Acrylamide in Dog Food

Acrylamides are cancer causing compounds created during high temperature food processing. While the risks are being established for human acrylamide exposure, less is known about levels in dog food and potential effects on their health. Cancer is common in dogs and the impact of factors like diet is unclear. Thus, it is critically important for the pet food industry to reduce levels of this potentially cancer-causing compound to levels that are as low as possible.

What Is Acrylamide in Dog Food, Exactly?

Acrylamides are common organic compounds that are formed by cooking plant products like grains and starches at high temperatures and are found in many human foods. The substance is produced during manufacturing of foods that are roasted, fried, or manufactured under high temperature like dog kibble. You won’t see them listed on nutritional labels, but acrylamides have been detected in common dog food brands.2

Acrylamides are produced by a naturally occurring chemical reaction called the Maillard reaction and generate an aroma that dogs like. So, most dogs are exposed to acrylamides through their diet and after ingestion it is easily distributed throughout the body.1

When consumed in high enough quantities over time, the greatest risk of acrylamide exposure is the development of cancer as a result of chronic exposure. After ingestion the acrylamide is processed by the body into a toxic by-product called glycidamide, which has been associated with cancers of the mammary glands, lungs, thyroid glands, testicles, skin, and other organs in animals.3

Does Acrylamide Always Cause Cancer?

We do not yet know what level of acrylamide exposure corresponds to cancer development in dogs.

Manufacturing dry dog food involves significant heating and high pressure which promotes acrylamide formation. A 2021 publication studied levels of acrylamide in dog food to understand its role in dog cancer. These results indicated that the levels of acrylamide in dry food were significantly higher than semi-dry or canned dog food.3

The daily intake of acrylamide by dogs on a dry food diet was calculated to be roughly four times higher than that of humans. Another study showed that the heating process that creates acrylamides also creates similar cancer-causing compounds that were 122 times higher in dog food than seen in human foods. Because dry food is often a dog’s only source of nutrition, the presence of high levels of acrylamides may play a role in cancer development over time.3

Studies of acrylamide and cancer formation have not been conducted for dogs. However, in laboratory rats, tumors of the thyroid and mammary glands and mesothelioma of the testes have been reported after acrylamide exposure. Future studies are required to determine the amount of dietary acrylamide that increases the risk of cancer formation in dogs.4

Risk Factors for Exposure

Factors that increase risk of exposure to acrylamide ingestion include regular consumption of a commercially prepared dry dog food that contains higher concentrations of highly processed grains, starches, and dried fruits.2

How to Reduce Risk of Acrylamide in Dog Foods

A precautionary approach should be taken with respect to highly processed dog foods. Raw foods have lower levels of acrylamide, however raw diets can carry other risks, such as illness from bacterial contamination. A balanced diet with a variety of freshly prepared, minimally processed foods is encouraged to minimize risk of acrylamide exposure.2

When preparing a dog’s diet, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicates that acrylamide production could be reduced by reducing both the temperature and cooking time of foods. Boiling and steaming does not produce high levels of acrylamide and the compound forms less in dairy, meat, and fish products.5

  1. Veselá H, Šucman E. Determination of acrylamide in dry feedstuff for dogs and cats. Acta Veterinaria Brno. 2013;82(2):203-208. doi:10.2754/avb2013820202031.
  2. Acrylamide in pet food What is it and what is the risk? Accessed November 28, 2022.
  3. Sugita K, Yamamoto J, Kaneshima K, et al. Acrylamide in dog food. Fundamental Toxicological Sciences. 2021;8(2):49-52. doi:10.2131/fts.8.49
  4. van Rooijen C, Bosch G, van der Poel A, et al. Quantitation of Maillard Reaction Products in Commercially Available Pet Foods. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2014;62: 8883−8891.
  5. Nutrition C for FS and A. Acrylamide Questions and Answers. FDA. Published online March 30, 2020.


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