feathers are not an ingredient one would normally expect to find in dog food! The reason but they are now being used is because of their low molecular weight that reduces the risk of an allergic reaction to them. Basically the feathers are hydrolysed to reduce the protein molecules into such tiny fractions they can’t annoy the immune system (this process also improves their digestibility as untreated feathers are of a very low nutritional value).

Feathers are a very novel protein source that very few dogs will have eaten before (unless they are chicken thieves). Research has shown that although hydrolysed proteins do have a much lower allergenicity, a dog with a soya allergy for example is probably better off fed an alternative to soya protein rather than hydrolysed soya protein. Although the feathers are derived from poultry their protein structure is different to that of poultry meat protein so dogs with chicken allergies for example are unlikely to suffer an adverse reaction.

6. Insects

Insects are potentially another very novel protein source, which may be included in commercial dog food in the future. Many dog owners feed “exotic” protein sources (such as ostrich) by choice rather than necessity and this is limiting the availability of novel ingredients to feed in the event of a food allergy; hence the pet food industry looking at ways of broadening their horizons. At the moment, the PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association) in the UK are discussing only the use of insects in pig and poultry feed, and before processed insect protein production can become commercially viable, a lot more information needs to be gathered. Developments in the USA are further ahead, and with insects providing a good source of protein and insect farming being efficient and sustainable, it could not be long before you see this unusual concept in action.

7. MSM

MSM is short for methyl-sulphonyl-methane which is a naturally occurring form of organic sulphur derived from plant sources such as pine bark and kelp seaweed. pine bark. It may be used in conjunction with glucosamine and chondroitin in pet food, and has natural analgesic properties whereby it can block the pain perception in certain nerve fibres before the pain impulse reaches the brain (it should not however be used as a substitute for conventional analgesia). It is reported to enhance the structural integrity of connective tissue, and it may even fortify the body's natural barriers against allergens. In human studies, MSM has been reported to help alleviate the allergic response to pollen and dietary proteins and it may help to decrease allergic sinusitis symptoms by strengthening the integrity of the mucous membrane tissues.

8. Digest

Digest is actually a very common dry pet food ingredient, but it is can be met with suspicion is because earlier labelling legislation did not require it to be listed, so it’s not as familiar as it should be. All commercial dry feeds include digest of some kind, but some still don’t declare it as such (you may see it listed as “broth”, “meaty coating” or “gravy”. Digest is an ingredient that manufacturers spray over the kibble to ensure that it is palatable. Some websites and forums have described it as unnecessary / poor quality / dubious; but as with ALL ingredients, there are good and bad degrees of quality. Look for a specified source such as “chicken digest” or “lamb digest” which is an indicator of consistent quality (you won’t be getting different kinds of meat included according to availability, it will always be the same). Digests are generally made from hydrolysed protein, liver and fat. With the protein being hydrolysed (a special process that renders the protein into tiny fractions of a low molecular weight), it is a non-allergenic ingredient.

9. Marigold

Marigold can be found in some commercial dry dog food brands as it is a natural source of lutein esters. Lutein is widely distributed in the body’s tissues, and found as a colour pigment in the retina of healthy eyes where it acts as a shield against harmful light and may help protect the eyes against damage from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Lutein is defined as a carotenoid vitamin, and it is related to beta-carotene andvitamin A. Canine studies show that lutein does play a role in enhancing immunity*.

*Lutein and Zeaxanthin and Their Potential Roles in Disease Prevention 'Judy D. Ribaya-Mercado, ScD and Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, FACN. In: Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 23, No. 90006, 567S-587S (2004)

10. Krill Meal

Krill meal is especially rich in arginine (supportive to the heart), leucine (supportive to the muscles) and lysine (important in the production of hormones, enzymes & antibodies). Krill protein contains all 10 of the essential amino acids dogs need. It’s more commonly associated as fish food, and for the extraction of the oils for human use, but it is now emerging into the dog food sector. Krill meal is a good natural source of vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin E and also of the minerals copper, selenium, zinc, calcium and phosphorous. It is a stable ingredient that requires no artificial preservation to to the presence of a natural antioxidant called astaxanthin which is obtained when the krill eat their staple diet of algae. Krill is an excellent source of the long chain Omega-3 Fatty acids EPA & DHA which are vital components of every cell membrane. EPA and DHA support cell growth, survival and renewal in many organs, and their anti-inflammatory properties are beneficial to the nervous system, heart, liver, kidneys, joints, brain, eyes, skin and coat.

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