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It’s no secret that MSG is a popular food additive. You’ve probably seen it on ingredients lists before, and maybe even heard warnings about it. But what is MSG, exactly? And why is it considered bad for dogs? In this blog post, we’ll answer those questions and more. We’ll also provide tips on how to avoid MSG in dog food.

In the 1970s, MSG was included in baby food but was voluntarily phased out before the end of the 70s. However, it’s still commonly added to many processed foods today. It’s used as a flavor enhancer and is often found in Chinese food, canned soups, and processed meats.

A 2017 Study on the prevalence of MSG in different food types found that it is still common. The table below shows concentrations of MSG in different common food that Zehra, et al., found in their research.

concentration of MSG in some food sources

We have included MSG in our lists of bad dog food ingredients and Peta.org has been campaigning against the use or testing of MSG on dogs.

snapshot showing Peta.org's campaign to end use of MSG as dog food ingredient

Learn more about Peta’s campaign to end harmful MSG in farm animals on the short 1-min video below;

What is MSG?

MSG is a flavor enhancer that’s commonly used in many processed foods and most Chinese food have this additive. It’s made by combining glutamic acid (an amino acid) with sodium. Glutamic acid is found naturally in some foods, but the MSG version is synthetically produced.

MSG has been shown to be safe for human consumption, but it’s a different story when it comes to dogs. That’s because dogs are much more sensitive to MSG than humans are. ingesting large amounts of MSG can lead to msg poisoning in dogs, which can be very dangerous.

MSG is also known as Vetsin in other parts of the world such as the Philippines and elsewhere. MSG is also known as Ajinomoto in some countries.

Other names of MSG

According to this Business Insider article, MSG has many synonymous names including;

  1. Monosodium salt,
  2. Monohydrate,
  3. Monosodium glutamate,
  4. Monosodium glutamate monohydrate,
  5. Monosodium L-glutamate monohydrate,
  6. MSG monohydrate,
  7. Sodium glutamate monohydrate,
  8. UNII-W81N5U6R6U,
  9. L-Glutamic acid,
  10. Monosodium salt, and
  11. Monohydrate, among others.
other names of MSG from a pet food label

Appearance: odorless, crystalline powder

Also known as E621, MSG is a white, odorless, crystalline powder that’s often used as a flavor enhancer in processed foods. It is able to dissolve easily in water separating sodium and glutamate and this blog mention that it is referred to as “umami” flavor in Asian food flavors and it gives food a meaty taste. But it’s not natural like L-glutamic acid or glutamate. It’s created through a fermentation process, and excess MSG isn’t excreted like excess glutamate would be.

Why it is bad for dogs?

MSG is considered bad for dogs because it can be toxic to them. Dogs are much more sensitive to MSG than humans are, and ingesting large amounts of MSG can lead to msg poisoning in dogs, which can be very dangerous.

Below are ways the poison will affect your dogs:

MSG Tricks the Brain:

In a 2015 Research by Michael B., et al., MSG was found to alter brain response. It was observed that when rats were given MSG, there was an increase in cerebral blood flow. The study authors believe that this is due to the fact that MSG causes the body to release more histamine.

MSG has no taste of its own and works by deceiving the brain into believing food tastes good. It’s a neurotransmitter that causes an overabundance of dopamine and is categorized as an excitotoxin because it excessively stimulates the brain, leading to cell death.

Veterinarian nutritionist Dr Veneta Kozhuharova DVM, MRCVS, Cert.CFVHNUT (certified in Canine and Feline Veterinary Health Nutrition) has found that glutamate or MSG in dog foods can lead to seizures in dogs. She cites a study at London’s Department of Neurology, Institute of Psychiatry, finding that “Glutamate is the principal excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain and, as such, it inevitably plays a role in the initiation and spread of seizure activity” (2).

MSG Causes Seizures In Dogs:

A study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry found that MSG can cause seizures in dogs. The study authors believe that this is due to the fact that MSG causes the body to release more histamine. Histamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in seizure activity.

The study authors concluded that “MSG may cause seizures by releasing histamine or by a direct action on the central nervous system.”

This was concurred by Dr. Veneta Kozhuharova DVM, a vet nutritionist who found B S Meldrum’s report that concluded that “Glutamate is the principal excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain and, as such, it inevitably plays a role in the initiation and spread of seizure activity.”

Snapshot of an MSG peer-reviewed research on MSG links with Epilepsy in Dog
Snapshot of an MSG peer-reviewed research on MSG links with Epilepsy in Dog

MSG May Be Linked To Obesity In Dogs:

A study published in the journal Obesity found that MSG may be linked to obesity in dogs. The study authors believe that this is due to the fact that MSG causes the body to release more

MSG has been shown to cause obesity in rats. A study published in 2007 found that rats given MSG were more likely to be obese than rats that were not given MSG. The study authors believe that this is due to the fact that MSG alters the way the body metabolizes fat.

MSG causes liver inflammation:

In a 2008 Study published in the Journal of Autoimmune Diseases, it was found that MSG can cause liver inflammation. The study authors believe that this is due to the fact that MSG causes the body to release more histamine which overloads the liver and can also extend to other organs such as the kidney causing complications including hip dysplasia.

MSG Linked to Brain Damage:

In 1970, the late John Olney was among the first scholars to find the connection between MSF and brain damage in mice. Dr. Olney at Washington University found that MSG injections caused obesity, neuroendocrine changes, behavioral abnormalities, and fetal brain damage in neonatal mice whose moms had consumed it while pregnant.

snapshot of an MSG research on its impact on mice

Synthesis of MSG -Dietary glutamate in the intestines

Glutamine is converted to glutamine/

Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid and is required for numerous biochemical processes in the body. It is synthesized from glutamate and ammonia by the enzyme glutaminase in many tissues including liver, kidney, pancreas, intestine, and brain.

Glutamate is converted to glutamine by the enzyme glutaminase in the presence of ammonia. The reaction is reversible and both glutamate and ammonia are required for the synthesis of glutamine.

The main function of glutamine is to serve as a nitrogen source for other amino acids, nucleosynthesis of glutamine from glutamate. The main function of glutamine is to act as a nitrogen source for other amino acids, nucleotides, and enzymes. It is also required for the synthesis of proteins, purines, pyrimidines, and other compounds in the body.

Symptoms of MSG Poisoning In Dogs:

If your dog is eating the common commercial pet food, it may not develop any toxicity associated with traces of MSG unless you are feeding an MSG-inclusive dog food. Your dog may be more susceptible to MSG toxicity if it has liver or kidney disease, is pregnant, or is a young puppy or kitten.

The most common symptoms of MSG toxicity in dogs are:

> Seizures

> Disorientation

> Ataxia (loss of coordination)

> Head pressing

> Vomiting

Diarrhea

> Excessive drooling

> Tremors

> Muscle weakness

How To Avoid MSG For Dogs: 

When looking for a pet food, check the label for monosodium glutamate, sodium caseinate, or hydrolyzed protein. These are all terms for MSG.

Below are other terms that Dogs Naturally Magazine found to be related to MSG;

  • Any type of protein isolate (like soy protein isolate)
  • Any type of textured protein (such as textured vegetable protein)
  • Autolyzed yeast
  • Hydrolyzed yeast
  • Yeast extracts or yeast nutrient or yeast food
  • Soy extracts
  • Soy concentrate
  • Sodium caseinate or calcium caseinate
  • Disodium inosinate or disodium guanylate (which are flavor enhancers effective only in the presence of MSG)
  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Glutamate, glutamic acid, or free glutamate

FAQs

Q: What is MSG?

A: Monosodium glutamate, more commonly known as MSG, is a flavor enhancer. It is used in many processed foods to make them taste better and is found to be toxic to dogs.

Q: Why is MSG bad for dogs?

A: MSG has been linked to various health problems in dogs including seizures, obesity, liver disease, and brain damage.

Q: can msg kill dogs?

A: Continued ingestion of MSG will first impact the brain, causing neurological symptoms such as disorientation, head pressing, and seizures. If left untreated, MSG toxicity can lead to death.

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