Thursday, August 9, 2012

Michael Fox comments on Pet Foods

                                   TYING UP SOME LOOSE ENDS
                                             By Dr. Michael W. Fox

Obesity , metabolic syndrome, diabetes mellitus, cancer, fatty liver disease, pancreatitis, hypertension, heart and kidney disease and diet-related arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, allergies and neurological and immune system dysfunctions are  modern day health issues that people and companion animals share when their diets consist of highly processed  agribusiness food industry products, byproducts and various additives.

A newly updated paperback edition of the book NOT FIT FOR A DOG: THE TRUTH ABOUT MANUFACTURED CAT & DOG FOODS, which I co-authored with two other veterinarians, will be released this fall by Quill Driver Books. Readers will discover  extraordinary parallels in our pets’ health problems associated with  highly processed, manufactured pet foods,  and the health problems in humans consuming various processed, convenience and junk foods, snacks and beverages

Some human nutritionists now recognize the public health crisis associated with the addition of sugar to many processed human foods and beverages. Sugar and other food ingredients with a high glycemic index.The glycemic index (GI) ranks the carbohydrates in on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods ( e.g. white  bread, rice , corn and potatoes)with a high GI are rapidly digested and absorbed resulting  in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels  and insulin levels. Fiber in fruits and whole grains slows down this digestive process. Certain cancers feed on this glucose, and the liver converts such sugars into fat which leads to higher levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, which is in part responsible for heart disease and stroke. Fatty liver disease and diabetes are common consequences, along with the so called metabolic syndrome/obesity.

High glycemic ingredients in pet foods need to be eliminated such as corn, pasta and white rice. Beet pulp in pet foods may also be high in sugar. Some semi-moist foods and treats contain sugar which is added as a humectant (moisture-retainer) and preservative.

 Corn and wheat are associated with cystitis in cats (primarily associated with the feeding of a plant based protein source), and seizures in dogs. Corn, soy gluten and wheat can cause irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive problems and dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance in the gut). These health problems are compounded by the inclusion of genetically engineered corn and soy which contain herbicide residues and novel proteins. (For details see my book Healing Animals & The Vision of One Health,, 2011, and the book Not Fit for a Dog).

Dysbiosis can also develop in the oral cavity where a combination of diet-related factors such as high alkalinity associated with high cereal content, artificial acidification, (which may damage the kidneys),and micro- particles of processed food ingredients along with gluten adhere between the teeth and under the gum line. The association between what cats and dogs are being fed and the epidemic of periodontal disease, dental plaque and stomatitis cannot be denied.

The addition of high fiber ingredients such as ground peanut hulls to weight-loss and other special, often prescribed pet food formulas may interfere with mineral and other nutrient uptake and lead to deficiency disease, one symptom being insatiable appetite.

The increasing incidence of urinary calculi (uroloths) in American children consuming high sodium and calcium foods and not drinking adequate quantities of water rather than sodas and milk has parallels with the high incidence of uroliths in cats being given only high cereal content dry foods and not having sufficient fluids in their diet.

While the American Veterinary Medical Association in concert with some major pet food manufacturers went public in July 2012 advising against the purchase of raw foods for dogs and cats because of alleged health problems associated with  bacterial contamination The AVMA completely ignored the FDA finding of more recalls associated with dry pet foods and treats contaminated with pathogenic bacteria and mold (aflatoxin) . Raw foods mimicking the “ancestral diet” provide the benefits of natural enzymes, a  balanced microbial flora, antioxidants, highly digestible and balanced protein, fat and mineral  sources, as opposed to lower digestibility of the heat processed and damaged ingredients in kibble.

Pet food ingredient labels listing contents use terms agreed upon by the industry’s self-regulating body, the Association of American feed Control Officials, tell nothing of nutrient quality, digestibility and micronutrient content. These can all be low when manufacturers use cheap human food and beverage industry by-products and also as a consequene of high temperature cooking and other processing procedures. Synthetic supplements and additives to correct these deficiencies, as documented in Not Fit for a Dog, is an industry-accepted practice, but not without risk.

Canned foods are heat-sterilized and devoid of any live enzymes and bacteria. Heat processing and sterilization may also create abnormal gut microbial populations leading to dysbiosis and potential chronic digestive upsets and immune system dysfunction, while some of the  bacteria consumed in natural foods are beneficial. This is a potential problem for those indoor pets who never have contact with soil, a source of bacteria that aid in digestion and maintain a healthy gut flora essential for optimal immune system function. This is one reason why more veterinarians are prescribing probiotics and some pet food manufacturers are including them in their dry and raw food formulations.

Both humans and dogs and cats consuming meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products from factory-farmed animals fed corn that is high in omega 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) can suffer from a variety of health problems associated with excess inflammation-causing omega 6 EFAs and deficient quantities of omega 3 EFAs. (For details see Essential Fatty Acid Education.
Greener Pastures: How Grass-fed Beef and Milk Contribute to Healthy Eating. Union of Concerned Scientists. Such imbalances, excesses and deficiencies of EFAs are associated with a variety of neurological, immunological, inflammatory (e.g. arthritic), dermatological and other conditions, leading enlightened veterinarians to prescribe good quality fish oil supplements for a variety of cat and dog health problems.

The above and other deficiencies associated with manufactured pet foods as documented in Not Fit for a Dog have spawned a lucrative market for diagnostic tests, steroid and other anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, anti-flea and other anti-parasitic, anti-fungal and a host of other medications, many with  harmful side-effects,. Other concerns are  costly and risky annual dental procedures and the selling of “therapeutic diets “ by veterinarians. Pfizer’s diet pill Slentrol (dirlotapide) for dogs is yet another illustration of the profitability of treating the symptoms related to  improper pet nutrition and care.

 The fact remains that optimal, biologically appropriate nutrition during pregnancy and early development is the keystone of preventive medicine, helping prevent many diseases later in life in both humans and companion animals. This responsible approach to human and  pet nutrition could reduce the growing health care expenditures which are currently crippling America’s dysfunctional health care system.

Government regulatory agencies’ strong alliance with the agribusiness food and pharmaceutical industries mean that the status quo is unlikely to change fast enough to address these rising diet-related public health crises. So I urge  informed consumers to assume a greater responsibility for their own health and for that of their animal companions by purchasing whole foods, ideally organically certified, locally grown, and becoming ‘kitchen anarchists’ cooking from scratch. I have received many letters from people who have prepared my in-home recipes* for their cats and dogs or who have transitioned their animals onto some of the manufactured brands that have my seal of approval, which document the health benefits and even behavioral improvements that can come from better nutrition.
* Available in Not Fit for a Dog and at See also as well as and


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