A brief list of the ingredients commonly found
in some pet foods.
Food Additives, Antioxidants and Preservatives.
The following is a description of food additives/preservatives found
in pet food. They are not always named on the food. Sometimes the
label may say 'contains EU approved antioxidant' or 'contains EEC
It is very closely related to antifreeze. It is usually found in
semi-moist foods to maintain the water content and texture. It has
been suggested that it causes the destruction of red blood cells.
Some studies suggest that cats can become addicted to food that
Propyl Gallate (E310)
This is antioxidant used to prevent fats and oils going rancid.
It is found in chewing gum and meat products. It is banned from
children's foods in the US because it is thought to cause the blood
This is used as a preservative and is thought to be one of the compounds
most likely to cause damage to animal health. Ethoxyquin was developed
as a rubber stabiliser. The Department of Agriculture in America
lists it as a pesticide. It has been implicated as a cause of many
problems including cancer of the kidneys.
Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
used as a preservative to stop fat going rancid. It has been implicated
as a cause of bladder and thyroid cancer and damage to the liver.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
also used as a preservative to prevent fat rancidity. Has been implicated
as a cause of stomach cancer.
Feingold (1975) found that antioxidants BHA and
BHT contributed to learning difficulties and hyperactivity in humans.
In Dr. Pitcairn's (DVM, PhD) Complete Guide to Natural
Health for Dogs and Cats, he looks at some of the artificial colourings
in pet foods. He states that similar dyes where banned from human
foods in the 1970's. The example given is Red No.2 and Violet No.1,
which appeared to be linked to cancer, birth defects and skin lesions
The Asthma and Allergy Research Centre on the Isle
of Wight looked at the effects of food additives and colourings
and behaviour. In children significant changes in behaviour were
seen when the additives (E102, E110,E122, E124 and E211) were removed
from the diet for as little as 2 weeks. Does your pet food contain
brightly coloured pieces?!
If your pet food states 'cereals' as a product, ask your self why?
Why do they not tell you which cereals? This can be because the
cereal content changes with the season depending on which is cheapest
at the time.
Brown rice, oats, barley as unprocessed whole grains
are high in nutrients and easily digested.
Wheat is much harder to digest than rice. Many dogs
seem to be intolerant to wheat gluten. Because of this many pet
foods are now wheat gluten free.
Again if your pet food states 'meat' or 'animal' on the label, you
have to ask why the company will not tell you which animal they
By-products or derivatives. Many people believe
that this includes beaks, feathers, hair and faeces, however, this
is not necessarily true. They can include: brain, spleen, lungs,
liver, blood and intestines. Poultry by-product may include feet
Chicken meal, Lamb meal etc. fresh clean meat which
has been cooked, dried and ground.
How much meat is in your pet food?
If the label says 'Beef' then 70-100% must be beef.
If the label says 'Beef Dinner' then 10-70% must be beef.
If the label says 'Beef Flavour' then 0-4% must be beef
If the label says 'with Beef or contains Beef' then there must be
at least 4% beef
If two or more main ingredients are stated e.g. 'Beef and Rice'
then they must be 10-70% of the food (and each one must be greater
(Burger and Thompson, 1994)
other vegetable proteins are difficult to digest.
Dairy products are hard to digest. Lactose is the
sugar present in milk. After weaning, dogs and cats have decreasing
amounts of lactase (the enzyme needed to digest lactose). Therefore,
ingestion of dairy products may cause diarrhoea and/or flatulence
as the body has difficulty breaking down the dairy product. Dogs
and cats should not be fed milk and cheese!
Sugars are sometimes added to cat foods as a flavour
enhancer. Sugar and sugar products are not good sources of nutrition
for cats, and can contribute to dental disease
Yoghurt is sometimes used for therapy of chronic
diarrhoea in the mistaken belief that the bacteria contained in
yoghurt (Lactobacillus acidophilius or Lactobacillus bulgaricus)
will colonise the bowel and displace unfavourable bacteria.
Yoghurt has bacteriocidal properties in vitro (test
tube) but not in vivo (in the body). Orally administered bacteria
in yoghurt does not displace resident or pathogenic bacterial populations
in normal or diseased intestines of any animal. The bacteria in
yoghurt are generally acid labile (destroyed by the stomach acid),
limiting the numbers surviving passage through the stomach. (Research
originally published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice Vol.
BSAVA Manual of Companion Animal Nutrition and Feeding,
First Edition, Edited by N.C. Kelly and J.M.Wills. Pub, BSAVA 1996.
Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition, By
Hand, Thatcher, Remillard and Roudebush. Pub, Mark Morris Institute
Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health
for Dogs and Cats, By Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM PhD, Susan Hubble
Pitcairn MS. Pub, Rodale Press, Inc. 1995.
Common pet health problems
John Burns Pet Health Management