Cutting Chemicals 3 – Food Additives in Pet Food, Supplements and Treats

Pesticide residues in food are a result of modern day farming practices which are geared to towards producing large amounts of food as quickly as possible.

Chemical additives on the other hand, are intentionally introduced into pet foods, supplements and treats for a number of reasons – many of which are for the benefit of manufacturers, not pets.

Eliminating these from the diet is another way of reducing the risk of chemical harm to your dog or cat.

The Dangers

At best some additives like talcum powder (hydrated magnesium silicate), silica (sand) or cellulose (indigestible plant cell fibre) are relatively innocuous. These and similar compounds are added as ‘fillers’ to increase the bulk of a product, making it appear better value for money.

At worst, others like copper sulphate (used as a pesticide), sodium benzoate (which can convert to benzene – a known carcinogen) and calcium propionate (a preservative which can irritate the stomach and bowels) can have serious, ill-effects on health.

And somewhere in between, are the long, long lists of synthetic ‘vitamins’ and ‘minerals‘ such as vitamin D3, biotin and zinc oxide. There are literally thousands of these which the EU approve as ‘nutritional additives‘ for inclusion in dog and cat food. These however, are NOT the same vitamins and minerals as found in Nature. They are added to make products appear healthy, when in reality they are mixtures of chemicals produced in large scale industrial plants from raw materials such as petrol, coal tar and cyanide.

No Need For Food Chemicals

Many so called ‘nutritional’ additives:

  • provide little or no nourishment
  • are of questionable safety
  • have been linked to significant and sometimes serious ill-effects in dogs and cats

For these reasons they are best avoided, particularly as there are far healthier, natural, additive-free alternatives available.

Vitality for example, is a clinically proven combination of two of the richest whole foods on the planet. This unique blend provides an exceptional array of 100% natural and biologically active nutrients vital for dog and cat health, well-being and longevity, in an easy to digest and absorb form.

For even greater health benefits, a synergistic combination of specially selected and formulated superfoods can be given.

Don’t Be Mislead

We lead such busy lives these days, it’s easy to make snap decisions when buying products for pets, based on a few, simple key words.

Manufacturers know this, and so whenever possible display phrases which appeal to consumers and portray products in the most favourable light.

The reality however, is that pet foods, supplements and treats marketed as:

  • pure
  • natural
  • healthy
  • holistic
  • naturally powered
  • wholesome
  • nutritious
  • organic

can still contain numerous and potentially harmful chemical additives.

Much may also be made of the fact a product contains no artificial colourings, flavourings, or preservatives, while failing to mention that other additives are present, such as the synthetic ‘nutrients’, fillers, binders, lubricants, glues and gelling agents listed below.

This being the case, it’s always best to look past the marketing hype and examine labels to see how natural and healthy a product really is.

Chemical Additives to Avoid

As a general rule, individually named ‘nutrients’ are synthetic as are those with chemical names.


  • titanium oxide

Fillers (Bulking Agents)

These are indigestible to dogs and cats, and so go in one end and come out the other largely unchanged.

  • cellulose (plant cell walls)
  • silica (mainly found in rocks and sand)
  • silicon dioxide (as above)
  • microcrystalline cellulose (plant cell walls)


  • propylene glycol – closely related to ethylene glycol the main component of anti-freeze (used to keep food moist and improve consistency / flavour)

Gelling Agents


  • magnesium stearate (used to facilitate the manufacturing process and can affect the immune system)
  • stearic acid (as above)


  • butylated hydroxyanilose – BHA (carcinogenic)
  • butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  • calcium propionate (can cause gastric irritation)
  • ethoxyquin (can damage DNA)
  • sodium benzoate (can convert to benzene, a known carcinogen)
  • sodium propionate (can cause gastric irritation)

Synthetic Amino Acids

Made in the laboratory or by manufacturing plants, not by Nature.

  • DL-methionine
  • L-carnitine
  • L-lysine
  • lysine hydrochloride
  • taurine
  • tryptophan

Synthttic Minerals And Trace Elements

Typically manufactured using industrial strength acids on rocks.

  • cobaltous carbonate monohydrate
  • calcium carbonate (chalk)
  • calcium iodate anhydrous
  • cupric chelate of amino acids hydrate
  • cupric sulphate pentahydrate (used as a pesticide)
  • calcium pantothenate
  • falcium sulphate (‘Plaster of Paris’)
  • ferrous chelate of a amino acids hydrate
  • ferrous sulphate monohydrate
  • iron sulfate
  • manganese chelate of amino acids hydrate
  • manganese
  • manganese oxide
  • manganous sulphate monohydrate
  • monodicalcium phosphate
  • phosphorus
  • potassium chloride
  • potassium iodide
  • selenium
  • sodium chloride
  • sodium hexametaphosphate
  • sodium selenite
  • zinc chelate of amino acids hydrate
  • zinc oxide
  • zinc sulphate monohydrate

Synthetic Vitamins

Chemicals by another name.

These are never found individually in Nature where natural vitamins occur as biological complexes which the body has learnt to recognise over millions of years of evolution.

  • beta-carotene
  • biotin
  • folic acid
  • niacin
  • riboflavin
  • vitamin A (as retinyl acetate)
  • vitamin B1
  • vitamin B2
  • vitamin B6
  • vitamin B12
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin C Monophosphate
  • vitamin D3 Supplement
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin D3 (as cholecalciferol)
  • vitamin E (as alpha tocopherol acetate)
  • vitamin K

Unethical Products

  • chondrotin from battery chickens or sharks

A Word on Soy

Soybean in many forms is being added to more and more pet foods, supplements and treats.

Far from being the naturally fermented version however, which takes many months to produce and has provided a wide range of health benefits to generations of people, most modern soy is factory processed and ready for use within days. It is used by pet food companies to boost protein levels and add bulk. More and more information is coming to light which suggests that this widely used ingredient is not as healthy as is made out for pets:

Dogs and cats are evolved to thrive on animal not plant protein, and for this reason feeding high quality meat as the core diet is best.

And adding additional, natural sources of health-promoting nutrients to ensure the diet is healthy, balanced and complete, is the most effective way of promoting and maintaining optimum health for as long as possible.

Author: Vince the Vet

Vince MacNally BVSc VetMFHom MRCVS - An expert Holistic Vet in the UK with 30+ years clinical expertise.

2 thoughts on “Cutting Chemicals 3 – Food Additives in Pet Food, Supplements and Treats”

  1. Your articles are always very informative Vince and shows you research well I always look forward to reading them – Maybe you could do a newsletter one day on parasites found in raw food too as they can be just as harmful and peoiple need to be aware – you are so good at rasing awareness 🙂 xxxx

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