Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dog-Eat-Dog World: Do You Know What Your Pet Is Eating?*

In today’s world where pets are part of the family, many people don’t know that the food they are buying for them could be a time bomb in disguise.

spike in the woodsDogs and cats are wonderful friends and good company. Those that have pets in their homes, generally come to look on them as members of the family. They spend thousands of dollars a year on pet products ranging from brushes to beds to food. You may have at least one yourself, but when was the last time you took a good look at the ingredients label on your favorite pet food? Do you know what you are feeding them?

Working on a tip given me by a friend, I took a stroll down the pet food aisle the other day, taking a deep look at the ingredients on several well-known brands of both canned and dry dog food, and was appalled by what I read. Other than false advertising (the main ingredients in Beef, Bacon and Cheese flavor of one brand were not, as one might surmise, beef, bacon and cheese, but chicken and meat by-products, liver and chicken, and then, after flour and such, came the expected ingredients, plus vitamins) there were also several “banned” items in the list.

If you don’t feel like inspecting pet food cans and packages in the aisles of your supermarket, you can also look on-line under dog food or cat food ingredients. They list them all; some proudly, some as an afterthought. One dry food listed its main ingredients as being meat and bone meal (the latter was banned in 1988 and for a very good reason), meat and chicken by-products, wheat flour, soy flour, etc…

What the EPA Says

In one of its reports, the EPA (Environmental Protection Administration) provides some very interesting information on how and where ingredients for pet foods are obtained, and how they are processed.

One of the main ingredients listed in pet foods is animal by-products. Animal by-products include grease, blood, feathers, offal, and entire animal carcasses (skin, bones, hair, etc.). These are then rendered in special plants called independent plants which produce tallow, grease and high protein meat and bone meal. These plants run two different types of processing: edible, which processes fatty animal tissues into edible fats and proteins, and inedible, which produce inedible tallow and grease, which are used for livestock and poultry feed.

Most of the suppliers of the raw materials that are rendered in these plants, such as butcher shops, supermarkets, restaurants, fast-food chains, poultry processors, slaughterhouses, farms, ranches and feedlots are fairly acceptable, but one in particular seems to stand out as being very wrong and totally inacceptable for the purpose: ANIMAL SHELTERS, where the most likely animals to be found there are cats and dogs, the last animals we’d like to feed our pets. And remember, the animals that are obtained from these shelters have been euthanized.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

A widespread epidemic of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, aka “Mad Cow Disease”, hit the bovine population of the United Kingdom during the mid-1980s. This is an infectious brain disease which can also infect human beings, usually by the consumption of infected tissues. The disease is transmitted by abnormal brain proteins called prions, which eat at the brain and create tiny holes in parts of the brain, causing it to look like a sponge. The prions can be found in the brain, spinal chord, eye (retina), bone marrow and other tissues related to the nervous system in infected subjects.

The suspected cause of the disease was a prion transmitted by feeding meat and bone meal products to cattle in the UK. The United Kingdom banned feeding the suspected products to animals in 1988. The disease is also transmittable to other animals, and sheep have been proven infectious even during the pre-clinical stages (from the onset) of the disease.

Another similar disease, the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been found in elk and mule deer in the U.S. and scrapie in sheep. All prion related diseases are fatal, in both humans and animals; there is no cure. It is very important to understand the cause of these diseases and how they are transmitted in order to be able to prevent their spread. And that is why meat and bone meal have been banned, at least in the UK.

What Can We Do to Protect Our Pets?

As of now, there are no FDA regulations regarding ingredients used in preparing pet foods, although there is a federal law that states that nothing less than human-grade ingredients should be put into pet food; however, as the EPA report shows, this is not what is done. It is not an absolute that a “Mad Dog” or “Mad Cat” disease will develop, but the possibility is there.

There are two basic things that we can do to avoid feeding our pets food that could possibly harm them, despite the addition of vitamins, minerals and high protein products. One is to read the label completely, including the country of origin; this in itself can tell us a lot, because some countries, such as India and China find nothing wrong with eating cats or dogs. If you harbor doubts, it would be wise to ask your pet’s veterinarian for advice.

The other thing we can do is write to everyone who has the authority to do something about enforcing existing laws. Request them to adopt new laws that protect our pets AND our families. These things can and must be supervised and enforced.



EPA report, 9.5.3 Meat Rendering Plants

Mad Cow Disease Overview


*This article was originally published by Mary Purpari @ Suite 101 on April 22, 2011. The dog in the above photo is Spike, a member of my family. All Rights reserved. © January 15, 2015