Worst Dog Treats – Top 12 Brands to Avoid, And 5 Healthy Alternatives

worst dog treats you should avoid

This is my detailed guide about the worst dog treats in 2021.

As with dog food, the supply of dog treats is huge. Of course, this does not mean that we would have an easy time choosing. Plenty of brands don’t pay enough attention to making quality dog treats. 

I’ve spent an entire day looking for you for the worst dog treat brands to avoid. Before that, I write about questionable and quite harmful ingredients. If you see any of these on the pack, then that treat is not for your dog.

To have some balance in my article, I will also show you some healthy alternatives.

Let’s start!

Here is a list of dog treats you should definitely avoid:

Worst dog treats and Brands To Avoid

  1. Ol’ Roy Beef Flavor Crunchy Treat

  2. JerHigh

  3. Purina ALPO Variety Snaps

  4. Pedigree Dentastix

  5. Canine Carry Outs Beef Flavor Dog Treats

  6. Pup-Peroni Original Beef Flavor Dog Treats

  7. Beggin’ Strips Bacon & Beef Flavor Dog Treats

  8. Purina Beneful Baked Delights Snackers

  9. Pedigree Marrobone Real Beef Flavor Biscuit

  10. Milk-Bone Original Large Biscuit Dog Treats

  11. PupCorn Plus Chicken & Cheddar Cheese Dog Treats

  12. Gravy Train Dog Treats

If you want to know right away what are the healthy and safe treats alternatives, you can check them out at the link below:

Why you should trust me

Whether you’re experienced in dog and other pet topics or not, I’m sure you’re in the right place. I do my best to provide the best and most reliable information possible to my readers.

My name is Peter Laskay, and I have been a pet lover since I was a child. One of the most important places in my life is to gain as much knowledge as possible about pet care. And I want to pass this knowledge on to my blog visitors.

Should you have any questions at any time, feel free to contact me using the contact information on the website.

What ingredients should you avoid in dog treats?

Of course, I don’t want to write this article without explaining important information. You need to know what criteria I used to compile my list of worst dog treats.

Basically, treats should be chosen in the same way as dog food. Be sure to take the time to study the ingredients. Dog food and treats brands tend to convince customers that their product is perfect. However, it’s just marketing that you shouldn’t fall for. 

In fact, if you are aware of what ingredients are worth avoiding, you will have an easy time. This section will help you with that.

Meat by-products

By-products are unused parts of slaughtered animals. It can mean almost anything. Bones, teeth, nails, adipose tissue, brain, lungs, intestines, and other internal organs. 

With this method, manufacturers can guarantee the minimum protein content that dogs need in the cheapest way possible. 

I’m not saying there are no nutrients in these by-products. However, you should be aware that manufacturers are not obliged to indicate exactly what the source is and which part of the animal the by-product contains. 

That is, you will not be able to control what your dog eats. Otherwise, in many dogs, these ingredients cause sensitization or allergies.

4-D animals

The meat of dying, sick, or diseased animals is called 4-D meats. Yes, I know it isn’t very good to think about, but there really are manufacturers who put ingredients like these into their products. 

This is because these meats can certainly be bought cheaply, so the cost of producing their dog food will be much lower. 

Not only is this unethical, but it also carries a lot of potential health risks. Avoid dog food and treats containing meat from 4-D animals.

Cheap fillers

Wheat, corn, and soy are ingredients included in pet foods and treats because of their cheapness. However, its nutritional value is not very outstanding. In ordinary language, this is why we call these ingredients fillers. Besides, many dogs are sensitive or allergic to these. 

If the dog treats you are examining contain corn, soy, or wheat, you may rightly be wondering if the other ingredients are of good quality. Avoid fillers if you want good for your puppy.

Artificial ingredients

Unfortunately, many dog food manufacturers still add artificial ingredients to their products. These are preservatives, colorants, flavor enhancers, and other additives. 

Several preservatives (e.g., BHA and BHT) are carcinogenic to humans. Although there is not enough research on dogs’, we have reason to assume that the results would be similar. Not to mention that many dogs are sensitive or allergic to artificial ingredients anyway. 

Natural materials can be used as preservatives. Examples include vitamin E, vitamin C, and some plant extracts. 

I don’t think we need to talk much about dyes and flavor enhancers. I don’t think your dog cares about the color of the treats he eats. 

There is no need for a flavor enhancer if the product you are buying contains real meat or a meat meal with some healthy animal fat. That would be the most delicious delicacy you can give your dog.

So, what ingredients should you look for?

From what you have seen so far, you can clearly see which ingredients you need to avoid. Well, if you pay attention to these, you’re almost certain you’re on the right track. That is, good treats should not contain the questionable or toxic ingredients mentioned above. 

The source of protein should be real meat or meat meal. The meats should be named, so you need to know exactly what your dog is eating. If a treat contains carbohydrates, they should be complex, well digestible, and not cause sensitivities or allergies. 

Fats are important because they are excellent sources of energy and are responsible for many bodily processes. Omega fatty acids are essential for brain, skin, and coat health.

It is good if a product contains added vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These further support the overall health of the dogs.

What are the worst dog treats?

As I promised, now here are the worst dog treat brands. Always try to avoid these if you want good for your dog.

1. Ol’ Roy Beef Flavor Crunchy Treat

worst dog treats

Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Meat, and Bone Meal, Wheat Bran, Milk, Wheat Germ Meal, Animal Fat (Preserved with BHA and Citric Acid), Salt, Natural Flavor, Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate,  Brewers Dried  Yeast, Malted Barley Flour, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate,  Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid) Choline Chloride

Foods always have most of the first ingredient. Unfortunately, this is pretty bad news when you look at Ol ‘Roy products. In these treats, the primary ingredient is wheat flour. 

Wheat is a very cheap filler. It has a shallow nutritional value, and many dogs may develop allergies or sensitivities due to its gluten content. 

Animal meats, meals, and fats are not named. This is always a concern for me as I won’t know how I feed my dog that way. 

Animal fat is preserved with BHA, which is a known carcinogen in humans. We have every reason to assume that this chemical is not healthy for dogs either.

2. JerHigh

worst dog treats

Ingredients: Beef, chicken meat, wheat flour, glycerine, sugar, tapioca starch, wheat gluten, lecithin, cellulose, fish marine extract, beef flavor, salt, Sodium tripolyphosphate, preservative, Vitamin E, colorant.

What is definitely positive about this product is that the animal sources are named. However, unfortunately, we also find problematic ingredients here. 

Wheat is definitely worth avoiding due to potential allergies, sensitivities, and low nutritional value. But that’s not the biggest problem with these treats either. They contain artificial colors and preservatives, which should be a clear red flag for you.

3. Purina ALPO Variety Snaps

Worst dog treats

Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Beef Tallow Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols, Wheat Gluten, Lecithin, Chicken By-Product Meal, Animal Digest (Source of Liver Flavor), Lamb Meal, Oat Fiber, Mono and Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Garlic Powder, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Yellow 6.

Wheat flour can cause tenderness and allergies in dogs. However, it is not considered a properly nutrient-rich ingredient. 

I think meat by-products should be avoided because they can cause problems in many dogs. Ingredients also include artificial colors. 

It is completely pointless to use these, as it does not matter to the dogs what color the food they eat is. But the bigger problem with these ingredients is that they can also cause allergies or sensitivities.

4. Pedigree Dentastix

worst dog treats

Ingredients: Rice Flour, Wheat Starch, Glycerin, Gelatin, Gum Arabic, Calcium Carbonate, Natural Poultry Flavor, Powdered Cellulose, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Iodized Salt, Potassium Chloride, Vitamins (Choline Chloride, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate [Source of Vitamin C], d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement [Vitamin B2], Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vitamin B6], Vitamin D3 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Folic Acid, Alpha Tocopherol Acetate [Source of Vitamin E]), Potassium Sorbate (A Preservative), Smoke Flavor, Zinc Sulfate, Green Tea Extract, Turmeric, Iron Oxide Color, Copper Sulfate.

Pedigree Dentastix is a fairly common treat brand in the dog food industry. However, this does not mean that it is healthy. If we look closely, there are also questionable ingredients here. Examples include Wheat Starch, Potassium Sorbate, and Iron Oxide Color. 

The middle is a preservative, and the latter is a colorant. None can be said to be healthy. Wheat starch is a cheap filler with a deficient nutritional value.

5. Canine Carry Outs Beef Flavor Dog Treats

worst dog treat brands

Ingredients: Chicken, Corn Syrup, Soy Flour, Wheat Flour, Corn Starch, Propylene Glycol, Water, Calcium Sulfate, Animal Fat (BHA Used as a Preservative), Animal Digest, Beef, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Phosphoric Acid, Sorbic Acid (Used as a Preservative), Red 40 Lake, Garlic Powder, Iron Oxide (Color), BHA (Used as a Preservative), Citric Acid (Used as a Preservative), Natural Smoke Flavor.

It is definitely positive that the primary ingredient is chicken. However, this is where the merits of this product end. 

Although corn syrup is not so harmful, it can be assumed as a secondary ingredient that there is a lot of it in this recipe. Too much corn syrup can lead to obesity, dental problems, and other diseases. 

The already mentioned harmful BHA is also included in the ingredients as a preservative. It is a known carcinogen and should be avoided. 

This treat also contains dyes such as titanium dioxide, Red 40 Lake, and iron oxide. Do not buy this product for your dog.

6. Pup-Peroni Original Beef Flavor Dog Treats

dog treats to avoid

Ingredients: Beef, Meat By-Products, Soy Grits, Sugar, Liver, Salt, Propylene Glycol, Garlic Powder, Caramel Color, Potassium Sorbate (Used As A Preservative), Natural Smoke Flavor, Sodium Nitrite (For Color Retention), Red 40, BHA (Used As A Preservative), Onion Extract.

The primary ingredient is a real source of animal protein, which is good. However, unfortunately, some things can be said to be harmful in this product as well. 

Meat by-products, sugar, salt, preservatives, and dyes. These are all ingredients that manufacturers should omit from recipes. By-products are sources of poor quality protein. Sugar causes obesity, and salt is processed much worse by dogs than in humans. And artificial additives are toxic not only to humans but also to dogs.

7. Beggin’ Strips Bacon & Beef Flavor Dog Treats

worst dog treats

Ingredients: Pork, Barley, Rice, Ground Wheat, Oat Meal, Soybean Meal, Glycerin, Sugar, Corn Gluten Meal, Ground Yellow Corn, Wheat Flour, Water, Soy Flour, Bacon, Soy Protein Concentrate, Wheat Gluten, Salt, Phosphoric Acid, Beef Fat Preserved With Mixed-Tocopherols, Natural Flavor, Sorbic Acid (A Preservative), Malted Barley Flour, Natural Smoke Flavor, Calcium Propionate (A Preservative), Added Color. O401120.

Purina has a lot of outstanding products that I like to recommend. Unfortunately, these treats are not like that. I can say for sure that Beggin’ Strips are really bad for dogs. Namely, they contain gluten, which is better to avoid. 

I’ve already written about sugar and salt. Both are ingredients you don’t want to see much of in dog food or treats. 

Corn and soy are grains that are very cheap fillers. However, they have no nutritional value and cause allergic reactions or tenderness in many dogs. 

The added preservatives and colorants are just extra reasons why you should avoid this product.

8. Purina Beneful Baked Delights Snackers

Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Ground Yellow Corn, Glycerin, Sugar, Corn Gluten Meal, Water, Chicken By-Product Meal, Animal Fat Preserved With Mixed-Tocopherols, Ground Wheat, Beef, Wheat Starch, Salt, Phosphoric Acid, Sorbic Acid (A Preservative), Added Color, Dried Apples, Dried Carrots, Dried Peas, Dried Cheese Powder, Natural And Artificial Peanut Butter Flavor, Calcium Propionate (A Preservative), Natural And Artificial Vanilla Flavor, Yellow 6, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1. F-4050.

Unfortunately, Purina Beneful was also featured in my article on the worst dog food brands. There are also some ingredients in these treats that a responsible dog owner cannot be happy with. 

Wheat and corn are nutrient-free fillers and can even be detrimental to the digestive system of dogs. The quality of the by-products is uncontrollable, so it is better to avoid them. But among the ingredients, the worst is clearly artificial preservatives and dyes.

9. Pedigree Marrobone Real Beef Flavor Biscuit

worst dog treats

Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Meat & Bone Meal, Sugar, Natural Poultry Flavor, Animal Fat (Preserved With BHA/BHT), Calcium Carbonate, Cooked Beef Bone Marrow, Salt, Malted Barley, Vitamin E Supplement, Sodium Metabisulfite (A Preservative), Natural Filet Mignon Flavor, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Niacin, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1).

While there really is Cooked Beef Bone Marrow in this recipe, it’s only ranked seventh among the ingredients. The primary ingredient is wheat, which contains gluten and is not a suitable nutrient for dogs. 

However, what bothers me is that the product also contains specifically carcinogenic preservatives (BHA / BHT). When I see this, I don’t personally even look at the other ingredients.

10. Milk-Bone Original Large Biscuit Dog Treats

worst dog treat brands

Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Meat and Bone Meal, Wheat Bran, Milk, Beef Fat (Preserved with BHA), Salt, Natural Flavor, Dicalcium Phosphate, Wheat Germ, Calcium Carbonate, Brewer’s Dried Yeast, Malted Barley Flour, Sodium Metabisulfite (Used As A Preservative), Choline Chloride, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Bah (Used As A Preservative).

This brand is trendy among treats. However, this is only due to marketing. If you want to pay attention to your dog, don’t choose Milk-Bone. This recipe is full of wheat, which is why its nutritional value is inadequate and has no good effect on dogs’ digestion. And artificial preservatives can be especially harmful in the long run.

11. PupCorn Plus Chicken & Cheddar Cheese Dog Treats

worst dog treats to avoid

Ingredients: Corn Flour, Chicken, Cheddar Cheese, Natural Chicken Flavor, Powdered Cellulose, Chicory Root, Canola Oil, Mono And Diglycerides, Artificial Color (Yellow #6, Titanium Dioxide), Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Reuteri Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Animalis Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product.

If the primary ingredient in a dog treat is corn, it is inherently a warning sign. Corn is not a suitable source of nutrients for dogs. What’s more, this grain can be specifically harmful to the digestive system of some dogs. 

The situation is exacerbated by artificial dyes, which can also have detrimental effects. The only positive of this product is that it contains valuable probiotics. However, it would be best if you didn’t buy it yet.

12. Gravy Train Dog Treats

worst dog treats

Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Soy Flour, Water Sufficient for Processing, Ground Corn, Corn Syrup, Chicken By-Product Meal, Propylene Glycol, Beef, Animal Fat (BHA Used as Preservative), Dried Cheese Product, Calcium Sulfate, Phosphoric Acid, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Natural Flavor, Bone Phosphate, Titanium Dioxide, Potassium Sorbate (Used As a Preservative), Garlic Powder, Caramel Color, Red 40, BHA (used as a preservative), Onion Extract

Gravy Train was also among the worst dog food brands. This is no wonder, as this manufacturer does not really pay attention to quality when manufacturing products. 

The most common ingredients are wheat, corn, and soy. These are the three ingredients you should definitely avoid when buying food or treats for your dog. But this is not the end of the list of harmful ingredients. 

Artificial preservatives and dyes make this product really harmful. In essence, this recipe has more harmful ingredients than healthy ones. Be sure to avoid it if you want good for your dog.

It is important to note that the list could be expanded extensively. Unfortunately, many manufacturers ignore quality, especially when it comes to dog treats. However, by studying these 12 products, you will already understand which ingredients are worth paying attention to and should definitely be avoided.

Some healthy dog treat options

I didn’t want my article to be just and exclusively about the worst dog treats. Therefore, here is a list of products that you can confidently choose from instead of the above. Of course, this list is not exhaustive either, as there are a lot of good products. But perfect as a starting point, I think.

1. ACANA High-Protein Biscuits

Ingredients: Beef Liver, Sweet Potato, Beef Meal, Deboned Beef, Natural Flavor, Beef Fat, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Citric Acid (Preservative), Rosemary Extract.

After looking through the worst products, it’s practically refreshing to see a list of such ingredients. 

The product contains real beef liver, beef meal, and beef fat. If your dog is not sensitive to beef, this may be a pretty good option. Beef fat is not artificially preserved but with tocopherol and rosemary extract. 

Sweet potato is, in my opinion, the best carbohydrate source available for dogs. This product is relatively new, but I’m sure it’s worth considering when choosing.

2. Zuke’s Mini Naturals Chicken Recipe Training Dog Treats

Ingredients: Chicken, Rice, Barley, Malted Barley Extract, Vegetable Glycerin, Tapioca Starch Modified, Cherries, Natural Flavor, Potato Protein, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Sunflower Lecithin, Dried Cultured Whey Product, Phosphoric Acid, Turmeric Spice, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Proteinate, Citric Acid For Freshness, Mixed Tocopherols For Freshness.

Zuke’s brand shows how to make healthy treats. This product contains real chicken and rice, easily digestible, nutrient-rich sources of protein, and carbohydrates. The recipe does not contain any artificial or other harmful ingredients or fillers. Highly recommended!

3. Primal Turkey Liver Munchies Freeze-Dried Dog & Cat Treats

Ingredients: Turkey Liver

Yes, you see well. The only ingredient in this treat is turkey liver. A simple recipe that is virtually indestructible. With freeze-drying, the liver retains its full nutritional value and remains incredibly tasty. Anyway, all of Primal’s products are excellent, so you might want to check them out.

4. Earthborn Holistic Grain-Free Bison Meal Recipe Dog Treats

Ingredients: Bison Meal, Peas, Pea Protein, Tapioca, Pea Fiber, Krill Meal, Canola Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Flavors, Apples, Blueberries, Cranberries, Carrots, Spinach, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Rosemary Extract, Green Tea Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product.

Lean bison, along with vegetables and fruits, is an excellent choice for your dog. The recipe is low in fat, so your dog will be less at risk for obesity. 

The omega fatty acid content has a good effect on brain function and skin and coat health. The product does not contain artificial ingredients and harmful fillers.

5. Vital Essentials Rabbit Bites Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Treats

Ingredients: Rabbit, Mixed Tocopherols

This product also contains only one type of meat preserved with tocopherols. Because of this, you can be sure that your dog is getting the best. Due to freeze-drying, the product is delicious and rich in nutrients. There are no artificial flavors, dyes, preservatives, or harmful fillers.

Final Words

The basics of health are to be found in nutrition. This is true not only for humans but also for dogs. Every dog owner should decide to give the best possible food and treats to their pooch. Hopefully, my article will help you know exactly which brands and which ingredients to avoid when choosing dog treats.


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Peter Laskay

Peter Laskay

Hi there, my name is Peter Laskay and I am the person behind this site. I’ve been a fan of pets since I was a little kid and want to help people with similar interests. I want everyone to be able to provide the most appropriate care for pets.