Is Canola Oil in Dog Food Safe or Not?

The debate on the use and safety of canola oil in dogs is one topic that is riddled with controversies, overblown negative publicities, and misconceptions. Is it safe or not?

What is canola oil?

Canola oil refers to a vegetable oil harvested from the seeds of genetically modified rapeseed cultivars Brassica napus, Brassica rapa, or Brassica juncea characterized by low (less than 2% erucic acid). All these cultivars are members of genus Brassica, in the family Brassicaceae (cabbage, crucifers, or mustard family).

In the US, besides the low erucic acid, canola is supposed to be low in glucosinolates is defined as

Seeds of the genus Brassica from which the oil shall contain less than 2 percent erucic acid in its fatty acid profile, and the solid component shall contain less than 30.0 micromoles of any one or any mixture of 3-butenyl glucosinolate, 4-pentenyl glucosinolate, 2-hydroxy-3-butenyl, or 2-hydroxy-4-pentenyl glucosinolate, per gram of air-dried, oil-free solid. Before the removal of dockage, the seed shall contain no more than 10.0 percent of other grains for which standards have been established under the United States Grain Standards Act.

USDA

The low erucic acid distinguishes it from natural and wild rapeseed oil that is higher in this acid, and there are both human edible and industrial forms.

The human-grade canola oil is the third most consumed vegetable oil after soy and palm oils and has seen a growth in demand since as it considered as one of the ‘healthy oils.’

On the other hand, industrially, it has various applications, including its use in making biodiesel, candles, newspaper ink, soap, synthetic rubber base, and lipstick.

Why use in dog food and benefits

Fats and oils are essential in a dog’s diet. They are a source of energy, essential fatty,  will support immunity,  help in hormone formation, improve palatability, and help in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K.

1. Significant constituents

Canola oil is low in saturated fatty acids (7%) and higher in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), especially oleic acids (60%). Oleic acid is a non-essential monounsaturated omega-9 fatty that may benefit a dog’s immunity. Specialty may have 70% oleic acid to prolong its shelf-life, and it may be enriched with GLA (gamma-linolenic acid)

Secondly, it is moderate in polyunsaturated fatty acids, i.e., omega-6 (19%) and omega-3 (9%) fatty acids and an excellent source α-linolenic acid or ALA (12%) with a perfect ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid of about 2:1.

Additionally, it has polyphenols (packed with antioxidants), phytosterols (reduces cholesterol levels and, consequently, risk of coronary heart disease, and anti-inflammatory activities, among other functions) and tocopherols, a form of vitamin E with similar benefits.

Finally, it has vitamin K, and as already hinted, it has erucic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid, blamed for several issues as we will later see.

2. Benefits

Canola is one of the added to dog foods others being olive, coconut, flaxseed, sunflower, krill and fish oil, etcetera. The FDA generally recognizes it as safe for humans . Its benefits include:

  • Food and Drug Administration awarded it a qualified health claim that it lowers the risk of coronary heart disease since it has a considerable amount of unsaturated fats. (2)
  • The US Canola Association Canola Council of Canada sponsored review noted that it lowers low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, (3) commonly regarded as the bad cholesterol.
  • Since it has a considerable level of ALA (α-Linoleic acid), a type of omega-3 fatty acids, it has moderate benefits in reducing bone fractures, cardiovascular disease, and type-2 diabetes. (4)
  • ALA metabolites inhibit the synthesis of some pro-inflammatory mediators like prostaglandin, cytokines, leukotriene, and eicosanoids as well as inhibit platelet aggregation that leads to formation thrombus (clot) (5)

Besides, the omega-3 fatty acid will help in promoting a healthy coat and may help in weight management.  

If you need it, brands such as Amazon Brand – Happy Belly Vegetable is a good choice.

Canola oil in dog foods

Concerns: Separating myths from facts

The Weston A. Price Foundation article by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, Ph.D. and many others associate canola oil with blood platelets chances, vitamin E deficiency, retarded growth, and a shorter lifespan.

Others note that EPA registered insecticide (toxic), causes fibrotic heart lesions, platelets changes, lung cancer (6), contamination with degumming, deodorizing, bleaching, and extracting solvents. (7)

Also, there are concerns about replacing this plant source oil with animal fat such as turkey and chicken fats that are ancestral to a dog’s digestive diet, which these pets may find more natural to digest system, isn’t a good idea.

We believe you have read worse criticism, some of which are nothing other than myths. Let us try to address some of the concerns.

1. Warfare mustard gas

Rapeseeds or mustards have nothing to do with mustard gas used WWII warfare and a few other places as the latter is synthesis using chlorine, sulfur, and ethylene as alleged by some online sources. (8, 9). The name comes from its yellowish color that resembles mustard gas.

2. Industrial applications

Being an industrial raw material, it is unfit for humans. However, others like coconut have applications in cosmetics, soap, and other industrial applications.

3. Erucic acid concerns

It is high in erucic acid. However, unlike rapeseed and colza oil, canola is low in erucic acid. This acid was in the 1970s was associated with heart problems (myocardial lipidosis) in high doses.

However, these studies were based on rats that can’t process erucic acid, something not observed in other animals, including primates and pigs.

There lacks evidence on any harmful effects of erucic acid. Furthermore, canola is low in this acid, with its concentration going as low as 0.01% in Canada and below 0.1% in Brazil and Australia.

4. Causes vitamin E deficiency

While it may cause a deficiency in vitamin E, so does fish oil, a reason manufacturer’s add vitamin E to pet foods to curb the possibility of a lack.

5. Contamination by solvent, deodorizers, and bleach

While the concern of remnant solvents used in extraction is valid, the food-grade hexane is unlikely to have any effects on your dog. Similarly, and deodorization doesn’t have any impact on health noted so far.

6. An EPA clean bill of health

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives it a clean bill of health, i.e., “no harmful health effects to humans are expected from the use of canola oil to repel insects and…  published studies indicate that canola oil’s nutritional and toxicological profiles are similar to those of other vegetable oils that are used as foods.”

7. Our take

Yes, a lot more research on long-term use of canola oil in dog food is needed, especially since the genus Brassica cultivars that yield canola seeds are GMOs. However, don’t fall prey to many websites that publish false or outdated information.  

Perhaps, Petfoodinudstry.com has the right words: “Years of published studies in laboratory animals and humans have shown it to be nutritious and safe, and it is recognized as such by regulatory and health agencies around the world.”

Canola oil in homemade diets

If your dog depends on canola oil is excellent inexpensive vegetable oil to use just like soy and corn oil. However, discuss the issue with your veterinary nutritionist for advice on dosing and balanced recipes.

Top dog food brand with canola oil

Top dog food brands without canola oil

If you feel swayed by the tons of negative publicity, especially on the internet and you want top dog brands without canola, the choices are so many which include:

Supplements with canola oil

See also

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