What Is in Dog Food?

By Ryan Lawrence
Special Contributor to Special Features
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  • Good health is a major concern for most dog and cat owners; however, few give consideration to the most fundamental factor that contributes to a pet's well-being. Make no mistake; the food your pet eats goes a long way toward determining the quality and longevity of his or her life. Unfortunately, very few people know what is in dog food, these days, and even less take the time to find out. Before you fill your pet's bowl with something you pulled from the shelves at your local grocer, learn the possible risks associated with manufactured pet food and discover alternatives that can prevent illness and promote better long-term health.

    Standards and Regulations

    Pet food labeling is standardized by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. While the AAFCO does not regulate pet food manufacturing, it does provide standards and regulations followed closely by pet food manufacturers in the by United States. That being said, the AAFCO is significantly influenced by outside corporate influences.

    Ingredients and Additives

    So, what is in dog food, these days? The proportion of vegetable and grain ingredients used in pet food has drastically risen over the years, because these products are easier to come by and demand less overhead. These days, plant products have replaced a large portion of the meat once used in early commercial dog and cat food products. Initially, this led to deadly nutritional deficiencies; however, manufacturers combatted this problem by artificially adding vitamins and minerals that bolster the nutritional content of their pet foods.

    In addition to these ingredients, manufacturers incorporate a host of chemicals intended to improve the appearance, taste, stability and texture of the food. These chemical additives add no nutritional value; instead, they are only intended to make the product look more appealing to the consumer and retard the decomposition process, so the product will last longer on store shelves.

    When you feed manufactured per food to your dog or cat, you're not just providing him or her with calories and protein, you're exposing the animal to a hoard of undesirable chemicals, including antigelling agents, anticaking agents, petroleum-based color additives, curing agents, emulsifiers, antimicrobial agents, palatants, grinding agents, lubricants, leavening agents, preservatives, pelleting agents, binders, sweeteners, stablizers, texturizers, thickeners, pH control agents and more. In short: you are subjecting your pet's body to elements it was never meant to ingest.

    Potential Dangers of Preservatives

    If you want to know what is in dog foodTo generate maximum profit, manufacturers need to prolong the shelf life of their product to prevent significant monetary loss due to spoilage. Unfortunately, because pet food is heavily fortified with animal fat, it is prone to relatively quick decay due to bacterial infestation. To combat this, pet food makers use a significant amount of the latest synthetic preservatives. The most commonly used include butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), ethoxyquin, propyl gallate, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and propylene glycol--a chemical also used as automotive antifreeze. Though these chemicals are federally approved for use in pet food, they've undergone very little testing. Reasonable minds can easily conclude that, over time, problems will present themselves if they haven't already; as in the case of propylene glycol which is allowed for use in dog food but banned in cat food, because it is proven to cause anemia in felines.

    Clinical tests have proven that ethoxyquin, BHT and BHA may have the ability to cause certain forms of cancer; however, they're still allowed in pet food. In 1996, the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine required ethoxyquin’s manufacturer, Monsanto, to perform new studies on the chemical due to suspicious data in previous studies that showed no significant toxicity. Though Monsanto's new in-house tests yielded similar results, the FDA requested that pet food manufacturers voluntarily lower allowable ethoxyquin levels by half due to expressed concern by veterinarians and pet food critics who believe that ethoxyquin is a significant cause of skin issues, disease and infertility in pets.