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Home > Dogs > Is There Horse Meat in Dog Food? Separating Truth From Fiction

Is There Horse Meat in Dog Food? Separating Truth From Fiction

Fresh horse meat on a platter

As a dog owner, you have probably heard that there is horse meat in dog food. There is a lot of information floating around about dog food and its ingredients and it can certainly be difficult to tell fact from fiction. The truth is, horse meat was once used as a primary ingredient in dog food and while it is permitted for use in pet foods in other countries, horse meat is no longer used in dog food in the United States.

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The History of Horse Meat in Pet Foods

In the early 1920s, horse meat was regularly used in pet foods. Slaughterhouses even opened their own pet food companies to dispose of excess horse meat. Horse meat remained the main ingredient in a lot of pet foods for decades, but the use has since ceased due to the pressure put on companies because of the ethical and moral controversy surrounding the practice.

dog food in plastic container
Image Credit: APN Photography, Shutterstock

Cruelty Concerns and Legislation

Humans have been eating horses for well over 400,000 years but with the domestication of horses for use in transportation, agricultural labor, and eventual use in sport and leisure, the outlook changed in some parts of the world. The last domestic slaughterhouse closed in the United States in 2007 after a permanent ban was placed on horse slaughter within the country.

The ban had since lapsed in 2011 but because no money has been allocated for the funding of USDA inspections, unwanted horses in America are shipped to either Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered. The controversy surrounding the humane aspects of this subject is ongoing and many groups and rescues are fighting to end the cruel practices to which horses are subjected.

Where Pet Food Companies Stand

While many cultures still eat horse meat regularly, it has remained a very taboo subject in the United States. Pet food companies undoubtedly fear the backlash and potential for plummeting sales if horse meat were to be included in their recipes, so they refrain from using it.


Most Common Animal Protein Used in Dog Food

It may come as a huge relief to know that horses are no longer used as a source of meat for dog foods. If you’re wondering what animal proteins are used in dog food today, there’s an extensive list. Some recipes contain different types of fowl, fish, and even bison or venison, but here’s a list of the most prevalent meats you’ll see on the market.


Chicken is one of the most common animal proteins used in commercial dog foods today. Chicken is lean and packed full of protein to support healthy muscles. It contains omega-6 fatty acids that support healthy skin and coat.

Dogs that suffer food allergies are typically linked to allergens in protein, with chicken being one of the common food allergens observed in our canine pals. Dogs that suffer from food allergies and intolerances should be evaluated and any ingredient that causes a reaction should be avoided. If your dog does suffer from a chicken allergy, there are plenty of other healthy sources of meat and many foods crafted specifically for this issue.

freeze dried dog food in a bowl
Image By: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock


Beef is another commonly used protein in dog foods. It is rich in zinc, iron, selenium, and vitamins B12, B3 and B6. Beef is not only great for healthy muscle mass but also for energy levels and maintaining healthy skin and coat. Like chicken, beef is another common food allergen to keep an eye out for. Again, dogs that suffer from these types of protein allergies in food have plenty of other options that are equally as healthy and beneficial.


Turkey is one of the leanest forms of animal protein used in dog foods. It is lower in protein than some of the other sources but is still protein-rich and highly digestible. It is great for healthy muscle support and offers a great source of riboflavin and phosphorus. Turkey is often used as an alternative protein source for dogs that suffer from food allergies related to the more common allergens such as chicken or beef.

dog with a food bowl
Image By: Adriana Morales, Pixabay


Lamb is also another animal source you will see frequently while dog food shopping. Lamb is high in protein and essential amino acids. It is another form of lean meat and has a much less fat content than other varieties. The lower fat content in lamb makes it an ideal choice for weight management. Dogs needing to shed a few pounds or seniors that are less active than they used to be can benefit a lot from lamb as the main protein source.


Salmon is packed full of protein and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  Salmon is excellent for skin and coat health as well as offering immune support and healthy muscle mass. Salmon is a very common go-to meat source for dogs that suffer from allergies and makes a great alternative for those that are sensitive to chicken, beef, or other protein.

dog food with salmon in a bowl
Image By: cucuceku, Shutterstock



Horse meat used to be used in dog food in the United States decades ago but was quickly removed due to the ongoing controversy surrounding the ethical and moral aspects of horse slaughter. While pet foods are not banned from using horse meat in their recipes, companies opt for other healthy, more common meat sources and steer clear of horse meat to avoid backlash and scrutiny.

Featured Image Credit: NaoYuasa, Pixabay

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