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How to avoid foods high in arsenic and keep your dog healthy

How to avoid foods high in arsenic and keep your dog healthy

Arsenic levels have become a big problem in dog nutrition

Many dog lovers have reached a new level of awareness when it comes to food. People are switching to raw and cooked natural diets in droves. It appears that processed pet food companies are having a harder time convincing people that their food is better than the food nature intended.

However, even when one switches to raw or cooked food, not all food-related problems are solved. Nutrient depletion in soil results in nutrient deficient foods and dog food is no exception. People who have put their dogs on whole-based natural supplements have seen the transformations in their dogs. However, there are still many nay sayers who stubbornly claim that feeding good food is enough.

As a veterinarian, I source from almost three decades of experience, but still I like to see the proof. Hair testing for minerals and toxic elements has been really helpful because it is highly accurate and shows what is happening in different groups of dogs.

In the course of many years of testing, I have learned that dogs who eat fish-based foods have elevated mercury levels and sardines appear to be the cause of increased strontium. Since the Fukushima nuclear accident strontium is continuously being released into the oceans and not much is being done to inform the general public.

Sadly, I have noticed that dogs who have epilepsy have higher than average levels of strontium and mercury, which made me recommend against feeding fish and sardines to dogs, despite their nutritional benefits. Fish is not what it used to be. 

Arsenic has also been on my radar for some time, mainly because it is highly toxic and appears to be often elevated in dogs’ hair.

Where does arsenic come from?

Even our medieval ancestors knew arsenic was toxic, but our modern problem with arsenic is related to industrial pollution and especially water.

“Arsenic toxicity is a global health problem affecting many millions of people and animals. Contamination is caused by arsenic from natural geological sources leaching into aquifers, contaminating drinking water and also occur from mining and other industrial processes.

The presence of arsenic in our body is unavoidable in our industrial age. Naturally, the next question to ask is, which foods contain the most arsenic and how can we protect our dogs?

Rice is a significant source of arsenic

From the hair test results, I consistently see higher arsenic values in dogs that eat rice supplemented diets. I usually do not recommend rice and other grains for dogs because it is not species appropriate, but I still see some people using it. 

Pet food companies love rice because it is relatively cheap, especially when it comes from Asia, which is a part of the problem. The water quality in many Asian countries is poor, with some exceptions. If you have ever traveled to the region, you may have seen puddles, streams and lakes covered with oil or full of plastic and garbage. As a consequence, chemicals, including arsenic, end up in the rice fields that get flooded for a part of the growing season.  

There are many studies available online to confirm that arsenic in rice is a serious problem. One study compares the presence of arsenic in rice from different regions and California rice appears to be the safest. 

The question is, is rice is really necessary for dogs? The answer is no because it is not a part of their species-appropriate diet. Now you have two reasons not to feed dogs rice and think twice before you order rice from your local restaurant. 

How to find out if your dog has higher than normal arsenic levels? 

While blood tests can help determine the momentary levels of enzymes and electrolytes, it does not give you a comprehensive evaluation of your dog’s arsenic levels over the past several months.

Your dog’s hair is a kind of time capsule that seals its mineral content profile over the course of its growth. Analyzing your dog’s hair is the best way to determine your dog’s levels of arsenic exposure in the past four to six months.

How to get rid of arsenic and neutralize its effect

  1. Eliminate rice from your dog’s diet and treats. In the age of gluten-free diets, the content of rice in food is greater than ever before.
  2. Check your dog’s arsenic levels by doing a hair test.
  3. If your dog’s results show high/normal or abnormal levels of arsenic consider using a homeopathic remedy that has been proven to reduce the effect of arsenic exposure. I have found the homeopathic remedy Arsenicum Album very helpful. I propose that you give one dose (three to five pellets) 30C or 200C potency twice, two weeks apart. Please note that this remedy will not reduce the arsenic levels, but will reduce some symptoms that may be related to chronic arsenic poisoning. Arsenic toxicity can affect multiple organ systems and the symptoms can be non-specific, ranging from digestive upsets to the tendency for diarrhea, kidney disease, liver disease, cancer and changes in behavior.
  4. There are two ways of keeping your dog’s body as toxin free as possible.

Arsenic levels have become a big problem in dog nutrition

A. Providing essential minerals and vitamins, which help to push out toxic elements from the body.

B. A semi-annual liver cleanse with LiverTune.

It would be unreasonable to expect that your dog or anyone will be arsenic free, however reducing exposure to this toxic element can be another deposit in your dog’s health and longevity account. Your dog’s health starts with awareness and taking small steps can make a big difference.

© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM


1. Ratnaike RN. Acute and chronic arsenic toxicity. Postgrad Med J 2003;79:391-6.

2. Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Jun; Carol Potera, 115(6): A296. PMCID: PMC1892142, Food Safety: U.S. Rice Serves Up Arsenic

3. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005 Dec; 2(4): 537–548. Published online 2005 Oct 19. doi:  10.1093/ecam/neh124

About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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