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Food & Diet

Leaving a Bad Taste: The Worst Dog Food Brands

At A Glance

Old and trusted brands often develop cheaper recipes that contain low-grade, questionable recipes to make a profit. Not all dog foods that claim to be well-balanced and nutritious should be trusted. This is why learning to read labels and knowing what each ingredient means is key.

  • Reputed brands like Purina, Pedigree, and Cesar, among others, have some questionable recipes.
  • They contain ingredients that are high in carbs, fat, and preservatives that can lead to severe health and digestive issues, so choose wisely.

Last Updated on: Sep 07, 2023

Grocery and pet store shelves are stocked with hundreds of pet food brands – each promising more than the other. Unfortunately, not all these brands make formulas that are actually healthy for your dog.

While some reputable dog food brands use 100% human-grade ingredients, others resort to using filler meat to make profits. The composition of the food says a lot about how well it would work for your dog. For instance, food containing more carbs than protein can cause your pooch to have digestive problems and eventually obesity.

Which begs the question: How do you decide what dog food to buy? Whether you’re looking at wet, dry, or even dehydrated dog food, here’s how you can identify which dog food is suitable for your dog.

custom oil-painted dog portraits by Poshtraits

How to Identify Which Dog Food Is Bad?

What dog food is bad for dogs? Before I dive into that, I think understanding which ingredients are problematic ingredients can help. There are several factors and keywords you should be looking out for – most of which will likely be mentioned on the packaging or in the list of ingredients.

Look out for the following:

Protein to Fat/Carb Ratio

worst dog food brands - protein to fat/carb ratio

It’s no secret that canines need protein more than any other component for their bodies to function properly. Protein also aids in skin and hair health, muscle development, and tissue repair.

While adult dogs need 18-25% protein for optimum health, puppies need up to 29% protein in their formative years. When looking at dog food brands, read the packaging and nutritional content. Look at other options if the protein content is anything lesser or higher than the numbers mentioned above. Besides that, you also need to ensure that fat and carbs don’t make up for most of the nutritional value of the food.

Pro Tip: Check the label for “rendered fat.” Although it’s usually added to improve the flavor, too much can increase the chances of obesity and salmonella.

Feed-Grade Ingredients

Feed grade, unlike human grade, indicates much lower quality. This term suggests the presence of certain toxins, such as mold-producing mycotoxins, or pentobarbital, a harmful contaminant that is also used to euthanize animals.

Usually, feed-grade meat and bone meals or meat by-products include the flesh of animals that may have died of natural causes or diseases in shelters, farms, and ranches. Sometimes, it could also mean food waste from restaurants.

Wheat, Soy, and Corn

Most dog foods contain wheat, soy, or corn, which are high in carbohydrates. Sometimes, recipes contain all three of them. But that’s unhealthy, especially if any of these are the first few ingredients mentioned on the packaging.

Corn is high in sugar, whereas wheat is rich in gluten which, when broken down by your dog’s digestive system, turns into sugar, causing digestive problems and even obesity.

Chemical Preservatives

Artificial preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin are included in certain dog foods to increase their shelf life. But these products could have a severe impact on a dog’s health. Such preservatives could cause kidney and liver damage and have been linked to certain cancers.

The only exception is chicken fat that is preserved in mixed tocopherols. It is a much healthier alternative, as it contains many sources of Vitamin E.

Plant Proteins

Some dog foods also include plant protein to cut expenses. However, plant protein is only a good idea unless suggested by the vet. Not to mention plant by-products are high in carbohydrates.

Frequent intake of these dog food ingredients can cause various health issues, ranging from mild discomfort to more serious conditions. As a result, you must research ingredients and learn which food is best for your dog.

10 Worst Dog Foods to Avoid

worst dog food - 10 worst dog foods to avoid

Kibbles ‘n Bits Dog Food (Dry)

This popular dog food may offer a crunchy, chewy kibble that dogs love. But some of its ingredients aren’t as appetizing. In fact, its first few ingredients are corn, soybean meal, beef and bone meal, and wheat middlings, also known as the dust of wheat.

Apart from that, the dry food also contains chemical preservatives like BHA, sorbic acid, artificial colors, and flavors – all of which are a big no for a dog’s digestive system. And although the formula contains 21.8% protein, you cannot ignore the 55.4% carb content.

So far, the brand has had one recall due to a potential drug poisoning.

Cesar (Dry)

Another big name in the dog food market! While Cesar is a top-rated food brand, this recipe is not it. The dry food contains actual beef, which is great. However, the ingredient list goes downhill from there.

The next few components include ground wheat, meat and bone meal, and whole grain corn. While they may sound nutritious, these ingredients are high in carbs, and meat and bone meal are not the best sources of protein.

The recipe also contains salt, sugar, and sodium nitrate (a controversial preservative), which are detrimental to your dog’s health.

Purina (Dog Chow)

While Purina’s formulas are out of this world, the Dog Chow recipe is not a favorite of many pets and their owners. The recipe offers several health benefits, but it also features difficult ingredients for dogs to digest.

Apart from the usual controversial ingredients, corn, soy, and wheat, it also contains a host of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. The reason why it’s on this list of worst dog foods, however, is not because of what it includes but also what it doesn’t.

The Dog Chow formula lacks magnesium and iodine, which are crucial to a dog’s well-being. Moreover, it contains 22% protein content compared to a whopping 52% carbohydrate content. Needless to say, this is a recipe for digestive issues for dogs.

Pedigree (Dry & Gravy)

Pedigree is sold in over 60 countries and is one of the most recognizable names when it comes to dog foods. Unfortunately, though, it is also a maker of some of the worst dog food recipes.

Pedigree’s recipe is so badly rated because its dry food has a high carbohydrate content and contains plant protein and unnamed animal protein sources on the label. Experts have also found that it has excessive amounts of vitamins and minerals. While this may seem good, it implies that the brand relies heavily on vitamin premixes rather than whole food sources for nutrition.

On the other hand, the gravy variant contains meat by-products and no actual healthy ingredients that add any nutritional value. As a result, your dog may not get the nourishment it requires to live a healthy life if fed any of these recipes.

Ol’ Roy (Dry)

dog with dog food

Ol’ Roy has a rich history that dates back to 1981. Sadly, they have made little to no changes in their dry and canned food formula in all these years.

The dry recipe’s first five ingredients are fillers, namely wheat, corn, and soy. It also contains meat and bone meal, artificial food coloring, and preservatives such as BHA, which can be carcinogenic. Although they’ve done a wonderful job maintaining fat at 10% and protein at 21%, they fail to mention that their carb content is close to 52%.

On the other hand, canned food, although rich in protein, has questionable sources. The label needs to include a lot of vital information you need when purchasing dog food, so beware.

Alpo (Dry & Canned)

In general, Alpo is considered a questionable brand. Most of its recipes are badly rated, but the dry dog food takes the cake.

The first ingredient itself is alarming: yellow corn, an inexpensive grain with little to no nutritional value. Furthermore, it also contains soybean meal, animal fat, and added color.

The canned dog food is also problematic, with meat by-products. To make things worse, the FDA recalled several batches of Alpo’s canned dog food for possible melamine contamination back in 2007.

While 2007 was a long time ago, several reviewers have said that the brand continues to be both inexpensive and low quality.

IAMS (Pate)

There are definitely some good things to say about this brand of dog food – it is one of the few that lists chicken as its protein source, but it also contains protein by-products. However, IAMS Pate is also guilty of including many filler ingredients without nutritional benefits.

And while it has above average protein content, it has a high-fat content, risking the chances of obesity and digestive issues in pers. It also lists beet pulp in its ingredients, which has been linked to digestive discomfort, weight gain, and the serious heart condition, dilated cardiomyopathy.

Twin Pet Dog Food

This brand takes pride in creating grain-inclusive dog food recipes. However, upon a closer look, you’ll realize they have gone overboard with carbs. Its ingredients also list unnamed animal by-products and fillers, which don’t make for the ideal balanced diet.

Twin Pet Dog Food also doesn’t mention how much salt is added to the recipe, which is alarming and concerning. The food is also highly processed, decreasing the absorption of nutrients and vitamins that are crucial.

The brand was last recalled in 2007. Today, it follows AAFCO nutrient guidelines. But the lack of transparency and abundant by-products make it one of the worst dog foods.

Great Choice (Dry)

beagle dog with her food

Great Choice is an affordable brand of dog food marketed and sold by PetSmart. Unfortunately, it’s not the smart choice for your pet, considering its ingredient list. Some controversial components of this dry food include meat by-products and harmful preservatives like sodium nitrate.

In 2018, several of its canned food products were also recalled due to possible metal contamination, which could pose a choking hazard to pets. Although the recipe meets AAFCO’s guidelines, it lacks essential nutrients like omega fatty acids, calcium, and glucosamine.

Consider walking away whenever you see this brand in store aisles if you want your pet to have a balanced diet.

SPORTMiX (Original Dog Food – Dry)

Another one of the worst dog foods to avoid is Sportmix’s Original Dry Dog Food. While several of its formulas do, indeed, list real meat as part of the ingredients, this one solely relies on fillers and by-products.

To make things worse, in 2021, the FDA found that certain Sportmix formulas potentially contained aflatoxins which, when consumed in high amounts, cause fatal illness. Although the protein content is fairly decent, it contains a high amount of carbs as well.

More often than not, many of us fall prey to marketing gimmicks. But, as a pet parent, you must do your due diligence to ensure your dog gets the nourishment it needs.

That said, while these are some of the worst dog foods, they are not completely unsafe. They can be confused in small amounts for short periods. Most dog foods contain questionable ingredients, so knowing how to read the food label is even necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Worst Dog Foods for Dogs?

The worst dog foods are often processed, contain high amounts of unnamed ingredients, and rely heavily on fillers. Dog food like Kibbles n Bits, Purina Dog Chow, Cesar (Dry), Pedigree Dry, Ol’ Roy Dry dog Food, Alpo (Dry & Canned), IAMS Pate, Twin Pet Dog Food, Great Choice, and Sportmix Original are some of the worst dog foods.

What Brands of Dog Food Should You Avoid?

Some of the most popular dog food brands are known to cut costs by including some questionable ingredients. Some of these brands include Pedigree, Twin Pet Dog Food, Ol’ Roy, and Purine Dog Chow, to name a few.

Look out for brands that rely on feed-grade ingredients, wheat, corn, and soy, or use chemical preservatives.

What Are the Top 10 Toxic Foods for Dogs?

Some foods that are fit for human consumption can be toxic for dogs. These include chocolate, garlic, onions, salt, cheese, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, bacon or other fatty foods, raw meat and fish, apple seeds, etc.

All these foods should be avoided at all costs.


Food & Diet worst dog food brands to avoid

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Meet Paul, a devoted dog dad to the delightful French Bulldog, Cofi. With a flair for humor and a deep understanding of Frenchie quirks, Paul brings a lighthearted touch to his writings. His relatable stories and practical insights are a blend of laughter and valuable advice and resonate with fellow dog owners.

Through his words, Paul aims to celebrate the joys and challenges of being a dedicated pet parent, reminding you that life is simply better with a four-legged, snorting sidekick by your side.