The Ingredients To Avoid When Buying Dog Food

Not all dog food is healthy for your dog, in this article we cover the really harmful ingredients that you need to keep your dog away from.

The Ingredients To Avoid When Buying Dog Food
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Choosing the right dog food is a daunting decision that directly impacts your pet’s health and well-being. There are budget-friendly brands like Iams and Purina, then gourmet options like Solid Gold and Because it’s Better. With so many brands to choose from, they all start to blur together, creating a general sense of frustration.

You might start to question the legitimacy or even the combination of the ingredients, and you should. Not all brands are equal, and not all brands are right for your dog. To aid you in your search for healthy dog food, we’ve found five commonly used ingredients to steer clear of.

BHT and BHA 

BHT and BHA are chemical preservatives that are used to preserve fats in your dog’s food. Even though some countries have banned the preservatives, they are still approved in small quantities in the US, Canada, and Europe. BHT/BHA works by reducing the oxidation of oils and fats, which can help prevent the food from spoiling.  

However, recent studies have found that BHT can cause liver damage and, in some cases, cancer. BHA, on the other hand, can cause gastrointestinal problems and skin irritation. Despite these health risks, BHT and BHA are commonly used in dog foods since it’s efficient and low-priced. 

If you want to reduce the risks of BHT and BHA, opt for foods that use natural preservatives like Vitamin E and rosemary extract. Vitamin E builds cell membranes while supporting the eyes and skin, but its most important function is as an antioxidant. 

Antioxidants like Vitamin E protect cells, thereby decreasing the risks of inflammation and the effects of cancer and aging. Studies show that Vitamin E effectively treats allergies and arthritis in dogs. 

Rosemary extract works to strengthen digestion, which can help keep your pet’s digestive system healthy. Rosemary extract is also an antioxidant, which supports your dog’s immune system, reducing the effects of illness, allergies, and inflammation.  

Meat Meal  

Meat meal is a common non-descript item in many dog foods. Manufacturers tend to use non-descript words like meat, meat meal, and meat and bone meal to describe the meat they can’t label due to its varied sources.

Meat meal often contains infected or expired meats, which are then heated extensively to remove any pathogens. However, the process eliminates most, if not all, of the nutrient value, making it low-quality and nutrient-poor.

The result of this meat connection is often hard to digest and potentially harmful for dogs. Since there’s no guarantee of what meat meal contains, it may have harmful toxins, which can cause pancreatitis, fever, and difficulty breathing. 

Unlabeled meat is often used to boost the amount of protein in certain dog foods for a cheap and efficient price. If you see meat meal as a listed ingredient, it would be wise to choose another dog food. There’s no reason to subject your dog to potential health complications when better quality dog foods exist.  


MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a salt commonly included in many dog food concoctions. It’s a cheap way for brands to add a flavor source to increase the appeal of their low-quality food. However, MSG contains no nutrition and can cause dogs to have adverse reactions like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and, in some cases, seizures. 

In extremely large amounts, MSG can be fatal to dogs. While food brands don’t incorporate large amounts of MSG in their food, it’s still a good idea to avoid MSG, as over time, it can cause issues with your dog’s digestion. 

By law, brands do not have to disclose MSG, so brands often label it with an unclear ingredient, such as hydrolyzed protein. If you see the ingredient listed, the food likely contains MSG. Choose foods with clear labels and rich protein sources for a healthier and safer alternative. 

For instance, choose foods that contain fresh chicken, beef, or pork. Dog foods with rich protein sources won’t need flavor additives to make the food more appealing; instead, they are more appealing due to their fresh ingredients.

Farmed Salmon

Salmon is healthy for dogs to consume, but there are good and bad types of salmon. Farmed salmon, salmon oil, and salmon meal are considered bad for your dog.

These ingredients are commonly collected from artificial environments rather than from the wild. They contain harmful chemicals like mercury, pollutants, and fat-soluble toxins, which can sometimes contribute to cancer. 

Farmed salmon has also been proven to contain more Persistent Organic Pollutants or POP, which can increase the body’s resistance to insulin and make diabetes treatment ineffective. It’s important to note that most, if not all, of salmon that’s listed as Atlantic salmon is farmed. There are no Atlantic salmon fisheries; the label only elevates the low-quality ingredient to make it sound luxurious. 

If you want a healthy alternative, choose wild-caught salmon. Wild-caught salmon contain lower levels of pollutants and have a lower cancer risk. Wild-caught salmon is also beneficial for your dog as it helps develop strong bones and prevents arthritis.

Corn Syrup   

Corn syrup is often used in dog food to enhance the flavor of the food. However, corn syrup provides little to no nutrient value but is commonly used since it’s cheap and can make food more appealing to dogs. 

Corn syrup increases blood sugar levels and can contribute to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes in dogs. Corn syrup is also addictive, meaning the more your dog eats it, the more your dog will develop a taste for anything surgery-sweet. Many experts consider corn syrup to be toxic for dogs due to its long-term effects.  

Corn syrup is not a necessary part of your dog’s diet and thus does not need to be included in your dog’s food. Most food brands will list corn syrup near the end of the ingredients list, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less harmful. 

If you want your dog’s food to contain healthy ingredients, skip corn syrup and avoid sugar in any form. Sugars like molasses, fructose, glucose, cane molasses, and maple sugar also spike your dog’s blood sugar, contributing to weight gain and diabetes.   

Be in the Know

These harmful ingredients are all too commonly used in dog food. Before you buy your dog a new type of food, read the label to be on the lookout for these sketchy ingredients. Eliminating these ingredients from your dog’s diet may improve digestion, increase nutrients, and enable your dog to have ethically sourced, high-quality food. 

Let us know in the comments if any of the listed ingredients surprised you. Plus, if you know of any other ingredients to avoid, let us know!