If you haven’t done much research about dog food before and you were asked to name some of the top brands, you might find yourself naming the brands from this list. It is unfortunate but true that many of the most popular dog food brands on the market are also some of the lowest quality. Many dog owners, particularly new dog owners, do not realize that dog foods vary so significantly from one brand to another. That is why it is important for you to learn about your dog’s nutritional needs and to check the pet food label before you buy to make sure that the product will meet those needs.

What Does It Take for a Dog Food Brand to Earn 2 Stars?

The biggest thing that separates a 2-star dog food from a higher quality brand is the heavy use of plant products. Most 2-star dog foods will list some kind of grain or other carbohydrate as the first ingredient, or even the first several ingredients. Many 2-star dog foods also rely on plant proteins or animal by-products as the primary sources of protein. A 2-star dog food should provide at least 18% protein for adult dogs and at least 22% for puppies, but most of that protein is likely to come from plant-based sources. This is also likely to be the case for fats. The product might provide at least 8% fat for puppies and at least 5% for adults, but it isn’t likely to go too much higher than those minimums and you’ll be lucky to find a 2-star dog food that is made with a high-quality source of animal fat. You’re much more likely to see things like canola oil or even vegetable oil.

Most 2-star dog foods are very carbohydrate heavy and most of those carbohydrates offer very limited nutrition. You shouldn’t be surprised to find several corn, wheat, or soy ingredients within the top 10 ingredients, or even the top 5. Something else you need to be on the lookout for with 2-star dog food is something called ingredient splitting. To make a low-quality ingredient appear lower on the ingredients list (and therefore raise a better ingredient to a higher standing), pet food manufacturers will split the low-quality ingredient into several ingredients. For example, instead of listing “corn” as the first ingredient because it is used in the highest volume, the manufacturer might split it into corn flour, whole grain corn, and corn gluten meal. Each of those three ingredients, then, would be used in a lower volume which might mean that the primary protein (likely a by-product or plant protein) is moved into a higher position. Don’t be fooled by this practice!

In addition to being high in carbohydrates and lacking in high-quality animal proteins and fats, 2-star dog foods are also loaded with synthetic supplements and artificial additives. Most low-quality dog foods are cooked at very high temperatures which destroys a significant portion of the natural nutrient content of the raw ingredients. To make their products qualify as “complete and balanced,” then, the manufacturer has to add those nutrients back in synthetic form. Unfortunately, your dog’s body has a limited ability to absorb those nutrients and most 2-star dog foods don’t use chelated minerals to increase the absorption rate. You’ll also find a lot of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives used in 2-star dog foods.

Top Recommended 2-Star Brands:

If you are feeding your dog a brand of dog food on our 2-star list, you should think carefully about making a different choice. While 2-star dog food brands may not be the worst brands out there, they are far from the best. At the very least, think about bumping up to a 3-star brand – it will offer your dog higher quality but the price difference won’t be as significant as it would be if you switched to a 5-star brand. It is important for your dog’s long-term health and wellbeing that you feed him the best dog food you can afford on a regular basis. Here are some of the dog food brands on the market that get our 2-star rating:

Many of the dog owners who are using dog food brands on this 2-star list simply don’t realize the disservice they are doing to their dog. Some of the brands on this list are the biggest names out there but you can’t always trust what a pet food manufacturer says about its own products. If your dog food brand is on this list, take a closer look at our review of that brand to see whether it is really something you want to be feeding your dog. Chances are that you’ll learn something about your dog’s nutrition and you’ll be motivated to make a better choice.

Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and is the published author of several self-help books and nutrition guides. Also an avid dog lover and adoring owner of three cats, Kate’s love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. Kate holds a certificate in fitness nutrition and enjoys writing about health and wellness trends — she also enjoys crafting original recipes. In addition to her work as a ghostwriter and author, Kate is also a blogger for a number of organic and natural food companies as well as a columnist for several pet magazines.

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