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  By: Colleen Paige

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What’s in the Kitchen for Fido?

Many people spend countless hours in the kitchen preparing succulent meals for their dog that their own family wouldn’t be lucky enough to be served. While pooch gets goose liver pate’ and sautéed truffles, the kids and husband get leftover macaroni!

This is not typical for most dogs, however. Most dogs are called to their bowl day in and day out, thinking that they’ll notice a new, encouraging twinkle in the eye of their server who just might have decided that today is the day they will eat caviar. Unfortunately the only difference today is that the food has been doused with warm water, as if the owner expects the dog to shout, “Gravy! Yes! Rich, thick, hearty gravy with subtle undertones of rosemary and garlic!” Once again, poor Fido is left at the bowl with perpetual faith that tomorrow will bring a different menu.

Poor quality dog food can be the sole cause of behavior problems, illness and allergies. Just as it’s important for humans to incorporate a healthy diet into their lifestyle, it’s also important for dogs to eat high-quality food, because on the whole, dogs eat virtually the same thing, day in and day out. Today, we’re learning more and more about the dangers of poor quality dog food and dog food that is primarily filler, sugar, and chemicals.

Many dogs suffer from corn and wheat allergies, which cause long-term chronic illnesses, infections, behavior problems and intestinal distress. Corn and wheat also create a sugar high in your dog. Sugar in dog food affects the way your dog learns. It also affects your dog’s mood and energy levels. In addition to corn and wheat, many dog foods also contain sugars such as corn syrup. A sugar high can cause a dog to be very hyper and unfocused. A dog must be focused in order to learn. Many dogs are believed to have a form of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) but not much research has been done about this disorder in dogs and owners continue to think that their dogs are just misbehaved and uncooperative.

It’s common for dogs to have an energy cycle which gives them more energy in the morning and evening, with the afternoon hours left for sleeping and resting. A couple of hours after a dog ingests sugar, he will experience a sugar low. This sugar low will make him sleepy, lethargic, moody, irritable, and will often give him a feeling of malaise. Another symptom of a sugar low is hunger as in the case of the dog who eats only in the morning and the evening and is left alone during the day. A hungry dog exhibits behavior problems and attention disorders as a direct result of frustration and a lack of proper nutrition.

This starts a cycle—the owner becomes angry with a dog for not paying attention, then the dog subsequently becomes more hyper because of the stress caused by the owner’s anger. It’s a very difficult problem to deal with for all involved. Your dog was not bred to eat sugar, wheat and corn but to eat proteins, fats and vegetables.

Corn, wheat and sugar are not the only components of dog food that one must be wary of. The USDA does not regulate the by-products that go into dog food; therefore, most people have no idea that the food they’re feeding their pet can actually be detrimental to his health. The by-products included in dog food contain the following; sterilized cancerous tumors, brain matter, intestines, lung tissue, beaks, eyes, tongue etc.

There are also many unnecessary chemical preservatives in dog food. Three chemical preservatives you’ll likely find in dog food are BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin. Human food contains BHA and BHT, however we don’t eat food containing these chemicals day in and day out for 15 years. It’s one thing to have an occasional snack containing these chemical preservatives; it’s another thing to ingest them with every meal. BHA and BHT have been proven to cause cancerous tumors. Most people are horrified to learn this and not only start to focus more attention on their dog’s diet but their own as well.

Ethoxyquin was first used as a rubber stabilizer in the 1950s. It has also been used as a pesticide and insecticide. Originally it was used to preserve alfalfa clover and grasses for livestock feed. Since dog food falls under the same category as “feed”, it has been a common preservative in dog food. Ethoxyquin is only used as a preservative for humans, to “promote color retention” in paprika and ground chili pepper with a maximum concentration of 100 ppm (parts per million).
People who worked with Ethoxyquin in the rubber industry, seemed to show a dramatic rise in the occurrence of liver/kidney damage, cancerous skin lesions, hives, allergies, loss of hair, blindness, leukemia, fetal abnormalities and chronic gastrointestinal distresses. Studies indicate that in 2003, three out of four dogs have or will have cancer by middle age. This rising threat to our pets has to be stopped and public awareness must be stressed.

Although there are people in the industry who will refute these findings, think about this: The maximum allowable “safe” Ethoxyquin residue in eggs, meat, and fruits for human consumption is 0.5 ppm (parts per million). In animal food, the maximum allowable concentration of Ethoxyquin is 150 ppm. When you consider that dogs are much smaller than people and yet, maximum concentration of this chemical is much lower in human food, how is it safe for a dog weighing as little as eight pounds to ingest this every day? Althought BHA and BHT have been proven to promote tumors, Ethoxyquin is still being studied. Why take chances, when there are all natural preservative alternatives such as vitamin E or ascorbic acid, more commonly known as, vitamin C?

The reason that most dog food companies don’t preserve their food with vitamin E or C is because these natural preservatives don’t hold up as long to prevent oxidation and spoilage. Large manufacturers of dog food, like the brands you see at the supermarket, distribute huge quantities of dog food all over the world. This food often sits for long periods of time on store shelves or in warehouses where extreme temperatures can alter the quality of the product. Smaller all natural pet food manufacturers produce smaller quantities of food than commercial pet food companies do, therefore, their product is much more likely to stay fresh until sold. Buying dog food that is preserved with mixed Tocopherols (a form of Vitamin E) and letting it sit on the shelf for six months will definitely compromise the nutritional value and palatability of the food, so it’s best to use the food right away.

Practically any food you choose from a neighborhood pet food store will be safe for your pooch. Ask the employee there to recommend a food void of corn, wheat, soy, added sugar, BHT, BHA, Ethoxyquin and By-Products. Your dog will love you for it!

Colleen Paige is an animal behaviorist, author, radio and TV personality and founder of “Storytime with Spot” a program which helps academically challenged children learn how to read. Colleen resides in Seattle, Washngton with her husband, son and dog “Tinna”. For more information about Colleen, please visit her web site at

Photographs by Cami Johnson,