6 Scary Ingredients in Pet Food: Dog Lovers Listen Up!


Dog lovers are a special breed (excuse the pun). Buying canine outfits, planning trips around the pups, and spending top dollar for the best in pet care. But unfortunately, no matter how much you value your dog, if you’re feeding them conventional pet food, you could be coming up short. Pet food can be loaded with scary ingredients that you would never feed your dog if you knew the sad truth.

1.  Feed grade versus human grade: Feed grade ingredients are lower quality than human grade ingredients and they have a higher allowance of allowable toxins. For example, feed grade ingredients can include “dead animals from farms, ranches, feedlots, marketing barns, animal shelters, and other facilities; and fats, grease, and other food waste from restaurants and stores.” (according to the National Agricultural Law Center). Gross.

2.  Pentobarbital: An anesthetic used to euthanize animals that has been found in dog food (as confirmed by FDA pet food testing). Again, when pet food is feed grade not human grade dead animals used in the feed may contain the anesthetic.

3.  BHA/BHT: These are two gross preservatives that we humans should avoid for ourselves and for our furry friends. Both preserve fats so that foods don’t go rancid by slowing the oxidation process. They can cause liver and kidney problems and they’re also possible carcinogens. In rats and mice, they cause circulatory, liver, thyroid, kidney, and lung problems.

Read more about food preservatives to avoid

4. Ethoxyquin: A chemical preservative that’s illegal in human foods but legal in pet food. This is a highly controversial additive that can have a negative impact on your pet’s liver.

5.  Food dyes: Animals don’t care what color their food is so food dyes in pet food are largely to please the dog owner, not the dog. But here’s the issue, just like artificial food dyes aren’t great for humans, they’re not good for dogs either. Artificial food dyes found in pet food may include Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5, and 6. Yellow 6, for example, has been linked to kidney and intestinal tumors. One study found mice fed high doses of Yellow 6 couldn’t swim straight.

6. Rendered fat: Often added to dog food, it can be a source of food borne illness like salmonella and toxins like heavy metals.

Read more about healthy homemade dog treats

Pet Food Shopping List

  • Natural preservatives (Vitamin C/E) or no preservatives
  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • Human-grade ingredients
  • Also, follow pet food recalls just as you would food recalls because in the last few years, there have been a number of them. Reasons for recalls include salmonella contamination and mislabeling.

Image via sacks08



By Sara Novak| August 24, 2015
Categories:  Care

About the Author

Sara Novak

Sara Novak

Sara Novak specializes in health and food policy writing for Discovery Health. Her work has also been featured on TreeHugger, HowStuffWorks.com, TLC Cooking, and Animal Planet. After graduating from the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, Sara headed up the communication efforts for a national scholarship program in Washington, D.C. Sara has also handled copy writing and public relations for a global environmental consulting firm. She loves fiddling with healthful recipes, traveling, and exploring life atop her yoga mat. Today, Sara lives in Charleston with her husband and two lovable cocker spaniels, Madison and Bella.

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