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2 of the Worst Foods to Feed Your Dog or Cat (and 3 of the Best)

After several pets in my family became suddenly ill, I realized that the culprit was the "healthy" pet food brand we had been using.

My mom's dog, Blossom, almost died in 2021.

My mom's dog, Blossom, almost died in 2021.

Don't Feed Your Dog or Cat These Two Pet Food Brands

As a pet owner in the United States, it's important to understand that the FDA is not overly concerned about your animal’s health: there are hardly any strict rules or regulations in the U.S.A. governing the production of or ingredients in dog food, and the few rules the FDA does “adhere” to are often mere suggestions—either not up-to-date or else broken and brushed aside. Really. Look it up. The whole Beneful fiasco in 2015 is a good example.

After our dog got violently ill, my family decided we couldn’t rely on FDA approval to ensure the safety or nutrition of our pet food brands: we’d have to do our own research. We found the best way to get to the heart of the matter is to simply search for anecdotal, firsthand information from other pet owners on sites like Reddit, Consumer Affairs (be sure to check all the 1-star reviews), and even social media.

In This Article:

  • Why Taste of the Wild made our dog sick
  • Why Purina Pet Foods has terrible reviews
  • Why we've chosen NutriSource Pet Foods
  • Two other great (but pricier) options: OpenFarm and Farmina

Here’s a list of the two brands of pet food that I wouldn’t even feed a wild animal—I would just throw this stuff away. I’ve summarized my findings here, but be sure to do some of your own research if you’ve been using one of these brands.

1. Taste of the Wild Pet Foods Snapshot

Brand Is Owned By: Diamond Pet Foods (who also own NutraGold, Nutra-Nuggets, and Diamond Naturals)

Mailing Address: 103 North Olive St., Meta, Missouri, 65058

Phone Numbers: 866-214-6945; (573) 229-4203; 1-800-442-0402

Email Address: customerservice@diamondpet.com

Sample Price: $59.99 (28lbs dry puppy food)

Taste of the Wild Lawsuits:

  • May 2012. Salmonella-related recall; both pets and people were sickened during the multistate salmonella outbreak caused by the contaminated pet food. Lawsuit allegations included negligence, unjust enrichment and state law violations, and more.
  • August 2018. Lawsuit llegations included negligent misrepresentation, false advertising, and breach of warranty due to undisclosed heavy metals, pesticides, acrylamide, and bisphenol A (BPA) in TOTW dog foods.
  • February 2019. Lawsuit allegations included negligent, reckless, and/or intentional practice of misrepresenting, failing to test for, and failing to fully disclose the risk and/or presence of heavy metals, toxins, Bisphenol A (“BPA”).

Other Reports on Taste of the Wild:

  • Surprisingly, the FDA still hasn’t officially established a legal maximum of lead in dog food. Still, one of the two lawsuits filed against Diamond Pet Food's Taste of the Wild brand claimed that “one of the contaminated dog foods tested higher in lead than most homes in Flint, Michigan”.
  • In June 2019, the FDA identified Taste of the Wild as one of 16 pet food brands that may be linked to heart disease in dogs and cats.
  • Pet owners say this dog food “smells bad”.
  • Pet owners say it was ok for a few years, then started making their dogs sick.

Main Anecdotal Symptoms Reported After Eating Taste of the Wild:

  • Loss of Appetite
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Hives/itching
  • Liver/heart problems
  • Vomiting/vomiting blood
  • Diarrhea/bloody diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Panting/shaking
Our pups asking to come indoors after having fun on a rainy day.

Our pups asking to come indoors after having fun on a rainy day.

2. Purina Pet Foods Snapshot

Brand Is Owned By: Nestlé

Mailing Address: Purina Pet Foods, PO Box 340, Neenah, WI 54957 (Office of Consumer Affairs)

Phone Number: 1-800-778-7462

Email Addresses: iadmincontact@purina.com; customerservice@purina.nestle.com

Sample Price: $26.99 (32lbs large breed dry puppy food)

Recalls of Purina Pet Foods (Not a Comprehensive List):

  • June 2011. Possible salmonella risk.
  • July 2011. Possible salmonella risk.
  • May 2012. Possible low thiamine.
  • January 2013. Waggin’ Train and Canyon Creek Ranch brand dog treats were found to contain antibiotics sulfaclozine, tilmicosin, trimethoprim, enrofloxacin, and sulfaquinoxaline; hundreds of dog deaths occurred.
  • August 2013. Possible salmonella risk.
  • March 2016. Inadequate vitamins and minerals.
  • December 2018. Elevated copper levels.
  • April 2019. Presence of rubber pieces.
  • February 2020. Elevated calcium levels.
  • June 2021. Potential urea toxicity.
  • July 2021. Could potentially contain plastic pieces.
  • October 2021. Potentially elevated levels of urea.

Lawsuits Against Purina Pet Foods (Not a Comprehensive List):

  • February 2015. Lawsuit claims Purina failed to disclose that Beneful dog food contains Industrial Grade Glycols, mycotoxins, lead, and/or arsenic, breach-of-warranty, violation of state consumer protection statutes, and unjust enrichment.
  • July 2015. A class-action lawsuit claims false marketing insinuating that bacon is the main ingredient in Beggin’ Strips. Bacon is 10th on the ingredient list.
  • April 2016. A class-action lawsuit claims false labeling on its Ultramix and Organix dog foods as “Loving Made in the USA”, when they contain foreign ingredients.
  • December 2016. A class-action lawsuit alleges that Purina conspired with others to falsely promote “prescription” pet food to drive up prices. The complaint asserts they “contain no drug or other ingredient not also common in non-prescription pet food.”
  • April 2020. A class-action lawsuit claims Nestle Purina PetCare Company knowingly sold pet food products that contained glyphosate, a known carcinogen found in RoundUp weed killer.
  • June 2020. Two lawsuits claim deceptive marketing and sale of cat foods labeled as “natural” and with “no artificial preservatives.” Lab tests reveal that certain products contain glyphosate and ethoxyquin.
  • August 2021. A class-action lawsuit claims that dog food labeled as grain-free and soy-free in fact contains both soy and wheat.

Other Reports About Purina Pet Foods:

  • In 2013, when FDA investigated Beneful, Purina refused to allow FDA officials to take pictures, refused to provide copies of documents, refused to disclose pet food ingredient safety testing measures, and refused to disclose exact ingredients used in the batches of pet foods linked to pet illness and death.
  • In 2014, The FDA issued a warning letter to a Purina Pet Food canning facility finding “significant deviations” from pet food regulations.
  • Pet owners report the food “smells bad”.
  • Pet owners found maggots in the food; other owners reported, "food was rotten".
  • Pet owners say “it was ok for a few years, then started making my dogs sick when the formula was changed”.

Main Anecdotal Symptoms After Eating Purina Pet Foods:

  • Vomiting/vomiting blood
  • Diarrhea/bloody diarrhea
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Smelly stools
  • Lethargy
  • Liver/kidney failure
  • Internal bleeding
  • Death
My mom's puppy, Baby, got really lethargic and stopped wanting to eat his food at mealtimes.

My mom's puppy, Baby, got really lethargic and stopped wanting to eat his food at mealtimes.

Why I Researched Some of the Worst Brands to Feed Your Dog or Cat

My mom’s dog, Blossom, almost died in 2021... and her other 8-month-old puppy, Baby, was extremely lethargic. We’re certain it was because of a “premium” brand of dog food called Taste of the Wild (TOTW).

My mom does extensive research on every product she buys. She’s a big label-reader, and Taste of the Wild markets itself as a pure, raw, “ancestral” diet for your dog, using ingredients like wild boar, bison, smoked salmon, roasted duck, and venison. Sounds great, right? My mom thought so, too—she only eats organic, whole foods herself, never any ingredients she can’t pronounce, and she treats her animals the same.

Our Bad Experience With Taste of the Wild

After a couple of years, my mom's TOTW bags of food started smelling funky and the dogs started getting sick after meals. It wasn’t just a few bags from a bad batch, either, there were bags from several batches over the course of months, and it got to the point where her food-obsessed dogs wouldn’t even eat the TOTW kibble.

The cats also started acting strangely and stopped eating all of their food at mealtimes. If you have a cat or a dog, you’ll understand what a huge red flag that is—normally, they all wolf their meals down. (In fact, we recently found a wonderful “puzzle feed bowl” for our other puppy, Flower, to slow her from inhaling her meals in under a minute (we timed her) to about 3 minutes. Highly recommend!)

After some quick research online, I saw we weren’t alone: there were hundreds of reports from concerned dog owners, and even several class-action lawsuits. When I called the company directly to voice my concerns, the customer service representative would not deviate from her script: she kept repeating, “We only use the best ingredients. We have never had any complaints.”

Even when I mentioned the blogs, forums, lawsuits, and my mom’s experience suggesting otherwise, she just kept repeating the same thing like a parrot in denial (or an employee instructed not to admit fault for legal reasons).

Many Pets Have Had Severe Reactions to Purina Pet Foods

I researched Purina Pet Foods and added it to this article because my brother recently had similar problems with his dog, Taz: the otherwise healthy puppy started getting really sick out of nowhere. Recurring ear infections, an incredibly sensitive stomach, and trouble digesting.

Guess what? The blogs, forums, and complaint boards online also showed alarming reports from dog and cat owners feeding their pets Purina Pet Foods and the pets becoming suddenly and/or violently sick; in many sad cases, even resulting in the death of the animal(s). I can’t prove that’s what happened with Taz, but I believe it’s certainly likely considering the other reports.

So, What Pet Food Brand Should I Use?

Ultimately, only you can decide what is best for you and your pets. The main point of my sharing this article is to simply beg pet owners to do their own extensive research on any pet food brand you’re considering. Pet food brands can very often have misleading marketing.

Veterinarians mean well, but they also can’t truly vouch for another brand’s ingredients or process. And as I’ve learned, unfortunately, the FDA is not really concerned with the health of your pet… meaning the current pet food regulations in the United States aren’t up to par.

After my mom and I reviewed as much information as we could about pet food brands and any associated lawsuits/recalls/complaints, and talked to other concerned pet owners, we ended up feeding our animals with a brand called NutriSource. While it’s not sold in major stores, we don’t mind ordering online and it's pretty affordable for a higher-end pet food.

Flower is a healthy (big) puppy and feeling great these days!

Flower is a healthy (big) puppy and feeling great these days!

1. NutriSource Pet Foods Snapshot

NutriSource is a family-owned business dedicated to making pet foods with the highest level of bioavailability (the capability of the digestive system to actually absorb consumed nutrients—since animals' digestive process is relatively short compared to humans) to build a healthy gut for your pet.

Research in recent years has shown how incredibly important the gut’s microbiome is for physical and mental health.

We also liked that Nutrisource is made in the U.S. in a single dedicated pet-food manufacturing plant with ethically and locally sourced ingredients—something the company calls “farm-to-bowl”, and to us, the perfect example of a “small, quality batch” manufacturing strategy. Most importantly, our dogs and cats love eating it, and none of them are acting strangely or feeling sick anymore.

Brand Is Owned By: KLN Family Foods

Mailing Address: NutriSource Pet Foods, 245 1 st Ave N, Perham, MN 56573

Phone Number: (800) 525-9155

Email Address: info@nutrisourcepetfoods.com

Sample Price: $61.70 (30lbs, Large Breed Puppy dry food)

Lawsuits Against NutriSource: None

Recalls of NutriSource:

  • October 11, 2021: Approximately 1,600 cases of NutriSource Pure Vita Salmon Entree Dog Food in a Tetrapak carton were recalled following the product manufacturer's notification of potentially elevated Vitamin D levels.

Other Reports of NutriSource:

  • In June 2019, the FDA identified NutriSource as one of 16 pet food brands that may be linked to heart disease in dogs and cats.

Bonus: 2 More Awesome Pet Food Brands

When researching, we also discovered 2 more companies (located in Canada and Italy) dedicated to producing some of the best quality pet food out there.

The brands have no recalls or lawsuits, and offer things like the option to trace every single ingredient in every single bag back to the farm, humane certification on a global level, and formulas so specialized that Farmina even one just for neutered pets. Unfortunately, these options and quality also means the food is not affordable for most of us.

OpenFarm Pet Foods (Canada)

Sample Price: $94.99 (24lbs dry large dog food)

Farmina Pet Foods (Italy)

Sample Price: $114.99 (26.4lbs dry puppy food

On a Budget and Have the Time? Consider Cooking Your Pet's Food at Home

This may be one of the easiest and most affordable options of all—but it only works if you have the time. When you cook for your dog or cat, you have total control over the nutrients and ingredients going into the food.

As long as you take the time to research the best balanced recipe for your kind of animal, and can stick to a weekly cooking schedule, this can be a great solution for many pet owners. It can especially help if you have a picky eater or sensitive skinned pet.

How Can I Make Sure My Current Pet Food Brand Is OK?

There are definitely good pet food brands out there. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend any of the major brands because there seems to be less accountability. There are a few simple things you can do to make sure you’re feeding your animals food that is good for them.

  1. Keep an eye out for red flags, and take action:

    —if your pet suddenly stops wanting to eat the food

    —if your pet suddenly has a sensitive stomach or other sudden and “mysterious” health issues

  2. Take the time to search for your food brand’s history online in forums, blogs, and complaint boards, and see if there are any issues with other pet owners. Here are some easy search questions:

    “____ pet food complaint boards”

    “____ pet food lawsuits and recalls”

    “____ pet food made my dog/cat sick”

  3. If you find that you want to change your pet’s food, make sure to do so slowly. Suddenly changing their food can also cause your pet to get sick. Instead, try replacing ¼, then ½, then ¾ of each meal with the new food over the course of a week or two.
Flower is best friends with our house cat, because they grew up together. Both pets love their food at mealtimes now.

Flower is best friends with our house cat, because they grew up together. Both pets love their food at mealtimes now.

References

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Jasmine Hanner