The great majority of processed pet foods contain chemical additives of one sort or another.
And many of these have been associated with ill-effects on health in both dogs and cats.
They are generally added for the following reasons - which benefit producers, not pets.
- Aid the manufacturing process (lubricants, anti-caking agents etc).
- Maximise profit (cellulose fillers and other cheap bulking agents).
- Enable nutritional claims to be made - such as advertising a food as 'complete' (synthetic vitamins, minerals, trace elements etc)
- Improve product appeal (artificial preservatives, flavourings, colourings etc)
The list of additives commonly used below is not complete, but serves as a useful guide as to what to look out for and avoid, if you want to feed your pet as natural a diet is possible, and avoid ingredients in the diet which:
- provide little or no nourishment
- are of questionable safety
- have been linked to significant and sometimes serious problems in dogs and cats
The only way to confirm that a pet food (kibble, tinned, cold-pressed and others) is 100% natural and completely additive free is to check the label for your self.
Many products described as 'natural, 'additive-free', 'no nasties''no artificial ingredients' and even 'organic' will have synthetic vitamins, minerals and other ingredients included. These are frequently listed under misleading headings such as 'nutritional additives', 'extra / added vitamins and minerals' because current pet food manufacturing legislation allows this.
Because these foods are designed to deliver a carefully constructed nutritional profile, they rely heavily on synthetic ingredients and food groups which are problematical for many pets, such as grains. A much healthier alternative for many dogs (not all) is a fresh food diet specially tailored with the health issue present in mind.
ADDITIVES TO AVOID
- titanium oxide
Fillers (Bulking Agents)
These are indigestible to dogs and cats, and so go in one end and come out the other largely unchanged.
- cellulose (plant cell walls)
- silica (mainly found in rocks and sand)
- silicon dioxide (as above)
- microcrystalline cellulose (plant cell walls)
- propylene glycol – closely related to ethylene glycol the main component of anti-freeze (used to keep food moist and improve consistency / flavour)
- carboxymethyl cellulose (can cause intestinal inflammation and cancer)
- carrageenan (which includes poligeenan, can cause intestinal inflammation and cancer)
- cassia gum
- magnesium stearate (used to facilitate the manufacturing process and can affect the immune system)
- stearic acid (as above)
- butylated hydroxyanilose – BHA (carcinogenic)
- butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
- calcium propionate (can cause gastric irritation)
- ethoxyquin (can damage DNA)
- sodium benzoate (can convert to benzene, a known carcinogen)
- sodium propionate (can cause gastric irritation)
Synthetic Amino Acids
Made in the laboratory or by manufacturing plants, not by Nature.
- lysine hydrochloride
Synthetic Minerals And Trace Elements
Typically manufactured using industrial strength acids on rocks.
- cobaltous carbonate monohydrate
- calcium carbonate (chalk)
- calcium iodate anhydrous
- cupric chelate of amino acids hydrate
- cupric sulphate pentahydrate (used as a pesticide)
- calcium pantothenate
- falcium sulphate (‘Plaster of Paris’)
- ferrous chelate of a amino acids hydrate
- ferrous sulphate monohydrate
- iron sulfate
- manganese chelate of amino acids hydrate
- manganese oxide
- manganous sulphate monohydrate
- monodicalcium phosphate
- potassium chloride
- potassium iodide
- sodium chloride
- sodium hexametaphosphate
- sodium selenite
- zinc chelate of amino acids hydrate
- zinc oxide
- zinc sulphate monohydrate
These are never found individually in Nature where natural vitamins occur as biological complexes which the body has learnt to recognise over millions of years of evolution.
- folic acid
- vitamin A (as retinyl acetate)
- vitamin B1
- vitamin B2
- vitamin B6
- vitamin B12
- vitamin C
- vitamin C Monophosphate
- vitamin D3 Supplement
- vitamin E
- vitamin D3 (as cholecalciferol)
- vitamin E (as alpha tocopherol acetate)
- vitamin K
chondrotin from battery chickens or sharks
A Word On Soy
Soybean in many forms is being added to more and more pet foods, supplements and treats.
Far from being the naturally fermented version however, which takes many months to produce and has provided a wide range of health benefits to generations of people, most modern soy is factory processed and ready for use within days. This is used by pet food companies to boost protein levels and add bulk.
More and more information however, is coming to light which suggests that this widely used ingredient is not as healthy as is made out to be for pets:
- increased thyroid gland activity in cats
- phytoestrogens in soy may influence endocrine function in dogs
- isoflavone content of commercially available feline diets in New Zealand
Dogs and cats are evolved to thrive on animal not plant protein, and for this reason feeding high quality meat, bone and offal as the core diet is best.
And adding additional, natural sources of health-promoting nutrients to ensure the diet is healthy, balanced and complete, is the most effective way of promoting and maintaining optimum health for as long as possible.