What Is a TBHQ Preservative?

TBHQ is the considerably more memorable and catchy name for tertiary butylhydroquinone. This is a fat preservative that can be added to dog food in order to improve its shelf life. Unfortunately though, it may be somewhat unhealthy for your pup and many experts now recommend avoiding it where possible. What’s worse is that it also finds itself in a number of human foods where it is no less harmful.

What Is TBHQ?

The chemical preservative TBHQ isn’t only found in dog food but also finds use in a number of other products. Specifically, it can be used to stabilize some explosive compounds and is also used in varnishes, lacquers, skincare products and resins. On top of that, it can also be found in a number of food products aimed at humans including crisps and fast foods.

TBHQ is closely related to butane and is only permitted in amounts of up to 0.02% in consumables aimed at people by the FDA. This should right away be cause for concern – especially when you consider that the same restrictions do not apply to pet food.


In high doses (1-4 grams), TBHQ can lead to nausea, delirium, tinnitus, vomiting and weakness. It has also been suggested to be play a role in hyperactivity in children and potentially asthma and dermatitis. It is thought to exacerbate ADHD. On top of all this, it may also alter estrogen levels in women.

In laboratory settings, TBHQ has been shown to be precancerous for animals (1) and can lead to DNA damage. Then again, there is still need for further studies in this regard and some research has even suggested that the substance could help to prevent cancer (2).


There is no cause for alarm when it comes to human food. The restrictions put in place by the FDA are based on research and studies and should ensure that there are no harmful side effects from products with this small inclusion.

Likewise, while there may be some risks associated with pet food containing TBHQ, it’s also true that many pets eating these products go on to live full and healthy lives. With no concrete evidence yet proving a link between TBHQ and cancer, there’s no need to take decisive action.

That said however, if you are concerned about your dog’s health and want to go the extra mile then it certainly can’t hurt to avoid TBHQ until more evidence is available. There are an increasing number of natural dog foods on the markets these days that are completely free from artificial flavorings and preservatives.

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