The Worst Dry Dog Food [5 Brands to Avoid]

DietThe Worst Dry Dog Food

The dog health industry has seen significant advancements over the past few years. We’ve learned that dogs aren’t actually color blind like we were once told, hip problems are more preventable than we thought, and medicine to prevent common issues such as kennel cough have been developed.

However, one of the most surprising things research has shown us in recent years is that a lot of the popular dry dog food brands that we once thought were healthy are NOT as healthy as we thought they were. In fact, some of them are actually harmful!

Thankfully dog owners like you are taking the time to learn how to raise a healthy dog. Health starts with the diet. It doesn’t matter how much exercise your dog gets or how well groomed they are. If they are eating foods full of chemicals and cheap protein, it’s impossible to keep them at optimal health levels.

Below we will list five of the most popular dog foods that aren’t nearly as “healthy” as they claim. There are plenty more we could have added to the list, but these five are the most popular. Are you buying any of these for your dog?

  1. Cesar Filet Mignon Dry Dog Food
  2. Retriever Hi Protein Dry Dog Food
  3. Purina Beneful Original Dry Dog Food
  4. Kibbles ‘n Bits Original Dry Dog Food
  5. Pedigree® Adult Dry Dog Food

But What Makes These Foods Unhealthy?

To understand why these popular dry dog foods might not be as healthy as we once though, we first have to understand what science has recently shown us regarding health needs for your dog. Once you have an understanding of these needs, you’ll understand why some of the foods listed above aren’t that great for your four-legged friend.

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You’ll also learn how to pick out food that has been proven to increase life span and provide more energy for your dog so they can live a long and healthy life.

Dogs Need Meat Protein

The primary thing your dog needs is a quality meat protein. Dogs weren’t meant to be vegetarian. Unfortunately, a lot of the most popular brands out there either don’t specify their source of protein, or they use plant-based protein sources to keep costs down.

Make sure the food you buy for your dog contains one of the following:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Venison
  • Rabbit

You’ll see some foods that use egg, this isn’t horrible, but it still shouldn’t be your dog’s primary source of protein.

Avoid 4D Meats

The sad truth is that a lot of dog food companies include 4D meats to save on costs while keeping protein high. Unfortunately, the protein from 4D meats is very low quality and can actually be harmful to your pup.

What exactly are 4D meats? 4D stands for Dead, Dying, Diseased, Disabled. That means companies will include meat from animals that were road kill, had diseases such as tumors or were sick.

The issue is the label doesn’t say “4D”, so how are you supposed to know? Instead of saying 4D, the labels will either say:

  • Animals By-Product Meal
  • Fish Meal
  • Meal By-Products
  • Meat-Meal
  • Poultry Meal

If you see any of those on the label, be sure to avoid it.

Ditch The Corn

Yup, you heard that right. This was probably the most surprising thing we learned in recent years, but dogs weren’t meant to eat corn on a daily basis.

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The scary thing about this is that corn was the filler for most dry dog food. It helps keep the cost down because it’s cheap to grow, but it can do severe damage to your dog’s health in the long term.

Include The Veggies

Although we just talked about ditching the corn, your dog still needs veggies. The good news is most dry dog foods do contain some source of vegetables other than corn, the bad news is it’s usually such a small amount it won’t provide your dog with all the vitamins and minerals needed to keep your dog at optimal health. Make sure you see a veggie within the first few ingredients on the label. If it’s near the bottom of the label, don’t waste your money.

Adequacy For Your Dog

If you notice the dog food contains a quality meat source, doesn’t have corn, includes veggies, and doesn’t contain 4D meat, the next thing you want to check is the adequacy for your dog. There are different types of foods for dogs in all stages of life. Some dogs need to gain weight, some need to lose weight. Older dogs have different nutritional requirement than younger dogs. Healthy dogs don’t require the same ingredients as sick dogs.

On the food label, there should be a nutritional adequacy statement. It would read something like this “This food is complete and balanced for adult maintenance,” or “This food is complete and balanced for growth and reproduction.”

Be sure to read that label and make sure it fits in with your dog’s requirements.

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Animal Feeding Tests

Each dog food that makes a claim has to back it up with a description of the animal feeding test on the label. This will usually be right under the nutritional adequacy statement. Make sure the food has actually gone through a feeding trial. If it has, then you know the food has been fed to a living dog and tests were performed on that dog during the time of feeding.

Avoiding The Worst Dog Foods

As you can tell, the dog food industry is changing. There are quite a few things we once thought were healthy for our pups that are actually harmful.

The take home point of this article is to look for a few things when selecting food for your dog.

  1. Make sure there is a quality protein source
  2. Make sure there is no (or minimal corn)
  3. Make sure there are no 4D meats
  4. Make sure veggies are near the top of the list

As long as you can check those four things off the list, there’s a good chance the food will provide your dog with plenty of health and energy.

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Bryan Harkins
Bryan Harkins
Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.

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