Pet food

Researchers at the University of Helsinki have released a study regarding arsenic exposure to dogs consuming a food containing rice (high on the ingredient list).

The Study shows and I quote,
Hair arsenic level in rice-based diet-fed Staffordshire bull terriers ” compared the arsenic levels in hair analysis of dogs fed a diet high in rice (rice listed as the first or second ingredient) to dogs fed a diet with no rice. The hair arsenic analysis “ was significantly higher in dogs fed a rice-based diet .” “ The results suggest that eating a rice-based diet for long periods of time represents a risk for chronic iAs (inorganic arsenic) exposure in dogs .”

This is a very worrying discovery, and certainly one that needs more research and information supplied to consumers and dog lovers/owners.

Check out the link, I am interested in your thoughts on this topic.


This study is next to worthless, because only 16 animals were tested (7 fed rice and 9 not fed rice). Pet foods usually have dozens of ingredients, so how exactly rice can be pinpointed as the common factor in so few animals is questionable.

The website in that link is openly anti-commercial pet food too, hence they have excluded such facts from their analysis.

The researchers also draw a conclusion that the ‘monotony’ of the food is the issue. This is both unexplained by the hypothesis and unsupported by the facts. Once again the sample size was far too small to determine this. Plus the rice was likely to all be from the area the study was undertaken, yet they did not appear to actually test the rice for these traces.

I also wasn’t able to locate a clear listing of controlled variables (ie other factors that could have influenced the results).

In the interest of full disclosure I work in the petcare industry.


There are several problems with the study that jump out at me.

One is of the two groups compared one had rice in their diet and the other did not. We are not told what the two diets actually were, how much rice was in the rice diet or anything else about their food. The information about the dog’s diets was supplied by the owners, what they actually ate was unknown and outside the control of the study.

The second is that they go to some trouble to show that the measured level of arsenic in the dog’s hair between the rice an non-rice groups was statistically a significant difference. What that means is they did not think there was much chance the measured difference in arsenic was just by chance. What they did not show is the difference between the two has any significance for the health of the dogs.

The comment about giving your dogs a more varied diet is a complete non sequitur as they did not measure the variety of any of the diets!

So as studies go that might assess the health or otherwise of a diet containing rice this one does not draw any useful conclusion because it didn’t measure health at all.

In the interests of full disclosure I have never worked in the pet food industry but I have observed kelpies eating rice with evident enjoyment. Since the list of what they will eat is extremely long, and includes material best not mentioned in polite company, and the list of what they won’t eat is very short I feel this observation is of no value at all.


This is a good example of ‘Controlled Variables’ that I mentioned. If you want to accurately gauge the impact of rice, you’d keep all other aspects of the diet the same across participants. A good study will have a list of controlled variables that ensures other factors don’t influence the results.


Thank you tpeter267 for your clear and concise comments with regard to this post. Often posts that appear on websites have the ability to cause panic and upset in the community, and your clear conclusions show all of the flaws in the study conducted.
Thank you for posting.

1 Like

Thanks syncretic, your Badge of BS Buster is deserved!
Your points mentioned about the study are duly noted, particularly what the study did not show!
Thank you for clearing this matter up and thank you for your wise insights! :wink:

1 Like

The same paper also states ‘Albeit statistically significant, the difference in mean iAs level between groups was small and the minimum and maximum values overlapped; thus, the toxicological difference might be small.

So in another words, while the iAs might be statistically higher, there may not be any significant toxicological differences…meaning that while the results look interesting on paper, in the real world they might not really mean much.

This a good point. It appears that ‘The dogs in this study were part of a larger diet intervention study on atopic dermatitis in Staffordshire bull terrier dogs.’ The research undertaken appears to be undertaken as they had access to dogs rather than being set up as a thorough research program.

It is possible that the dogs used for the testing regime have different exposure to natural arsenic, which is present in soil etc.Owners who feed their dogs rice based pet foods may also have different behaviours or beliefs to those that don’t, and their behaviours may result in the dog becoming more exposed to other As sources.

While the information falls into to the interesting category, the rigorousness of testing undertaken may be lacking and further work would need to be don’t before hanging one’s hat on the results.


Here is another interesting thing that has been published about Pet Food…

Human Grade Food vs Feed Grade Pet Food

Would love your thoughts please/
Cheers Nat :wink:


Hi Nat

I suggest you Google the author’s credentials. Short answer; she has none, and appears to be an activist who’s role in life is to disparge pet food manufacturers. She appears to have NO valid scientific evidence to substantiate her campaign, and she discounts views including acedemic research as meaningless or wrong.

If you read the Feb 2020 Catnip, it reads very much like something Choice would publish.

Obviously there are people who support her views, but this does not make her right. This reminds me too much of all the other unscientific soap boxers who claim expert knowledge, are unable to sustantiate their claims, yet disparage anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

The less exposure these sorts are given the better.



"There is a reason diseased, condemned, and/or non-slaughtered animal material is illegal…it is dangerous to consume. "

This is the nub of the question. Who or what is in danger from eating substandard food? Just because food is not up to human safety standards does not make it unsuitable for animals. If you want to treat your fur baby like a child and feed it human grade food go ahead but then you will pay for it - your choice. The fact is that animals are quite capable of eating things that would make you or I very ill. I will speak of dogs as I know more about them.

A while ago my dog was putting on weight and I couldn’t work out why. The short story is he was supplementing his normal rations from a dead cow. He would vanish for half an hour, gorge his fill, come home, sleep and return to the carcase as often as possible. This went on for days until he was visibly gaining weight. I back tracked and found that he was in a revolving queue with other scavengers who were working through the carcass. You could smell it and hear it (blowflies) well before you could see it.

He cleaned out the rabbits on my property, leaving no mess behind whatsoever. They were not slaughtered in hygienic conditions but however he got hold hold of them. He happily ingested (and subsequently eliminated) all the tissue; meat, bones, fur, claws, I mean everything, there was hardly a speck of blood left when he was done. Cleanliness is next to godliness.

I mention this not because I think it is the right way to feed my dog but to show it is possible. I did not encourage this but I could not always prevent it either. He never showed any ill effects from his varied diet (including coprophagia). I did ensure that he was regularly dosed to deal with possible parasites because the alternative was he would have to live on a chain. [Note that prepared dog food cannot transmit such.]

Ok enough revolting stories, the point is it is quite reasonable to have two different standards for food preparation because you have two different sets of risks.


I’m glad my previous analysis helped.

Regarding the second article, let’s look at it in the context of Australia. The following is my opinion based on my experience of the industry and knowing some of the things that happen behind closed doors.

The 7:30 Report has reported on this before. You can read the transcript in that link. There can definitely be contamination in lower quality pet foods. Cheaper foods are more likely to buy from cheaper suppliers. HOWEVER foods claiming to include human grade ingredients may still have recalls or have contamination through non-meat ingredients, so that’s not the only factor. Choice has previously campaigned for regulation

Unfortunately some solutions to this problem have their own problems. DIY diets frequently leave animals short on their nutrients they need or cause hygiene issues. Meanwhile many ‘human grade’ pet foods charge a big premium.

If you’d like to know more, see my breakdown on picking a good pet food here:


Request for a TEST on Cat and Dog Food - major pet health and non-disclosure matters

Please - please - please - a Review is well overdue on cat and dog foods (last was 2017) and has become very urgent. Many cat and dog lovers are having serious health problems with their pets. We believe the manufacturers have changed the recipes and are skimping on the supplements they are adding to the foods after heat treatments. It is impossible to get information from cans or bags of dry food - on the vitamin, mineral, amino acid etc content of the vital nutrients need by cats and dogs. For cats - taurine is essential - a deficiency causes MAJOR health problems of all types. Some brands of cat food are opened - only to find smelly and mouldy contents - whole boxes have to be discarded. If you complain - they send replacements - but give no reasons.

I believe - as a long-term subscriber to Choice - that only Choice can be trusted to get to the bottom of this and I implore this is made a priority as it affects a huge number of animals and their owners. Please.

1 Like

Hi @SusanCL

I have moved your post to this already existing thread that discusses the health implications and safety for pets.

There are a number of topics that also cover some of the issues:

Safer pet food event (Sydney)


Timely posts. My cat Toby has been having diarrhea for the past week, I have not altered his diet but god knows what the manufacturers have done. Its a worry, he’s so fussy about his food :frowning:

1 Like

Hi, I work in the petcare industry and let me answer some of those points with my opinion.

Changing formulas. Cheaper pet foods commonly change the formula depending on what ingredients are available at the time. The parts of the animal used may also change. On the ingredients these will be listed using ‘and/or.’ For safety I recommend foods that have an exact formula.

Mould and contaminants. There are two factors here. First is the use of byproducts, which are more likely to contain contaminants. Look for a food which states byproducts are not used (once again ‘and/or’ means byproducts). Mould is generally caused by issues in the production line, and unfortunately this is a bit harder to nail down. All Australian foods are made in just a few shared factories, but some brands have stricter supervision and testing than others. If you’re extra worried contact the brand directly and ask, or buy an overseas made food that uses a dedicated facility (a good pet supply shop should be able to help with that)

Vitamin and mineral content. Any food that has AAFCO certification should contain sufficient vitamins and minerals. Having said that recalls due to too much/not enough vitamins are common and somewhat unavoidable. Foods manufactured in the US have much stricter rules and recalls are regulated by the FDA to the same level as human food, so if you’re extra concerned choose a US made food.

Additionally many higher quality brands will list the exact mix of vitamins and minerals used. Some will even list the exact quantity. So look for them too.

In my opinion testing this would have limited value, as most batches in all brands are normally fine in order to get their AAFCO certification. Finding the bad batches would be down to chance more than anything else.

I hope this helps answer your questions.


An update on a petition.regarding unsafe pet food.

Petition · Protect our pets: food regulations now! ·

1 Like

Thanks for your response - but you use the word ‘should’ .
‘Vitamin and mineral content. Any food that has AAFCO certification should contain sufficient vitamins and minerals.’. Yes it should - but my point is that nothing is listed - we don’t know whether vitamins and minerals are added before or after preparation and hence present in the final product. Eg Higher levels of taurine (and other additives) are required by pregnant cats and kittens - this information is critically important. We should not be forced into buying expensive brands just to obtain that information. The health of my cats - including their immune status (yes I have blood tests done) has improved significantly since I started to add some Taurine and other specific supplements to their diet.

For the record - I am not a vet but I do have 2 degrees in animal science and I have been involved in research throughout my entire working life. I do enormous amounts of research on health issues relevant to cats. I base everything I say on information derived from scientific research in reputable journals - funded by national and international funding bodies. I do read information from other bodies, some funded by manufacturers - but I only refer to it if there is scientific evidence to support it - or it is published in a reputable journal.

I still believe it is critical that the Australian public is given the opportunity to judge for themselves whether the vitamin, mineral, amino acid, fatty acid etc content is appropriate for their cats - appropriate for their age, breed, health status, reproductive state etc.

When standards are finally created - the governing group should consist of a majority of independent vets and scientists whose bottom line is the welfare of our pets. Pet food manufacturers can be included - but any data they provide must be validated - their bottom line will always be the almighty $ profit.
It is also critical that we are provided with optimal standards - NOT the lowest possible based on standards created by international manufacturers. The standards MUST apply to the end-product - in the can or bag - NOT what is added before processing.

I apologise if anyone takes exception to my comments- but I am passionate about the health of all my cats - both pedigree and moggie - and non-disclosure is anathema to me !


This is also true. Once again it does come down to cost though. The vast majority of pet owners buy pet food through a supermarket. If supermarket brands were to start ensuring every batch meets minimum levels (keeping in mind most supermarket brands have a variable formula) the cost would dramatically increase.

For the animals that would be beneficial. But for the shoppers that would go down very badly, so it’s never going to happen

1 Like

Its a funny thing about cost… I don’t mind paying more for a good dry food which I know Toby will chew and crunch through, which is good for his teeth but I get antsy about wet food… because it doesn’t matter which I choose, he eventually (usually fairly quickly) gets to the point where he won’t eat it. That goes for everything from canned Science Diet down to the Aldi canned Cachet brand (which is actually fairly decent). We are currently in an “I hate Whiskas but I’ll eat it if I must” phase, as well as “Vetalogica? Gimme!!” I ended up going with Vetalogica dry food because the company and product itself is Australian. Toby’s vet approves, and Science diet has got too darned expensive… and its American.


And a further update and a request to contact politicians regarding safe pet food legislation.

Petition update · Happy Birthday Mabel ·