Canine Health and Nutrition Information from Dr Ken Tudor.

Are Preservatives Harmful to Dogs?

Ken Tudor - Friday, January 22, 2016

Research Regarding Safety of PreservativesPreservatives are used in food products to decrease spoiling and increase the shelf life of food. There is no question that without them packaged and canned meat products would probably not exist. That is true for most of the packaged products in the middle isles and freezer section of the supermarket. Fresh meats, fruits and vegetables without preservatives are always in isles along the walls. But are these chemicals that make food convenient safe for our dogs? Are they safe for us? Honestly after all of these years of using preservatives in food, we still don’t know for sure. Here is what we know.



Synthetic Antioxidant Preservatives


Ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT and TBHQ are the most used and well know preservatives. They are strong antioxidants even at very low amounts in food. And they are extremely inexpensive to produce. Initially they were used in cosmetics, medications, petroleum and rubber to slow oxidation damage and increase the life of the product. These chemicals are very heat resistant so they are not inactivated by high heat necessary to make these products. The FDA has declared them safe in small quantities for use in foods to prevent oxidation and rancidity. Again they are ideal for dog food since it is made at extremely high temperatures. But are they safe?
Laboratory experiments suggest they might not be safe. Used in very high doses in mice and human cell cultures it has been found that they are linked to the development of cancer, asthma, liver problems and other toxic problems. The same results have not been shown to occur at amounts used in food. That is why they were given FDA approval and are used extensively in the dog food industry. But could repeated exposure over the years cause the problems that were found at higher doses? No one knows for sure and that is why natural preservatives have become popular additives to foods.


Natural Antioxidant Preservatives


Vitamins E and C, rosemary extract, marigold extract and citric acids are natural products that prevent food spoilage. They are as effective as synthetics and do not have any of the risk found with the synthetics. Then why don’t we use natural preservatives for all dog food?


They are very expensive to produce and they must be used in much greater quantities than synthetic preservatives. But more importantly, they are fragile and are inactivated at high temperatures. Dog food, canned and dry, is made at very high temperatures that will destroy large amounts of natural preservatives. That means even greater quantities must be used to ensure that some survive the heating process. The larger quantities increase the cost of dog food. The cost can be so great as to prevent some dog owners from purchasing naturally preserved dog food.


So what is the answer? For commercial dog food there is no good answer. Dog owners have to “pick their poison” between possibly unsafe less expensive food or safer, much more expensive food.


With homemade dog food, dog owners don’t have the same dilemma. Homemade dog food doesn’t need preservatives because it is prepared fresh and refrigerated for only 2-3 days. It can be frozen for up to a month. It can even last a year in the freezer if packaged with a vacuum seal. Dog owners worried about preservatives may wish to consider a homemade alternative for their dog.




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