It’s no secret to pet owners that many popular brand name dog foods are absolutely horrible; which shouldn’t be too hard to believe, considering the awful food that we humans ingest ourselves. Ranging from unhealthy to harmful, most ingredients found in many mainstream dog food brands can cause many different health complications – in the short term as well as the long term. In fact, most of the ingredients are just pointless “fillers” like cellulose (wood pulp) that has no nutritional value; but that isn’t even the worst of them. In a world where it seems that processed foods dominate the grocery store shelves, it shouldn’t be a surprise that common companies that manufacture so-called “healthy” dog foods, have less than desirable ingredients in it for your beloved furbaby to ingest. We don’t want to point any fingers at specific brands or anything, but here are harmful, toxic, and all-around unnecessary additives to look out for in your dog’s food:
- Propelyne Glycol – This virtually invisible liquid that is found in anti-freeze and shampoo products as a solvent, is added to semi-moist brands of dog food in order to keep it from drying out. The irony is that in the effort to preserve moisture, this ingredient is toxic when ingested in large amounts; potentially causing brain, liver, and kidney problems down the road. I’d rather my pet eat dry food than have to worry about brain problems, wouldn’t you?
- Ethoxyquin – Another preservative that does more harm than good, Ethoxyquin was first created to be used in herbicides, and is also useful in rubber production. Many dog owners, veterinarians, and scientists have linked this substance to an increased risk of cancer, immune deficiencies, imbalanced thyroid glands, reproductive problems, and kidney failure. While this isn’t a 100% proven connection, there is a lot of evidence to support the correlation, so it is best to just stay away from foods containing this rubber-producing material – because why is a rubber-related chemical in dog food anyway?
- FD&C Blue No. 2 – Artificial food dyes are usually not healthy for anyone to ingest, let alone your pets – so definitely steer clear of any dog food that incorporates this (in my opinion) unnecessary additive. One very extensive study suggests that this particular dye has caused brain tumors to develop in mice (especially males), and there has been much speculation that it also causes serious allergic reactions and learning difficulties in humans. Although there is no specific research about its effect in dogs, there is mounting evidence in relation to other mammals, so again – it’s better to be safe than sorry! It also doesn’t help that it is extremely close in chemical composition to Blue No. 1 which definitely causes dangerously low blood pressure, discolored skin, and excessive acidity in the body. The raised acid levels alone can account for acid reflux, reduced appetite, vomiting, and other digestive problems. So yeah, I’d avoid this one.
- Artificial and Natural Sweeteners – Another sad irony in the world of food manufacturing is the creation of artificial sweeteners, which were invented to avoid the harmful health effects of sugar – but are now being linked to a host of other horrible illnesses like cancer and pancreatitis. It’s almost hard to keep up with the ongoing list, with xylitol and sorbitol being the most prevalent in dog food; which is absolutely absurd and unnecessary. Even natural sweeteners like corn syrup, fructose, and sugar itself should NOT be in dog food at all. Natural sweeteners can cause varying levels of hypoglycemia, hyperactivity/exhaustion, obesity, heart disease, strokes , and infections/abcesses of the mouth among other things. Your dog’s food does NOT need to be sweetened, so stay away from any and all foods containing sweeteners.
- “Animal Fat” or “Crude Protein” – Get ready to be horrified, folks. If you have ever seen “crude protein” or “animal fat” listed as an ingredient on dog food, you should never buy that food again. Either of these terms can literally mean that the “animal fat” came from any part of any animal, from any source, anywhere. You might be alright with the discarded animal parts from cows, horses, pigs, etc. to be ground up and used as “crude protein,” but how do you feel about euthanized shelter animals and roadkill also being thrown into the mix? Yep, when animals are “put to sleep” at the shelter, their carcasses are loaded onto rendering trucks, where the fat is rendered out and used for a host of cleaning products, beauty products, and also inserted into pet food. This means that your dog has the possibility of ingesting a fellow dog’s flesh, making them a cannibal of the worst kind! Also, the “crude protein” and “animal fat” is not even good for your dog to eat and acts mostly as a filler, with no nutritional value. Furthermore, scientists claim that the phenobarbitol (the chemical given to dogs in euthanasia) present in the shelter animal carcasses is harmful and still present in the animal tissue, meaning it is also present in the “crude protein” obtained. Not only is this whole situation horrendous, but it is also unhealthy and sketchy AF so please watch out for this atrocity!
- Beef and Bone Meal – Speaking of fillers that come from discarded animal parts, beef and bone meal is also present in dog foods in order to add more “fluff” to the food – in other words, to stretch the company’s profits. While the goal is to cheaply add volume and protein to the food, the parts of the cow that this “meal” comes from are not fit for human consumption – so obviously they have little to no nutritional value. While this substance isn’t toxic or dangerous to your animal, it isn’t healthy or a good source of protein either. You’re better off just getting an actual cut of meat that is of higher quality and doesn’t contain sub-par animal parts.
- Salt – Similar to sugar, salt should not be an added ingredient in your pet’s food – but it often is, because it (similar to sugar) adds flavor to an otherwise bad-tasting food made of poor quality ingredients. As if the bad quality isn’t enough to deter you, continued salt intake by your pet can raise blood pressure levels, which increases your pet’s chance of developing heart disease and having heart attacks/strokes down the road. It also puts unnecessary stress on the kidneys, which could lead to eventual renal failure. Again, a completely useless ingredient used by cheap pet food companies to allow them to continue making awful food.
- BHT and BHA – These are substances that are both found in human food and pet food alike, and can you guess what it is used for? Yep, you guessed it – another PRESERVATIVE! It’s astounding to me that our mass consumerism has led to these harmful and unhealthy toxins in order to lengthen the shelf life of our food, but I digress. This chemical (also found in butane lighters) is dangerous for all living things who ingest it, causing kidney damage as well as cancer. BHT is more dangerous than BHA, but they are both toxic and should be avoided!
So how do you ensure that your dog is eating food that isn’t laced with toxic chemicals, harmful preservatives, and unnecessary additives? Simply read the ingredients of the dog food you want to buy, and pinpoint the natural ingredients and the “other ones,” and make sure that you don’t just accept the “All Natural” or “Healthy” tag as the company being honest with its product. As humans, we have learned to be discerning with our foods, even if it says “Heart Healthy” or “Great for Digestion” or “Fat Free” or other buzzword attention-grabbing claims. Do the same for your pet’s food and don’t settle for cheap, bad quality food. It may be cheap at the moment, but in the future when your pet has a life-threatening illness, it will be expensive and tragic.