To see “ash” as an ingredient in your dog food can seem a bit disconcerting. Why would anyone put ash in something a pet, or anyone else, would eat? It may seem, at first, like something unscrupulous pet food makers might add to save a few bucks in the manufacturing process.
The truth of the matter, however, is that the ash you see listed on the dog food bag or can isn’t something the manufacturers added. And it's not the kind of ash you find at the bottom of your fireplace either. Rather, this ash is a kind of measurement, and it corresponds to the amount of minerals—minerals your dog needs to stay healthy—that are found in the food.
The Ash Measurement
When any food is incinerated at very high temperatures, all of the protein, fats, and carbohydrates are burned away, leaving behind only the minerals. These minerals include calcium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and others in small amounts of other minerals that all dogs and cats need in their diets.
It is important that your dog gets these minerals in their diet at the proper levels so that they can grow and remain active and fit. The amount of ash stated on the dog food label is an indication of mineral content, expressed as a percentage found in the food, usually between 5 and 8 percent in dry dog foods and 1 to 2 percent in wet pet foods. In other words, ash is how much mineral would be found if the food were actually incinerated, which of course it’s not.
All dog foods, and in fact all foods humans eat as well, have an ash content.
Proper Ash Levels
As stated above, most dog foods have an ash content of between 5 and 8 percent, with some dry foods rising to 10 percent. This level has been determined as being within a proper range for nutritional health—to make sure your dog gets the minerals they need.
However, you should be aware that the ash percentage gives an overall picture of mineral content and not a breakdown of specific minerals. If your dog has particular nutritional requirements, you should check the food label for greater content details. Younger dogs may need a restricted calcium content, while other dogs may require additional zinc for aging issues. Consult with your veterinarian to determine what is best for your dog. Still curious? Learn more about ash in pet food.
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.