A Couple More Reasons Why NOT to Feed Processed Pet Food

Certain dog food ingredients can cause unprovoked aggression, excessive barking, nervous pacing, behavioral problems, physical problems AND can play a part in destroy breeding programs.

By Dr. Jeannie Thomason

I don’t know if you have noticed or not but dog trainers, and animal behaviorists are multiplying almost as fast as canine behavioral problems are. These behavioral problems (particularly aggression and hyperactivity, depression and paranoia or phobias of one kind or another), are occring not only in carefully bred, perfectly raised puppies (and kittens), but also in mixed breeds and what many term – “mutts” with a mixed bag of genetics, that have turned into uncontrollable, destructive pets and ended up at shelters, rescue organizations, or on the streets. This does not account for the many that have been euthanized where no one was able to help calm or train the animal.

Why is this happening?  Have you ever stoped to think about this? 

Genetics has rarely ever been the cause, no matter how much the powers that be want us to think.  However, a small percentage of these behavior issues occuring in puppies or young dogs have been partially the fault of “breeder” in not raising the puppies with enrichment and socialization.  The larger percentage of behavior issues being seen more and more  in all companion animals – dogs and cats (and even birds and horses) today are due to the toxins they are exposed to  – in vaccines, flea and tick products, household cleaning products, synthetic fragrances and especially in their FOOD!

Yes I said food and almost exclusively in processed pet foods – kibble and canned foods.  These so-called foods or diets contain toxins, many of which are now aptly named “excitotoxins”.  Behavioral abnormalities have continued to escalate in both humans and animals, from rampant Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive dysfunction, seizures, agression to phobias and fertility issues.

Excitotoxins are a class of chemicals (usually amino acids) that overstimulate neuron receptors. Neuron receptors allow brain cells to communicate with each other, but when they’re exposed to excitotoxins, they fire impulses at such a rapid rate that they become exhausted. Several hours later, these depleted neurons die. Scientists have noted this effect particularly in the hypothalamus and temporal lobes – the parts of the brain that control behavior, emotions, onset of puberty, sleep cycles and immunity. The science of excitotoxicity will amaze you.  Many pet foods contain additives which act as estrogen-blockers as well and cause frustrating problems for dog and cat breeders.

According to Dr, Russell Blalock (well known neurosurgeon, author, lecturer, and nutritionist), hidden MSG (it has many different names now so as to hide it being listed in the ingredients) and many other specious ingredients are excitotoxins, which quite literally excite cells to death. Brain studies were done in the human population but effects on pets are going to be even more significant due to an animal’s lack of inhibition.

A growing body of research from animal studies has been giving evidence to the fact that regularly consuming excitotoxins over an extended period of time can destroy significant numbers of brain cells and lead to serious health problems, including seizures and strokes.

While daily doses of excitotoxins actually kill brain cells, that is not the only way in which they do harm. According to Blaylock again, physiological problems have arisen from cells that survive exposure but are nonetheless compromised. “You can lose billions of these nerve connections without the destruction of the cell, but damage is still being done.” Negative symptoms will manifest over time.

Here’s a list of the 7 most dangerous excitotoxins your pets need to avoid.

1. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)

This salt form of glutamate, or glutamic acid, has been known to trigger headaches in humans for decades. Glutamate easily crosses the blood-brain barrier, stimulating cell receptors that triggers cell death. [1] While the body naturally produces glutamate when needed to trigger cell termination, flooding the body with dietary glutamate can seriously disrupt normal cellular function, especially in the brain.  Again, just because you don’t see MSG or monosodium glutamate on the lable, it also appears under these names:

  • Natural flavor(s)
  • Flavoring
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Autolyzed protein
  • Plant Protein
  • Textured Protein
  • Yeast extract
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Carrageenan
  • Anything with glutamate

2. Aspartate

Aspartate, or aspartic acid, acts very similarly to glutamate. [3] This non-essential amino acid triggers NMDA receptors in cells, another of the cellular receptors used to initiate cell death. Most humans receive aspartate through consuming aspartame, an artificial sweetener often hidden in many processed foods. It has been linked with serious neurological effects such as headaches, sleep disorders, and seizures. [4

3. Domoic Acid

Another non-essential amino acid, domoic acid occurs naturally in shellfish. Excessive overconsumption has shown to lead to the development of epilepsy, especially in the elderly. [5] If you feed your dog (or cat a lot of seafood or even fish oils, PLEASE, be sure the fish OR the fish oil is from wild-caught varieties of fish like salmon, trout, and tuna. This way they are still getting omega-3 fatty acids without the excitotoxins and pollutants common in farm-raised seafood.


Also known as ODAP, this protein is another excitotoxin that behaves in similar fashion as glutamate. It naturally occurs in the grass pea and similar plant species and their seeds – Barley, Soy Beans*, Chickpeas, Fava Beans, Lentils, Peas, Potatoes, Rice/Rice Bran, Tapioca, etc.  Overexposure to these plants and their seeds which contain L-BOAA leads to neurolathyrism, a disorder that affects motor skills and movement and can lead to paralysis. [6

Grass pea is a legume used in both human and animal food.  This legume is one of the most preferred legume seeds to grow due to it being inexpensive as it can be gorwn in low fertility soils and arid areas because of its outstanding tolerance of dry or flooding conditions.  Pet food companies as well as processed foods for people are able to come by this ingredient easily and inexpensively.  Just remember, it does contains the toxic component L-BOAA or ODAP.

5. L-Cysteine

Industrially created by hydrolysis of human hair and poultry feathers, this excitotoxin is important for artificial flavor creation. It reacts with sugars in a process known as the Maillard reaction, resulting in meaty and savory flavors. High cysteine levels are associated with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease in humans.  Most likely, cysteine is playing a role in more and more dogs being diagnoised with dementia and or temors and muscular rigidity.

6. Casein

This protein compound occurs by nature in cheese (at naturally high levels). 20% of casein is glutamic acid which makes pet food and processed treats tasty; however, it also increases glutamate overload. Casein is often used by pet food producers to improve flavor in pet foods as well as a way to increase protein levels


*It has been harder to find soybean listed on food labels, just as, like MSG, it masquerades under many aliases. Soy protein isolate (ISP) being one of its aliases, it is a source of textured vegetable protein (TVP).  While that is something that sounds good to those feeding less meat to their dogs, soy actually hinders protein digestion and causes red blood cells to stick together interfering with oxygen intake. So if you are still feeding processed pet food to your dog (or cat) instead of a raw, species specific diet (dogs are carnivores no matter what they are wanting to brain wash you into believing), expect some o Soy Allergy Symptoms to manifest in your pets – sooner or later.  In addition, in case you were not aware, for well over 25 years, soybean in pet food has been linked to bloat (gastic torsion) in dogs!

In addition to direct allergic reactions from soy beans or thier by products, it is widely reported that an alkaline solution is used to remove fibers from the soybeans. Fibers are acid washed in aluminum tanks believed to leach aluminum.  Aluminum toxicity has a wide range of symptoms including: gastro-intestinal problems, nervousness, anemia, headache, speech problems, memory loss, softening of bones, weak/aching muscles, liver and kidney function decline; the list grows yearly.

Best Toxin-Free Foods For Dogs:

The easiest and best way to avoid all these toxins found in pet food is to switch to a RAW, species specific (dogs and cats are carnivores) diet of meat, bones and organs. And of course being sourced from pasture raised animals is the ultimate!



Olney JW. Excitotoxins in foods. Neurotoxicology. 1994 Fall;15(3):535-44.

Structural features of the glutamate binding site in recombinant NR1/NR2A N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors determined by site-directed mutagenesis and molecular modeling. Mol Pharmacol. 2005 May;67(5):1470-84.

Humphries P1, Pretorius E, Naud H. Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2008 Apr;62(4):451-62.

Temporal lobe epilepsy caused by domoic acid intoxication: evidence for glutamate receptor-mediated excitotoxicity in humans. Ann Neurol. 1995 Jan;37(1):123-6.

In vitro effect of the cysteine metabolites homocysteic acid, homocysteine and cysteic acid upon human neuronal cell lines. Neurotoxicology. 1998 Aug-Oct;19(4-5):599-603.


†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes only. Dr. Jeannie and/or The Whole Dog does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness.

© The Whole Dog, Dr. Jeannie Thomason 2010.  Updated and revised December 2018

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