From bad to worse- what the heck is that in my dog’s food?

Disclaimer: This is not meant to substitute the advice of your local veterinarian whom you know and trust. If you have a good one, he/she is better equipped to handle the individual nutritional needs of your dog far better than an article you will read on the internet.  

Your Dog is What He Eats

Have you ever looked at what’s in your dog’s food? If you knew what the ingredients were, it may just make your stomach churn… let alone Fido’s. Instead of buying the most colorful bag, or the food associated with the best commercials, do your research!

Not until Romeo got sick did I really bat an eye at what was in his food. Don’t get me wrong- we love him to death! But we sort of took everything at face value and bought what we felt to be a good, popular/”safe” brand. If the happy, bouncing puppies featured on the companies commercial weren’t enough to reassure you, than surely the words “veterinarian approved” at the top of the bag would be. (I’ve learned that if you pay someone enough, you can get them to say just about anything you want them too). I digress.

Cross these Ingredients off your List

Ingredients best avoided include: corn and wheat gluten, grain and meat meals and by-products, BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole), food dyes, ethoxyquin, propylene glycol, and rendered fat. There are some exceptions of course- not all meat meal is bad quality. However components and quality of meat meals vary wildly from product to product, so you need more information. For a more comprehensive list of foods that should be avoided and explanations check out this list on the Dog Food Project page.

dog in toilet bowl

The list alone makes Woof want to barf.

From Bad to Worse…

Here are some of the yuckiest foods we found… from bad to worse-

10. Purina Dog Chow

Purina- what's in your dog's food

INGREDIENTS: Whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), meat and bone meal, soybean meal, egg and chicken flavor, whole grain wheat, animal digest, salt, calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate, potassium chloride, choline chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), zinc sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, ferrous sulfate, Yellow 6, Yellow 5,manganese sulfate, niacin, Red 40, Vitamin A supplement, Blue 2, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin B-12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate, Vitamin D-3 supplement, riboflavin supplement, calcium iodate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.

You thought since you were paying out the arse your dog was benefiting, right? Wrong. Corn this, wheat that… gross. And we wonder why our dogs have digestive problems. Try eating corn for two meals a day and let me know how it goes. I recommend you not make any plans to leave your house that week.

Also note, the “animal digest”. There is no quality control here whatsoever, and the animals that can be used include the “4 D’s”- dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter. Thanks for pointing this out, Dog Digest. Someone should tell Purina that they wouldn’t need to use a dozen different fake colorants if they would just incorporate real food.


Kibbles N Bits- What's in your dog's food

INGREDIENTS: Corn, soybean meal, beef & bone meal, ground wheat, animal fat (BHA used as preservative), corn syrup, water sufficient for processing, wheat middlings, animal digest (source of chicken flavor), propylene glycol, salt, hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride, caramel color, sorbic acid (used as a preservative), sodium carbonate, 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), titanium dioxide (color), calcium sulfate, yellow 5, red 40, yellow 6, BHA (used as a preservative), DL-methionine.

KIBBLES N BITS is enough to make any dog want to go on a hunger strike. Just like any cheap dog food, the ingredient list start with corn, wheat, and soybean meal. Wheat flour holds absolutely no nutritional value. It is a completely unnecessary filler, and not to mention one of the leading causes of dog allergies. And for good measure, the food is sprinkled with a little BHA on top. BHA is a preservative shown to cause cancer in mice, rats and hamsters. Since it causes cancer in the forestomach in these animals and humans do not have a forestomach it is believed to be safe in small quantities. However, there are other things that can be used to preserve food- ie: Vitamin E. It’s unnecessary and undoubtedly harmful in some animals, so why take the chance?

The Whole Dog Journal has a good article on preservatives in dog food.

8. Purina Beneful

INGREDIENTS: Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), rice flour, beef, soy flour, water, meat and bone meal, propylene glycol, sugar, tricalcium phosphate, phosphoric acid, salt, animal digest, potassium chloride, sorbic acid (a preservative), dried peas, dried carrots, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, Red 40, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Vitamin A supplement, Blue 2, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, brewers dried yeast, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.

Ahh another Purina product. Something tells me I won’t be getting any advertising deals from them on my site in the near future…
In all seriousness, who is feeding this kind of crap to their dogs. Again, note the 4 top ingredients: corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten and wheat flour. Your dog would be better off if you just gave him a steak.

dog eating steak

Nom nom nom.

7. Alpo

Image result for alpo dog food

INGREDIENTS: Ground Yellow Corn, Meat and Bone Meal, Soybean Meal, Beef Tallow Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols (Form of Vitamin E), Poultry By-Product Meal, Animal Digest, Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Zinc Sulphate, Ferrous Sulphate, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Manganese Sulphate, Added Colour (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 2), Niacin, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Sulphate, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Garlic Oil, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K Activity), Folic Acid, Biotin, Sodium Selenite. D-5020-C.

This junk is all starting to look the same.

6. Kal Kan

KAL KAN® Complete Adult Food for Dogs

INGREDIENTS: Ground yellow corn, meat and bone meal, soybean meal, ground wheat, chicken by-product meal, animal fat (preserved with BHA and citric acid, source of Omega-6 Fatty Acids), wheat middlings, corn gluten meal, natural flavor, salt, dl-methionine, potassium chloride, choline chloride, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, niacin, manganous oxide, Vitamin A supplement, biotin, d-calcium pantothenate, Vitamin B12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), riboflavin supplement, calcium iodate, folic acid, cobalt carbonate, Vitamin D3 supplement.

More like Kal Can’t. With all that corn, wheat and soybean meal, he’s likely to be too fat and sick to do anything. But hey- it has a “meaty taste”, so maybe your dog won’t know how badly your ripping him off.

5. Gravy Train

Gravy train- what's in your dog's food

INGREDIENTS: Corn, Soybean Meal, Meat and Bone Meal, Wheat Middlings, Animal Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Animal Digest, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Cellulose Gum, 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), Natural and Artificial Beef Flavor, Red 40, BHA (preservative), Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 2, Rosemary Extract.

This is how Woof feels about you getting on the Gravy Train….

Image result for disgusted dog

A few good points here- technically the food meets AAFCO standards. Would I ever feed it to my dog, no. Please understand these are bare minimum guidelines per say- don’t let this stamp of approval lead you to believe you are feeding your dog something of decent quality.

Second, you must look further than just the label of ingredients to determine nutritional values. Even though “meat and bone meal” is near the top, Gravy Train’s dry food is low in protein compared with most other dry dog foods, and just meets the minimum requirement.

Ah Soybean- here we meat again. Many inexpensive dog foods use Soybean as a protein source- it’s cheap. Other dog foods add Soybean as a cheap way to bulk up the amount of protein in the food. Reasons to avoid soybean include: it’s an allergen in some dogs, it may cause GI upset, it blocks absorption of some necessary minerals, interference with hormones, and it’s anti-thyroid.

Dr. Dodd’s pet health blog discusses soy in more detail.

4. Ol’ Roy

INGREDIENTS: Ground yellow corn, soybean meal, ground whole wheat, corn syrup, poultry fat, Meat and bone meal, Animal Fat Preserved with BHA and Citric Acid, Chicken by-product meal, Rice, Animal Digest, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Vitamin D and E Supplement, Niacin, Copper Sulafate, Manganous Oxide, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate ,*menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), Calcium Iodate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Cobalt Carbonate, Folic Acid, Sodium Selenite.

Even our poor dogs can’t escape corn syrup.

3. Pedigree

INGREDIENTS: Ground Whole Corn, Meat and Bone Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Animal Fat (preserved with BHA/BHT), Wheat Mill Run, Ground Wheat, Natural Poultry Flavor, Wheat Flour, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Caramel Color, Vegetable Oil (Source of Linoleic Acid), Rice, Wheat Gluten, Vitamins (Choline Chloride, dl-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate [Source of Vitamin E], L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate [Source of Vitamin C*], Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Biotin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement [Vitamin B2], Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Minerals (Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide), Added FD&C and Lake Colors (Yellow 6, Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5).

Pedi-who? Yes, you heard me right. That food in the special bag, with the special name, that’s supposed to be the best? It’s crap.

2. Bil Jac

Bil Jac- what's in your dog's food

INGREDIENTS: Chicken, Chicken By-Products (organs only, source of arginine), Corn Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal, Dried Beet Pulp, Oatmeal, Brewers Dried Yeast, Monocalcium Phosphate, Flaxseed, Salt, Choline Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, DL-Methionine, Sodium Propionate (a preservative), L-Lysine, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Proteinate, Vitamin A Acetate, Copper Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Biotin, Sodium Selenite, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Inositol, Manganese Proteinate, Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Mixed Tocopherols and BHA (preservatives), Manganous Oxide, Cobalt Proteinate, Cobalt Carbonate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

1. Iams Pro Active

INGREDIENTS: Ground Yellow Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean Meal, Animal Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Chicken, Corn Gluten Meal, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Flavor, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Vegetable and Fruit Blend (Dried Apple Pomace, Dried Carrots, Dried Peas, Dried Spinach and Dried Tomatoes), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Acetate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement (source of vitamin B2), Inositol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Carbonate), Dicalcium Phosphate, Rosemary Extract

Do I really think that Iams is worse than Kibbles N Bits, or Gravy Train? No, not really. But it earned our #1 spot with its shock value. I believe there are a lot of pet owners out there who think they are doing their dog a service by feeding them this. They just don’t know any better. Somehow a company can grind up crap, put it in a bag, and still maintain their well regarded status and trustworthy name.

In addition to the usual ground corn in other bad brands, Iams contains beet pulp– another filler that is probably best avoided. Some nutritionists say it is ok, but many manufacturers who use it do so in large quantities. In smaller amounts it can be helpful, providing additional fiber. Though the evidence isn’t very strong, some still content that it can cause severe constipation in large quantities, and can even contribute to bloat and torsion. Like many of you, I’m one of those “until we know for sure, it’s probably best left out” kind of folks.

No flame wars here folks… please. I know this is a subject that many feel passionate about- as we should. Nutrition and the food we feed our dogs has long been underestimated in importance. Woof plans to explore many of these issues in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!




  1. Thanks for sharing with us! I do not know whether happy or sad. About food, my dachshund likes everything from vegetable to peanut, meat, fruit,…

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