Pet foods are animal feeds meant for pets to eat. Typically only available in pet shops and supermarkets, it’s generally specific to the kind of animal, like dog food or cat food. Meat is often a by-product from the human food industry, which is not considered “human grade” and therefore not appropriate for use on animals. Other substances in pet foods are similar to those found in human foods, but have been altered for various reasons. The more common chemicals or ingredients in pet foods that are used to make them are mentioned below.
Pet foods commonly contain ethoxyquin, which is an ingredient commonly used in making cosmetics. Ethoxyquin is sometimes added to human foods for the same reason – to prevent bacteria and yeast from forming in the treated meats. Like with ethoxyquin, however, ethoxyquin can be potentially dangerous to animals if eaten. The substance has been banned in Europe and Australia, but remains legal in the US and Canada. The chemical can cause kidney and liver damage, along with other potentially fatal symptoms. Some studies even show that ethoxyquin causes cancer in laboratory animals.
Bacterial contamination of pet foods is probably the most common problem that pet owners face. These bacteria or microbes are called “probiotics”, which helps them build a strong immune system and digest their food better. Various studies have shown that some antibiotics prescribed by veterinarians can be absorbed by animals’ intestinal tract, increasing the risk of infection or disease. However, antibiotic resistance against many commonly used antibiotics is now rising, making these supplements particularly important for pet owners. In fact, many experts believe that antibiotics are now needed more often than they are used.
In addition to ethoxyquin, some pet foods contain growth hormones. While this is largely considered safe, hormones have been known to cause developmental or reproductive disorders in growing animals, including mice and hamsters. There have also been linked to hormone tumors in humans, with research indicating that women who ate certain brands of pet foods may have increased their risk of breast cancer. One of the biggest concerns today is organ toxicity, particularly from organs like the liver and kidneys, which can result in symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea and shock. Unfortunately, these symptoms often do not appear until very late in the course of developing pets, so they often go unnoticed until they are too late.
Pet foods may include ingredients that are harmful to animals, but most of us choose them because they taste good. Many treats for our pets are the same as those we make ourselves at home. For example, a pet treat that might contain sugar might also contain an ingredient that is listed on the ingredients label as an emulsifier, like Ethoxylated Surfactant, or Epson salt. Both of these can result in allergic reactions in animals, although some dogs are more sensitive than others.
Some pet food products have been reformulated to reduce pet food allergies, including dog and cat foods. However, some companies have gone out of business in recent years because of the reaction that has been caused by preservatives and chemicals in kibble and treats. As a result, it may be necessary to purchase organic ingredients to feed your dog or cat. The American Association of Feed Control Officials or AAFCO recommends that you shop for kibble and treats in retail stores and at online sites that sell organic pet foods.