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Do You Need to Worry About BPA Levels in Your Dog?

Christie Long is a small animal veterinarian with 10 years experience in medicine, surgery, and acupuncture. As PetCoach's Chief Veterinarian, she directs a global team of veterinarians fielding inquiries regarding all aspects of pet car...

Here's what you need to know about BPA levels in your dog

Although the chemical BPA has been around for a while, recent concerns have arisen regarding its safety. It’s found in many consumer products today, and it turns out it’s difficult to avoid being exposed to it. But is it harmful to your dog?

What is BPA anyway?

BPA stands for bisphenol A. It’s an industrial chemical compound that’s found in all types of products. In the 1960s, manufacturers of plastic products and products coated with resins discovered that adding BPA to the products made them much more sturdy and resilient, and since then it’s been widely used.

More: 9 of Your Most Pressing Dog Health Questions Answered

Where is BPA found?

BPA is found in loads of products, including thermal printer paper, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, DVDs, eyeglass lenses, sports equipment, and some dental sealant products.

But because research has shown that BPA can leech into foods stored in containers that are made with BPA, it’s of specific concern when we find it in things like the lining of tin cans and of water supply lines, food storage containers, water bottles, infant formula bottles and bottle tops. Many canned pet foods are sold in cans lined with BPA-containing plastics.

So where would my dog get exposed to BPA?

You can see from the previous list that BPA is in many products. It’s essentially all around us, and is likely present in many of the foods and drinks we consume. Our dogs are living right alongside us, so they’re getting exposed, just as we are.

Is BPA dangerous?

BPA may be dangerous if it’s present in the body in large amounts. A recent study in dogs — albeit a small number at only 14 — showed that after only 2 weeks on a strictly canned food diet, blood levels of BPA had increased nearly threefold in all of the study participants. Researchers discovered that the normal gut flora of the study participants had been altered, although the significance of this finding is questionable, since any abrupt diet change can cause this. Perhaps the most concerning part of this study is that of the two foods being fed, one was labeled “BPA-free.”

Studies in laboratory animals have shown that BPA in sufficient levels disrupts important endocrine systems and causes reproductive abnormalities in fetuses and neonates. It may also cause abnormalities in the immune system, and with so many unexplained autoimmune diseases in our pets today, any potential link is up for scrutiny. So while we still don’t understand exactly how much BPA is harmful, we have reason to suspect that it may be. More research is needed to understand exactly how much BPA is dangerous to your dog.

More: 8 Ways to Deal With Your Dog's Separation Anxiety

How much BPA is dangerous to my dog?

I knew you were going to ask that, and I wish I knew the answer. There is still much research to be done to establish whether there is a “safe” and an “unsafe” level of BPA in humans as well as dogs. But it’s likely that avoiding all BPA exposure is nearly impossible in today’s world given that a 2003 study by the Centers for Disease Control found BPA in the urine of 93 percent of over 2,500 people tested, who ranged from 6 years of age upward.

Is there an alternative to BPA?

With concern for the safety of this ubiquitous substance, BPA alternatives are being used instead, and manufacturers are labeling food as “BPA-free.” BPS, or bisphenol S, is the most commonly used replacement chemical, but a recent study that exposed zebra fish eggs to both products found similar impacts. Another study done on rats found that exposure to BPS caused heart arrhythmias. So it’s unclear whether the alternatives are any safer than BPA itself.

How can I limit my dog’s exposure to BPA?

Never microwave your dog’s food in plastic containers, and choose glass, stainless steel, and ceramic containers for storage of leftovers. Use feeding and water bowls made of stainless steel or ceramic, and if you feed canned food, choose a brand of food that does not come in lined cans.

More: 15 Toxic Foods for Dogs Every Owner Should Know

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