Harmful Ingredients

Food and Treats to STAY AWAY From

As we discussed in Dangerous Human Food, not all food is safe for dogs, so let us now dive into bad Pet Food Additives and Ingredients you should watch out for.

Your dog is a member of the family — so it's only natural to treat the Goldendoodle puppy like a baby! From happy snuggle-time and healthy activities to feeding them nutritious foods, your puppy's well-being is always on your mind. Unfortunately, not every company we trust with puppy food shares the same regard for our puppies' health — as the harmful dog food ingredients in their products show.

Unprincipled pet food companies use harmful ingredients to cut down expenses as well as extend their products' shelf life all in the name of profit. They also specialize in creating misleading advertisements to fool pet owners into thinking the food is actually safe. This leaves it up to us to know what's in the food before feeding it to our sweet and innocent pups. Just like we carefully inspect food labels when feeding our kids and loved ones (not to mention ourselves!), choosing the right puppy food involves simply being aware of what's in the food we're putting in their hungry little tummies.

Here's a list of bad ingredients in puppy food you'll want to avoid so that your puppy can grow up strong, healthy and safe.

F1 Minature Goldendoodle Taking Apart A Toy for the Inners

Feed-Grade Dog Food Ingredients

The problem with so many commercial dog food products is their source: feed-grade plants — where questionable ingredients are processed and stuffed into the food our innocent pups rely on for sustenance. Before we get into the ingredients themselves, it's important to understand what feed-grade food actually is.

In short, feed-grade food is processed food that is considered unsafe for human consumption by the FDA. If that explanation bothers you, it should. As opposed to human-grade food, feed-grade food includes chemicals, “meats” (we'll get into that), fillers and other ingredients that are officially illegal to put into human food. It also gives a pass to excreta from rodents, roaches and birds before processing. Does that sound like something you want to be feeding your growing Goldendoodle puppy?

That's not to say you can't find some “human-grade” ingredients in puppy dog food that are also harmful. So not only will this article teach you about harmful ingredients to avoid in dog food, but in human food as well!


These chemicals are a natural byproduct of mold metabolic processes and are present in a wide-range of human-grade foods found on grocery store shelves. In low quantities, mycotoxins are generally considered harmless.

So why are mycotoxins on this list?

One of the major differences between human-grade and feed-grade food is the allowance of chemicals such as mycotoxins. Feed-grade food typically contains much higher levels of this chemical — to the point where it can be considered toxic. The thing is, mycotoxin itself isn't an ingredient, and you won't find it listed on the label. So how do you know if your puppy food has a lot of mycotoxins in it? That leads us to the next ingredient…

“Meat”, “Meals”, and “Byproducts”

Some of the most harmful ingredients in pet food hide under the guise of ingredients called “meat”, “meals” and “byproducts”. These ingredients are in fact anything but their namesakes — in fact, you can hardly call it food. What this non-descript term actually refers to is the leftover scraps of dead and diseased animals from farms, feedlots, facilities, shelters and even leftover food waste from stores and restaurants. As disgusting as it sounds, this is, unfortunately, completely legal to put in feed-grade food (in the USA, for now…).

So-called “meats” and “meals” are simply scraps which have been cooked to remove fat, leaving protein and other mysterious elements. There is no standard of quality regarding the source of these ingredients: it can come from almost anywhere and in any form. And while it's always superheated to remove pathogens, the process also destroys almost any nutrients that can be had from such an offensive creation. Unnamed meats, meals and byproducts also carry the risk of contaminants left over from the source, including large quantities of mycotoxins and…


You won't find pentobarbital listed on your puppy food ingredients — but it doesn't mean it's not there. As long as your dog food is full of “meat”, “meals” or “byproducts”, pentobarbital might be along for the ride. This contaminant is an anesthetic used in the euthanasia of animals. So not only are our beloved pets supposed to eat leftover scraps of diseased animals, but they can also be consuming the very chemicals that put those animals to sleep. Unthinkable!

BHA, BHT & Ethoxyquin

These harmful chemical preservatives can lead to long-term health problems and have no business in your puppy's food. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) are found in low-cost (and even standard) pet food brands and are actually banned in some countries. They are known carcinogens that have been shown to cause organ damage in rats and may be linked to conditions such as hyperactivity and cancer in human children.

Ethoxyquin is a feed-grade preservative considered too toxic for human consumption. It is used in pet food to preserve its fat contents and extend the product's shelf life. Ethoxyquin can also be found in pesticide.

Propylene Glycol (PG)

Another nasty chemical that is the last thing you want in your puppy's tummy. This moistening agent is a derivative of antifreeze (yes, you read that right) and is labeled as “pet-safe” when packaged in your pet's food. Yeah, right.

Rendered Fat (often sourced from 4D meat)

If the sound of this ingredient wasn't enough to turn you off, then its origin undoubtedly will. Rendered fat (sometimes called animal fat) is fat typically sourced from 4D meat — or the meat of diseased, disabled, dead or dying animals. This includes anything and everything from sick and dead livestock to euthanized animals and even roadkill. Beyond being outright disgusting, rendered fat may also contain traces of salmonella and other pathogens as well as heavy metals and other toxins. Yum!


Melamine is actually a plastic. Whosever idea it was to put this nitrogen-containing plastic in dog food probably doesn't have a dog at home, and if they do, they certainly don't feed it their brand. Melamine can lead to kidney damage, kidney failure and death in dogs. In 2007, a major dog food recall took place all because of this ingredient. Unfortunately, melamine testing is not required yet (don't ask us why), and may not be listed on the ingredients — so you may want to ask about it if you're not sure.

F1 Minature Goldendoodle Laying Down Completely Zonked Out

And the List Goes On…

Sodium Hexametaphosphate:

A dental additive meant to prevent tartar buildup. Good intentions, harmful effects when ingested.

Artificial Colors:

This one is just ridiculous. Artificial colors make food more colorful and yummy-looking. They also contain processed chemicals without any nutritional value which can be harmful to health. Do our puppies and dogs even care what their food looks like?

Food Dye:

Another completely unnecessary ingredient. Food dyes like Blue 2, Red 40, Caramel Color and Yellow 5 and 6 are put in your puppy's food so it looks better to you (what?). Food dyes have been known to cause health problems in humans. They are the last thing your growing puppy needs to be eating.

Corn Syrups and Artificial Sweeteners:

Not only are these ingredients toxic, but they can actually increase your puppy's glycemic index and result in related diseases such as diabetes and problems with the nervous system.


Totally unnecessary in pet food. MSG is a flavor enhancer designed to make bad food taste better. If it's in your dog food, they're probably trying to fool your pup! It's actually not required by law to list MSG on pet food, but it may be hiding under names such as autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, texturized protein, protein isolate, soy extract, soy concentrate, sodium or calcium caseinate, glutamate, glutanic acid, disodium inosinate, guaylate, and “flavors”. Phew!


Avoiding gluten may be even more important for your dog than it is for you. Grains are not a natural diet for carnivorous animals such as dogs and gluten can lead to digestive and allergy-related health problems.

White Flour:

Can cause a spike in your pup's blood sugar and create an appetite imbalance which may lead to weight problems and diabetes.

Sodium Nitrate or Nitrate:

A common preservative found in human food for purposes of extending shelf life. While not great for people, these preservatives are particularly harmful to pets and can lead to blood disorders and even cancer.

And On…


Farmed Salmon


Vegetable Oil

Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP)

Salt Additive

Xylitol and Sugar Alcohols

Brewers' Rice




Animal Digest or Digests

Pea Protein


By now you must be wondering what on earth they are trying to feed our pets. The truth is, these big companies simply don't have your best interests in mind. We know the idea of reviewing every label and checking off dozens of harmful ingredients may not be practical or even realistic. Instead, it's much easier to simply find a real pet food brand that actually cares about your pets and stick to it. Check out our recommended High-Quality Puppy Food Brand or Puppy Treats loaded with nutritious, natural ingredients that are made to support your growing Goldendoodle puppy in every way!

F1 Minature Goldendoodle Passed Out and Curled Up On the Bed