You may have wondered at some point, how your dog’s food is made. If you didn’t, your dog might have been curious, but couldn’t ask you, intelligently, anyway. Well, I’m going to help both of you with this article. It’s really an amazing process. Let’s get cooking, shall we?

Dry dog food requirements

Dry dog food processing is a little more complicated than, let’s say, semi moist or wet food. Let me try to explain the process in simple enough terms. First let’s start with who sets the standards for dog food. An organization called the AAFCO, or Association of American Feed Control Officials. This is the organization that sets the minimum standards for all pet foods. They are very strict with the minimum requirements to be included in dog food. Anything that does not meet the minimum nutritional requirements to be called ‘dog food’ must be labeled as either a treat or supplement. You want to make sure you look for the AAFCO approval on any pet food you buy, to ensure it contains the minimum nutritional contents.

dry dog food

Dry dog food processing

First, the meats, vegetables and grains are shipped in bulk to a processing plant. Next, they are combined and ground to a ‘flour like’ consistency. This makes blending an easier process. Once this is done, then liquids and fatty acids are added to the flour like mix until it becomes a doughy substance. This next goes into an expander where the mixture is heated at very high pressure and high temperatures to cook the kibble before the extrusion process. Next, the mixture will go in to an extrusion process, whereby this doughy mixture is squeezed through narrow holes, kind of like the playdoh machines we had as kids. It squeezes the dough out into strips which are then cut up into smaller pieces, which will be the kibble end product. These pieces are then slowly dried to extract any excess moisture, which can cause bacteria and also to prevent over cooking which will make the kibble too hard to chew and digest. The kibble is next sprayed with fats and oils to make it pleasing to your dog’s wet nose and palate. It is then cooled carefully to prevent condensation when packaged. There are also quality control checks at each of these stages to ensure proper production.

semi moist dog food

Semi moist dog foods

Semi moist dog foods start off much the same way as dry kibble, but to a lesser extent. The extrusion process, for instance, is different from that of dry kibble in that the food is extruded and cooler temperatures and lower pressures in order to retain more of the natural moisture in the mixture. This mixture is then tumbled in large containers along with water and humectants which attract and help to maintain the natural moisture before the cooling process. Did I say humectants? Yes, much the same as you would find in skin care, beauty and shampoo and conditioner products. Not to worry, they are merely ingredients that help to attract water molecules, like a magnet, to retain the moisture in the food. Sometimes other ingredients may be added to protect against mold and bacteria due to the extra moisture in the food. Semi moist foods will, therefore, have a shorter shelf life than dry kibble due to the extra moisture, so make sure you take note of the shelf life when purchasing these types.

wet dog food

Wet dog food – chunks and pate

Wet dog food is made from fresh and frozen meats sent to the processing plants in bulk. They will probably contain some things that we, as humans, wouldn’t want to eat. These meats come from farms and slaughter houses, but contain bits of organs and fatty tissues. These parts and bits are actually higher in nutritional value than the typical muscle meats that we prefer to eat. The meats and parts are then ground and vitamins and minerals are added in proper proportions in large vats and mixed at great length to ensure the right distribution of calories and then heated slowly. The slow heating allows for the meats and starches from the ingredients to produce a more gelatin like consistency. This makes the final product more palatable and much easier for digestion for your dog. Many varieties may contain grains or even starchy vegetables. These varieties need to be cooked at higher temperatures to allow the starches to be fully cooked out of them. This mixture is then, either left in the pate form, or turned into chunks where a gravy or jelly is added. If they are turned into chunks, they are then broiled to make a more complex texture and flavor. This mixture, whether it be pate or chunks, is then canned and sealed while it’s still hot. As the food cools in the can, it forms a natural vacuum in the cans. The cans then go through a final sterilization process with high heat to get rid of any excess bacteria before being labeled and shipped out to stores.


I hope I have you a little insight as to how dog food is made to help you and your dog.

As I said at the beginning, it’s really an amazing process I figured you might be interested in. If you’re not interested, perhaps you should let your dogs read this article and decide for themselves. A great deal of time, effort and quality control goes into making your dog’s food. Now, it’s up to you. I have always said, make sure to read the labels whether it is dry food, semi moist or wet canned food. Make sure the packaging has the AAFCO approval and read the ingredient’s list. The ingredients are listed in order of quantity contained in the food, as is with human food packaging. If you find it important to read your own labels, you should also find it important to read your dog’s food labels. Again, pay closer attention to the ‘sell by’ dates, especially on semi moist and wet foods. Good luck to you and your furry children!

10 Replies to “How is dog food made? Your dog wants to know”

  1. I didn’t realize there is an overseeing, regulatory agency for pet foods. That’s great to know! This is fascinating. I didn’t know much about how dog food is made before reading this article. Thank you.

    1. Yes, the AAFCO sets the standards for pet foods and has authority to pull some from the shelves if they don’t meet the requirements. There would be a lot more sick or dying animals out there without them. Thanks for your comments, much appreciated 🙂

  2. Great article Joe,
    I never knew there were so many different types of dog food. Which is the best type of dog food in terms of maintaining the dog’s health and nutritian requirements? I have a cat, and I think solid hard foods such as cat nibbles are better than wet food, healthier for my cat. Is it the same for dogs?

    1. Thanks Tim. As I state in many of my articles, there are many different brands are very healthy for dogs. You should always read the labels before buying, same as I’m sure you do with cat foods. The kibble is good for helping to keep tartar from building up on their teeth, but they should be given some wet food from time to time, maybe even just as a treat. Thanks again for reading and do check out my other articles if you get a chance.

  3. Joseph,

    I love this. I touched on this as well a bit – I write about pets and I did a series on dog foods, which ones are good and which ones aren’t. There are so many dog foods out there that have so many chemicals in them, it’s scary! If you haven’t seen it, here it is. It’s worth a read if you have some time.

    Now, I have seen some good dog foods, so not all are bad. They just require looking into the ingredients – like you mentioned and seeing for yourself. 🙂 Let me know what you think!

    Might be another good article for you to touch base on for your site. I’m trying to get the truth out there for as many people to see!


    1. Thank you Katrina for having a look at my site. I have many interesting articles. I do always say to read the label and look for the AAFCO seal of approval. I will have a look at yours now as well. Thank you again 🙂

  4. Nice article! When it comes to taste what does dogs prefer, dry, semi moist or wet dogwood?

    1. Sorry for the delay. When it comes to a dog’s preference, obviously I would have to be a dog. Trial and error really. Try all three and see which one he eats faster or more of. Don’t put them all down together though. Also, depends on the dog’s dietary needs. If he needs more ruffage, then dry food, if he needs something for sensitive teeth, then semi moist or moist. Moist is always a good treat for any dog though. Thanks for your comments and again, sorry for the delay.

  5. Why have you stopped writing content on your site Joe? I really enjoyed your articles.

    1. I will begin again soon. Just some writer’s block and life got in the way for a while. Sorry for disappointing you 🙁

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