What Is That Stuff In My Pet’s Food?

The Reality of The Dangerous Ingredients In Pet Foods

An Article by Cheri Craft, Petcetera Creator

Since there have been pets there have been pet owners going above and beyond to the best of their capabilities to provide the best of everything for their beloved fury family members.  Food is definitely no exception.  There are tons of pet foods on the market for every type, breed and lifestyle of pets.  There are those that look and smell so delicious, those specific to breed diets, medical conditions and flavors.  Many are designed for weight loss, grain free for those that have allergies, many have lots of color (which is designed to look good to the pet owner), while others are soft vs. hard and some that are better for dental health and still others for the senior pet vs. the puppy/kitten or adult pet.  The picture is clear . . .There is a pet food of every size, shape and color to fit every level of age, activeness and health situation out there.  

So which food is the best for your pet?  What are the ingredients in all these foods?  Why are there so many?  Are they really good for your dog or cat? Are they dangerous?  All of these questions should be considered when choosing a food for your furry companion.  A discussion that is well worth the time with your trusted veterinarian is imperative.   We all want what is best for our pets.  Each and every pet has specific, individual needs. The sad and frightening truth is there is an incredible amount of dangerous ingredients in so many of the pet foods on the market.  In most cases loving pet owners are paying big bucks for premium label foods because they believe it is the best for their four – legged family friend.  They have no idea they are giving their pet a food daily that is labeled safe and approved by the FDA to sale yet it is packed full of toxic ingredients that could be slowly causing considerable health issues or even eventual death.

The pet food market uses many dangerous ingredients for a variety of reasons.  Common reasons for these ingredients (Preservatives) are to prevent spoilage, dyes for color for eye appeal, preservatives for long shelf life, moistening agent and prevention of bacterial growth, some ingredients are insecticidal and/or is used in antifreeze.  Pet owners tend to feed diets on a perpetual/long term basis.  Pet diets do not usually have much change which is the reason that these chemical ingredients have the potential to be so hazardous with long term subjection.  Some of the most commonly used toxins that are listed in many pet foods are listed below. Please read over them carefully and be sure to check your current pet food for these dangerous ingredients.  Your time and research could save you the terrible grief of losing your pet to a terrible illness caused by the ingredients in his or her food.

  1. Propylene Glycol: is a moistening agent used in some dog foods and treats to help prevent moisture and helps the food to retain it’s texture and prevent bacteria from growing. The danger lies in the fact that it is derived chemically from Ethylene Glycol, a.k.a. Antifreeze which is highly toxic to animals. It has been shown to cause a serious type of blood disease known as Heinz body anemia.  Propylene Glycol has been banned by the FDA for use in cat food, but unfortunately is still allowed in dog food and treats and can be very harmful over long term use. 
  1. BHA:  Butylated Hydroxyanisole is an antioxidant that is used mostly as a preservative in food, animal feed, cosmetics, rubber and petroleum products.  It is recognized as a human carcinogen (cancer causing) and causes certain types of tumors.  BHA is used in certain pet foods and treats as a preservative to extend shelf life of the product.  As mentioned previously, the big concern is the long term use of products containing this carcinogenic preservative to our pets daily in their diets.
  1. BHT:  Butylated Hydroxytoluene is a chemical used as a preservative to prevent fats and oils in pet foods from spoiling prematurely.  Like BHA, BHT extends shelf life but of the fat within the food product.  As horrifying as it sounds, the reality is that BHT is also used in cosmetics, petroleum products, jet fuels, and yes, even embalming fluid.  The use of BHT has become very controversial and is suspect of causing cancerous tumors.  BHT has been banned as a preservative in foods in several countries including Australia, Japan, Sweden and Romania. Once again, the concern in using a food long term for our pets containing BHT is monumental and should be avoided.  
  1. Dyes:  Coloring for eye appeal of pet foods.    
  1. TBHQ: Tertiary Butylhydroquinone is a form of Butane that is used to make varnish and resins.
  1. Ethoxyquin is often used in meal products and is sometimes hidden from the list of ingredients.  This is technically a pesticide and has been linked to cancer.
  1. Sodium Metabisulphite is a bleaching agent found in many pet foods.
  1. Meat By-Products/Rendered Fat are usually organs and tissues obtained from dead animals.  Often these By products are road kill, dead zoo animals and even euthanized pets from animal shelters.
  1. Corn and Soy are used as fillers.  These are popular main ingredients in pet foods, especially dog foods as a thickener and to cut cost. Corn and Soy are plentiful in the United States are most often genetically modified in addition to being sprayed with potentially cancer causing chemicals like those used in insecticides.  The most interesting fact about these widely used ingredients are that they are foreign to what is natural in the dog/cat carnivorous diet, yet often used as a main ingredient.
  1. Sorbitol and Xylitol are basically sugar alcohol.  These are ingredients that should NEVER be fed to your pet.  In addition to causing hypoglycemia, they are linked to causing life threatening liver disease.

Grain Free Diet Controversy:

While there has never been any conclusive evidence with investigations of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and grain free diets, there have been many associations to deaths of young adult dogs suddenly dying when eating a grain free diet.  DCM is a type of canine heart disease that affects the heart muscle where the heart can’t pump enough blood causing congestive heart failure.  The diets of concern that are being investigated contain legumes like peas or lentils, other legumes seeds or potatoes that are listed as main ingredients.  There are theories that the grain free diet deaths were more breed based and not so much the food ingredients.  In other words, certain breeds may be more prone to health issues from a grain free diet due to their genetic make up for DCM and other grain free diet health concerns.

Treats are no exception and many contain the dangerous preservatives and additives listed above.  

There are good preservatives (Natural) out there and most are some type of an anti-oxidant or vitamin.  By choosing to use the natural preservatives in a pet food it is possible to have the desired shelf life while also offering the additional benefits of anti-oxidants for pets.  Listed below are some of the more commonly used good preservatives.

  1. Forms of Vitamin C (including Ascorbic Acid)
  1. Rosemary (Extract)
  1. Sage (Extract)
  1. Cloves (Extract)
  1. Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols)

Our pets depend on us to protect them and keep them safe, to care for them and to be their voice.  Choosing a pet food should not have to be a dangerous mission and we all want the very best for our beloved furry friends.  Unfortunately the threats of impending danger does exist in the pet food marketing industry and we must diligently research and check the ingredients we allow our pets to ingest each and every day.  Many pet owners choose to make homemade diets for their furry family members.  This is a dedication to be admired, but great caution and much research should go into this task as it can very easily be an issue if too much of an ingredient or protein goes in or too little of this vitamin or needed mineral is used in the food preparation.  Talk to your trusted veterinarian and reach out to the customer care services of the pet food manufacturer of the specific food you are feeding your pet.  Ask questions and get answers about what is actually in your pet’s food.  This is time well spent and knowledge that will be priceless as it is keeping your precious family member safe while providing optimum nutrition.  To quote Sir Francis Bacon from 1597, “Knowledge Is Power”.  Stay in the know about your pet.  The reward is their longer, healthier life at your side.  It doesn’t get much better than that!! 

There is nothing more rewarding then the journey of pet ownership and the countless heartstring pulling moments that come with it.  I wish each of you and your pet Pawsitive Wags and Wiggles!! Stay Safe and Healthy Out There.  All The Best!! 

Cheri Craft


 Petcetera . . . Bringing People And Knowledge Together For Healthier Pets.

Thank you for stopping by and reading.

I hope you will drop in again for our next article coming soon . . .

The Incredible Edible Shroom: The Pawsitive Health Benefits of Adding Mushrooms To Your Pet’s Diet.

You can contact Cheri at Petcetera123@gmail.com

I have found this link helpful and they send notifications to you on any recalls or issues with pet foods.  https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com I recommend giving it a look.


Thank you to all listed links and writers that served as reference to this article.  Please be sure to read this selection of useful information that these writers put together.  

Pet Food: The Good, the Bad and the Healthy

By: Patrick Mahoney, Wellness Vet


Preservatives In Pet Foods


American Kennel Club

Diet, Safety, Health


Cat Food Ingredients To Avoid

By:  Franny Syufy


12 Toxic Ingredients Lurking In Dog Food

By:  Megan Patiry


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