Understanding Dog Food Additives: What Every Dog Owner Should Know

November 7, 2023 4 mins to read

As a dog owner, you want to give your furry friend the best, right? But sometimes, what’s in their food can be more harmful than helpful. I’m an integrative nutrition student and lover of both cats and dogs, so I can relate to your plight. I was able to take some of my knowledge, combined it with a bit of a research and compile this list of common preservatives and food additives found in dog food, that can be unhealthy and even downright dangerous for your pup.

1. Ethoxyquin

This preservative was first made to kill weeds, but it found its way into dog food. Sadly, it can damage cells in your dog’s body & has been linked to liver and kidney problems, even cancer, and skin issues.

Alt Names: May also be listed as Santoflex, Stop-Scald, or under its chemical name 6-ethoxy-1,2-dihydro-2,2,4-trimethylquinoline.

2. BHA and BHT

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) also can mess with the cells in your dog’s body. They could lead to liver disease & various cancers.

Alt Names: BHA Might be labeled as E320, BOA, or under its full chemical name butylated hydroxyanisole. BHT Can be referred to as E321, DBPC, or its full chemical name butylated hydroxytoluene.

3. Propylene Glycol

This is added to keep some dog foods moist, but it’s not great for your dog. It can lead to anemia, this is basically a condition where there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells.

Alt Names: Sometimes listed as 1,2-propanediol, propane-1,2-diol, or E1520.

4. Artificial Colors

Colors like Blue 2, Red 40, and others might make dog food look nicer, but they can hurt your dog’s brain health and performance, and even cause cancer.

Alt Names: These can be tricky, as they often go by their specific color names such as FD&C Blue No. 2 (Blue 2), FD&C Red No. 40 (Red 40), or FD&C Yellow No. 5 and 6.

5. Sodium Hexametaphosphate

This is found in dental treats and can cause kidney issues because of how it affects minerals and mineral balance in your dog’s body.

Alt Names: Might be listed as Calgon, SHMP, or its full chemical name sodium polymetaphosphate.

6. Sodium Nitrite/Nitrate

These are used to keep meat looking fresh, but they can turn into harmful substances called nitrosamines, which are well known to cause cancer.

Alt Names: Look for names like Chile saltpeter, nitrite salt, or nitrate salt.


Tertiary Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) can damage DNA and has been linked to stomach tumors in animals.

Alt Names: Could be labeled as tert-butylhydroquinone or E319.

8. Glyceryl Monostearate

Used to help mix ingredients together, it’s not super toxic but can cause liver and kidney problems if your dog eats too much of it, which may be the case if all they eat is kibble 24/7.

Alt Names: Also known as GMS or monostearin.

9. Sugars

Too much sugar can make your dog overweight, give them dental problems, and maybe even diabetes.

Alt Names: These can appear under various names like glucose syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, and sucrose.

10. MSG

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) makes food taste better, but it is an excitotoxin (bad for humans and pets alike), which can cause headaches and other symptoms. The effects on dogs aren’t totally clear, though.

Alt Names: Sometimes it’s simply listed as flavor enhancer E621, glutamate, or glutamic acid.

Conclusion | Why Care?

I’ve seen allot of different pets (cats and dogs) die of cancer and the common denominator is that they’ve all had a diet of primarily kibble; both cheap and expensive forms. People will still read one article from a perceived authority on pet health and go “see it is healthy!”…so I caution you to not put your trust in regulatory agencies that haven’t earned it and many of which have financial conflicts of interest (in this case with pet food manufacturers.) Question and research everything, and trust no-one.

The reality is These additives and preservatives can stress out and damage your dog’s body, break down cells, mess with their metabolism, damage their brain and contribute to a range of various different cancers. It’s important to know what’s in your dog’s food to keep them healthy and happy. So if you really care about your pets, then go to the butcher and get them some meat and mix in some veggies, or buy some expensive pre-mixed fresh dog food that is frozen or refrigerated. Your dog trusts and depends on you, to care for his health.


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