Nutrigenomics and the Pet Food Revolution

Manufactured pet foods are profitably derived from the human food and beverage industries that continue to rely on the use of increasingly contaminated, hazardous and depleted terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Most dogs and cats consume these foods, which have contained byproducts and materials rejected and condemned as unfit for human consumption, including the infamous notably “4-D” meat from animals either dead, dying, debilitated or diseased. Billions of dollars have been repeated for pet food manufacturers, which forms a lucrative subsidiary of industrial agriculture/”agribusiness”. Despite the efficiency and cost-saving of this highly profitable practice for companion and farmed animals (including fish) feed industries, safety and nutritional quality concerns continue to be issues regulatory agencies (FDA & USDA) are hard pressed to monitor and rectify. This is mainly because the extremely complex international industrial food system has internal problems such as nutrient-deficient soils and crops along with agrichemical and animal drug residues that call for entirely different, ecologically sound, sustainable and humane farming practices.

The main ingredients in most pet foods are scientifically analyzed for basic nutrient content and are then subjected, often for the second time, to heat processing which usually destroys many nutrients. Identified deficiencies are rectified with various synthetic additives, which are not without risk, along with various preservatives and additives to make the product more appealing to pet care-givers. Several diet-related diseases, which I term “nutrigenic” diseases, as distinct from food-borne illnesses, have been documented in dogs and cats. These, along with the recognized imitations of costly special prescription diets formulated by the pet food industry allegedly to correct various nutrigenic diseases, have been documented in the book Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Food which I co-authored with veterinarians Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins and Marion E. Smart, with additional concerns about genetically engineered ingredients and veterinary involvement with the pet food industry discussed in my more recent book Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health.

Since the publication of the book Sugar Blues by William Duffy in 1975, there has been rising consumer awareness over the healthfulness of sugars in the human diet: Much research has been conducted, and ever more sugar consumed world-wide as food manufacturers prefer to deny the risks…It is surely not mere coincidence that a cluster of serious diet-related diseases in humans are also seen in cats and dogs and these can be prevented and often reversed with sugar-free, biologically appropriate diets.

Many diseases which affect us and other animals both wild and tame are anthropogenic—brought on by ourselves—through our collective misuse of chemicals, drugs, natural resources and ecosystems. Some of these causes of the “diseases of civilization” will not be rectified for generations, if ever. But others can be addressed, notably what we chose to eat and what we feed to our companion animals, beginning with cereal-derived carbohydrates and sugars (also from sugar cane and genetically engineered beets).

Dogs are more carnivorous than omnivorous humans, while cats are absolute/”obligate” carnivores. All these species, cats in particular, are harmed by refined sugars and those derived from high glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates which the bodies of cats, dogs and humans convert into sugars which that trigger insulin release and storage of the calories from sugars as fat. Cereal glutens, phytases, GMOs, herbicide residues and various chemical and pharmaceutical “obesogens” may be co-factors in the following diet-related health problems. In fact, these high GI foods promote a state of chronic inflammation, a main contributor to the obesity which plagues more than 50% of the dog and cat population.

Our cats and dogs are telling showing us that we are eating and feeding to them is wrong when it comes to the cascade of health issues we face today – in part from biologically inappropriate diets high in sugars for humans and high in starches for all three species. These health issues include: dental problems, oral and intestinal dysbiosis, (disruption of health-promoting populations of bacteria leading to hyper-reactive immune systems triggering allergies and autoimmune diseases); fatty liver disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome and resulting inflammatory diseases including arthritis and some cancers, along with heart disease, high blood pressure, eye disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, chronic pancreatic enzyme insufficiency, inflammatory bowel conditions, kidney disease and urological problems especially in cats.

So for humans, we need less sugar, and some functional complex carbohydrates in our diets [i.e. cruciferous vegetables; fresh, whole fruits (but not grapes); gluten-free grains; green, leafy vegetables; and legumes rich in phytonutrients and prebiotics]. Most dogs also need some of these functional carbohydrates in their diets, whereas all cats need only a minimal amount (approx.5%).

Primary, whole, minimally processed human food- grade quality ingredients should be fed, in biologically appropriate proportions, to companion cats and dogs. Ideally these wholesome foods should not include chemical preservatives as with the rising number of additive and preservative-free frozen and freeze-dried pet foods now on the market, some organically certified and with no GMOs. Fresh whole foods mean better health and I advocate, as an alternative to these freeze-dried and frozen cat and dog foods, that people make their own foods from basic ingredients from the same stores that they go to for their own non-manufactured dietary staples.

Variety is the Spice of Life

For decades pet owners have been advised to feed their animals the same kind manufactured food every day in order to avoid digestive and other upsets, many people protesting how “boring” that must be for their animals having to eat the same stuff day in and day out. Human studies on the consequences of such boring consumer habits/lifestyles cast doubt on this erroneous advice being given to pet owners.

Holland’s University of Groningen press release of research by Alexandra Zhernakova and co-workers simply stated “Lifestyle has a strong impact on intestinal bacteria, which has a strong impact on health.” “Lifestyle” means what people eat and drink and essentially the greater the diversity of foods and beverages we consume, the more diverse is bacterial population in our intestines which is good for our digestive and immune systems and overall health. By extension this finding is relevant to what cats and dogs and other domestic animals are fed in terms of diversity of foodstuffs.

(See Zhernakova, A et al. Population-based metagenomics analysis reveals markers for gut microbiome composition and diversity. Science, 2016; 352 (6285): 565 DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3369).

It is no coincidence that millions of dogs and cats develop similar diseases seen in their human companions and the larger consumer populace. One main reason is because they partake of the same food-chain. These diet-related and to varying degrees diet treatable and preventable diseases include: Obesity and metabolic syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, various endocrine, exocrine, hepatic, renal, pancreatic, cardiac and hematological, respiratory, neurologic, cognitive, developmental and behavioral, endocrine, dermatological and other chronic inflammatory and degenerative diseases, in addition to digestive and immune system dysfunctions and related allergic and autoimmune syndromes. That some people and cats and dogs have more of these systemic health problems associated with food sensitivity/intolerance and allergy than others eating similar foods points to genetic, epigenetic, home environment and life-style differences. The role of genes in influencing how certain dietary ingredients are associated with disease is exemplified by the reactions of some dog breeds to wheat, copper or zinc in their diets and more generically in cats (who are obligate carnivores) to corn and soy products in theirs.

The science of nutrition is advancing into the more integrated realm of holistic health and disease prevention where biologically and individually appropriate diets are the keystone for optimal health. Diet-related nutrigenic diseases can be aggravated when various food ingredients alter the health-promoting population of bacteria in the digestive system, the “microbiome” or “garden of the guts”, and when a particular breed or individual genome has gene-related processes and reactions to food ingredients that cause or aggravate illness. This field of scientific investigation and clinical application is termed nutrigenomics.

The advent of the science of nutrigenomics is opening the way for an entirely new approach to human and animal nutrition and how food is produced and diets formulated. (For more details see W. Jean Dodds DVM and Diana R. Laverdure, Canine Nutrigenomics. Wenatchee, Washington, Dogwise Publishing 2015). This book should be mandatory reading for all veterinary students, and is a book that is opening the new vistas of nutritional science. It is also essential reading for people who live, work with and care for dogs, because it takes us to the next level of critical and analytical consideration of companion animal nutrition. In explaining the interplay between genes, nutrients and intestinal bacteria, (the “microbiome”), this book reaches a new level of understanding some of the dynamics of diseases hitherto unrecognized and unaddressed by human and animal doctors. But they now have, with this book and the emerging science of nutrigenomics, a more integrated and holistic perspective. Chapter-highlighting summaries and practical instruction give this book a tutorial quality which enhances the learning experience and its inclusion of herbal and other nutraceutical supplements will affirm and inspire advocates of same.

This book should make every reader consider what they are eating themselves and feeding to their families and also face the cruel realities of livestock and poultry factory farms and misuse of antibiotics, hormones and other drugs; our polluted and over-fished oceans; the nutrient depleted soils and pesticide-contaminated, genetically engineered crops of industrial agriculture, the main-stream pet food industry being a subsidiary of this “agribusiness.” Companion animals and their diet-related diseases are canaries and guinea pigs down the consumer food chain mineshaft and market-testing laboratory. That they get better and have healthier offspring when fed biologically appropriate whole foods, with some essential trace mineral and other nutrient-balancing additives with nothing more other than probiotics and prebiotics, is an indicator of how farming practices and the agribusiness food industry, as well as our own consumer habits, must change.

I have a degree of respect for the pet food industry for its contributions to the science of animal nutrition and related animal health. But I have an even greater degree of sympathy for the challenges they face in securing affordable, healthful and safe ingredients from multiple sources from around the world for companion animals and at the same time avoiding costly recalls and class action law suits when dogs and cats sicken and even die from consuming their “Scientifically Formulated” and often “Veterinarian Approved” approved products.

More healthful foods for all is a distant, attainable ideal but not yet a reality. But less un-healthful foods for us and our animal companions is an immediate, achievable goal. Canine Nutrigenomics provides an excellent directory to the marketplace of this evolution in human consumer habits and scientific validation of the Hippocratic injunction to let our food be our medicine and our medicine our food. This book is part of the nascent transformation of agriculture and the “One Health” revolution connecting public health and disease prevention with optimal nutrition which we must all join and support in the marketplace with our dollars and good sense The rights of consumers to make informed decisions in the market place for themselves and their companion animals is a right in any democratic society, and would be enlightened corporate interest for the human and subsidiary pet food industries to respect, because more and more consumers are informed and they will ultimately vote with their dollars in the market place.


Clean Label Project™ completed a study of over 900 pet food products from 71 brands. Products were screened for over 130 toxins. ( In my opinion, the high and concerning levels of lead, cadmium, arsenic, pesticides, nickel, chromium and mercury in pet foods reported by the Clean Label Project and low levels in some can be traced to the kinds of animal parts and byproducts being recycled into pet foods.

I am referring to the vast tonnage of factory and feedlot raised animals and fish killed for human consumption and what is discarded as unfit for human consumption; remains of euthanized race and pleasure horses no longer used for stud purposes; hundreds of thousands of worn out milk cows, exhausted breeding sows and spent laying hens. The older the animal, the greater is the bioaccumulation in the bones, livers and other body parts of these and other kinds of toxic chemicals, notably dioxins and fluorides. By inference, the safest animal parts come from those killed at an early age. This enormous fraction from the animal industries is widely used by the pet food industry to recycle the low-cost animal remains of a carnivorous culture that still refuses to accept the adverse health and

environmental consequences of regarding beef as a dietary staple.

Clean Label’s rating of pet foods, according to pet food consumer advocate Susan Thixton, raises some suspicion by giving many waste- ingredient pet foods high ratings. But regardless, this is an alarm bell to the pet food industry and to pet owners and veterinarians. The older the farmed animals are and the higher in the marine food chain the fish are, the more loaded with these and other toxic chemicals they will be. This is a classic example of environmental and food-chain contamination due to our continued, collective sins of omission and commission with regard to social responsibility and effective planetary stewardship.


SOURCES: Kurunthachalam Kannan, Ph.D., division of environmental health sciences, New York state Department of Health, Albany, N.Y.; Robert Poppenga, D.V.M., Ph.D., veterinarian, California Animal Health and Food Safety, toxicology laboratory, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis; March 7, 2018, Environmental Science & Technology, online

Parabens and their metabolites were found in all of the pet foods and urine samples tested. The paraben “methyl paraben” was the most abundant in the samples. Dry food contained higher amounts of parabens than wet food, and cat foods had higher concentrations than dog foods. However, dogs had more intake of parabens than cats did, the study found. Cats were mainly exposed to parabens from their food, while dogs were also exposed to parabens from other sources, such as drug supplements and cosmetics, the findings showed. What all this means isn’t clear. The researchers said more study is needed, particularly to see if these chemicals are associated with any negative health effects. For animal owners who would like to avoid parabens in their pet’s food, Poppenga said there are likely some alternative choices that don’t have the chemicals. “There are a lot of pet foods out there – maybe there are all-natural alternatives. The foods for sale that are refrigerated probably have less added into them,” he said, according to

Tying Up Some Loose Ends

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.

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.

Food addiction is a recognized condition in some human cases of obesity and is an issue discussed in Not Fit for a Dog, especially in cats whose fixation on one type of food may be detrimental to their health and difficult to break.

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 consequence 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 and and


Two veterinarians in Taiwan have documented the benefits in small breed dogs living a sedentary life and suffering from chronic diarrhea of putting them on an exercise regimen in addition to standard prednisolone treatment. This was after other dietary treatments ( hydrolysed and hypoallergenic elimination diets) and various supplements either failed or only partially improved their inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Although this was a small study in part inspired by the clinical improvement in human patients suffering from IBD who are able to participate in a regular exercise program, it offers a safe and potentially effective additional therapeutic approach to this all too common canine condition.

From behavioral observations of my own dogs they will pass a few stools when let outdoors in the morning to urinate but only when they are aroused and setting off for a long, fast walk off-leash do they fully empty their bowels. Living a sedentary life, rarely aroused and often being trained to evacuate inside especially when living in high-rise apartments could well lead to longer retention times of fecal material prior to evacuation with resultant inflammation of the bowels, exacerbated by various dietary ingredients and their metabolites with further possible health problems due to bacterial endotoxins. Physical activity may also help improve circulation and help alleviate and prevent lymphangectasia, the accumulation of lymph in the bowels seen in some forms of canine IBD.

Mental arousal with physical activity may increase peristaltic tonus that would be flaccid with parasympathetic dominance as with a placid temperament and an unstimulating indoor environment. Sympathetic/parasysmpathetic balance and adaptive flexibility are aspects of well-being that are considerable and clinically relevant.( For references see Fox, 1978). Megacolon and fecal impaction, commonly seen in understimulated and underactive indoor cats, and weak urinary bladder tonus with urine retention and consequential cystitis may be other conditions related to parasympathetic dominance/imbalance. Recent studies have found exercise improves the bacterial diversity of the gut microbiome.

See Huang, H-P. & Lien, Y-H. Effects of a structured exercise programme in sedentary dogs with chronic diarrhea. Veterinary Record, 180: 224. 2017 and the Editorial my Dunning, M. Improving IBD in dogs through exercise. Veterinary Record, 180: 222-223, 2017.

Fox, M.W. The Dog: Its Domestication and Behavior, 1978, reprinted edition with Dogwise Publishing, OR


I am often asked how many calories are in various pet foods, including my own cat and dog food recipes for in-home preparation. This obsession with calories, and the marketing of ‘low cal’ prepared foods and beverages for people I see as more than a profit-driven marketing ploy. It is a massive displacement from addressing a major cause of obesity which is quite independent from how many calories people and their animal companions consume, the health hazards of foods high in fat and starches and not getting sufficient exercise notwithstanding.

Biochemist Dr. Susanne Dyby, in a personal communication, writes:

“Hormone-mimics or endocrine disruptors are particularly pernicious sneaky poisons. Endocrine disruption more than just affects young children and reproductive fitness, whether it is biphenyl A, phthalates, dioxin, or insecticides. Apart from potential developmental disasters in the young (or miscarriages), endocrine disruptors affect the immune system, metabolism, cancer risk, and life span. Moreover, a huge medical problem burgeons, in all senses, with obesity in people and pets. One researcher (1) hypothesized that lack of exercise and too much eating was only a partial reason for the global obesity epidemic, because chemical toxins and endocrine disruptors had a great deal to do with the way that our bodies react to food — and in other species, too. This proposal has since been verified by many scientific studies, ( 2 ). On top of this disturbing fact, early exposure to endocrine disruptors within the womb, or as a newborn, carry long-term impact on bodyweight (3). For a biochemical excursion into the intimate and intricate connections between the body’s endocrine/hormonal and immune systems, especially its inflammatory reactions, see the superb review on “Protein hormones and Immunity, (4).”

EPIGENETIC INFLUENCES: MOTHER’S DIET AFFECTS OFFSRING I have expressed concern about the obesity epidemic in companion animals over several years as well as raising the issue of so-called epigenetic consequences of what parent- animals are fed and how active they are on the metabolic and overall health of their offspring. This is especially relevant for commercially puppy and kitten-mill breeding operations as well as hobby-breeders whose animals are confined in cages and fed obesity/metabolic syndrome promoting, high cereal-content kibble.

My concerns have been recently confirmed in a research study entitled “Exercise during pregnancy mitigates negative effects of parental obesity on metabolic function in adult mouse offspring” Rhianna C. Laker et al March 2021 , Applied Physiology Vol 130 Volume 130Issue 3March 2021Pages 605-616 ( The authors state “Parental health influences embryonic development and susceptibility to disease in the offspring. We investigated whether maternal voluntary running during gestation could protect the offspring from the adverse effects of maternal or paternal high-fat diet (HF) in mice.” They found that.” Maternal or paternal obesity causes metabolic impairment in adult offspring in mice. Maternal exercise during gestation can completely mitigate metabolic impairment. Maternal obesity, but not paternal obesity, results in hypermethylation of the Pgc-1α promoter at CpG-260, which can be abolished by maternal exercise.”

In another study showing offspring from mothers fed a ‘junk food’ diet in pregnancy and lactation exhibit exacerbated adiposity that is more pronounced in females, the authors state: “We have shown previously that a maternal junk food diet during pregnancy and lactation plays a role in predisposing offspring to obesity. Here we show that rat offspring born to mothers fed the same junk food diet rich in fat, sugar and salt develop exacerbated adiposity accompanied by raised circulating glucose, insulin, triglyceride and/or cholesterol by the end of adolescence (10 weeks postpartum) compared with offspring also given free access to junk food from weaning but whose mothers were exclusively fed a balanced chow diet in pregnancy and lactation. Results also showed that offspring from mothers fed the junk food diet in pregnancy and lactation, and which were then switched to a balanced chow diet from weaning, exhibited increased perirenal fat pad mass relative to body weight and adipocyte hypertrophy compared with offspring which were never exposed to the junk food diet. This study shows that the increased adiposity was more enhanced in female than male offspring and gene expression analyses showed raised insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), insulin receptor substrate (IRS)-1, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPARγ), leptin, adiponectin, adipsin, lipoprotein lipase (LPL), Glut 1, Glut 3, but not Glut 4 mRNA expression in females fed the junk food diet throughout the study compared with females never given access to junk food. Changes in gene expression were not as marked in male offspring with only IRS-1, VEGF-A, Glut 4 and LPL being up-regulated in those fed the junk food diet throughout the study compared with males never given access to junk food. This study therefore shows that a maternal junk food diet promotes adiposity in offspring and the earlier onset of hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia and/or hyperlipidemia. Male and female offspring also display a different metabolic, cellular and molecular response to junk-food-diet-induced adiposity.” (S A Bayol, B H Simbi, J A Bertrand, and N C Stickland Offspring from mothers fed a ‘junk food’ diet in pregnancy and lactation exhibit exacerbated adiposity that is more pronounced in females. J Physiol. 2008 Jul 1; 586(Pt 13): 3219–3230.. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2008.153817).

With a reported one in every three Americans now classified as being overweight and an increasing number becoming obese, we only need to go out into any public space to see how our life styles and consumer habits have helped create a public health crisis. The underlying catalyst for this epidemic I believe are the ‘obesogenic’ chemicals, many of which also have mutagenic, carcinogenic and teratogenic effects, especially those endocrine disrupting contaminants that have entered the environment and passed into the food chain. We are not the only animals on the planet being harmed by our chemical and industrial, market-driven indiscretions, sex changes and infertility in alligators and other wildlife being one tragic consequence, and the obesity epidemic in companion animals, with all its costly health-related consequences, from arthritis and heart disease to cancer and diabetes as well as much animal suffering, being another.

It may be true, but too simplistic as an approach, to blame the obesity epidemic in dogs, cats and humans on them being couch-potatoes not getting adequate exercise and eating too many snack foods and pet treats, and too much of the wrong kinds of foods at meal times. Most companion animals are neutered, which is another contributing factor. Both they and the human population are prone to thyroid problems which affect their metabolism, leading in many instances to the so called metabolic syndrome as well as to pancreatic and liver issues, joint, cardiac and circulatory pathology and even cognitive impairment, immune system dysfunction and cancer.

An additional obesogenic factor in humans, females especially, is stress with associated elevated cortisol levels. Furthermore, body fat acts like an endocrine organ producing estrogenic ( feminizing) hormones, metabolism regulating lipokines and pro-inflammatory agents called cytokines. Health issues may arise with sudden weight-loss when fat-soluble pesticides and other environmental toxins stored in body fat are released into the blood stream.

Antibiotics are fed routinely to farm animals to cause weight gain. This connection with antibiotics causing disruption of normal gut bacteria ( the ‘microbiome’) and subsequent changes in metabolism leading to obesity has been confirmed in laboratory animal studies and is considered by some health professionals ( see Martin J. Blaser Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics is Fueling Our Modern Plagues, Henry Holt & Co. NY 20014) as a significant factor in the obesity epidemic. Antibiotics are still being widely prescribed by doctors, especially to children, and by veterinarians treating companion animals for minor conditions and without regard for more conservative treatment alternatives and the use of probiotics (“anti-antibiotics”) after antibiotic treatment has been discontinued to help restore the microbiome. Antibacterial soaps and other household products containing triclosan, ( which may also be an endocrine disruptor and after going down the drain in to waterways converts to dioxins when exposed to sunlight) should be outlawed.

These obesity-related health issues have generated a lucrative business in veterinary prescription diets and weight-loss diets for humans along with costly diagnostic and pharmaceutical correctives for various systemic, endocrine, internal organ, digestive, inflammatory and other physiological disorders.

It is not scientifically or economically feasible to tease out all the potential contributing factors in the obesity ‘complex’ and its harmful consequences because of the host of endocrine disrupting and other chemical contaminants and synthetic additives—coloring agents, stabilizers, preservatives etc—in manufactured pet foods and human foods and beverages and the containers of same. So the precautionary principle must be applied; avoid highly processed, adulterated, denatured, and additive ‘fortified’ consumables, and chose a rich diversity of whole foods, ideally organically certified, as dietary staples.

With appropriate dietary modifications, supplements such as L-carnitine, regular exercise and microbiome enhancement with probiotics or fecal infusion, most cases of obesity show dramatic improvement.


Part of the problem with obesity in people and companion animals— the so-called metabolic syndrome and associated desire/addiction for certain foods— I have theorized must be due in part to the influence of some of the bacteria in the digestive system that signal specific appetite cravings in order to sustain their own nutritive needs, generally at the expense of microbiome diversity and the numbers and beneficial effects of other symbiotic and commensal bacteria. Recent research has confirmed this theory*

Much research has been done by the pet food industry to identify various flavors and odors since my earlier research demonstrating odor/scent imprinting in puppies when I was associate professor of psychology at Washington University St. Louis—and which resulted in an invitation to Purina’s pet food HQ to discuss the possibility of food-imprinting: adding some ingredient/s that would make the food irresistible to the animal. I advised them that this might be feasible but there was an ethical caveat that the manufactured pet foods should otherwise be healthful and biologically appropriate.

Since then, at least from marketing indicators, great strides have been made with many cats becoming addicted to biologically inappropriate dry kibble and many of their owners to fat, salt and sugar coated and imbued snack, convenience and fast foods. The artificial sweetener, Monsanto’s sugar substitute Aspartame, identified as a neurotoxin, sold under many “Sugar Free” and “Diet” banners may act as an appetite stimulant, probably affecting gut bacteria that trigger the human host to eat and drink more of these manufactured products. Food-addicting ingredients in manufactured pet foods may have similar consequences, cats and dogs turning away from healthful biologically appropriate foods.

The sense of taste probably plays a greater role in food addiction in humans than in dogs and cats where odor pathways take precedence over taste. color being moot for both cats and dogs. Many pet food kibbles/dry foods and treats have a spray of “meat/animal digest” coupled with other proprietary ingredients but certainly not excluding MSG often designated as “natural flavorings” to enhance taste-sensitivity regardless of potential harmful side-effects. Consumers and companion animal care-givers beware! Veterinarians and their companion animal clients will gain many insights and sound, science and evidence-based medical advice in the book Canine Nutrigenomics by veterinarian Dr. W. Jean Dodds & Diana R. Lavedure. ( Dogwise Publ, 2015).

*Yan Y. Lam,1,2,* Sarah Maguire,1 Talia Palacios,1 and Ian D. Caterson Are the Gut Bacteria Telling Us to Eat or Not to Eat? Reviewing the Role of Gut Microbiota in the Etiology, Disease Progression and Treatment of Eating Disorders Nutrients. 2017 Jun; 9(6): 602. Published online 2017 Jun 14. doi: 10.3390/nu9060602


Traditionally recognized as mental illnesses, eating disorders are increasingly appreciated to be biologically-driven. There is a growing body of literature that implicates a role of the gut microbiota in the etiology and progression of these conditions. Gut bacteria may act on the gut–brain axis to alter appetite control and brain function as part of the genesis of eating disorders. As the illnesses progress, extreme feeding patterns and psychological stress potentially feed back to the gut ecosystem that can further compromise physiological, cognitive, and social functioning. Given the established causality between dysbiosis and metabolic diseases, an altered gut microbial profile is likely to play a role in the co-morbidities of eating disorders with altered immune function, short-chain fatty acid production, and the gut barrier being the key mechanistic links. Understanding the role of the gut ecosystem in the pathophysiology of eating disorders will provide critical insights into improving current treatments and developing novel microbiome-based interventions that will benefit patients with eating disorders.

By becoming an anarchist in your own kitchen, preparing meals from known food sources for your family and animal companions, is a big step. For many people, reducing their own consumption of all animal products has been a major factor in weight loss and improved health and vitality, just as many pet owners have found that a grain-free carnivore-appropriate raw or lightly cooked diet makes for healthy cats, and for more omnivorous dogs, a biologically appropriate mixture of fresh animal produce, fruits and vegetables and a few grains for most, wags all tails.

BPA from canned foods may be harming dogs

A 2016 study by veterinarians at the University of Missouri found that dogs’ levels of the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A nearly tripled after the animals ate a canned-food diet for two weeks, and the exposure was associated with metabolic and microbiome changes. Increased BPA may also reduce one bacterium that has the ability to metabolize BPA and related environmental chemicals. The researchers said the findings may have implications for humans, too, saying: “Indeed, our canine companions may be the best bio-sentinels for human health concerns.”

“Bisphenol A (BPA) in the serum of pet dogs following short-term consumption of canned dog food and potential health consequences of exposure to BPA” was published in Science of the Total.

I would add that cats are also very much at risk and that bisphenol A should not be put in the lining of canned products for their consumption either and that this is a factor in the virtual epidemic of hyperthyroidism in cats today.

VPI Reveals Top 10 Dog and Cat Obesity Conditions

Press Release Brea, Calif., (June 25, 2013) — Giving pets table scraps and treats may seem like a harmless reward for your cuddly canine or friendly feline, but it can lead to health problems down the road, including arthritis, diabetes and liver disease. Just like their human counterparts, excessive weight increases the risk of additional health problems and shortens the life expectancy of pets.

Over the last three years, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., (VPI), the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, has seen pet obesity-related claims steadily increase. In 2012, VPI policyholders filed more than $34 million in claims for conditions and diseases that can be caused or exacerbated by excess weight. The company recently sorted its database of more than 485,000 insured pets to determine the top 10 dog and cat obesity-related conditions in 2012.

In 2012, VPI received more than 34,000 canine claims for arthritis, the most common joint disease aggravated by excessive weight. The average claim fee was $300 per pet. For cats, bladder or urinary tract disease was the most common condition that can be aggravated by obesity. VPI received more than 4,200 medical claims for this ailment – with an average claim amount of $415 per pet.

Most Common Dog Obesity-Related Conditions

  1. Arthritis
  2. Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease
  3. Undiagnosed Limp
  4. Low Thyroid Hormone
  5. Liver Disease
  6. Torn Knee Ligaments
  7. Diseased Disc in the Spine
  8. Diabetes
  9. Heart Failure
  10. Chronic Kidney Disease

Most Common Cat Obesity-Related Conditions

  1. Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease
  2. Chronic Kidney Disease
  3. Diabetes
  4. Asthma
  5. Liver Disease
  6. High Blood Pressure
  7. Arthritis
  8. Undiagnosed Limp
  9. Heart Failure
  10. Gall Bladder Disorder

The above report from VPI confirms the dietary connection to a number of cat and dog health problems detailed in my book, co-written with two other veterinarians, Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Foods. But the VPI report begins by blaming the feeding of table scraps and treats, plus lack of exercise, rather than taking a broader view of how commercial pet food diets, along with co-factors such as neutering, lack of social stimulation in live-alone all-day animals, exposure to endocrine disrupting and ‘obesogenic’ environmental contaminants and post-antibiotic treatment dysbiosis—disruption of healthy gut bacterial populations. Manufactured pet foods are in large part the issue—too many carbohydrates and omega 3 deficiency/imbalance, —not simply too many table scraps and treats. But going light on critical analysis of manufactured pet foods is not surprising because of the VPI’s close association with the pet food industry, their website stating:

“Scottsdale Insurance Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nationwide Insurance, the country’s sixth largest insurance company, owns approximately 66 percent of VPI’s stock. The Iams pet food company owns about 9 percent of our stock and the remaining 25 percent is owned by nearly 1,000 individuals, most of whom are veterinarians. Nationwide and Iams support VPI with strong financial backing and business expertise, and our veterinary owners keep us grounded in the profession”.

I find it disturbing when there are potential conflicts of interest and bias in these kinds of pet health surveys, as with the Banfield Pet Hospital reports, this franchised veterinary chain being a subsidiary of Mars Inc Pet Food and Pet Care Products which has also entered the pet health insurance market in collaboration with the ASPCA in New York.


A U.S. patent has been issued on April 23, 2013 for the treatment of phenotypic obesity in dogs and cats by vaccination and covers ‘methods for enhanced somatostatin immunogenicity in the treatment of obesity’. This genetically engineered vaccine was developed by Braasch Biotech based in South Dakota, which specializes in developing and commercializing a new class of biopharmaceutical products for the human and animal health care market. Additional patent applications are pending in Canada, Europe, Japan and other countries.

Given that obesity, which has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. and many other countries in both humans and companion animals, such a vaccine could be extremely profitable since reported studies indicate that it can help promote weight loss. But how safe is it? Vaccines can notoriously fickle when it comes to genotypic variables in immune response, susceptibility to autoimmune diseases and vaccinosis.

When the known physiological, regulatory and other complex functions of somatostatin are considered, we must question what the short and long term consequences could be when a vaccine is given to block these functions. They include:


I grew up with health-food conscious parents where our daily table-talk usually included some inquiry as to the quality and regularity of my bowel movements. White bread was banned from our house. Now seventy years later the health connections between what is eaten and stool quality in terms of beneficial bacterial content is being recognized by more and more human and animal doctors. Improving the diet and the bacterial microbiome or “garden of the guts” via infusion of good bacteria have become key elements in the One Health approach to improving animals’ health as well as our own. Coprophagia and pica—stool and soil-eating—in many animal species may help improve their gut gardens, but not without some inherent risks.

Veterinarian Dr. Margo Roman writes: “With all the glyphosate and other herbicide residues in the diet and all the plastic and chemicals and pesticides that our pets get, how can they have functioning MicroBiome? We need to feed only GMO free food and animals that have been raised GMO free as well. We have done over 4,400 fecal transplants from my dogs who are 4th generation raw organic fed. They were never on antibiotics and we have no herbicides or pesticides. We have given the Micro Biome Restorative Therapy (MBRT) to aggressive dogs and they became sweet. One dog acted as if he suddenly had been given the feel-good bonding hormone oxytocin as he was licking and grooming his sister with whom he was normally aggressive. I just read an article that said a certain gut bacteria produce this hormone. (Shelly A. Buffington et al Microbial Reconstitution Reverses Maternal Diet-Induced Social and Synaptic Deficits in Offspring. Cell journal Volume 165, p1762–1775, 16 June 2016.

I am treating GI issues like Clostridium, Campylobacter, Giardia, Inflammatory bowel disease, Acute hemorrhagic diarrhea, kidney failure, liver failure, autoimmune issues, cancer, behavioral issues, hepatic lipidosis, pancreatitis, anorexia. it helps so many problems to help the gut to reboot. Our website gives a lot of info and our website has videos on other supportive procedures. We have started the first fecal bank for dogs and cats and we are able to work with your vet and ship Micro Biome from our donors next day air; contact”.

Margo Roman, DVM, Hopkinton, MA

(1.) Baillie-Hamilton P.F. 2002. Chemical toxins: a hypothesis to explain the global obesity epidemic. J. Altern Complement Med. Apr. 8(2): 185-92.

(2.) Elobeid M.A. and D.B. Allison. 2008. Putative environmental-endocrine disruptors and obesity: a review. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes Oct. 15(5): 403-08.

(3.) Newbold R.R., E. Padilla-Banks, R. J. Snyder, T. M. Phillips and W. N. Jefferson. 2007. Developmental Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors and the Obesity Epidemic. Reprod Toxicol. 23(3): 290–296.

(4.) Kelley K. W., Weigent D. A., and R. Kooijman. 2007. Protein Hormones and Immunity. Brain Behav Immun. May; 21(4): 384-392. Can be accessed by this link:

Bacteria in Pet Foods: Acute & Chronic Health Concerns of Endotoxins.

Bacteria are everywhere and that includes pet foods. Most bacteria are harmless, many essential for our health and other animals’ health, but some cause acute “food poisoning” and other serious health problems. High temperature cooking/processing kills most bacteria but in the process releases endotoxins from them. High levels of endotoxins are associated with high levels of bacteria in the animal parts, many condemned for human consumption, billions of pounds of which is processed around the world into pet foods and livestock feed and fertilizer every year. This includes the remains of so-called 4-D animals; those who are either dead, dying, debilitated or diseased upon inspection at the slaughter house.

Endotoxins are a lipopolysaccharide complex making up part of the outer membrane of the cell wall of Gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella. Endotoxins can cause a cascade of adverse health consequences and probably contribute to a variety of chronic degenerative diseases especially in dogs and cats fed the same brands of manufactured pet foods high in endotoxins.

They can cause shock, organ failure, trigger the release of histamine and inflammatory cytokines, cause changes in white blood cell numbers, affect blood coagulation, and lead to hypertension, arthritis and asthma. ( For details see Michael Gregor MD, Dead Meat Bacterial Toxemia, Vol 9 July 6th, 2012). They probably damage cell DNA with carcinogenic consequences. Research has also demonstrated that carcinogenic heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are formed when muscle meat is cooked at high temperatures to destroy potentially harmful bacteria.

Additional concerns about this animal industry waste recycling of animal parts unfit for human consumption but considered fit for companion and other animals include the presence antibiotic residues and strains of bacteria evolving wide-spectrum antibiotic resistance; other production-related pharmaceuticals including Ractopamine and other beta adrenergic agonists, anabolic steroids and recombinant bovine growth hormone; contaminants such as mercury, fluoride and dioxins, pour-on and dip derived insecticide residues and endocrine gland tissues such as thyroid with still active like thyroxine that is not destroyed in processing. (See Dietary Hyperthyroidism in Dogsby B. Köhler B, C. Stengel, and R. Neiger Journal of Small Animal Practice 2012; 53, 182–184). [One of the most dramatic and tragic consequences of allowing other animals to consume the remains of farmed animals was the suffering and death of millions of India’s vultures from diclofenac, widely used by the cattle industry and still active in their animals’ discarded remains].

With most dogs there is a greater degree of tolerance to these endotoxins than cats (in whom inflammatory bowel conditions are rampant), because ancestrally the dog is a natural scavenger of animals’ remains while the cat is an obligate fresh-meat carnivore. But genetic and epigenetic factors and dietary changes in their microbiome—their healthy gut bacterial population—seems to make some dogs especially “food sensitive” and, along with cats, develop a variety of chronic maladies. Many of these respond well and show a complete recovery from a host of costly conditions when their diets are changed with only human food-grade quality ingredients and selected supplements.

The recycling of this vast tonnage of slaughter-house and fishing industry waste into pet food and animal feed (causing mad cow disease in the U.K and in companion animals as well as in a yet- uncounted number of human consumers), albeit highly profitable, it is part of a non-sustainable, climate-changing and costly public and environmental health problem that calls for systemic change, at the core of which must be a reduction in production and consumption of high-carbon-hoof print beef, pork and other animal produce from over-stocked free-range and concentrated animal feeding operations. Such change could be initiated by informed consumers demanding that their government establish better ways to dispose of this food animal waste where polluters pay. Consumers must support humane and ecologically sound farmed animal husbandry as well as certified organic practices and secure legislation that only human-grade foods and their immediate by-products be permitted in pet foods, fish foods and livestock, horse and poultry feeds.

In late 2015 I received a major newspaper reporter interview call asking my opinion of the demand of some pet owners for “humanized” food for their dogs and cats. The reporter made it quite clear that these people must be “anthropomorphizing” their pets by demanding human-quality food for them, a view she had clearly acquired from the main-stream pet food industry. Like the industry, she did not want to hear anything about 4-D meat in pet foods or bacterial endotoxins.

Pet grade or feed grade meats and other animal remains are most often a lesser quality and are commonly not transported under refrigeration so the assumed risk of pet grade ingredients is dramatically higher than human grade ingredients. Supplement your pet’s diet with a quality probiotic. It is key to have a healthy balance of bacteria in your pet’s gut. From a study published in World Journal of Gastroenterology, ‘Probiotics and gut health: A special focus on liver diseases’: “Newer evidence suggests that probiotics have the potential to reduce the risk of developing inflammatory bowel diseases and intestinal bacterial overgrowth after gut surgery. In liver health, the main benefits of probiotics might occur through preventing the production and/or uptake of lipopolysaccharides (endotoxins) in the gut, and therefore reducing levels of low-grade inflammation.” Supplement your pet’s diet with fish oil or cod liver oil (omega-3 fatty acids). A 2013 study on pigs found that fish oil and cod liver oil supplements reduced endotoxin levels in the blood by 50%. Foods that provide natural sources of omega-3 are flaxseeds, sardines, and salmon. Pet food consumers can add these foods (human grade) to their pets’ diet to help control the effects of endotoxins they could be consuming”.


Poisons from moldy cereals, including corn, wheat, sorghum, barley, rye, peanuts and also in cotton seed, sugar beets and sugar cane, identified as mycotoxins, have been identified around the world by – a company that provides products to support the animal feed industry. The U.S. stands out as a major source of these toxins that are in livestock feed and in pet foods. Companion animals are in double jeopardy being fed animal parts potentially contaminated by these cumulative toxins (along with glyphosate and other agrichemical residues) that can cause cancer, liver damage and other serious health problems. Triple jeopardy arises for companion animals from bacterial endotoxins especially from slaughtered animal remains condemned for human consumption. when both endotoxins and mycotoxins are found in an animal food…the synergy of the two toxins increases the risk of each. From (this 2018 post mainly written of the risk to livestock): Mycotoxins and Endotoxins can also have an impact on the intestinal barrier function and so increase the risk of endotoxin uptake into the bloodstream. Similarly, the negative effect of endotoxins on the rumen epithelium may increase the uptake of mycotoxins, increasing the risk to the animal of even hard-to-absorb mycotoxins such as fumonisins. Both mycotoxins and endotoxins can trigger inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects (through reducing response or directly affecting immune cells) and both toxin types can affect, and be exacerbated by, liver damage.

So I advise cat and dog owners to read the labels on their animals’ manufactured foods and avoid those containing any of the above cereals and other plant ingredients, look for the Organic Certification label and for finding some of the safer pet foods—if you do not make your own from human-quality grade ingredients,—visit and support their continued efforts to make pet food safe and wholesome.



Attorneys in California Minnesota, Georgia, and North Carolina filed a class action lawsuit in California on Dec 716 against the leading manufacturers and sellers of pet food: Mars, Nestlé Purina, Hills, PetSmart, and several veterinary hospital chains. The four main pet food brands involved in the suit include: Hill’s Prescription Diet, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Royal Canin Veterinary Diet, and Iams Veterinary Formula.

Mars, the biggest seller of pet food, sells two of the four Prescription Pet Food brands and is also the owner of the largest veterinarian hospital chain the U.S., Blue Pearl Vet Hospital. Mars also partners with the largest specialty pet retailer, PetSmart, in the ownership of the largest veterinarian clinic chain, Banfield Pet Hospital.

The suit concerns prescription pet foods that cost more but plaintiffs contend they are no different than any other kind of pet food. Some highlights in this complaint:

As documented in the book Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Food which I co-authored with two other veterinarians in 2009, the claims being made by the providers of over-priced, often unpalatable and nutrient deficient, prescription-only manufactured pet foods are generally questionable and often lacking in sound clinical and scientific evidence of being of any benefit with a few exceptions.

Since the report of this law suit was posted I asked for comments from two practicing veterinarians on these special diets which are marketed in several countries.

California veterinarian Dr. Greg Martinez writes:

Many years ago prescription diets were the only diets available that attempted to address common medical problems in pets. The “sensitive stomach” and “intestinal diets” had fewer, less allergenic ingredients than the common pet food on the shelves. These days, limited ingredient diets are healthy alternatives to help dogs with food allergies and intolerances to wheat gluten, beef, and chicken. These commercially produced diets contain meats like fish, venison, and rabbit or carbohydrates like rice, peas, or potato commonly available at the pet store. Hydrolysed prescription diets from soy have been helpful for those dogs and cats that don’t tolerate animal proteins.

The birth of prescription diets came after Mark Morris DVM adapted the human kidney failure diets to his canine patients. The lower protein and phosphorus of “kidney diets” has extended the life of both dogs and cats with failing kidneys. Research shows that failing kidneys may benefit from these restrictions, but the very hint of kidney problems drive many vets to add “kidney diets” to the treatment plan before the lower protein diet is needed. An alternate sensible choice may be a moister food like a senior diet canned food or home cooked lower protein recipe.(30% meat and organs instead of 50-60%). Blue Buffalo’s kidney support and senior diets are made with a better mix of ingredients than most other commercial brands.

Omega three fatty acids are healthy antioxidants and may help with many organs. You don’t have to depend on the commercial or prescription diets when you can add fish oil or sardines in water to the diet!

Urinary crystals and stones may result from a lack of moisture in the diet, food intolerances or allergens causing an irritated and infected bladder, and a genetic tendency to form stones. Struvite crystals and stones may benefit from canned or homemade food, cranberry extract, glucosamine-chondroitin supplements, antibiotics for infection, and even probiotics. Oxalate and urate crystals and stones usually need a prescription diet like Royal Canin S/O or other diets to help prevent recurrence.

For more details visit my website) and great kidney disease diet comments)

Veterinarian Dr. Martin L. Whitehead from the U.K. wrote: My view on prescription diets is like that for nutraceuticals and supplements - they each need to be assessed on their merits. I believe many prescription diets (cancer, congestive heart failure, cognitive decline), and many nutraceuticals and supplements are, at best, based on ‘theoretical considerations’ rather actual evidence of efficacy. We sell very little in the way of prescription diets. I think the only use for them my practice has are:

  1. Restricted ingredient and/or hydrolysed diets used short-term as exclusion diets to test for food allergies/intolerances in chronic GI and skin cases,
  2. Renal diets in advanced kidney failure cases (I am not convinced they are optimal, but there is very good evidence that they are better than standard commercial foods in this circumstance),
  3. Dissolving struvite stones.
  4. Something like Hill’s A/D can be good for getting plenty of nutrients

and energy into severely ill animals.

Even so, the functions of each of these can be achieved using other foods and/or meds, but the manufactured diets are convenient ways of doing so for busy/uncommitted owners.— The way I see it, all foods have their pros and cons. For feeding dogs and cats in general, in the absence

of good evidence for what is best, my approach is to advocate variety. As an (economically unfortunate) result of that, as a practice we sell very little food because we don’t promote any particular type. ‘Raw feeding’ is growing in popularity in the UK and recently a Raw Feeding Veterinary Society ( has been formed. (I’m a member, although not a very popular one as I am fairly skeptical of much of what the other members claim— I don’t have much objection to raw feeding (although I actively advise against it in families with pregnant women or young children), and I don’t have much objection to pets eating manufactured foods, but I don’t think either raw food or processed pet foods should be the only food animals get, and feeding an animal only one brand of manufactured food for months or years has always seemed outright peculiar to me.


Lea et al (2016) have documented the presence of the endocrine disruptors diethylhexyl phthalate and polychlorinated biphenyl 153 in both commercial dog foods and in testicular tissue of dogs at concentrations reported to perturb reproductive function and organs in other species.

Veterinarian John P.Vestergen (2017) states that “many veterinary and behaviour experts are questioning the impact of overly processed, chemical-, dye- or toxin-laden commercial dog foods on the rising number of health and behaviourally compromised animals. Nutritional deficits or long-term effects are increasingly being evaluated. Indeed, the extensive use of inexpensive or unusual protein sources is suspected to be directly or indirectly part of pathological pathways leading to decreased health, immune or allergic disease, cancer, and behaviour- or stress-related diseases. When only behaviour is concerned, everything from irritation, anxiety and compulsive problems to self-mutilation can potentially be linked to the quality of foods, and some of these behaviours may point directly to preservatives, endocrine disruptors, toxins of all kind, additives and dyes used in kibble and other processed foods (Palanza and others 2016, Patisaul 2016, Pinson and others 2016). The use of compounds recognised as toxins and carcinogens that, by law, are not permitted in human food, but which potentially might be present in dog foods and treats, is becoming a real concern and warrants scientific evaluation.”

A high fat diet may help alleviate epilepsy in dogs (Packer et al 2016). Providing dogs with an organic diet with nutraceuticals may reduce anxiety, aggression and compulsive behaviors and have been shown to reduce reactive oxygen metabolites ( free radicals), noradrenaline and cortisol levels and elevate beta endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, ( Sechi et al 2017). Large dogs generally have shorter life spans than their small counterparts, and a surplus of oxygen free radicals in fast-growing puppies might explain the difference. Graduate students at Colgate University collected and analyzed tissue samples from puppies and recently deceased old dogs and found large-breed puppies had an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants. ( (111). Puppies of lager breeds may therefore benefit from antioxidant-rich food supplements.

A study that examined metabolites in the blood of hyperactive dogs found a negative correlation between hyperactivity and levels of tryptophan metabolites, which are released by intestinal bacteria as they break down components of food. Tryptophan is a vital amino acid. Tryptophan metabolites are solely produced when intestinal bacteria processes the tryptophan from the food. This information confirmed the differences in the bacteria found in the gut of hyperactive and normally behaved dogs. The study underscores links between the GI tract and the brain. ( Puurunen, J. et al (2016).

Gluten allergy in coeliac disease may be provoked by virus

By Andy Coghlan

Infection with a common, symptomless virus could be one of the first steps towards developing coeliac disease, a painful autoimmune condition that damages the gut.

Coeliac disease involves the immune system treating gluten as an antigen and attacking it and has generally been thought to be a genetic disease. However, there is some evidence that the onset of the condition may be linked to people experiencing viral infections. These may include infection by adenoviruses, which cause colds, rotaviruses, which can cause diarrhoea, and the hepatitis C virus.

Now there is experimental evidence that some viruses may indeed prompt the onset of coeliac disease. Bana Jabri at the University of Chicago, Illinois, and her team have found that exposing mice to a common reovirus called T1L breaks their tolerance of gluten.

When the team fed small groups of mice gliadin – a component of gluten – they found that mice produced two to three times as many antibodies against the compound over the next two days if they were also infected with reovirus.

“The reovirus changes the way the immune system sees gluten,” says Jabri. Normally, the body’s immune system learns to tolerate the wide range of substances in our food, including gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. But the team’s findings suggest that infection with a reovirus interferes with this, leading the body to mistakenly attack gluten.

“Our experiments are the first to demonstrate that a virus can induce loss of tolerance to dietary antigens,” says Jabri.

Indigestible gluten

“Instead of mounting a tolerant, non-aggressive response, the immune system in the presence of the reovirus views gluten as being dangerous, promoting a destructive inflammatory response,” says Jabri.

The researchers also found that mice infected with the T1L virus had between two to four times as much of an inflammatory molecule in their bodies. This molecule, called interferon regulatory factor 1, has been found at abnormally high levels in the gut linings of children with coeliac disease, and has also been implicated in instigating the condition’s onset.

Compared with other common foodstuffs, gluten is particularly likely to trigger immunological problems because it is unusually resistant to being broken down in the gut, says Jabri. Gliadin is the most difficult component of gluten to digest.

The team’s findings could explain why only a small proportion of people develop coeliac disease, which is a far more severe condition that gluten intolerances. While 40 per cent of people in the US seem to have a genetic predisposition to coeliac disease, only 3 per cent of the population – around 3 million people – have the condition. This could be because the others haven’t been exposed to a viral trigger.

“This is a fascinating study,” says David Sanders, at the University of Sheffield, UK. “Investigators have studied this ‘second-hit’ hypothesis for some time, to explain why not everyone with genetic predisposition actually develops the disease. Now the new study suggests that reoviruses might play a role.”

If studies in people confirm that reovirus can trigger coeliac disease, it could lead to new treatments, says Sanders. Jabri’s team are now working on a vaccine that might stop infections from causing coeliac disease.

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.aah5298


LEA R. G., et al (2016) Environmental chemicals impact dog semen quality in vitro and may be associated with a temporal decline in sperm motility and increased cryptorchidism.Scientific Reports 6, 31281

VESTERGEN J.P. (2017 ) Does diet contribute to abnormal dog behavior. Vet Rec 180: 16-17.

PALANZA P., et al (2016) Perinatal exposure to endocrine disruptors: sex, timing and behavioural endpoints. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences 7, 69–75

PATISAUL H. B. (2016) Endocrine disruption by dietary phyto-oestrogens: impact on dimorphic sexual systems and behaviours. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 8, 1–15

PINSON A., BOURGUIGNON J. P., PARENT A. S. (2016) Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and neurodevelopmental alterations. Andrology 4, 706–722.

PACKER R. M., (2016) Effects of a ketogenic diet on ADHD-like behaviour in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Epilepsy and Behavior 55, 62–68

SECHI S., et al (2016) Effects in dogs with behavioural disorders of a commercial nutraceutical diet on stress and neuroendocrine parameters. Veterinary Record doi: 10.1136/vr.103865

Puurunen J., et al (2016). A non-targeted metabolite profiling pilot study suggests that tryptophan and lipid metabolisms are linked with ADHD-like behaviours in dogs. Behavioral and Brain Functions 12:27


Defects in the body’s regulatory T cells (T reg cells) cause inflammation and autoimmune disease by altering the type of bacteria living in the gut, researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston have discovered. The study, “Resetting microbiota by Lactobacillus reuteri inhibits T reg deficiency-induced autoimmunity via adenosine A2A receptors,” published online December 19, 2016 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, suggests that replacing the missing gut bacteria, or restoring a key metabolite called inosine, could help treat children with a rare and often fatal autoimmune disease called IPEX syndrome.

Autoimmune diseases can also be caused by changes in the gut microbiome, the population of bacteria that reside within the gastrointestinal tract. In the study, the team led by Yuying Liu and J. Marc Rhoads at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston McGovern Medical School find that mice carrying a mutant version of the Foxp3 gene show changes in their gut microbiome at around the same time that they develop autoimmune symptoms. In particular, the mice have lower levels of bacteria from the genus Lactobacillus. The researchers discovered that by feeding the mice with Lactobacillus reuteri, they could “reset” the gut bacterial community and reduce the levels of inflammation, “Our findings suggest that probiotic L. reuteri, inosine, or other A2A receptor agonists could be used therapeutically to control T cell-mediated autoimmunity,” says Yuying Liu.


In April 2001, State Departments of Agriculture announced that “The FDA approved an irradiation process that can be used on all animal feed and feed ingredients, including pet food and treats. This process can reduce the risk of contamination from all strains of Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella organisms can cause gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea in people and pets’.

‘Irradiation is a process in which products are exposed to sources of ionizing radiation which cause chemical, not nuclear, changes similar to other conventional cooking or preservation methods. It has already been approved for use on a variety of human foods. Extending this process to animal feed and feed ingredients will not only increase the safety of the feed for the animals consuming it, but to people who handle animal feed and feed ingredients. Irradiation is a useful tool for reducing disease risk’.

‘Irradiation treatment compliments, but does not replace, the need for proper food handling practices in the production, processing, and handling of animal feed and pet foods including treats. Pet owners need to practice safe food handling practices after handling pet treats, including washing hands thoroughly in warm water and with soap after any contact’.

Studies have shown that irradiation does affect the nutrient content of certain foods, destroying or denaturing enzymes and proteins, certain vitamins and produces so called radiolytic break-down products, the safety of which has not been determined.

Biological Sciences: Neuroscience

Extensive remyelination of the CNS leads to functional recovery

I.D. Duncan1, A. Brower2, Y. Kondo1, J. Curlee Jr.3, R. Schultz4

Department of Medical Sciences1, Department of Pathobiological Sciences4, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, 2015 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706;

Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory2, 445 Easterday Lane, Madison, WI 53706; and Harlan Laboratories3, PO Box 44220, Madison, WI 53744, Madison, WI

“ Here we describe a novel model in the cat in which severe neurologic dysfunction including ataxia, paresis, paralysis and vision loss, is seen in pregnant cats fed an irradiated diet. Removal of this diet results in delayed but complete neurologic recovery associated with extensive remyelination along the entire spinal cord and throughout the optic nerve. Axons remain largely intact, proving that remyelination alone of large areas of the CNS can restore function.

Analysis of the irradiated diet for macronutrient, minerals, vitamins and fatty acids compared with non-irradiated diets showed no significant differences.

Clinical chemistry examination from affected cats (hematology, blood biochemistry, urinanalysis) were all within normal limits. A final feeding trial of two irradiated commercial diets compared to the same diets that were autoclaved (15 cats/group) showed that around 90-95% of pregnant cats on the irradiated diets developed neurologic disease; those that ate more diet developed disease earlier and more severely. Non-pregnant cats (i.e. males and offspring) never developed neurologic disease.

A previous report in cats fed an irradiated diet showed some similar changes to those described here, with widespread white matter vacuolation”18.

  1. Cassidy JP, Caulfield C, Jones BR, Worrall S, Conlon L, Palmer AC, Kelly J (2007) Leukoencephalomyelopathy in specific pathogen-free cats. Vet Pathol 44:912-916.


\ Pet Products News International reports that the GfK Group, a Germany-based global market research company tracking business in 11,000 U.S. pet stores, that sales of grain-free pet foods have jumped some 28% over the past year. More than $1.4 billion was spent on this kind of pet food for dogs, and some $322 million for cats in 2012. While this is a small fraction of the annual $21 billion-a-year pet food market, it is a significant change in consumer choice and demand driving market availability. Much of this has to do with the pet obesity epidemic and other documented health problems in dogs and cats associated with high cereal content diets. (For details visit It is an issue of especial concern for cats who are obligate carnivores and cannot process cereals and other sources of starch unlike most dogs.

I have also long advocated a reduction of soy products in dog foods and their elimination from all cat foods. Pet owners are to be advised to check the ingredients of grain free pet foods that may use high carbohydrate substitutes such potato and pea flour as a binder in dry foods, along with beet pulp, also used as filler.

I have also been a long time advocate of organic farming and according to the Organic Trade Association organic pet food sales are growing at nearly three times the rate of similar organic, USDA Certified human food sales. It is noteworthy because of documented animal health and environmental concerns about genetically engineered crops and foods ( also detailed on the above website) that some pet food and pet treat manufacturers are now including a “No GMO” or “GMO-FREE” label one their product labels.

These market trends indicate the power of informed consumers voting with their dollars to support a more healthful agriculture and human food industry of which the pet food industry is a subsidiary and now a catalyst for a revolution because of the diet related health problems being seen in our dogs and cats.


The following statement was given after the industry posted findings from tests they conducted to determine the accuracy of content labeling. It really gets nobody off the hook of responsibility, and calls for greater vigilance and accountability, especially when dogs need to be put on a single protein diet or a rotational diet because of possible food allergy/sensitivity: “As in the human food industry, this type of mislabeling is typically not intentional on the part of the manufacturer. Rather, it is most often the result of mistakes during formulation or the receipt of mislabeled product from a supplier.”

12 formulas listed no gluten source on the label and 5 were labeled either gluten-free or grain-free, however 5 of the 12 – including 2 labeled gluten- or grain-free – contained gluten at greater than 80 ppm, a level much higher than the FDA’s limit of 20 ppm to qualify for labeling as gluten-free in human foods.

8 formulas tested positive for an animal protein not listed on the ingredient label, with 2 foods containing undeclared beef or sheep, 5 containing pork, and 1 containing deer.

2 foods labeled as containing venison tested negative for deer, but instead contained beef, sheep or pork.

2 foods labeled as containing “meat and bone meal” rather than a specific protein source tested positive instead for pork, but because pork can be considered meat, these formulas were not technically mislabeled.

One may wonder about the accuracy of labeling of cat foods, and certainly where pet food manufacturers do not have their own manufacturing plant but contract out and share facilities with others using different ingredients, cross-contamination is another issue.

Commercial restricted diets may have hidden allergens: Commercial diets advertised for dogs with allergies may not live up to their labels, according to a recent study (J. Anim. Physiol & Anim. Nutr, 95: 90-97, 2011 by D. M.Raditic et al) that evaluated the content of four over-the-counter dry venison dog foods and found each contained common food allergens including soy and beef, despite claims to the contrary. If these four over-the counter ( OTC) venison products selected in this study are representative of OTC products in general, then the use of OTC venison dry dog foods should not be used during elimination trials in suspected food allergy patients.


US Dog and Cat Food Imports: Which Countries Pet Food Comes From

By Jo Jackson, Factoids Writer

“Dog and cat food is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States. Many companies manufacture cat and dog food from ingredients that include meat products, grains and oilseed mill products. In 2009, the revenue for dog and cat food manufacturing in the US was around $16.2 billion and the industry exported about $1.1 billion to 111 countries worldwide.

The US also imports dog food and cat food, and in 2009 the value of imports was valued at $407 million (up from $367 million in 2008) from 26 different countries. This large rise in imports was despite quality problems and product recalls that have occurred in the past with imported pet food, particularly from China. In general, cat and dog food is imported into America duty free. This article looks at dog and cat food imports in 2008, 2009 and the first six months of 2010.

Main Suppliers of Imported Dog Food and Cat Food

In 2009 dog and cat, food was imported into the United States from 26 different countries. Below are the top ten countries, which combined, represent over 99% of all imports, or $404 million of the $407 million. Figures are also shown for 2008 and for the first six months (January to June) of 2010 so that trends can be observed. The data was extracted from the United States International Trade Commission’s Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb using HTS code 23091000, dog or cat food for retail sale.

The table above shows that between 2008 and 2009 the amount of dog and cat food imported from these ten countries increased for all countries except Thailand, Australia and Brazil, which showed declines. China dominated the import market, providing nearly half of the imports while Canada provided a little over a quarter. Together the top three importers of China, Canada and Thailand account for around 95% of all dog and cat food imported into America, although Thailand’s share seems to be slowly declining.

Fastest Growing Imports of Cat Food and Dog Food by Country

In 2008, there were no pet food imports from Cambodia but in 2009, imports were valued at $512,000 while in the first six months of 2010 they have already reached $1,785,000 to capture a much bigger percentage of the market. The table below shows the growth in dollar value of dog and cat food imports between 2008 and 2009 as a percentage.

The table above shows that in percentage terms the biggest increases in imported dog and cat food sales were reported by the developing nations of Cambodia and Taiwan. In the first six months of 2010 these countries have already both imported more than they did for the whole of 2009 showing they are going to record an increase for 2010 also.

China’s increase of 21% represents an additional $34.3 million in imports of dog and cat food between 2008 and 2009 and 2010 figures to date show it will continue to dominate imports. In the first half of 2010, the total imports have been $238.3, which represents a 14.4% increase over the $208.3 million recorded for the first half of 2010. This suggests total US imports of cat and dog food may be around $465 million for 2010.

Pet Owners Should Take Note of Where Dog and Cat Food Comes From

When purchasing pet food owners should take note of the country of origin and determine for themselves whether cheaper brands are worthwhile. Not all countries have the same food standards as the US and if you are purchasing overseas sourced pet food keep yourself informed about product recalls, as during 2007 many pets died of renal failure from contaminants in pet food manufactured in China.

Some of the overseas brands are very good quality and represent excellent value but for those who treat their pet as a valued family member it is worth spending a few minutes searching the internet to make sure they are not about to give a pet something that could be damaging to their health. This is particularly important for those wanting only natural cat food or natural dog food and who want to buy the best dog food available.

USITC Interactive Tariff and Trade Database

Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States

Some Help?:

Distinguish between private label and brand name.

How are ingredients purchased and from where?

Regulations re. The packaging of imported pet foods in the USA .( Canada Imports the majority of its pet food from the USA and has no regulations other than label requirements).

The Pet Food Industry Magazine.”


Pet food manufacturers add various essential vitamins and minerals to their cat and dog food formulas to make up for deficiencies in the basic ingredients and because of losses associated with processing. More and more are providing “Country of Origin” information as to where their basic ingredients come from, and a few also state Human Grade quality and even USDA Organic Certification. But when it comes to these essential vitamin and mineral supplemental additives, most restrained by costs in a highly competitive market and select cheaper, so called ‘Feed Grade’ quality, imported from world-market monopolist China, where quality controls are in question.

Russell Armstrong, owner of Verus Pet Foods, states that: “Our Vitamin pre-mix and our Mineral pre-mix is sourced exclusively from non-Chinese sources. This is unique in the pet food industry as it requires us to use human grade vitamins and minerals. We will provide you with a country of origin of each, as well, we can provide you with a certification letter from our pre-mix supplier if you would like. Any pet food that makes this claim should provide the same….. Manufactures will state that there is no other source for such ingredients. The truth is, there is no other source for “feed grade” supplements other than China. This is true. The Chinese own the market on feed grade supplements since no one else can produce them as cheap. The reason is, there is no quality control, testing, or certification for “feed grade” nutrients for pet food. We can all see the danger in this, given China’s history with pet food ingredients.”

Certainly the pet food industry is challenged on many fronts. The massive recall of pet foods in 2007 that resulted in the deaths of thousands of dogs and cats and caused chronic illness in thousands more from an imported ingredient from China (melamine), reviewed in my book Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Food, should never be forgotten. Searching the world marketplace to find the lowest cost ingredients that meet the industry’s scientific criteria of ‘complete and balanced nutrition’ and maximize profits should become a thing of the past when there is little or no transparency and quality assurance from foreign suppliers, some in China not allowing US government inspectors access and even relocating their manufacturing facilities prior to inspection!