14 Ingredients You Never Want in Your Pet’s Food

You might be shocked at what’s hiding in your pet’s food. Take a good look at those labels, and watch out for these red flags.

14. Double-check that label!

dry dog food in bowl on wooden background top view

We all want the best for our loyal four-legged pals, especially when it comes to the food we give them. But it can be tricky to tell the good options from the not-so-good options—and even the downright dangerous ones. “With so many different pet foods on the market, it can be overwhelming to select the ‘best’ food for your dog or cat,” agrees Rachel Barrack, DVM, founder of Animal Acupuncture in New York City. That’s why it’s always a good idea to discuss your pet’s specific needs with your veterinarian before making any major dietary changes. You should also know what to look for before buying that new pet food you’re considering…so you can pass on it.

13. Artificial coloring agents

Cute cat eating on floor at home

Artificial colors are among the ingredients that Dr. Barrack says should be universally avoided. While some of the ones that are found in pet food are approved by the FDA for use in humans, questions remain about their safety. Items with these products are easy enough to avoid, and many pet parents choose to do so out of an abundance of caution. National retailer Petco stopped selling all food and treats that include artificial colors, including FD&C Red No. 3, in May 2019.

12. Artificial sweeteners

Dog eats food from bowl. Pet at home

Dr. Barrack also recommends avoiding dog foods with artificial sweeteners. Many—including aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose—can be dangerous to dogs in large quantities. And while you’d likely never find it in dog food, make sure that your pup never eats human food with xylitol (or other things he shouldn’t be eating, like sugar-free gum or toothpaste). It is extremely toxic to dogs and can cause hypoglycemia, seizures, and even liver failure.