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Jan 2011

Hidden Dangers In Processed Dog Food

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Chances are, if you are concerned about the continuing pet food recalls, you have been researching homemade dog food on the internet, and it is a smart move on your part. Since 2007, the FDA has listed 103 manufacturers that have recalled various types of dog food and dog treats. Many of these manufacturers recalled an average of 3 to 5 brands each, and it doesn’t take a math wiz to figure out that is nearly 515 products!

Most of the recalled products were infected with salmonella, e. coli, melamine and mycotoxins - all deadly substances that people are now aware of. Pet food manufacturers are also beginning to understand that consumers are educating themselves and many companies are eliminating certain poor quality and dangerous ingredients. Yet did you know that there are still dangerous substances that can be found in even the most premium brands of dog food? Some of these substances are carefully hidden, others are listed right on the label because people have yet to learn that they aren’t what we believe them to be.

Unfortunately, most consumers put their faith in the FDA and the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) to protect their pets from harm, but the bottom line is that there are not enough inspectors out there doing detailed checks into human food, so dog food remains basically unregulated. A dog’s best advocate is an informed pet parent who reads labels and contacts the manufacturer to know exactly what is in that bag or can. Education is the first line of defense, and here are some hidden dangers you should know about.

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Ethoxyquin in Fish Meal


Ethoxyquin was originally approved 45 years ago as a chemical antioxidant preservative in pet food that prevents the destruction of some vitamins and prevents peroxide from forming in canned food. A suspected carcinogen, it produces a variety of adverse affects such as allergic reactions, skin problems, major organ failure (especially liver), behavior problems and cancer. Not only is ethoxyquin a free radical that damages cells and is not eliminated from the body, it also inhibits the body’s ability to destroy other free radicals. Even if you are supplementing your kibble by feeding vegetables for dogs that are known for destroying free radicals, ethoxyquin prevents them from performing this vital function.

While ethoxyquin can still be found listed on the ingredient labels of very low-end dog food, it has disappeared from the labels of nearly all premium kibble and canned food. However, that does not mean your food is ethoxyquin free!

According to the US Coast Guard and the US Department of Transportation, it is required by LAW that all fish meal be preserved with high levels of ethoxyquin due to its’ flammable nature. All fish meal is affected, including fish meal from a named source (salmon, menhaden, etc), unless a pet food manufacturer obtains a special, and very expensive, permit to transport fish meal without it. So, you may ask, why isn’t ethoxyquin listed on the ingredient label? The answer is because the ethoxyquin is added to the fish meal BEFORE the manufacturer purchases it. They are not required to list any substances added to an ingredient before they purchase them.

Many of the veterinarians I have spoken to have all remarked about the increase in liver disease and cancer among their patients over the last 5 to 10 years. Not surprising, as this coincides with the increase of fish meal being used in pet food

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Mercury


There are three kinds of mercury, none of which are safe for humans or pets.

Thermometers contain elemental mercury which can cause significant neurological damage. Long term exposure can results in damage to the bone marrow and reproductive system.

Mercury salts, which are an industrial waste product, are dangerous whether you inhale or ingest them. They tend to damage the renal system more than the nervous system.

Organic mercury, which affects the body in much the same way as elemental mercury, is also an industrial waste product of chemical plants that manages to get into the water. Once there it is absorbed by algae and then makes its way up the food chain. Mercury is stored in the body fat of any animal that ingests it. Mercury does not degrade, nor is it excreted. The more you consume, the more it builds up in your body. Sea life can also change elemental mercury into organic mercury if it gets into the ocean.

Don’t be fooled; ALL fish contains mercury and while the FDA has recommended limits regarding the amount of certain types of fish that can be safely consumed per month, no level of mercury is normal or safe.

Fish has become a popular, novel protein in many pet foods, the most common being salmon, whitefish, herring and menhaden. Although each of these types of fish are considered to contain low levels, they still contain mercury which can build up in your dog if you feed it everyday. Products that simply list “fish” as an ingredient are potentially even more dangerous as the species of fish used in the food is unknown and could be a variety that contains high levels of mercury.

Another, even more potentially dangerous substance is fish oil, both named and unnamed. Fish oil supplements containing mercury and other toxins can impair your dog’s health more than any benefits that they can provide. Pet food manufacturers often buy the cheapest fish oil on the market to add to their food and it is wise to avoid any brand that lists it among their ingredients.

Medical experts recommend the use of pharmaceutical grade or purified fish oil supplements to avoid mercury contamination. Fish oil supplements without mercury are those that have undergone molecular distillation - a process in which harmful substances are removed from the oil. There are currently NO manufacturers of pet grade fish oil which implement this process due to the expense involved. Feed your dog only human-grade, purified fish oils.

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Bisphenol A (BPA)


BPA is an organic compound that is used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, as well as other applications, including being used as a lining in metal cans. It is applied to the inside to create a protective barrier between the metal and the food. The use of BPA as a lining for cans is industry wide and all of the major can manufacturers use it. Food that is hot processed in cans (such as soup and dog food) has been shown to absorb larger amounts of BPA than cold food.

Concerns about the use of BPA in consumer products arose after several governments issued reports questioning its safety. A 2010 report from the FDA raised further concerns regarding the exposure of fetuses, infants and young children. In September of the same year, Canada became the first country to declare BPA as a toxic substance.

BPA is an endocrine disrupter, meaning it can mimic the body’s own hormones, which can lead to negative health effects. It has been shown to impair the brain development and behavior of infants resulting in hyperactivity, attention deficits, and heightened sensitivity. Even in low doses, BPA has been linked to thyroid disorders, cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, obesity and insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes.

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Fluoride


Fluoride is a chemical ion of the element fluorine. Fluoride is found naturally in water, foods, soil and several minerals. It is used as a controversial additive to drinking water to provide protection from tooth decay, yet fluoride was a natural water pollutant long before it was a cavity fighting hero. Today, not only is research discovering that the original fluoridation studies were flawed, but also that the chemicals most used to fluoridate our water are silicofluorides, a contaminated waste product of industry that has never been safely tested on humans or animals. To add insult to injury, fluoride is a cumulative toxin, meaning it collects in the fat cells and bones of the body and is not excreted. Fluoride is the most bone seeking element known to mankind, which leads us to the hidden danger in processed food...

In 2009, eight of ten different dog food brands tested by an independent laboratory commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) contained fluoride in amounts up to 2.5 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) national drinking water standard. The dog foods, all national brands, were found to contain significantly more fluoride than levels implicated by a 2006 Harvard study on bone cancer in young boys. The source of the excess fluoride was the meal (chicken, beef, and/or poultry). Meal consists of both the meat and the bones of the animal being utilized - all of which can accumulate fluoride.

Fluoride attacks and destroys essential protein compounds called enzymes. It has been linked to bone cancer, osteoporosis, arthritis, autoimmune disease, brain damage, thyroid disfunction, hormonal disruption, neurotoxicity, developmental damage and allergies.

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Soy


The soybean is a species of legume native to East Asia and soybean meal has been used as a low-cost source of protein in many dog foods, especially prescription diets. For many years, soy has been promoted as a health food to the extent that most people are utterly unaware of its’ dark side. The dangers of soy have been thoroughly documented in scientific literature which makes it difficult to understand why many health professionals, including veterinarians, still promote soy and soy derivatives as healthy.

Soybeans contain one of the highest levels of phytic acid of any grain or legume studied. Phytic acid inhibits the assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. While phytic acid itself is not deadly, diets that contain large amounts have been shown to cause growth problems in children and test animals.

The trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion, a vital function for dogs, and may cause pancreatic disorders. The plant estrogens found in soy, known as phytoestrogens, disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and mammary cancer. Phytoestrogens are also known for causing hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer. Soy also contains goitrogens which depress thyroid function.

Soybeans contain haemagglutinin, a clot-promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together. Soy has also been found to increase the body’s need for vitamin B12 and vitamin D.

To make soy protein isolate, soy proteins are exposed to high temperatures which makes them unsuitable for canine digestion. The high heat also results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine, an unusual amino acid that is linked to renal failure, as well as highly carcinogenic nitrosamines. MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is also formed during soy food processing. Soy protein isolate contains elevated levels of toxic aluminum which affects the nervous system and the kidneys.

Finally, 99% of the soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified and it has the highest percentage of contamination by pesticides of any food.

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White Rice


It may shock you to see white rice on this list of hidden dangers in processed foods as it is in nearly 90% of all kibble brands. It is important to note that the occasional consumption of white rice is perfectly healthy. It is only when it is eaten on a daily basis that it poses a risk to dogs.

White rice has what is known as a high glycemic index. The glycemic index (GI) is a numerical scale used to indicate how fast and how high a particular food can raise the blood glucose (blood sugar) level. Foods with a low GI will typically prompt a moderate rise in blood glucose, while a food with a high GI may cause the blood glucose level to increase above the optimal level. While table sugar has a GI index of 65, white rice has a GI of 72! Brown rice on the other hand, has a GI index of only 55.

The presence of glucose in the bloodstream triggers the production of insulin, which helps the glucose get into cells where it can be used as energy. Once the immediate energy needs have been met, extra glucose in the bloodstream is stored in the muscles and liver for later use. If those storage areas are full, the extra glucose is stored as fat. Insulin is vital, but too much secreted over long periods of time can cause problems. As in people, in dogs prolonged exposure to elevated levels of insulin can cause high triglycerides, high bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, increased appetite, obesity and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

It is important to note that if the ingredient list of the food you are feeding states only “rice” you need to assume they mean white rice.

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Menadione Sodium Bisulfate


Also known as Dimethyl-Pyrimidinol Sulfate or Vitamin K3


Menadione is a synthetic version of vitamin K. It is technically not a vitamin, but a precursor that is converted into the body after absorption. Oddly enough, natural vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin, while menadione derivatives are water soluble, which makes them bypass the natural route utilized by the body to absorb true vitamin K.

Pet food manufacturers add menadione to their food as an inexpensive vitamin K supplement. The reasoning behind adding it is “to help with blood clotting”. However, it has been scientifically proven that menadione’s effectiveness on blood clotting is inferior. Manufacturers also claim that menadione is more stable and has more nutritional value than natural vitamin K - yet none of them will acknowledge the scientifically proven damage this dangerous substance can cause.

Menadione has been shown to be toxic to liver cells, cause the formation of free radicals from enzymes of leucocytes, considerably weakens the immune system, damages the natural vitamin K cycle, causes hemolytic anemia and hyperbilirubinemia (and not just in large doses), disturbs the level of calcium ions in the body, builds up in the tissue and causes skin and mucous membrane irritation. It has also been shown to cause allergic reactions and eczema.

Perhaps the most important facts to consider are the following:
Menadione has never been researched or specifically approved for long term use.
It has been banned from use in human food and supplements in many European countries.
Even our own FDA has banned synthetic vitamin K from over-the-counter supplements due to toxicity.

Vegetables and cereal grains are a great, natural source of vitamin K. The best vegetables for dogs that contain vitamin K are broccoli, spinach, parsley, alfalfa and kelp.
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