The Worst Dog Food Brands Australia (Buyer Beware Guide)
Sometimes, you just need to feed your dog quickly and easily. Perhaps you ran out of your regular food, maybe you are travelling and the same brands aren’t available, or you simply don’t have time to research the best dog food options.
Then you find yourself at the local supermarket or pet store. Chances are, you’ll see a lot of brands on the shelves. What’s inside of the shiny dog food packages can vary a lot, from decent options to complete garbage. So today, let’s talk about dog food that you should absolutely avoid.
Below we list tell-tale signs of bad dog food and list some of the worst dog food brands in Australia.
Tell-Tale Signs of Low-Quality Dog Food
Horror stories about low-quality dog food abound. Recalls , questionable production conditions , a range of additives that can harm your dog … you’ve surely heard about at least one scandal involving dog food. And on top of that, the dog food industry in Australia is still largely unregulated, despite calls to introduce mandatory standards.
In short, pet parents are left to fend for themselves and decide on their own who to trust. The good news is, you don’t have to be a nutritionist to notice the tell-tale signs of questionable dog food.
Related: What is AAFCO? The Association of American Feed Control Officials
Related: What Is the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA)?
Related: AAFCO vs PFIAA: Dog Food Standards Comparison Australia
Here are a few simple tips that will help you understand which foods are those that your dog definitely shouldn’t eat.
Related: The Best Meat for Dogs.
#1 Mystery Ingredients
Vague ingredients are the number one sign that there is something shady going on with the dog food in question. But what do we mean by vague?
Related: How To Choose The Right Dog Food.
We often mention that the first ingredient on the list in dog food should be a named protein. That means, we want to know exactly from which animal it comes. In super premium dog foods, the exact part of the animal will be named, and a good company will do its best to tell you where exactly those animals come from.
Related: The Best Supermarket Dog Food.
With more budget-friendly options, things might not be as transparent, but at the very least you should expect the food to say “chicken”, “lamb”, “beef”, or something like that. It will not say just “meat”. Many low-quality foods really do list just “meat” as the main ingredient. Or “meat and meat by-products”. That’s a very wide term and can include almost anything, so beware.
In fact, it’s best to avoid dog food that lists anything that’s not specific. “Gelling agents”, “cereals and cereal by-products”, “vegetables and vegetable by-products”. What kind of cereal? What kind of vegetable? If an ingredient list does not specify that, there is probably a reason.
#2 Cereals as First Ingredient
Grains in small amounts are OK for most dogs, but grains as the main part of the diet are definitely not. But that’s exactly what many low-quality dog food brands list as the main ingredient of their kibble.
The only thing that’s worse than “cereals” as the first ingredient is probably “cereal by-products”, basically the equivalent of feeding sawdust to your dog.
#3 Colourings & Co.
Have you ever seen a dog who cares about the colour of food? If you did, you’ve seen a very special dog, because that’s not a thing.
So why do so many dog food brands include colouring agents in their recipes? To make the food look better than it actually does to human eyes. Food colourings are absolutely unnecessary in dog food, but they are not the only thing to worry about.
Again, it’s the blanket terms. Besides “colour”, the ingredient lists often include “flavours” or “gelling agents” or something similar. While there are perfectly safe flavourings, colourings, and thickeners that can be used in dog food, there are many dangerous ones too. And you have no idea which ones are used.
#4 Don’t Be Fooled By Marketing
Finally, we encourage you to just use common sense and take a good, critical look at dog food packaging before buying. All too often, the pictures and the words on the bag are designed to make you think the contents are better than they actually are.
For example, you look at a bag of kibble, and the first thing you see is a picture of a nice steak (or something of that sort) and the word beef. But, upon closer inspection, you notice that the words actually say “with beef” - and a look at the ingredient list reveals that the percentage of beef is very small. So let your inner detective out when browsing the dog food aisle. Taking just a couple of extra minutes to read the ingredients list and packaging fine print, can make all the different to your dog’s diet and overall wellbeing.
Dog Food Brands to Avoid in Australia
Below is a list of a few very low-quality dog food brands you might find in Australia. But keep in mind that the list is anything but complete. Keeping up with all questionable dog food brands that appear on the market is difficult. Rather than remembering brands to avoid, it’s best to learn how to recognise a shady recipe (see the tops above).
Purina Lucky Dog
When browsing the supermarket aisle for a quick fix, you are likely to run into Purina Lucky Dog. While the packaging and the words on it might look enticing at first glance, a deeper look quickly reveals that your dog will, in fact, be quite unlucky if fed any recipe from this brand.
Let’s take their Minced Beef, Vegetable & Marrobone Flavour dry food recipe as an example. The front of the packaging says things like “Now with no added colours, same great taste”, “100% complete and balanced nutrition”, and “Made with real beef”.
Real beef? Sounds good! But then, look at the ingredient list above, taken from this exact recipe. In the second place on the list, it shows “meat and meat by-products (derived from beef and/or mutton and/or poultry)”. That doesn’t even imply that there is even 1% of real beef included! We don’t even know if it’s meat or meat by-products. Neither do we know from which animal it comes from.
But what about the first ingredient on the list? That’s most important after all, right? Well, do we even need to comment on “cereal or vegetable by-products”? No, we don’t know what that is and it’s really hard to find out.
The Lucky Dog dry food recipes nutrition analysis shows they contain 17 - 19% crude protein depending on the recipe, 10% fat, and 6% fibre. However, the levels are not very relevant in this case. When a recipe contains exactly 0 clearly identified ingredients, it’s a sure sign to avoid it.
On a final note, the experiences of pet parents who did try this food show that many dogs will gladly eat it, but the outcome is uncertain - reports include symptoms ranging from dogs getting incredibly gassy, poop turning green to diarrhoea, constipation, and vomiting.
Chum dog food is another common supermarket brand. It comes fairly cheap, but when you look at the ingredient list, you might agree that it’s still too expensive for what it offers.
The ingredient list is the same for all the wet food recipes. The first ingredient on the list is “meats”. Sounds good? Well, at least it isn’t cereal, but we have no idea what kind of meat it is. The “3 meats” recipe has a name that’s more appropriate, but the recipes named “With Lamb”, “With Chicken”, and “With Beef and Kidney” have ingredient lists that make it unclear what percentage of lamb, chicken, or beef (if any) is included. To be fair, the Beef and Kidney recipe does list “meats including kidney”, but we don’t really know whose kidney that is.
The rest of the ingredients are also not very enticing. “Gelling agents” and “vegetable fibre” are as vague as ingredients can get. In short, we have no idea what exactly goes into Chum, and the brand obviously wants to keep it that way. Hard pass.
Chum also makes dry dog food, and it’s just as questionable as their wet dog food. Suffice it to say that the first ingredient is cereal and cereal by-products.
My Dog is another brand from the portfolio of the global magnate Mars Petcare. This dog food is surprisingly popular, especially for small dogs, due to the convenient packaging and low price.
At first glance, the food doesn’t even look that bad. It has a nice short ingredient list, and the list starts with meat. But what meat exactly? No idea! Apparently, it should include lamb, pork, and/or chicken, but what else? Who knows.
The rest of the list is no better: gelling agents, flavours, and colours are blanket terms that could stand for almost anything. But hey, the packaging says “no added preservatives”, so that’s a good thing, maybe.
No matter which of the many flavours and forms of My Dog you choose, you’ll get the same kind of mystery ingredients. On top of that, the feed isn’t even that cheap - there are better alternatives at the same price point.
Baxter’s is a Woolworths brand that offers a variety of dry and wet recipes for low prices. Is it any good? In short, not really.
But let’s take a more detailed look, starting from the first ingredient. As is customary in these low-quality brands, the first ingredient in Baxter’s wet food recipes is “Meats”. In the case of this recipe, the meats can be chicken, beef AND/OR turkey. So, the main ingredient is any or all or any combination of those meats.
We must admit this is slightly better than some of the recipes on this list, because we know it’s either chicken or beef or turkey, but not some other mystery animal. Good enough? We’d say no.
But if that’s not enough to convince you, read through the ingredient list. Besides vague terms like “cereals” and “vegetables”, there is also the mystery trifecta of “gelling agents, flavours, and colour”, whatever that might mean.
The Baxter’s dry dog food recipes are not better, as our reviews show.
You’ll notice there is something in common with all the brands above: they don’t clearly define their ingredients. That way, you have no idea what you’re feeding your dog.
If your dog doesn’t feel well after eating the food in question, you’ll have no idea what caused it. If you want your dog to have a healthy diet, you must know what’s in it: that’s the simplest and most important tip we can give you.
Feeding your dog cheap food is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, we can’t all afford super premium brands. Affordable, decent quality dog food does exist, but you’ll need to be careful when choosing. Do your best to avoid the absolute worst brands. We’re not saying they will make your dog sick, but such things have certainly happened in the past.
Dogs can and do get food poisoning , but bad reactions are not limited to food that got spoiled from sitting around too long. The kibble or dog food cans you buy can also contain ingredients that can harm your dog. That’s why it’s always a good idea to introduce new food slowly and watch your dog for any signs of adverse reactions. These include increased thirst, diarrhoea, vomiting, tremors, and even seizures. If you notice any of those, consult your vet sooner rather than later. Waiting too long can be dangerous.
Quick rules for choosing good dog food: named protein must be the first ingredient on the list, you want clearly named ingredients, food that’s AAFCO compliant, and avoid colourings and preservatives (especially sulphites). For more on choosing the right dog food, check out this guide.
- Brahlek, A. November 7, 2022. “Dog Food Recalls in Australia: What You Need to Know”. Petzyo. Retrieved May 3, 2023. https://petzyo.com.au/blogs/dry-food/dog-food-recalls-in-australia
- Donnellan, A. and Burns, A. June 19, 2018. “Animal ear tags among plastic and metal rubbish being ground up and put into pet food, insiders confirm”. ABC News. Retrieved May 3, 2023. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-19/pet-food-insider-lifts-lid-on-plastic-and-rubbish-going-into-pe/9875184
- “Are preservatives in pet food products a concern?”. RSPCA Knowledge Base. Retrieved May 3, 2023. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/are-preservatives-in-pet-food-products-a-concern/
- “How is the pet food industry regulated in Australia”. RSPCA Knowledge Base. Retrieved May 3, 2023. https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/how-is-the-pet-food-industry-regulated-in-australia/
- Sreenivas, S. April 15, 2023. “Food Poisoning in Dogs: What to Know”. Fetch by WebMD. Retrieved May 3, 2023. https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/food-poisoning-dogs-what-to-know