Dog Food Basics: The 3 No-No's

You want to your dog to be healthy? Great, who doesn't. The basics include being able to avoid bad dog food ingredients while identifying quality ingredients. Here we highlight the top 3 red flags, but also the top 3 good ingredients to look for when you're shopping dog food.

dog food faq

So how do we fix it?

Well, let’s get back to basics and look for simple and nutritious dog food.

If possible, we look for convenience, but not at the expense of quality—like what is realized with dry kibble. When looking for a dog food, here is what you should look for and dog food ingredients to avoid.

Dog Food Ingredients to Avoid

We want to rule out items that are high in volume, yet low in biological value, or nutritional worth.

1. Grains

  • Wheat
  • Corn
  • Barley

2. By-Products (aka inedible ingredients):

  • Chicken by-product meal
  • Turkey by-product meal
  • Poultry by-product meal
  • Beef by-product meal
  • Animal digest
  • Animal fats

Fats are sprayed directly onto extruded foods (like kibble), to make the product more palatable to the dog. These processed fats are deemed inedible for humans, and though acceptable for pet foods, they are really are terrible for your dogs health.

By-products, middlings, or "meals" may include awful ingredients, including, but not limited to: slaughterhouse waste, dead animals (including cats and dogs), bread rejects, cereal rejects (corn cobs, stalks, sawdust), plastic, cardboard, expired restaraunt grease, and shells from nuts.

By-products are another word for recycled waste unfit for consumption, cooked down, or rendered, into a meaty "meal"—if you see "by-products" in your ingredient list, find a different dog food.

3. Chemical Additives

As with human food, there is concern with chemical additives in dog food causing behavioral problems. Chemical additives should be avoided.

3 Types of Ingredients You Can Say "Yes" To...

Basically, we want items that are closest to your dog's natural wild diet, which are minimally processed and high in nutritional value.

1. USDA Meat

Whole, raw meat is better for dogs.

Cooked and processed meat and/or by-products used in pet food can greatly diminish their biological valueProteins are especially vulnerable to heat, and become damaged, or “denatured,” when cooked or overprocessed.

Dry food ingredients are cooked twice!

Dry food is first cooked during rendering and again in the extruder. Altered proteins may contribute to food intolerancedog food allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease.

2. Produce and Fruits

Dogs in the wild will eat vegetation and fruit to supplement the nutrients they need that are not found in meat. Don’t make the mistake of grouping produce with grains like wheat, corn, and barley—items that dogs do not routinely eat. Fruits and vegetables in metered amounts provide energy, vitamins, minerals, enhance antioxidant function, and fiber—all greatly benefiting dogs.

3. Natural Preservatives and Antioxidants

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Rosemary
  • Zinc sulfate

See our recommendations for healthy dog food.

Cites and References

Mahmoud AL. Toxigenic fungi and mycotoxin content in poultry feedstuff ingredients. J Basic Microbiol, 1993; 33(2): 101–4. Roudebush P. Pet food additives. J Amer Vet Med Assoc, 203 (1993): 1667–1670.