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7 Alarming Reasons Why Dog Food Tastes So Bad (2023)

Why Does Dog Food Taste So Bad

Your furry friend loves their kibbles and canned goods.

The products’ packaging seems fine.

It’s loaded with nutrients.

And they have delicious-sounding ingredients too.

So you might wonder,

“Why do they taste so awful to us humans?

And should I be concerned about it?”

Keep reading to find out:

  • 7 alarming reasons that make dog food taste bad.
  • How to identify stale dog food and its common causes.
  • What’s a ‘4D meat’ and other ingredients you must avoid.
  • And many more…

Why does dog food taste so bad? 7 alarming reasons

#1: It has rendered products

First, dog food goes through a different process.

This alone can change the ingredient’s taste and texture.

Which causes it to be less appetizing for us humans.

Now, you might wonder,

“Why is this alarming?”

Kindly excuse me if you’re eating right now.

But often, the things that go into your dog’s food are unfit for your consumption.

When you slaughter animals, lean muscles are usually kept for human food.

Then the rest of the clean parts go into pet food production.

Some companies use unprocessed animal meat or tissues.

But other brands may contain ‘rendered’ products.

Aside from inedible parts of animal carcasses…

PetMD says it’s possible that some dog food includes:

  • ‘4D meat’ – from dead, dying, diseased, disabled animals.
  • Leftovers from the human food industry (e.g., expired supermarket meat, restaurant grease).

And then, these are rendered to become usable ingredients.

“What is rendering?”

It’s the process of grinding and cooking animal remains at a high temperature.

This can take several hours. And it makes use of heat and pressure to:

  • Separate fat.
  • Remove water.

As a result, rendered products are dry solids.

And here are the ones you’ll usually see in dog food (as described by AAFCO):

Rendered dog food ingredientsWhat is it made of?
Meat mealAnimal meat or tissues without hair, blood, horn, hoof, etc.
Poultry mealFlesh and skin of poultry (with or without bones).
Bone mealAnimal bones
Meat and bone mealAnimal meat, tissues, and bones.
Animal by-product mealLeftover animal parts (e.g., brain, lungs, kidneys).
Poultry by-product mealLeftover poultry arts (e.g., feet, undeveloped eggs, necks, intestines). 

#2: It has low-quality ingredients

Many dog food manufacturers ensure quality and nutrition.

But some companies may also cut costs.

They do this to earn bigger profits. And also to offer affordable products in the market.

To meet the dogs’ nutritional standards…

They use cheaper alternatives for meat – instead of fresh, unprocessed ones.

These are ‘rendered’ products. And I explained them earlier.

But here’s a quick recap:

  • Meat meal.
  • Bone meal.
  • Poultry meal.
  • Meat and bone meal.
  • Animal/poultry by-product meal.

These ingredients are dry and grounded.

Plus, they have high levels of protein too.

So even a small amount can easily meet your Fido’s nutritional needs.

They cost less than fresh animal meat.

Also, they last longer due to the rendering process.

However, the downside is…

You’re not always sure what you’re feeding your pooch.

You don’t know if it’s made of clean leftover parts. Or if you only got tissues and bone scrapings.

And since rendered products aren’t for human consumption…

They may have an unpleasant taste or odor.

That’s why some dog food doesn’t taste good.

“So, what makes dog food high-quality?”

Check the product’s packaging.

Experts put a “natural” label on dog food products with known animal or plant sources.

These don’t have processed ingredients, such as:

  • Colorings.
  • Preservatives.
  • Artificial flavors.

Also, 95% of the item must be a known ingredient.

For example, ‘chicken meat.’

And not ‘animal meat’ or ‘poultry meat meal.’

This is so you can ensure it’s from a quality source. And not a rendered one.

You might also like: 17 Worst Dog Food Brands In 2023 & 13 Worst Dog Treats In 2023

#3: It has gone bad

Dog Food Has Gone Bad

Another alarming reason is that it’s no longer fresh.

This is more likely if even your Fido refuses to eat what’s in their bowl.

Aside from the sour taste and rancid smell…

You’ll recognize stale dog food by these other signs:

  • Mold.
  • Presence of insects/bugs inside.

“What are the common reasons for this?”

The dog food might be way past its expiration date.

So check its original packaging immediately.

According to a study, most pet food has a shelf-life of around 12 months or more.

Meanwhile, sealed canned products may even last for years.

But dog food can also go bad due to improper storage.

Experts say air and humidity allow bacteria to multiply.

So once you rip a bag of dry kibbles, consuming it within 6 weeks is best.

Plus, you should keep it in a tight, secure container.

If it’s an open canned food, you must keep it in the fridge and empty it within 7 days.

Note: Toxins and bacteria from bad dog food can make your Fido sick. So, don’t hesitate to throw it out. Also, before buying, ensure the bag’s not damaged, and it’s not expired yet.

Read next: 19 Easy Tips To Store Dry Dog Food Long Term (How-To Guide)

#4: It’s exposed to heat

Besides air and humidity…

Hot temperatures can also make dog food taste and smell bad.


Heat causes the fats in the dog food to ‘oxidize.’

It’s when a substance reacts and chemically combines with oxygen.

Like how apples turn brown after you cut them. Or how metals become rusty.

But in this case, the process reduces moisture in the dog food.

And it also makes the oils rancid.

“At what temperature should I store dog food?”

Room temperature is ideal for both unopened dry and wet products.

You must keep them in a dry, cool place.

Experts say the temperature inside shouldn’t exceed 80°F (26.6°C ).

But if it’s an opened canned food, store it in a refrigerator. And set it to 40°F (4.4°C) or below.

Also, avoid keeping the dog food under direct sunlight. Or close to any sources of heat.

Continue reading: Can Dry Dog Food Go Bad In Heat? 5 Questions Answered

#5: It has an unappealing smell

Let’s move on to the less alarming reasons.

It could also be that the dog food hasn’t gone bad.

But since it has a strong, unusual odor…

It makes you think it tastes awful as well.

“How does this happen?”

Studies show that 75%-95% of a food’s flavor comes from its smell.

Thus, the odor can affect the taste.

This is why food becomes bland if your nose’s blocked and you can’t smell well.

As you can’t experience most of its flavor.

Now, dogs have a stronger sense of smell than taste.

As per vets, our 4-legged friends have 300 million scent receptors.

On the other hand, researchers say humans have only about 400 of those.

This means dogs can easily track and recognize food without tasting it first.

So their sense of smell’s more useful for them.

That’s why most dog food has strong, tempting odors.

Which could either enhance or ruin a human’s experience of tasting it.

“Why does dog food have an odd smell?”

Reason #1: To attract Fidos

A study found that if given many food bowls…

Our furry friends usually eat whatever they pick first 89% of the time.

Thus, dogs don’t pay much attention to the taste.

But on the things that are more obvious to them, like odors.

Reason #2: It has strong-smelling ingredients

Common examples of these are fish and liver. Which don’t only attract dogs but also give nutrition.

Reason #3: To mask its real scent

Chemicals are added to hide the stinky smell of poor raw materials and other substances.

#6: It’s made for a dog’s taste preference

Next, what tastes bad to humans might be alright to dogs.

Well. We’re talking about our furry pals who can eat rocks, pads, and poop here.

So this could also be why dog food taste so bad for you.

“Why do dogs taste things differently?”

It’s because Fidos have fewer taste buds than humans.

Based on vets, dogs only have about 1,700.

Meanwhile, we humans got 9,000. Which is around 5 times greater.

During puppyhood, their sense of taste develops faster than sight and hearing.

However, it decreases as they age.

Also, dogs have less sensitive taste receptors.

AKC says each of their taste buds has 50 of these.

In contrast, humans can have up to 150 taste receptors, as per specialists.

So your Fido may not enjoy a variety of flavors as much as you do.

“So, what can dogs taste?”

Like you, your furry friend can also detect if a food’s:

  • Sour.
  • Salty.
  • Spicy.
  • Bitter.
  • Sweet.

Although most of them aren’t into salty food.

Also, due to survival instinct, dogs usually avoid sour, bitter, and spicy food as they may have toxins.

So despite this, you might think,

“Do dogs like dog food?”

Companies ensure that their products are appetizing for our Fidos.

Thus, most dogs are happy with their food. As long as it’s not stale and it provides the nutrients they need.

But for your taste buds, it could be bland and unappealing.

You might also want to know: What Does Dog Food Taste Like? The Truth

#7: It lacks seasonings

Think of healthy food.

What does it taste like?

Although not all of them taste bad.

You might imagine it’ll be less tasty than McDonald’s or junk food.

Well. If you mainly focus on nutrients, you may compromise the taste.

Just like in dog food.

Each product should meet the daily nutritional needs of Fidos.

It’s the topmost priority.

Thus, flavor’s only next to it.

So it could be unappetizing for your taste buds.

Dog food doesn’t have the ingredients that most humans crave.

It lacks seasonings and spices (e.g., garlic, salt, pepper) that give flavor to many of our dishes.

As they could be toxic for dogs, especially in large amounts.

This is why some Fidos may prefer human food. As well as be tempted to steal some off the counter.