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Blackhawk kibble dog food is one of the major brands on the Australian Market

dog food pellets

dog food pellets This dog food pellet analysis was performed because I was looking at how to integrate pellets into a raw meat (including offal and bones) diet.

There are many dog feeding philosophies, but this analysis just looks simply at what you get for your money. I have compared the different brands nutrition tables and Ingredients list for Adult dogs. ENJOY!

You will find that every brand has a lot less meat, and a lot more grain than many people expect.

Typically dry dog food is segmented into these markets: puppy 0-1,  adult 1 – 7. mature 7 +

There are also formulations for small and large breed dogs, specific breeds, sensitive skin, joint pain etc.

The following shows the nutrition tables for four adult dog food pellet products

Adult dog (age 1 to 7) Pellet comparisons

Dog Food Nutrition tables  (% dry matter)



…Science Diet
Adult Advanced Fitness Original




Total Wellbeing,

All Breed


Chicken & Rice

Calorie content   kcal/kg


Crude Protein (Min)





Crude Fat (Min)





Crude Fibre (Max)




Crude Ash (Max)



Phosphorus (P) (Min)

0.68 %


Calcium (Ca) (Min)



Moisture (Max)




Vitamin E (min)   IU/kg



Omega 6 *


Omega 3 *


Carbohydrate (NFE)







Vitamin C   mg/kg





Beet Pulp



You should be aware that only very scant information about your dog food is required in the label.  That is why many of the table cells are empty. The main thing that all labels will tell you is the protein and fat content, but not the source percentages (animal or vegetable)

You should be aware that pet food companies can use several methods of generating these tables. The most accurate way is by laboratory analysis of a typical batch. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) only requires a very basic set of nutrients to be shown. Some legislations prohibit the inclusion of extra information on labels, however company websites are allowed to provide more detail.

The second less accurate but allowed method is calculation of values from standard tables. Because tables can be quite inaccurate for the very broad spread of nutrients in such things as each crop of corn or wheat, they are not a preferred method.

You should also be aware that “AAFCO regulations do not require that companies determine the digestibility of their foods.”  Ref 1. This is extremely vital in ensuring that your dog actually gains the nutrients that are listed in the tables. You might be aware that meat protein is much easier for animals to digest than plant protein for instance. Digestibility of any food source can be found by scientific analysis, but since it is not required to be stated you will rarely find this information on pellet packs.

“Metabolizable energy (ME) of pet food is another important consideration when selecting a diet. ME indicates the amount of energy in a pet food that is available to the animal to use.” Again the AAFCO does not require this value to be stated.

Dog Food Pellets: How to calculate Carbohydrate amounts for ME

If you are a fan of high carbohydrate dog food diets. Here is the good news. Different nutrition groups provide energy in different ways to a dog. They can gain this energy from protein, fat and carbohydrate. Hard working dogs requires a higher protein and fat diet. This will take account of energy used for muscle development and maintenance and increased calories for their increased work load.

A dog can get all of its energy needs from a meat based diet, however this is an expensive ingredient for corporations, so they will always opt for the cheaper grain solution. That is why a reference text suggests the following carb included dog food profiles.

The recommended calorific distribution for working dogs “expressed as a percentage of ME calories is 25-30% protein, 40-45% fat, and 25-30% carbohydrate.” ref 1

By contrast normally active adult dogs the suggested distribution range for adult maintenance diets is: 20-25% protein, 35-40% fat and 35-40% carbohydrate, expressed as a percentage of ME. This reduction in protein and fat makes weight gain less likely.

If these values are not available on the label you can roughly calculation the ME and calorific distribution of protein, fat and carbs from the foods proximate analysis (or failing that, the nutrition table). For instance consider the following table profile:  crude protein 26%, crude fat 15%, crude fibre 5, moisture 10%. If you assume the mineral content is 7% (which it typically is) the carbohydrate content can be calculated as:

100% – 26% – 15% – 5% – 10% – 7% = 37% carbs

Note this is the percentage of ME contributed by each nutrient (calorific distribution) NOT the amount of carbs in the product.


You will notice that most products happen to have a similar protein content around 25%. However as you will see from the ingredient list tables below, the majority of protein is often found from plant matter (due to cheapness).

You will see from the following tables that Chicken and chicken meal are listed as the first ingredient. That means that it is the largest single ingredient in the pellets.

It is included first because people expect meat to be first (after all, the word is usually used in the products name).  Protein can be supplied by both meat and plant matter, however “high quality animal source proteins provide superior amino acid balances for companion animals when compared with the amino acid balances supplied by grain proteins.” Ref 1 p 148

“Chicken” means the “clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone … but without feathers, heads, feet and entrails.” It should be noted that Chicken is very high in water content (65 – 70% water). So while it may be listed as the primary ingredient, its dry weight value may relegate it much further down the list. Whole chicken is also relatively high in fat. Because of “chicken” is measured including water, it may actually provide very little to the crude protein content and more to the fat percentage.

“Chicken meal “ is created by rendering the WHOLE chicken. It does not include heads, feet, viscera or feathers.  The rendering removes a high proportion of the fat. The resulting mixture is ground to a meal similar to corn meal in appearance. Because of the moisture extraction, when chicken chicken meal is found high on the ingredients list, they are likely to comprise the principal protein source.

“chicken by-products” is similar to the chicken meal definition, except that it may include bones, heads, intestines. Note offal and bones are an important part of a raw meat dog diet, however you will never know the quality of these ‘by-products’ used in a secret formula.

Dog Food Carbohydrate sources

The main sources of digestible carbs are: corn, rice, sorghum, wheat and oats. They provide an energy source in the form of starch, as well as providing mostly non-digestible fibre. Depending on the form of carbs used, different levels of starch for energy will be provided. For instance whole wheat will provide 50% starch while wheat flour has 70%. Grinding wheat makes it much more digestible, as does heat treatment, however removal of the hard outer husk will reduce the fibre it contributes. Though not all fibre is useful for an energy supply to the good bacteria in the intestine. Wheat contains slightly more protein than other grains so using several types will lessen the amount of meat required to reach the desired protein level.

In the table below I have listed the main ingredients (by weight) as provide by the manufacturers on their websites. These lists are quite long so it is truncated. The FULL list is shown in the Appendix.

Dog Food Pellet Ingredients


Science Diet
Adult Advanced Fitness Original




Advance Total Wellbeing,  All Breed



Chicken & Rice



Chicken, Chicken Meal,

Whole Grain Corn,

Chicken By-Product Meal,

Rice, Ground Brown Rice,

Whole Grain Sorghum,

Corn Meal,

Corn, Ground Oats,

Whole Grain Wheat,

Ground Whole Grain Sorghum,

Sorghum, Chicken Fat (Preserved with mixed Tocopherols source of Vit E,

Chicken By-Product Meal,

Ground Whole Grain Barley,

Corn Gluten, Citric Acid and Rosemary Extract),

Soybean Meal,

Fish Meal (source of fish oil),

Chicken Tallow, Rye,

Corn Gluten Meal,

Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E, and Citric Acid),

Chicken Digest, Flaxseed Meal,
Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid),
Brewers Rice,
Beet Pulp, Fish Meal,
Brewers Rice,
Chicken Digest,
Iodised Salt, Emu Oil,
Chicken Liver Flavor,
Dried Beet Pulp (sugar removed),
Sunflower Oil, Brewers Dried Yeast,
Lactic Acid,
Dried Egg Product,
Potassium Chloride, Dried Carrots,
Soybean Oil,
Brewers Dried Yeast,
Inulin, Dried Kelp,
Potassium Chloride,
Turkey, Natural Chicken Flavour,
Iodized Salt,
Dicalcium Phosphate, Choline Chloride,
Potassium Chloride,
Choline Chloride, Chicory,
Choline Chloride,
Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement,
Taurine, Calcium Ascorbate, (source of Vitamin C),
Vitamin E Supplement, L-Lysine
Ascorbic Acid,
Plant Extracts (Tomato Powder (source of Lycopene), Zinc Amino Acid Chelate,
vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C),
Marigold Meal (source of Lutein)), Yucca Schidigera Extract,
Vitamin E Supplement,
Vitamin A Acetate,
Vitamin E, Dried Blueberries,
Calcium Pantothenate,
Vitamin C, Dandeline,
Thiamine Mononitrate,
Zinc Peppermint,
Vitamin A Supplement,
Vitamin B12 Supplement,
Sulphate, Rosemary,
Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin,
Thiamine Mononitrate (source of vitamin B1),
Citric Acid, Tomato Meal,
Vitamin B12 Supplement,
Beta-Carotene, Vitamin E Supplement,
Pyridoxine Hydrochloride,
Riboflavin Supplement (source of vitamin B2),
Antioxidants, Glucosamine,
Iron Sulphate, Chondroitin Sulphate


This table has been truncated for clarity. The full list of ingredients provided on each brand website is provided in the Appendix:


dog food pellets CONCLUSIONS

While the added vitamins and minerals further down the lists are very important, of major concern to most people is the first ten or so ingredients, because these make up the vast majority of the pellets weight. Having a meat listed as the first ingredient only means that it (including water or not) is the single highest percentage ingredient. You will notice however that most products tend to have  two to six grain based ingredients following the primary ingredient, which all summed together can have the potential to comprise triple or more the weight of the first ingredient.

The reason that I mention this is regardless of whether you are a grain or a meat based dog food fan, many people are unaware of the mathematics behind the ingredient list placement. Meat typically is much more expensive than grains, so a corporation is most likely to put the meat source first, and follow it by several grains that make up the bulk of the product.

While any specific ingredient may have several components (such as wheat mainly being carbohydrate/ protein )you should be aware that most ingredients fall into one of four categories:  protein, carbohydrate, fat and dietary fibre. It is the careful selection of the main ingredients that provide the right ME mix.

Corporations are not required to tell you the percentages of each ingredient (like they are with human food) and some corporations will tell you that this protects their secret formulas. However the truth is besides the economics of ingredients, and they way they order the are displayed on the list. One of the most important things is the digestibility (chance of nutrients being used) and palatability (so the dogs will eat the product).

Different companies also use varying quality of ingredients and varying processing/ cooking procedures. Under-cooking a product may save the integrity of a protein or vitamin, but may render it unavailable for absorption into the dogs body.

You will see that for a typical ‘adult’ dog pellet mix, that the nutrition table %’s are essentially the same for each brand. AAFCO requirements are very lax in the respect of reporting actual details.

The ingredients list are often thorough, but they do not provide information on the quality of the ingredient, the processing of the ingredient or the parentage used, just the order in the list.Unless have researched and know exactly what kinds of ingredients you want to have in your dog food, it very much seems like you just have to trust the corporation. Good luck on your choices!


Article by Bruce Dwyer. If you wish to use any of this information please refer to the article as a reference and provide a link to our WEBSITE.

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Canine and Feline Nutrition 3rd edition  Case Et al

Specific dog food corporate websites



Science Diet – Adult Advanced Fitness Original

Website unavailable at time of analysis


Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Ground Whole Grain Barley, Fish Meal (source of fish oil), Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E, and Citric Acid), Brewers Rice, Chicken Digest, Dried Beet Pulp (sugar removed), Dried Egg Product, Brewers Dried Yeast, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Beta-Carotene,Vitamin A Acetate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement (source of vitamin B2), Inositol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid], Flax Meal, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Minerals [Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Carbonate], DL-Methionine, Rosemary Extract.

Advance – Total Wellbeing,  All Breed

Chicken, Rice, Corn, Sorghum, Corn Gluten, Chicken Tallow, Chicken Digest, Beet Pulp, Iodised Salt, Sunflower Oil, Potassium Chloride, Inulin, Turkey, Dicalcium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Plant Extracts (Tomato Powder (source of Lycopene), Marigold Meal (source of Lutein)), Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Zinc Sulphate, Citric Acid, Beta-Carotene, Antioxidants, Iron Sulphate, Copper Sulphate, Vitamin B5, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B12, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B3, Vitamin D, Selenium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B9.

Black hawk – Chicken & Rice Adult Dog

Chicken Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Ground Oats, Chicken Fat (Preserved with mixed Tocopherols source of Vit E, Citric Acid and Rosemary Extract), Rye, Flaxseed Meal, Fish Meal, Emu Oil, Brewers Dried Yeast, Dried Carrots, Dried Kelp, Natural Chicken Flavour, Choline Chloride, Chicory, Calcium Ascorbate, (source of Vitamin C), Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Blueberries, Dandeline, Peppermint, Rosemary, Tomato Meal, Vitamin E Supplement, Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulphate, Iron Amino Chelate, Manganese Amino, Acid Chelate, Cobalt Amino Acid Chelate, Biotin, Vitamin A Acetate, L-Carnitine, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (B6), Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, DL-Methionine, Folic Acid, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate.

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