soy in pet food

If you ever travel the world you’ll find out that, after the weather, food is always the topic of conversation. Living by the Mediterranean back in the 90’s, one thing I vividly remember was being bombarded by so many different types of new foods; I wanted to try everything!

This article, however, is about one type of food that I particularly fell in love with.

My love for this member of the legume family started when my mom would crack open fresh soybeans and add them to all her delicious dishes. Back then, wonderful soy was sold in every fruit and vegetable stand along the side of every road. When buying produce, you would always grab fresh soybeans.

When I moved back to North America in the early 2000s, you might think soy and I broke up. On the contrary, I got to eat soy all the time. Not in its usual green state as I was accustomed to, but in a whole bunch of different forms: sauces, cheeses, and even a spongy substance that tasted like chicken called tofu! In fact, one of the main reasons I loved Chinese food was because I got to use soy sauce all the time.

There was a big buzz about “soy foods” at that time. You couldn’t switch to any channel on TV without hearing about the miracle protein source of soy. We were constantly blasted with all its benefits: High in Protein! Zero Cholesterol! Heart Healthy! Cancer Fighter!

I ate soy products every chance I got so that I could be “healthy.” And if I had had dogs back then – thank goodness I didn’t! – they would have been eating soy along with me.

A super health food… not. Or not anymore

Why Soy Shouldn’t Be In Pet Foods

Here we are almost 20 years later and things have drastically changed. Just recently I was attending an herbal class (as masculine as that sounds) where I was learning how to mix up some wonderful herbs for the longevity of my fur kids. At the end of class, the folks in attendance posed questions to the herbal professor. One question almost caused the professor to flip over her desk.

“Is it okay to add soy milk to our herbal infusions?”

As if someone had stuck a giant rotten fish under her nose, the professor’s lips curled as she replied: “Are you serious! Soy milk?”

The poor lady who asked the question seemed puzzled as to what the big deal was. So the professor asked the classroom if anyone knew why she reacted this way to the soy question.

“Soy will kill you!” someone yelled out.

The poor lady who asked the question had no idea what was going on with today’s soybean situation – or should I say, today’s genetically-modified (GMO) soybean situation.

Cue the cheesy elevator music. It’s soybean history time.

90% Of American Soybeans Are Genetically Modified

The good ol’ American soybean is the second largest US grown crop after the not-so-delicious corn crop. In fact, only Brazil grows more soybeans than the US. Today, since less than 1 per cent of soybeans are grown organically and 9 per cent naturally, this makes the remaining 90 per cent of soy crops genetically modified.

Now because most folks don’t eat this crop in its green state, the soybeans are mushed up and broken into fats or oils and the other part into meal. Humans get the fats and oils and the soybean meal is sold primarily for animal feed. Yes, that includes your dog and cat.

The pet food industry has taken a liking to soybean products because they’re high in protein count, they add bulk to pet foods, the amino acids seem right and the cost of the protein itself is super cheap.

For the most part, soy is being offered as a wonderful option for pets with food allergies. Let’s face it: with allergies on the rise, soy sounds like a lot better option than chicken, which a health professional usually tries to tell you is the prime suspect for an allergy reaction. Right?

It seems like a no-brainer option when the pet owner is told that they can check off their list:

High in protein: check!

Allergy relief source: check!

Super healthy: check!

“Giddy up,” the pet owner thinks! Give me some SOY pet food!

But wait a minute…

For millions of pet owners out there today who are pumping soy products into their pets, are they aware of the research being conducted, and the warnings that are swirling around social media?

What warnings? Ahem.

The ugly truth of soybean dangers: exposed!

Here’s what you might find when you start digging:

“High levels of the pesticide RoundUp have been found in GMO soy used in foods in the United States”, according to researchers in Norway. (Elsevier publication, June 2014)

“The soybean contains large quantities of natural toxins or ‘antinutrients.’ They can produce serious gastric distress, reduced protein digestion and chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptake.Soybeans also contain haemagglutinin, a clot-promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together.” (Cinderella’s Dark Side, Sally Fallon & Mary G Enig, PhD)

“Soy interferes with the thyroid gland’s ability to make T4 (thyroxine) and (T3) tri-iodothyronine, hormones necessary for normal thyroid function. In dogs, the result is hypothyroidism.” (Dr Jean Dodds)

“The UK is one of the few countries that conducts a yearly evaluation of food allergies. In March 1999, researchers at the York Laboratory were alarmed to discover that reactions to soy had skyrocketed by 50 per cent over the previous year. Genetically modified soy had recently entered the UK from US imports and the soy used in the study was largely GMO. John Graham, spokesman for the York laboratory, said, “We believe this raises serious new questions about the safety of GM foods’.” (Institute for Responsible Technology)

“A 2004 study analyzing 24 commercial dog foods containing soy found that these products contained concentrations of phytoestrogens in large enough quantities to have a biological effect on our pets”. (PubMed)

There will be a short quiz at the end of the article

Here are the quick Cliffs Notes (Coles Notes for you Canadians) on more problems with soy and what it can do to you and your fur babies:

  • Soy is antigenic (meaning it can stimulate the production of antibodies)
  • Soy is high in goitrogens, which interfere with iodine metabolism
  • Soy denatures during high temperature processing resulting in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines
  • Soy contains trypsin inhibitors (which have caused stunted growth in test animals)
  • Soy is high in phytic acid, which reduces the digestion of key nutrients
  • In humans, soy’s compounds resemble human estrogen, which blocks normal estrogen, causing infertility, and increasing the risk of breast cancer
  • Soy has high levels of manganese and aluminum, which can lead to brain damage
  • Ingestion of soybean products is linked to seizures in both dogs and cats
  • Soy can cause serious gastric distress (gas and discomfort) in our pets

And the list goes on and on and on…

I could go on with these warnings forever but Dogs Naturally Editor In Chief Dana Scott only lets me rant for a maximum of 1,000 words! (Editor’s Note: Rodney is actually allowed 1,200 words and clearly doesn’t follow instruction well)

Back on topic…

The Bean Of Many Aliases

You can find soy-based products in most kibble, canned and veterinarian-based diets today. To suss it out is very simple, of course: all you have to do is flip to the ingredient label and find the word soy somewhere. Voil-ahhh…? Wait a minute. Where is it?

Careful, my friends. Much like an international spy, the soybean has a bunch of aliases! You may not even find a hint of the word soy. It can be listed as vegetable broth, textured vegetable protein, textured vegetable protein, lecithin (from soybeans), TSF (textured soy flour), tofu, vegetable protein, natural flavoring, guar gum (contains soy protein), etc.

Here’s the deal: our pets are carnivores. If you are looking for a good clean source of protein, my advice is to find a great farmer or butcher and buy your pet clean, ethically-raised, grass-fed meats and ditch the bagged soy pet food.

Better yet, if you do have a bag of pet food that has soy in it, take it back to the place you bought it, bring this article along with you, and help educate the person who sold it to you about the dangers of soy.

If you really want to enjoy soy or give your pet a taste, try organic fermented soybeans. Otherwise, ditch the protein like I ditched my soy sauce!