What’s Really In Your Dog’s Food?

April 28 | 27 Comments

prewashatlanta2011 026 (3)We’ve been buying our pups Purina’s Pro Plan food for a while.  It is supposed to be their upper line and is not inexpensive, especially when you are feeding three large dogs.  I thought I was buying a good product until a friend sent me over this information from Dogs Naturally.   It has to do with aflatoxins and melamine or cyanuric acid being found in the food. Toxins which can make your dog very sick and in some cases be deadly.  Like back in 2007 when there was an outbreak of contaminated dog foods and dogs died because of this. 

A recent test on dry pet food has revealed some dangerous facts about the food your dog or cat may be eating.

The Consumer Council of Hong Kong recently published the results of testing performed on nearly 40 popular pet foods. The results were a shock to many pet owners. Three popular US food manufacturers, Purina, Hill’s and AvoDerm, all had foods that were found to contain aflatoxin B1.

What are Aflatoxins?

Grains such as corn, wheat, and rice, as well as nuts and legumes, are often contaminated with molds, often as a result of poor growing conditions, substandard or extended storage. Molds called aflatoxins can easily grow and produce a very potent carcinogen. Aflatoxins are very stable and even the high temperature processing involved in kibble manufacturing won’t destroy them, leaving little protection for any dog eating that food.

Purina confirmed this in a statement to the South China Morning Post. They stated that cancer-causing aflatoxins were an “unavoidable natural contaminant.” AvoDerm stated that they have since removed the corn from its formula as they believed it was the source of the aflatoxins.

Corn has become a major source of aflatoxin. Droughts in the US Midwest in recent years have caused a record amount of mold-infested crops amounting to nearly $75 million in insurance claims. In response to this surplus of  corn that wasn’t safe for human consumption, the FDA increased the allowable amount of aflatoxin permitted in animal feed.

A History of Aflatoxins And Sick Pets

The pet food industry is no stranger to product recalls due to these molds.  The earliest documented aflatoxin outbreak dates back to 1974 when hundreds of stray dogs in India died after consuming aflatoxin-contaminated corn. In 1998, 55 dogs died of contaminated corn and in December 2005, over 100 dogs were killed from aflatoxin-contaminated pet food in the US.

Testing in the US also shows that apart from the recalls from high levels of aflatoxins, nearly every pet food on the market contains aflatoxins or other mold-related mycotoxins. The animal health and nutrition company Alltech analyzed 965 pet food samples and found 98% of them were contaminated with one or more mycotoxins, while 93% contained two or more mycotoxins.

Even grain-free pet foods still contain a high carbohydrate content, so there is the potential for mold spores to contaminate the kibble during storage, especially if it is exposed to a moist environment. This can also happen in your home if your kibble is stored in a moist basement or an open container.

How Do Aflatoxins Make Dogs Sick?

Aflatoxins primarily affect the liver and dogs who eat 0.5 to 1 mg aflatoxin/kg body weight can die within days. Smaller amounts of aflatoxins, like those found in most pet food samples, can cause sub-acute symptoms including weight loss, lethargy, jaundice and even death.

Aflatoxins are also carcinogenic. They bind with DNA and cause cell mutations. Newberne and Wogan (1968) were able to produce malignant tumors in rats with less than 1 mg of aflatoxin per kg of feed.

Because eating small amounts of aflatoxins over a period of time will cause cumulative liver damage or cancerous tumors, a very small percentage of affected dogs would be reported,. This means that tens of thousands of cases of liver disease and cancer could be caused by contaminated foods every year but the link would never be reported.

That’s Not All They Found

The Consumer Council study also found some other alarming trends. Three of the US brands tested (Purina, Iams and Solid Gold) also contained melamine or cyanuric acid. These are the substances that poisoned thousands of pets in 2007.

On top of that, processed pet foods also contain other toxic ingredients including heterocyclic amines, acrylamides, and most recently discovered in dry, cooked pet foods, PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) – a chemical used as a flame retardant. Learn more about these toxic ingredients.

Trevor Smith, a mycotoxin researcher at the University of Guelph, says “A shift in pet food ingredients is on. Instead of worrying about bacteria spoilage or disease contamination, like we have in the past, we now have to focus on removing mycotoxins.”

Pet owners should avoid any food containing corn, especially as mold infested corns are added to animal feeds. However it’s important to also remember that melamine and other harmful substances will still be in many processed foods, so feeding fresh, whole foods remains the best way to protect your pet from cancer and other diseases that processed pet foods can cause.

While the article does say that a fresh food diet is the best that obviously isn’t going to work for everyone due to time and expense.  What you can do is carefully look over the ingredients in your dog food and like the article suggests avoid any with corn. There’s also a very helpful site, The Dog Food Adviser, which reviews dog foods. They break down the food by ingredients and let you know what’s good and bad about it as well as giving it a star rating so you can compare to other brands.


27 Responses to “What’s Really In Your Dog’s Food?”

  1. Angela Mclean on July 11th, 2014 10:03 pm

    This is such an important topic that dog owners should be aware. Thanks so much for posting this article about the Aflatoxins that are being found in pet food. I agree, not everyone can go to a whole food diet for their dogs. Doing your research on pet food is so important. Thanks so much for writing about this topic and getting the word out. :)

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  7. Dog Breeds on September 21st, 2014 2:59 am

    Good post. I’m facing a few of these issues as well..

  8. Thomas on October 14th, 2014 5:49 pm

    Yes, I am having the same problems as well.

  9. Jase on January 21st, 2015 9:17 pm

    We did a lot of research about different dog foods and ingredients before choosing a food, as we have heard a lot about issues with dog foods. Thanks for the dog food review site – it confirmed our choice. :)

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  10. Footwear on March 12th, 2015 10:14 am

    Good Article i’e come across a few of these problems as well.

  11. francis on July 3rd, 2015 3:52 pm

    thanks for the informative post. you learn something new every day

  12. all pet cages on November 9th, 2015 3:37 am

    Thanks for your article. It’s so important for pet owners to be aware of the negative effect alatoxins are playing on their pets! Our pets rely on us to provide them a safe environment, and choosing the right dog food is definitely one key area!

  13. all pet cages on November 9th, 2015 3:38 am

    btw, i agree that fresh food diet is difficult to arrange, but it doesn’t mean we have to give up giving what’s best for them.

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  15. Daniel on January 4th, 2016 10:58 pm

    Hi Bo,

    Thanks for posting this warning about Alatoxins. It’s so hard to know what is and isn’t considered safe in dog food nowadays. I was using Purina One, but I guess I’ll have to find a new food now.


  16. My Austin Dog on January 11th, 2016 3:19 pm

    I gotta say, we can make our own dog food that is totally made of healthy organic stuff. Though ready made ones are good, we just don’t know what we feed our dogs with. So what if the dog will eventually dislike the stuff you made? There’s a lot of ways to do that. Besides, dogs push themselves to eat once they are very hungry, so they’ll get used to it.

  17. Greg O' Sullivan on May 16th, 2016 4:14 pm

    we need to feed our dogs what we can afford also – some low protein foods etc can be expensive at the end of the day.

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  20. Leslie on September 5th, 2016 11:07 am

    Really good information here. I am queried a few dog owners, and non of them could tell me ingredients that I should really be aware of!

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