Inferior or controversial ingredient

Cellulose in dog food

In food, cellulose is the scientific term for dietary fibre. It can be found in the cell walls of all plants and is almost entirely indigestible for dogs which is actually a very good thing as its undigested form provides a wide range of benefits.

However, while cellulose per-se is good for dogs, it's usually not a great thing to see it listed as an ingredient. This is because pure cellulose or lignocellulose powder is quite different from the fibre found in whole fruit and veg. It is a white, odourless powder that is most often produced as a low value byproduct of agriculture (e.g. corn stover, sugarcane bagasse, straw) or as waste material from saw mills and paper mills (it really is!).

Cellulose is most often found in light diets since it helps to bulk out the diet whilst providing almost zero calories.

As fibre supplements go, cellulose powder is probably the most controversial and many nutritionists recommend avoiding it altogether.

Find foods containing Cellulose See the full Ingredient Glossary


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Lolita Cooksley 2 years ago

All this talk of cellulose on here but I really do think this is a weakness of this database. I agree that it has no nutritional value but it does have a binding ability and other functions. The weakness of this database is it doesn’t seem to consider the quantity of these ingredients when highlighting them. I buy a premium dog food and it does contain less than 1% cellulose this is far less of an issue than a cheap food using cellulose to bulk the volume of the product and contains it in large volumes. In cases where these elements are in such minuscule amounts it should be marked differently. Not every food containing cellulose or say sodium are going to have a detrimental effect it depends on quantities.

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All About Dog Food Lolita Cooksley 2 years ago

Hi Lolita and thanks for posting. Our rating algorithm does factor in the percentage of each ingredient so higher proportions of filler ingredients (like cellulose) or potentially problematic ingredients (like salt) always score worse than smaller amounts.

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Alithea Fotinis All About Dog Food one year ago

That's good to know but I was referring to the colour coding. The colour coding is still the same. I appreciate that you don't want large quantities of this type of ingredients but in small quantities insoluble fibre has benefits.

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Ryan Jennings 2 years ago

Interesting piece of information. I hadn't given cellulose much thought because I thought it was just a part of plant-based products in dog food. Henceforth, I will stay away from foods containing cellulose when I buy my stock from online sites like Petcarerx or Petco.

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Martha Widra 5 years ago

Actually, cellulose for food use is a higher and cleaner quality than what is put into paper, and is manufactured at special food grade facilities. It must pass a much higher standard than the pulp used for paper, and is produced in accordance with FDA Good Manufacturing Practices. This highly purified cellulose is then milled to various particle sizes to be used for different purposes. It can be not only from softwood, but also from bamboo as well as wheat or oat stalks. The molecule is not changed from what is in a stalk of broccoli, but is made into a form that can have high functionality. It's really amazing stuff!

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Deepdale Vet Martha Widra 5 years ago

Only the most naive shopper would trust a manufacturer that puts recycled cardboard in their food. It is NOT structurally the same as real plant fibres, due to the heating, chemical washing etc Why do you think they would not use plant fibres? This is about MONEY, not quality! (Paper is mostly made of clay, not wood, by the way). This always remind me of tragic ballerinas that eat toilet paper to control hunger pangs.

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Martha Widra Deepdale Vet 5 years ago

It is ABSOLUTELY not recycled paper, which is not food grade. Food grade cellulose is milled from the purified fibers. It is 100% cellulose, with no additives or impurities. It can be made from cellulose derived from many plant sources. It is considered insoluble and not fermentable, so it assists intestinal Mobility while adding no calories.

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Heather Palmer Martha Widra 4 years ago

Powdered cellulose is a fiber source in dry dog food with the lowest food value of any kind of fiber and it may amaze you that it is even permitted in dog food. While the official definition is “purified, mechanically disintegrated cellulose prepared by processing alpha cellulose obtained as pulp from fibrous plant materials,” the more transparent definition would be “sawdust.” Once again, this is an ingredient that frequently turns up in veterinary prescribed diets, which is reason enough to look even more carefully at the rest of the ingredients on those labels.This Canine Nutrition Tip is from Tracie Hotchner, author of The Dog Bible and award-winning host of Dog Talk® on Hotchner’s Radio Pet Lady Network®.
Cellulose (C6H10O5)n is refined wood pulp. It is a white, free-flowing powder. Chemically, it is an inert substance, is not degraded during digestion and has no appreciable absorption. In large quantities it provides dietary bulk and may lead to a laxative effect.
Cellulose is a commonly used excipient in the pharmaceutical industry. It has excellent compressibility properties and is used in solid dose forms, such as tablets. Tablets can be formed that are hard, but dissolve quickly. Microcrystalline cellulose is the same as cellulose, except that it meets USP standards.[1]
It is also found in many processed food products, and may be used as an anti-caking agent, stabilizer, texture modifier, or suspending agent among other uses. According to the Select Committee on GRAS Substances, cellulose is generally regarded as safe when used in normal quantities.

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Heather Palmer Deepdale Vet 4 years ago

I agree 100%. What nutritional value does it serve? Absolutely none!! They also use powdered cellulose to help improve texture in packaged foods such as cheese, it helps prevent clumping.
Lol, ballerinas eating toilet paper!!!! That was awesome!!

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