A dog’s dinner: high levels of toxic lead found in UK dog food.

Would you feed your dog something that wasn’t safe for yourself?

Lead is a heavy issue. Wild Justice has campaigned on lead levels in food since we started. Whilst our previous investigations have analysed lead levels in game meat sold for human consumption on supermarket shelves, we’re now looking at how lead gets into the diets of our four-legged best friends.

Recently, Wild Justice funded tests of lead levels in dog food sold in the UK. Specifically, these were dog food products, in various forms, that contained Pheasant. The study, published in the journal Ambio today (click here), analysed a mix of Pheasant-based dog foods from online retailers including raw, air-dried and wet products, as well as some control products containing no Pheasant.

These are products you might buy with the intention of giving your pet a healthy diet. The results, however, indicate that you could be doing the exact opposite…


Raw Pheasant-based dog foods:

  • The researchers found that approximately three quarters of samples from raw Pheasant-based dog food packs exceeded the EU maximum lead levels permitted in animal feed – i.e. a level of lead that would be considered unsafe to feed to livestock that we might eat ourselves.
  • In three of these raw products being sold in the UK, lead levels were found to be an average of 245, 135 and 49 times above the maximum permitted levels respectively.
  • Not only that, but every single sample of raw dog food containing Pheasant exceeded the permitted lead threshold in the meat of domestic stock, such as chicken, beef and pork, that is destined for human consumption.

Air Dried dog foods:

  • In the air-dried product tested – described as ‘100% Pheasant and Partridge sticks’ – 60% of the samples tested exceeded the EU Maximum lead levels permitted in animal feed.

Wet Pheasant-based dog foods:

  • The processed, tinned dog food tested contained a mix of Pheasant (40%) goose (40%) vegetables and oil. Interestingly, none of the samples tested exceeded the EU maximum lead levels permitted in animal feed.
  • The samples did, however, exceed the level of lead permitted as safe in livestock meat destined for human consumption.

Control samples:

  • None of the control samples of other dog foods, containing no Pheasant meat, exceeded the EU maximum levels of lead permitted in animal feed.


We can see from these results that pet owners are unwittingly feeding their dogs levels of lead that may harm their health. We know, from other recent research, that lead is still very widely used by the shooting industry for the shooting of gamebirds such as Pheasant and partridges. We know that their pledge to phase out the use of lead shot voluntarily over five years hasn’t been going to plan – with only a 6% reduction in three years. As a result, some of that lead is ending up in the pet food chain, and is consumed by our companion animals.

Consumption of lead is detrimental to human health, being especially harmful to developing brains and the nervous system. But this harm isn’t limited to humans; other animals are affected in similar ways. Lead ingestion can affect the gut, nervous system, heart, kidneys and blood of companion animals like dogs, and could be particularly harmful to puppies.

Chris Packham, Co-Director of Wild Justice said That people might be unwittingly poisoning their beloved companion animals is outrageous. It’s clearly a failure of our regulatory systems when products like raw Pheasant-based dog foods can be sold containing such high lead levels. No animals should be exposed to these levels of lead in their food, under the guise of being healthy, when they in fact contain levels of lead that would be illegal to feed to cows or chickens or indeed, if it was in your own beefburgers or pork sausages.

Like us, our dogs are vulnerable to toxic lead and we must ask; would you feed your dog something deemed too toxic to eat yourself? These results show the repercussions of lead ammunition use by the shooting industry reach wider than just those who eat game out of free choice. Wild Justice is taking legal advice on these shocking findings.”


If you have a dog, (or even if you don’t), there are two things you can do to try and put a stop to this:

  1. Write to Pet Food Manufacturers.
    If you’ve got a favourite brand of dog food, and they sell products containing Pheasant or partridge, get in touch with them. Ask them if they’re aware of this study, and if they’ve carried out their own testing of lead levels in their products. We’d love to hear what they say in response.
  2. Write to your MP, MSP or MS.
    Get in touch with your parliamentary representative, and point out this research to them which demonstrates a massive failure of regulation.  

Wild Justice is a not-for-profit organisation set up by Chris Packham, Ruth Tingay and Mark Avery. We are entirely dependent on donations. To support our work – click here. To hear more about our campaigns and legal cases subscribe to our free newsletter – click here.