Bad Dog Food Brands List

It's no secret that many of us often ignore properly taking care of ourselves and how little attention we sometimes pay to the quality of the food. Thus, it doesn’t come as a surprise that there are dog owners who do not pay particular attention to the type of dog food they feed their pets. If you're not one of those pet owners, this list of bad dog food brands will explain which foods may not be the best choice for your Fido.

Buying bad dog food brands

Bad Dog Food BrandsIt's not entirely fair to blame pet owners for choosing bad dog food brands because these pet foods are what we often see in commercials spiked with false advertising or misleading dog food labels. Subconsciously, the constant exposure to said worst dog food brands manipulates us and affects our decision-making abilities.

The more we hear the name of a certain dog food brand, the more likely we are to purchase it. That's just how the human psyche works. Therefore, for an average dog owner not particularly interested in investigating guaranteed analysis and ingredient lists, some of those brands become synonymous with “dog food,” just like Pampers is with diapers or Xerox is with copying machines. That’s how strong and heavy-handed the marketing of some of these bad dog food brands is.

Unhealthy dog foods are everywhere – on the TV screen, on most of the shelves in the pet shop, and in your friends’ dogs’ food bowls. If you've never done the research to try and find top-rated dog foods and haven't looked at the ingredients list of your pet's food, chances are you've been buying one of these bad dog food brands. Statistically, it seems that more pet owners buy the worst dog food brands from local pet shops than online, and that's most likely due to dog food reviews under each brand, which keeps the pet owners more aware of potential dangers and dog food companies more honest.

For pet owners who wish to change this and ensure that no harmful ingredients are being fed to their dogs, the below list of twenty worst dog foods is a good starting point. I will mention a few of the main ingredients in each brand of dog food just so you can get an idea of what exactly you are feeding your dog. I won't be cherry-picking: these are the main ingredients of these dog foods (some of the first on the list).

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How these worst dog foods were chosen

For the list of bad dog food brands below, I've gone through hundreds of formulas and their ingredient lists to find the worst offenders. Some companies outright manufacture only bad dog food that's unhealthy for pets, while others only have a few recipes in their line of pet food that may not be a good idea to feed to our dogs.

As you go through the list, you will quickly notice the names of the ingredients that are the most common offenders. Some may argue that these foods aren't harmful to dogs, while others will strongly agree that there is no reason to feed pets things like soybean meal when other dog food formulas offer high-quality, protein-rich recipes. Even if you're on a tight budget, there are plenty of dog foods that are good for the money.

Here are the top most common ingredients found on the labels of these twenty bad dog food brands and why some experts believe they should be avoided:

Meat by-products. Found in all of our contenders below, meat by-products are a cheap way for manufacturers to increase the protein count without putting actual meat in the dog food, as well as preserve the shelf life of pet food. These are the leftovers of slaughtered animals after all the edible parts for human consumption have been used up. It's important to note that not all meat byproducts are bad, and some are actually very healthy for pets. However, because of the governing laws in the U.S. on how pet food is made, there is no way for pet owners to know whether included meat byproducts are good or bad, and many companies can safely hide under this “by-products” umbrella. Therefore, I propose that we avoid all by-products until the FDA, CVM, AAFCO, and others force companies to disclose more information.

Animal (chicken) fat. Some animal fat found in pet foods can be healthy, but it's the chicken fat (or poultry fat) specifically that pet owners should stay away from. This is because it can come from diseased or dying animals, and the company has no obligation to disclose that. It's likely that “animal fat” on the ingredients list will often come from poultry (which doesn't only mean chicken but also seagulls, geese, buzzards, and others), and it's also preserved with a number of undesirable chemicals.

Sodium Hexametaphosphate (SHMP). This is an ingredient that is sometimes used to coat dry dog food kibble because of its benefits for the dog's dental health. The benefits are real, as this study found that it helps in reducing tartar in dogs. However, the ingredient comes with its own set of disadvantages that do not outweigh its advantages: in another study, the chemical was found to cause skin and kidney problems. Overall, there is no reason to add sodium hexametaphosphate to dog food, and a healthier way to avoid tartar on your pet's teeth is to simply brush them.

Caramel color. This will be another ingredient you notice several times in the list of bad dog food brands below, and it should not be fed to pets. In fact, this can even be found in many human foods, too. A 2011 study from The International Agency for Research on Cancer deemed caramel color food ingredients to be carcinogenic. Some organizations have already been urging the FDA to ban this ingredient, but to no avail so far. And as long as our government agencies have no problem with such ingredients in foods, pet food companies will continue to use them.

BHA/BHT. These are two already well-known unhealthy preservatives that you don’t want in your dog’s food (or your own, for that matter), and that you will surely notice very often among the ingredients in the list of bad dog food brands below. BHA, an antioxidant often used in petroleum products, cosmetics, and pet food, was found to be cancer-inducing and cause tumors, and the same goes for BHT.

Oils. Vegetable or canola oil – soy oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, and other similar type of oils are known to frequently cause inflammations in dogs and should probably be avoided until we see some studies on their safety and efficacy (of which there are none, currently). In the meantime, some have already called out oils like canola on their possible side effects, with this article in particular being eye-opening.

Coloring. Food dyes are another no-brainer when it comes to undesirable ingredients in dog food. We often consume them ourselves, so it’s not surprising that we are likely to give them to our dogs, but most of the more popular food dyes include benzidine, which the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal categorizes as “a human and animal carcinogen”. A 2012 study found the most popular food dyes to possibly cause cancer in animals, and the FDA has been urged to ban them since 2008 to no avail.

Cellulose. It is usually added in dog food as a source of fiber, but as a plant fiber, it’s not what you should be looking for in your dog’s food because it can cause digestion problems in your dogs. Essentially, it serves no purpose and is mostly a filler to expand the dog food formula. Instead, focus on recipes that are rich in whole foods.

The above are just some common offenders found in the list of bad dog food brands below. For more details, studies, and names of poor-quality ingredients, also take a look at this science-based article on common dangerous ingredients, as well as Sarah's dog food myths list to understand why the below dog food formulas were included.

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Bad Dog Food Brands List

20 Bad Dog Food Brands
(in no particular order)

1. Cesar Dog Food

Right off the bat, I'm starting with a brand that a worryingly large number of people wrongly associate with “quality,” and most pet owners who scan dog food labels are already aware of. Cesar is a brand of wet and dry dog food that is filled with undesirable ingredients that you really need to consider – corn, wheat, chicken by-product meal, brewer’s rice, chicken meal, animal fat (preserved with BHA/BHT), soybean meal, vegetable oil (source of linoleic acid), rice flour, and quite a bit of other.

2. Purina Moist & Meaty Burger Recipe

Another one of the most famous bad dog food brands, Purina, is often named by dog owners as a serious offender when it comes to the health properties of their pet food. Not all of their formulas are bad, and some of the vet-recommend dog foods from Purina are quite good, but unfortunately, this brand is a strong hit or miss. Some of the things you can find in the Purina Moist and Meaty Burger recipes include soy flour, beef by-products, soy grits, high fructose corn syrup, wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed tocopherols, and a lot more. This is a great example of dog food that’s fooled millions of people about its quality thanks to its top-notch marketing.

3. Retriever Hi Protein Dog Food

Like other brands, the Retriever Hi Protein dry dog food does contain a sufficient amount of protein in its recipe, but it also comes packed with ingredients that you might be a little less excited about. Things such as meat and bone meal, wheat middlings, ground yellow corn, soybean meal, ground wheat, animal digest, corn gluten meal, and animal fat (preserved with BHA and citric acid) definitely make the Retriever Hi Protein a bad dog food brand that you want to give neither to your Retriever nor to any other dog.

4. Kibbles ‘n Bits Dog Food

Sadly, another one of the most famous bad dog food brands out there, Kibbles, is also a well-known offender when it comes to unhealthy dog food and a few of their recipes. Some of the highly unoriginal ingredients you can find in Kibbles’ “original” dog food recipe include soybean meal, corn, ground wheat, animal fat (preserved with BHA), beef and bone meal, wheat middlings, corn syrup, animal digest (source of chicken flavor), caramel color, and quite a few other questionable ingredients pets probably don't need.

5. Purina Dog Chow Formula

And we're quickly back to another Purina dog food recipe, this time taking a look at their Dog Chow formula. Greatly packaged with a cute puppy and a kid on the front, the things that are behind that package are actually less cute – poultry by-product meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, whole grain corn, corn gluten meal, meat, and bone meal, whole grain wheat, soybean meal, animal digest, and another handful of other things you really wouldn’t want your furry pal to consume.

6. ShowTime Dog Food

ShowTime Dog Food definitely deserves a spot in the worst dog food brands thanks to the large number of ingredients this company uses in their formulas. Ground yellow corn, ground wheat, corn gluten, poultry and porcine meat, poultry fat (preserved with BHA), dried beet pulp, ground flaxseed, poultry digest, brewer’s dried yeast, and fish meal, just to name a few. ShowTime’s fabled “performance formula” gives them a good performance on our list, but it's unlikely it will help your dog’s health and performance in the way you wish it would.

7. Pedigree Adult Dog Food

Pet owners who are vigilant about their dog's food are well aware of this, and I haven’t forgotten about Pedigree either. A giant when it comes to brand recognition, sales, and fame, but also a big name when it comes to bad dog food brands and the amount of unhealthy ingredients that they put into their recipes. Corn gluten meal, ground whole corn, animal fat (preserved with BHA/BHT), meat and bone meal, wheat mill run, wheat flour, ground wheat, caramel color, wheat gluten is what you'll find on the back of a package. Pedigree is a prime example of a dog food brand that prefers to invest in marketing rather than the quality of their food simply because it’s more cost-effective.

8. DAD’S Econ-O-Mets Dog Food

You may not find this brand for purchase online too often, but it's a common choice in many local pet stores. What better way to advertise your food than to give it a heartwarming name such as “Dad’s” and add a scientific-sounding bit in the end like “econ-o-mets”? Unfortunately, Dad’s Econ-O-Mets’ “local family formula” has quite a few undesirable ingredients in it, including – soybean meal, beef meal, ground yellow corn, wheat middlings, animal fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), and soy hulls.

9. Twin Pet Dog Food

Twin Pet’s uninspired package design isn’t the only uninspired thing about their dog food – the list of their ingredients fits this description as well, with a ton of now familiar unhealthy additions like wheat middlings, ground corn, animal fat (preserved with BHA and citric acid), de-fatted rice bran, meat and bone meal, corn gluten meal, animal digest, zinc and ferrous sulfate. A typical example of a bad dog food brand that you don’t want your pet to eat, Twin Pet fits perfectly into this list.

10. Doggy Bag Dog Food

Another serious offender, the Doggy Bag dog food has a lot of ingredients that you really don’t want your dog to consume – ground yellow corn, soybean meal, wheat middlings, calcium carbonate, bone meal, animal fat (preserved with BHA and citric acid), animal digest, ferrous and zinc sulfates, calcium pantothenate, niacin, biotin, and other unnecessary filler-supplements. Not all are harmful, of course, but the ones you really don’t want to put in your dog food bowl are these six – soybean meal, ground yellow corn, wheat middlings, bone meal, calcium carbonate, and animal fat.

11. KAL KAN Dog Food

Kal Kan is yet another somewhat known dog food brand name around local pet food stores that people will be disappointed to find out is actually not healthy for their dogs. Some of the interesting stuff you can find inside their pet food bags include ground wheat, ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, meat and bone meal, soybean meal, animal fat (preserved with BHA and citric acid), corn gluten meal, wheat middlings, and more. At this price range, it's easy to avoid this brand and pick a healthier option in that budget.

12. Big Red Dog Food

This dry dog food may have “Great Gravy” written with the largest possible font on it, but it is far from a “great dry dog food.” Some of the main ingredients of Big Red Dog Food entry to our list have already been mentioned several times: soybean meal, ground yellow corn, meat and bone meal, wheat middlings, animal fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), wheat flour, guar gum, cheese powder, FD&C Color (red #40, yellow #5, yellow #6, blue #2, blue #1), and a ton of others.

13. Retriever Mini Chunk Recipe

Back to Retriever company, and another one of their products is ranked as the worst dog dog out there. This time, it's their Mini Chunk dog food formula. Some of the suspects you can discover on the label are well-known: wheat middlings, soybean meal, dried plain beet pulp, ground yellow corn, meat, and bone meal, animal fat (preserved with BHA and citric acid), poultry by-product meal, brewers rice, and more. If the Retriever Hi Protein didn’t convince you, I hope it’s now clear that this brand should probably be avoided.

14. Gravy Train Dog Food

Gravy Train is not only perfectly named to continue this train of poor-quality kibble, but it also has some of the ideal ingredients to be on the list of bad dog food brands. In this recipe, you can find plenty of names that you are already familiar with, such as soybean meal, corn, meat and bone meal, animal fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), wheat middlings, animal digest, caramel color, wheat flour, and a ton of others. If you want your dog to eat a healthy dog food formula, you should probably let this train pass you by.

15. Ever Pet Dog Food

In some of the Ever Pet dog food formulas, you can find a number of worst offenders when it comes to unhealthy and dangerous dog food ingredients: animal fat preserved with BHA, whole grain corn, meat and bone meal, corn gluten meal, and soybean meal. Some of the other ingredients of Ever Pet foods are wheat mill run, chicken by-product meal, animal digest, corn distillers, dried grains with solubles, caramel color, dried peas, and carrots, vegetable oil (source of linoleic acid), and more.

16. Purina Beneful Original Recipe

It turns out I'm not done with Purina dog food recipes just yet. Here is Purina’s Beneful Original formula, and it's one of the worst dog foods out there. Despite its name, this recipe has a lot of unoriginal and familiar unhealthy for dogs ingredients – corn gluten meal, ground yellow corn, whole wheat flour, chicken by-product meal, animal fat (preserved with mixed-tocopherols), soy flour, rice flour, and quite a few others.

17. Ol Roy Dog Food

In my experience, Ol Roy is nothing new when it comes to how poor their ingredients are. This bad dog food brand includes a lot of our now painfully familiar offenders, such as meat and bone meal, ground yellow corn, soybean meal, animal fat (preserved with BHA and citric acid), poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, brewers rice, added colors (titanium dioxide, yellow #5, yellow #6, red #40, blue #2), and much more. I'm truly sorry to say it to the fans of Ol Roy dog food, but when it comes to how bad they are for your dog, Ol Roy deserves a name on any list of the worst dog food brands.

18. Hi Point Dog Food

Another good example of how poorly manufactured pet food can be is that Hi-Point Dog Food even has the statement “Good nutrition for the life of your bog” right below its name on the package. Unfortunately, it’s not that good of a nutrition if you look at the actual ingredients and know how they may affect our dogs. Some of the main suspects in Hi-Point dog food recipe include ground wheat, pork meat with bone, corn distiller’s dried grains with solubles, corn gluten feed, chicken by-product meal, whole grain ground corn, poultry fat (preserved with BHA, BHT, and citric acid), and others.

19. ALPO Dog Food

Alpo dog foods are here as well – a Purina brand. Some of the Alpo recipes are no better than some of the Purina line pet foods you can find. Ingredients you can find inside of it include the familiar soybean meal, ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, beef tallow preserved with mixed tocopherols, meat and bone meal, animal digest, chicken and egg flavor, and some others. Alpo may invite you to “Come ‘n Get it,” but I would strongly advise you skip Alpo when you go shopping for food at your local pet shop.

20. IAMS Pro-Active Recipe

I'd like to finish up this list of bad dog food brands with another one of the more famous names out there – IAMS. Just like with a few other names out there, not all IAMS dog foods are bad, and some are extremely well-made. But it turns out that the IAMS Pro Active recipe specifically has a set of unhealthy ingredients, including things such as chicken by-product meal, ground yellow corn, animal fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), soybean meal, dried beet pulp, corn gluten meal, chicken flavor, and a few others.

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Kelly works as a veterinary technician in Austin, TX as well as regular animal rescue volunteer. She's been an animal lover and dog owner since childhood, and has worked in different dog related fields over the last twenty years. Currently she lives with three dogs and a cat.