There is a ton of conflicting information out there
on diets for dogs, and what might be good or bad. From people panicking about the
recent FDA update and heart disease, to increased carcinogenic ingredients in
corn-based foods, it seems like no matter what you choose, someone will tell
you, your dog is at risk. Here’s what you need to know about carcinogenic
ingredients that may be in your dog’s food, and what you can do to keep them as
healthy as possible.
Is cancer common in dogs?
Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs, and
approximately half of dogs over 10 will develop cancer. While genetics plays an important
role, considering how many dog breeds are predisposed to certain types of
cancer, there are ways that you can help prevent cancer in your dog.
What causes cancer in dogs?
There are many types of cancer, which is the umbrella term
for when cells begin to divide uncontrollably and spread into surrounding
tissues. While we know that the rate of cancer increases exponentially as dog's
age. Just like humans, your dog’s genetics, environment, diet, and activity
level can all increase or decrease their chances of developing cancer. Things
like prolonged sun exposure, second-hand smoke, and exposure to herbicides,
pesticides, and insecticides can all increase your dog’s likelihood to develop
Your dog’s food is also very important, as more and more
carcinogens are being found in kibble, as the production has become largely
industrialized. When crops and meat byproducts are deemed not safe for human
consumption, they are often added to dog food, even when there are known contaminants
such as Butylated
Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and
Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
that are known carcinogens.
What causes a dog food to be carcinogenic?
- Due to drought and extended storage, crops such as corn, wheat, and rice
along with nuts and legumes have been contaminated with more mold than usual.
Mold produces extremely potent carcinogens called aflatoxins, which are
impervious to the high temperatures dog foods are processed at. Even grain-free
food contains carbohydrates, which can be contaminated by mold in processing or
improper storage in high-temperature environments.
of nutrients - Kibble is usually heavily processed, even if it is marketed
as all-natural, grain-free or organic.
The cooking process used to create kibble is at an extremely high temperature
that renders enzymes inactive, kills good bacteria, and denatures proteins.
What it does not do is kill all of the mold spores that may have contaminated
some of the ingredients.
Nutrients - Because many of the nutrients in processed kibble are rendered
unusable, dog food manufacturers add synthetic nutrients to comply with the Association
of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional standards in order to
put “complete and balanced” on the label. The problem is that these synthetic
nutrients can be sourced from unknown countries resulting in substandard
quality, manufactured using a process that involves chemicals, and they can be
harmful to pets. Dogs bodies are designed to process natural ingredients, not
these manufactured synthetic ingredients. These can be difficult for their
bodies to process and can cause liver and kidney damage.
What are aflatoxins?
toxic compounds that are produced by certain molds found in agricultural crops
such as corn, wheat, and rice. Aflatoxins bind with DNA, mutating cells, poisoning
the liver and promote cancerous tumor growth. Aflatoxins are so toxic that
consuming just a half to a single milligram of aflatoxin per kilogram of body
weight can be fatal for dogs. Smaller amounts of aflatoxins have been
identified in many brands of kibble and eating small amounts of the aflatoxins
over an extended period of time can cause symptoms such as lethargy, anemia,
liver damage, cancerous tumors, and even death. Therefore, avoiding corn-based diets or wheat
fillers will minimize the risk of aflatoxin exposure to your pets.
In addition to aflatoxins, there are more possible
carcinogens that may be found in kibble such as Acrylamides and heterocyclic
amines. These are due to over processing procedures, high temperature cooking, packing
techniques, and subpar ingredients.
What can I feed to reduce the risk of carcinogens?
Prior to the introduction of kibble, dog’s ancestral diets
consisted of fresh raw unadulterated meat. Their wolf ancestors were thriving
off live prey, not processed kibble. Feeding dogs an unadulterated raw, a biologically appropriate diet is the best protection we can give our dogs
against cancer. A biologically appropriate diet would generally consist of
hormone and antibiotic free raw meat, organs, and bones along with some fruits
It can be very time consuming and overwhelming to prepare
this at home. Additionally, many home prepared diets by well-meaning pet
parents are unbalanced, therefore if you do prepare your dog’s meals, it’s
important to follow a recipe formulated by Nutritionist to ensure your diet is
not nutritionally imbalanced.
A great option to ensure you are providing a complete and
balanced biologically appropriate raw diet is a commercially available raw food
diet such as Answers Pet Food and Primal Pet Food. These provide fresh raw meat, organs,
bones with fruits and vegetables in a complete and balanced diet that is tested,
safe and free of pathogens and harmful bacteria.
For many people, feeding their dog a completely raw diet is
not financially viable, particularly if you have a large dog. In that case, supplementing
with raw is much better for them than a diet consisting exclusively of a corn
based processed kibble. Even if you give your dog a little raw each day or
supplement a meat-based diet free of corn and wheat fillers with fresh
unpasteurized cow’s milk kefir, raw goat’s milk or bone broth, you will provide
them with additional nutrients and lower their exposure to known carcinogenic
Now, more than ever, pets are family. Pet parents all over
are discovering the benefits of a raw diet, and the correlation between
high-quality pet food and their pet’s health. If you have any questions on how
to best feed your dog for his or her specific needs, reach out to us or stop in
for a visit.