9 Dog Food Ingredients to Avoid if You Want a Healthy Happy Dog

Your dog is descended from wolves—and wolves are almost 100 percent carnivores. That means your dog needs a diet rich in protein to stay healthy. But unlike wolves, dogs are omnivores (thanks to us); therefore, they also require certain fibers to aid digestion and remove toxins from the body.

Your dog’s ancestors lived off of natural foods and ate a balanced diet. The last thing you want to do, then, is add toxins to her body, or feed her food packed with grains and other fillers.

Although you have a good idea of what your dog’s food should include, it’s critical to know what your dog’s food should NOT include. Following are nine ingredients that should be avoided at all costs.

  1. Ethoxyquin

Ethoxyquin is used as a food preservative in certain countries—and a pesticide. Humans can consume minute amounts because our diets are varied. Dogs, however, typically eat the same food every day. If your dog’s food contains ethoxyquin, the ingredient builds up in his system and can result in liver problems.

  1. Propylene glycol

This organic compound is used in antifreeze. It’s also used in some dog foods to help preserve moisture content and prevent bacteria growth. But your dog needs intestinal bacteria to help absorb and digest food. Because propylene glycol reduces bacteria growth, it also decreases the growth of “good” bacteria and reduces the moisture required to aid digestion.

  1. BHT

Butylated hydroxytoluene is an artificial preservative used in some dogfoods. Like ethoxyquin, long-term consumption builds up in your dog’s system, but instead of liver issues it’s believed to cause cancer.  

  1. BHA

Butylated hydroxyanisole is BHT’s carcinogenic cousin. Make sure to avoid this ingredient.

  1. Corn syrup

Corn syrup is bad for your dog for the same reason it’s bad for people—it’s a sugar that, when consumed too much, leads to weight gain, diabetes, hyperactivity and even behavioral changes.

  1. Carrageenan

Carrageenan is used in some canned (moist) pet foods as a thickening agent. Animal studies have shown that it causes gastrointestinal inflammation, intestinal lesions, ulcerations and even malignant tumors.

  1. Food dyes

Artificial colors are designed to make dog food appear more appealing for owners (your dog probably couldn’t care less about its appearance). But what’s concerning is that some dyes are unhealthy. Play it safe and avoid dog food with food dyes.

  1. By-Products

By-products are remains of an animal (not including muscle meat) that often include diseased tissues, organs and even tumors. Say bye-bye to by-products.

  1. Xylitol

Perhaps you’ve seen xylitol listed in products you consume, such as gum, candy, mints, toothpaste and more. It’s an artificial sweetener that is harmful to dogs because it causes a sudden release of insulin that leads to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). It can also cause liver damage.


Dog food, like a lot of human food, contains many ingredients. It’s tedious work to read dog food ingredients with a fine-toothed comb and to compare them with our list of ingredients to avoid. Another way to determine if the dog food you use is healthy is to check out DogFoodAdivsor, which rates and reviews dog foods. It rates Born Free as a “highly recommended” 4-star dog food.

P.S. Remember to check doggy treat ingredients, too!