What About Our Pets?
by Dr Gina Shaw

We are seeing disease conditions in animals that we did not see years ago. Many of these may be traced to nutrition as the source..." Don E. Lundholm, DVM

Dr. Kollath, of the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, headed a study done on animals. When young animals were fed cooked and processed foods they initially appeared to be healthy. However, as the animals reached adulthood, they began to age more quickly than normal and also developed chronic degenerative disease symptoms. A control group of animals raised on raw foods aged less quickly and were free of degenerative disease. In nature, we see another example of wild animals eating entirely enzyme rich raw foods being free of the degenerative diseases that afflict humans.

It may be that, as you've started to incorporate more raw foods into your own diet, you are thinking of changing your best friend's diet too; your cat or your dog.  It is a natural move, as you evolve in your own perspective regarding health and well-being.  Your companion animal will inevitably prosper at your decision.  However, if you are undecided in any way, let me offer you some information which may push you in the right direction! Please understand that I am a professional as far as human nutrition is concerned, but not animal nutrition, so please do not think of me as such.  I am merely recanting from my own experience and research, and hope that this information will be helpful to some of you.

A few years ago, I read a book which contained information about what's contained in pet foods and it changed my cat's life, for the better!  I was horrified to find that not only were the '4 D's' contained in commercial pet foods - diseased, dying, disabled and dead animals, but also a whole range of ghastly other ingredients.  Okay, if you insist, I'll let you in on it too! What's in pet food?  Well, in summary, there may be road kill (animals killed on the road), spoiled or mouldy grains, cancerous material cut from slaughterhouse animals, tissue high in hormone or pesticide residues, and even shredded styrofoam packaging, metal ID tags and minced flea collars.  Animal parts sent to rendering plants to be included in commercial pet foods include cancerous tissues, worm-infested organs, contaminated blood and blood clots.  Compounding these toxins, slaughterhouses add carbolic acid and fuel oil to these remnants as a way of marking these foods as unfit for human consumption.  Slaughterhouses aren't the only source for animals that end up rendered.  As mentioned, animals classified as "4-D" (dead, diseased, dying and disabled) that is, 'too unhealthy for human consumption' are rendered. These include animals with residues of antibiotics, such as chloramphenical and sulfamethazine,that are commonly used in meat production.

Road-kill animals and some deceased zoo animals are also sent to rendering plants. A report in the San Francisco Chronicle on 19th February 1990 presented evidence that dead pets from animal clinics and shelters are carted away to be rendered - with their name tags and flea collars intact.  Other items tossed into the rendering "soup pot" are rancid grease from restaurants and supermarket meats that are no longer fresh (including their styrofoam and shrinkwrap packaging).  All of this material is slowly ground up at the rendering plant, then chipped or shredded, and cooked for up to an hour at 220 degrees F to 270 degrees F. The fat or tallow separates during the cooking and is removed.  What's left over is then pressed to remove all moisture and crushed into what is misleadingly called "bone meal" or "meat meal.".  Also, wait for it, there is dried pig and poultry excrement....

As mentioned, there may also be grain that is too mouldy for humans to eat, and so it is incorporated into pet food.  Mycotoxins, potentially deadly fungal toxins that multiply in mouldy grains, have been found in pet foods in recent years. In 1995, Nature's Recipe recalled tons of their dog food after dogs became ill from eating it. The food was found to contain vomitoxin, a mycotoxin.  Harmful chemicals and preservatives are added to both wet and dry food.  For example, sodium nitrite, a colouring agent and preservative and potential carcinogen, is a common additive. Other preservatives include ethoxyquin (an insecticide that has been linked to liver cancer) and BHA and BHT, chemicals also suspected of causing cancer. The average dog can consume as much as 26 pounds of preservatives every year from eating commercial dog foods.

The manufacturing process will of course destroy most of whatever minimal nutritional content remained from the dubious list of ingredients.  "Processing is the wild card in nutritional value that is, by the large, simply ignored," states R. L. Wysong, DVM, a veterinarian who founded Wysong Corporation to produce healthful pet foods. Proteins, enzymes, vitamins and minerals and fatty acids present in the foods can all be altered or destroyed by the manufacturing process, leading to nutritional deficiencies in the pets eating these foods.  No consumer agencies are looking out for your pet's health interests. The pet food industry is virtually unregulated regarding food composition. In fact, information about the poisons in pet foods is not easily obtained; hence its shock-value when it's finally revealed to the unsuspecting public.

The problem is that only the label, not the content, of pet foods is regulated.  The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) in the U.S., a group of federal and state bureaucrats, define the ingredients listed on the labels of pet foods, but they do no testing on the foods themselves and have no enforcement authority. So don't expect their semantics to keep your pet healthy.

Recent studies have shown processed foods to be a factor in increasing numbers of pets suffering from cancer, arthritis, obesity, dental disease and heart disease, comments Dr Wysong. Dull or unhealthy coats are a common problem with cats and dogs and poor diet is usually the cause, according to many veterinarians and breeders. The AAFCO nutrient profiles may play a role here, in the "balanced" nutritional levels they recommend may be inadequate for an individual animal.

It is estimated that up to two million companion animals suffer from food allergies. Dr Plechner believes that the commercial pet foods are a primary cause and can contribute to a host of health problems. "Among pets, there is a widespread intolerance of commercial foods," he states.  "This rejection can show up either as violent sickness or chronic health problems. It often triggers a hypersensitivity and overreaction to flea and insect bites, pollens, soaps, sprays and environmental contaminants."

Feline urological syndrome, a chronic condition similar to cystitis in humans (characterized by frequent urination with blood in the urine), is an increasingly common and potentially fatal illness in cats. It has been linked to elevated levels of ash and phosphorus, two substances commonly found in commercial pet foods. High iodine levels are seen as a contributing factor for thyroid tumors in cats. "New diseases are being discovered that are linked to '100% complete' diets," states Dr Wysong. These include "polymyopathy (a muscle disorder) from low potassium levels, dilated cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disorder) from low taurine levels, arthritic and skin diseases from acid/base and zinc malnutrition and chronic eczema from essential fatty acid malnutrition," he reports. Given the high possibility that your favorite pet foods may be slowly poisoning your cat or dog, it's crucial that you find brands you can trust to be animal friendly.

So it may be that 'your favourite pet foods' may be slowly poisoning your cat or dog. You already know that cats and dogs in the wild don't eat cooked or processed foods, so it should not be a surprise that domesticated animals fed these products are less than healthy. If you do decide to feed your cat or dog raw food it is important to take into account its biological nature.  For a cat, of course, they are carnivorous animals.  Dogs are more omnivorous but still need some meat or animal products in their diet   Raw meat (organic) can supply part of your companion animals diet, but never forget that an important part has to be bones (raw and from uncontaminated animals), organ meat, and vegetables.  The vegetable component can be a mixture of carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, squash, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips and kale,whichever they will eat (small portions at a time with meat would be recommended with cats in particular).  It is important to remember that in the wild they eat the whole carcass, which means that they should be eating the bones, cartilage, organs, etc.  This provides them with complete protein  It is worthwhile purchasing a mincer to mince bones and other tissues if your cat is used to eating 'mush' and has either tooth problems or lazyitis!

Due to the attrocities of factory farming, the salmonella and BSE risks, not to mention F&M, etc. It is difficult to know what to feed our pets these days.  This is why I choose organic meat and vegetables to feed my pet.  Many people opt to feed their pet cats raw fish instead, but there are some problems with this too.  I done a little research about taurine, having been misinformed by a vet that it does not contain taurine, and discovered that fish provides the richest source of taurine available!  However, there are a number of points to consider when feeding cat's raw fish.  Fish contains sea salt, which is as poisonous as artificial salt (sodium chloride).  If you are able to, and still want to feed your cat raw fish, try to seek out a reliable source of fresh-water fish (it's difficult and fraught with misleading comments).  I believe Talapia fish are from the fresh waters of Asian countries (not salted sea water). 

Although raw fish is very rich in taurine and protein (but not a complete food) some types of fish seem to contribute to a vitamin B1 (thiamin) deficiency.  They contain an enzyme, called thiaminase, which destroys thiamin according to 'Canine and Feline Nutrition'.  Consumption of these types of fish has been shown to cause thiamin deficiency in a variety of species.  Experimental studies with cats have produced signs of thiamin deficiency within 23 to 40 days of consuming diets composed solely of raw carp or raw salt-water herring.  Although both carp and herring can cause thiamin deficiency perch, catfish and butterfish do not show thiaminase activity. Other common types of fish that contain thiaminase include whitefish, pike, cod, goldfish, mulet, shark, and flounder.  However, it is not known whether the thiaminase levels present in these fish are sufficient to produce deficiency in animals. Thiaminase is a heat-labile enzyme and is denatured by normal cooking temperatures.  As a result, the potential for thiamin deficiency exists only when uncooked fish is fed.  Although it is worth considering the fact that the cats under experimental conditions might have been stressed and therefore B vitamins may be robbed from them, and that these studies might not be conclusive after all.  Apparently, cats are more susceptible to this deficiency because of their high requirement for this vitamin in their diet. Because thiamin is essential for normal carbohydrate metabolism , the central nervous system is severely affected by a deficiency of this vitamin.  Initial signs include anorexia, weight loss, and depression.  As the deficiency progresses, neurological signs of ataxia, paresis and eventually convulsive seizures are present.  The terminal stage is characterised by severe weakness and prostration and eventually leads to death. 

Convential veterinary textbooks advise that treatment includes removing raw fish from the diet, replacing it with a 'well-balanced commercial pet food' and thiamin therapy.  I would not recommend giving a cat convential cat food (though I am not a vet you understand) as it will inevitably all the ghastly horros mentioned, and would be very low in nutrient value.  Remember: If it is unfit for human consumption, it is also unfit for animal onsumption! I also advocate leaving cats to catch their own as much as possible as this is fresher and therefore more nutritious, and less prone to contaminants.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Although fish is a high protein food, it does not supply complete nutrition.  In general, most types of deboned fish are deficient in calcium, sodium, iron, copper and several vitamins. Some types of fish may easily lodge in a pet's throat or gastrointestinal tract and cause perforation or obstruction.  Tuna is a type of fish that is commonly fed to cats because it is readily available and inexpensive.  Canned tuna packed in oil contains high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids.  The excessive intake of these oils can result in a vitamin E deficiency as a result of their high polyunsatured fat and low vitamin E content.  In the cat, this eventually manisfests as a condition called pansteatistis or yellow fat disease.  Signs of pansteatitis include decreased appetite, lethargy, elevated temperature and tenderness and pain in the chest and abdomen. Feeding cats raw fish also carries the potential for parasite transmission (presumably frozen fish does not contain this risk as tapeworm would be destroyed).  They recommend feeding cats cooked fish(!) and in very small amounts.

I hope that this information has given some people, who are lucky enough to have companion animals, some food for thought.  Although many vegans have an aversion to touching animal flesh and it's products, it is nevertheless imperative, I feel, that if you have decided to responsibly take care of an other animal's dietary intake, and they are carnivorous animals, that you think and research for yourself and act upon your own conclusions as to what is right for them.  If you want to feed you companion animal a vegetarian diet, get a rabbit instead!

'Feline and Canine Nutrition'
Shirley's Wellness Cafe web site (see links section).

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