As many other commercial food products found on the market, dog food requires preservatives to grant a longer shelf life. Canned foods don’t typically face problems as dry dog foods do in the spoilage department for the simple fact that they are airtight. Most dry dog foods though which contain fats and are stored in bags, are likely to turn rancid and risk losing a good percentage of their nutritional value if no steps are taken to preserve them from spoilage. Antioxidants are substances commonly used in dry dog food to prevent fats from becoming oxidized and rancid. If you are wondering what type of antioxidants are used in a bag of kibble, consider that AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, requires them to be listed on the label.
Artificial Antioxidants Used in Dog Food
When it comes to antioxidants in dog food, there are several types. Artificial antioxidants include ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). These chemically synthesized preservatives have been under scrutiny for some time due to health concerns. In the book “Canine Nutrigenomics,” Dr. W Jean Dodds and Diana Laverdure explain that ethoxyquin has been clinically linked with liver and kidney cancer in dogs, while the preservatives BHA and BHT, which have been banned already in some European countries, have been suspected of causing cancer and tumor growth. Despite th risks associated with these preservatives, many dog food companies continue to utilize them.
Natural Antioxidants Used in Dog Food
Fortunately, more and more companies are embracing natural antioxidants in dog foods. If you are looking for dog foods that are using natural antioxidants, look for the following ingredients listed on the label: mixed tocopherols (vitamin E), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), citric acid and rosemary extract. Aside from helping keep that bag of dog food fresher, antioxidants also help protect the dog’s body against the damage of free-radicals. According to Ed Kane, a researcher and consultant in animal nutrition, dietary antioxidants, such as vitamin E, convert free radicals into more stable compounds that protect against disease and enhance the immune system.
Tips for Ensuring Freshness of Dog Food
If you decide to use natural antioxidants, it’s important to take certain steps to ensure freshness.
Dog food containing natural antioxidants typically have a shorter shelf life, so it’s important to look at expiration dates. Look for the “best if used by” date on the bag. Drs. Foster and Smith recommend purchasing the food in smaller amounts or on a more frequent basis. Storage of the food is equally important. Make sure you keep the bag of food away from heat, humidity and light. Dry food conserves better if kept in a dry, airtight container and in its original bag.
The Bottom Line
It’s a known fact that dog food will spoil without the use of preservatives. To prevent this, antioxidants must be added to extend shelf life and prevent spoilage. While chemical preservatives work best in extending shelf life, they come with some health concerns. Natural antioxidants offer a healthier option, while also adding some health benefits.