Ethoxyquin is an FDA-approved, food grade antioxidant. It is used as a preservative in dog foods to preserve the energy source found in fats. As fats break down in your dog's food, fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins E, D, K, and vitamin A, along with the amino acids and fatty acids found in fats, go bad and are no longer as potent as the fats decompose. To preserve the fats longer and prevent the nutrients found in the fats within dog food degrading, manufacturers often use ethoxyquin to prevent these fats from becoming rancid.
For decades, dog food manufacturers have utilized chemicals or other sourced antioxidants to preserve food. Though it is FDA-approved and has been for decades for pet food and animal feed, ethoxyquin is not approved for human consumption except in a few seasonings such as paprika and chili powder, in minute doses. There are two sides to this controversial coin. It is unlikely you will find a manufactured dog food that does not contain ethoxyquin. However, most high-end dog food manufacturers use far less than the FDA maximum recommended amount. Even among dog food manufacturers who do not claim their food contains ethoxyquin, it may still be present in sources of meat and fat they use for their foods. The jury is still out for some on whether this preservative is safe for your dog's food. As a preservative, ethoxyquin is not allowed in Australian dog food or dog foods found in the European Union. Artificial preservatives have been known to cause damage to dogs’ livers and liver enzymes.
Many high-end dog food manufacturers will tout the fact that they do not use artificial preservatives in their foods. Higher-end top quality dog food manufacturers will often use natural preservatives such as Vitamin E instead of chemical preservatives. However, it might be close to impossible to find a manufactured dog food that doesn't contain at least trace amounts of ethoxyquin. The only true alternative would be to steer clear of manufactured foods and feed your dog a raw diet. If you choose to feed your dog manufactured dog food, look for high-quality foods. Read the ingredients list well. Moreover, understand that ethoxyquin is typically used to preserve fish and some poultry products. If you are choosing a dog food that does not have those ingredients, your dog food will have far less ethoxyquin than dog foods that are fish flavored.
Ethoxyquin has been under scrutiny for decades, much like many other artificial preservatives and additives. As our thinking evolves, and we move more towards higher-cost, less convenient processed foods, artificial preservatives may disappear altogether. However, it will take years for artificial preservatives such as ethoxyquin to completely disappear from the food chain. This can be frustrating to dog owners because our hands are tied when it comes to options available for our dogs. Natural preservatives are available for preserving dog food. The best food you can offer your dog is offer a high-quality lean protein diet, whether manufactured and processed or straight from your kitchen.