Living in the modern world means that our pets, not just us, are also in contact with more toxic chemicals than ever before.
In fact, new research from the American Chemical Society found that pets that stay indoors most of the time are at higher risk of diabetes, kidney diseases and hypothyroidism than those that spend more time outdoors.
Study Finds Pet Foods and Products Contain Toxic Compounds
According to the study published in the ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology (March 2018) this increased risk for certain diseases is because indoor pets are exposed to more parabens in pet food and other products. Parabens are a cheap but effective preservative often used by the cosmetic industry to prolong shelf life and inhibit fungal growth in creams and shampoos for humans and pets. Parabens are also used in human food products and dog and cat food, but this is the first time that the parabens in pet food have been studied and reported in the U.S.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulate pet food but do not prohibit toxins like parabens in pet food or other unsafe practices. The FDA has stated that there is no evidence that current exposures are a health hazard, even though research has shown that parabens contain endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDC’s).
EDC’s act on estrogen pathways, resulting in low sperm count, endometriosis and insulin resistance. EDC’s have also been linked to miscarriage, premature birth, birth defects and obesity and have harmful effects on developmental, reproductive and neurological systems.
Researchers have already studied the presence of EDC’s such as heavy metals and bisphenol, but not the effect of parabens on pet health. Here, researchers focused on the risk of exposure for cats and dogs to parabens in commercial pet food by analyzing components found in their urine. According to the Centers for Disease Control, previous research found parabens and other toxic compounds in the urine of every human that was tested.
Researchers studied 58 types of commercial dog and cat food and found high levels of methyl paraben and the metabolite called 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (4-HB) in both the food and animals’ urine samples. Dry food contained higher levels of parabens and 4 H-B than wet food, and cat food contained more of both compounds than dog food. Researchers compared cumulative exposure levels for each group and concluded that cats are exposed to parabens and metabolites through the food they eat, while dogs are exposed through dietary means and other sources.
Pet Owner Advice: Opt Natural When Shopping
The Cornucopia Institute, a public interest group that investigates food issues, has produced a report on pet food. In it, the institute reveals that regulatory loopholes allow unscrupulous pet food makers to use unsafe ingredients in dog and cat food and make unsubstantiated scientific claims. For example, if they say that a dog food is “premium” is doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a quality product. So, buyer beware.
Your best bet? Cook for your pet. This way, you’ll know exactly what’s in the food you serve your cat or dog. Click here for everything you need to know to get started. Also, be sure to check out our quick guide to sharing some of your favorite foods with your pet in our article People Food for Pets: The Do’s and Don’ts. You can even use certain people foods like sliced up carrots or frozen green beans as healthy veterinarian-recommended dog “treats” for your pup, too.
Products like pet shampoo can also contain toxic parabens, so it’s important to check the label and make sure you use an all natural pet shampoo like this one from Burt’s Bees. Still, it’s difficult to identify if toxins like parabens are present because often terms refer to a class of compounds that contain different ingredients. So, your best bet is to look for products that are labeled paraben-free or phthalate-free (another dangerous toxin) and fragrance free. If you have any questions call the manufacturer. Being a proactive pet owner will eliminate exposure to many classes of chemicals that are hazardous to your pet’s health.
Rajendiran Karthikraj, Sonali Borkar, Sunmi Lee, Kurunthachalam Kannan. Parabens and Their Metabolites in Pet Food and Urine from New York State, United States. Environmental Science & Technology, 2018; DOI: 1021/acs.est.7b05981