5 Common Pet Food Ingredients That Could Harm Your Dog

We all know there’s little that dogs wouldn’t eat. But just because they wouldn’t mind eating a month-old Dorito they found behind the sofa, it doesn’t mean that they should.

When it comes to choosing food for your pet, you should follow the same principle. No matter how yummy your pooch thinks a particular brand of kibble is, before you make it a part of their regular menu, you need to check for any potential red flags. Written in the tiniest of fonts and hidden among seemingly indecipherable words, lurk pet food ingredients that could wreak havoc on your pet’s health.

Without double-checking everything that goes into your furball’s bowl, you can’t be sure they’re getting what they need. Even the super-premium brands can contain preservatives, flavor enhancers, or dubious protein sources that have been linked to various serious illnesses. Here are the five most common and dangerous ingredients in pet food you should watch out for:


Used as a preservative for pet food, ethoxyquin also doubles as a pesticide. (Because nothing says yum like a scoop of chemicals that prevent pear disease!) While it won’t downright poison your pooch, this Monsanto-produced antioxidant has been linked to liver and kidney damage, allergies, and even cancer. But watch out when you check the labels, because this preservative can also be labeled as just E- sneaky, right?


Often appearing together, BHA and BHT are used as a synthetic source of vitamin E or preservatives. Although there hasn’t been any proof that small doses of these substances are harmful, studies on prolonged consumption are quite worrisome. Both BHA and BHT are known carcinogens, and they’re suspected of causing damage to nervous system, liver, and GI tract. These vitamin E substitutes can also be listed as Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene.


If you’re giving your pet canned food, there is a 70% chance that it contains this additive. Even though it’s derived from red seaweed, which makes it sound like a natural ingredient, carrageenan is anything but healthy. Studies have linked this wet food thickener with malignant tumors, gastrointestinal inflammation and cancerous lesions in the intestines.

Meat Byproducts

Even though this ingredient is not as scary-sounding as some of the others from this list, it can be the most dangerous one. A protein source for many commercial pet foods, byproducts of the slaughter industry are, basically, every part of the animal that doesn’t go into human grade products. For example, poultry byproducts are mostly beaks and feathers; beef byproducts can be hooves and horns, and so on. Besides not having any real nutritional value, animal byproducts can contain some seriously harmful substances. There have often been pet food recalls because of a dangerous component that sneaked its way to kibble or wet food through animal byproducts, such as traces of euthanasia drug, bacteria, or fungus. Byproducts can sometimes be labeled as animal fat, bone, blood, or meat meal, so make sure to be careful when checking the ingredient list.

Every pet owner just wants what’s best for their pet, and a wholesome diet is the foundation of a long and happy life. Navigating through complicated labels might seem like a lot of work, but opting for healthier options and ditching those dubious foods can only benefit your furry best friend.

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

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