Why Is There Ash in Your Dog’s Food?

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Is This the Ash You Find in Dog Food?

Do they really add ash to dog food? You’ve probably seen the word “ash” before — printed right there on the label.

Crude ash. You mean the same stuff you find in a fireplace? Why would a manufacturer add ash to a dog food?

What Is Ash?

In dog food, ash is not like it sounds. Contrary to what you may have heard, it’s not a filler intentionally used to dilute a recipe. 

Ash is what’s left over after any food has been completely incinerated. It’s the final product of food combustion.

In other words, if you were to completely incinerate a can of dog food, all three major nutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) would burn away, leaving just the food’s minerals behind.

Mineral nutrients (like calcium, phosphorous, zinc, iron, etc.) make up ash, the ultimate residue of food combustion.

Ash is also more commonly known as funeral ash. It’s simply what remains of any animal — even humans — after cremation.

Why Ash Can Be Important

The ash reported on a label represents the cumulative total of all the minerals found in that food.

Although a smaller amount can come from plant-based ingredients, most ash comes from the bone content and minerals additives in a product.

And much of those minerals include calcium and phosphorus.

In any case, the ash number by itself is not very revealing. Knowing the actual amount of each mineral included in the total ash figure would be much more useful.

And it can be especially important when feeding…

  • Growing large breed puppies
  • Dogs suffering from kidney disease

What’s ‘Normal’ for Ash Content
in Dog Food?

The amount of ash varies from product to product.

In general, the average ash content of most commercial dog foods appears to be somewhere around 5-8 percent1.

Since most companies don’t typically report ash content on their labels, The Dog Food Advisor arbitrarily uses an 8 percent figure for all dashboard calculations.

Footnotes

  1. Brown S., Taylor B., “See Spot Live Longer”, 2007 Creekobear Press, Eugene, OR USA, p 55
  • http://www.petfoodratings.org/ PetFoodRatings

    Lara, Meals for Mutts is another Australian brand but is very low in Ash (about 5%). It’s slightly better than Black Hawk in my opinion.

  • Lara

    what percent ash did their old formula have? I’m tryign to decide if the 10% that I’m seeing on a list of Blackhawk ingredients is too high.

  • Pattyvaughn

    Ash can vary based on the quality of meat used, higher bone content equals higher ash. I’m interested to know where you got the 5% figure. I would assume that poorer quality foods would have higher ash content and there are many more poorer quality foods, so I would expect average to be higher than that.

  • mrbeerz

    of (not os)

  • mrbeerz

    Ash (%) = 100 – Fat – Carbs – Protein – Moisture. The amount os ash can very depending on what kinds of fortifications (vitamins and minerals) and on average are 5% or less

  • Jessica

    Could I just clarify, what would be considered ‘low’ in regards to content? Below 5-8% or the 5% itself?

  • Christine

    Are the %’s you listed above based on a Dry Matter figure?

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Low ash is important for large breed puppies because high levels of ash can indicate high levels of calcium and excess calcium has been linked to developmental orthopedic disease in large and giant breed puppies. The new Orijen Large Breed Puppy formula looks like it has acceptable, or at least near acceptable, levels of calcium for large breed puppies (their old formula was much too high). Because your pup is already 9 months old, however, I wouldn’t be super concerned – the most critical period is 2 – 8 mo, also I wouldn’t really consider pitts to be a “large” breed (more of a medium breed).

  • dog mama

    we have a 9 month old pittie puppy and we just switched him and our other dog kids from natural balance to orijen adult dog. you mention in the article that lower ash content is important for large breed puppies but you didn’t specify why – could you please tell me? also, orijen’s adult formula has 8% ash – is that too much for him? thank you for the info!

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  • aimee

     Yes I’m sure I am comfortable with feeding lower protein levels than you are.

     I’m not sure how you’d measure apoptosis, but other processes involving complex enzymes systems,  like drug excretion, were measured at various protein levels. The literature is older but it is there.

    Do you eat a 50 plus percent protein diet to ensure you have enough protein?  If not why not?

    Farm dogs do get “gross” I agree with you there. The one I know eats raw… I don’t like to pet her either cause her coat quality is poor “dirty and gross”, her muscling looks fine though.  I think her coat is more a factor of wear and environment.

  • Shawna

    I meant to post earlier and got side tracked —– NICE addition about Audrey. As you said, she is living a normal life WITH kidney disease.

  • Shawna

    I whole heartedly agree. Where we disagree is what constitutes excess..

    Amino acids are used by every cell of the body, the enzymes that trigger apoptosis which prevents cancer are made from amino acids, as is hair, nails, skin, the liver etc.

    How on earth can science prove beyond any doubt that the amino acids from 18% protein are enough to supply the enzymes that initiate apoptosis and prevent cancer?

    Quite frankly (and this is just me) I’m quite willing to pay for a little “expensive urine” to be certain my pups are getting enough protein at a cellular level. I’d rather pay for protein then vet bills. Just me though.
    My sister-in-law feeds one of the non-prescription Science Diet foods to her three dogs (a huge brown lab, a huge golden retriever and a bulldog). Not one of the dogs have good muscle tone even though they live on a farm and get ample exercise. My 16 year old Chihuahua has better muscle tone.. Not one of the dogs have good coat quality. I honestly don’t even like touching them they feel so dirty and gross. The Golden has to be shaved because he gets so matted. They are definitley NOT getting enough protein for their needs (not to mention other nutrients). They are still alive though…

  • aimee

    Protein is expensive and when fed in excess of needs is broken down, used for energy and the nitrogen is excreted. I call it as I see it : )

  • Shawna

    “Expensive urine” that is nonsense aimee..

  • aimee

    It is well accepted that seniors require more protein. The 1966 study is a “classic” which is why so many researchers draw from it.

    My point was only to better clarify what this means. Based on that pivotal research seniors do require more protein than young dogs but that those levels can be met by feeding diets with about 20% of calories as protein.

    I like to see that number padded a bit, and while is isn’t harmful to feed more protein it really just becomes expensive urine.

  • Shawna

    That’s why I always say “as much as 50% more”.. :) Encompasses the 50% findings as well as others.
    I read on the Purdue.edu website yesterday — at least 5 researchers were sited as concluding that seniors need more protein. I didn’t follow up on each one but Bovee did stick out as one I have read in the past.
    My 5 pound 16 year old Chihuahua gets more food than any of the other dogs in the house and more then she got 5 years ago — while still maintaining her body weight (with a little less muscle mass then she had 5 years ago). And as you know I feed high protein raw.
    And it really doesn’t matter how many research papers you site, protein is one topic I simply will not budge on… :)

  • aimee

    Shawna,

    I’ve only found one study that reached the conclusion that older dog need 50 % more protein. It is reported in more recent studies but always seem to track back to the1966 study.

    I started looking to find the origins of the statement because simply saying 50% more doesn’t provide any guidelines as to amount to feed.

    I read the dogaware site on senior dogs and the statement that older dogs need 50% more also tracks back to the 1966 study. Maybe I’m missing it?? Can you post the other studies??

    The minimum protein level to sustain life has been reported as closer to 6 %. Dogs maintained protein balance but were in a protein depleted state… not optimal health.

    Whereas the optimum (not minimal) for young dogs using casein as the protein source was reported at 12.4% protein calories. The authors reported no additional benefits were found when they raised the protein higher than this.

    But as I said one needs to look at the AA profile not just absolute protein percentage

    and consider overall caloric intake.

    I feed protein levels higher than AAFCO’s 18% min. for adults as my girls seem to require few calories to maintain weight. I therefore need to feed a higher percent as protein to offset their low caloric intake.

  • Shawna

    From the data provided on dogaware and those that she references, as well as elsewhere, there’s more than one study.
    The “minimum” to sustain life —– MANY of us here on DFA (including the owner of the site) don’t feel that the minimum is adequate for optimal health. But you already know that.. :)
    I wouldn’t consider feeding a healthy dog protein as low as 18% and I certainly wouldn’t feed an ill dog amounts that low (with a few exceptions of course).

  • aimee

    The research was published in 1966!! :)

    Young dogs maintained optimal protein reserves based on the study when fed 12.4 % of their calories as protein whereas in older dogs 18.8% of the calories were fed as protein to reach these same levels.

    AAFCO minimum protein for maintance is 18% calories fed as protein. So theoretically any OTC food would meet those levels. But (AA mix) as well as absolute protein percentages should be taken into consideration.

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    As others have said, older dogs require more quality protein. The blanket statement made by the majority of food manufacturers regarding senior dogs needing lower protein is just wrong and deceiving. The food I feed my senior dog who is healthy should not be the same food as a dog with late stage kidney problems. And owners have the responsibility to take their dogs in for routine blood work. Just because alot of owners may not do that still does not justify lower protein foods for all.

  • Pattyvaughn

    What Shawna did not say about Audrey, is that on a prescription diet KD dogs are not expected to live beyond a year or so. Audrey has far outdone that and has lived a normal life without medications, hopitalizations, sub-q or IV fluids. That is completely unheard of in dogs on these low protein, high grain diets.

  • Shawna

    Nice post Patty!!

  • Shawna

    Hi Belle ~~ as Patty stated your info is completely false. Older dogs, they now know, actually need as much as 50% MORE protein then adult dogs. Drs. foster and Smith, Dr. karen Becker, nutritionist Lew Olson of b-naturals.com and nutritionist Mary Straus of dogaware.com as well as Whole Dog Journal have all (and others) put out data stating the new 50% findings.
    Also high protein does not cause kidney disease. Some, myself included, feel that poor quality protein stresses the kidneys but protein in general does not. I KNOW this for a FACT. I have a dog born with kidney disease (symptoms started before she was even weaned and she was officially diagnosed at her one year blood work. Audrey is now 6 and 1/2 years old and has had kidney disease her whole life. Audrey was weaned onto a HIGH protein raw diet — protein amounts range between 45 and 54%. Audrey is VERY healthy despite her kidneys.
    Vets who put dogs on a low protein diet at the first signs of kidney disease (or worse yet to prevent kidney disease) are actually causing more harm then good…
    Lew Olson and Mary Straus have great info on their websites about KD. They are (or were at one time) both moderators on one of the canine kidney groups on yahoo as well.

  • Pattyvaughn

    That is a false statement. When dog food companies take out meat protein, they replace it with more grain, which is harder for any dog’s kidneys to eliminate. Older dogs have a higher protein requirement for QUALITY protein because quality protein is essential to cellular repair and removing toxins from the body. Its only in late stage kidney disease that protein needs to be restricted and feeding inferior grain laden foods is a lot of what has pushed them to late stage kidney disease in the first place. If an owner doesn’t know that their dog has kidney disease at all before it gets to late stage, then they aren’t going to notice much at that point either until the dog drops over dead.

  • Belle

    Re: older pets require less protein. That’s because high protein can actually be deadly for senior dogs with kidney disease. For those pet owners who don’t do regular blood tests on their senior pets, they may not know if their pet has beginning kidney disease or if kidneys are starting to fail. So it’s best to keep their protein intake at a lower level.

  • Toxed2loss

    That’s really cool! That your other dog helps. :-) and that he’s coming around so quickly. He has been through a lot. Part of it could be anxiety. So the more secure he feels, the less anxious, and he won’t be running his engines at fight or flight… That should help with the weight issue, too. GSDgirls dogs took 6 months, and they never could find anything wrong. But they are recovering, and looking terrific. She switched to Brother’s and topper’s, (I think) they slowly came out of it. Alexandra’s Dante took a while too. He looks amazing now!!! Mike P’s Jubilee had problems, now she’s a knock out! Johnandchristo’s Christo, huge difference! They focused on the best nutrition, probiotics & enzymes, natural pest management, and as much as possible, minimizing toxins.

  • meeshholly

    AAHHH!!! This is getting crazy!!

    Thanks Toxed…I did call my vet…they won’t give me Droncit.(and I’m also a poo checker & haven’t seen anything).

    I’m sure he wasn’t fed the best food either…so I think I’ll just stick with what I’m doing with the enzymes and probiotics (I have been giving pumpkin with every meal also)

    I am beginning to think it’s mostly stress from being in the shelter 11 days(I know he wasn’t in there long compared to some dogs – I happened to volunteer the day after he was brought in & decided from the moment I saw him I’d adopt him), being neutered and he just had entropion surgery last week also.

    So, I’ll give it awhile yet. I know it’s not going to be an overnite fix…I just really thought he would have put some weight on by now.  But, he probably gets more exercise now than he ever did!!

    He’s an awesome dog, but was abused…my other dog Summer is helping me with the training (sit, down, wait etc) – he sees that she gets treats/praise and there is no yelling in my house so he figured out it’s fun to do the things I ask him to do!!!

  • Toxed2loss

    Hi Meeshholly,
    Giving a worm med will effect him. Worm medications are paracitides, or pesticide. All pesticides are poisons. Your vet tested him and he came back negative! So don’t poison him. He’s already struggling to get his nutrition.

    You can feed him raw garlic, and puréed pumpkin, two healthy foods that are natural parasite removers.

    Since he’s been in rescue, you can assume he has not had the best diet. If he’s been eating grain based diet, the villi in his stomach will be damaged. That impairs his ability to absorb nutrients from his food. It’s going to take time to repair that. There’s no instant fix. Lots of folks on here would tell you, “stick with it. He’ll get better.”

  • meeshholly

    Thanks…I just checked his paper work from the shelter I adopted him from…it doesn’t look like they dewormed him.

    So I will do that next…I’ll get some Droncit, is there any other type of dewormer you think I should get?

  • Melissaandcrew

    A lot of times, when a dog comes into rescue it has fleas. One variety of tapeworm is caused by ingesting the fleas. Unfortunately, they do not show up on routine fecals as the fecal is looking for eggs-tapes are a giant segmented worm, and each segment when it breaks off, can become a new “giant” worm. They are typically spotted by owners as “rice”(hard dried  things around the anus, or as live small white worms on the stool. The problem is, they can have the tape worm for quite a while before they are noticed.

    Most rescues that I have worked with deflea the dog upon entry, and will deworm for the “basics” like hook or roundworms, but the only dewormer that really kills that variety of tape is Droncit(praziquental)

    We have never had a problem empirically deworming all dogs entering the program, but check with your vet. I always suspect parasites first when a dog fails to gain weight even though its being fed high quality food.

  • meeshholly

    My vet tested him for worms & it came back negative..so would it be a good idea to worm him anyway? It wouldn’t affect him at all if I did give him a wormer & he didn’t have worms? Never adopted a rescue before & just want to do whats best for him :)

  • Melissaandcrew

     meesholly-

    Since he is a rescue and not gaining weight, have you dewormed him with Droncit? Tapeworms compete for nutrition and when they have them, no matter what food you feed, you will not see a thriving dog. Personally, we deworm all our rescues when they come in with it, just to be sure.

  • meeshholly

     I give Norton both digestive enzymes and probiotics…I’ll have to research leaky gut. Since he’s a rescue who knows what he was eating before. Summer I only give probiotics 2x week.

    Thanks alot for all the info!!! Any little bit helps!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140685339 Betsy Greer

    It may take some time before her body is fully utilizing the nutrition in the Brothers since she’s been eating something else that wasn’t working for so long. Did you happen to read the Brothers Document on their website? I wonder if she might have a leaky gut situation going on? Brothers contains pre/probiotics – have you been using any other digestive enzymes or probiotics? You might find you don’t need additional supplements with Brothers. I believe a lot of folks here who use probiotics like Mercola. Both of my dogs eat their Brothers with gusto, I hope you have the same success with it that I have.

  • meeshholly

    I had Summer on Fromm, she didn’t do too well on it. She was always hungry & poo’d alot. Oh well, every dog is different!! I hope Norton does well on the Brothers I ordered!! Poor guy needs to gain some weight

  • Betsy Greer

    Hi Meeshholly,

    I like, and use, all of the same foods as you. : )

    I also like Fromm, Nutrisource and Earthborn. All of these foods are manufactured by companies that I believe in and can trust.

    I’m a bit of a dog food junkie and have tried lots of foods (and have donated a bunch to the shelter as well – c’est la vie). Right now, I’m sticking with NV Instinct rabbit, Brothers Allergy and Brothers White Meat for my Golden pup (who is in growth phase and needs less calcium as a result). But, I intend to rotate him on all of the Brothers proteins after he’s through the critical growth phase. Richard has mentioned additional Brothers favors that may be coming in the future, too; ie: lamb and venison. : )

    My Cavalier is just over a year old and right now she’s eating Brothers Fish and next will be Brothers Red Meat. She also does great on Instinct and Orijen. I tried her on Back to Basics recently and after a few weeks, she started having lots of loose stools so I got her off of it right away. I’m also looking forward to trying her on Amicus soon.

    For toppers, I really like Wellness Core, EVO, Blue Buffalo Wilderness and ZiwiPeak. My Cavalier loved Darwin’s raw, also. But, that wasn’t going over so well with my Golden pup when he joined us in July and for my convenience, I decided to hold off on the Darwin’s for a while. My Cavalier also loves ZiwiPeak air dried, but it’s expensive and while the amount she eats is doable, I’d probably go broke trying to feed it to my big dog. : )

    It’s also a lot of fun to give them raw, meaty ones. Your big dogs might like long marrow bones or knuckle bones. Their teeth will sparkle, they’ll exercise those big powerful jaws and stay occupied for hours!

    Glad you’ve joined us!

  • meeshholly

     They are both 3 years old. I also give homecooked & raw (about 30% daily) to my female – she’s on NV – I rotate the flavors every bag. I just adopted the St. in my avatar about 2 mos ago…and am trying to find a food for him..he’s been on Natures Logic but isn’t gaining any weight at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140685339 Betsy Greer

    If you think you think too much, you’re in good company!  ; )

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140685339 Betsy Greer

    Ah ha, that explains why I wasn’t finding it.  : )

    Personally, I will continue to use NV Instinct.  I use canned toppers, which I would presume “dilutes” the ash content somewhat.  Also, because I rotate foods, some higher in ash and some lower, I’m not concerned about using a product that might have an ash content slightly above what’s considered desirable.  You mentioned your dogs were doing well on Instinct, that speaks volumes.  Which Instinct formula are you using and how old are your dogs?  I ask because if they’re puppies, the Calcium levels are high ~ with the exception of the rabbit formula.  

    I’m very happy with Brothers.  It’s a high quality product that I know I can trust.  Richard Darlington of Brothers posts here regularly and I know he’d be happy to answer your questions.  There are others here, far more qualified than I, to respond to your statement about higher calorie foods.  I trust Richard and found this information about ash on his website (under “The Brothers Document”):  

    “If protein levels from meat sources in dry kibble are too high then there can be excessive levels of ash left over after the body consumes the protein and these high levels of ash can interfere with the animals’ ability to absorb nutrients. Ideally the ash content should be at 10% or below. Protein levels above 30 percent are suspect unless there are alternative protein sources like dried egg that help make up the protein content of the dry kibble.”

  • meeshholly

     that’s what I’m trying to do…is find maybe 2 or 3 foods to rotate with…sometimes I think I’m just thinking way too much!!

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    If you’re worried about, find some other brands and rotate through.  You don’t have to give it up completely.  While some dogs can have some harder stools/constipation with this amount of ash, other dogs do not. I feed raw food with bones and their stools pretty much turn to ash.

  • meeshholly

    I emailed the company yesterday & got the response today. Is that something I really need to be concerned about? I’m thinking of adding Brothers to my rotation but it’s lower in calories & and I have 2 St. Bernards that do better on higher calorie foods (over 400 per cup)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1140685339 Betsy Greer

    Hi Meeshholly,

    I just looked on the Nature’s Variety website and a bag of kibble that I have on hand and didn’t see the ash on either.  Where did you find it?  

    NV Instinct is an excellent food.  I use it in my rotation also.  Another product that I use that has lower ash levels is Brothers Complete:  http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-reviews/brothers-complete-grain-free-dog-food/

  • meeshholly

    so a dog food that has 10% – 12% ash in the formula isn’t that great then. I currently am feeding one of my dogs NV Instinct kibble which has the the above ash%. She’s doing pretty well on it…time to try to find another food…

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  • Thorobred14

    Hi I just found this site tonight and I’m SOOO excited!!!
    Just wanted to mention/ask you guys that I read some articles about brown rice having high levels or arsnic from the soil, white rice does not have this problem they said. Does anyone know more about this that they could educate us on? THANKS!  

  • Shawna

    Hi Addie :)

    shawnadfaemail @ yahoo.com

    Spaces removed of course :)

  • Addie

    Hey Shawna, what’s your email? I could use some advice

  • Shawna
  • Shawna

    Hi Klaas ~~ shortly after the AVMA released the information about their “Proposed Policy on Raw Pet Food Diets” they received so much feedback that they created a place for people to discuss it on their blog..

    The blog has over 1000 posts from raw feeders — including nutritionists, vets, vet techs and lay persons mostly supporting raw feeding.

    Many, including some vets and veterinary professionals, feel that the proposal is directly connected to larger kibble manufacturing companies and that there is a HUGE conflict of interest.

    The blog can be found here  http://atwork.avma.org/2012/07/18/the-facts-on-avmas-proposed-policy-on-raw-pet-food-diets/#comment-4326

    The AVMA has lost a lot of credibility with a lot of people over this. :-(

  • doggonefedup

    Klaas,
     could you supply a link to that article?

  • Klaas

    Please read the articel dated 6 August on the PET FOOD INDUSTRY website regarding the American Veterinary Medical Association’s stand of feeding your pet raw petfood.

  • monkey

    It really depends on the size of the dog too. Premade raw isn’t really feasible for most larger breed dogs because of the price. So you usually find people that have small breeds feeding the commercial raw foods for convenience.

  • Srials

    I have read his reviews of commercially prepared raw foods as well. It seems MOST people who feed raw don’t feed commercially prepared except as a back up plan when they are unable to follow their normal routine fresh raw meals. Don’t want to argue with anyone. Perhaps the folks who feed kibble are just less vocal.

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    You can find raw food reviews as well.

    http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-reviews/raw/

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    I don’t put too much stock in the ones that “carefully formulate and a balanced recipe worked out for the different growth stages of the dogs such as puppies, adults and senior dogs” according to AAFCO.  They still say “senior” dogs require less protein which is old thinking.

    http://dogaware.com/diet/commercial.html

    http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/what-is-aafco/

  • InkedMarie

    “Raw meat , if not cooked properly”……if you feed raw, you feed raw meat, you don’t cook it at all. 

  • Hound Dog Mom

    Klaas: I’m not sure if you think us raw feeders are inept, but I can assure you none of the dedicated raw feeders on this site are feeding their dogs only raw meat. Also, I think you may be a little too sold on the “complete and balanced” myth fed to consumers by commercial dog food companies. It’s not rocket science to prepare a meal for yourself and, trust me, it’s not rocket science to prepare a balanced meal for a dog either. There is no specific “formulation” for a dog’s meal just as there is no specific “formulation” for a human’s meal. Due to the frequency of harmful additives, tainted ingredients, and bacteria found in commercial kibble I only trust myself to prepare my dogs’ meals.

  • Makedogsbetter

    My dogs will stick to raw, getting what they need and keeping happy, too!

  • Klaas

    It’s anyones choice what type of food to feed to your pets but remember commercial  pet food ( in most cases ) are carefully formulated and a balanced recipe worked out for the different growth stages of the dogs such as puppies , adults and senior dogs. Puppies nutrional requirements are must different than older dogs and most pet food manufactures use the best nutritional additives in their food recipe. Raw meat , if not cooked properly , has many harmfull bacteria which can be more dangerous to an animal’s health and I am not a nutritionist but I am sure an dog will not get in all the required nutritions which is needed when only eating raw meat. But the choice is yours ! 

  • Shawna

    Spend a little more time on the site :)  It is NOT “dedicated to analyzing commercial kibble”.  Mike’s reviews commercial raw diets too…  It is a site dedicated to dog “food” — all foods.

  • Srials

    No offense against raw feeding whatsoever but on a site that is dedicated to analyzing commercial kibble and advising pet owners which are best it seems the discussion would revolve more around kibble.

  • Kate

    Since bones are high in calcium and phosphorus, it’s safe to assume thatthe BARF diet has a substantial amount of ash.

  • Kate

    Raw food has ash, quite a lot of it you include bones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1579171704 Robine Yvonne France

    Pet Food Companies can keep their Ash and their Fake Food. No animal of mine will ever eat Kibble or cans. Raw all the way for them. 

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  • http://twitter.com/mylabradorlove I Love My Labrador

    hey, this is a great thing to know about dog foods

  • hounddogmom12

    Hi PeopleRock,

    I believe ash is more commonly listed on cat foods because it is believed that high ash content may contribute to lower urinary tract disease in cats (although I believe this has been disproved).

  • PeopleRock

    Speaking of ash.. do you know why it’s listed in the guaranteed analysis on cat food but not on dog food?  Just curious!

  • Amelie

    Hi Mike!

    What is considered too high ash content? If food (27/17 as fed) has ash max 9,9%, calcium max 1,5% and phosphorus max 1,1%, is the ash content too high for large breed puppies?

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  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com/ Mike Sagman

    Hi Klaas,

    That’s an excellent question. But unfortunately, the answer depends on how much ash and specifically which minerals you’re talking about.

    Minerals (ash) in normal amounts are absolutely vital to the health of our dogs. However, in excessive amounts, they can be toxic.

    For example, excess calcium and phosphorus can have a negative impact on renal (kidney) function. And they can be particularly detrimental to large breed puppies.

    There are other minerals, too. And the exact amounts that are considered toxic can be unique to each one.

    Hope this helps.

  • http://www.dfwpugs.com/ sandy

    My dogs eat raw foods with bones.  They’re output is solid and will turn ashy in a couple hours.  The higher bone content and ash seems to firm up their stools.

  • Klaas Wentzel

    Your article about WHY IS THERE ASH IN YOUR DOG’S FOOD was really informative – thanks. What negative affects do a to high level of ash in petfood have on an dog ? Can the animal suffer from diarree , vomiting , etc.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com/ Mike Sagman

    Hi Meagan,

    Sure, it’s quite likely the company would know the breakdown (of the minerals) that make up what we know as ash.

    Minerals are a necessity. But in excessive amounts, especially certain ones like phosphorus can cause excessive load on the kidneys.

    Unfortunately, there’s a lot of variability in what some would classify as excessive (and even toxic).

    I’ll defer the answer to those details to another poster.

  • Meagan

    Would the company know the breakdown? Or is that impossible to know?
    Thanks!

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com/ Mike Sagman

    Hi Meagan,

    Since dog food manufacturers rarely post ash content on their labels, we have chosen to use 8% as our own fixed figure when estimating carbohydrate percentages on our “dashboard”.

    That said, this 12% figure appears to be on the high side.

    Without knowing the breakdown of that ash figure, it would be inappropriate for me to deduce any definitive conclusions for you.

    Wish I could be more help.

  • Meagan

    I decided to email Earthborn and ask what the ash % is for the Primitive Natural formula. It is 12% maximum. I am not sure if I will continue to feed it to Patches after this bag is gone. Bummer I thought it was a great food.
    What would your thoughts be Mike?

  • Pingback: Acceptable percentage of ash in kibble()

  • Amy Phillips

    Mike, thanks for the interesting and informative information on ASH. I work at a petstore where a good 70% of our customers have dogs and cats with “special” nutritional needs whether its simple food allergies to dogs with cancer or other disease issues. I am asked about ash frequently and therefore I am on the internet searching for informative information to relay to my concerned pet parents. Too often, the pet parents are misinformed about pet nutrition. I try to leave each pet parent with some good education and teach them how to read and understand the dog food labels and what to look for or avoid so they can make good educated decisions for themselves and not feel like I am just a used car salesman trying to push off the next “HOT” brand trending in the dog food market.

  • Nick

    I was shocked to find that my dogs food contained ash. Thanks for highlighting this important issue!

  • J Smith

    a further point is the 100g of liver had also 6.5 g of fat, a very high energy nutriient dense food. Please note, gererally speaking natural fat, be it animal or plant, no ash remains. Carohydrates in plants, and depending on the types of sugars-starch present have the greatest amount of ash present. That is why conventional bagged dog food has such high ash content-High carbs poor nutrition w high ash. High protein yields high nutrition same or less ash. Too many Carbs can also cause kidney and other organs/joint problems.

  • J Smith

    Howdy, commenting on protein vs carbs ash content in foods. Great site here, I came across it seaching for ash after reading about how the western natives would add ash to their food called “succotash”at http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/5448904/health_benefits_from_around_the_world_pg2.html?cat=5
    Ash percentage of foods with regards to protein vs carbs is not that great. Do query the USDA website at http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/ for the nutrient contents of varied whole foods, ash is amongst many nutrients listed. eg; 100g chicken liver simmered has Prot 24.5g-and Ash is only 1.36g, however 100g of raw Banana has 1g of Prot and .82g of Ash however it does have 23g ofCarbs. The statement of protein having much more ash then carbs seems mute within this example.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi JammyJ… Actually, I wasn’t intending to give the impression that ash isn’t important. Because, in fact, it can be. Excessive ash (mineral) content can be unhealthy for a dog, particularly a growing puppy. High ash content can be suggestive of the presence of too much bone or mineral supplement. Future upgrades to our dashboard may include a closer analysis of this figure (when reported). For the record, we use 8% as a default to help compute a reasonable carbohydrate content. Hope this helps.

  • Jonathan

    Not really, Jammyj. The amount of ash can tell us a lot about the possible quality of the meals used. Higher ash usually means more bones and such in the meal, and higher phosphorus levels, I believe…

  • jammyj

    So I guess ‘Ash’ is really rendering jargon that probably means more to someone in the dog food business than it does to the rest of us…

  • Leah

    Hi there, this article is so interesting. I had a dog for 14 years. He ended up with an intolerance to protein at 10. A protein free diet kept him alive another four years. When we got Lil I decided to look into the components of the dog food and was AMAZED at what I found. I know manufacturers need to keep costs low but some of the fillers they use are just nausea inducing. When I saw ash I thought it was another filler product and I was disgusted. However, after reading your article I realise that everything that is natural contains ash – thanks for clearing that up for me! Whites dog food has a 5% ash content, that’s below the 10% that you recommend as healthy. I’m delighted I found your article, otherwise I would have dismissed a perfectly good dog food for having a filler when it doesn’t.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Ed… Where do you come up with “99% of the dogs out there should be on a food with 22-25% protein”? Your figures are subjective and arbitrary. And not based on science.

    Ash is not bad… unless it is excessive. After all, you and your dog both contain ash. You are meat (to a grizzly bear). As this article explains, ash is simply minerals.

    You are correct in suggesting caution when buying high protein dog food. Excessive ash content can be a problem and is usually associated with recipes containing high levels of bone.

    However, dog foods contain varying amounts of meat. For example, boneless ingredients are quite low in ash. Even meatless vegan dog foods contains ash. Without knowing the exact amount, sweeping claims that high protein dog foods are bad for dogs are baseless and can be misleading to our readers.

    Bottom line? High protein dog foods are not automatically high in ash. But low protein dog foods (like you recommend) are nearly always too high in carbohydrates.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Vicki… Since the largest majority of manufacturers do not provide ash statistics, we use 8% (close to average) as the default value in our computations. The 2% difference in the case of the dog food you mention, would estimated carb (not protein or fat) content by 2%. Hope this helps.

  • ed

    High ash is one of the reasons that you should be careful feeding high proteins foods. 99% of the dogs out there should be on a food with 22 – 25% protein.

    With protein, especially muscle meat, comes ash. The answer to your question is no.

  • Vicki

    Ash is quoted at 10% on the Advance dog food as part of the product analysis. Wouldn’t this then make the protein content only 20% NOT 30% as quoted?

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Karen… All foods (even human and homemade) contain ash. Ash actually represents all the minerals present in any food. For without minerals, we (and our dogs) would all perish. There are a number of high quality low ash dog foods out there. Unfortunately, most (but not all) manufacturers do not disclose the ash content of their products. Sometime in the future, we’d love to publish a list of low ash dog foods. Thanks for your comment and hope things work out well for your dog.

  • Karen

    According to my vet the ash is probably the reason my dog had a bladder stone. The high ash in the food. He is cooked for now and is doing great. He had to have surgery for the stone and his new vet wanted to put him back on the same food he had been on for three years that showed no improvement in him for 3 years! He gets all kinds of veg., meat and brown rice , oats and barley. He is 11 years old and will never be fed dog food again. My 1 year old pom is being fed the same and is doing great.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Christy… most dog food manufacturers do not disclose the ash content of their foods… which makes it almost impossible to find the information you’re looking for.

    By the way, ash is the mineral residue left after “burning” all the protein, fat and carbohydrates from a food. You’ll probably not find an ash content much lower than what you’ve already found. Until pet food companies are required to publish the ash content of their products, it’s impossible to provide you with a reliable answer to your question.

  • christy

    Hi. My 11 year old boston terrier had a kidney stone and blood in the urine. The vet had me feed her a low ash dog food and antibiotics. They sell the science diet c/d at the vets, but I was trying to find one at Petsmart where its easier to go. The only brand i found was Authority Senior that had a ash content labeled at 2 %. Most of the brands had none listed. Plus none of the employees knew anything about what ash is. Do you know of any other brands that are low ash? Tilly seems not to be liking this brand as much. Thank you!

  • leb

    Wow! I never really understood the concept of ash before. I thought it was a very bad thing. I did not realize that it isn’t an added ingredient. I thought it literally was burnt ash that was added as a filler, which is a disgusting idea. I didn’t realize that it is mainly mineral content. Thanks so much for clarifying this matter for me!

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    HI Cindy… ash is most frequently associated with high protein dog foods. It should be considered a normal finding in most all food products. Yet when excessive, ash can be linked to various disease states… for example, kidney dysfunction. Although there’s some disagreement as to the exact point of concern, ash should probably be kept under 10 percent. Check with your vet.

    Ash content is one of those things I wish manufacturers would include on their product labels. Unfortunately, very few actually do.

  • cindy

    What is the downside of ash in dog food?

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Carol… the main reason I wrote that article is because I noticed many people falsely believed dog food companies actually add “ash” to their dog food. As you know, the truth is that ash is what’s left when you burn away the protein, fat and carbohydrates from organic compounds (like food). Ash is nothing more than non-combustible minerals… the same ash remaining after any animal (including us humans) has been cremated.

  • Carol

    Hi Mike, if wondering why folks ask about ‘ash content’ it’s not unreasonable to guess they also may have a cat. Ash content in cat food can be a major problem in the long term for their health. I’ve not heard that the amounts in dog food bother dogs in the same way.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Jeff… you’re absolutely right. Ash is not an ingredient.

  • Jeff White

    The point that many seem to have trouble grasping is that ash is not something that is added to the food, and it does not appear in the ingredients list of the vast majority of dog foods. If it’s found at all on the package, it’s in the Guaranteed Analysis section, along with the protein, moisture, and fat content, etc.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Kathy… the kind of ash I’m referring to in my article is the ash left over after burning food. It’s the stuff that can’t be burned… mostly the minerals. Ash is what’s left of us after we’ve been cremated (sorry for this grisly example). I’m not a vet and am not aware of that habit with any other dog. Tobacco ashes probably aren’t very nutritious for your dog. So I’d make an extra effort to keep the ashtrays around your house spotlessly clean. Thanks for your interesting story.

  • Kathy

    I have a small terrier mix and if anyone leaves a used ash tray around she licks it clean, or she looks for ashes on the ground of the patio. She usually does this when she’s not eating. I asked the Vet about it and he said he never heard of such a thing.She does not eat the cig butts just ashes. I feed them a natural food I get at the vets.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Jan… your comments about smoked meats and charcoal being linked to cancer are certainly something to be concerned about. But my point of this article is that manufacturers don’t normally add ash to dog food. No, ash is what’s left of ANY organic compound… trees or dog food (or even people food)… after you burn it. It’s the stuff that can’t be burned… the minerals (zinc, iron, etc.).

  • jan

    Anything smoked like smoked salmon, haddock, ham, cheese, sausage is carcinogenic. When we make toast benzopyrene is produced. The darker the toast the more benzopyrene you get. It is a very potent carcinogen used to induce tumours in lab rats. Carcinogenic Acrylamides are formed when you brown any starchy food. Anything burnt is not good for you it is harder for the body to digest. Charcoal is made by burning things to a cinder. Acivated charcoal is made to be very porous and is used in fuel storage, gas purification, chemical purification. air and water filters, treatment for poisoning and colon cleansing. Some say it reduces cholesterol. So I guess it has its good points and bad points like everything else. So while charcoal might clean out your dogs colon and reduce his cholesterol it might well give him cancer.

  • http://[email protected] Laura

    Well, this is very interesting. I never saw it this way or understood the Ash idea. I thought Ash listed in a product meant that it was in fact “really” added into the food… or else why list it? Funny. So, what that tells you is what the Ash content *would be* *if* the product was incinerated? Why is this an important aspect of pet food and not human food? We don’t see Ash content listed on our food products.

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Hi Laura… You’re right about the fact that raw food isn’t burned BEFORE it goes into the animal. Yet neither are store-bought dog food products. Yes, processed foods are cooked… but they’re not burned (combusted). However, in the science of nutrition, ash isn’t considered something the animal eats but rather the residue that would be left over after all the macronutrients (protein, fats, carbohydrates) have been completely combusted. It’s the stuff that can’t be burned up. It’s all those non-combustible minerals (like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, etc.) naturally present in all foods. I hate to be too graphic here, but it’s what’s left after any animal has been cremated. For humans, it’s what we refer to as “our ashes”. By the way, since minerals are usually added to almost all processed foods I would expect the ash rating to be notably higher than with raw food. Thanks for your interesting question.

  • http://[email protected] Laura

    Hi Mike!
    I’m not sure how Ash is part of a raw food diet? Ash being the byproduct of incinerated or “food combustion” and raw by definition isn’t cooked or burned in any way. ??? Unless you are referring to the feed that is fed to the animal that is slaughtered then later fed to humans or animals (our dogs)? I’d be interested in knowing how ash is incorporated in a raw diet, sincerely.

    I realize most people choose commercial pet food because of convenience. But, if a person spends the time up front researching and learning about a BARF diet for their pets – in the end it’s not any less convenient and in some cases it’s cheaper and it’s a healthier way to feed. Not to mention having more control over what your dogs eat! :-) I hate the idea of not knowing what goes on in those pet food processing plants and all the machinery the food goes through. There’s been enough in the news about all the contamination – that alone would be enough to change me, although, my switch to raw feeding wasn’t a result of something so big. ;-)

  • http://DogFoodAdvisor.com Mike Sagman

    Laura… good point. But many well-meaning dog owners know little about BARF diets and choose convenience over science. By the way, ash is a natural part of all raw and whole food diets, too.

  • Laura

    Yes… but, it’s so much better for your dog to consume food that is processed as little as possible. Just the same as it is for humans… processed foods only complicate things and your overall health. Generally speaking.

    BARF. Period. But, I’m biased.