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


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.

  1. Wikipedia
  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
  • Pashta

    Don’t buy it. There are plenty of delicious sweets made in Europe that not only taste better but they’re not full of chemical crap like this. It’s worth it (and the price isn’t very different, either..)

  • shawn case

    Also just found in Reese’s BIG CUP peanut butter cups. The depressing thing is I ate it while reading this.

  • Pashta

    And now cereal… Speak up, people! Don’t let them continue to poison you so they save a penny!

  • Anna Turkiewicz

    They also use it in McDonald’s fries…

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  • dogkeeper

    Nearly every kind of dog food has too many bad products in it.  That is why so many feed their dogs a raw diet.

  • I am not sure about chicken mcnuggets, I hope someone clear this confusion.

  • Horst

    my literature teacher just told me to look up tbhq… talking about chicken mcnuggets. This report is realy helpful but im prob never gonna eat chicken mcn again:/ thanks for revealing the truth 

  • Preservative TBHQ may present hazards in petfood

    Just another reason to get a team together – see Brothers Sandi August 6, 2011 at 9:49 am http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-food-reviews/brothers-complete-allergy/comment-page-4/#comment-32902

  • Julianne

    I have done some research on preservatives in dog food and learned some shocking results, at the same time a man named andrew Lewis had also done research. He sent me an email with photographic images that are not for the ones who can not take graphic photos.I was horrorified from what I saw. I learned oin his video meat-by products mean left over meat at the processing plant, dead animals, euthanized pets and road kill. What makes this extremely dangerous is drugs for euthanasia such as Euthansol, can not be broken down and when our dogs eat it, they are slowly being poisoned. Please read labels and if it contains preservatives, meatby-product,bone meal or gluten meal,animal digest, or animal fat. I recommend holistic dog food and homemade dog food. Its a lot of work but your dog shows increased desire to eat and my dogs watch me make their dog food.
    Anyone wanting information on how to make homemade dog food send email to:[email protected]

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  • Hi Irwin… This website is my very best attempt to simplify the process of choosing a good dog food for pets like Noodles. Unfortunately, I don’t currently create recipes for homemade dog food. And since each dog responds to a particular food in its own unique way, I cannot provide customized product recommendations.

    Please visit our FAQ page and look for the topic, “Help Me Choose a Dog Food” for more information. Or check back for a possible response from one of our other readers. Wish I could be more help.

  • irwin

    I’ve been trying to find out, what is the best dog food for my pal Noodles, either prepared or I do the cooking.( please forward balanced recipes) or if there is a healthy prepared or packaged food that can be highly recommended. I’m an elderly gentleman without the patience or eyes to do the research, so- if there is any one out there that might help me out, it would be greatly appreciated ——-thank you Irwin

  • Any synthetic perservative is harmful & full of carcinogens. I always read ingredients & stay totally away from any synthetic perservative(s). I always look for natural in canine companions food. If I wouldn’t eat it, then they don’t eat it. People , read your ingredients. Know what you are ingesting & what you are feeding your loyal companions!

  • mary

    On the flip side, eat a ton of blueberries and blackberries, they help your body rid harmful toxins, and they’re great antioxidants too..

  • mary

    Its in alot of cereals too, and if it preserves the foods we ingest its probably preserving our insides too 🙁

  • Jonathan

    Damnit, man! I love the McRib! And now you’ve ruined it for me!

    Not that I thought it had any nutritional merritt to begin with. Oh well.

    Actually I’m not surprised at all. 😉

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  • Dilbert

    TBHQ is also an ingredient in the McDonald’s McRib

  • Ye olde Andy

    TBHQ is in every thing!! i really cant find much food without it!!! mcdonalds chiken has tbhq on them too!!!!!! this is crazy!!!!! they need to remove TBHQ from all food!!!! and use salt as a preservative instead!!!!! good food and peace to all! signed YOA

  • jacinda

    All this stuff im reading makes me feel bad that im actually feeding my pets And myself all these toxicians and harmful ingriedients

  • Linda

    It’s also used in the Girl Scout Cookies, Lemon Chalet Cremes.. They were a new type this year. I bought some about 2 weeks ago in front of a store. They tasted weird like ginger or something. Which made me look at the ingredients on the back.. And when I seen that TBHQ was in them, I had to check that out. Because the GSUSA always boasts about not using any preservatives in their cookies. I ate two cookies, read this article then dumped the entire box in the trash. Just found out as of Feb 27, 2010 that they are doing a recall on those cookies for foul smell and taste.

  • I just found out it is in Old El Paso Taco Shells as well. Totally by accident that I came across this, as I was looking up BHT which is another terrible preservative found not only in foods but also in plastics packaging around food, and in cosmetics.

  • Darren M

    It’s in a *lot* of ‘human’ food – mostly snack-style crackers, snaps, cookies – and yes, popcorn. Watch out!

  • megan

    it’s actually found in packet pop corn as well, i just read the back of my Orville Redenbacher’s “gourmet” popcorn and its listed in the ingredients.