Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Preservatives to Avoid in Dog (Cat) Food and Treats – Unsafe, Toxic, Carcinogenic…

In this article…

  • Preservatives (used in pet food) that are seriously detrimental to your dog’s, cat's health - negatively impacting your animal's quality of life, and shortening life-span; 
  • Uses and dangerous side effects of these chemical-based preservatives.

1.0 Six Chemical-Based Preservatives You
      Need to Get Out of Your Dog's Diet

  1. BHA
  2. BHT
  3. Ethoxyquin
  4. Sodium Metabisulfite
  5. Propyl Gallate
  6. TBHQ

If you are feeding your dog or cat food or treats that include these preservatives – I recommend that you throw the product out and replace it ASAP with a product that is free of these chemicals…

The properties that make these six chemicals ‘good’ preservatives are also responsible for serious health issues in dogs and cats (other animals and humans!)

The seven preservatives noted above are chemical-based preservatives that can be found in many of the dog and cat foods and treats sold in…

  • Veterinarian Offices;
  • Pet Food Stores;
  • Grocery Stores, and;
  • Large Retail Stores such as Walmart.
These preservatives are added to ‘edible’ fats and fat-containing foods to prevent oxidative rancidity of fats and preserve odor, colour and flavour of a product.  
These preservatives are very popular with Dog and Cat Food Companies as these chemical preservatives are:
  • Inexpensive, and;
  • Readily available and thereby enable and support high profit margins.

Do pet food manufacturers have to use these chemical based preservatives?  


But non-organic chemical-based preservatives are considerably cheaper than safe, healthy natural preservatives such as herbs (i.e. rosemary and sage), vitamins (i.e. vitamin E and C). Dehydration is also a way of naturally preserving food (i.e. pure, natural dehydrated chicken jerky), but dehydration reduces the volume of the product – so the manufacturer must either accept a lower profit margin or charge more for the product.

Chemical-based preservatives are of particular importance for companies that use rancid fats - for example pet food companies that purchase previously used fats from restaurants;

  • These fats are cheap and readily available and although not allowed in human grade foods are allowed in pet food;
  • This is also true for rancid meats etc. that cannot be used in human grade food, but are allowable in pet food;
  • When the manufacturer adds chemical–based preservatives such as BHA, BHT etc.:
    • The well-meaning, uninformed loving pet owner won’t smell how rotten the ingredients in the food really are, and;
    • The loving pet owner has no idea that they are exposing their loved pet to a whole host of ailments and an early death.

In the mid 20th century (1950’s) the life-span of companion animals was twice what it is today…before the popularization of processed foods and associated food additives.

2.0 Uses and Dangerous Side Effects 

BHA (Butylated Hydoxyanisole)

is used as a preservative/stabilizer in:
  • Human and Pet Food
  • Packaging preservative, and
  • As a yeast de-foaming agent during food manufacturing
 Examples of Health Issues Caused/Triggered by BHA
  • Adversely effects brain function
  • Adversely effects behaviour
  • Allergies
  • Cancer – Liver and Stomach
  • Cell abnormality
  • Increased liver weight
  • As a toxin stored in fat BHA can definitely contribute to the formation of Fatty Tumors
BHA is a bioaccumulative substance (absorbed by the body at a faster rate than it can be eliminated by the body) - as a result it contributes to ongoing toxic loading of the body.

BHT (Butylated Hydoxytoluene)

BHT is used as a preservative/stabilizer in:
  • Human and Pet Food
  • Cosmetics
  • Electronic Transformers
  • Embalming Fluid
  • Packaging
  • Jet Fuel and other engine fuels and oils
  • Petroleum products
  • Pesticides
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Rubber
  • Soaps and detergents
BHT is a bioaccumulative substance (absorbed by the body at a faster rate than it can be eliminated by the body) - as a result it contributes to ongoing toxic loading of the body.

Examples of Health Issues Caused/Triggered by BHT
  • Biochemical and/or cellular level change
  • Allergies;
  • Endocrine (hormone) disruption
  • Cancer – liver and kidney
  • Developmental toxicity
  • Fatty Tumors
  • Thyroid disruption


The other preservatives discussed in this article – if present in a dog or cat food/treat WILL be listed in that food item’s ingredient list.

Ethoxyquin is different than the other preservatives as you will NOT SEE ethoxyquin listed on the ingredients;

The reason for this exclusion from the ingredient list is that ethoxyquin is not added directly to the food or treat;
  • It is instead added to one of the ingredients in the food or treat product – specifically ethoxyquin is the preservative that is added to fish meal.
  • While not all companies use fish meal that contains ethoxyquin – most do! 
  • Ethoxyquin is a lethel pesticide.
Ethoxyquin is an anti-oxidant used as a food preservative and a pesticide (called ‘Stop-Scald’). It is listed and identified as a hazardous chemical by OHSA. It has a rating of 3 on a scale of 1 to 6; with 6 indicating super-toxicity and requiring less than 7 drops to cause death. The containers that Ethoxyquin is stored and shipped in are marked with the word/symbol ‘POISON’. The US Department of Agriculture lists and controls Ethoxyquin as a pesticide.

Examples of Health Issues Caused/Triggered by Ethoxyquin
  • Allergic reactions
  • Behaviour problems
  • Bladder cancer, it has also been shown to cause
  • Cancer of the kidneys
  • Deformity in puppies
  • Infertility;
  • Organ failure
  • Significantly increases the chance of stomach tumors
  • Skin problems

Ethoxyquin is a bioaccumulative substance (absorbed by the body at a faster rate than it can be eliminated by the body) - as a result it contributes to ongoing toxic loading of the body.

For more on Ethoxyquin – its use and dangers read here.

Sodium Metabisulfite
Is used as a preservative in:
  • Human and Pet Food
  • Wine
  • Bleaching agent used in textile, pulp and paper manufacturing
  • Also used in chemical, film (movie and photographs), pharmaceutical industries and water/sewage treatment
Examples of Health Issues Caused/Triggered by Sodium Metabisulfite
  • Inhaled:
    • Coughing, shortness of breath
    • Allergic, asthma-like reaction
  • Ingested:
    • Abdominal pains
    • Diarrhea;
    • Circulatory disturbance
    • Central nervous system depression
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting  
  • Sodium metabisulfite causes extreme allergic reactions in some sulfite-sensitive individuals (human, canine, feline) resulting in broncho-constriction, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, GIl disturbances, rapid swelling of the skin, flushing, tingling sensations and shock.

Propyl Gallate

Commonly used in combination with BHA and BHT in the following products:
  • Human and Pet Food
  • Adhesives
  • Hair products
  • Lubricants
  • Gum and candy, etc
Examples of Health Issues Caused/Triggered by Propyl Gallate
  • Endocrine (hormone) disruption
  • Cancer causing
  • Thyroid tumors
  • Brain tumors
  • Pancreatic tumors
  • Adrenal tumors
  • Prostate inflammation

TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone)

TBHQ  is sometimes combined with BHT, but may also be used alone as a preservative in the following products;
  • Human and Pet food
  • Cosmetics
  • Skin care products
  • Lacquers, Resins and Varnish
  • Explosives
Examples of Health Issues Caused/Triggered by TBHQ
  • Asthma
  • Cancer (stomach cancer)
  • Cellular level change causing DNA damage
  • Collapse
  • Delirium
  • Dermatitis
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Hyperactivity
  • Nausea
  • Rhinitis
  • Restlessness
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Vomiting

Legal Cruelty and Abuse

I must admit that I find it strange - we have laws to protect our companion animals from cruelty and abuse perpetrated by an individual, but we allow and pay pet food manufactures to slowly kill our pet companions. 

An illogical situation if it were not for the human condition of greed - which then explains the reason for such extreme lack of ethics and morals as exhibited by the pet food industry. 

Man'kind' is not.

Holistic Support

Holistic Wellness Services and Holistic Behaviorist Services 

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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld 


  1. Highly informative, great article! Thank you so much, people need to see this info!

  2. We and our pets are consuming chemicals used for RUBBER and EXPLOSIVES?!?!!
    Thank you so much for this article.
    My puppy was eating some of this...
    Also I was wondering if Propylene Glycol is bad for dogs (and/or people)

    1. Yes propylene glycol is bad for dogs and people...here are some other products were it is used - and should not be!...



      Cheers, Karen

  3. I have been making homemade dog cookie treats using coconut flour, oats, manuka honey, eggs, coconut oil, cheese or peanut butter. My maltese has been suffering from bad skin and ear problems for months now and after reading info on this website I decided grains are partly to blame. So, today I decided to do the recipe minus the oats. I was just reading the back of the coconut flour bag while my oven was heating up and was horrified to read it has sodium metabisulfites!


Important Note

1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Alternative Medicines:

Safe use of items and protocols in the article above, is your sole responsibility.

Foods, herbs and alternative medicines have health issue, condition and conventional drug interactions. Safe use of all substances and protocol are your responsibility.

Before you use any substance or protocol do your research. Check for cautions, contradictions, interactions and side effects. Do not use substances or protocols not suitable to your animal's individual circumstances.

If your animal has an underlying condition substances and protocols may conflict.

2.0 Definition of Holistic…

Food, herbs, alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’.

If you use a ‘natural’ substance (ie. an herb) you are using a natural substance, not a holistic substance.

Holistic is not defined by use of one or several substances. Holistic is an approach.

Definition of “holistic” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press


"relating to the whole of something or to the total system instead of just to its parts"

"Holistic medicine attempts to treat the whole person, including mind and body, not just the injury or disease."

Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that health, and well-being.

3.0 Expectation a natural substance remedies a health or behavioral situation.

A natural substance used to treat symptoms. But, if factors causing the underlying issue remain you do not have a remedy.

Remedy requires a comprehensive approach. It is necessary to identify root cause. Remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues. Holistic approach includes design, implementation to treat, remedy and maintain long-term health.

4.0 Leave a Comment

I review all comments and publish those deemed appropriate for this site.

I answer questions deemed appropriate when I have time to do so.

Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

Karen Rosenfeld
Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats