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Any dog owner who dares to scan the ingredients list of their dog’s food might be shocked at what they find. Many dog foods contain animal byproducts which aren’t intended for human consumption. (Contrary to popular belief, this does not necessarily mean they are unfit for human consumption.)
Common animal byproducts added to commercial dog foods include trimmed fat, viscera, bone, and blood. While some dog owners may balk at the inclusion of animal byproducts in their dog’s food, recycling such products into animal feed reduces waste and the risk of biohazards. Wild dogs also routinely consume blood and other animal parts as part of their diet.
Process and Sources
When livestock is sent to slaughter, as much as 43% of the animal’s body weight is considered inedible for humans and subsequently discarded, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. These animal parts are then rendered using heat to remove moisture, separate fats, and kill bacteria and other pathogens. Blood meal can be dried, ground up, or flash-frozen.
Animal byproducts, including blood meal, must be sourced from healthy animals and are common ingredients in feed for a variety of species, including poultry, fish, and pets. Nearly 89% of blood meal is comprised of crude protein, and it also contains essential amino acids and minerals.
Uses and Precautions
Blood meal is primarily used as a garden fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen, making it a nutrient-rich plant food.
That said, is blood meal safe for dogs to eat? Yes, says the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Some articles incorrectly report that blood meal is indigestible for dogs, an outdated assumption which traces back to the poor processing techniques of the past. Rendering blood meal and other animal byproducts in accordance with strict federal regulations not only eliminates harmful bacteria but also increases the product’s digestibility.
Make an Informed Decision
Considering that blood meal is also used as a fertilizer, many dog owners might assume it’s unsafe for their precious pups to consume. And, to some extent, that assumption is correct: the Pet Poison Helpline lists blood meal and bone meal fertilizers as mildly toxic to dogs and cats when ingested in large quantities.
Consuming large amounts of blood meal can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and bloating. Ingesting blood meal which is fortified with iron can also cause iron toxicity in dogs. The most severe cases may result in pancreatitis, but no fatal symptoms or conditions have been reported following consumption of blood meal.
It’s also important to note that, while as much as 40% of dry matter in many commercial dog foods is comprised of animal byproducts, only trace amounts of blood meal are typically added to dog food. Popular pet food brand Purina lists organ, tissue, and bone meal as the most common animal byproducts in dry dog food. In wet food, most of the byproducts come from organs, including the liver, kidneys, and spleen.
Considering adding blood meal to your dog’s raw diet? It’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid adding blood meal of any type -- whether it’s powdered or home-rendered -- to your dog’s food. Because cases of blood meal toxicity are well-documented, it’s best to leave the handling of this dog food ingredient to the pet food professionals.
Additionally, the scent of blood meal fertilizer will naturally attract your dogs (and cats!) searching for a tasty treat, so keep all fertilizers, blood and bone meal included, out of your pets’ reach.
Dog owners are understandably concerned about the processed ingredients in many commercial dog foods. However, processed does not always equal unhealthy, and pet food manufacturers source their animal byproducts from meat processing plants which must meet strict quality standards set by the US Department of Agriculture.