What Is Citric Acid?
Citric Acid is a natural compound that is found in several citrus fruits such as Lemons, Limes, and Oranges. The compound is colorless and odorless with a strongly acidic, sour taste.
Originally, Citric Acid was derived from these citrus fruits; however, while you can derive it from fruits like Lemons and Limes, this is not the most efficient method.
In the early 1900’s it was discovered that you could produce Citric Acid from a black mold known as Aspergillus Niger. By feeding the mold sugar, it produces a constant supply of Citric Acid. This process can be scaled up much more easily than extracting Citrus Acid from fruits.
Citric Acid has two main purposes, and the first of these is as a flavoring in products designed to be sour or taste similar to lemons or limes. It has almost certainly been present in various candy and drinks that you’ve drunk over your lifetime.
However, the other common use of Citric Acid is less well-known and is that it can act as a preservative for foods and drinks.
As we will touch on shortly, this preservative property is a factor that leads to Citric Acid’s inclusion in pet-related foods.
Why Is Citric Acid In Pet Food?
Citric Acid’s main purpose in pet food recipes is as a fat preservative. While some would prefer that pet foods do not contain preservatives, they are a necessity to ensure that they are safe to consume for long periods of time.
Dog and cat owners have become accustomed to their dry food lasting for weeks and months with little change.
The reason that Citric Acid is an effective preservative is that its acidic nature makes it very difficult for mold or bacteria to survive and grow.
This preservative trait can be particularly important in foods with high levels of fat, such as recipes from more premium brands.
While Citric Acid isn’t the only preservative with this trait, it is considered more “natural” than some other preservatives, which is why it is seeing high levels of usage.
Rosemary Extract is another common preservative that is used in dog or cat food recipes in a similar fashion to Citric Acid and is considered “natural”.
You can read more about Rosemary Extract in our article Rosemary Extract In Pet Food.
Is Citric Acid Bad For Pets?
The tiny quantities of Citric Acid found in most dog or cat food recipes are unlikely to have any noticeable effect on a dog’s health.
However, if, for some reason, a dog or cat were to consume a large amount of Citric Acid at once, then it could have some negative effects, especially in their central nervous system.
While this risk is real, the chances of it happening are slim to none and would have to be a deliberate effort or an accident.
Our research has come up with some discussions around another possible risk related to the increased risk of bloat in dogs whose food contains Citric Acid.
Research showed that dog foods that are moistened prior to feeding (this means water or some other liquid was added to the food) and contained Citric Acid caused a 320% increase in the risk of bloat compared to foods without Citric Acid.
This is a substantial increase and isn’t something that should be dismissed, especially for dog breeds or dogs that have a history of issues related to bloat.
However, we believe that there may be more research required to understand the link, if any, between Citric Acid and increased rates of bloat in dogs.
Pet Food Brands That Use Citric Acid
Given that it is naturally occurring and relatively safe for pets, Citric Acid is widely used throughout the pet food industry.
The inclusion of industry giants like Royal Canin and Purina is notable given the huge amount of testing and research that these brands carry out.
You can see an example of the use of Citric Acid in a dry dog food recipe in the below ingredient list of Orijen’s Original recipe.
As you can see, Citric Acid features as a minor ingredient and is only present in a tiny quantity. Orijen takes its ingredient label a step further than many and makes it clear that Citric Acid is being used as a preservative.
While we don’t believe that the use of Citric Acid in pet food recipes is a major problem, if you are looking to avoid it, we recommend carefully studying the ingredient list of any prospective pet food recipes to see if it is present.