When it comes to Worst Dog Foods, dogs exhibit an indiscriminate appetite. They will devour anything from discarded table scraps to litter box clumps without hesitation. Their desire to eat seems boundless, often oblivious to the actual content of their meals. For them, the determining factor is the enticing aroma and flavor. As a responsible dog owner, it becomes your duty to meticulously monitor your dog’s dietary intake and ensure that the food you provide meets their nutritional requirements. Unfortunately, a significant number of dog owners fail to invest time in understanding the composition of their canine companion’s meals, opting solely for cost-effective options when purchasing dog food.
You don’t have to be a millionaire to feed your dog a high-quality product. Sure, premium pet foods cost a little more but if you think about the long term, the benefits of feeding your dog a high-quality diet outweigh the negatives. If you skimp on your dog’s food now, you could end up paying for it later with expensive vet bills to deal with your dog’s nutritional deficiencies and other diet-related health problems. But what makes a high-quality dog food and how can you tell one apart from a low-quality dog food?
Choosing a high-quality dog food for your canine companion is not as difficult as you might imagine – it just takes a little time and some research to learn how to read a pet food label. If you lead a busy lifestyle, however, you may have trouble finding time for even something as important as learning about your dog’s diet. That is why I’ve compiled a list of the 10 worst dog foods and 5 brand recommendations you should consider. These top 10 worst dog foods are so bad that we wouldn’t recommend them – and that’s saying something! So, buckle down and keep reading to learn more about what you should and should NOT be putting in your dog’s body.
The Top 10 Worst Dog Food Brands
All dog foods are not created equal but most of the low-quality dog food brands have a few things in common. Some of the worst dog food brands on the market load up their products with inexpensive fillers like corn and wheat products – their products also tend to be carb-heavy instead of meat-based. Low-quality pet foods make heavy use of by-products and plant proteins, plus they often use artificial colors and flavors to make their products more palatable for pets and the people who care for them. Something else these foods have in common is frequent product recalls. Here is an overview of the top 10 worst dog food brands of 2016:
The Alpo brand of dog food was founded nearly 80 years ago with the goal of producing flavorful, meat-rich dog foods. Alpo is one of several brands of pet food that fall under the Purina umbrella which includes other low-quality brands like Beneful, Mighty Dog, Purina Dog Chow, T-Bonz, and Waggin’ Train. The Alpo brand is marketed as a producer of meat-rich dog foods but the truth is, these products are full of artificial additives and low-quality ingredients. Alpo wet foods come in a variety of flavors that are supposedly “cooked in savory juices” with meaty ingredients like filet mignon and bacon. A quick review of the ingredients list for these products, however, reveals the use of meat by-products and artificial flavors. Alpo is primarily a wet food brand, though there are two dry food options that make heavy use of low-quality fillers like ground yellow corn and plant proteins like corn gluten meal and soybean meal.
Recall Info: In its 80 years of existence, the Alpo brand has been affected by numerous recalls. In the past decade, there has been one major recall affecting more than a dozen products that was issued due to concerns of melamine contamination.
Problem Ingredients: meat by-products, soy flour, ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, meat and bone meal, animal digest, artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives
The Grreat Choice brand of pet food is produced by PetSmart, one of the leading pet retailers in the United States. This dog food brand offers a limited selection of dry dog food products for puppies, adult dogs, small-breed, and large-breed dogs. Grreat Choice is not only readily available in PetSmart stores around the country, but it is also highly affordable – a 20-pound bag of dry food costs less than $15. That alone should be enough to raise a red flag but the problems don’t stop there. A quick review of Grreat Choice dog food reveals the use of corn, wheat, and soy ingredients as well as unnamed ingredients like bone meal and poultry fat. These products are described as “complete nutrition for health and vitality” but the sad truth is that they are nothing more than low-quality products loaded with fillers and artificial additives. Grreat Choice dog foods also stick to the minimum for crude protein and fat while being a little bit heavy on the carbohydrates.
Recall Info: The Grreat Choice brand has been affected by numerous recalls in recent years – two to be specific. A 2007 recall was issued due to potential melamine contamination and a 2009 recall was issued due to potential salmonella contamination.
Problem Ingredients: ground yellow corn, meat and bone meal, wheat middling ground wheat, corn gluten meal, meat by-products, artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives.
Purina Dog Chow
The Purina name applies to a number of pet food brands produced and manufactured by the Nestle Purina PetCare Company. The company began as the Ralston Purina Company in 1893 and it currently includes more than half a dozen different product lines. Purina Dog Chow is one of Purina’s oldest products and, unfortunately, one of the worst products as well. Purina Dog Chow offers an assortment of recipes for puppies, adult dogs, small dogs, large dogs, and picky eaters – there are also natural formulas and recipes for weight management. The classic Dog Chow recipe is made with whole grain corn, meat and bone meal, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, and chicken by-product meal among the first six ingredients. As a whole, Purina Dog Chow uses many low-quality fillers and non-nutritive ingredients like corn, wheat, and soy products – their dog foods are also loaded with artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Unfortunately, many dog owners still buy these products because they are cheap and because they sound like good products based on what’s printed on the package.
Recall Info: The Purina brand as a whole has been subject to many recalls over the years. Surprisingly, however, none have targeted the Dog Chow product line in particular.
Problem Ingredients: whole grain corn, meat and bone meal, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, chicken by-product meal, whole grain wheat, animal digest, artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives.
Beneful is another product line that falls under the Purina umbrella of brands. The brand itself was released in 2001 and its main draw is the fact that its kibbles come in a variety of shapes, colors, and textures. Beneful offers a variety of dry food and wet food products that supposedly contain “real meats” like beef, chicken, and salmon. If you take a quick look at the ingredients list for some of Beneful’s dry dog food products, however, that while there are some real meats included, they are likely outweighed by by-products and plant proteins. For example, the Benefuls Originals with Real Beef dry food lists beef as the first ingredient but it is followed by five fillers or by-products – there are also numerous artificial colors and flavors. Beneful’s wet food products are also made with corn, wheat, and soy ingredients as well as artificial additives.
Recall Info: The Purina family of brands has been affected by many recalls over the past decade or so, but only one major recall has affected the Beneful line in particular. This recall occurred in 2016 when Beneful wet food products were recalled due to inadequate levels of key vitamins and minerals. Beneful has also been the subject of many consumer complaints, though Purina maintains that these accusations are “baseless”.
Problem Ingredients: wheat gluten, meat by-products, soy flour, whole grain corn, whole grain wheat, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, poultry by-product meal, poultry and pork digest, artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives
The Pedigree brand of dog food is owned and produced by Mars PetCare, a subsidiary of Mars, Inc. which is the sixth largest privately held company in the United States. Pedigree offers a wide assortment of dry foods, wet foods, and dog treats that are marketed as, “really good food”. This brand offers dog food products for puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs as well as recipes formulated for dogs of different sizes and with different dietary and health needs. If you check the ingredients list for most of these products, however, you will find that they do not vary significantly in terms of their formulation. Most Pedigree products list whole grain corn as the first ingredient. Not only is this ingredient a common food allergen for dogs, but it offers very limited nutritional value. Most of Pedigree’s products are carb-heavy and loaded with low-quality fillers as well as artificial additives. What makes this brand so popular is the fact that it is easy to find and easy to afford.
Recall Info: The Pedigree brand has been affected by numerous recalls in recent history. In fact, the most recent recall of August 2014 involved reports of metal fragments in the food. Another recall in 2012 involved reports of plastic pieces in the food. Other recalls have been issued regarding potential salmonella contamination.
Problem Ingredients: ground whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, ground whole grain heat, soybean meal, brewers rice, meat and bone meal, artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives.
The Royal Canin brand was founded in 1968 and it has become one of the largest pet food brands in the country in terms of variety. Royal Canin offers hundreds of products which are divided into different product lines based on life stage, breed size, lifestyle, and health status. Royal Canin is particularly known for offering breed-specific recipes. Unfortuantely, these formulas are not very different from each other and, like most of Royal Canin’s products, they are heavy in low-quality carbohydrates and by-products. Many of Royal Canin’s dog food products list an animal by-product as the main source of protein, though it is not always the main ingredient – many recipes list corn or wheat first. Royal Canin does use some chelated minerals in their recipes but it is hard to cancel out so many other low-quality ingredients. Overall, Royal Canin is not a high-quality brand of dog food.
Recall Info: The Royal Canin brand has been affected by several recalls in recent history, primarily due to concerns of melamine contamination. There were two recalls in 2007 as well as a recall in February issued due to high levels of vitamin D3.
Problem Ingredients: wheat gluten, corn gluten meal, chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, corn, wheat gluten, fish protein digest, hydrolyzed yeast, artificial flavors, preservatives
Hill’s Science Diet
Although Hill’s Science Diet is marketed as a top choice by many veterinarians, these recommendations are made in error. While Hill’s might be one of the largest brands of pet food in terms of product variety, it is by no means one of the better brands in terms of quality. The Hill’s Science Diet brand is produced by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. and it is available in pet stores and vet offices around the country. Hill’s Science Diet offers a wide variety of dog food products for puppies, adult, and senior dogs as well as small-breed and large-breed dogs. They also offer recipes formulated for certain health problems. If you review the ingredients list for many Hill’s Science Diet products, however, you’ll find that they aren’t all that different and that many of them are loaded with low-quality ingredients. For example, many Science Diet products list a carbohydrate as the first ingredient and most recipes include corn, wheat, and soy products.
Recall Info: The Hill’s Science Diet brand of pet food has been recalled a number of times and it was voluntarily withdrawn by the company once in 2015 due to labeling issues. There were two recalls in 2007 related to melamine concerns and one in 2014 that was issued due to potential salmonella contamination.
Problem Ingredients: whole grain wheat, brewers rice, soybean meal, soybean oil, whole grain corn, corn gluten meal, pea protein, artificial flavors, preservatives
Kibbles ‘n Bits
This brand of dog food is easily one of the most popular brands on the market – in fact, it is the fifth largest dog food brand currently in the United States. This dog food brand is produced and manufactured by Big Heart Pet Brands and it includes a variety of dry food and wet food products. The Kibbles ‘n Bits brand promises “joy in every bite” but a brief review of their dog food formulas shows that not only is joy missing from the ingredients list, but so are many high-quality ingredients. Kibbles ‘n Bits dry foods are supposedly made with flavorful roasted meets like beef and chicken but if you look at the ingredients list for any of this brand’s dry food products you will find that they are very carb heavy – corn is the first ingredient in many cases. Kibbles ‘n Bits wet foods are also loaded with corn, wheat, and soy ingredients as well as by-products and plant proteins.
Recall Info: Despite the fact that Kibbles n’ Bits uses a variety of low-quality ingredients and non-nutritive fillers in their products, there are no product recalls in recent brand history.
Problem Ingredients: corn, soybean meal, wheat flour, soy flour, wheat middlings, corn syrup, meat by-products, soy protein concentrate, animal digest, artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives
The Ol’ Roy brand of dog food is produced and manufactured by the Mars Group for sale in Walmart stores. Although this brand definitely belongs on the list for worst brands of all time, it is still one of the top-selling brands in the United States. The main reason for this is probably the fact that it is highly affordable and easy to find – Walmart doesn’t actually advertise this product at all. Ol’ Roy dog food claims to offer “great meaty taste to encourage healthy appetite” and the package suggests comparing this product to Purina Dog Chow. This alone should raise a red flag since Purina Dog Chow is not a quality product. A review of the ingredients list for several Ol’ Roy products reveals the use of many corn, wheat, and soy ingredients as well as low-quality meat products and artificial additives. A 50-pound bag of Ol’ Roy dogfood costs less than $25 which is another red flag – no high-quality dog food will be sold at such a low price.
Recall Info: There have been several recalls of Ol’ Roy dog food in recent history. Two recalls in 2007 and 2008 were issued due to potential salmonella contamination and a third was issued in 2007 due to potential melamine concerns.
Problem Ingredients: ground yellow corn, meat and bone meal, soybean meal, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, brewers rice, wheat middlings, artificial colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives
The Diamond Pet Food Company is owned and produced by Schell & Kampeter and it encompasses three product lines – Diamond, Diamond Naturals, and Diamond Naturals Grain-Free. While the Diamond Naturals and Diamond Naturals Grain-Free product lines are decent enough, the original Diamond line of dog foods leaves much to be desired. This product line is marketed as being, “highly digestible, super premium pet food without the premium price” but that is not exactly true. A review of several Diamond dog food products reveals the use of corn, wheat, and soy ingredients – often as the first ingredient or at least among the top three. Diamond dog foods are very carb-heavy and they make use of plant proteins as well. Many of the meat-based ingredients come from unnamed sources like “fish meal” or they are meat by-products of questionable quality. Diamond does use chelated minerals in some of their products and they don’t use as many artificial colors and flavors as many brands. Still, any brand that makes heavy use of corn, wheat, and soy products should be avoided.
Recall Info: The Diamond Pet Food Company has a long list of recalls, several of which have been issued due to concerns of salmonella contamination. While many recalls affect a single recipe or batch of pet food, many of Diamond’s recalls affect a wide variety of products – a 2012 recall affected over a dozen different products.
Problem Ingredients: wheat flour, whole grain ground corn, rice bran, meat meal, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal.
The Best Brands to Feed Your Dog
Now that you know a little more about the worst dog food brands on the market – you may be curious to learn more about the brands we DO recommend. The top dog food brands are made with high-quality, wholesome ingredients like real meat and seafood as well as digestible carbohydrates and healthy fats. These brands make products that are rich in animal proteins and loaded with natural sources for key nutrients to ensure balanced nutrition and optimal nutrient absorption. Here are the top 5 dog food brands recommended for this year:
The Acana brand of pet food is known for producing high-quality, biologically appropriate diets. A biologically appropriate diet is simply a meat-based diet designed to mimic the evolutionary diet followed by wild dogs and cats. Acana dog foods are designed in keeping with a Whole Prey nutritional philosophy which includes fresh meat, organs, and raw bone balanced with fresh fruits and vegetables for complete and balanced nutrition. Acana offers several different lines of products but one of their best is the Regionals line of dry foods. This product line includes four meat-rich recipes made with fresh, regional ingredients like ranch-raised meats, free-run poultry and wild-caught fish. Acana Regionals dog foods are made with 70% meat ingredients supplemented with sun-ripened vegetables, fruits, and botanicals. Because Acana pet foods are made with fresh fruits and vegetables, they don’t need to load up with synthetic supplements to ensure nutritional balance. In fact, most recipes only require two or three supplements.
Recall Info: Though the Acana company has been in business for more than 25 years, they have yet to be affected by a single recall. Acana pet foods are produced by Champion Petfoods, an award-winning manufacturer that also makes the Orijen brand of pet food.
Quality Ingredients: deboned chicken, deboned turkey, chicken giblets, catfish meal, whole green peas, red lentils, pollock meal, chicken fat, whole eggs, herring oil, whole pumpkin, spinach, turnip greens, chelated minerals, dried fermentation products
The Earthborn Holistic brand of dog food is known for offering “a wholesome approach to nutrition with high-quality ingredients that nourish the whole pet” from the inside out. This company follows a holistic approach to pet nutrition as well which means that each recipes includes carefully chosen ingredients – everything your dog needs with nothing he doesn’t. Earthborn Holistic dog foods come in dry food and wet food formulas in both regular and grain-free varieties. This company uses nature’s finest proteins like premium whitefish meal and chicken meal as well as wholesome carbohydrates like brown rice, oatmeal, and barley. Their grain-free recipes are made with nutrient-rich vegetables like sweet potatoes, peas, and tapioca. Not only are Earthborn Holistic’s recipes made with high-quality ingredients, they are also loaded with protein and healthy fats.
Recall Info: The Earthborn Holistic brand of dog food is made by Midwestern Pet Foods, a fourth-generation, family-owned company that has been in business for over 90 years. Even though Earthborn Holistic pet foods have been around for nearly a century, they have yet to be affected by a single recall.
Quality Ingredients: chicken meal, whitefish meal, menhaden fish meal, oatmeal, ground barley, ground brown rice, chicken fat, sweet potatoes, ground flaxseed, carrots, spinach, chelated minerals, dried fermentation products
Nature’s Variety Instinct
The Nature’s Variety pet food company offers several different lines of products but the two main options are Instinct and Prairie. The Instinct line of products is highly varied, offering everything from traditional kibble and canned foods to raw frozen, high-protein, and limited ingredient recipes. Every product in the Instinct line of dog foods begins with a high-quality animal protein like chicken, turkey, duck, lamb or rabbit and many of the recipes are naturally grain-free. Instinct Raw Bites contain 95% animal protein with zero gluten or grains and Instinct Raw Boost is a blend of protein-rich kibble and freeze-dried raw bites. The Ultimate Protein line of kibble is naturally grain-free and loaded with 95% animal protein. All in all, Natures Variety offers a wide selection of products in the Instinct line and each and every one of them offers unbeatable quality and natural flavor.
Recall Info: The Nature’s Variety brand offers a number of different product lines but the Instinct line is by far the best option. Although this brand offers excellent quality, they have struggled with a few small recalls affecting only their raw dog food products.
Quality Ingredients: chicken, turkey, duck, rabbit, lamb, chicken fat, eggs, chickpeas, tapioca, butternut squash, spinach, broccoli, salmon oil, freeze-dried chicken, freeze-dried turkey liver, ground flaxseed, chelated minerals, dried fermentation products.
Taste of the Wild
The Taste of the Wild pet food brand knows that pets crave meat and natural flavor. That is why all of their products are meat-rich and grain-free, designed in keeping with the natural ancestral diet of wild dogs. Taste of the Wild formulas are made with quality meats, digestible carbohydrates, and healthy fats to ensure complete and balanced nutrition – they are also supplemented with chelated minerals for maximum nutrient absorption and dried fermentation products for digestive support. Each Taste of the Wild recipe begins with a real roasted meat and is supplemented with fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes for energy and dietary fiber. Taste of the Wild offers recipes for puppies as well as those formulated for dogs in all life stages and each recipe is loaded with natural sources for key nutrients. Simply put, it is hard to do much better than Taste of the Wild when it comes to premium dog food.
Recall Info: The Taste of the Wild brand of dog food is manufactured by the Diamond Pet Foods company, a little-known fact. Though Diamond Pet Foods has been subject to a number of recalls for their other product lines, there has only been one minor recall affecting a small batch of Taste of the Wild dry dog and cat food products in 2012.
Quality Ingredients: roasted bison, roasted venison, roasted lamb, wild boar, ocean fish meal, duck meal, lamb meal, sweet potatoes, peas, lentils, garbanzo beans, blueberries, raspberries, salmon oil, chelated minerals, dried fermentation products
The Wellness brand of dog food is made by WellPet, LLC and there are a number of different product lines to choose from. One of the most popular lines is the Wellness CORE line of grain-free dog foods. This line includes three air-dried recipes as well as an assortment of moist, semi-moist, and wet foods. There are also seven traditional grain-free kibbles including recipes for puppies, adult dogs, small breeds, large breeds, and weight management. Wellness CORE dog foods are protein-rich and thoughtfully balanced to ensure optimal nutrition – they are also loaded with omega fatty acids to support your dog’s healthy skin and coat. In terms of carbohydrates, the Wellness CORE relies on starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes as well as fresh fruits and vegetables that also act as natural sources for key nutrients.
Recall Info: The Wellness brand of dog food offers a wide variety of products and it has been in existence since 1926. Although Wellness has been around for ages, there are very few recalls in the brand’s history and only one minor recall affecting the Wellness CORE line of products in particular – it was issued for a small run of Wellness CORE cat food products due to low levels of thiamine.
Quality Ingredients: chicken, turkey, chicken meal, turkey liver, salmon, chickpeas, peas, potatoes, ground flaxseed, sweet potatoes, apples, carrots, salmon oil, chelated minerals, dried fermentation products
These are just a few of the many high-quality brands of pet food on the market for this year. If you truly care about your dog, you’ll do what it takes to make sure that his nutritional needs are met in the healthiest, most delicious way possible. Don’t fall for “trumped up” products sold by low-quality brands – give your dog the nutrition he deserves and he will thank you for it!