Ten Scary Truths About Dog Food

Written by: Lindsay Giguiere



Time to read 6 min

We see a label on a bag of dog food with claims of a nutritious and balanced meal for our pets and believe it to be the case. Unfortunately, not all brands are truly transparent and trustworthy.

It’s up to us to do the research, ask the important questions, and ensure the food we feed our furry friends will add years to their lives, not take them away. There are some scary facts about dog food and pet owners like you need to be aware of the possible dangers.

Dog Food Fact #1

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Your pet’s food is being looked after by the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The AAFCO decides which nutrients your pet's food should contain and the FDA determines the quality of that food. That should make you feel good, right? WRONG. That’s all unicorns and rainbows, however, there aren’t regulations prohibiting ingredients from rendering facilities, where dead animals are broken down for use in other products. YUCK!

From that raccoon you ran over to the expired chicken at the market still in the package, all sorts of undesirable items could be in your dog’s food. Did we mention zoo animals? Flea collars? That unicorn you’ve been searching for all your life? It could be in your pet’s dog food.

Salon.com warns us that when you see words like “animal by-product meal” on a pet food label, there’s a good chance there are some very nasty ingredients inside.

Dog Food Fact #2

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Just like our food, dog food often gets recalled for various reasons.

There are several resources to use to check recalls and Dogfoodadvisor.com shares with us what the dangers of this year’s recalls are:


Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.

Elevated levels of aflatoxin 

Pets with aflatoxin poisoning may experience symptoms such as sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums or skin due to liver damage), and/or diarrhea.


E. coli O157 is a particularly dangerous strain of bacteria that can cause serious and life-threatening illness in humans after handling the affected food.


Pets with Listeria monocytogenes infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting.

Dog Food Fact #3

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Kibble doesn’t take the place of a toothbrush and can actually harm your dog’s teeth.

Dogfoodadvisor.com tells us that there are three kinds of dental debris:

  • Food particles
  • Plaque
  • Calculus (tartar)

Food leftovers on your pet’s teeth is not difficult to remove, however, plaque is not so easy and requires scrubbing that a toothbrush provides. Yes, munching on kibble can detach this food, but doesn’t work nearly as well as brushing. Tartar is even harder to clean off the teeth.

Many dog foods claim to whiten and brighten and help keep a clean canine mouth. Kibble actually contains a higher percentage of refined carbohydrates and could ultimately increase plaque and tartar levels, causing more dental problems than they supposedly prevent. YIKES!

Dog Food Fact #4

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Your dog food may contain dangerously high levels of vitamin D.

We naturally get our vitamin D from the sun, however dogs can’t produce the majority of the necessary amount from the sun. Therefore, vitamin D is added to their food, which enhances the absorption of calcium in the intestines, as well as enhances the retention and bone deposition of calcium and phosphorus.

When your pet’s intake of vitamin D is too high, it can develop vitamin D toxicity and lead to kidney failure. Gradually over time, diet-related toxicity will develop if there’s too much present in their food. The FDA suggests keeping the packaging of your pet’s food handy, as your Veterinarian may suggest sending the information to the FDA to determine if there has been a contamination.

Dog Food Fact #5

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Your pet’s bad behavior is linked to the food you’re choosing.

If you give your child a giant ice cream cone or a large caffeinated soda, what happens? They get a sugar high and act nutty until they crash. What you eat, human or canine,  impacts behavior. If you eat fast food all the time, it may cause you to feel sluggish, ill, and unmotivated. Dog food has been equated to fast food and if your pet’s eating it every single day, think about how that affects them.

A large percentage of behavior problems in pets can be linked to pet food. Artificial additives in lower-quality kibble can cause hyperactive behaviors, just like that ice cream cone. It can also create lethargic behavior like that fast food you regret the minute you eat it.

Dog Food Fact #6

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If you don’t wash your dog’s water bowl every day, it could be a slimy situation.

While you’re washing your own dishes, don’t forget about your dog’s. While it’s easy to forget to wash your dog’s water bowl and keep filling it up day after day, you’re putting your dog in danger.

A slimy film will develop on the bowl which is called Biofilm. Dogsnaturallymagazine.com tells us the odd feeling goo is a collection of organic and inorganic, living and dead materials collected on a surface. Listeria, E. coli, and legionella can reproduce to levels where contamination of products passing through that water becomes inevitable.

It’s recommended to wash your dog’s water bowl at least once a week but a good wash at the end of the day will keep all your worries away.

Dog Food Fact #7

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Six of the world’s wealthiest pet food brands use ingredients that can be a violation of U.S. federal food safety law.

The pet food industry is big business. Pet food and treats make up the biggest portion of the pet market at $38.4 billion this year. The brands that sell the most dog food aren’t necessarily using your pet’s health as a driving factor towards success.

Certain pet food ingredients like meat meal, poultry by-product meal, and animal fat and digest are allowed to be sourced from dead and/or diseased non-slaughtered animals. However, any ingredients that come from dead and/or diseased non-slaughtered animals are a direct breach of federal law.

Apparently, it’s no secret the FDA openly ignores enforcement of this law. Thetruthaboutpetfood.com asks a really good question to ponder. “Do you think the annual revenue of these companies would be the same if FDA enforced law?”

Dog Food Fact #8

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Your pet’s dog food may contain antifreeze.

Known as propylene glycol, antifreeze should never be consumed by an animal. Pets are attracted to the sweet taste and dog food companies take advantage of this fact. Why is it still used? It helps keep kibble moist and tasty for your pets and in small doses, it’s not going to kill your dog. Well, that should make you feel better.

What’s scary is the FDA banned the use of propylene glycol in cat food, but not in dog food. WHAT?!?

Dog Food Fact #9

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There are flaws in the raw diet you’ve opted for.

Many pet partners decide to go with a more natural diet and raw is a very popular choice. While you control the ingredients in the raw meals you create or purchase, there are still dangers that lurk.

From blockages from the consumption of bones to too much protein and an unbalanced diet, the raw route is not without risk. With raw meat comes salmonella, E. coli, and other bacterias, which can cause harm to your pets and family. Any time you’re handling raw meat, it’s imperative to keep the space and your hands sanitized. This includes your prep area and the bowl you put the raw food in.

Dog Food Fact #10

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Your dog’s food may not be good, but it’s good for the economy.

North American Renders Association (NARA), partnered with The Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER), and Pet Food Institute (PFI) and released a report that states the following:

Pet manufacturers stimulate the overall agricultural economy through the purchase of ingredients, labor, and services from related industries.

U.S. pet food manufacturers give back to the agricultural economy by using 8.65 million tons of animal and plant-based ingredients for dog and cat food to provide the complete nutrition that pets need, at a value of $6.9 billion.

Additional data from Decision Innovation Solutions (DIS), supports this fact as well.

Pet food manufacturers use 4 million tons of farm and farm-product processor ingredients, such as grains, soy products, fruits and vegetables, and approximately 200,000 tons of seafood products.

Many of these ingredients are leftover from making food for people, such as parts of the animal that people do not eat, reducing food and environmental waste while still providing the nutrition pets need.

A documentary called, “Pet Fooled” was released in 2016 and is a disturbing look into the realities of the pet food industry including benefits to the food corporations.

We love our pets so much and need to be aware of what we’re feeding them for a healthy lifestyle. It’s time for more transparency within the dog food industry and products that are up to the proper standards.