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What Is Salmon Meal in Dog Food? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on June 7, 2024 by Dogster Team

smoked salmon outdoors

What Is Salmon Meal in Dog Food? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ


Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg  Photo


Dr. Maxbetter Vizelberg

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Salmon meal is a rich, protein-heavy ingredient. Typically, it is created by drying salmon to remove most of its moisture content. This leaves a dried meal that is usually broken down into a powder. Since dry dog foods have little moisture content, salmon meal is a suitable protein choice. Many experts regularly recommend salmon meal, and it is used in high-quality dog food.

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What’s the Difference Between Salmon and Salmon Meal in Dog Food?

There is one primary difference between salmon and salmon meal: moisture content. Plainly speaking, whole salmon contains a lot of moisture, while salmon meal contains very little. Therefore, whole salmon can only be used as-is when in wet food, which is high in moisture.

However, whole salmon cannot be used in dry food, despite regularly appearing on ingredient lists. Before it can be used in dry food, the moisture content must be removed, which basically turns it into salmon meal. Therefore, practically all salmon in dry dog food is actually salmon meal (unless it is processed in another way, like freeze-drying).

That said, both of these ingredients are high-quality. They basically have the same nutrient content, but salmon meal is lower in moisture. However, it’s also more concentrated, so it contains more protein per ounce.

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

What Is Salmon Meal Made Of?

Salmon meal comprises whole salmon that has gone through a process called rendering. This can be likened to making salmon broth, which is overcooked until there is no water left, just the solids from the salmon.

Typically, whole salmon is extremely high in water—up to 70%. After rendering, the water content is usually below 10%. Therefore, salmon will weigh much less after rendering due to the decreased water weight. If salmon meal appears high on the ingredient list, you can be assured that your dog is getting a lot of protein.

If whole salmon appears as the first ingredient in a dry food, keep in mind that most of this is actually water, which had to be removed for the salmon to be added to the dry food, anyway.

That said, we’re talking about “salmon meal” here. While we highly recommend this ingredient, we do not typically recommend ingredients like “meat meal” or “animal meal” because with no explicit source listed, the quality of the meat is suspect.

Is Fish Meal a Good Ingredient in Dog Food?

Technically, fish meal is slightly lower quality than salmon meal solely because it doesn’t specify which type of fish is used. Often, fish meal is made from the cheapest option on the market or feeder fish. This doesn’t necessarily make the fish meal low quality. However, since the type of fish isn’t made explicitly known, it’s assumed to be.

That said, most fish meal provides a variety of different ingredients that are difficult to get in dog food otherwise. For instance, fish are quite high in DHA and other omega-fatty acids. These support your dog’s skin and coat health. The fatty acids are also vital for brain development in puppies, both born and unborn.

Many puppies may benefit from the addition of cod oil to their food, which provides high levels of omega fatty acids too.

dog eating
Image by: dmytro Zinkevych, Shutterstock



Salmon meal is an extremely high-quality ingredient. It will often appear in dry dog foods, as these have lower levels of moisture. We highly recommend salmon meal, especially since it is high in protein and omega fatty acids.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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