The Worst Rated Dog Food Brands

After putting in hours of research and analyzing over 2,223 formulas, it was discovered even some of the most popular brands still make food with unhealthy or unsafe ingredients.

Of the 2,223 formulas we looked at, only 134 met our standard of approval — about 6 percent overall. With so many choices on the market, it’s as important as ever to read labels and make informed decisions.

Why 2,089 Dog Food Formulas Didn't Make the Cut

We removed products:
  • where the first ingredient is not a meat of any kind
  • containing corn, soy, wheat, grain, or flour
  • containing beet pulp or sugar
  • that contained by-products or sauces 
We reviewed:
  • brands for recalls, ingredient sources, history, and customer satisfaction 
  • the remaining formulas based on the best ratio of protein, fat, and carbs, as well as the source of protein

Formulas and Ingredients

Ingredients matter most, so we started by eliminating formulas with ingredients we determined to be unhealthy, unsafe, or unfavorable.

It was important that each formula have a meat protein listed first — we removed 194 dog food formulas based on this criteria.

We next removed 578 additional formulas that had corn, soy, wheat, grain, or flour in any part of the ingredient list. Overall, this eliminated 772 formulas, taking us from 2,223 to 1,447.

Next, we took out all formulas containing beet pulp or sugar, eliminating 146 more and further reducing the number from 1,447 to 1,301.

Formulas that contained by-products and sauces led to 44 additional cuts, narrowing our choices from 1,301 to 1,257.

The 1,257 dog food formulas left did not have any ingredients we wouldn’t feed our own dogs. This was too large a number, however, so our next step was to review the brands themselves and return to formulas later.

Brands and Recalls

The original 2,223 dog food formulas we analyzed comprised 115 brands. But after reducing the number of formulas to 1,257, the number of brands dropped to 93.

Brands That Were Cut Because of Their Ingredients:
  • Alpo
  • Cesar
  • Chicken Soup
  • Eukanuba
  • Fruitables
  • HI-TOR
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet
  • Hill’s Science Diet
  • Iams Veterinary Formula 
  • KAL KAN®
  • Nummy Tum-Tum
  • Nutro
  • Nutro Ultra
  • Pedigree®
  • Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets
  • Royal Canin
  • NRG
  • Breeder’s Choice
  • Natural Planet
  • Now Fresh
  • Nutro Natural
  • Indigo
  • Pet Naturals of Vermont
  • Himalayan Dog Chew

Of the 93 brands left, we went straight to their recall history to look for anymajor recalls, any significant controversies, and unusually high numbers of customer complaints and reports.

Next, we took out brands that had been sold to large companies and, as a result, may be changing or have changed their formulas in a manner that compromises integrity. 

Just as in human food, often, acquisitions and changes in ownership can lead to changes in formulas and manufacturing processes. In dog food, that can mean dramatically different ingredients that pet owners may not even notice.

For this reason, we eliminated dog food brands that had recently been acquired by large companies like Procter & Gamble (P&G), because we couldn’t guarantee that the data we had on them, or the ingredients listed, were up-to-date and reliable.

We also removed anything that is manufactured in countries that don’t have strong food-quality regulations, that were known to include lesser-quality ingredients, or do not have enough available information:

List of "Premium" Dog Food Brands:

Against the Grain: Not enough information

Artemis: Manufactured by Diamond

Blue Buffalo: False label claims, bad customer reviews, and outsourced foods

Canidae: Many negative customer reviews, manufactured by Diamond Canine

Caviar: Not enough information

Dave’s Pet Food: Not enough information

Dogswell: Some ingredients come from ChinaEvanger’s: Many consumer complaints and false labeling

EVO: Sold to P&G and also lost a class-action suit over false labeling

Farmina: Not enough information

Go!: Lesser-quality ingredients and issues with upset stomachs

Great Life: Mediocre reviews and not enough information

Holistic Select: Holistic Select’s parent company, WellPet, no longer has any ties to Diamond. However, Holistic Select has still received customer complaints of gas and loose stool in pets.Innova: Bought by P&GMerrick: History of recalls

Nature’s Recipe: Manufactured by Del Monte

Nature’s Variety: Many recent recalls

Newman’s Own Organics: Some products made in Uruguay

Nulo: Not enough information

Nutrisca: Contains ingredients from China

Pioneer Naturals: Not enough information

Premium Edge: Too many recalls

Purina® Beneful: Offers minimal nutritional value

Solid Gold: Customer complaints of packaging and ingredient changes

Taste of the Wild: Manufactured by Diamond 

Tiki Dog: Manufactured in Thailand

Vital Essentials: Not enough information 

Wellness: Was associated with Diamond’s 2012 massive recall, but has since cut ties with Diamond. 

Weruva: Some of their products are made in Thailand.

Wild Calling: Food is manufactured and packed by Evanger’s.

"Non Premium Dog Brands": ALL the cheaper brands

Our Stance On Recalls

We understand our methodology isn’t perfect, and we continue to evaluate it each day, especially when it comes to recalls. We took a hard stance on not including brands that had a history of multiple recalls.

Though recalls happen, not all companies respond as swiftly, carefully, and transparently as we’d like. Which means that even after a problem is corrected, they may continue to cut corners, which could lead to future safety concerns.

So while a recall in and of itself isn’t necessarily the last straw for a dog food company, a slow or sloppy response is. 

In our research, we didn’t initially look at recall response, but we’re adjusting our judgments on a case-by-case basis.

That doesn’t mean the products from these brands are worse than the products from brands on our recommended list. 

Many of these products pass all of our tests when it comes to assessing quality ingredients. 

Some of the recalls were created proactively by the brands themselves, meaning there were no incidents reported. Still, we had to draw the line somewhere, but we plan to continue to modify and improve our methodology over time.

On that note, we also removed any and all products that had previously been associated with Diamond brand dog foods.

Diamond pet foods have a history of recalls, including one extremely large and dangerous incident in 2012, which impacted many of its smaller labels. 

Dog foods that appear to be of higher quality, like Taste of the Wild, Canidae, and Solid Gold, were all involved at the time, though many consumers were unaware that these particular labels were associated, and several brands have since separated from Diamond and its manufacturers. 

We did not feel that Diamond was transparent or diligent enough in its response to meet our criteria.

For this reason, we initially excluded dog foods that were owned or manufactured in Diamond’s factories, because we just could not assure their ongoing safety. 

However, we are reconsidering those brands that have severed ties and found new manufacturing locations on a case-by-case basis, based on the visible work the brand has demonstrated. 

We’ll continue to consider these brands moving forward, but maintain our hard stance on recalls.


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