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The Truth About Dentastix Is Finally Explained
Bacon causes cancer, cow’s milk causes acne and gluten causes IBS. Our Facebook feeds constantly plug us with information on which foods we should be avoiding.
The same is true for dogs, yet they remain hidden in one of the UK’s most popular products. Here’s #THEDentastixTRUTH
Decoding The Labels
When we investigated Dentastix and their ingredients, we noticed there was a massive difference between the UK label and the US label systems. US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), who governs US pet food labelling advises "proper listing of all the ingredients in the product in order from most to least, based on weight”.
However, the regulations in the UK are unfortunately much less restrictive. In the UK, pet food manufacturers don't have to list specific ingredients which leaves a lot of 'hidden' ingredients. According to the Food Safety Agency (FSA) this practice "allows for fluctuations in the supply of the raw materials used and provides flexibility for labelling ingredients”. This makes life very easy for the big corporate pet food manufacturer, but leaves consumers confused and in the dark.
What does ‘Meat and Animal Derivatives’ actually mean?
According to the Pet Food Manufacturing Association, ‘Meat and Animal Derivatives’ can come from leftover meat cuts such as lungs, claws, and heads (1) that aren’t sold in UK supermarkets. Controlled by EU law, the label on your pet food can still be confusing. This allows suppliers to change what meat types (beef, pork, shellfish, rabbit [2] etc.) goes into your dog’s treats – without telling you. This can create a whole range problems for owners that have a dog with allergies.
Beef is one of the UK’s most common allergies in dogs (3). Yet the current pet food labelling legislation allows this important information to be hidden from owners.
How can you know if your dog’s runny poo’s or itchy paws are related to their daily dental sticks when you don’t know what’s in them in the first place? Instead, most of the big-name brands like Mars (Pedigree) can only guarantee up to 4% meat in their dental sticks (4). This type of behaviour from companies that call themselves nutritionists would not be acceptable for your children, and we don’t think this is acceptable for our pets either.
The link between Smoke Flavour and cancer in pets
This flavouring is made from spraying smoke fire with water, and turning this into a liquid (5,6). What’s frightening for pet owners are the links between this ingredient and cancer risk. Of the further testing on Smoke Flavorings by the EFSA in 2011, 73% were given “safety concerns” (7,8,9). In particular for the flavouring named AM01, “genotoxicity could not be ruled out” (7,8) by the scientific study panel. By definition, genotoxic is “a substance known to cause mutations which can result in cancer” (10).
Mars, the confectionery company who also in charge of Pedigree Oral Care do rule out the exclusion of the mutagenic additive AM01 in their Dentastix ingredients list (see below), yet they recommend that we feed this to our family pets every day. Furthermore, Smoke Flavour does not give any nutritional value to a product (7). Why do we need to use additives known to cause pain and suffering in what are meant to be ‘treats’ for our family pets?
Mars, the confectionery company who also in charge of Pedigree Oral Care do rule out the exclusion of the mutagenic additive AM01 in their Dentastix ingredients list (see below), yet they recommend that we feed this to our family pets every day. Furthermore, Smoke Flavour does not give any nutritional value to a product (7). Why do we need to use additives known to cause pain and suffering in what are meant to be ‘treats’ for our family pets?
Iron Oxide is a known skin irritant
Iron Oxide is a known skin and eye irritant that causes lung inflammation (11). This red food colouring is very cleverly hidden on Dentastix labels as a ‘mineral supplement’. In addition to Smoke Flavor, there are now recent concerns about the genotoxicity (cancer) risk posed by Iron Oxide (12). Dentastix makers at Pedigree state ingredients are “included for a specific purpose and provide a benefit to the dog”(13). However, there are contradictory studies that show Iron Oxide has no nutritional benefit in a dog’s digestive system (12).
‘Natural Poultry Flavor’ = no real meat
Natural Poultry Flavor is made from animal digest that has not yet undergone decomposition or rotting. The ‘digest’ is chemically treated with heat, acids and enzymes to produce the final concentrated flavour found in Dentastix. When you read between the lines on your current pet food labels, you may find that the end product does not contain any real or fresh meat at all. This clever trick used by big pet food manufacturers means that only a small amount of ‘chicken digest’ is needed to make a ‘chicken flavoured dog treat’ (14). As a ‘complementary’ product for your dog, pet food manufacturers do not have to ensure that Dental Chews contain any minimum percentage of real meat.
STPP use in dog treats and detergents
Sodium Tripolyphopshate (STPP) or E451 as it is more commonly known is the ingredient in Dentastix that carries out all of the teeth cleaning action. However, it is well known as an offender in the ‘hidden ingredients’ tactics used by big food companies. STPP is used in dog food products as an artificial preservative, known chemically to help thicken mixtures (15). In studies on dogs, E451 caused a decrease in iron content in the bone, liver and spleen plus emesis (vomiting) [16].
STPP can also be found in household detergents, water softeners and tanning agents (17).
Potassium Sorbate used as preservative
E202 Potassium Sorbate’s primary function in the pet food world is as a preservative, its chemical name is more commonly known as E202. It works to reduce the growth of bacteria but is also a damaging skin, eye and respiratory tract irritant in dogs (18). Studies have shown that this E-number causes irreversible damage to blood cells, has a negative effect on immunity and has genotoxic (cancer-causing) characteristics (19,20) in humans alone.
Look for simple, natural ingredients

Now that you’ve read the above info, I’m hoping that you’ll never feed another Dentastix to your dog ever again.  The next step is to determine what a high-quality dental chew should be made of.  The answer is easy – it should contain simple, wholesome, natural ingredients and have some texture that contacts with the teeth.

Here are my recommendations:

1. Choose chews where you know all the ingredients i.e. avoid those that only provide categories of ingredients

2. Avoid chews containing additives, preservatives and artificial colours and flavours

3. Choose chews made with few ingredients

4. Choose chews that are hard so that your dog has to really chew to eat them. The chewing and scraping motion cleans the teeth

5. Choose chews made from an animal part such as bone, tendon or antler

6. Grass-fed meat and raw bones are great choices!

7. Always supervise your dog’s chewing

1. Labelling (Pet Food Manufacturing Association, PFMA)
2. Pet Food Ingredients (Pet Food Manufacturing Association, PFMA)
3. Caring for a Dog with Food Allergies (WebMD)
4. Dentastix Medium (Pedigree, Mars)
5. Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 (US Food & Drug Adminitration, FDA)
6. FAQ (Nutri-Vet)
7. Smoke Flavorings (European Food Safety Authority, EFSA)
8. EFSA statement on EFSA's risk assessment of smoke flavoring Primary Product FF-B (European Food Safety Authority, EFSA)
9. EFSA completes first safety assessments of smoke flavourings (European Food Safety Authority, EFSA)
10. Definitions (Medical Dictionary)
11. Safety and efficacy of iron oxide black, red and yellow for all animal species (European Food Safety Authority, EFSA)
12. Iron Intoxication in a Dog Consequent to the Ingestion of Oxygen Absorber Sachets in Pet Treat Packaging (Journal of Medical Toxicology)
13. Facts about our food (Pedigree, Mars)
14. Pet Food Labels (US Food & Drug Administration, FDA)
15. Phosphoroic Acid and Phosphates (Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry);jsessionid=07870E7C6CF9379A41C2262997754095.f02t01
16. HSDB: Pentasodium Tripolyphosphate (Toxicology Data Network, U.S National Library of Medicine)
17. Sodium Tripolyphosphate (PubChem)
18. Scientific Opinion on the safety and efficacy of sorbic acid and potassium sorbate when used as technological additives for all animal species (European Food Safety Authority, EFSA)
19. Does potassium sorbate induce genotoxic or mutagenic effects in lymphocytes? (Toxicology In Vitro)
20. Mutagenicity and DNA-damaging activity caused by decomposed products of potassium sorbate reacting with ascorbic acid in the presence of Fe salt (Food and Chemistry Toxicology)
21. Pet Food Regulation (US Food & Drug Administration, FDA)
22. Pet food: a note on the legislation (Food Standards Agency, FSA)
23. Detergent ingredients (Ariel, Proctor & Gamble)
24. Procter & Gamble touts 'win-win' of cutting phosphates in all laundry soaps (The Guardian)
25. Dentastix Medium (Pedigree, Mars US)