A clinical study has been circulated on the Internet suggesting that dry foods containing citric acid are associated with canine bloat (gastric distention volvulus [GDV]). However, the peer reviewed published work of the author (Raghaven et al. American Hospital Association, 2006) makes no mention of any relationship between the condition and citric acid, but rather concludes that high fat content may be causally related.
Citric acid is a natural compound found in virtually all plant and animal tissues. Citric acid (citrate) is fundamental in biochemical energy transformations in each cell. Life would not be possible without the citric acid (Kreb’s) cycle that is instrumental in producing ATP, the energy currency of life.
The Internet narrative is that citric acid may cause gas in the stomach, much like it causes the bubbles in Alka Seltzer when it combines with sodium bicarbonate. But this makes no sense since the stomach already contains a much stronger acid, hydrochloric, and yet that is not causing GDV. Additionally, the gas that does form in GDV is AFTER the stomach has experienced volvulus sealing off the entrance and exit. The inability to pass gas by eructation via the esophagus, or move it to the intestines, is what causes the accumulation and distention creating a life threatening situation. In other words, gas accumulation is secondary, not causative. (As an aside, for the past thirty years Wysong has produced an emergency gastric lavage device to relieve this condition, resulting in countless lives being saved.)
GDV is believed to be a multifactorial condition that is heavily influenced by genetics, not citric acid.
Citric acid is used in pet foods as an adjunct in preservative antioxidant systems. It chelates oxidizing minerals preventing them from initiating the free radical cascade. It is commonly used at only a few parts per million. Even when fed at extremely high dosages (even 1000 times what is used in pet foods), no adverse effects have been noted. (www.inchem.org/documents/sids/sids/77929.pdf)
So the enthusiasm some have for casting citric acid as a pet food boogeyman is based on misinformation and lack of information, not science or fact. (Also see: G. Aldrich, PhD, Citric acid: misperceptions and misplaced blame in Pet Food Industry, August 2010, pp 40,41)