Not so Healthy Ingredients for Your Pet: BHA and BHT

The next ingredient we’re covering in our ongoing series on Not So Healthy Ingredients for Your Pet is BHA and BHT.  BHA and BHT are food preservatives.

What is a BHA? 

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and it’s cousin BHT (butylated  hydroxytoluene) are preservatives used in both human and pet foods to preserve food odor, color and flavor. Both are also linked to cancer.

Why would BHA be in pet food? 

BHA and BHT are chemicals added to oils (fats) as preservatives that can be found in pet foods and treats.  They prevent the oils in foods from oxidizing and becoming rancid. Oxidation affects the flavor, color and odor of foods and reduces the nutritional value.

BHA and BHT are identified by California’s Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and the National Toxiocology Program of DHHS as a carcinogenic or cancer-causing agents.

The FDA regulates its use as an additive and still permits its use as a fat preservative in human foods stating it is “generally recognized as safe” in low doses.

Are there any risks to feeding your pet BHA?  Certainly, any substance recognized as a carcinogen should be avoided and even though the FDA states it is safe in small doses, that doesn’t account for the fact that you may be feeding these substances to your pet daily maybe even twice daily, month after month, year after year. That’s not “low doses”.

These synthetic substances are basically “shelf-life extenders”. Twenty years or more years ago, they were commonly used in all dry pet food, but given what we now know about their carcinogenic properties they are found less often, and typically in lower quality foods.

As a responsible pet owner concerned about your pet’s health and longevity, be sure and READ THE LABEL on your pet’s food and treats and avoid anything that states “preserved with BHA or BHT”

BHA Factoids:

In human foods, as a preservative, it is found in potato chips, butter, cereal, preserved meats, beer, baked goods, chewing gum and other foods.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes these food additives as GRAS—generally recognized as safe—which means they are widely considered safe for their intended use in specified amounts, but did not have to undergo pre-market review.

Ingredient language to look for in pet foods that contain BHA or BHT:

  • "Animal Fat Preserved With BHT And Citric Acid"
  • "Vegetable Oil ((Source Of Linoleic Acid) Preserved With Bha/Bht)"


Personalize your pet’s daily meals.

Feed the right amount each day with the SmartFeeder and SmartDelivery.