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8 Harmful Dog Food Ingredients to Avoid


Skepticism is good – you never know what kind of toxic additives are hidden in your dog’s food!

It’s no secret to pet owners that many popular brand name dog foods are absolutely horrible; which shouldn’t be too hard to believe, considering the awful food that we humans ingest ourselves. Ranging from unhealthy to harmful, most ingredients found in many mainstream dog food brands can cause many different health complications – in the short term as well as the long term. In fact, most of the ingredients are just pointless “fillers” like cellulose (wood pulp) that has no nutritional value; but that isn’t even the worst of them. In a world where it seems that processed foods dominate the grocery store shelves, it shouldn’t be a surprise that common companies that manufacture so-called “healthy” dog foods, have less than desirable ingredients in it for your beloved furbaby to ingest. We don’t want to point any fingers at specific brands or anything, but here are harmful, toxic, and all-around unnecessary additives to look out for in your dog’s food:

  1. Propelyne Glycol – This virtually invisible liquid that is found in anti-freeze and shampoo products as a solvent, is added to semi-moist brands of dog food in order to keep it from drying out. The irony is that in the effort to preserve moisture, this ingredient is toxic when ingested in large amounts; potentially causing brain, liver, and kidney problems down the road. I’d rather my pet eat dry food than have to worry about brain problems, wouldn’t you?
  2. Ethoxyquin – Another preservative that does more harm than good, Ethoxyquin was first created to be used in herbicides, and is also useful in rubber production. Many dog owners, veterinarians, and scientists have linked this substance to an increased risk of cancer, immune deficiencies, imbalanced thyroid glands, reproductive problems, and kidney failure. While this isn’t a 100% proven connection, there is a lot of evidence to support the correlation, so it is best to just stay away from foods containing this rubber-producing material – because why is a rubber-related chemical in dog food anyway?


    “Why are they putting chemicals involved with antifreeze and rubber production in FOOD?” Good question.

  3. FD&C Blue No. 2 – Artificial food dyes are usually not healthy for anyone to ingest, let alone your pets – so definitely steer clear of any dog food that incorporates this (in my opinion) unnecessary additive. One very extensive study suggests that this particular dye has caused brain tumors to develop in mice (especially males), and there has been much speculation that it also causes serious allergic reactions and learning difficulties in humans. Although there is no specific research about its effect in dogs, there is mounting evidence in relation to other mammals, so again – it’s better to be safe than sorry! It also doesn’t help that it is extremely close in chemical composition to Blue No. 1 which definitely causes dangerously low blood pressure, discolored skin, and excessive acidity in the body. The raised acid levels alone can account for acid reflux, reduced appetite, vomiting, and other digestive problems. So yeah, I’d avoid this one.
  4. Artificial and Natural Sweeteners – Another sad irony in the world of food manufacturing is the creation of artificial sweeteners, which were invented to avoid the harmful health effects of sugar – but are now being linked to a host of other horrible illnesses like cancer and pancreatitis. It’s almost hard to keep up with the ongoing list, with xylitol and sorbitol being the most prevalent in dog food; which is absolutely absurd and unnecessary. Even natural sweeteners like corn syrup, fructose, and sugar itself should NOT be in dog food at all. Natural sweeteners can cause varying levels of hypoglycemia, hyperactivity/exhaustion, obesity, heart disease, strokes , and infections/abcesses of the mouth among other things. Your dog’s food does NOT need to be sweetened, so stay away from any and all foods containing sweeteners.


    “Why not just NOT add random crap to our food…?” Because these companies want to make more profit, sadly!

  5. “Animal Fat” or “Crude Protein” – Get ready to be horrified, folks. If you have ever seen “crude protein” or “animal fat” listed as an ingredient on dog food, you should never buy that food again. Either of these terms can literally mean that the “animal fat” came from any part of any animal, from any source, anywhere. You might be alright with the discarded animal parts from cows, horses, pigs, etc. to be ground up and used as “crude protein,” but how do you feel about euthanized shelter animals and roadkill also being thrown into the mix? Yep, when animals are “put to sleep” at the shelter, their carcasses are loaded onto rendering trucks, where the fat is rendered out and used for a host of cleaning products, beauty products, and also inserted into pet food. This means that your dog has the possibility of ingesting a fellow dog’s flesh, making them a cannibal of the worst kind! Also, the “crude protein” and “animal fat” is not even good for your dog to eat and acts mostly as a filler, with no nutritional value. Furthermore, scientists claim that the phenobarbitol (the chemical given to dogs in euthanasia) present in the shelter animal carcasses is harmful and still present in the animal tissue, meaning it is also present in the “crude protein” obtained. Not only is this whole situation horrendous, but it is also unhealthy and sketchy AF so please watch out for this atrocity!
  6. Beef and Bone Meal – Speaking of fillers that come from discarded animal parts, beef and bone meal is also present in dog foods in order to add more “fluff” to the food – in other words, to stretch the company’s profits. While the goal is to cheaply add volume and protein to the food, the parts of the cow that this “meal” comes from are not fit for human consumption – so obviously they have little to no nutritional value. While this substance isn’t toxic or dangerous to your animal, it isn’t healthy or a good source of protein either. You’re better off just getting an actual cut of meat that is of higher quality and doesn’t contain sub-par animal parts.


    “Please don’t feed my friends to me…”

  7. Salt – Similar to sugar, salt should not be an added ingredient in your pet’s food – but it often is, because it (similar to sugar) adds flavor to an otherwise bad-tasting food made of poor quality ingredients. As if the bad quality isn’t enough to deter you, continued salt intake by your pet can raise blood pressure levels, which increases your pet’s chance of developing heart disease and having heart attacks/strokes down the road. It also puts unnecessary stress on the kidneys, which could lead to eventual renal failure. Again, a completely useless ingredient used by cheap pet food companies to allow them to continue making awful food.
  8. BHT and BHA – These are substances that are both found in human food and pet food alike, and can you guess what it is used for? Yep, you guessed it – another PRESERVATIVE! It’s astounding to me that our mass consumerism has led to these harmful and unhealthy toxins in order to lengthen the shelf life of our food, but I digress. This chemical (also found in butane lighters) is dangerous for all living things who ingest it, causing kidney damage as well as cancer. BHT is more dangerous than BHA, but they are both toxic and should be avoided!


    “Don’t feed me this garbage! Do your research and get better food!”

So how do you ensure that your dog is eating food that isn’t laced with toxic chemicals, harmful preservatives, and unnecessary additives? Simply read the ingredients of the dog food you want to buy, and pinpoint the natural ingredients and the “other ones,” and make sure that you don’t just accept the “All Natural” or “Healthy” tag as the company being honest with its product. As humans, we have learned to be discerning with our foods, even if it says “Heart Healthy” or “Great for Digestion” or “Fat Free” or other buzzword attention-grabbing claims. Do the same for your pet’s food and don’t settle for cheap, bad quality food. It may be cheap at the moment, but in the future when your pet has a life-threatening illness, it will be expensive and tragic.

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{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Tony March 9, 2016, 6:55 am

    Why not give alternative foods/treats that are safe ?????????????????

    • VetDepot March 9, 2016, 9:28 am

      Because unfortunately people are cheap – especially irresponsible owners who do not make their pet’s health a priority. Not to mention, the mainstream brands (I didn’t want to list the bad ones because I don’t want to create trouble possibly) are advertised all over the place as “healthy” and “safe” but in reality, they are probably the main offenders on this list…Research Purina and IAMS and Pedigree and find out which ones are good and which ones are bad…you’ll be shocked!

      • Cindy Grigsby March 16, 2016, 11:51 am

        Your comment about not wanting to cause trouble is the PROBLEM! Why do we pandor to these money-making companies. If we STOPPED buying these crappy products, the company could not stay in business. Let us know what companies use these toxic chemicals- we have the right to know what goes into the food we eat and what our furry friends eat! They rely on us to make the right choice for their health!!!!!!!!!!!

        • VetDepot March 16, 2016, 1:36 pm

          Hey Cindy, I am not pandering, I’m just trying to stay somewhat drama-free. LOL I have made posts in the past that were too controversial and had to be taken down, so I’m trying to be as objective as possible and just offer information without inspiring a witch hunt. Our company DOES have another blog that is set aside for more controversial topics, so perhaps I’ll post something about this there. In the meantime, by searching “bad dog foods” or “toxic dog foods” or something similar, you can find that many websites have already compiled lists of harmful dog food brands. I agree though, this should be a pretty uncontroversial topic because it’s in the best interest of pet owners and the pets themselves to know what foods are good and bad!

  • lauren March 9, 2016, 9:55 am

    I feed my dog Northwest Naturals raw frozen food. I found an apple seed in it. Apple seeds contain cyanide. I emailed the company and they said that it is not harmful in large amounts and sent me an article stating that it helps against cancer.
    Any thoughts?

    • Blair March 9, 2016, 10:18 am

      I have read that you would have to eat tons of apple seeds to cause any harm because there is so little cyanide in them. It would not surprise me if they had anticancer properties since apples do. Check it out for yourself. http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/apples/

      • VetDepot March 9, 2016, 11:02 am

        Interesting, I wonder if it’s one of those things where something is toxic in large amounts, but in small amounts it has healing properties? I guess we will find out soon enough! 😛

        • Ed March 10, 2016, 3:46 am

          Like water? (Most people don’t know that “water intoxication” exists, and has caused death in the US. But then, there’s drowning, too, where a good thing turns bad.)

  • Tanya March 9, 2016, 10:47 am

    Our dog has kidney issues, so we purchase her dog food (Hill’s) from the vet who highly recommended. It also lists crude protein as one of the ingredients. It’s expensive. What pet food doesn’t have this and other “bad” ingredients?.

    • Wendy March 23, 2016, 10:24 am

      Tanya – Hills food is terrible. Best thing for a dog with kidney issues is a raw diet. That’s what I feed my dogs and they are very healthy. Meat, raw meaty bones and organs and raw green tripe. Occasionally add in a ground with some veggies.

    • Wendy March 23, 2016, 10:33 am

      You can look up a good kidney raw diet on dogaware.com. http://dogaware.com/health/kidneydiet.html

      • VetDepot March 23, 2016, 12:21 pm

        Thank you for the information, Wendy! I also agree that a raw and natural diet is ideal! The problem is that not only are a lot of people unaware that most mainstream brands are terrible, but they don’t care or are “too busy” or “can’t afford” to take the time and feed it the diet it deserves.

  • Linda March 9, 2016, 2:41 pm

    My silky terrier became very lethargic and had very bloody diarrhea, when I took him to the vet I showed them the package of the dog treat from Pedigree, it was the only thing new that he had to eat within the last few days, it had Propelyne Glycol in it! Now I have to watch for all the other stuff as well…I have decided to start making his dog food from now on so I know what is in it!

  • Judy March 9, 2016, 5:28 pm

    What is a good food?

  • M.A. Corbin March 9, 2016, 5:59 pm

    What food can I buy that doesn’t have these things in it????? He is on Blue Buffalo and it has the Crude Protein in it and I almost puked when I read what that consists of! 🙁

    • VetDepot March 10, 2016, 2:19 pm

      Dog Food Advisor made a comprehensive list of dog foods that are free of harmful ingredients and that have the most nutrition. A couple Blue Buffalo foods are on the list that are free of crude protein, one of them being their Life Protection product as well as their Wilderness products. We have both of these products on our website if you’d like to get them there! 🙂 If you’d like to venture outside of the Blue Buffalo brand and try others, there are A LOT of options – Dog Food Advisor even highlights any “controversial” ingredients in red, and there are plenty of comments from dog owners to get further information! Let me know which food you choose and how your dog likes it!

  • Dian March 11, 2016, 3:11 pm

    What about PURE BALANCE.?? GOOD or BAD for our fur friends.??

  • Penny March 14, 2016, 4:24 pm

    Xylitol is more than just a concern. It is toxic. Here is an excerpt from vetmedicine.about.com.” Xylitol is a sugar alcohol — an artificial sweetener created from birch, raspberries, plums and corn.1 This sweetener is found in many human “sugar free” products, such as gum, candies and other sweets. In humans, high doses may have a mild laxative effect, but in dogs, ingestion could be fatal.”

    Even many of the foods recommended cause me concern because they are adding all manner of heral ingredients. I had dog that was allergic to brewer’s yeast, fish, duck, carrots, and more. It is almost impossible to find a plain, simple, basic food. Homemade food isn’t an option for many people due to time, budget, or physical limitations (i.e. handicapped, seniors, etc.). I know there is a purpose to many of the ingredients, but as with all things–some dogs will be sensitive or allergic. The more complicated the formula, the harder it is to figure out the problem.

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