Dog Food Ingredients to Avoid

It’s becoming increasingly popular to check the ingredients lists on the back of human food products—so why don’t we do the same for our dog’s food?

“Well,” you think, “they’re a dog. Any kind of dog food will give them the nourishment they need, right?”

Unfortunately, when dog food companies need to hit certain nutrient levels, they use unnecessary fillers to hit their quota. A good way of thinking about it is how “sugar-free” human products have to use artificial sweeteners to make the product taste better, even though artificial sweeteners are just as bad as natural sugars. Just because a dog can eat a particular food doesn’t mean it’s the most nutritious option for them.

Here are some ingredients you should keep out of your dog’s food:

BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), and Ethoxyquin are three common chemical preservatives in dog food. Not enough research has been done on BHA and BHT to guarantee that they won’t harm your dog’s health since the chemicals have been linked to cancer in humans. Ethoxyquin is a chemical that’s often used in pesticides and can increase liver enzymes in your pup’s blood.

Look for labels with natural preservatives like Vitamin C/ascorbic acids, Vitamin E/mixed tocopherols, and rosemary. Additionally, canned dog food eliminates the need for preservatives.

White Flour

White flour lacks nutrition and causes a spike in your dog’s blood sugar. Opt for whole wheat or grain-free products.

“Meat” and “Meat Meal”

Meat is good for your dog, but unnamed meat can pose a lot of problems. If an ingredient in dog food is labeled as “meat,” “meat meal,” or “meat and bone meal,” there’s no telling what’s actually in it. It could be comprised of leftover animal parts, diseased or dead animal parts, expired meats with the plastic packaging still on, and more.

When looking at an ingredients list, make sure they specify the kind of meat, whether it’s chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, or salmon. 

Artificial Colors

Dog food doesn’t necessarily need to look pretty to be nutritious. Artificial dyes can cause hyperactivity, so it’s best to stick to food with natural color, even if it doesn’t look appetizing to you. 


Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is used as a flavor additive even though it adds no nutritional value. MSG is used to compensate for low-quality ingredients, but it’s a common allergen for humans and dogs alike. It’s not legally required for pet food to list MSG as an ingredient, so it’s commonly hidden in a vague ingredient on the list. 

Look for foods with natural flavors from real (not chemical) ingredients. The more whole foods on the ingredient list, the less of a chance there will be MSG somewhere in your dog’s food.

Corn Syrup

We know corn syrup is terrible for humans, and it’s no better for our furry friends. Corn syrup can lead to spikes in your dog’s blood sugar and contribute to obesity and diabetes. Additionally, corn syrup is addictive to dogs, so the more they have, the more they’ll want.

It’s best to avoid dog food and treats with any kind of sugar in them. Sugar can only hurt your dog, and they’re much better off with treats made from natural ingredients.

Xylitol and Other Sugar Alcohols

Sugar substitutes are toxic to dogs and should be avoided at all costs. Xylitol can cause hyperglycemia in your pup, which can lead to seizures, liver failure, or death. 

Just like corn syrup, it’s best to stay away from any kind of food or treat with a sugar substitute. Look for naturally sweetened products made with whole foods.

Other Ingredients To Watch Out For

There are multiple other ingredients to be wary of and avoid as much as you can in your dog’s food, including:

  •     Gluten
  •     Farmed Salmon
  •     Nitrites/Nitrates/Sodium Nitrite
  •     Soy
  •     Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP)
  •     Salt
  •     Rendered Fat
  •     Propylene Glycol
  •     Vegetable Oil
  •     Animal By-Products
  •     Cellulose
  •     Brewer’s Rice
  •     Corn
  •     Sodium Hexametaphosphate
  •     Artificial Flavors
  •     “Animal Digest”
  •     Pea Protein

The better quality of food you can give your dog, the happier and healthier they’ll be. For more tips and tricks to keep up with your perfect pup, sign up for our newsletter.