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The Terrible Dog Food Ingredients You Need to Avoid

4 minute read

By natadm

You want the best for your dog, so you likely worry about the quality of your furry friend’s food. Every pet owner wants to feed their dog the most nutritious and delicious food possible.

Unfortunately, many of the most popular dog foods are full of dangerous ingredients – and poor-quality food with these ingredients can seriously affect your dog’s health. To keep your pup healthy, you need to know which ingredients to avoid and which to seek out.

Stay Away from These Ingredients

Different dogs may have different nutritional needs, but certain ingredients are harmful for all canines. Many common dog food brands use ingredients that can cause lifelong health problems for dogs of all kinds, which is why it’s important to carefully read the ingredients list before you choose a particular dog food. Here are the ingredients you absolutely need to avoid:

4-D Meat Products

Think your pup’s food is packed with delicious meats? Unfortunately, some pet foods use 4-D meat products, which stands for diseased, disabled, dying, or dead. These meat products aren’t suitable for human consumption, but pet food companies can salvage them for their own use. Although 4-D meat products are not illegal, the FDA¹ acknowledges that 4-D meat can be hazardous to both animals and humans.

Some dogs may get sick immediately after eating 4-D meats, but there can also be long-term health effects. 4-D meat products contain fat, and poor-quality fats can cause chronic diseases and impaired cognitive functioning in dogs.


Corn is a cheap grain often used to add volume to dog food. It’s filler and nothing more – corn has little nutritional value. Even worse, corn can be harmful to canines. Corn has a high glycemic index compared to other grains, which means it can cause unhealthy blood sugar spikes.

Dogs have difficulty digesting corn, especially when it’s unprocessed. However, the more processed the corn is, the higher its glycemic index becomes. Corn has few vitamins and minerals compared to other dog food ingredients, and it’s not a good source of energy. It’s more harmful than helpful for your dog, so it’s better to avoid dog food containing corn.


Grain is especially harmful for dogs with allergies. Like humans, dogs can develop grain allergies – and often, you’ll only find out about this allergy once your pet has consumed food filled with grains.

Even if your dog doesn’t have a grain allergy, it’s best to avoid grain-based foods. Manufacturers use grains to add volume or to change the texture of dog food, not to provide nutrients. Like corn, it’s merely filler, meaning grain-based dog foods don’t contain enough protein or provide enough energy.

Preservatives, Dyes, and Other Add-ins

Certain preservatives, dyes, and other chemicals can be extremely dangerous for your dog. One of the most dangerous preservatives is BHA, or butylated hydroxyanisole. BHA is a known carcinogen and has been found to cause liver and kidney disease in rats. Another preservative to avoid is ethoxyquin, which is illegal to add to human foods but isn’t regulated in pet foods.

Dyes in pet food can cause allergic reactions, cancer, and behavioral problems. Red 40, Blue 2, and Yellow 5 and 6 are known to cause health issues in dogs, but all types of dyes may be harmful. You should also check a food’s ingredient list for propylene glycol, which is found in some treats and soft dog foods.

How to Choose a Good Dog Food

Understanding labels on different dog foods is the key to choosing the right food or brand. The ingredients are listed in order of weight, according to WebMD¹, but this includes water weight. If the first ingredient is meat, the dog food is about 75 percent water. Meat meals have had the water and fat removed, so the animal protein is more concentrated.

You should look for a dog food that includes a statement from the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO. To get the organization’s approval, AAFCO² requires a dog food to provide complete canine nutrition. The label should also tell you which age group the food is meant for. Puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs all have different nutritional needs, so it’s important to buy the right type.

All dog food manufacturers are required to list the minimum amount of protein and fat in their food. Because your dog may not be able to digest all of the protein and fat in a given dog food, it’s good to look for even higher percentages to ensure you’re getting the right blend.

Where to Find Great Deals on Healthy Dog Food

It can be hard to find healthy and affordable dog food, especially if you limit your search to pet stores in your area. The best way to find healthy dog food is to do careful research and make informed decisions. If you’re not sure of your dog’s nutritional needs, you should speak to your veterinarian for advice. Then, you can research different brands online to find which one is best for your dog.

You may be able to find great dog food at your local pet store, but you’ll find a wider variety of options if you also look online. Many manufacturers sell their dog foods online now, which opens up more opportunities for you to find healthy dog food with the right ingredients on a budget. As long as you double-check that all of the ingredients are safe and nutritious, you should be able to find food that keeps your dog happy and healthy.

Like anything, it’s always a good idea to be aware of the latest research. We recommend comparing at least 3 or 4 options before making a final decision. Doing a search online is typically the quickest, most thorough way to discover all the pros and cons you need to keep in mind.