Does your dog have ANY digestive issues - hope this helps (Re Carrageenan)

My 3-y-old 6 lb male Chihuahua started out on Royal Canin dry food for Chihuahuas before I got him at 16 months old. Since then he has had no grains, no sugars, no ‘meat or animal derivatives’.

I changed him over to Natures Menu Country Hunter wet food pouches, and he continued to do well.

After about six months, I changed him to Lily’s Kitchen wet food trays because these were more readily available to me, and there were no adverse effects (at first). I would give him a variety of LK trays, including the Organic variety, which I increased to every other day.

He started to get loose, and more frequent, mucousy stools.

I suspected his food was not suiting him. Maybe the LK Organic was too rich… I then gave him a half-wet-half-dry diet (the dry was Barking Heads small breed, grain free) so he had LK wet trays in the morning (alternating organic with non-organic trays on different days) and dry in the evening. After that his stools firmed up, but were often bright yellow, and often normal consistency but marbled brown and yellow.

I emailed the company and they told me that they had never heard of this problem with their food. With hindsight, his stools firmed up not because he was eating half dry food, but because it meant he was eating less of the LK Organic.

At some point last year he developed occasional symptoms (about six episodes in total) in the morning which included, but not all at the same time, gurgling stomach, vomiting bile (twice had specks of blood in it), loss of appetite, shaking, gulping, head-bobbing, licking the air, licking the carpet, strange posture, yelping, frantic running, once even eating his Vetbed! His symptoms would clear up after he had eaten, but he would lose his appetite during the episodes, and he would get worse if he didn’t eat.

I took him to two different veterinary practices where he was given an anti-nausea injection and I was told by both to feed him Chappie to settle his stomach and come back next day if he didn’t improve. He improved as soon as I got home.

I strongly started to suspect it was his food that was the problem and, eventually, specifically CARRAGEENAN in the Lily’s Kitchen Organic. Carrageenan is an unnecessary and dangerous thickening agent used to make the food look prettier. It firms up the product to make it loaf-like.

I have recently removed the LK Organic / carrageenan and, so far, he has been right as rain. He used to also do wicked-smelling farts two to four times a day, and now does none. His stools are perfect in colour and consistency.

I now keep a very detailed food and symptom diary which includes every single thing he eats, the time he eats it, the amount he eats, and any symptoms at all. I have eliminated the dry food, too, and feed him three times a day instead of two.

I now email all companies BEFORE I feed my dog (and cat) on a new food to ask them if their food contains carrageenan, and what other thickeners their food contains, because they don’t have to declare them on pet food labels. Please do this if your pet has any of the above symptoms I mentioned. If a food contains carrageenan, don’t feed it to your pet. It can cause inflammation (anything with ‘itis’ on the end of it refers to inflammation) and severe digestive upset, and I believe these are the milder, short-term symptoms.

It is hard to find a dog food that contains no thickeners at all (Barking Heads uses none, and Meowing Heads for cats has none). Some companies use cassia gum, xanthan gum, guar gum, locust bean gum as thickening agents. After an absolute ton of research, I believe these are less harmful by far than carrageenan, and some or all may not cause harm.

He is still eating some LK non-organic foods that I have in the cupboard, which contain either locust bean gum or cassia gum, and he has been well ever since dropping the organic version which contains carrageenan.

Lily’s Kitchen is up front about naming thickeners on its labels, but not all companies are. It is best to check with them with a simple email before you feed their food to your pet.


Thank you for your very detailed post. There are many potential causes of some of the issues you described so it was lucky that you seem to have isolated the problem for your dog. I know that some of the thickeners can irritate the gut in humans so it follows that they may cause problems in dogs too.

I would be unhappy to give my dog anything with Carrageenan in. It is a known carcinogen in humans. It is a worry that it can be added to foods without going on the label.

I hope that your dog continues to have good digestive health and thank you for sharing your experiences.

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Thanks. It’s too important not to share! What helps the most is writing everything down. It makes me wonder if most dogs and cats that end up at the vets with chronic problems are there due to their diets.

My cat had eight weeks of diarrhoea at the end of last year and, by writing everything down and analysing ingredients and trying different foods, I found out that it was rosemary extract that caused it. The diarrhoea stopped the moment I gave her foods without it. Rosemary and rosemary extract are in so many pet foods. I avoid it completely for my dog now, too. He is smaller than my cat and I just don’t trust it.

It’s not just the major proteins that pets can be intolerant to, but even those ingredients towards the end of the lists. I am wary of all foods.

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It is now three weeks since I removed Lily’s Kitchen Organic, containing CARRAGEENAN, from my dog’s diet. He is like a different animal. His stomach has remained settled and his daily foul gas emissions have ceased. I have now gone back to feeding him twice a day - first thing in the morning, and again at 7 pm.

I have noticed other improvements in him: His breath has improved a lot! Also he had a slight ear odour before, and that has gone. His ‘doggy smell’ has gone. It is as though this noxious ingredient was affecting every cell in his body and escaping any way it could.

I bathed him seven days ago and he still smells like a freshly-bathed dog. I combed him last night and the comb slipped through his thick double coat effortlessly (except for his tail which is always the hardest part to comb). Usually the comb snags throughout his thick, greasy coat, and combing carefully can take some time. The greasiness of his coat has not built up yet; previously it built up quickly. His coat is looking and feeling silkier. Friends have noted that he looks ‘perkier’ and ‘livelier’.

Carrageenan (E 407) is used in lab animals to induce inflammation and inflammatory disease. As far as I am aware, from all that I have read, the ingredient does have to be declared on pet food labels in the US, but not in Europe.

I was holding off mentioning this until I had heard back from the company FORTHGLADE…

My dog’s worst ever episode occurred five months ago, the day after I had given him a new food to try. I had bought a pack of Forthglade tray foods (duck variety). I thought I’d try Forthglade because the ingredients looked decent, and because I suspected at the time that the Lily’s Kitchen Organic wasn’t agreeing with him. I put his dreadful ensuing symptoms down to introducing the new food (Forthglade) without phasing it in gradually, although I had done this on other occasions without issue.

I wondered if the food was ‘off’ as it had an unhealthy-looking grey pallor, and my dog didn’t wolf it down like he has done with every other food I have ever given him - he looked up at me, and then ate it slowly without enjoyment. I remember it clearly from five months ago. I didn’t give it to him again as the next day he was ill.

It was only last week after doing a lot of thinking and remembering that I wondered if Forthglade might contain carrageenan.

I emailed the company last week out of curiosity, and I have just checked my email. They tell me they do use CARRAGEENAN as a thickener / gelling agent.

I haven’t seen any reference to Forthglade using carrageenan on their website or packaging. I have emailed our website owner about this and he will be making enquiries. Hopefully we will have an update on the matter soon.

Pet food companies in the UK don’t have to declare carrageenan on their products.

From Lily’s Kitchen to me:

“Carrageenan is common in many pet and human foods, though it is not a legal requirement that it is declared. However, we like to be as transparent as possible which is why we include it on our label.”

From Forthglade to me:

“The seaweed extract we use is carrageenan, which is a natural product you could whip up at home, but we don’t use any of the others.”

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I might have misunderstood you. If so, please accept my apology. I see that you have determined that Lily’s Kitchen use carrageenan. Your mention of Forthglade confused me. Are you saying that both companies use carrageenan? I have a tray of Forthglade grain free in the cupboard and have just looked at the ingredient list - no mention of it or seaweed.

No problem…

Yes Lily’s Kitchen use carrageenan in their organic ranges, but not in the non-organic varieties - they use other thickeners / gelling agents in those and, so far, my dog has been fine on them.

I asked Forthglade (knowing that they don’t have to declare carrageenan on any labels, and knowing how my dog had suffered after his first and only meal of Forthglade) what thickeners / gelling agents they use in their wet dog-food trays, and I gave them a list of examples. Forthglade replied and said they use only carrageenan.

Thank you. That clarifies things. David will be looking into this so please keep a watch on the thread for his update.

Further information about carrageenan here. Currently the Dog Food Directory is only listing two pet food manufacturers who use it - Husse and Lily’s Kitchen.

I was looking at the ‘wet’ dog food ‘Crave’ (owned by Mars) in the supermarket the other day. That also contains carrageenan, and it says so on the label. It may not be on the Dog Food Directory, which I think is brilliant by the way - a really useful and helpful tool!

EDIT: The ‘Crave’ information I can find online says they use cassia gum. I’m almost certain I picked up a tray and saw carrageenan. I will check next time I go and report back here. I’ve also emailed them. It could have been cat food, but I think it was dog food I was looking at.

EDIT: From the Crave website - Wet dog food - Turkey and Lamb Pate with Shreds of Real Chicken [good job it isn’t artificial chicken then…]


Turkey, Chicken Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Lamb, Dried Egg Product, Chicken Heart, Carrageenan, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Potassium Chloride, Flaxseed, Dried Yam, Tricalcium Phosphate, Sunflower Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Calcium Carbonate, Brewers Dried Yeasts, Xanthan Gum, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Dried Pomegranate, Blueberry Pomace, Cranberry Pomace, Dried Carrot, Tomato Pomace, Magnesium Sulfate, Guar Gum, Vitamin E Supplement, Dried Pumpkin, Choline Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Ascorbic Acid, Magnesium Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodide, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Cobalt Proteinate, Vitamin B12 supplement, Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin , Vitamin D3 Supplement, Rosemary Extract

I didn’t see it at first as I was looking further down the list…

It also contains the thickeners xanthan gum and guar gum.

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FYI I’ve just sent an email to all of the wet food manufacturers we currently have listed to ask whether or not their foods contain carrageenan and will update the directory as the information comes in. Thanks to all for raising this point

Wow, thanks!! And thanks to Dottie, too.

This will be very helpful, and interesting.

Carrageenan is said to be in around 70% of pet foods, and is used a lot in pate-type pet foods.

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Results so far:

Wet ranges that are free from carrageenan: Ziwipeak, Feelwell’s, Legacy, Aniforte, Trophy, Soopa Pets
Wet ranges that do contain carrageenan: Lily’s Kitchen, Nature’s Harvest

Obviously we’re still waiting for confirmation from lots of other manufacturers

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I’m going to write them all down on my ‘Ronnie dog spreadsheet’, even though the info will go on the Dog Food Directory when completed.

Lily’s Kitchen only has carrageenan in the organic wet dog food range. Their 400 g dog food tins and their non-organic trays don’t contain carrageenan. They put everything on their labels, they tell me.

Barking Heads wet dog food pouches contain no thickeners at all, as I have already emailed them; but no harm in re-checking as the more people who contact companies about this, the better. The consistency of Barking Heads dog food is like Cottage Pie meat, not solid, and is the only dog food I have seen to have this consistency. Lily’s Kitchen told me they add thickeners to make the product ‘less watery’. So I guess all solid dog and cat foods (almost all) use some type of thickener(s).

Freshpet, available in some Asda and Tesco stores use Carrageenan, not in the dog food directory at present.

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Several companies that use carrageenan in their wet foods have pointed me towards this study which found that carrageenan is safe for animal consumption. Although this is certainly worth consideration, there are also a ton of studies that indicate the contrary (there’s a good summary here) so it’s really up to each of us to make our own judgements.

Personally, I have no confidence in the safety of the ingredient. The weight of evidence against it coupled with the numerous stories just like Shingigz’s that I have come across over the years - digestive problems that grew worse on foods with carrageenan and better on foods that were carrageenan free, just make it too much of a risk, especially for dogs with any history of digestive upsets.

Millies Wolfheart and Bob & Lush wet ranges also confirmed carrageenan free.
Forthglade and Arden Grange wet foods do contain carrageenan.


Thanks to the recent upsurge in interest on the matter, Forthglade are now trialling alternative stabilisers so I’d say that’s a great result.

I found this interesting from your second link (I’ve just started reading it):

“when laboratory mice are exposed to low concentrations of carrageenan in their water for 18 days, they develop profound glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action.”

When my dog was ill on the food containing carrageenan, when he had his episodes he sometimes developed symptoms of what looked like low blood sugar: loss of appetite, uncontrollable shaking, uncoordinated drunken appearance, racing around wildly, back arching, glassy stare - some of the symptoms look very similar to what a partial complex seizure looks like on videos I have seen.

“Thanks to the recent upsurge in interest on the matter [carrageenan], Forthglade are now trialling alternative stabilisers so I’d say that’s a great result.”

It’s good to hear this, and it will be a great result if they actually carry through with it. If thickeners aren’t labelled, I will still have to ask the company to check if it contains carrageenan before I give it to my dog. I have let Lily’s Kitchen know about this. Hopefully they will be feeling the heat, too.