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Bone Appetit! Not Every Dog Food Additive Is Bad.

April 10, 2017

Bone Appetit! Not Every Dog Food Additive Is Bad. | Golden Meadows

Ever glance at the nutritional information listed on the back of your dog’s favorite kibble? Short of being a scientist, it can seem a bit like you’re reading Greek thanks to all the lengthy chemical names. Confusion around exactly what those chemical names mean, unfortunately, frequently leads pet owners to make potentially bad choices about dog food.

Most people either shy away from foods unnecessarily, assuming them to be dangerous simply because of the scary chemicals on the list, while others simply ignore the information altogether. This all-or-nothing approach certainly won’t give you the information you need to make healthy decisions about canine nutrition.

There’s no doubt about it: some substances really and truly are bad for your dog. But the vast majority of scary-sounding chemical names listed on the bag amount to little more than scientific names for specific vitamins, minerals, and fats.

In the same way that dihydrogen monoxide can both hydrate and kill you in varying amounts (hint: it’s water), context is important. Use the information in this short and helpful guide to make an informed choice about your pup’s food.

Calcium Carbonate

Comprised entirely of calcium, a mineral that’s beneficial for your pup in the first place, calcium carbonate is derived most frequently from bone meal. And while it may not seem particularly suitable to feed your dog bones, in the wild, he would spend a significant amount of time gnawing on them.

In dog food, calcium carbonate serves as both an anti-caking agent and a calcium supplement. The first is important for form, while the second is vital for your dog’s overall health, especially in puppyhood. Like human children, your dog requires calcium for strong, healthy bones and good cardiovascular health.


Chondroitin occurs naturally in all meats and is most frequently listed on labels in sulphate form (chondroitin sulphate). Although it isn’t recognized as a required nutritional value for dogs by the  AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles, there is at least some evidence to show that foods with high levels of chondroitin may reduce inflammation and even ward off arthritis. This is especially true if your dog food also contains glucosamine.

Most chondroitin is sourced from animal cartilage. In the wild, dogs and wolves ingest this regularly with every carcass they eat. But your pup isn’t hunting his own food (hopefully, anyway), so dog food makers add chondroitin to make up for the lack of cartilage present in his food.


Fructo-Oligo-Saccharide (FOS) may be less common than other supplements, but this up and coming ingredient is quickly gaining popularity. It’s an essential element that adds flavor to your dog’s food and treats while also having slight demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties.

Sourced from fruits and vegetables like chicory root and wheat, this simple sugar is best known for its ability to boost digestion. That’s probably why you’ll find it added to many probiotic digestion supplements.

When added to dog food, FOS helps your pup’s gastrointestinal tract process everything else he eats at the same time. The better he absorbs nutrients, the better the chances that he’ll maintain great health.

FOS might even reduce the inflammation associated with canine irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Though researchers continue to investigate the connection, several studies and research projects do show a link.

Sodium Hexametaphosphate

It may sound frightening, but you’ll find sodium hexametaphosphate added to many human water systems and tooth care products in trace amounts. Although it isn’t safe to ingest in large quantities (be it for human or dog), the amounts your dog will ingest in his food are small and considered by many experts to be wholly safe.

Sodium hexametaphosphate serves only one purpose, but it’s a mission that’s most important – it softens tartar and tooth plaque, letting your dog’s saliva wash it away. Supplementation via your dog’s food could result in a lower need for tooth extractions and cleanings later in life.


Preservatives tend to get a bad rap whether they’re in pet food or in human food, but they’re necessary for both safety and nutritional value. Think about the last time you accidentally left a coffee cup out overnight or a lunchbox at the gym in your locker; when you came back, you likely discovered first-hand that most organic foods break down when they don’t contain preservatives.

Your dog’s kibble and/or canned food, too, would go through the same process in a matter of days. Without preservatives, it would rot and become laden with molds and bacteria before ever reaching his dish.

Tocopherol just happens to be one of the most suitable preservatives for dog food for a few different reasons. The first (and perhaps most important) reason is that research shows it to be more reliable and safe than other preservatives. The second is that it’s all-natural and sourced from several highly nutritious fruits (including the banana).

Tocopherols don’t just preserve food, they’re comprised of Vitamin E, a necessary vitamin for optimal canine health. Getting enough Vitamin E boosts cardiovascular health, creates a healthier coat, and could even delay aging once your dog reaches seniorhood.

Want to supplement your pup with even more naturally-occurring tocopherol? Slice up a ripe banana and serve it up to him as a treat!


If you noticed that  cholecalciferol contains the same suffix (word ending) as tocopherol, you’re very perceptive. You’re also on the right track to discovering exactly what this chemical really is. Both tocopherol and cholecalciferol come from a vitamin that’s necessary for your dog’s survival. When you see cholecalciferol on an ingredient list, it means the food maker is using a Vitamin D3 supplement extracted from animal sources.

Vitamin D3’s role in your dog’s food is solely one of supplementation. Unlike tocopherol, it doesn’t act as a preservative, but your dog requires it to properly digest and process calcium in the stomach. If your dog didn’t ingest Vitamin D3, he or she would end up calcium-deficient, leading to issues with the bones or teeth.

Worse yet, D-vitamin deficiencies may increase your dog’s risk for cancer. One study showed at least a week link between lower levels and common cancers and/or tumors. Cholecalciferol works to reduce this risk.

These five supplements are just the beginning; no matter how healthy the food you choose (even raw), it will still technically contain certain chemicals. What matters most is that you understand what all those complex-sounding words mean and then base your decision on what science says is best for your pup.

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