What Are The Worst Dog Food Brands To Avoid

A Pup Napping Trying To Avoid The Dog Food Feature Image

Choosing the right dog foods for your furry friend can be a lot of work as there are a variety of choices to choose from. You might find it difficult to look through every list of ingredients at the back of every dog food or you are just unaware of what comprises a true high-quality dog food.

Worry no more for this article will provide you the things that you should look out for in certain dog foods. A list is also provided to give some insights into what dog food should you not buy the next time you go to the pet store to get some supplies.

What Characterizes Low-Quality Food Brands?

Low-quality dog foods can be easily distinguished through the ingredients used by dog food manufacturers. The following criteria must be considered in choosing the dog food that suits your dog’s needs.

Meat by-products and questionable meat source

By-products and unknown meat sources could pose a threat to your dog and are not a great substitute for natural protein from real meat. Having real meat in your dog’s diet will not only make your dog’s meal filled with nutrients but will also make it tastier. You also need to consider where the meat is sourced since it has a high chance that the dog food manufacturers will use meats from euthanized animals or roadkill. At all costs, do not choose dog food brands with either meat by-products or unknown sources.


Fillers are ingredients that help dogs feel satiated. These essentially do not have any nutritional content and high levels of which can cause your dog to have adverse health issues. Dog food brands that contain high levels of filler may cause digestive problems, tenderness, food sensitivities, and other serious health conditions. Although it makes dog food production cheaper, it would not outweigh the fact that your dog will be healthier if you give them nutrient-rich, healthy, and complex carbohydrate sources.

Artificial Ingredients

Another indicator that your dog’s food is of low quality is when it contains synthetic additives like artificial dyes, flavor enhancers, and artificial preservatives. Artificial coloring and flavors are not only harmful to your dogs, but they are unnecessary as well. Preservatives are necessary to extend the shelf life of dog foods, but synthetic preservatives can be very detrimental to your dog’s health.

Kibble In A Bowl

19 Worst Dog Food Brands To Avoid

Now that you know what characterizes low-quality dog food, you will now be able to understand why the following dog food brands are included in this list of the worst dog food brands that you need to avoid.

1. Kal Kan Complete Adult

Kal Kan Pet Food With Sweet Potatoes

This dog food made it to the list of dog food brands to avoid due to its questionable quality of ingredients that are harmful to your dog.

The first ingredient of this dog food is corn, which cannot provide proper nutritional benefits for your dog. The second ingredient is meat and bone meals which is a dry product from mammal tissues and bones, not including blood, hide trimmings, horn, hoof, rumen contents, and stomach.

Although meat meals and bone meals are considered meat concentrates that are rich in protein, it isn’t safe to say that it is a quality ingredient since it comes from a nonexclusive meat meal resource. Additionally, scientists hypothesize that meat meals contain lower levels of essential amino acids and higher ash content, causing its decreased absorption and lower digestibility compared to other known meat meals. [1]

Meat and bone meals coming from unknown sources can be a mixture of meat by-products of pig, sheep, cattle, or goat which makes the identification of allergens difficult.

The third ingredient is soybean meal which can be a by-product of soybean oil production. This ingredient is estimated to have a lower biological value compared to meat even though it is comprised of 48% protein. This inexpensive plant-based ingredient can be considered to boost the total protein content of this dog food.

The fourth ingredient of Kal Kan Complete Adult is another type of grain which is wheat. Like with corn, it provides lesser nutritional content and is not ideal as a dog food ingredient. The next ingredient includes chicken leftovers or animal by-products coming from slaughterhouse wastes. As its name suggests, it is not ideal to give your dog foods that are not of premium quality.

Other than the aforementioned ingredients, Kal Kan dog food also includes animal fat, corn gluten, vitamin E supplement, vitamin B 12, biotin, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement.

Problem ingredients:

  • Excess wheat, soybean, and corn meal
  • Artificial ingredients
  • Unknown meat and bone meal source

2. Purina Dog Chow

Dog Chow By Purina Is Not One Of The Best Dog Foods

Although Purina remains one of the top pet food industry companies since 1893, you might want to reconsider not giving this to your dog.

The manufacture of this pet food includes wheat soy and corn which are all considered cheap fillers and may be harmful to your dog’s health. Alarmingly, the main ingredient of Purina Dog Chow is corn, which may not be enough to meet the standards of nutritional level that any pet food should have. As responsible pet owners, you should go for pet foods that are inexpensive but able to provide for the needs of your dog.

Some of its other ingredients include corn, meat, and bone meal, fat from beef naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols, corn gluten, whole grain wheat, poultry by-product meal, vitamin e supplement, vitamin B-3, Pantothenate (vitamin B-5), hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6) vitamin B-12 supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Biotin (Vitamin B7)], Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 2, Garlic Oil.

Problem ingredients:

  • Cheap fillers: Wheat, soy, and corn
  • Artificial preservatives
  • Artificial coloring

3. IAMS ProActive Health Adult MiniChunks Dry Dog Food

IAMS Dry Dog Food Has Been Part Of The Best Dog Foods

The IAMS dog food has chicken as its primary ingredient. There is no problem with it as it is a high-quality meat source compared to its cheaper alternative, poultry by-product meal.

The second ingredient, however, makes this dog food one of the worst dog food brands in the market. Cornmeal, considered as a questionable cheap dog food filler. Having it in dog food will make it relatively cheaper, but decreases the nutritional level as well. Allergies, sensitivities, and other digestive problems may also be incurred when there is an increased level of consumption.

The next ingredient is the chicken by-product meal. This meat by-product contains parts of the chicken, like bones, beaks, skin, and internal organs. Chicken by-product meal, although contains protein, cannot be considered a suitable source of protein.

The IAMS proactive health dog food also contains other ingredients like whole grain corn, ground whole grain sorghum, dried plain beet pulp, natural flavor, fat from chicken, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement (source of Vitamin B2)

Problem ingredients:

  • Immoderate corn content
  • Meat by-products
  • Fillers

4. Twin Pet Dog Food

Twin Pet Food Contains Chicken Byproduct Meal

The primary ingredient of Twin Pet Dog Food is ground corn which is a strong indication of how substandard the quality of this dog food is. The next ingredient is wheat middling, which is a by-product left over from cereal processing. Having that said, it is safe to assume that the nutritional value of this dog food is relatively low.

Twin pet’s third ingredient is meat and bone meal. Despite the idea that this contains protein, it still has lower digestibility compared to real meat. Another major red flag of this dog food is that it does not specify the amount of animal fat and salt it contains. If you plan to buy everyday food for your dog, this is not a good choice.

Problem ingredients:

  • Ground yellow corn
  • Meat by-products
  • Unknown levels of salt and fat

5. Kibbles ‘n Bits

Kibbles 'N Bits Pet Snack

The Kibbles ‘n Bits dog food gained popularity over dog owners because of its inexpensiveness. However, if you look into its ingredients, you might rethink it before giving it to your dogs.

Unquestionably, this dog food formula is included in the list of the worst dog food brands because of substantial reasons. First, its primary ingredient is whole grain corn, which is detrimental for your dog like the others included in the list. Additionally, if you look closely at the list of ingredients, the essential nutrients that your dog needs are missing. This dog food brand also includes other harmful ingredients like wheat and soybean meal.

Other ingredients of this dry dog food include Animal (beef, pig, chicken) fat, (BHA Used as Preservative), Corn syrup, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, wheat middlings, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin a Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Biotin), Dl-Methionine, Calcium Sulfate, Carrots, Green Beans, Wheat Flour, Titanium Dioxide (Color).

Problem ingredients:

  • Corn, soybean meal, & wheat
  • Preservatives
  • Artificial coloring

6. Ol’ Roy

Ol' Roy's Recipe Might Contain Omega Fatty Acids

Although one of the highest-selling formulas in the United States, Ol’ Roy Complete Nutrition Dog Food still is one of the dog food brands to avoid. Primarily, the popularity of this dog food brand is due to its inexpensiveness due to its cheap components.

Some of the notable ingredients that make this dog food a major red flag despite its popularity include the use of cheap fillers like wheat, corn, and soybean meal having less nutritional value. Additionally, this brand uses cheap meat by-products as well as flavor enhancers to cover up its substandard quality.

Some other ingredients of this dog food brand include Chicken By-Product, Animal Fat, Corn Gluten, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Manganous Oxide, Biotin, D-Calcium, Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Menadione Sodium Bisulfate Complex (Vitamin K), Sodium Selenite, Riboflavin Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Cobalt Carbonate.

Problem ingredients:

  • Corn, soybean meal, & wheat
  • Meat by-products & bone meal
  • Flavoring

7. Purina Beneful

Purina Beneful Blended With Sweet Potatoes

Another product line under the Purina umbrella of brands adds up to the list of worst dog food formulas.

Released in 2001, Beneful gives a variety of choices (wet dog food and dry dog foods) for dog owners to choose from. It also claims that it has “real meat” from chicken, beef, or salmon. However, if you have a quick look at the list of ingredients of this dog food brand, you may notice that although there is some natural meat included, the majority of the protein content is coming from plant-based protein sources.

For instance, the Purina Beneful Original claims that beef is its primary ingredient. However, this premium protein source is accompanied by plenty of cheap fillers and by-products. The same goes with Beneful’s wet dog food products that mostly contain ground wheat, ground whole grain corn, and soybean meal along with wit artificial flavors.

Ingredients of Beneful dog food include whole grain wheat, soybean hulls, rice, corn gluten meal, egg, and chicken flavor, oatmeal, beef fat naturally preserved with mixed tocopherols, calcium carbonate, salt, mono, and dicalcium, phosphate, potassium chloride, iron oxide (color), vitamins [vitamin E supplement, niacin (vitamin B-3), vitamin a supplement, calcium pantothenate (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B-6), vitamin B-12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B-1), vitamin D-3 supplement, riboflavin supplement (vitamin B-2), menadione sodium bisulfite complex (vitamin k), folic acid (vitamin B- 9), biotin (vitamin b-7)], minerals [zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite].

Problem ingredients:

  • Cheap fillers: Wheat, soy, and corn
  • Unknown meat by-products
  • Artificial flavoring

8. Gravy Train

Gravy Train Recipe

If you look into the primary ingredients of this dog food brand, you may notice that it is mostly either harmful or questionable to be a part of your dog’s diet. Corn, soybeans, meat & bone meal, animal fat, are some of the ingredients that make this dog food inadequate if you plan to give your pup healthy dog food.

Other than the aforementioned ingredients, Gravy train dog food also includes animal digest, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Carboxymethylcellulose, Wheat Flour, Caramel Color, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Artificial Beef Flavor, Red 40, Bha (Used As A Preservative), Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 2, Rosemary Extract.

Problem ingredients:

  • Cheap fillers: Wheat, soy, and corn
  • Unknown meat by-products
  • Artificial flavoring
  • Artificial colors

9. Cesar Filets

Cesar Filets Set With Citric Acid

This dog food contains high-quality ingredients like sufficient water for processing, animal liver, and chicken. However, what makes it one of the dog food brands to avoid is its high salt content, use of excessive fillers, and coloring.

High salinity causes dehydration in dogs while dyes are unnecessary as your pet is not interested in the color of the food they eat. The analysis suggests that it contains above-average protein levels, near average fat content, and below-average carbohydrates content in contrast to typical canned dog food.

This dog food also contains other ingredients like dried plain beet pulp, salt, potassium chloride, calcium carbonate, choline chloride, sodium tripolyphosphate, added color, magnesium proteinate, zinc sulfate, xanthan gum, methionine, prime rib flavor, guar gum, manganese sulfate, vitamin e supplement, sodium carbonate, calcium pantothenate, biotin, copper sulfate.

Problem ingredients:

  • High salt content
  • Fillers & by-products
  • Artificial flavoring and coloring

10. Pedigree

Pedigree May Be Part Of The Best Dog Foods But Not This

What makes pedigree one of the worst dog food brands to avoid is its inadequate nutritional value. The pedigree dog food brands are produced and owned by Mars PetCare, under Mars, Inc., a prominent brand in the United States. Pedigree manufactures a variety of products from wet dog food, treats, swell as dry dog food products. They produce products for different life stages and sizes. However, if you look closely into the list of ingredients, you will see that they do not vary in the formulation.

The primary ingredient of Pedigree dog foods, regardless of the formulation, is corn. At high levels, it can be very harmful to your dog’s digestion and has low nutritional value. Even though it is considered as one of the dog food brands to avoid, many people still buy this because of its relatively low price.

For most of the pedigree formulations, it contains meat by-products, wheat flour, wheat gluten, beef, dried peas, salt, dehydrated carrots, minerals (potassium chloride, magnesium sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper proteinate, potassium iodide, manganese sulfate, selenium, copper sulfate), guar gum, added color, sodium tripolyphosphate, vitamins (choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, calcium pantothenate, biotin, riboflavin supplement, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin B12 supplement), xanthan gum, yellow #6, yellow #5.

Problem ingredients:

  • Fillers & by-products (corn, & wheat)
  • Artificial coloring

11. Sportmix Wholesomes Biscuits

Sportmix Biscuits With Oat Meal

The reason why Sportmic Wholesomes Biscuits lines up with the worst dog food brands is its nutritional levels. Although this dog food (treat) contains ingredients with a high nutritional value, its macronutrient proportions are unacceptable (25% protein, 6% fat, 5.5% fiber, and 33.5% carbohydrates)

Its ingredients include chicken meal, pork meal, pea protein, natural flavor, chicken fats (preserved with mixed tocopherols), vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, niacin, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, copper sulfate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, manganese sulfate, zinc proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, calcium iodate, cobalt carbonate, folic acid, sodium selenite, biotin, vitamin b12 supplement, mixed tocopherols (preservative) rosemary extract, green tea extract.

Problem ingredients:

  • Artificial coloring
  • Excess Carbohydrates

12. Original Line Of Diamond Dog Food

Diamond Maintenance Dog Food

The original Diamond line of dog food is produced and owned by Schell & Kampeter. This dog food simply contains nutritional content that is below the required level, making it one of the worst dog food brands. Although it does not use too many artificial colors and flavor, it uses corn, wheat, and soy that has inadequate nutritional value and contains unknown meals, as well as meat by-products.

Other components of the Diamond dog food include ground corn, wheat flour, rice bran, chicken fat, corn gluten meal, dried beet pulp, natural flavor, fish meal, millet, meat meal, salt, potassium chloride, choline chloride,

Problem ingredients:

  • Cheap fillers ( wheat, corn, and soy)
  • unknown meat by-product meals

13. Blackwood 1000 Dog Food

Blackwood 1000 Mix With Lamb Meal

You may at first think that this dog food is of high quality. But as you go through the ingredients list, you may observe that there are other food products with the same protein content (23%) for a cheaper price. This dog food product also contains Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that are not safe for both pets and human consumption and may cause certain health issues.

The ingredients of this dog food include chicken meal, ground corn, oat groats, ground grain sorghum, dried plain beet pulp, chicken fat, brown rice, menhaden fish meal, brewers dried yeast, natural flavor, whole ground flaxseed, salt, potassium chloride, calcium carbonate, lecithin, lysine, methionine, vitamins, and minerals.

Problem ingredients:

  • Cheap fillers ( wheat, corn, and soy)
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

14. Wegmans Bruiser Kibble Variety Mix

Wegmans Bruiser Dry Food

This dog food joins the list of the worst dog food brands for being so cheap and having ingredients with inadequate nutritional content. It also contains artificial substances like BHA, xantham gum, BHT, corn gluten, and food coloring, and artificial flavors

Other ingredients include  Ground yellow corn, soybean meal, whole wheat, high fructose corn syrup, beef meal, animal fat, water, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, propylene glycol, salt, dicalcium phosphate, brewers rice, calcium carbonate, dried beet pulp, potassium sorbate, carboxymethyl cellulose, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, cheese powder, ferrous sulfate, and artificial color.

If you look for the best dog food brands for your furry friend this dog food is not for you.

Problem ingredients:

  • Cheap fillers ( wheat, corn, and soy)
  • Artificial food coloring and flavors
  • Artificial substances (BHA, xantham gum, BHT)

15. Alpo By Purina

Some Purina Alpo Has Fish Oil

Looking at the list of ingredients, Purina Alpo dog food has corn as the primary ingredient. It contains inexpensive fillers with low nutritional value. It also contains dyes that can lead to certain health issues. On top of the fact that it is not the best dog food for your pet, there have been series of complaints saying that their pet has died or fell ill after consuming the dog food.

Other ingredients of Alpo dog food include ground yellow corn, meat and bone meal, soybean, beef fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, corn gluten meal, egg, and chicken flavor, and natural flavor.

Problem ingredients:

  • Cheap fillers ( wheat, corn, and soy)
  • Artificial flavors and coloring

16. Great Choice Complete Nutrition

Complete Nutrition By Great Choice

Behind the variety, availability, and affordability of Great Choice dog food is the fact that it is considered low-quality dog food. It contains cheap fillers (wheat, corn, and soy) and unknown bone meals from different sources that aren’t among the most reliable sources of nutrients.

From the ingredients themselves, you can already tell that it belongs to the bad dog food brands as the list includes ground yellow corn, meat, and bone meal, wheat middling, ground wheat, poultry, corn gluten meal, chicken by-product meal, salt, potassium chloride, natural flavor.

Problem ingredients:

  • Cheap fillers ( wheat, corn, and soy)
  • Artificial flavors and coloring
  • Unknown bone meal source

17. Pro Pac Performance Puppy

Pro Pac Performance For Pups

The Pro Pac Performance Puppy Food is under the Midwestern Pet Foods manufacturer and recently, the company was involved in an aflatoxin-related issue. The ingredients list of the Pro Pac is considered to be of high quality. It was the aflatoxin threat with the recall that happened on the 11th of January 2021 that caused it to have a spot in the list of worst dog foods that needs to be avoided.

Problem ingredients:

  • Cheap fillers (corn)
  • Aflatoxin threat

18. Sportsman’s Pride Professional Formula

Sportsman's Dog Formula

Apart from the fact that the Food and Drug Administrations has issued an alert regarding this dog food product due to potential salmonella contamination. If we look into the primary ingredients, it has a chicken by-product meal which can be dangerous to your dog.

Problem ingredients:

  • meat by-products
  • potential salmonella threat

19. Bravo Packing Performance Dog

Performance Dog By Bravo Packing With Chicken Liver

Although raw pet food can be considered as good dog food, as it can be made from healthy ingredients and free from other detrimental components, Bravo Packing performance Dog, together with other performance products is recently undergoing recalls because of the potential presence of salmonella or listeria. Nevertheless, there are still no deaths and illnesses associated with the food.

A Dog Staring At His Food

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best dog food recommended by vets?

The best dog should provide the nutrients that your dog needs concerning its life stage, breed, and lifestyle. There is no “one-size fits all” solution for this question as one dog is different from the other. You may consult your dog’s veterinarian regarding the diet that fits your dog.

Is grain-free dog food really better?

No, grain-free dog food isn’t necessarily better. Some dog foods replace grains with other ingredients that are equally threatening for your pet dogs.

What is the dangerous ingredient in dog food?

Meat by-products, artificial additives, and fillers are some of the dangerous ingredients that dog food may contain. Having these components in the dog food brands that you give your dog may increase the chances of your dog acquiring health-related issues.


As your dog hold a special part in your household, you are compelled to give them the love and care they deserve as well as the right dog foods with healthy ingredients to keep them nourished. Just like human food, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ option for dogs either, meaning not all dog foods are made the same. Thus, you have to be very careful will choosing the right dog food for your pup. Put into mind that specific breeds and life stages require different formulas to achieve optimum growth. Finally, remember that looking for a cheaper alternative for your dog might do you more harm than good.