How Is Dog Food Made?

Dog food is typically made by combining a variety of ingredients that can meet a dog’s nutritional needs. This usually includes proteins, grains, vegetables, and other necessary vitamins and minerals.

The ingredients are first sourced and inspected to ensure their quality, then they are blended together according to a specific recipe. The blend goes through a process called extrusion, where it’s cooked under pressure and high temperature to eliminate bacteria and make it more digestible.

Next, the extruded dough is cut into pieces and allowed to cool and dry to form the final kibble. Lastly, it is packaged ready for distribution. It’s important to note that different brands and types of dog food can have different production processes.

Last Updated on September 20, 2023

Choosing a dog food that has all the essential nutrients you need for your dog is tough. Go to a grocery store and there’s just rows and rows of different brands of pet food products to choose from. But have you ever wondered how dog foods are made? What makes moist food different from dry dog food? From canned pet food? No need to look elsewhere. I’ve got just the details for you. Here is how dog foods are made.

types of dog foods



In the United States alone, dog owners spend almost $9 Billion’ worth of dog food in a single year. From over 300 manufacturers, 7 million tons of pet food is produced each year. No wonder there are more than 3,000 different products to choose from! Ranging from dry, dehydrated, semi-moist, and wet varieties of pet food products to jerkies, treats, and biscuit pieces called kibble – it’s pretty obvious how much we spoil our pets.

Like any other food, pet food starts with a recipe. Dog food manufacturers make these recipes through a combination of protein from beef, chicken, grains, and vitamins and minerals to provide the essential nutrients your dog needs. But as we all know; not all dogs are the same. This is why pet food manufacturers today make special recipes for dogs that adhere to their lifestyle, size, and needs. Puppies for example need twice the amount of vitamins and minerals an adult dog needs for their growth. Which is why special dog food recipes for puppies were made available. Senior dogs in the same way also require a specifically balanced diet to cater to his changing body. Which is why a specially formulated kibble that has a higher amount of fiber and fewer calories are needed. Pet food targeted to special needs dogs like a grain-free diet (if your dog is allergic to grains) and pet food that helps your dog lose weight exists in the market.

dog eating bone

Pet Food Regulations

Pet food manufacturers have strict rules to follow when it comes to producing dog food. Several agencies at the federal and state levels contribute to this by setting a standard and monitoring all the pet foods that go out into the market. Some of these agencies are:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)
  • American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
  • Pet Food Institute (PFI)
  • Association of American Feed Control Officials

Let me briefly explain what these agencies exactly do. The USDA controls the meat quality and determines which meat can be included to make as pet foods. The FDA, on the other hand, regulates other ingredients. They set a minimum and maximum limit on certain nutrients. Ban medications and antibiotics in foods as they can accidentally be ingested by children. They
also have the authority to send out warnings to consumers when a product is deemed unsafe and should be removed. The FTC makes sure that foods are truthfully labeled and are safe for consumption both for animals and humans. American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American Animal Hospital Association (AMHA), and Pet Food Institute work together in monitoring and evaluating the side effects of pet foods on pets. The AAFCO or the Association of American Feed Control Officials is a voluntary, non-governmental group that regulates animal
feed including dog and cat food and other drug remedies. The AAFCO does this by imposing the minimum or maximum amount of nutrients they deem essential to a pet’s health. They give a stamp of approval to products that meet this standard.

dry kibbles

How is dry dog food made?

Dry dog foods or popularly kibbles are made mainly through the process called extrusion. Pet food manufacturers gather raw ingredients such as meat, fat, grains, and a high concentration of vitamins and minerals. A commercial hammer mill is used to grind these ingredients into a coarse flour – a very important step for making a consistent dough later on. The next step is
extrusion. An extruder machine is used in this process to enable large quantities of nutritious, long shelf-life pet food to be made in one go. Think of this process the same as making bread. Dry and wet ingredients are mixed to make a dough. It’s kneaded, shaped, and sliced to its desired size. The next process is drying out the kibble to remove the excess moisture. Because the extrusion process requires high pressure and temperature, some nutrients may not be present anymore. A process of spraying flavoring, vitamins, and minerals and synthetic taurine to the mixture is important. Taurine is an amino acid naturally present in meats that get lost in the extrusion process. A taurine-deficiency causes blindness and heart disease in pets.

Kibbles make up the majority of dog foods. They are easily stored and are cheaper than other options. Dry dog foods have a shelf-life of 16 months. And they only contain 3% to 11% moisture.

How is dehydrated dog food made?

Dehydrated food, as its name suggests, is made from dehydrating ingredients to remove excess moisture. The ingredients are heated at a low-temperature killing harmful bacteria that could potentially harm your pets. All the while, preserving the natural enzymes, vitamins, and minerals present in the original ingredient. Dehydrated dog food also uses a lesser amount of preservatives found in kibbles that, as hard is this to say, does not add any nutritional value to your dog. The dehydration process allows the food to be naturally preserved and has a shelf life of at least 12 months to 2 years.

Dehydrated dog food is relatively new in the market. However, it has slowly gained its popularity through the convenience and nutritional value it brings to fur-parents and dogs alike. They are not only healthy but delicious as well.

How is semi-moist dog food made?

Popular semi-moist foods are made through a pasteurization process that requires refrigeration. Some alternatives, however, do not need to be refrigerated to increase shelf-life. These ingredients are slightly cooked, added humectants, and then quickly sealed in a vacuum package. The humectants allow moisture to be preserved without the formation of bacteria and molds.

Equally important, humectants include salt and sugar. Thus, it can be a cause of dental issues in the future.

dog food cans

How is canned dog food made?

Generally, meats used in canned foods or wet dog foods must be fresh and used within three days. The fresh meat is firstly rendered through a meat processor. They are dried and then cooked continuously at the right temperature. Afterward, they are mixed with other ingredients like grains, cereal, and vitamins and minerals. Measured amounts of products are then poured into vacuum-sealed containers to avoid spoilage. Then the canned food goes through a heating chamber and then quickly cooled before they are wrapped and labeled.

Canned dog food can have a shelf life of three to five years without diminishing its nutritional value. They are also perfect for dogs with renal disorders as they contain 70% to 80% of water.


A long, tedious, and conscious effort to give the best kibble available for our dogs happen behind the scenes. State and federal agencies work together into setting rules and regulations for pet food products to ensure that they are safe. Checking the ingredients list and identifying how these ingredients came together are imperative in selecting the right food product for your dog. Stay informed and may you and your dog be blessed with a long, happy, and healthy life! Now get those kibbles out!

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