Can Artificial Coloring in Dog Food Affect the Color of Fur?

by Jen Tenenbaum
    Dog food is a rainbow only WE can see.

    Dog food is a rainbow only WE can see.

    Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Dog foods probably aren’t more or less tempting to your pooch based on color alone -- dog’s don’t see color the way people do, according to Dr. Stanley Coren, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia. The articial colorings used in most dog foods on the market are there to tempt the human owners, not the dogs. In some ways, that rainbow of colors can affect your pup -- and his fur.

    Coloring agents are added to dog food to entice human consumers -- not their beloved furry family members. Some manufacturers convince consumers that the bright colors suggest dog kibble is packed with nutrient-rich ingredients like meat, grains and vegetables. While some of these ingredients may undeniably be in your pup's food, the color is caused solely by additives, providing no added flavor or nutritional value.

    While artificial food coloring hasn't been proven to affect a dog's coat directly, some dogs may experience skin allergies causing redness, scabs or inflammation. Coloring agents may be foreign to your dog's immune system and can lead to itching and rashes, according to the ASPCA. Some dogs have thicker fur than others, making it difficult to see the skin easily, so it's essential to be on the lookout for signs of irritation. If your dog is scratching or licking more than usual, rubbing his face along the furniture or losing fur, it's time to call your veterinarian. These symptoms could be a sign of just about anything, including skin allergies. Your veterinarian may suggest a different dog food along with a specific treatment plan.

    Food dyes are commonly used in foods not only for dogs, but for humans as well. Color additives don't only cause skin allergies, though. We don't think twice about some of the brightly colored foods we eat, but in a recent report generated by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, it was revealed that "nine of the food dyes currently approved for use in the United States are linked to health issues ranging from cancer and hyperactivity to allergy-like reactions," according to Dr. Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician. Blue No. 2 and yellow No. 5 are commonly used in pet foods, and studies have shown they might cause tumors or hyperactivity in lab rats and children, respectively.

    Keeping an eye on your dog's overall health is a given, but don't discount your dog's skin as a indicator of his well-being. Brush your dog's coat regularly as a way to look out for any abnormalities. If artificial coloring in your dog's food has you concerned, talk with your veterinarian about some healthy alternatives for your dog's diet. For all those brightly colored bags of kibble on the grocery shelves, there are just as many tasty alternatives that are readily available without all the additives.

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    About the Author

    Jen Tenenbaum received a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Grand Valley State University in 2004. She started as an intern for NPR and periodically works as a copywriter and blogger. She also has experience as a dog trainer and kennel caretaker.

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