What is Animal Digest in Dog Food?

A pug looking at his dog food.

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Have you ever wondered what is Animal Digest in dog food?

It doesn’t sound very tempting, does it? It might surprise you to know that, even though it sounds like something already eaten and digested, pups love it. Using the proper term, ‘hydrolysate,’ instead of ‘digest,’’ certainly makes it more acceptable. And no, it is not made from dead cats and dogs.

What is Animal Digest?

Animal digest is an organic additive used in many pet food products. The word digest indicates that meat by-products were put through a breakdown, or digestive process, during manufacturing. Poultry and fish by-products go through a similar hydrolyzing process.

Your next question would probably be, “what are the meat by-products?”

You can find a lengthy explanation on the Association of American Feed Control Officials website, but I’ll share the gist of it. The by-products are what remain after slaughtering animals at USDA-inspected slaughterhouses. It is the clean, non-rendered bits that remain after removing the meat from the carcasses. Next, they are hydrolyzed, or ‘digested’ to break down the proteins. Some of the parts could even find their way onto the dinner tables of humans, like tripe, livers and kidneys. Other by-products like lungs, udders, spleens, brains and bones might put you off, but they’re a whole lot more appealing to dogs.

What are the benefits of adding hydrolyzed by-products to dog food?

The hydrolyzed by-products can be a liquid or made into powder or paste, sprayed on kibbles or mixed into various forms of dog food. It adds extra protein and flavor — dogs typically find it extremely palatable.

In a nutshell

Don’t let the image in your mind’s eye when you read ‘animal digest,’ ‘chicken liver digest,’ or ‘fish digest’ on a dog food label mislead you. Instead, replace ‘digest’ with ‘hydrolysate’ and see it as an excellent, natural protein source.

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Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.