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What Dog Food Ingredients Should You Avoid?

November 22, 2022

You are what you eat. And that expression applies to our fur-legged friends too. Some dog food brands skimp out on the actual healthy ingredients (chicken, beef, etc.) and replace these proteins with fillers. Fillers do not add much nutritional value to what they are eating and, overall are not recommended. Current research is bringing to light that many of these unhealthy ingredients can trigger allergies in your dog as well.

What Ingredients Should You Avoid?

Butylated Hydroxyanisole, also known as BHA, is a chemical preservative found in many dog foods and treats. It is used to preserve fats and oils. The CDC lists this ingredient as a known carcinogen that has negative effects on the liver and kidneys of animals. Some countries actually banned this substance due to this. Although the effects might not be noticeable in small quantities, over a long period of time, feeding your dog food that has BHA in it can contribute to health issues.

White Flour

White flour is usually used as a filler and binding agent in dog food. It is a bleached flour that contains little to no nutritional value. White flour has even proven to cause spikes in blood sugar. This means it may make your dog feel full, but not for a sustained period.

Unspecified Meat or “Meat Meal” With “unspecified” meat in your dog’s food, what it is can be a mystery and risky. These meat meals are usually low quality, leftover meats with minimal regulation and or control of quality. Although these products are in many dog foods, try to avoid them. At the very least, pick a dog food where the specific type of meat is listed.

Artificial Colors and Flavorings

Artificial coloring and flavors are added to dog foods to create a more appealing appearance and smell. They are usually listed specifically, and the most commonly found dyes in dog foods are Red 40, Blue 2, and Yellow 5 and 6. These artificial ingredients are simply unnecessary and have been linked to hyperactivity, hypersensitivity, and allergic reactions to foods.


MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is not usually listed on pet food ingredient lists. It is more often found in autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed protein, calcium caseinate, protein isolate, texturized protein, natural flavors, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extracts, soy extracts or concentrate, sodium caseinate, monopotassium glutamate, glutamate or glutamic acid, or disodium inosinate or guanylate. These ingredients are used to enhance the flavor of dog food but are not necessary.

Corn Syrup

Corn syrup is a concentrated sweetener that is derived from corn. It is inexpensive to produce and is often added to processed dog foods to add flavor without costing a lot of money. Corn syrup, like white flour, causes your dog’s blood sugar to spike, which is not healthy and known to cause health issues down the road.

Farmed Salmon

Farmed salmon refers to salmon that is grown inland in artificial habitats. These are not fish in the actual ocean, have never seen or been in the ocean, and are grown specifically to be harvested for food. If they are found in your dog’s food, they will be simply listed as salmon, salmon meal, or salmon oil. If the salmon in your dog’s food is wild-caught, it will be listed as so. Farmed salmon is not nearly as nutritious as wild-caught salmon.


Nitrates, more specifically sodium nitrite, is a common preservative found in dog foods. It is used to preserve meat products. This preservative, although currently deemed safe to be used in dog food, has been linked to a blood disorder called methemoglobin as well as cancer.


STPP, or sodium tripolyphosphate, is a common ingredient in laundry detergent that softens the water. In dog food, it is used as a preservative. Since it is an actual chemical that does not contain any nutritional value, it is best to avoid it in your dog’s food. Taking the time to shop for quality dog food will yield a better long-term health outlook for your dog. Just because an ingredient is approved for use in dog food does not always mean you should use it. Natural ingredients are always recommended and should be looked for.

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