Ingredients in Dog Food - Additives to Avoid - Part 1


Reading a typical dog food label can leave most pet owners feeling mentally exhausted.

Once you are past the recognizable ingredients in dog food (which says nothing about their quality) you are often left with various chemical components, which can be difficult to pronounce and decipher: BHA, BHT, propylene glycol, propyl gallate, ethoxquin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, dl methionine, and so on.

To assess every ingredient in your pet’s food would require several pages of explanation, and would be about as fun to read as an actual dog food label. Thus, in this article, I will only highlight very specific additives that should be avoided.

Some Important Caveats

Before jumping in, I wanted to share two important items:

1) First, I am a huge, huge fan of feeding your dog a diet of homemade recipes. Testimony after testimony confirms the dramatic changes that occur in dogs when owners make the switch from commercial to homemade recipes. However, since not everyone is inclined to prepare meals for their pets, then the next best option is to be aware of the ingredients in your pet’s food.

2) Secondly, we should have a healthy skepticism regarding the ingredients in dog food, but not an overstimulated one. Not everything that has a strange-sounding name is harmful or even potentially dangerous. Pyridoxine hydrochloride, for example, is simply another name for vitamin B6. We should be informed consumers not easily scared ones.

Some Additives to Avoid

All right then, the five additives that you should avoid in pet food are: BHA, BTA, ethoxquin, propylene glycol and propyl gallate. Many dog food rating systems will downgrade any food that contains these ingredients.

In this first article, we will concentrate on BHA & BHT together, since they have similar functions. Let’s take a closer look at each:

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) & BHT (butylated hydroxytolulene)

BHA and BHT are antioxidants used to keep the fat additives in pet food from becoming rancid. (Again, we will set aside this unpleasant notion of having to spray fat on dog food to make it taste good.)

The U.S. National Institute of Health reports that BHA is reasonably expected to be a human carcinogen. (See Report on Carcinogens, CAS No. 25013-16-5) In high doses, it has been linked to cancer in rats and hamsters. Thus far, BHA remains on the FDA’s Generally Accepted As Safe list (GRAS).

BHT is a controversial ingredient, which has been linked to elevated cancer risks (See Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)”, IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, 1986;40:161-206.)

Both BHA and BHT have been banned as food additives in many countries for decades.


Even this cursory review of these preservatives should give any dog lover pause when feeding their pet a steady diet of processed commercial pet food.

As I continue to mention, homemade recipes put you in charge of the ingredients in your dog food and will steer you clear of so many damaging additives. But barring that, it is imperative that you read your dog food labels and avoid the above-mentioned chemicals.

Kent Simmons believes that homemade dog food recipes are the best thing that ever happened to your dog!

For more great information on ingredients in dog food, visit

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