How is Dry Dog Food Made – The Basics of Dry Dog Food

by Kevin Stard | Last Updated: 08.03.2021


Dog dry food is made through a process known as extrusion. Firstly a nutritionist formulates a recipe targeted at the type of dog or growth stage that the food is designed for. The recipe or formulation sets out the ingredients and their volumes (by weight) for each ingredient, and it also indicates the nutrient composition of the finished product.

puppy feeding chartOnce the formulation is set then each ingredient referred to as dry ingredients (low moisture content not liquids) are weighed into a mixer for blending prior to passing through a very fine sieved hammer mill. This may happen in reverse, i.e. ingredients are hammer milled prior to mixing. This process has two purposes, firstly it ensures that all ingredients are evenly spread through the mix and secondly, because it is finely milled, it has commenced the process of breaking down the cell walls on some of the larger ingredients. Lets call this the raw mix for want of a better terminology.

From here the raw mix is forced through a piece of machinery called an extruder. Basically it is a tube with a cork screw type auger that forces the raw ingredients toward the shape dye and rotating knife. While the raw mix is passing through the extruder it is blasted with steam that is pressurised. This adds moisture to the mix allowing the kibble shapes to be formed through the dye and individually cut off by the rotating knife. The heat from the steam continues the break down of cell walls of some ingredients in the mix.The shapes are then cooked/baked in a specially designed oven. Some of these ovens are vertical, that is the kibble shapes enter through the top and pass through several layers of the oven before exiting at the bottom fully cooked. Moisture has been removed in this process so the shapes are hot, hard and permanently set. The next step involves the addition of liquids such as fat, oils and flavouring.

There are two methods used for applying these ingredients to the kibble shapes. Firstly it can be sprayed on. Spray jets apply the liquids as the shapes pass along a conveyor system. There may be some inconsistencies with this method as the liquid may run off the outside of the kibble shapes before it soaks in.Secondly, a vacuum applicator can be used. Vacuum applicators are a square metal box that hold a quantity of the shaped dog food. Air is removed from the box forming a vacuum, liquids are injected into the box and immediately impregnate the kibble shapes. There is very little waste or inaccuracy with this method. The product is now finished except for cooling prior to packaging. All good dog food has the fines removed, this can occur at a couple of points along the manufacturing line by way of a shaker which allows the fines to drop through for collection or by the use of a dust extractor. In some factories both are used.



what is in dog food ingredientsSufficient fuel to do the job! Energy is required not only to allow a dog to work but to allow it to exist, like breathing, staying warm or cooling down, processing food and reproducing. It is the single most important requirement for life other than water. Energy is sourced from fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

Fats are a concentrated form of energy for storage. They can be very quickly metabolised into energy in the muscle. During the process of converting fat to energy, lactic acid is produced in the muscles which may result in tying up or cramping in some circumstances. Unlike humans fats do not tend to accumulate in a dogs arteries. There are two types of fatty acids that are essential in dog food, Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids. Both these types of fatty acids are important and should be in balance and are important for many physiological functions, anti-inflammatory responses, joint mobility and capillary function. Fats help maintain a shiny healthy skin and coat on a dog and act as a transport mechanism for fat soluble vitamins.


These are the building blocks (Amino Acids) for growth, development, lactation and/or reproduction. It makes up a great proportion of muscle, enzymes, hormones, immune system and provide some energy. Proteins are sourced primarily from meats and fish but some is available from plant sources. Protein quality is critical in the dogs diet and it is assessed by how closely its amino acids meet the dogs requirements. Proteins derived from meat sources are preferred to those derived from plants because the amino acids are balanced and easier for the dogs digestive system to extract.


Minerals are essential inorganic compounds necessary for life. Dogs cannot synthesise minerals so they are added to dog food in the manufacturing process.

There are two groups of minerals


Like minerals there are two types of vitamins necessary for a dogs body to function effectively. Fat soluble vitamins are commonly stored in special fat storage cells called lipocytes and include A, D, E, and K. The second group of vitamins are water soluble and include vitamin C and the B complex vitamins. This group of vitamins are not readily stored in the dogs body and if oversupplied they are passed in the urine.


Absolutely essential for life. Always ensure your dog has good quality clean drinking water in the kennel. It is difficult to supply clean water when a dog is working but ingestion of fouled or putrid water can have adverse effects on their body function, thus affecting the dogs performance.