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What Is TBHQ… and Is It Safe for Your Dog?

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

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Here we go again. Another controversial and mysterious dog food ingredient… TBHQ. What is it? And why is it used in dog food?

TBHQ MysteryTBHQ is an acronym for the word tertiary butylhydroquinone… a fat preservative added to a dog food to increase its shelf life.

But that’s not all.

TBHQ is also used to stabilize certain explosive compounds… and to make varnishes, lacquers and resins1.

Here’s the problem…

TBHQ has been found to produce pre-cancerous stomach tumors in laboratory animals… and it can cause damage to a cell’s DNA2.

What’s more, further studies have found that prolonged exposure to TBHQ may lead to other types of cancer, too3.

However, to be fair, one report even suggests TBHQ may actually prevent cancer4.

So, what should you believe? Who’s telling the truth?

Well, feeding any dog the same artificial preservative on a daily basis certainly qualifies for what could be called long term exposure.

And that begs the question…

With so many safe “natural” preservatives out there, why take risks feeding a questionable ingredient like TBHQ over a lifetime?

That’s why I refuse to feed our dog, Bailey, any product containing TBHQ. And until there’s conclusive proof that TBHQ is completely safe, I’d suggest favoring dog foods that do not contain this controversial chemical.

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2: Tertiary butylhydroquinone, safety summary from The International Programme on Chemical Safety

3: Gharavi N, El-Kadi A (2005), “Tert-Butylhydroquinone is a novel aryl hydrocarbon receptor ligand”, Drug Metab Dispos 33 (3): 365–72

4: Hirose M et al, (1999), “Chemoprevention of heterocyclic amine-induced carcinogenesis by phenolic compounds in rats”, Cancer Lett 143 (2): 173–8

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