How to Keep Your Dog Safe From Dangerous Toxins
Kibble (even the “premium” types) and canned pet food also often contain toxic preservatives that can have a severe impact on your dog. Let’s dive a little deeper into this, because I want you to get a good sense of what’s in your pet’s kibble and/or canned food and what it does to them.
Some of the most common preservatives found in pet food include (in alphabetical order): butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butyl hydroxytoluene (BHT), Ethoxyquin, Sodium Metabisulfite, Propyl Gallate, and Tertiary Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ). These are all preservatives added to food that have fats and oils so the food doesn’t spoil. They’re widespread, too; if you buy pet food from your vet’s office, or from large pet stores, the grocery store, or other retailers that sell processed dog food, there’s a high likelihood it contains one or more of these preservatives. Because these preservatives are cheap and readily available, pet food companies can use them to help drive their profit margins up.
In case you’re wondering—yes, there are natural, healthy, safe preservatives available, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and herbs. Changing how the food is processed—for example, dehydrating it—also naturally preserves food without the addition of chemical preservatives. However, the natural alternatives aren’t as cheap as the chemical options listed above, so pet food companies are reluctant to use them in place of the more toxic preservatives, side effects or no.
Pet food companies often use spoiled meat and rancid fats to make pet food (shocking, I know, but it’s true). That means they have to cover up the smell of the spoiled meats and fats, so you’ll still feed the food to your dog. Preservatives like BHA and BHT are excellent at doing this. Pet food manufacturers can use 4D (dead, dying, disabled, or diseased) to make the pet food; while this practice is of course not allowed in meat and food intended for human consumption, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine was aware of this and did nothing to stop the practice in pet food. This policy was originally issued in 1979; the policy was withdrawn on their website in 2019. However, it is unclear if they have taken any steps to stop the practice–and I for one am not willing to take the chance. And because processed pet food may sit on a shelf for a long time before it gets used, pet food manufacturers need to make sure that it stays smelling nice, and that it maintains the color we’ve come to expect, so that pet owners will continue to feed it. These preservatives do the job well—unfortunately, as we’ll see, they also expose your pet to a whole host of health problems.
As previously discussed, BHA is a preservative. In addition to being used in pet food, it’s also found in some human food, is used as a packaging preservative, and is used as a yeast de-foaming agent in food manufacturing. Studies have shown BHA to have adverse effects in many areas, including allergies, behavior, brain function, liver and stomach cancer, cell abnormalities, and increases in the formation of fatty tumors. Like many toxins, BHA is what’s known as a bioaccumulative substance, meaning that it’s absorbed by the body at a faster rate than it’s lost through the processes of catabolism and excretion. That means that, when it is fed over time, the body cannot flush it out, and it builds up and puts an additional load on the liver and kidneys.
Like BHA, studies have shown BHT can negatively impact the liver, lead to tumors, and may be carcinogenic. The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for BHT indicates it may be toxic to blood, the liver, and the central nervous system. It also warns against ingesting BHT or allowing it to come into contact with the skin or eyes.
The MSDS also warns against inhalation of BHT, and states it may cause dizziness, weakness, headache, confusion, temporary loss of consciousness, respiratory depression; prolonged or repeated ingestion may affect the liver, kidneys, thyroid, adrenal gland, blood, and cause issues with behavior. It may also lead to allergic reactions. Also according to the MSDS, it’s classified as hazardous by OSHA. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t sound like something I want my pets eating!
BHT is banned from baby food in the US, and it’s banned from food completely in the UK and Japan; this indicates to me it’s known to cause serious issues. Vitamin E has been shown to preserve just as well, but as I mentioned above, it is much more expensive, which means pet food companies wouldn’t make as much of a profit—so, in most instances, they choose not to use it.
Ethoxyquin is another preservative pet food manufacturers regularly use in food and treats. However, unlike the other preservatives listed here, Ethoxyquin isn’t added directly to the food, and therefore won’t show up on the ingredients list. It is used by many companies as a preservative in fish meal. It has been used as a pesticide and is classified as a hazardous chemical by OSHA. The USDA lists it as a pesticide, and containers containing Ethoxyquin are labeled as “Poison” on the containers.
This stuff is no joke! It can cause (again, in alphabetical order) allergic reactions, behavior issues, bladder cancer, deformity in puppies, infertility, kidney cancer, organ failure, stomach tumors, and skin issues. Like BHA and BHT, Ethoxyquin accumulates in the body faster than the body can eliminate it, so when fed day after day, it can cause significant and severe problems.
Propyl Gallate is generally used in conjunction with BHA and BHT. It has been shown to cause stomach irritation, liver and kidney damage, and it may be carcinogenic. It may also be an endocrine disrupter, and lead to thyroid tumors, brain tumors, pancreatic tumors, and adrenal tumors. Just like with all the other preservatives I’m mentioning here, it just doesn’t seem like anything I want to give my pets.
Sodium Metabisulfite (try saying that one three times fast!) is next on our list of preservatives to watch out for in processed pet food. In addition to being a food preservative, it is also widely used in commercial wine making. Among other things, it can depress the central nervous system, and it can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Some dogs (and humans) are particularly sensitive to sulfites, and in those individuals, Sodium Metabisulfite can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, swelling of the skin, tingling sensations, and shock.
TBHQ, or Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, is a form of butane (butane!). Like the others, it’s used in food to delay the onset of rancidness and extend shelf life—exactly what pet food companies need when making kibble and canned food. Ready for the laundry list of issues that TBHQ has been shown to cause? Delirium, dermatitis, DNA damage, stomach cancer, hyperactivity, nausea, restlessness, collapse, and vomiting, to name just a few. It has also been shown to be an endocrine disruptor.
There are some studies that have been carried out for some of these preservatives that did not find they caused the issues that other studies found. However, I question who funded those studies, and given there are lots of studies that showed these preservatives cause major health issues, is feeding them worth the risk? Not to mention, of course, is it worth the money you’ll probably spend on vet bills trying to figure out what’s wrong with your pet and treating it?
I for one wouldn’t expose my pets to risks like this when there are much better things for them to eat that I know are safe and support them in thriving and living optimal lives.
How to keep your dog safe from these toxins
To help your dog avoid these toxins, the easiest thing to do is stop feeding a kibble or canned-food diet and switch to a raw diet. And we’re here for you–click here to learn how to do that!
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