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High Levels of Fluoride in Dog Food Poses Questions for FDA

By Katie McLain on

A study conducted in June of 2009 revealed eight national brands of dog food contained fluoride in amounts between 1.6 and 2.5 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) maximum legal dose in drinking water and may put dogs’ health in jeopardy.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in the Earth’s crust, rocks and soil as well as in bone meal and animal byproducts, which is the likely source of the contamination in this study. All eight brands contained one or more of chicken by-product meal, poultry by-product meal, chicken meal, beef and/or bone meal. A smaller amount of fluoride came from fluoridated tap water used to prepare the food at pet food plants.

Once ingested, fluoride accumulates in the bones. Topical application of fluoride is an effective way to prevent tooth decay, but excessive fluoride intake is thought to contribute to mottled teeth (dental fluorosis), weakened bones, reproductive and developmental system damage, neurotoxicity, hormonal disruption and bone cancer.

The most telling effect of the non-regulated status of dog foods lies in the numbers. Annually, there are 8000 reported cases of osteosarcoma (a rare but deadly form of bone cancer) in dogs in the United States. By contrast, there are only 900 human cases reported annually. That calculates to nearly 10 times as many osteosarcoma cases reported annually in dogs versus humans. While this is hardly damning evidence, it does seem to point to a correlation.

The findings in this study raise interesting and controversial questions for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Food and pet products receive very little government protection; they are subject to few standards or regulations. The FDA has very little authority and few resources to ensure that products produced for pets are safe. To many animal advocates, this represents an ethical oversight; the government should establish fluoride limits in pet food that would protect all members of the American family. However, it is rarely that simple. Empowering the FDA to regulate the pet industry would mean financing that department to hire more people to fulfill that job responsibility. That financial liability would fall on the taxpayers. That thought is hardly appealing to anyone, particularly during these challenging economic times.

Still another question: should we hold our pet food companies to a higher standard? Check the ingredient list on any dog food package; if it contains bone meal or animal by-product you should avoid feeding it to your dog. If consumers demand that something change, businesses will change it. Be prepared, higher quality ingredients will result in a higher price, but I think most of us would agree that our four-legged family members are worth it.

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