We hear a lot about the dangers of feeding dogs a diet that contains grains and byproducts. While the debate continues over these ingredients, there are some that are a bigger threat that many dog owners are unaware of. A number of additives are added to get dog food to look or perform in a certain way. They have no nutritional value and some are known to cause health problems. These harmful dog food ingredients are even more dangerous to seniors that may have a compromised immune system and a greater risk of developing health conditions.
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)/ Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) – These ingredients are used as a preservative in both human and dog food. Although similar, BHT is the more potent of the two and both can cause kidney damage. Both BHA and BHT can cause cancer.
- Rendered Fat – Rendered fat is added to kibble as a flavor enhancer. If the kibble gets moist, microorganisms found in the fat can grow. It can also contain other toxins including heavy metal.
- Propylene Glycol (PG) – PG is a synthetic ingredient that is approved by the FDA for use in food, medications, and cosmetics to prevent them from becoming moist. A lot of controversy has come about because of the use of the synthetic liquid in electric cigarettes. Scariest of all, PG is an ingredient in antifreeze. In dog food, propylene glycol is used to reduce moisture and prevent the growth of bacteria. It is sometimes added for extra sweetness as well. PG can lead to cancerous lesions of the intestine or create intestinal blockages. Senior dogs often have digestive issues that can be further exacerbated by consuming this ingredient. In higher amounts, PG can cause depression of the central nervous system and lactic acidosis. Dog owners should also note that PG is not permitted for use in cat food and treats as even small amounts are lethal. Cats who like to sneak a bit of the dog’s dinner dish could be at severe risk of PG poisoning.
- Food Dyes – The reason for using dye in any type of food is obvious; to change its appearance. Dogs hardly care what color their food is as long as it tastes and smells appealing. Adding some food dyes can lead to allergies, behavioral problems, and even cancer. Caramel color in specific has become a recent concern since it contains an ingredient known to be an animal carcinogen. There is just no need to add harmful dog food ingredients like these to dog food when all it does is make it more attractive to humans.
- Corn Syrup – Corn syrup is often used to give dog food a sweet taste. The last thing a senior dog needs is added sugar and calories that can interfere with weight management. Enough of this
- Ethoxyquin – This ingredient is used as a fat preservative in dog food but it was originally developed for use as an herbicide and in the production of rubber. The ingredient has been associated with a wide range of cancers in dogs including leukemia. It also has a connection to immune deficiency syndrome, allergic reactions, skin problems, organ failure, and blindness. While nearly every symptom associated with Ethoxyquin is based on belief and not proof, some brands of dog food have stopped using the ingredient partially or altogether in their dog foods. Also, the division of the FDA responsible for dog food has requested a lower maximum allowed for this use.
When dogs become seniors, they have different nutritional requirements. They also become more susceptible to all kinds of irritants, allergens, and carcinogens. Although dogs of all ages are susceptible to these toxic ingredients, a senior dog is more likely to be harmed the most.
When focusing on what constitutes harmful dog food ingredients for your dog, it’s easy to look at those that you have heard the most about. As you can see, it is often those that blend into the ingredient list that cause the greatest concern. Even when you know what to look for, some toxic ingredients may not be listed on the label. If they were added to the ingredients before the dog food manufacturer used them, then they weren’t “added” during the manufacturing process.
The best way to avoid feeding harmful dog food ingredients to your dog is to research the manufacturer and find out their practices. A good place to start is by choosing a company that makes their dog food in the United States. Beyond that, they should resource the ingredients from the US as well.
Also, check out the ingredients on all of the treats you give your dog. Many of the harmful dog food ingredients listed here are used frequently in treats as well as dog food. When choosing dog food for your senior dog, consider organic food and treats that are all-natural and chemical-free. Also, find a formula that is specifically for seniors to ensure your dog is getting all the nutrition he needs and none of the harmful ingredients that he doesn’t.