Many people ask me what dog food brands to avoid. I could give you a list of terrible foods as long as my arm, but a better way is to offer you a few bullet points for you to figure it out yourself! Many cheap and nasty brands of pet food conform to a very similar formula which is very easy to spot with some basic knowledge.
Avoid Brands with Food Colourings
Only the nastiest foods use food colourings. Given dogs don’t care about the colour of their food this is more to make the food look appealing to you. We know too well from human nutrition that food colourings are bad, so they’re bad for our dogs as well. So if a dog food comes in pretty colours, then avoid it.
Avoid Cereals / Cereal By-Products / Wheat / Wheat By-Products
If you believe dog food was designed for dogs then you’d be sadly mistaken. Dog food was designed to fix a costly problem – disposal of waste from human food production. Dog food offered a way of turning this waste into profit, and a very sizable profit at that. In Australia we have a number of pet foods made directly by milling companies, and many of our manufacturers use the by-products of those milling companies to produce pet food cheaply.
Grains are not bad for a dog per se, unless in excess, but if a food has wheat or wheat by-products then avoid it. Wheat is a very problematic grain when it comes to allergies, not necessarily from the wheat itself but from wheat mites. It can also lead to bloat and overall poor health, and you would be surprised how many pet foods (even cat foods) which use it as the main ingredient.
Cereals and cereal by-products are a more ambiguous ingredient, most likely being wheat, and possibly other grains and by-products. Avoid!
Avoid Low Protein / Low Fat Dog Foods
Sometimes it’s hard to tell from the ingredients that a dog food is high in carbohydrates. It’s not required to list a carbohydrate percentage on the label. A dog shouldn’t have too many carbs in their diet, and if they don’t burn them off they’ll turn to sugars and body fat, and we all know that doesn’t lead to optimum health.
Even when meat is the first ingredient it could be backed up by a whole load of grain ingredients which significantly outweigh the meat in the food. For example, ingredients could be listed as “Chicken By-Products, Wheat, Wheat By-Products, Corn, Corn Gluten Meal”, when all ingredients are in the same proportion. Very deceiving.
Average pet foods have a protein percentage of around 22%, and fat of around 12%. That’s not ideal, but anything less than that is best to avoid. Decent dog foods can be found with upwards of 30% protein (from meat), and around 20% fat. This ensures far less carbs than other brands.
Be Wary of Price
It may sound obvious, but the term you get what you pay for is very applicable to pet foods. Some brands appeal to many because they’re cheap, but the reason they’re cheap is because they use ingredients such as those listed above. Wheat by-products are very cheap, as is corn, and some brands are so cheap it makes you wonder if they’re using urea. In any case they’re cheap for a reason, and that reason isn’t for the health of your dog.
A list of dog food brands to avoid
Above are really quick hacks to tell if a dog food is poor quality, but there are many others. If you have any thoughts on how to determine which dog food brands to avoid then leave a comment below!
Ok, if you really want that list, then these are our Worst-Rated Dog Foods in Australia.