Ingredients to Avoid in Pet Foods

Today, I’m back on my soapbox about foods. This time to talk about the ingredients pets don’t need and shouldn’t eat. For that matter, people shouldn’t eat most of them either. This is especially important to know when so many gifts for all occasions involve food.

Annie in a catnip plant on the patio.
Annie in a catnip plant on the patio.

First on the list of unnecessary additions to dog food and treats are artificial colors. I’ve never met a dog or cat that cared whether its food was a pretty color. Added color is totally unnecessary. Even for people, it should be unnecessary. We’ve just been conditioned to expect artificially colorful foods, but we get that color at the expense of chemicals and allergens.

Next in line of things I don’t want to find on the label are the artificial preservatives. This includes BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. You’ll even find some of these in prescription foods. You find a lot of them in meaty treats to preserve the meat and maintain the color. One chemical used for preserving color is sodium nitrite, which has been implicated in pancreatic cancer in people. There are many natural preservatives, if a preservative is essential.

High quality products state the expiration dates clearly. Buy good quality ingredients and check expiration dates regularly. Making this a habit protects you and your pet. If a food goes bad, your pet can get sick, but so can you from handling it.

Generic ingredients are totally unacceptable in any product. This means anything listed as “meat” or “animal fat” or any other ingredient that doesn’t specifically tell you the origin should automatically cause you to be suspicious of the product.

Sweeteners and salt are also unnecessary additions to pet foods. Any sweetener is superfluous. However, a natural sweetener, such as applesauce or molasses, is acceptable in a treat. Your dog or cat should not be making a meal of these anyway. It’s like a birthday cake and should be just a little better than the regular food. That doesn’t mean there should be excess salt, corn syrup, or flavor enhancers.

There are many wonderful products that contain natural ingredients and use simple labeling. Let’s support them and purchase wisely.