What is BHA in Dog Food and Treats?

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One of the many important things you probably care about as a dog owner is to ensure the health and well-being of your dog.

You feed it with nutritious food and send it to a vet clinic if need be. You confirm that everything you provide is safe and recommended.

In choosing the right dog food, you must check the nutritional facts and ingredients on the labels.

It’s because there’s been an ongoing controversy about BHA in dog food and treats across the net, so you need to find out the truth about it before making a buying decision.

Related: How Many Cups in a Pound of Dog Food?

What is BHA in Dog Food?

BHA or butylated hydroxyanisole is a chemical compound used as a food preservative and essential component in petroleum and cosmetic products.

For a long time since 1947, food manufacturers have been adding BHA to their food products that contain fats to keep them from going rancid and stinky.

Not surprisingly, manufacturers of dog foods have been following the same practice.

BHA in dog food extends shelf life. Because most processed dog foods contain edible fats, it keeps the fats fresh and safe from bacteria.

This chemical compound works as an antioxidant for food ingredients as well if added in a small amount.

Related: What is Taurine in Dog Food? Is it Safe for My Dog?

Is BHA Bad for Dogs?

As mentioned above, there seems to be a perennial debate whether or not BHA must be added to dog foods.

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Some people say it’s bad for dogs. Others reject such a claim. So, does BHA give dogs cancer? Let’s find out.

BHA as Carcinogenic?

According to National Toxicology Program, BHA is a human carcinogen. The study they conducted has used experimental animals and found sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity.

However, the study seems to be a disclaimer, too. The report says that the available data used is inadequate to conclude that BHA causes human cancer.

The report also stated the case of the Netherlands Cohort Study in which the stomach cancer patients didn’t have an increased intake of BHA.

On the other hand, a study by the Research Institute of Preventive Medicine expresses the same dilemma.

The study recognizes the carcinogenicity of BHA, yet it confirms that it acts as a compound that prevents cancer because it is also an antioxidant that intercepts free radicals and carcinogens.

The same report says that BHA has tumor-promoting properties, yet it is not quite toxic.

This study has also answered whether or not BHA buildup is possible when taken for a more extended period. The compounds that build up in fatty tissue are excreted in the urine within 10 hours.

Based on the above studies, BHA can be bad but not as bad as we think. Yes, it sounds logical.

So how can an antioxidant that fights free radicals and carcinogens becomes carcinogenic? And if it’s carcinogenic, why is that so?

Related: What is Beef Meal in Dog Food? Should I Avoid it?

What Regulators Say About BHA

There are a lot of opinions about BHA. But at the end of the day, it is the official word of a regulating body that matters.

According to the FDA or Food and Drug Administration, BHA is safe for human consumption if it does not exceed 0.02% of the total food weight.

This recommendation coincides with the study made by the Research Institute of Preventive Medicine that confirms the harmlessness of the consumption as long as it does not exceed 0.6 mg per kilogram of body weight.

Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority or EFSA says that BHA is safe for all animals except cats due to inadequate data to establish the specific dosage.

The recommended amount of consumption of BHA is up to 150 mg/kg. Therefore, it is the amount you should keep in mind when buying processed food for your dog, but not for your cat.

BHA in Dog Food

Is BHA Good for Dogs?

Well, it seems. But just because it’s safe to use doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. Keep in mind that every research on this subject matter has contradicting views. 

Moreover, the fact that regulators recommend a specific limit of consumption signifies there is risk beyond it.

It would help if you also considered different factors such as the health condition of your dog and its diet behavior. For instance, a healthy dog that eats a lot may still be at risk of health complications.

Balance is the key to feeding your dog. As a pet parent, you probably prefer to buy manufactured foods because it’s convenient. You don’t need to cook over and over.

Aside from that, you wouldn’t worry about your dog eating some spoiled leftovers that are infected with bacteria.

However, you may be depriving your dog of organic food, which is by far healthier than processed food. Besides, home-cooked meals are delectable.

The question of whether BHA is good or bad for dogs must not lead to exaggeration. We, humans, are also subject to the same issue. 

There are many foods we eat that contain BHA. We can find it in potato chips, sausages, snack foods, vegetable oils, beer, baked goods, chewing gum, cereals, butter, and nut products like peanut butter.

Despite it, we are not overly cautious. We still eat such food. Nevertheless, it’s enough that we know the safe BHA level for dog foods. 

There is nothing to worry about if you happen to buy food that contains it.

You can choose to buy those that use vitamin E as their natural preservative, but don’t forget that dog foods with natural preservatives have a shorter shelf life, so you need to consume them immediately.

Related: What is Choline Chloride? Why is it in Dog Food?


BHA is not bad for dogs. What is terrible is whatever is too much. Carcinogens are everywhere.

Even the synthetic vitamins we take like vitamin A and E are carcinogenic if taken in large doses, yet they are safe to take regularly in the right amount.

You know what FDA and EFSA say about it.

The thing that should cause an alarm is buying dog food that is not FDA or EFSA approved. In that case, you might be buying something you don’t know what it indeed contains.

It is also true with the food you cook for your dog. Make sure the ingredients you buy are safe for both human and animal consumption.

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