Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
From  Issue
28 April 2002


When our story went to air (1990)....

Over the past several years, dog food companies have developed premium dog foods for purebreds. Some of the foods developed to improve the health of these dogs contain a chemical preservative many breeders believe may be causing serious disorders in purebreds.

It's called ethoxyquin. Some say it can make dogs very sick. In the 10 years before our story aired, there was an increase in immune system disorders in some dogs everything from minor skin irritations to deformed litters. Some people are blaming ethoxyquin for their dogs' ailments.

Ethoxyquin was originally developed as a rubber stabilizer. The Monsanto corporation later refined it for use as a preservative in animal feeds. Most dog foods contained very little of the chemical. But in the late 1980s, many companies that were making high performance foods began adding extra ethoxyquin. The foods contain more fat than regular dog foods, and the companies found the chemical to be a cheaper, more effective way to extend the shelf-life of their product. Not long after, some breeders were finding their dogs were developing unusual disorders.

One breeder in Massachusetts, who has bred dogs for 30 years, found that her collies started developing problems. They developed skin lesions, allergies they never had before, lack of pigmentation in their nose, runny eyes, poor coat quality, listlessness.

She switched foods, but the problem worsened. Bitches were giving birth to deformed and still-born litters. Her prized stud dog was bleeding from the mouth. His throat looked like raw hamburger. He was leaving bloody paw prints in the snow.

Test results concluded the dog had been exposed to a chemical.

The breeder switched her dogs to a food without ethoxyquin. The results were dramatic. She wrote an article about what happened, and soon received dozens of letters and phone calls from dog owners with similar experiences.

Another breeder lost 70 puppies and adult dogs before her vet suggested she take her animals off food containing ethoxyquin. The health of her dogs improved, but she was bitter. She and her husband began to do research on ethoxyquin. Other breeders came forward with information.

An internationally recognized expert in blood disorders in animals, Dr. Jean Dodds, said she noticed an increase in auto-immune disorders among dogs. She traced the problems to a change in diet. The change was the addition of ethoxyquin as the major preservative for most of the premium commercial pet foods. She found when she took animals off food containing the chemical, their problems cleared up. Her subsequent research found that ethoxyquin works as a trigger in some animals that sets off auto-immune diseases. She says purebreds are especially susceptible.

The only long-term study done on dogs was conducted by Monsanto, the company that first refined ethoxyquin for use in animal feeds. The study was done in the 1950s and 60s and, by today's standards, seems unsophisticated. When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began receiving calls from concerned dog owners, it took another look at the study. The FDA decided not to intervene. It concluded that since ethoxyquin had been in use for 30 years, the complaints from dog owners carried no weight. Monsanto stood by its study.

Dr. Dodds says no study done in the 1950s is valid now because scientific and medical requirements for conducting a study are different today. The absence of any studies proving ethoxyquin causes disease, leads some members of the veterinary community to not share concerns about the chemical. Some find the anecdotal evidence not compelling, and see ethoxyquin as simply the cause of the day. Dr. Dodds insists the increase in environmental challenges today may have caused things that were safe 20 years ago, to be unsafe today.

There are no special regulations in Canada controlling pet food. So, products sold here are the same as in the U.S. That means most dog food sold in Canada contains extra ethoxyquin. Natural alternatives to the chemical include Vitamins C and E, though products using them as preservatives have a shorter shelf-life. Some experts fear eliminating ethoxyquin will only increase the risk that food will go bad and people will end up feeding spoiled food to their pets.

Many breeders want ethoxyquin tested again. In an attempt to calm the fears of some dog breeders, Monsanto announced the launch of a new long-term dog study run by a private laboratory. Although the FDA's official position on ethoxyquin is that it's safe, it has recommended that another government agency conduct new tests.

Labels on dog food aren't much help. Some dog foods do list ethoxyquin as an ingredient. But a label that doesn't list it, is no guarantee that the product is free of the chemical. Your best bet is to talk to the people at your local pet food store.

Since our story (update)

In July 1997, after assessing the results of the latest study on ethoxyquin, the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine asked that the maximum amount of the preservative be voluntary reduced to 75 parts per million in complete dog foods. The FDA says the earlier limit of 150 ppm "may not provide an adequate margin of safety in lactating female dogs and possibly puppies." But the study showed ethoxyquin levels of 150 ppm had no adverse effects on reproduction.

Pet food still isn't regulated in Canada. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association has a voluntary certification program for pet food. It certifies the food, and its seal goes on the bag to say the food meets nutritional standards.

The CVMA says it has no position on ethoxyquin. The Pet Food Institute, representing pet food manufacturers in the U.S., conducted a study designed to show that ethoxyquin is effective at levels between 30 and 60 parts per million.

The results of the study are currently being analyzed, but the Pet Food Institute says there is no safety issue with ethoxyquin at the 75 ppm level. It also says that all manufacturers complied with the FDA's request to limit ethoxyquin to that amount.

[Editor's Note: We present this article as information about Ethoxyquin. We do not support or promote further testing on this chemical. Not only should there be enough data available from those who have already used it, but no animal should have to suffer in order for product manufacturers to increase shelf life of their product.]

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