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Is Your Dog Food Full of “Filler?”

Are dog food ingredients being represented accurately on labels? I hear it all the time: “That dog food is so low quality. It’s full of fillers!” But what does that mean, really?

To be honest, there’s no agreed-upon definition for “fillers” in veterinary nutrition literature, so my working definition of the word (based on the common connotation) will have to suffice:

Definition of a Dog Food Filler

A filler is any lower-quality, typically less-expensive, usually bulky, starchy and carb-rich ingredient that could have been replaced by a higher quality, more biologically available one.

3 Steps to Knowing What’s a Dog Food Filler

With that admittedly imperfect definition in mind, here are my three steps to knowing what’s a filler and what’s not so that you can start learning to decipher pet food labels for yourself:

But here’s the question: Are these corn-based “filler”-rich diets better than their fishier, more chicken-y avatars? Or is the fact that they’re offering a correct nutrient balance good enough?

That’s the zillion-dollar question. Because if it is good enough, then the question of fillers is effectively resolved and we can content ourselves with feeding grain-based diets with impunity — regardless of what our carnivores might prefer to eat in the wild. In which case, the word “filler” can exit our nutritional lexicon forever and we can replace all those pretty pictures of meats that grace our dog food packaging with amber waves of grain.

I hope this article gives you a better understanding of dog food fillers and how to identify them.