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These 6 Dog Food Preservatives Could Be Toxic to Your Pet

Mike Sagman


Mike Sagman
Mike Sagman

Mike Sagman


Dr Mike Sagman is the creator of the Dog Food Advisor. He founded the website in 2008, after his unquestioning trust in commercial dog food led to the tragic death of his dog Penny.

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Updated: September 27, 2023

When fed daily for a lifetime, synthetic dog food preservatives could be toxic to your pet.

Why Preservatives
Are Needed

Although animal fats are a crucial part of every dog food, they’re also subject to spoilage — becoming rancid not too long after manufacture.

So, to extend the shelf life of any pet food, suppliers must add a preservative to many fat or oil ingredients.

Yet food preservatives aren’t all the same. They can be classified as either natural — or artificial.

Natural preservatives are typically made from vitamins C or E. You’ll usually find them on a dog food ingredients list using some form of the words “tocopherol” or “ascorbate”.

These items typically look like this…

“…chicken fat preserved with alpha-tocopherol”

Natural preservatives are typically considered safe.

Dog Food Preservative
or Pesticide?

However, artificial preservatives are another story. Used long term, they can add a notable risk of toxicity to any dog food.

For example, ethoxyquin is one artificial preservative to watch for on a label.

That’s because ethoxyquin is not only used as a preservative but also as a pesticide — and as a hardening agent for making synthetic rubber.

Ethoxyquin has been under investigation by the FDA as a possible cause for certain liver and blood problems.

In addition, the preservative is not permitted for use in Australian dog foods nor is it approved within in the European Union.1

Yet to this day, ethoxyquin is still commonly found in many popular brands of dog food.

Two More to Avoid

Here are two more chemical bad guys to watch out for…

The World Health Organization has named both BHT and BHA as suspicious cancer-causing compounds. Plus the State of California has now identified BHA as a possible carcinogen, too.2

Considering these troubling issues, you’d think these two dubious preservatives would be shunned by the pet food industry.

Unfortunately, both BHA and BHT can still be found in a number of commercial dog foods.

The Bottom Line

Dogs are a captive audience. They have no choice but to eat what we put in front of them. The same food, consumed day after day. Week after week. Year after year.

For a lifetime.

It’s that cumulative exposure that keeps us up at night. That additive effect of using any artificial preservative relentlessly — especially when it’s suspected of causing cancer.

So, avoid dog foods made with artificial preservatives.

Here’s a list of some of the more common chemical additives…

Who knows? Avoiding these dangerous dog food preservatives may just add years of good health to your pet’s life.


1: “Ethoxyquin – 324“. Noshly Food Additive & Ingredients Reference. Retrieved 12-5-2014.

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