7 Ingredients in Dog Food You Must Absolutely Avoid Giving Your Pets

We all want the best for our pets, but sometimes our busy schedule prohibits us from making homemade meals for them all the time – so we resort to dog food. And that’s perfectly fine! However, did you know that certain ingredients can be harmful to their health? If you didn’t know this yet, keep reading to learn about the ingredients to avoid in dog food.

Of course, we want to put our budget in mind when picking pet food. However, not all dog food seems like the best bang for our buck is. Brands spend a lot on marketing and labeling to make it look like their products are healthier than they are. 

Pro tip: ALWAYS look at the ingredients list. This is one part that no marketing tactic can cover up. It is the most honest of dog food packaging. So let’s take a good look at some of the ingredients that are bad for your pups’ health. Some of them are also found in people’s food, so be cautious!

Top 7 Ingredients To Avoid In Dog Food


These chemicals are used as preservatives in both pet and human food. They are even banned in certain countries. However, these two preservatives have been approved in the US, Europe, and Canada if used in small quantities for food use.

While so much more studies are required, scientists have hypothesized a link between the use of BHA/BHT and cancer, as well as child hyperactivity. While this isn’t 100% guaranteed at the moment, the best move is prevention – both for ourselves and our dogs.

You can find BHA and BHT in human food such as butter, beer, dry cereal, chewing gum, margarine, and processed food items.

2. Flour

Flour: One of the worst ingredients to avoid in dog food

Particularly white flour, this simple carbohydrate has had most of its nutrition washed away. One of the worst effects that white flour is causing a spike in blood sugar, followed by a drop. This makes your dog (or you) hungry not long after ingesting it. Too much white flour in the diet can lead to obesity and diabetes.

3. MSG

Monosodium glutamate already has a bad rep but continues to exist in so many prepared and processed food. This “flavor enhancer” does improve the taste of both human and pet food, but at what cost? It is usually a cheap fix to enhance the taste of processed food made with low-quality ingredients. It has no nutritional value. The worst part is that it acts as an allergen for humans and pets alike.

Currently, the law doesn’t require it to appear on food labels. But if you’re keen to watch out for it, it usually comes along with these ambiguous ingredients: protein isolate, hydrolyzed protein, texturized protein, autolyzed yeast, yeast extracts, hydrolyzed yeast, natural flavors (such as chicken flavor), soy concentrate, soy extracts, calcium caseinate, monopotassium glutamate, sodium caseinate, disodium inosinate, glutanic acid or glutamate, and others.

4. Gluten

Gluten is definitely a hot topic for human consumption, but did you know it’s something you should look out for in dog food, too? In fact, the reasons why it can hurt your dog are far worse than how it can hurt people (digestion and weight management). It isn’t a natural food for dogs (or cats). It can be found in grains such as barley or wheat. Sometimes, labels do include gluten as its standalone ingredient. It is added to pet food as a binder, giving shape and form to kibble. 

Cats respond less fairly to gluten than dogs, but there are still several allergies and problems that canines can face. Digestive stress is a common one, often because of the dramatically high amounts of grains in the processed kibble. You’ll also notice less than adorable symptoms such as itching, chronic ear infections, and hot spots. These all lead to gluten sensitivity in your dog.

5. Non-Descript “Meat” and “Meat Meal”

Don’t get us wrong – meat is absolutely good for your dog. In fact, it should be a primary source of your dog’s daily diet. However, when buying dog food, you might notice ingredients simply labeled “meat,” “meat and bone meal,” or “meat meal.” 

Canned goods

Seeing these ingredient names is an automatic red flag. This means your dog is going to be served with the most inadequate meat sources possible. When brands decide to use this ingredient name, we can never know what’s in it. Usually, it’s ground meat leftovers. We can’t say for sure what kind of quality and safety we’re taking home. In worst cases – they can even come from expired meats from supermarkets, meat from sick or dead animals, and other unnameable sources.

6. Corn Syrup

Corn Syrup: One of the worst ingredients to avoid in dog food

There have been more than sufficient studies and documentaries about how corn syrup is terrible for our health. This cheap sweetener can harm not just us humans but for pets too. Similar to refined sugar, it leads to obesity and diabetes. After consuming corn syrup, blood sugar levels spike and then crash down shortly after. 

The worst part of it all is that it is highly addictive, making it a hard habit to break. But the more your puppy consumes, the more he’ll likely prefer sweet food and treats in general – and that’s terrible news!

7. Artificial Coloring

Colored Doughnut

Sure, having artificial colors on any food can make it look yummier. But be wary because artificial colors can lead to several health issues, such as hyperactivity. If you think about it, the one and the only reason why brands add artificial colors is to make food visually appealing. It’s totally unnecessary for both people and dog food. Be cautious because food coloring might be present in any product, but more so in processed food items.

5 Healthy Food for Dogs

There are so many harmful ingredients for our dogs, and the ones we listed here are – sadly – only the tip of the iceberg. But we don’t want to leave you on a morbid note. So below, we’re listing five healthier alternatives that can give your dogs a safe and filling diet every day.

1. Chicken and Turkey

Over the fresh meat aisle, you can beat chicken or turkey for pets. But they aren’t without risks, of course. Because of the everyday use and high prevalence of chicken and poultry products, chicken is one of the most common allergies in dogs (and cats), so you might want to check with your vet if your pup is all good to eat some of this fresh meat.

You can reduce the chances of your pet developing a chicken allergy, too. Simply rotate your dog’s primary protein source every couple of months. Although less common, duck is a great protein alternative as well. And here’s a pro tip: while your dog is still a puppy, introduce them to different protein sources during their first year of life. This reduces their risk of developing allergies.

2. Eggs

Eggs are an absolutely great source of protein for dogs. They possess a biological value of 100, and they are very digestible! Plus, we can all agree they’re among the more affordable sources of protein for your dog. Each egg contains a highly concentrated nutritional value, making them an excellent ingredient for both dog and cat food.

3. Beef

The only downside of beef is that it’s quite expensive. Other than that, it’s great for dog food. It provides a good source of protein. Dogs can digest it without issues, too. 

Alternatives are lamb, venison, bison, and sheep. These are excellent protein sources, too, although they are even more expensive.

4. Fish

Fish is a good ingredient for dogs. Its benefits include dermatological advantages, such as nourishing and moisturizing skin, preventing shedding and skin flaking, and soothing dry or sensitive skin. Suitable fish types include salmon and ocean fish.

Note: Fish can contain toxins, so don’t keep your dogs on a fish-only diet. Always rotate their primary source of protein regularly.

5. Chicken Meal

Chicken meal refers to the dried product made using the mixture of clean chicken skin and flesh, minus the bone. It is gathered from whole chicken carcasses and does not include heads, feet, feathers, and entrails. 

Yes, these are rendered products, which makes them less healthy than the other options. Because they need to be cooked at such high levels of heat, they tend to lose a lot of their nutritional value as well. Still, chicken meal is a good protein source that’s quite affordable.

We hope you enjoyed this article! What are your favorite dog food brands and recipes that you think are safe and healthy for your pets? Share them with us!