Pet Food: What You Really Don’t Want In Their Bowl

You’ve recently made a trip to the grocery store as well as the pharmacists. Both times, when you picked up a food or beauty product, you made sure to read the ingredients lists. However, as you entered your home to be greeted by your four-legged furry best friend, the question stands: did you read the ingredients listed on the pet food before purchasing it?

If your answer is no, don’t freak out.

Before you lose it, wondering how it is that yet another aspect of your life needs to re-evaluated because of harmful ingredients, don’t stress. Like those of your skincare, makeup and recipes, we broke the ingredient system of pet food down for you and made sure you will know exactly what to look for.

Pet food is important and with so many different brands out there, it needs to become common practice for you to check the ingredients listed on their foods before buying. While there are plenty of foods out there that are great for your pet, you should opt for those that ensure the animal consumes a combination of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to meet their nutritional needs. However, many foods contain ingredients that are both toxic and dangerous. Some have even been listed as lethal for humans, which makes you wonder begs the question: why on earth would you feed it to an animal? Before you make your next trip to the pet store – be sure to  become well-versed in the following ingredients so that you can assure that your pet-pal gets the absolute best.

Added Colors

Artificial colors or dyes are sometimes used in pet foods and some of them have been banned in animal food due to them being possible carcinogens. Colours red #40, blue #2, yellow #5, yellow #6 and caramel coloring have all been linked to hypersensitivity reactions as well as behavioral problems in humans. This then begs the question of why you would want to feed that to your cat?

Animal by-products

If the list of aforementioned ingredients wasn’t enough, it turns out that food manufacturers regularly add food industry waste products to pet food. This is known as animal by-products.

These by-products are leftover products from meat product as they are often the internal remains of an animal – be it diseased or rotten tissues, organs and tumors or hooves, beaks, feathers and other waste. The true origin of these animal remains are also never truly known, which is why these by-products are not legally classified as meat. If the ingredient reads chicken by-product, it probably tastes like chicken, because it came from a dying chicken.

Aside from the questionable source, animal byproducts are hard to digest, thus they should be avoided.

Animal digest

Animal digest is, you guessed it, the waste from an animal’s stomach. It falls under the same category as animal by- product, which means that it can come from diseased, rotting, and dying animals. It’s added as an artificial flavoring despite providing no nutritional value.


Carrageenan is a seaweed-derived additive (that can be found in some cottage cheeses) that’s used to keep dog food moist. However, a one study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that carrageenan induces intestinal inflammation in animals. Best to avoid.

Chemical preservatives

Like human food, preservatives in dog food are a no-go area. Unfortunately, pet food and human foods don’t share the same regulations giving food manufacturers to plenty of freedom in regards to preservatives.

Read on for the most commonly used artificial preservatives.

  • Ethoxyquin

If it’s that hard to pronounce, is it worth it to put it in dog food? Aside from being banned in human food, ethoxyquin is also used in the manufacturing of both rubber and herbicide. With all these things considered, why wouldn’t you add it to pet food?

While it’s not toxic in small amounts, cumulative exposure to ethoxyquin can lead to kidney and liver damage, cancer of both the stomach and skin, immune deficiency syndrome, blindness, and leukemia.  


BHA and BHT are preservatives used to prevent food spoilage. These ingredients can be found in not just pet food but also in human food; most commonly in cereals, crackers, and granola bars. Unfortunately, these two preservatives are possible carcinogens and they’ve been linked to kidney and liver damage in rats. Moreover, it’s hard to digest, increasing the risk for food intolerances and allergies in dogs.


Fillers are foods that are used to add bulk to a product, although they provide no nutritional value.

One common filler is cellulose or powdered cellulose which is made from finely ground wood(sawdust). It’s used to prevent clumping and maintain the moisture balance yet it can also cause digestive problems.  One other common filler is wheat gluten which is a grain by-product and it’s used as a cheap protein source. One international pet food crisis that involved kidney failure and death in dogs and cats was linked back to wheat gluten that contained poisonous pieces of plastic.

Other fillers to avoid include:

  • Corn bran
  • Rice bran
  • Oat hulls
  • Cereal by-products
  • Soybean hulls
  • Cottonseed hulls
  • Peanut hulls
  • Rice hulls
  • Wheat mill run
  • Citrus pup
  • Modified corn starch
  • Corn gluten
  • Soybean meal


Added sugar is never a welcome ingredient in human food, so why would it be welcome in pet food?

Like human food, sugar is placed in pet food in hopes of improving the flavour. However, as dogs can’t digest refined sugars or artificial sweeteners, this addition can an lead to a range of health problems that include weight gain and diabetes. While common names for such sugars include fructose, sucralose, corn syrup and dextrose – the most common artificial sugars used in dog food is propylene glycol. Aside from sweetening the food, propylene glycol is also used retain the moisture and prevent bacteria growth.

Fun fact about propylene glycol – it is chemically derived from ethylene glycol (EG), most commonly known as antifreeze. Antifreeze is known to be very toxic to pets and yet it’s main ingredient is heavily present in most pet foods. Moreover, propylene glycol’s ability to retain the moisture and prevent bacteria growth.adds to the dog’s inability to digest it. Our feline friends needs both intestinal bacteria and moisture to help absorb and digest the food.

Health problems associated with propylene glycol include liver and heart failure, damage to the nervous system, cancerous lesions within their intestines and intestinal blockage.

So what’s the best food for your furry family member? Any food that doesn’t contain any of the ingredients listed above. Be sure to choose foods that contain whole foods ingredients, real meat protein, and natural preservatives. They’ll provide much nutritional value and they’re ensure that you’re not putting your furry pal’s health at risk.