Preservatives in Dog Food – The Good and the Bad

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imageFor this week’s Tasty Tuesday post, we will discuss the use of preservatives in commercial dog food.  Let me say up front that I wish that preservatives were not even needed—our belief is that you want to feed your dog (and yourself) things that contain as few unnatural additives as possible and as close to their natural state as possible.  However, given the way that the industry operates as of today, they are generally necessary to keep the products fresh and safe for consumption.

Why Preservatives?

Excuse me in advance for stating the obvious here.  Preservatives are used to extend the shelf life of the dog food products.  Indeed, because the industry, for the most part ships products in large, non-refrigerated packages, the time it takes from product packing to consumer use could be measured in many months if not longer!  Without some type of preservative, the food will likely go bad, this, they are inherently necessary!  Yes, we could launch into a side conversation here which asks the questions, why do we do things this way and why can’t we reduce our dog food production, purchase and consumption cycle so that we don’t need (as many) preservatives.  But let’s leave that for another day as that is a more revolutionary concept 😉

The Good and the Badno chemicals

Like other dog food ingredients, preservatives come in various forms.  Some are natural and can actually provide health benefits.  Many are artificial and provide nothing nutritional at best and at worst are chemicals that you probably don’t want your dog to ingest.

Good Preservatives

Most natural preservatives are some form of anti-oxidant / vitamin.  Thus, using these as preservatives kill two birds with one stone—they both extend the product’s shelf life and add the benefits of anti-oxidants (e.g anti-inflammatory) as well.  Commonly used natural preservatives include:

  • Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E)
  • Forms of Vitamin C including Ascorbic Acid and Ascorbyl Palmitate (note- ascorbate denotes vitamin-c)
  • Rosemary (and extract)
  • Sage (and extract)
  • Clove (and extract)


Bad Preservatives

On the other hand, there are many artificial preservatives that are still being used in pet food.   Some of these are banned for human consumption and even linked to cancer.  Here is a list of some of the common ones to avoid.

  • Ethoxyquin – this is a pesticide and has been linked to cancer
  • Propylene glycol- this is an ingredient in anti-freeze
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – both are suspected of being cancer causing.
  • Tertiary Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ )- a form of butane that is used to make varnish and resins
  • Sodium Metabisulphite- a bleaching agent

To me, it is a no brainer to choose the natural route.  Heck, I can’t even pronounce most of the items on the ‘bad’ list.  Check your food ingredient list- use our widget (on the sidebar), our app, or just read the label.

We’re joining the Tasty Tuesday Blog Hop sponsored by Sugar, the Golden Retriever and Kolchak from Kol’s Notes:

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  1. Egads–fortunately Sage’s food has none of the bad stuff (Acana)!
    Sage recently posted…B & W Sunday: A Study in RedMy Profile

  2. Fantastic Info, Its so important to read the bag and know what u r reading

    urban hounds
    urban hounds recently posted…Tasty Tuesday-Ping’s Healthy Liver DietMy Profile

  3. Great article! My general rules of thumb: natural is best and if I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want it in food!
    Sue at Talking Dogs recently posted…Halo Healthsome Dog Treats from | Product ReviewMy Profile

  4. We are no longer reading your Tues. posts when we get up at 6, they are now after breakfast as we need to really think! From what we can tell we are good on the preservatives, no bad ones. Too bad preservatives don’t help us live longer and do more the opposite!
    emma recently posted…Cruisin’ and Love | GBGV | Monday MischiefMy Profile

  5. O hai! Jones uses the tocopherols and rosemary extract! WOOHOO! And a natural collagen casing for their sausages.
    Flea recently posted…Chickly Links, the Giveaway!My Profile

  6. Those are some pretty scary sounding chemicals.
    jan recently posted…A-Rod may be despised across the country, but this bat dog seems to like himMy Profile

  7. *spins in an astounded circle* One of those bad preservatives is also found in anti-freeze?!? Gee willy whiskers! That is horrifying. I am so glad we try and stick with the fresh foods…they usually have the mixed tocopherols and sometimes Rosemary (which we didn’t even know was considered a preservative until reading your post). Thanks for sharing this information!
    Oz the Terrier recently posted…Tasty Tuesday: Etta Says! Duck Meat TreatsMy Profile

  8. Great post! Have a great day!
    joann stancer recently posted…Tuesday’s TailsMy Profile

  9. Mama say I can’t eat anything I can’t spell! She uses rosemary all the time to preserve my treats but she didn’t know about sage. Are you sure cloves are ok?

    • Cloves are fine. There are some that think Garlic cloves are not good for dogs although our research indicates that it garlic is OK in small doses and that onions can cause more problems. We will do a little more digging on garlic vs. onions and report back!
      steve recently posted…Preservatives in Dog Food – The Good and the BadMy Profile

      • Oh I eat garlic cos mama say it actually safe and good for me. I thought you were talking about cloves you stick into hams for flavor. My bad!

        • Sorry I wasn’t very clear. I meant that cloves that are used as spice are both safe and act as preservatives. My comment on garlic was to point out that some folks think garlic (cloves) are bad for dogs.
          steve recently posted…Preservatives in Dog Food – The Good and the BadMy Profile

  10. Interesting post! I’m glad you pointed out that *some* preservatives are actually ok, instead of just saying all of them are bad. And better to eat food w/natural preservatives than food that has begun to spoil or mold.
    Amy recently posted…Tasty Tuesday Pinterest ExperimentMy Profile

    • Thanks Amy. We try to be balanced in our analysis. We can see why preservatives are used so until the industry changes to a more fresh food approach, we might as well use ‘healthy’ preservative agents.
      steve recently posted…Preservatives in Dog Food – The Good and the BadMy Profile

  11. We have a rule … if we can’t pronounce the ingredients we are not buying it. One of my treat bag have a (common) preservative (that can be pronounced) and it is stated on the ingredients in parenthesis() … every brand should do the same thing. Happy Tasty Tuesday. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar
    SUGAR: Golden Woofs recently posted…Elk Antler, A Good Natural ChewMy Profile

  12. I always think a good rule is that if you can’t pronounce it you shouldn’t eat it! But this is a super helpful list and a great reference. I’m pretty sure my guys’ food uses only preservatives from the good list, but you’ve got me thinking about Newt’s cat food… Off to research!
    Maggie recently posted…Emmett’s last day of pet therapyMy Profile

  13. Thanks for the great information.
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Am I A Senior Dog?My Profile

  14. Anti freeze? Yikes!! Thanks for telling us, I’m gonna have Mum check mine right now!

    Big wags,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂
    snoopy recently posted…Monday Mischief – It’s a Bear!My Profile

  15. This is great! Quick question, can preservatives also add weight? Since taking Titan of the Dasuquin soft chews, which had preservatives in them, he’s losing a little weight. Not sure if it’s preservative related or the fact that the Wag works so much better and he’s running more. Just thought I’d ask 😉
    Bren recently posted…It’s Time For A Little R&RMy Profile

    • I doubt that the preservatives are responsible for the weight change. After all, its really all about calories. The additional running is having an impact.

      For those who don’t know, Dasuquin is a joint supplement with Glucosamine and Chondroitin (among other things) that is used to help cartilage regenerate.
      steve recently posted…Wordless Wednesday 8-7-13My Profile

      • Thanks bunches! I didn’t think so but I guess because he is feeling better, he’s a tad more active! 😉
        Bren recently posted…It’s Time For A Little R&RMy Profile

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