Clean Diet

How Safe Is Your Pet’s Food?

As people are cleaning up the foods they eat, they're doing the same for their pets. Unfortunately, pet food labeling can be misleading. Knowing what to look for can help.

THE PET PEEVE: The results of a new study, published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science & Technology, is the first to shed some light on why indoor pets have been more prone to increased risk of diabetes, hypothyroidism and kidney diseases than their outdoor counterparts. The researchers speculate that a contributing factor could be parabens, common preservatives found in dog and cat food (as well as in human cosmetics and pharmaceutical products). Parabens are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that may have a harmful impact on the neurological, reproductive and developmental systems. 

THE FINDINGS: Researchers examined 58 different types of pet foods and detected parabens and their metabolites in the pet food and urine of both cats and dogs. Additionally, some of the dogs’ paraben exposure came from other sources, such as supplements. (In general, there are other contaminants, in addition to chemicals in food, that can contribute to pet illness, according to study researcher Kurunthachalam Kannan, PhD.) Although more studies are needed to determine what the tolerable daily intake limit is for parabens in pets, the team detected levels in the animals’ urine that were 100- to 1,000-fold less than the tolerable daily intake limits in humans. Researchers say there is little cause for concern until follow-up studies are conducted. What’s more concerning, however, is that parabens are not listed on pet-food label. Kannan and his team think that some of the chemicals may have come from meat products that use parabens as antimicrobials. 

CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES: Look for chemical-free pet foods from natural brands that are committed to ingredient transparency. Opt for wet food over dry whenever possible as the study found higher paraben levels in dry foods.