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Are all Fillers in Dog Food a Bad Thing? One Eyed Jack Wanted to Know

As many of you know, Jack and my other three dogs, along with my daughters, are my life. I do not know what I would do if I lost any of them. It is my job, as a mom and dog mom, to make sure that what they are putting in their bodies is the best stuff possible. Just as I am concerned about the ingredients in my children’s foods, I also want to understand the ingredients that go into Jack’s food. For a year or so now I have been feeding him Purina’s exclusive ‘made to order’ dog food, Just Right by Purina. I have been thrilled with the fact that his coat looks shiny and healthy, he has the energy of a three year old dog that he should and that he gobbles down dinner every night without hesitation. His is a Salmon formula that is grain-free. But I still wonder about some of the plant based fillers that are in many dog foods. I trust the food and happily feed it to him with confidence but am always curious. So, I wanted to know, are all fillers in dog food a bad thing?

I’ll be honest. I thought the purpose of fillers was just to make the food bulkier for the animal. But Just Right by Purina does not put fillers in their foods ‘just because’. There are some fillers that have a nutritional value that Jack needs. In the article, Is Plant Protein Good for My Dog?, Just Right by Purina does a good job of explaining how many vegetables and plants have protein, which our dogs need. In fact, you can see the nutrient breakdown below:

Plant Protein in Dog Food

Now listen, I am not saying that ‘fillers’ are all the same. They are not. But if processed and used in the right way, they are beneficial to our dogs in ways we may not understand.

The protein from one ingredient (e.g. chicken) will differ from the protein in another food source (e.g. corn) based on how long the protein is, its structure, and the combination of amino acids that make up that protein. However, each individual amino acid – in this case, methionine – is exactly the same, regardless of whether it came from chicken or from corn.

So, just like you and I can get protein from eggs, kale, beans and other sources, dogs can get those same nutrients from meat based proteins and plant based proteins. At least that is how I see it.

Are all Fillers in Dog Food a Bad Thing?

Now, before you think this is a total pro-piece about fillers, I fully admit that I feed my dog a custom, grain-free formula of Just Right by Purina. My reasoning is not so much the fillers, however, as much as I just prefer it. I guess I have listened over and over again to the negative talk about fillers and grains in my pet’s foods and have made myself more comfortable with the idea of grain free. But as Dr. Lauren Pagliughi, DVM states, the ‘ingredients’ on your dog’s food does not necessarily tell you everything about the actual nutrients.

Grain or Grain-Free Dog Food?

INTERNET SAYS: Grains are just filler ingredients and aren’t appropriate for dogs.

DR. LAUREN SAYS: The term “filler” doesn’t have a place in the pet food industry. It takes an extraordinary amount of work to formulate the right nutrients in the right amounts for complete and balanced nutrition. It would be a waste of money and valuable space to use an ingredient that has no purpose!

Are all Fillers in Dog Food a Bad Thing? One Eyed Jack Wanted to Know so we asked

True, uncooked grains are difficult for dogs to digest. But properly cooked grains in dog food are actually highly digestible and nutritious. Grains are an excellent source of carbohydrate, which your dog’s body uses as an efficient source of energy. Grains also contain important nutrients like protein and essential amino acids, fat and essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. When an individual grain is divided up into its components, individual nutrients can be concentrated and used in your dog’s food.


Now, you may ask, why are you even writing this article? My answer is that I was challenged on what I thought fillers were, I honestly could not answer. I stumbled around a little trying to come up with a good answer. I don’t have one of the less than 1% of dogs who have a grain allergy. I don’t have a dog that is sensitive to any ingredients. So what was my reasoning on thinking grains and fillers were so bad?

I didn’t have one. So in my search for real answers I started with the food I already feed Jack.

So we asked Purina

There is nothing in this world I would ever do to hurt any of my family members, One Eyed Jack included. All of my dogs have back stories that are sad and make you question humanity’s treatment of animals. Feeding him a food I love and trust and understanding in detail what goes into it matters to me. I want him to live a long life, full of fun and play.

I am glad I went on this hunt for information from the source instead of listening to the generic information so many have given me. Are all fillers good? No. Are all dog food full of the right fillers? NO. But I know that Just Right by Purina has the nutrients and ingredients Jack needs to live the best life possible.

And that is why I proudly feed it to him!

What do you know about fillers? Let’s have an informational and healthy debate!