When it comes to choosing dog food, it’s vital to know what ingredients you should avoid. Although many dogs will hoover up almost anything that you put beneath their noses, that doesn’t mean that they should be eating any old food. In addition, don’t simply assume that all human food can be shared with your canine buddy. Here are the key ingredients that should always try to exclude when selecting dog food, along with explanations that will help you understand the risks.
If you’re keen on making dog food from scratch then it can be difficult to find onion-free gravies. In addition, some dog food manufacturers still include onions in many of their products. However, it’s worth going to the extra trouble to help your pet avoid this ingredient, as regular onion consumption can change the red blood cells in a way that increases the risk of anemia. If a case of anemia becomes serious enough, the lack of appropriate oxygen delivery can lead your dog to develop chronic lethargy, paler gums, weakened limbs, and a racing heart.
Dogs have no need for added sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, sugar, sorbitol and xylitol. In addition to contributing no obvious nutritional value, many of these ingredients can cause dramatic blood sugar changes in your pet and are strongly linked to weight gain. When your dog is overweight, he is more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke, and more likely to develop some form of cardiovascular disease. Artificial sweeteners (e.g. xylitol and sorbitol) may even be poisonous to your dog. Further, sugar promotes tooth decay in animals just like it does in humans, and tooth decay increases the chances of oral infections (and even abscesses).
Typically found in lower quality dog foods, ethoxyquin is a preservative that started its life as an herbicide. Some studies suggest that this ingredient increases cancer risk, immune system problems, thyroid gland dysfunctions, infertility and renal failure. Other research claims to show that ethoxyquin is perfectly safe ingredient, but while the jury is out it’s smart to err on the side of caution.
Since most dog food contains meat, you’d be forgiven for seeing “animal fat” on a label and thinking that this ingredient looks acceptable. However, the potential dangers are linked to the regulations surrounding the way the term can be used. In particular, “animal fat” can be used to refer to fat from any animal, regardless of the source. This means that your dog is not necessarily eating the product of slaughter. Rather, he could be eating part of road kill, a euthanized animal or a creature that naturally died from disease. If you want to ensure that your dog gets high quality meat, only buy products that clearly state the sources.
Dogs do need a certain amount of salt in their diets, but if you see “salt” as an added ingredient on a dog food label then you should consider this a warning sign that the food isn’t of a very good quality. Some manufacturers will heap extra salt into their foods in order to encourage dogs to eat bland or even unpleasant meals. However, a diet that is high in salt may lead to higher blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease, heart attacks and strokes. Salty foods also make the kidneys work harder.
Dogs should never have a chance to eat raw dough that contains live yeast cultures, so keep your pet out of the kitchen if you’re baking. The stomach is the perfect place for yeast cultures to reproduce, so even a small piece of dough can end up swelling until it’s so large that it damages your dog’s body. In the worst case scenario, blood flow to the stomach is partially cut off, damaging the tissue. In addition, the swelling can put pressure on the lungs and lead to respiratory distress. Large quantities of yeast cultures can even give your dog alcohol poisoning, as alcohol is produced when these cultures breed. Dogs with alcohol intoxication may experience vomiting, fits and potentially fatal comas.
A potent solvent is sometimes added to dog food to improve the shelf life of semi-moist kibble, it’s important to note that this very same liquid is often found in antifreeze solution. It can poison dogs if eaten in suitably large quantities. Research on propylene glycol further suggests it could lead to irreversible damage to the kidneys, liver and brain.
People used to regularly feed candy to their dogs, but this is now widely recognized as a profoundly dangerous practice. In fact, chocolate (no matter the type) is toxic to dogs. If only a little chocolate is consumed, your pet might experience one or two episodes or vomiting or diarrhea. However, larger amounts can lead to potentially fatal arrhythmias or fits.
Beef and bone meal
Another ingredient that initially sounds accepting, beef and bone meal actually comes from the bits of slaughtered cows that are not considering fit for human consumption. It is cheap to obtain and can help to bulk up dog food, so manufacturers sometimes use it to cut corners and save money. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to have much nutritional value, and could contain absolutely any part of a cow. Choose high quality protein sources like cuts of meat that would also been deemed safe for humans.
Raisins and grapes
Finally, there is a great deal of confusing surrounding the reasons why raisins and grapes are so hazardous to dog health, but they should certainly be avoided at all costs. There are many documented cases of both of these foods leading to renal failure in dogs, causing symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, lack of urination and sometimes come or death. The dogs that survive this devastating kidney crisis usually end up with lifelong damage that removes years from their life expectancies, and these dogs typically need prescription foods and medications for the rest of their days.