What Foods Should I Avoid Feeding My Dog?

It can be scary to realize that not all of the commercially available dog foods will be beneficial for your dog. Some of them can even be dangerous or deadly. Here’s what you need to know about what to avoid feeding your dog and how to give them the best possible diet.

Feed Grade Ingredients

The vast majority of dog foods are made out of ingredients that are considered feed grade, not human grade. Even some of the best dog foods recommended by veterinarians contain feed-grade ingredients. This is a very important difference.

Feed grade ingredients have allowance for things that might hurt your dog:


These toxins are produced by mold. In very small quantities, they are allowable in human-grade foods, but in feed-grade ingredients, the allowance is considerably higher.

Meal and By-Product

Meat meal is a concentrated form of protein and not inherently bad at all, but in feed-grain ingredients meat meal and by-product come from the rendering process. They may contain dead animals from all sorts of places, including animal shelters and restaurant grease.

Besides being rather unappetizing, the most dangerous aspect of getting meat from these sources is the potential for the presence of pentobarbital. Pentobarbital is used to euthanize animals. It can be found in meat from animal shelters, farms, ranches, and more. 

It is the primary form of euthanasia, so unless an animal is slaughtered, it is likely to be present in some quantity in the meat. FDA testing has found it to be present in dog food. It is generally not present at high enough doses to be very dangerous, but sometimes it has been. Even in low doses, it is certainly not something that you want in your dog’s food.

Foods Cooked at High Temperatures

Foods are generally cooked at very high temperatures to eliminate some of the potential toxins, bacteria, and contaminants in meat that comes from feed sources. High temperatures are also important for dehydrating most dry dog food so that they will last for a long time without becoming moldy. 

However, cooking food at high temperatures can kill many of the critical beneficial bacteria and probiotics in the food. It may also reduce the vitamins and minerals that are present for your dog. It is best to avoid foods that are cooked at high temperatures, provided they are not made from feed-grade ingredients.

Chemicals and Preservatives

To keep both dry and canned food stable and safe for your dog, a number of chemicals and preservatives may be used. In general, dry food has more preservatives than wet food, but either type of food may have a fair amount of these chemicals to keep them from going rancid. Here are a few chemicals that you might want to avoid in your dog’s food:

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

These chemicals are used to keep fats and oils from going rancid. They are common in many commercially available pet treats and foods. 

However, on the California office of environmental health hazards, these chemicals have been found to be carcinogens and may also cause liver and kidney damage.


This preservative is illegal to use in any human foods in the United States, but it is allowed in pet foods. It may be harmful if swallowed or contact with skin is made in a human, and it probably isn’t a great thing to have in your dog food either.

How to Avoid Bad Foods

Not all of the ingredients that you’re trying to avoid might be marked in your dog food ingredients. You may or may not know whether contaminants like pentobarbital have made it into food made of feed-grade ingredients.

To keep your dog safe, choose a fresh food made with the best dog food ingredients



Alex is the co-author of 100 Greatest Plays, 100 Greatest Cricketers, 100 Greatest Films and 100 Greatest Moments. He has written for a wide variety of publications including The Observer, The Sunday Times, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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