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Dog Food Ingredients To Always Avoid

By Dr. Andrew Jones

Dog Food Ingredients to Always Avoid


There are a few specific ingredients that should never be in your pet’s food, and there are many reasonably priced foods without these ingredients.

Chemincal Preservatives

Avoid chemical preservatives such as ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT, propylene glycol and sodium nitrite.

Here is what the FDA has to say about propylene glycol and ethoxyquin:

Propylene glycol was used as a humectant in soft-moist pet foods, which helps retain water and gives these products their unique texture and taste. It was affirmed Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use in human and animal food before the advent of soft-moist foods. It was known for some time that propylene glycol caused Heinz Body formation in the red blood cells of cats.

Another pet food additive of some controversy is ethoxyquin, which was approved as a food additive over forty-five years ago for use as an antioxidant chemical preservative to help prevent the destruction of some vitamins and related compounds in animal foods and to help prevent peroxide from forming in canned pet foods.

In the 1990s, CVM began receiving reports from dog owners attributing the presence of ethoxyquin in the dog food with a myriad of adverse effects, such as allergic reactions, skin problems, major organ failure, behavior problems, and cancer. However, there was a paucity of available scientific data to support these contentions, or to show other adverse effects in dogs at levels approved for use in dog foods.

Subsequent studies by the manufacturer of ethoxyquin showed a dose-dependent accumulation of a hemoglobin-related pigment in the liver, as well as increases in the levels of liver-related enzymes in the blood. Although these changes are due to ethoxyquin in the diet, the pigment is not made from ethoxyquin itself, and the health significance of these findings is unknown.

Nevertheless, CVM has asked the pet food industry to voluntarily lower the maximum level of use of ethoxyquin in dog foods from 150 ppm (0.015%) to 75 ppm. Regardless, most pet foods that contained ethoxyquin never exceeded the lower amount, even before this recommended change.

Sodium nitrite is a white to slightly yellowish crystalline powder—it is probably best known as a food additive to prevent botulism. According to Wikipedia:

It has been found to inhibit growth of disease-causing microorganisms; give taste and color to the meat; and inhibit lipid oxidation that leads to rancidity. While this chemical will prevent the growth of bacteria, it can be toxic in high amounts for animals, including humans.

Because of sodium nitrite’s high level of toxicity to swine it is now being developed in Australia to control feral pigs and wild boar. The sodium nitrite induces methemoglobinemia in swine, i.e., it reduces the amount of oxygen that is released from hemoglobin, so the animal will feel faint and pass out, and then die…

A principal concern about sodium nitrite is the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines in meats containing sodium nitrite when meat is charred or overcooked. Such carcinogenic nitrosamines can also be formed from the reaction of nitrite with secondary amines under acidic conditions (such as occurs in the human stomach) as well as during the curing process used to preserve meats.

Based on these real health risks of chemical preservatives, instead look for natural preservatives such as tocopherols (vitamin E) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

Artificial Flavor Enhancers

Avoid foods with artificial flavor enhancers, such as phosphoric acid.

There is no need for artificial flavor in feeding your dogs.

Highly processed (over-processed) food loses its Natural flavor during the manufacturing process – to make the product enticing the manufacturer adds artificial or ‘natural’ flavoring.

In other words this is how the Pet Food Industry gets your dog to eat things they otherwise wouldn’t, or gets them to ‘like’ a certain food. I personally have NEVER seen a dog happily consume SOY..

Artificial Colors

The last big chemical additive that we should all avoid, especially our pets, is artificial colors. Highly processed (over-processed) food loses its Natural flavor during the manufacturing process – to make the product enticing the manufacturer adds artificial or ‘natural’ flavoring

Highly processed food contain multiple synthesized chemicals.

Flavor enhancers are used to fool the taste receptor system by using synthesized chemicals to mimic the natural chemical profiles of essential nutrients such as essential amino acids in raw meat.

Some of these include aryl azo compounds which have vivid colors, especially reds, oranges, and yellows; they are used as dyes, and are commonly known as azo dyes.

According to Wikipedia: Many azo pigments are non-toxic, although some, such as dinitroaniline orange, ortho-nitroaniline orange, or pigment orange 1, 2, and 5 have been found to be mutagenic. Likewise, several case studies have linked azo pigments with basal cell carcinoma.

The problems with carbohydrates, Especially SOY

Grains are prevalent; they are the least expensive food ingredients, far less costly than animal protein. Grains help in binding the kibble together; think of them as a form of glue. Glue is good if you’re trying to make something stick, but it’s not something I advise feeding to your pets.
These high-carbohydrate diets negatively impact our dogs. Carnivores cannot maintain long-term production of the quantity of amylase enzyme necessary to properly digest and utilize the carbohydrates. This contributes to some of the negative effects.

From Susan Wynn, DVM, on the canine diet:

Dogs evolved from Canis lupis—the wolf. Wolves eat caribou or the like, but if they are forced, they will eat smaller game (rarely). They have been observed to graze on grass, eat berries, etc., but only when they need to. This is our lesson in canine nutrition: they are omnivores who do well with fresh meat, the vegetation they get in a caribou stomach, which is mostly green, unless the beast is eating from baited fields, and a smattering of other stuff if they are hungry.

Corn, wheat and soy have been linked to allergic reactions in dogs, and are not easy to digest. The primary ingredient in many dry commercial pet foods is not protein but a carbohydrate. Corn and wheat are the most common grains used, but as with the meat sources, the nutritious parts of the grain are generally present only in trace amounts. The corn gluten meal or wheat middlings added to pet foods are the leftovers after the grain has been processed for human use, containing little nutritional value.

Soy in particular is a poor quality carbohydrate/protein, and has ‘estrogenic’ effects. It is linked to altering hormone metabolism, affecting key organs such as your dog’s thyroid gland. Of ALL the so called carbs to avoid this is FIRST on my list.

Animal by-products

These include more than just the ‘extra’ parts derived from slaughtered animals (such as lungs, spleen, kidneys, and brain).

In her book, ‘Foods Pets Die For’, Anne Martin highlights the huge number of harmful and completely non-nutritious ingredients that may be added to dog and cat food.

A few of these unsavory ingredients include: meat and poultry by-products unfit for human consumption (infested with worms, diseased products), necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, intestines, egg shells, infertile and un-hatched eggs, culled, dried and ground chicks, heads, feet, and viscera, hydrolyzed poultry feather (indigestible protein, but still considered protein), hydrolyzed hair, spray-dried animal blood, dehydrated food-waste, artificially dried animal and vegetable waste, dehydrated paunch products, dried poultry and swine waste, un-dried processed animal waste, companion animals from clinics, pounds, and shelters, dead stock (production animals as well as road kill that cannot be buried at roadside, and zoo animals), frozen meat marked as ‘unfit for human consumption’, rendered and ‘denatured’ (a process using crude carbolic acid, fuel oil, or citronella) slaughterhouse products, restaurant and supermarket refuse.

A recent report has shown that the lower quality Dog Foods may contain animals from the 4 D’s: Dead, Decaying, Dying or Diseased. There are dog foods currently being sold that contain animals that have been EUTHANIZED, meaning the chemical anesthetic Sodium Pentobarbital is in some dog foods.

This is from the FDA:

*CVM is aware of the sale of dead, dying, disabled, or diseased (4-D) animals to salvagers for use as animal food. Meat from these carcasses is boned and the meat is packaged or frozen without heat processing. The raw, frozen meat is shipped for use by several industries, including pet food manufacturers, zoos, greyhound kennels, and mink ranches. This meat may present a potential health hazard to the animals that consume it and to the people who handle it. Source:http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/ComplianceManuals/CompliancePolicyGuidanceManual/ucm074712.htm

Best Wishes,

Dr Andrew J


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Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM