Dogster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

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

Written by: Lindsey Lawson

Last Updated on June 21, 2024 by Dogster Team

Fresh horse meat on a platter

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

There is a great deal of information floating around about dog food and its ingredients, and it can certainly be difficult to tell facts from fiction. For example, you may have heard that there is horse meat in dog food. The truth is that horse meat was indeed once a primary ingredient in dog food. However, 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.

divider-dog paw

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. It remained the main ingredient in many pet foods for decades, but its use has since ceased due to the pressure put on companies by the ethical and moral controversy surrounding the practice.

dog food in plastic container
Image By: 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 transportation, agricultural labor, and eventually, sport and leisure, people’s outlook changed in certain 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 lapsed in 2011, but since 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 taboo subject in the United States. Pet food companies undoubtedly fear the backlash and potential for plummeting sales if horse meat were 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 are 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. It’s lean and packed full of protein to support healthy muscles. It contains omega-6 fatty acids that support healthy skin and coat.

Canine food allergies are typically linked to protein allergens, with chicken being one of the common allergens observed in our furry 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 Credit: 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 a common food allergen to keep an eye out for. 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 is an ideal 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 Credit: Adriana Morales, Pixabay


Lamb is another animal source you will see frequently while dog food shopping. It is high in protein and essential amino acids. It’s 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 greatly from lamb as the main protein source.


Salmon is packed full of protein and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It is excellent for skin and coat health, immune support, and healthy muscle mass. Salmon is a 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 was used in dog food in the United States decades ago but was removed due to the 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 more common and healthier meat sources and steer clear of horse meat to avoid backlash and scrutiny.

Featured Image Credit: NaoYuasa, Pixabay

PangoVet Image Speak With A Vet Online

Get Dogster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
Dogster Editors Choice Badge
Shopping Cart


© Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.