Pet Food and Feeding Issues


The advice of Hippocrates, whom some regard as the founder of Western medicine, was that we should make our food our medicine. This also holds true for what people are feeding to their dogs and cats. I am not referring to the special therapeutic ‘prescription’ diets which are problematic enough, but to the widely marketed manufactured pet foods from multinational corporations whose products we see advertised nightly on TV.

There are several myths and truths about what we feed our dogs and cats which I want to share because there are many health problems that could be prevented since the best and first medicine is good nutrition. We will look at these myths first, and then each will be dispelled in turn for pet’s sake, and for the sake of companion animal caregivers who want to avoid the harmful and costly veterinary consequences of feeding their dogs and cats the equivalent of junk and virtual convenience foods that are not fit for a dog and especially for a cat. Corn, for example, has no place in a cat’s biologically appropriate diet, and soy is no substitute for quality protein for dogs.

One long-standing myth was that manufactured dog and cat food was good for all dogs and cats, and that you just give more of the same the larger the animal may be. The industry dispelled this myth several years ago, coming out with new ‘designer’ diets especially tailored for breeds of different ages, sizes and activity levels. But there are other myths perpetuated by the industry and by ignorance that should not enjoy such a long life as the aforementioned.

  1. The first myth to be dispelled is that dogs and cats should not be fed human food, because dog food is made for dogs, and cat food for cats. Food is food, but what is often put into manufactured pet foods is neither fit for human consumption nor nutritionally complete as a ‘whole’ food. More details on this pivotal issue will be given shortly.

  2. The old myth that one kind of food is good for all, long promoted by pet food manufacturers, has been replaced by three new ones. One is that modern pet foods are scientifically formulated and ‘balanced,’ and therefore provide complete nutrition for health maintenance.

  3. Close on the tail of this myth is that dogs and cats should never be fed table-scraps/left-overs from the dinner table because that would upset the balance of their specially formulated diets.

  4. Another myth promoted for obvious reasons by many pet food manufacturers is that dogs and cats should be fed the same kind and brand of manufactured pet food day in and day out because varying what they are fed will cause digestive and other health problems, and anyway these animals are not like us and do not enjoy or particularly need variety.

  5. Yet another myth is that dogs and cats, just like humans, really don’t need to take vitamin, mineral and other supplements because modern foods are nutritionally fortified with supplements and additives.

Before dispelling the above myths, I want to stress that there are some good quality manufactured pet foods on the market, including some with organically certified ingredients, and ranging from raw and freeze-dried to canned and dry. Unfortunately, along with all the junk breakfast cereals, processed and convenience foods, snacks and sodas taking up shelf-space for people, they are given little space in most grocery stores that continue to sell big brand, TV advertised, over-priced, and all too often inferior quality pet foods. Specialty pet stores and health food stores provide better choices, and for a list of some dog and cat foods that I have researched and endorse, check my website

Now some pet owners will say that they never had any problems with their animals being fed the same food every day. While it is true that animals can adapt to some degree to deficient diets, it is also true that many health problems that could have been prevented, and which are soon cured with a proper diet and certain supplements, are not actually recognized as being diet-related. These include chronic skin, anal gland, eye and ear inflammation, periodontal disease, arthritis, obesity, diabetes, allergies, and serious conditions involving internal organs such as the kidney and urinary tract, heart, liver and pancreas, as well as the digestive and related immune and endocrine systems.

These and other diet-related health problems, rooted in part in the consequences of raising pups and kittens and feeding their mothers on manufactured ‘junk’ pet foods, have spawned the lucrative business of prescription and medicated veterinary diets. These have been critically examined in my book, co-authored with two respected veterinarians, nutrition Prof. Marion E. Smart, and former director of technical affairs with Hills Pet Nutrition, Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, entitled Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Dog and Cat Food.

Good nutrition from puppy- and kitten-hood on, and indeed for their pregnant and nursing mothers, is a far better health insurance than lots of vaccinations and frequent treatments for internal and external parasites which may not actually exist, but do thrive on poorly nourished animals.

It should not be forgotten that many of the basic ingredients in these special prescription diets are the same as in far too many regular pet foods, the manufacture of which, using human food and beverage industry byproducts, some being frequently imported from third world countries, has become a multi-billion dollar recycling enterprise. The competitive nature of the multinational pet food industry has lead to a down-spiral of lowest cost ingredient formulations to maximize profit margins, tests being conducted on caged dogs and cats to evaluate digestibility. But every manufactured batch of products is never fully tested since this would be cost-prohibitive. Subsequent recalls are therefore frequent due to ingredient and supplement deficiencies, excesses, and bacterial and fungal contamination from poor quality ingredients. The massive pet food recall of 2007, where several brands of pet food were contaminated with melamine, imported as fake soy protein from China, resulted in the deaths of thousands of dogs and cats from kidney failure.

Knowing the risks of feeding big-brand pet foods, many dog and cat owners are choosing instead some of the brands listed on my website which contain whole food ingredients from reliable sources, often organically certified, minimally processed, and frequently manufactured in the smaller company’s own facilities where contamination is better monitored and controlled. Alternatively, people are preparing their own pet food and treats, as per the recipes on my website, or purchase from a local home- cooked pet food provider. Veterinarians are also providing their clients with basic recipes and utilizing the services of the veterinarian-run company Balance IT® (Customer Support, DVM Consulting, Inc. 606 Peña Drive, Suite 700 Davis, CA 95618 Tel: 1-888-346-6362). They offer special diet recipes for animals needing to go on prescribed diets for various health problems as an alternative to the costly and often unpalatable manufactured prescription diets. The website is an excellent free resource for cat caregivers.

Now to dispel the above myths and see through the advertising propaganda on TV and in too many veterinary clinics promoting those manufactured pet foods which may not be fit for dogs and cats.

  1. Food is food, be it for humans, dogs, cats, or other species. Food and beverage industry byproducts, including beet pulp, brewer’s grains, processed corn and soy meal, poultry remains (‘byproducts’), meat and bone meal, discarded restaurant grease, and rendered proteins and fats from small processing plants are incorporated into many manufactured dog and cat foods.

Pet foods labeled as containing meat meal and meat and bone meal may include dead and diseased livestock, road-kills, and can included barbiturate-loaded, euthanized horses, and dogs and cats from animal shelters.

Far too many manufactured pet foods are nutritionally deficient either because the poor quality ingredients have been variously processed to remove desired nutrient components for human consumption: Or because other nutrients are destroyed or ‘denatured’ by heat-processing and extraction methods that can leave various chemical contaminants and adulterants. Synthetic additives to correct for nutrient deficiencies, along with chemical preservatives, stabilizers and coloring agents, make for a chemical mash that at best is an analog of real food.

The raw dog food movement is a reaction to this, the acronym ‘BARF’ diet meaning a biologically appropriate, raw food diet, not simply bones, which can harm dogs, and raw foods. Lightly cooking most ingredients for some dogs and cats is advisable, however, and the risk of Salmonella and other bacterial contamination of meats calls for careful handling and preparation.

  1. Scientifically formulated dog and cat foods are not necessarily biologically appropriate, the science of pet food nutrition being limited in its mandate by corporate interests to maximize profits from lowest cost ingredients, and to minimize risks. This is a far cry from veterinary nutrition, advances in which were stalled for many years by the pet food industry’s assurances to veterinarians that their products were ‘science-based’, and by their continuing influence both financially and educationally on veterinary students around the world.

  2. I advocate giving suitable table scraps as treats (no cooked bones or high- fat scraps) to dogs and cats after they have had their regular food, or mixing no more than 10 percent with their regular food. If they become picky eaters it may be time to stop feeding table scraps, or give a better quality pet food. Many dogs and cats are constantly hungry and can become obese because they are never nutritionally satisfied by their regular ‘junk’ pet food. Dogs enjoy sharing what we have been eating, and I see this as part of the pack ritual when we share our lives with them. Such food-sharing is also enjoyed by cats since it is an integral aspect of parent care-giving to weaned kittens.

  3. Dogs and cats enjoy variety, and in nature most carnivores and omnivores enjoy a varied diet. I advocate feeding pets different animal proteins like lamb, turkey, fish, beef, on a 3 or 7 day rotation. This can help both identify and avoid food-hypersensitivities/allergies, and is one way to reduce the odds of nutrient deficiencies and imbalances feeding just one kind of manufactured pet food. Sticking to one or two good brand with several different kinds or varieties, as per the selection on my website, may be wise. Animals should always be transitioned gradually over several days onto a new diet to avoid possible adverse reactions or rejection, by adding a little more of the new food mixed in with less and less of the old. Giving probiotics during this transition can be beneficial.

  4. Supplements are called for especially if all ingredients are not organically certified, because the soils of conventional agriculture are nutrient deficient, and almost toxic with synthetic agrichemical fertilizers and pesticides which also contaminate crops. Produce from poultry and livestock fed these crops and their byproducts can also be nutritionally deficient and contaminated with agrichemicals.

These problems are compounded by the fact that most of the corn, soy and sugar beet derived ingredients in processed human foods and pet foods have been genetically engineered or modified (GM). (For a review and links documenting the health and environmental risks of GM crops and foods, visit


URBANA, Ill. Feb. 3, 2021 POSTING from Lauren Quinn: –“ For decades, kibble has been our go-to diet for dogs. But the dog food marketplace has exploded in recent years, with grain-free, fresh, and now human-grade offerings crowding the shelves. All commercial dog foods must meet standards for complete and balanced nutrition, so how do consumers know what to choose?

A new University of Illinois comparison study shows diets made with human-grade ingredients are not only highly palatable, they’re extremely digestible. And that means less poop to scoop. Up to 66% less.

“Based on past research we’ve conducted I’m not surprised with the results when feeding human-grade compared to an extruded dry diet,” says Kelly Swanson, the Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Illinois, and co-author on the Journal of Animal Science study. “However, I did not expect to see how well the human-grade fresh food performed, even compared to a fresh commercial processed brand.”

Swanson and his team fed beagles four commercially available diets: a standard extruded diet (kibble); a fresh, refrigerated diet; and two fresh diets made using only USDA-certified human-grade ingredients. These fresh diets include minimally processed ingredients such as beef, chicken, rice, carrots, broccoli, and others in small chunks or a sort of casserole. The dogs consumed each diet for four weeks.

The researchers found that dogs fed the extruded diet had to eat more to maintain their body weight, and produced 1.5 to 2.9 times as much poop as any of the fresh diets.

“This is consistent with a 2019 National Institute of Health study in humans that found people eating a fresh whole food diet consumed on average 500 less calories per day, and reported being more satisfied, than people eating a more processed diet,” Swanson says. The researchers also found that the fresh diets uniquely influenced the gut microbial community.

“Because a healthy gut means a healthy mutt, fecal microbial and metabolite profiles are important readouts of diet assessment,” Swanson says. “As we have shown in previous studies, the fecal microbial communities of healthy dogs fed fresh diets were different than those fed kibble. These unique microbial profiles were likely due to differences in diet processing, ingredient source, and the concentration and type of dietary fibers, proteins, and fats that are known to influence what is digested by the dog and what reaches the colon for fermentation.”

The article, “Nutrient digestibility and fecal characteristics, microbiota, and metabolites in dogs fed human-grade foods,” is published in Journal of Animal Science [DOI: 10.1093/jas/skab028x]. Authors include Sungho Do, Thunyaporn Phungviwatnikul, Maria de Godoy, and Kelly Swanson. Funding was provided by JustFoodForDogs LLC.

Abstract: Human-grade (HG) pet foods are commercially available, but they have not been well studied. Our objective was to determine the apparent total tract digestibility (ATTD) of HG pet foods and evaluate their effects on fecal characteristics, microbiota, and metabolites, serum metabolites, and hematology of dogs. Twelve dogs (mean age = 5.5 ± 1.0; BW = 11.6 ± 1.6 kg) were used in a replicated 4 × 4 Latin square design (n = 12/treatment). The diets included 1) Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe (extruded; Blue Buffalo); 2) Roasted Meals Tender Chicken Recipe (fresh; Freshpet); 3) Beef and Russet Potato Recipe (HG beef; JustFoodForDogs); and 4) Chicken and White Rice Recipe (HG chicken; JustFoodForDogs). Each period consisted of 28 d, with a 6-d diet transition phase, 16 d of consuming 100% of the diet, a 5-d phase for fecal collection, and 1 d for blood collection. All data were analyzed using the Mixed Models procedure of SAS 9.4. Dogs fed the extruded diet required a higher (P 0.05), but diet modified the relative abundance of nearly 20 bacterial genera. Similar to previous reports, these data demonstrate that the fecal microbiota of dogs fed HG or fresh diets is markedly different than those consuming extruded diets, likely due to ingredient, nutrient, and processing differences. Serum metabolites and hematology were not greatly affected by diet. In conclusion, the HG pet foods tested resulted in significantly reduced fecal output, were highly digestible, maintained fecal characteristics, serum chemistry, and hematology, and modified the fecal microbiota of dogs.


I strongly advise against feeding dogs, cats and ferrets any raw meats because of bacterial contamination from inhumanely raised factory- farmed animals as in the U.S. and in the U.K. where dogs fed raw meat are more likely to carry drug-resistant E. coli. ( E .F. Groat et al, J.Small Animal Pract. 2022). This is an animal and public health risk which can make family members ill and even die. Salmonella is another common contaminant of meat-pork, beef and poultry. While high-temperature cooking kills such harmful organisms (but does not remove residual endotoxins) such processing denatures proteins and lowers the nutrient value and also produces carcinogens. Irradiation kills these bacteria but results in radiolytic breakdown products that have killed cats fed irradiated canned cat food. In addition, animal parts condemned for human consumption along with animals’ remains from collected road-kills are rendered and included in livestock feed and many pet foods. For details see Susan Thixton’s posting What are rendered ingredients?

The safest option is to purchase pet foods with meats from certified humanely raised farm animals and which are slowly air-dried to retain nutrients as with Wisdom’s dog foods and the Honest Kitchen’s cat and dog foods all with human-grade food ingredients. On the horizon of the now $37 billion U.S. cat and dog food market are safer, plant-based, complete protein and fat substitutes that will replace meat and meat byproducts. Some are already coming on the market like Earth Animal’s No-Meat Beef and No-Meat Salmon No-Hide Chews. They work with The Better Meat Co, one of the fastest-growing and highly respected plant-based meat companies in the human food industry, to create authentic meat-like aromas and flavors, using only plants. All the ingredients of the meat come from plants and are human grade.

All meat and meat-byproduct ingredients should be tested and declared safe by main-stream pet food manufacturers, including venison which could be contaminated with the prion causing the epidemic of chronic wasting disease in deer across the U.S. Like the mad cow prion disease in the U.K. several years ago, this deer prion could also jump to other species and cause disease. Also, poultry ingredients should be tested and declared free of avian H5N1 influenza virus now responsible for the inhumane extermination of millions of factory farmed and back-yard chickens and turkeys in many states to control the spread of this disease: And because fox cubs have died in Ontario, Canada and in Michigan and Minnesota. following consumption of infected birds during the avian pandemic of 2022. Dogs and cats could also be at risk which is another reason to keep bird-killing cats indoors and dogs away from dead wild birds.

The most common health problems in dogs in the U.K. mirror those in the U.S. Dental disease is the most common health problem in dogs in the UK, followed by ear infections and obesity, and male dogs are at higher risk than female dogs for these and seven other common health problems, according to a study published in BMC Veterinary Research. “Owners should work closely with their vet to plan appropriate dental and weight care programs at each visit to their veterinary clinic,” said veterinarian Dan O’Neill, the study’s lead author. Full Story: VetSurgeon (UK) (217) What a pity this study did not determine what these dogs were being fed since there is mounting evidence that popular dog kibble, often recommended and sold by veterinarians, is a major contributing factor since such health issues are often quickly resolved and initially prevented by feeding moist, whole-food diets

COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES IN PET FOODS The recent trend of pet food manufacturers to market “grain free” cat and dog food has been a contributing factor in some animals developing heart disease (dilated cardiomyopathy). But the various kinds of fiber in the complex carbohydrates of whole grains (and buckwheat) can help prevent obesity and other health problems in both dogs and people. Such grains have no place in cat foods, so often having corn and rice as major ingredients, but some fiber in cat foods can be beneficial.

High calorie, meat and fat diets and treats for dogs play a major role in the companion animal obesity health crisis. In 2018, an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese. ( See Genetic factors, owner’s life-styles, eating habits and activity levels of both the animals and their care-givers also play a role in this health crisis. Such diets are also a major factor in dogs and cats developing pancreatitis with secondary diabetes in some dogs. High carbohydrate diets are in large part responsible for obesity, diabetes and other health problems in cats and for pancreatic enzyme insufficiency in some dogs, especially German shepherds.

Complex carbohydrates in grains and seeds, (ideally organic, minimally processed such as brown rice, barley, oats, quinoa, amaranth), include fibers that are beneficial for gut bacteria, and starches that break down into energy-providing glucose or is stored in muscle as an energy reserve of glycogen or is converted into fat. Complex carbohydrates slow and facilitate digestion, make for regular bowel movements, firm stools and satiety, important in weight control with lower fat intake. Pregnant and nursing dogs and their pups thrive better with complex carbohydrates in their diets than when fed grain-free foods.

The grain-free pet food craze has caused another set of health problems in dogs ( dilated cardiomyopathy) which in my opinion is attributable to high levels of legumes/pulses like pea flour and potatoes that are high in lectins that can block uptake of essential nutrients like cardioprotective taurine.

Food preference studies find health dogs prefer a diet of 36% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 41% fat. Some individual dogs and breeds such as the Irish setter and Wheaten terrier can have a dietary intolerance to wheat. Wheat and soy are the most common causes of adverse food reactions in dogs and some are allergic to beef, dairy, chicken and wheat in particular.

So my advice to dog owners with dogs not requiring special diets ( best available from to make sure, as per my home-prepared recipe posted on my website, to be sure that some complex carbohydrates are included in their daily meals.

Thanks to Drs. A. Rankovic, J. L. Adolphe and A. Verbrugghe for their article’ Role of carbohydrates in the health of dogs’. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 255: 546-554, 2019. To calculate carbohydrates in a pet food, you can utilize the required information in the Guaranteed Analysis listed on a pet food label. As example, a GA might list: Protein: 20% minimum Fat: 7% minimum Fiber: 4% maximum Moisture: 8% maximum

Some pet food labels will also list Ash. If they do not, estimate Ash at 6%.

To estimate carbohydrates, subtract all of the above EXCEPT Fiber (Fiber is a carbohydrate) from the total of 100%. Such as… 20% + 7% + 8% + 6% = 41%. 100% - 41% = 59% carbohydrates. This is only an estimate, but the standard method to calculate carbs in a pet food. Here is a post from friend Rodney Habib on this: —From Susan Thixton (


This letter was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, June 2022, Vol 260 No 9. P.986. It is to be noted that one of the authors of the article ‘Evidence does not support the controversy regarding carbohydrates in feline diets’ is with Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Topeka, Kansas.

Letters to the Editor:

The role of carbohydrates in feline diets In the Timely Topics in Nutrition review article “Evidence does not support the controversy regarding carbohydrates in feline diets,” The authors suggest that, for healthy cats, an upper limit of 50% of calories coming from carbohydrates in their diets is acceptable. But they also state that low-carbohydrate diets can help diabetic cats and achieve remission. (1 ).

How are we to know that a cat is diabetic until it has been fed a high-carbohydrate, diabetogenic diet, to which, admittedly, many cats adapt. But they can develop other health con-sequences, which these authors failed to address, their focus on dietary fat content and feline obesity being a distraction.

Many manufactured cat foods, especially dry kibble, contain phytates, which are present mainly in legumes (i.e, soy) and cereals. These reduce the digestibility of proteins and mineral absorption. (2)A net loss of body calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium during feeding of the fiber diet suggests that dietary inclusion of insoluble fiber could increase macro-mineral requirements of cats. Could this be a contributing factor to the widespread diagnosis of arthritis in cats?

Starch and fiber in diets potentially stimulate formation of struvite crystals. (3). Hence, reducing dietary carbohydrate is desirable to prevent struvite urolith formation. Considering the high incidence of hyperthyroidism in the cat population, the inclusion of soy as a cheap protein in many cat foods also needs to be questioned since soy does affect the thyroid gland. (4).

I am also concerned about irritable and inflammatory bowel conditions in cats and the immunological and behavioral consequences of intestinal dysbiosis, leaky gut syndrome, and autoimmune diseases possibly caused in part by lectins in the diet, as noted in human patients. (5). This may result in such cats being euthanized, abandoned, or left at an animal shelter for unlikely adoption.

Michael W. Fox, BVetMed, PhD, DSc Animal Doctor syndicated column office Golden Valley, MN

1.Laflamme DP, Backus RC, Forrester SD, Hoenig M. Evidence does not support the controversy regarding carbohydrates in feline diets. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2022;260(5):506–513

2.Samtiya M, Aluko RE, Dhewa T. Plant food anti-nutritional factors and their reduction strategies: an overview. Food Prod Process Nutr. 2020;2(1):1–14.doi:10.1186/s43014-020-0020-53.

3.Funaba M, Uchiyama A, Takahashi K, et al. Evaluation of effects of dietary carbohydrate on formation of struvite crystals in urine and macromineral balance in clinically normal cats. Am J Vet Res. 2004;65(2):138-42. doi:10.2460/ajvr.2004.65.1384.

4.Tonstad S, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Messina M, et al. The association between soya consumption and serum thyroid-stimulating hormone concentrations in the Adventist Health Study-2. Public Health Nutr. 2016;19(8):1464–1470. doi:10.1017/S13689800150029435.

5.Morosi LG, Cutine AM, Cagnoni AJ, et al. Control of intestinal inflammation by glycosylation-dependent lectin-driven immunoregulatory circuits. Sci Adv. 2021;7(25):eabf8630. doi:10.1126/sciadv.

The authors’ rebuttal following this published letter is an exercise in scientific obfuscation and evident conflict of interest. It should also be noted: Most dogs and cats are neutered today, generally for valid reasons. But this affects their metabolism, making them more prone to obesity and related adverse health consequences which correction of diets is imperative. The high carbohydrate diets widely marketed for dogs and especially vulnerable, obligate-carnivore cats are a matter of extreme veterinary concern: Possible grounds for class action law suits against manufacturers and promoters.

Both simple and complex carbohydrates break down into glucose (aka blood sugar). A simple carb is one that’s comprised of one or two sugar molecules, while a complex carb contains three or more sugar molecules. Fiber, on the other hand, is found in healthy carbs, but isn’t digested or broken down.

While spaying and neutering is advocated for virtually all dogs and cats, this intervention does have consequences. It is, in fact, the largest risk factor for obesity later in life for our pets. (1, 2). This happens primarily through a decrease in metabolic rate and an increase in desire for food intake. (3,4,5).A high protein and fiber diet provides nutrients, supports a healthier gut microbiome and relieves hunger by triggering satiety.(6)

1.Kutzler MA. Possible Relationship between Long-Term Adverse Health Effects of Gonad-Removing Surgical Sterilization and Luteinizing Hormone in Dogs. Animals (Basel) 2020;10.

2.Martin LJ, Siliart B, Dumon HJ, et al. Hormonal disturbances associated with obesity in dogs. J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl) 2006;90:355-360.

3.Allaway D, Gilham M, Colyer A, et al. The impact of time of neutering on weight gain and energy intake in female kittens. J Nutr Sci 2017;6:e19.

4.Phungviwatnikul T, Valentine H, de Godoy MRC, et al. Effects of diet on body weight, body composition, metabolic status, and physical activity levels of adult female dogs after spay surgery. J Anim Sci 2020;98.

5.Schauf S, Salas-Mani A, Torre C, et al. Effect of sterilization and of dietary fat and carbohydrate content on food intake, activity level, and blood satiety-related hormones in female dogs. J Anim Sci 2016;94:4239-4250.

6.Weber M, Bissot T, Servet E, et al. A high-protein, high-fiber diet designed for weight loss improves satiety in dogs. J Vet Intern Med 2007;21:1203-1208


DEAR DR.FOX, I was completely exasperated to see how defensively the authors of the “carbs are fine for cats” article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association attempted to refute you. Carbs are not “fine” for cats. What they are is “cheap,” “plentiful,” and “very profitable.” The pet food industry, because of its extreme profitability, has a huge incentive to justify the use of such ingredients and the financial means to do so, through a frightening number of channels.

The pet food industry has a ridiculous and highly unethical amount of influence on veterinarians. The pet food industry exists these days largely to commoditize foodstuffs not qualified for human ingestion, as well as the trash from human food production, which makes the industry extremely profitable. They can afford some of the most effective (and most misleading) marketing in the world. They can also afford to “support nutritional research” (read: they can control the questions that are asked, and they can gate the answers that are allowed to be published).

A number of veterinary researchers who were developing data that would support the concept of a prey-model diet have, in the past few years, begun to receive funding from pet food. Some subsequently stopped work on prey-model diets, and some began to promote a nutritional approach exactly opposite to the one they had been developing.

Most (if not all) nutrition courses in vet schools are underwritten by the pet food industry, with the clear and sole goal of enforcing the perceived “necessity” for so-called “prescription diets.” How is this acceptable?

The pet food industry currently owns a substantial portion of the veterinary industry worldwide. One need only follow the money to understand why. Veterinary hospitals are not profitable. Prescription diets are. If a pet food company manufactures a specific brand of prescription diet AND owns a veterinary hospital corporation, they can control which prescription diets are sold or recommended.

I wish it would have been possible for you to write more about the important relationship of the GI microbiome and the near pandemic of IBD in domestic cats. Microbiome research is turning human medical paradigms upside down. It seems clear that there is an “evolutionarily normal” biome for every species, and that if a member of a species eats an “evolutionarily normal” diet for that species, he or she is more likely to have an evolutionarily normal biome.

A diet unnatural to the species would induce dysbiosis. Simplistically, dysbiosis induces inflammatory bowel disease, which leads to leaky gut syndrome, which in turn leads to upregulation of systemic inflammation. The result is not just gut disease; it’s a host of systemic disorders. There is no reason to think this would be any different in non-human species. The diet that is “evolutionarily normal” may be different for different species, but the effects are probably very much the same.

Most commercial cat foods are made mostly or entirely out of plants. Plants are not an evolutionarily normal diet for a cat. The domino effect seems obvious. Since my hospital opened 5 years ago, and began teaching people to feed prey-model diets, our experience has been amazing. We do not have a single diabetic patient in the practice. Very few overweight cats. Minimal gut disease. I’ve learned what normal fur quality and normal healthy pads look like, and that dandruff is not normal. Neither is abdominal guarding. Of course, neither is vomiting three times a week, but that addresses social perceptions of what is normal, versus veterinary perceptions.

After five years of very lab-heavy work, our patient population has a “reference range” for total white blood cell counts from 2.5K to 10K, as opposed to the approx 4K - 19K that both Idexx and Antech show. It is probably not coincidental that the small population of cats they use to calculate those ranges are being fed “standard cat food,” meaning mostly probably kibble, and if the microbiome / IBD connection is real, most of those cats probably have undiagnosed IBD.

Vets seem to remain blind to the ethical failings of the pet food industry for the simple reason that nearly all hospitals sell food. This creates a significant income stream, which is a direct conflict of interest. A much larger and much more insidious conflict of interest is created when the very foods sold by vets create disease states that bring the pets back into the hospital for more diagnoses and treatments; this is a much, much larger income stream. You emphasize this very clearly in your book Not Fit For A Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Food.

Our hospital has never sold any food, not even the very few brands we believe to be good, since our opening, in order to avoid this exact conflict of interest.

I can attest to the difficulty inherent in even considering that our care recommendations may have caused harm. No one becomes a vet with the goal of hurting animals. We all do the best we can with the information we are given. It is not our fault that we are force-fed propaganda. It does, however, become our responsibility to recognize when such conflicts of interest create dynamics that result in harm to our patients. Even if we think that only “might” be the case, we are, as doctors, ethically obliged to investigate the possibility with an open mind, regardless of whatever we may feel as a result.

Fern B. Slack, DVM

Medical Director Uniquely Cats Veterinary Center Boulder CO


Sugar in mouse diets promotes metabolic disease by upsetting the gut microbial balance and driving loss of the Th17 cells that regulate lipid absorption by the intestinal epithelium. — Yoshinaga Kawano et al, Microbiota imbalance induced by dietary sugar disrupts immune-mediated protection from metabolic syndrome, Cell (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.08.005

A calorie-reduced diet can not only delay the development of metabolic diseases, but also has a positive effect on the immune system. Researchers have now shown for the first time that this effect is mediated by an altered gut microbiome, which slows down the deterioration of the immune system in old age (immune senescence). - Julia Sbierski-Kind et al, Effects of caloric restriction on the gut microbiome are linked with immune senescence, Microbiome (2022). DOI: 10.1186/s40168-022-01249-4

Carbohydrates in pets’ diets convert into sugars, those with a high glycemic index being especially problematic. This may contribute to the metabolic syndrome, weakening of the immune system and accelerated ageing in dogs and cats.


Dog’s gut metabolite balance starts changing within two days of switching abruptly to either a high-fiber or high-fat diet, and the bacterial community changes dramatically within a week as “wallflower bacteria” multiply rapidly in response to new nutrients, according to a study in Animal Microbiome. The findings may be applicable to humans and other species, and they support common advice to transition animals to a new diet gradually, study co-author Kelly Swanson says. Full Story: HealthDay News (8/4/22)

This gut community of bacteria, the microbiome, and its health, is influenced by what food is consumed, which, in turn, affects the health of the consumer. Good diets encourage the proliferation of some bacteria that provide us and other animals with beneficial nutrients and hormones such as the anti-depressant serotonin. Indeed, what we eat can affect our mood and behavior and immune systems and more research is confirming this in other species was well.

For a healthy mind-body we need a healthy gut microbiome which calls for health-promoting foods. Dogs, and probably humans, are less aggressive when their diets contain certain nutrients such as tryptophan which might also benefit the microbiome. Inflammatory bowel conditions and other health problems are often improved by adding prebiotics and probiotics to the diet in order to restore a healthy microbiome. For such supplements for pets see Dr. Bob Goldstein’s Daily Health Nuggets posted on And for more insights, read

However, processed food manufacturers, from chip snacks to kid’s cereals and and various pet foods, have included additives that can trick the innate nutritional wisdom into consumer acceptance and even addiction. Good for business but not for health!

I wonder about the pre-slaughter terror and stress hormones which can affect meat quality and all the drugs given to factory farmed animals and their effects on this microbiome and our psyches and somas. The novice American Indian hunter was traditionally advised to kill the deer not only with respect and remorse, but also swiftly with one arrow, otherwise whatever fear the animal experienced would be passed on to all who ate that meat.

Most consumers never know in any way the animals they consume other than as a piece of flesh from a castrated or spayed and hormone-treated, feedlot over-fatted ‘beef’ calf, or from a pig or chicken raised under crowded conditions that create stress, suffering, and disease. No animal needs to be killed in order for most of us to be well nourished. Few know the suffering behind every egg they consume from a hen whose living space with four other hens in a ‘battery’cage is barely half the size of an opened newspaper page. And then there are dairy products from cows, many injected with a genetically engineered growth hormone, who were deprived of and bawled terribly for their newborn calves, their milk going to us instead of to them.

Most of these factory farmed animals are fed genetically engineered foods containing pesticide residues which certainly can disrupt the gut microbiome.

A few pet foods such as Earth Animal’s Wisdom dog food, The Honest Kitchen and Halo include animal ingredients that are certified humane by the Global Animal Partnership: An international organization establishing humane standards for farmed animals and their produce; G.A.P. Animal Welfare Certified :


Some vegetable ingredients such as soy in dog foods, especially in dry kibble, are pro-inflammatory, inflammation leading to a variety of health issues in humans as well. Soy consumption, adhesion molecules, and pro-inflammatory … › pubmed by KM Beavers - ‎2009 - ‎Cited by 49 - ‎Related articles Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr;67(4):213-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00191.x. Soy consumption, adhesion molecules, and pro-inflammatory cytokines: a brief …


Corn in cat and dog food and can cause various health problems from seizures to inflammatory bowel disease, It categorically has no place in a cat’s diet and its inclusion is unethical and grossly irresponsible. According to Susan Thixton Pet Food Safety Advocate (,) “ Corn is the most commonly used pet food ingredient – almost 1 million tons of corn is included in cat and dog foods than ANY other ingredient. In July 2019, 98% of corn samples tested in the US were “positive for at least one mycotoxin“, “74% of samples have more than one mycotoxin“. Even low levels of mycotoxins in pet food can result in serious illness. “

The Institute for Feed Education and Research, the North American Renderers Association, and the Pet Food Institute recently published an interesting report; “Pet Food Production and Ingredient Analysis“. The report brags the pet food industry stimulates “the overall agricultural economy through the purchase of ingredients, labor and services from related industries“. Most commercially grown corn is genetically modified (GMO) to be herbicide -resistant which means the corn is contaminated with routinely sprayed glyphosate GMO corn also produces the insecticide Bt which is not a healthful food ingredient.

Currently, over 90 percent of corn, cotton, and soybean acreage in the United States is planted with genetically engineered (GE) seeds. Most of these GE seeds are either herbicide tolerant (HT) or insect resistant (Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis) or both-so called “Stacked.” Soybean seeds with stacked traits are currently not commercially available in the United States but are being imported from Brazil. Over 90% of the U.S. canola crop is GE, herbicide resistant. This means corn, soy and cotton-seed cake and oil, and canola oil, variously incorporated into farmed animal and manufactured cat and dog foods can contain herbicide residues and the Bt insecticide. These contaminants may disrupt the gut microbiome leading to multiple health problems.

Corn may be more susceptible to fungal infection or mold that can produce toxins like aflatoxin with climate-change associated increased rainfall and high moisture content of crops. Bt may reduce insect-transmitted fungal infections in “stacked” GE corn but spraying with herbicide to accelerate drying prior to harvesting ( also with conventional wheat and other cereals) creates additional food and environmental contamination.. Aflatoxin, when ingested, can cause lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and jaundice from liver damage. According to the National Institutes of Health aflatoxin is associated with liver cancer in humans.

Aflatoxin contamination is the most frequent cause of pet food recalls, second to Salmonella from contaminated farmed animal ingredients. For instance, according to www. (JAVMA Dec 1, 2020 p 1089) pet food maker Sunshine Mills recalled products sold under 17 brand names, mainly dog and cat kibble, namely Champ, Family Pet, Field trail, Good Dog, Heartland farms, Hunter’s Special, Old Glory, Paws Happy Life, Pet Expert, Principle, Retriever, River Bend, Sportsman’s Pride, Sprout, Thrifty, Top Runner and Whiskers and Tails, all with lot codes 3/April/2020, 4/April/2020 and 5/April 2020.

Corn has no place in cat foods and all corn, soy and other ingredients in pet foods should be certified either organic or GMO free to help reduce these kinds of health-risks to both human consumers and companion animals as well as costly recalls for the manufacturers and potential liability suits.

Canine inflammatory bowel disease/Canine chronic enteropathy

This condition can be caused by bacterial infection/dysbiosis causing chronic vomiting and diarrhea with intestinal inflammation. But some dogs and particular breeds may be suffering from sensitivity to gliadins that come from the gluten in their diet, especially wheat. But grains are still an important source of various minerals and other nutrients and beneficial fiber in their diets so gluten-free grains and other sources of fiber should be provided. These include teff, sorghum, quinoa, amaranth, whole grain brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, millet, chia, flax, tapioca ( from cassava root), uncontaminated ( not milled with wheat) organic oats and shredded unsweetened coconut.

Dogs with intolerance to glutens are comparable to those people who suffer from Crohn’s and Celiac disease.(CD). Human nutritionists have reported that while corn ( maize) is one of the most commonly consumed grains in the gluten-free diet, despite the low content of zeins in maize-containing foods maize could be responsible for persistent mucosal damage in a very limited subgroup of CD patients. This same issue may well apply to some dogs and cats.


Some people, like some individual dogs and cats and particular breeds, have adverse reactions to the gliadins from the gluten in wheat, barley, rice, con (maize) and oats; also to the lectins in pulses like lentils and various beans. According to one informing source (“Lectins are found in all plants, but raw legumes (beans, lentils, peas, soybeans, peanuts) and whole grains like wheat contain the highest amounts of lectins. Cooking, especially with wet high-heat methods like boiling or stewing, or soaking in water for several hours, can inactivate most lectins. Lectins are water-soluble and typically found on the outer surface of a food, so exposure to water removes them. Animal and cell studies have found that active lectins can interfere with the absorption of minerals, especially calcium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. Legumes and cereals often contain these minerals, so the concurrent presence of lectins may prevent the absorption and use of these minerals in the body. Lectins can also bind to cells lining the digestive tract. This may disrupt the breakdown and absorption of nutrients, and affect the growth and action of intestinal flora. Because lectin proteins bind to cells for long periods of time, they can potentially cause an autoimmune response and are theorized to play a role in inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes”.

Lectins may also play a role in coronary artery disease in humans. ( See Steven R. Grundy, Abstract 412: Dietary Lectins Cause Coronary Artery Disease via an Autoimmune Endothelial Attack Mediated by Interleukin 16 Originally published12 Mar 2019, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2018;38:A412).. An autoimmune cause of coronary artery disease at the endothelial level via T cell activation and attraction in patients with gluten and lectin sensitivity or known autoimmune disease is proposed in this report. “Grain free” cat and dog foods and vegan dog foods include high protein pulses as do most manufactured kibble dry dog and cat foods that also have a high corn and cereal content, notably “Brewer’s grains”. This means that these pet foods have high levels of lectins and gliadins, putting animals at risk from developing inflammatory conditions and contributing to the increasing incidence of various bowel disorders and cardiomyopathy in companion animals, as well as arthritis and diabetes.


General Mill’s Blue Wilderness dog food is now advertising that it has 20% more meat. This is after a lawsuit in 2020 claiming that they were engaging in false advertising equating this dog food with what wolves in the wild eat, which was absurd because of the high cereal content. But is this the right direction to go?

The market for raw dog and cat foods expanded because of concerns that high heat processing of cereals, especially in regular kibble ,causes the so-called Maillard reaction, creating acrylamide, a potential cancer-causing compound. Also, another byproduct found in highly processed food, especially meat, is “advance glycation end products” or AGEs. AGEs are created when protein or fat are exposed to sugar and combines with it. These end products can build up in the body, causing oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. This is thought to increase the risk of many diseases including diabetes, heart and liver disease, high blood pressure, kidney failure, and Alzheimer’s, as well as premature aging.

But raw meats, including poultry, carry the risk of bacterial contamination, people becoming infected from handling bacteria -carrying raw pet foods. Consumers are becoming more aware of the suffering behind most such animal produce from factory farmed animals and of the contribution of this sector of agribusiness to climate change and loss of biodiversity: the extinction crisis.

While the science of nutrition and developing alternatives for animal fat and protein needed in formulating cat foods for felines that are obligate carnivores have not yet been established, diets for more omnivorous and adaptable dogs that can thrive on plant-based proteins and fats have been developed. Check out all the press in the pet food industry that this new study of plant-based diets for dogs is getting.

Here is the link to the Facebook discussion on plant-based dogs and the book by Diana Laverdure-Dunetz, The Plant-Powered Dog: Unleash the healing powers of a whole-food plant-based diet to help your canine companion enjoy a healthier, longer life, Dogwise Publishing. 2023. ISBN: 9781617812873

The meat alternatives industry is projected to be worth $15.8 billion in 2028, growing by over $8 billion from 2021 despite reports of the market’s demise. ALDI grocery chain is now betting on the popularity of the plant-sourced products, expanding to more than 1,000 offerings by the end of 2024. The Breakthrough Institute makes the case for a longer view on the future of alternative proteins.


( From the author’s Animal Doctor syndicated newspaper column April 27th 2021)

DEAR DR FOX, My 8 lb Maltese is 12 yrs old and has had his first seizure this past Tuesday and Thursday- today- he has had another one. I read your article that melatonin will benefit a dog with seizures. Is this true about Melatonin and what daily dosage do you recommend?

I took him to the Vet Tuesday and they took a blood sample and did chest x-rays. The Vet said everything looked good. If the seizures happen again, the Vet informed me she would put him on anti-seizure barbiturate medication. I’ll be looking for your reply. Thank You R.R., Albuquerque NM

DEAR R.R., There are many reasons why dogs have seizures. But as an emergency, give 3 mg melatonin before bed time and a teaspoon of coconut oil in every meal.

Good luck. More tests may be needed. Hopefully, no recent vaccination history or flea treatment which can cause seizures. R.R. replies: Thank you for your reply. The melatonin stopped my dog’s seizures. While doing some research online, I discovered that Rosemary extract and a dye called Red 40 can cause seizures in small dogs. Two of his treats had these ingredients. Since removing these treats from his diet, his seizures have stopped.

DEAR R.R., I commend you for your research. I did a quick internet search and found: Discussion re seizures in Maltese dogs on July 15, 2006.

Posted Nov 8, 2009 Pocono Record: DEAR DR. FOX: As you have written before, red dye 40 may cause seizures in dogs. I have found that it does so in my 12-year-old Aussie mix, Petey. In addition, I have found that Petey will have a seizure when I give him a bit of cheddar cheese that includes the additive annatto. I now read every label carefully (as I have for several years) to be sure that neither of these ingredients is included in anything that Petey might ingest. F.C., East Lyme, Conn.

DEAR F.C.: Annato has been linked with many cases of food-related allergies and is the only natural food coloring known to cause as many or more reactions than artificial food coloring. Because it is a natural colorant (from the seed-pulp of a tropical tree, the Achiote or lipstick tree), companies may label their products “all natural, no artificial colors,” and this can lend a false sense of security to consumers who suffer from dye allergies.

Cat and dog food manufacturers should cease and desist putting Red 40, a petrochemical azo dye in their products, including treats. Nestle Purina uses red iron oxide instead—but why? Only for us since cats and dogs are red-green colorblind and we may think it is some kind of meat. Nuts! “natural flavoring” could mean monosodium glutamate (MSG which can also cause seizures.

Rosemary extract is used as a preservative and its use should be reconsidered since it too can cause seizures as you have experienced along with several internet postings, notably: ROSEMARY EXTRACT: PET FOOD NEUROTOXIN, SEIZURES › dogfood › Rosemary-Neuroto… Rosemary Extract & Seizures in Dogs - Labrador Retriever › rosemary-extract-seizures-in-dogs In an earlier column I shared the story of a cat who developed seizures from being given a popular brand of cat treats and became so conditioned that she would have a seizure on hearing the bag of treats being opened!

My advice is to avoid manufactured and colorful kibble and treats and look for organically certified, frozen, freeze-dried or preservative free canned foods and try a variety of brands and different protein ingredients: variety is the spice of life and is one way of avoiding deficiencies or excesses which could be an issue when feeding the same brand and ingredients day-in and day-out.

Mercury levels in pet food cause for concern, fish-based foods main culprit

New study by University of Nevada, Reno scientists also shows inaccurate ingredient labeling

The study, published in February in Science of the Total Environment, was authored by Dunham-Cheatham and her colleagues. After mercury was found in pet food in a 2016 research project at the University of Nevada, Reno, this new team took a closer look.

“As scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno and experts in the fields of mercury and genetic analyses, we want to learn more about what is really in pet foods and help consumers make a more informed decision when purchasing food for their pets,” Dunham-Cheatham said. “We as humans often are exposed to unknown contaminants in our food; animals are even more susceptible to contaminants in food because they are fed the same food daily,” Mae Gustin, professor in the Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences, who primarily conducts research on mercury in the environment, said. “It is important for people to know that the foods they are feeding their animals are safe. This information is important for manufacturers of pet food as well as for pet owners.” Nevada Today | University of Nevada, Reno (

Another study finding heavy metals especially in dog kibble: “ Heavy Metal Concentrations 2009 and 2019, reports “ In 2009, there were significant amounts of metals found in the pet food, with 215 ppm aluminum and over 1 ppm of several potentially toxic metals, including chromium (2.5 ppm), nickel (3.2 ppm), lead (6 ppm), and tin (9.4 ppm). There was 0.5 to 1 ppm of antimony and cobalt. Some foods had correlations of ppm levels of nickel and tin showing large amounts of potential wear metal contamination from the manufacturing equipment. There was even uranium detected in several samples up to 1 ppm….The samples from 2019 still showed heavy metal contamination, including twice the amount of uranium (1.7 ppm), and three times the amount of arsenic (0.7 ppm). Lead levels were significantly lower overall in the 2019 samples with a maximum of 0.5 ppm… In the 2019 study, the levels of uranium, beryllium, and thorium were again examined, and it was found that the 2019 samples had a greater number of samples that contained significant uranium levels than in 2009. The samples set for 2019 contained fourteen samples over 250 ppb compared to only six samples in 2009. Most of the 2019 samples were dry dog foods,”:

In practical terms these findings mean greater vigilance for the pet food industry and people not just feeding the same conventional kibble day in and day out.

Pet Food Ingredient Allergies in Dogs and Cats

From Ralf S. Mueller, Thierry Olivry, and Pascal Prélaud Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats. BMC Vet Res. 2016; 12: 9. Published online 2016 Jan 12. doi: 10.1186/s12917-016-0633-8:

In dogs living in Australia, Europe or North America, the allergens most likely contributing to cutaneous adverse food reactions CAFR) are beef, dairy products, chicken, wheat and lamb. As a result, these foods should be the first used for allergen provocation for CAFR diagnosis. In cats, the most common allergens causing CAFRs are beef, fish and chicken. Other less commonly reported offending food sources were soy (18 dogs, 6 %), corn (13 dogs, 4 %), egg (11 dogs, 4 %), pork (7 dogs, 2 %), fish and rice (5 dogs each, 2 %). Barley, rabbit, chocolate, kidney bean and tomato were also reported as food allergens for single dogs. The food sources most frequently causing CAFR in cats were beef, fish, chicken, wheat, corn, dairy products and lamb. Egg, barley and rabbit were also reported as offending allergens in individual cats.

FERMENTED FOODS GOOD FOR OUR DOGS—AND US There is a growing consensus among holistic veterinarians and other health care professionals and health-conscious consumers that fermented foods are extremely beneficial in helping maintain a healthy gut flora, the intestinal microbiome. Cooked and highly processed human and dog and cat foods are lacking in the beneficial enzymes vitamins, minerals and probiotics which fermented foods provide. These include miso, tempeh, probiotic yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut. For details visit for more details. Consumers are becoming more health conscious as the obesity, diabetes and other diet-related health problems reach epidemic proportions while government efforts to address these and related issues of food quality and safety issues intensify. But these efforts will continue to founder so long as government panders to the corporate interests of the transnational food and drug industrial complex.

The parallels between what people are feeding their pets, eating themselves and feeding their children and the health-related problems they share as a consequence are striking indeed. I find it just as absurd for veterinarians to be selling high carbohydrate and by-product filled pet foods to the caregivers of carnivorous companion animals as it is for health authorities to permit the sale of high fructose, ‘fortified’ junk breakfast cereals, snacks and beverages for children to consume and then rationalize putting them on Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs to correct diet-related cognitive, emotional and behavioral impairments.

Beneficial supplements for companion animals include Brewer’s yeast, fish oil, or flax seed oil (only good for dogs), organic butter from grass-fed cows, and chondroitin, glucosamine, probiotics and prebiotics (like inulin). Some pet food manufacturers are touting these on their ingredient lists, thus indirectly acknowledging that supplements are of value and are not just hype or some consumer fad. They are key ingredients in prescription diets for various pet health problems.


According to one evaluation of the environmental costs of feeding cats and dogs in the U.S., author G.S. Okin concludes: Dog and cat animal product consumption is responsible for release of up to 64 ± 16 million tons CO2-equivalent methane and nitrous oxide, two powerful greenhouse gasses (GHGs). Americans are the largest pet owners in the world, but the tradition of pet ownership in the US has considerable costs. As pet ownership increases in some developing countries, especially China, and trends continue in pet food toward higher content and quality of meat, globally, pet ownership will compound the environmental impacts of human dietary choices. Reducing the rate of dog and cat ownership, perhaps in favor of other pets that offer similar health and emotional benefits would considerably reduce these impacts. Simultaneous industry-wide efforts to reduce overfeeding, reduce waste, and find alternative sources of protein will also reduce these impacts.) Okin GS (2017) Environmental impacts of food consumption by dogs and cats. PLoS ONE 12(8): e0181301.

Dr. Okin’s suggestion to reduce the rate of cat and dog ownership will offend many. My suggestion that cat owners, who should know that their cats are carnivores, should become vegetarian or vegan to offset their companion animals; contribution to climate change and other adverse environmental impacts, along with the suffering of factory farmed animals.

Dog owners, who should at least consider becoming vegetarian, should know that dogs are more omnivorous but need some good quality proteins and fats derived from animals in their daily food. This can follow the human vegetarian inclusion of ideally Organically Certified dairy products and eggs from free-range, uncaged their diets. Some farmed animals, including aquaculture fish, will always be available for consumption by people and their animal companions because they do play a vital role in recycling crop byproducts and in environmental health and biodiversity in ecological farming systems. Some visionaries are already including nutritious proteins and fats in pet foods derived from various sources including insect larvae, algae, various fungi and fermented foods. These are becoming part of the human diet as we evolve into a less harmful planetary species, phasing out cruel, wasteful and polluting animal factory farms that are also bad for our health, the economy and for the well-being of future generations.

To download the white paper “Sustainable Pet Food for the Future: Koji or Aspergillus oryzae makes protein affordable, nutritious and eco-friendly” written by Dr.Ward, Wild Earth chief science officer Ron Shigeta Ph.D., et al, visit

Another stellar initiative is by the Dutch company Yora that has invested over $23 million in 2019 to develop and market a highly nutritious dog food (kibble) with the main ingredient being insect larvae (grubs). Oats, potato and plants including kale, seaweed and chicory for their anti-inflammatory properties and to help improve digestion.

While some cringed at the news of a popular candy bar manufactured and consumed in Russia that contains cow and pig blood (developed decades ago to provide iron for children during a time of food-shortages), we should not be aversive to providing our animal companions with insect, algal and fungus-enriched foods that are within the scope of being biologically appropriate for them and for ourselves.

Humans ate grubs long before they drank cow’s milk, ate beef and veal, and various insects are still part of the diet of indigenous peoples. As our numbers increase it is self-evident that the planet cannot sustain public demand for meat, the consumption of which is increasing with increased affluence around the world.

I am encouraged that the British Veterinary Association is now promoting the benefits of sustainable consumption and the concept of “less and better” of farmed animal produce for animal welfare, One Health and sustainability reasons. “Eating “less and better” sees some citizens reduce consumption of animal derived products, whilst maintaining proportional spend on high animal health and welfare products.” (BVA Position on UK sustainable animal agriculture - British Veterinary …

Food science can be applied with an ecological and environmental orientation to develop and market alternative, cultured, fermented and cultivated foods that are nutritious, highly sustainable, safe and affordable. This, includes recycling organic fruit and vegetable wastes with worms and insect larvae into “grub” —the old generic name for food— a harvest that is no less nutritious and infinitely more humane and sustainable than our current sources of animal proteins and fats from land and sea. Growing organically, more nut ( including coconut) and seed trees as a rich source of oils, fats and protein, some of which could also be incorporated in pet foods, would also be good business. But if we do not save the bees and other vital pollinators and the microorganisms in healthy, bioremediated soils we will face the consequences of the loss of biodiversity with extinction of cultures, communities and economies around the world.

Making informed choices in the market place for oneself and family, including companion animals, is now part of the healthful eating revolution that recognizes good nutrition is the best medicine. My slogan for this long overdue revolution is “Kitchen Anarchists Unite”! The politics of the plate and the power of the fork are now being utilized by civil society to restore dietary sensibility and the ethics of eating with conscience. This will ultimately change agricultural practices for the better, and will do more to help insure food quality and safety for ourselves and for our companion animals than more government regulations and oversight at tax payer’s expense.

To find documented evidence of the nutritional superiority of organically certified foods and the prenatal (epigenetic) risks of poor nutrition and agrichemical contaminants, visit


The November 2019 Veterinary Record Supplement “Obesity: Understanding a tackling a weighty problem”, published by the British Veterinary Association in association with MARS Petcare is a helpful guide for veterinarians dealing with this all too common problem in companion animals. As a former, frequent seminar presenter on cat care and behavior in Europe sponsored by Mars Inc, I feel duty-bound to respond to what I see as a serious omission in this publication.

Mars, Incorporated is an American global manufacturer of confectionery, pet food, and other food products and a provider of animal care services, with US$33 billion in annual sales in 2015. It was ranked as the 6th largest privately held company in the United States. Mars Petcare U.S. markets popular dog and cat foods such as IAMS, Pedigree, Royal Canin, Sheba, Eukanuba, Cesar, Whiskas, Greenies, and Nutro and Temptations and Dreamies cat treats.

VCA Animal Hospitals, the trade name of veterinary company VCA, Inc. (previously known as Veterinary Centers of America), an operator of more than 750 animal hospitals in the US and Canada, and owner of more than 50 veterinary diagnostic laboratories are now owned by Mars Inc; also Banfield Pet Hospitals, AniCura, BluePearl Emergency & Specialty clinics, Sound: Veterinary Imagining, Wisdom Panel: Pet DNA and Health test, Linnaeus Group: Veterinary Services and Village Vet: Veterinary chain (managed by the Linnaeus Group) and The Waltham Petcare Science Institute.

Mars Petcare is a growing segment of approximately 50 brands, made up of about 85,000 Associates in more than 55 countries who serve the nutrition and health needs of dogs, cats, horses, fish and birds.

Given the evident global reach of this family-owned business and incorporation of veterinary practices to market highly profitable basic and special prescription diets to deal with various companion animal health issues, obesity in particular, there is an evident conflict of interest or serious omission in the joint BVA Mars Petcare Veterinary Record Supplement publication.

Specifically, there is no reference to preventing obesity with proper nutrition in kittens and puppies after weaning, and of their mothers during gestation to help prevent obesity, genetics (as with Labrador retrievers) not withstanding; and owners mistaking attention-seeking and play-soliciting behavior for food-solicitation especially in cats. Many manufactured pet foods from various manufacturers have high glycemic index carbohydrates in particular, pro-inflammatory soy bean protein (and thus biologically inappropriate for obligate-carnivore cats) denatured animal protein from heat-processed animal byproducts and are deficient in essential fatty acids.

Such widely advertised and marketed obesogenic and diabetogenic diets can trigger the metabolic syndrome, animals becoming constantly hungry and food-soliciting as insulin resistance sets in. Hyperinsulinemia leads to abnormal fat deposition, obesity and constant hunger in cats fed dry kibble; so called “carbaholic” cats (1). With a weak thirst drive, cats fed kibble are more prone to develop cystitis and crystal formation with subsequent urinary stone formation. High fat content in some diets can lead to pancreatitis and fatty liver disease, Companion animals are needlessly suffering (2). Rather than prevent such diet-related conditions from developing in the first place, costly, profitable and often highly unpalatable prescription diets are marketed, the ethics of which should be questioned by all concerned when prevention through proper nutrition after weaning is not addressed.

1 Bessant, C, feeding the indoor cat for health and longevity. Innovative Veterinary Care, 10: 17-20, Winter, 20192020 2.

2 Fox, MW, Hodgkins, E and Smart, ME. Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Food. Fresno CA Quill Driver Books, 2009.


Dogs’ diets can influence inflammatory and immune system functions R.C.Anderson et al Effect of kibble and raw meat diets on peripheral blood mononuclear cell gene expression profile in dogs. The Veterinary Journal Volume 234, April 2018, Pages 7-10 rights and content Canine peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) gene expression was altered by changing diets. Differences in PBMC gene profiles were observed between dogs fed raw red meat and kibble diets .Microarray analysis of PBMCs provides a non-invasive approach to study the effects of diet on gene expression in dogs.In this study, PBMC gene expression was determined in dogs fed kibble or raw red meat diets for 9 weeks to test the hypothesis that diet influences canine immune cell gene expression profiles. The two diets were associated with differences in PBMC gene expression profiles, which corresponded with changes in plasma IgA concentrations. Dogs fed 100 per cent raw red meat developed a decrease in cytokine gene and receptor expression compared to those fed a kibble diet. Dogs on kibble had increased expression of immune-related genes and plasma immunoglobulin concentrations (IgA). The practical implications of this research is that it is highly ill -advised to feed dogs a diet of only regular dog kibble which continues to be a widely condoned practice both in the U.S. and abroad.


Veterinarian Dr. Karen Shaw Beker has posted an alert to all pet owners with international ramifications, stating that “The World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s (WSAVA) mission, according to the organization’s website, is “To advance the health and welfare of companion animals worldwide through an educated, committed and collaborative global community of veterinary peers.“1 WSAVA has 113 member associations and over 200,000 member veterinarians worldwide. WSAVA has a Global Nutrition Committee that provides recommendations for selecting pet foods, and recently, Ryan Yamka, PhD, founder of Luna Science and Nutrition and also the Guardian Pet Food Co. took an in-depth look at WSAVA’s recommendations and found them lacking. He determined they provide a false sense of security to anyone offering pet food advice based on the association’s criteria.” For more details go to

Both Dr. Becker and I recommend becoming a member of the Association for Truth in Pet Food, which is the only organization committed to holding the regulatory agencies and AAFCO accountable. You can also learn what real transparency in pet diets looks like by ordering founder Susan Thixton’s Truth About Pet Food 2020 List.

Big Kibble: The Hidden Dangers of the Pet Food industry and How to do Better by Our Dogs. By Shawn Buckley and veterinarian Dr. Oscar Chavez,. St Martin’s Press NY $27.99 Hardback, 309 pages with Index. Every veterinarian in companion animal practice, every veterinary student and all people with dogs should read this book that documents how a handful of multinational agribusiness-connected corporations recycle crop and animal wastes into highly profitable pet foods that are making our animal companions ill and they are still getting away with it like Big Tobacco did a few years ago on the human consumer health frontier.

As I point out in my own book co-authored by two other veterinarians, these manufactured pet food monopolists profit doubly by marketing highly profitable “prescription diets” to correct many of the health problems in dogs and cats that result from them being fed highly advertised and globally marketed cat and dog kibble and canned and semi-moist “scientifically formulated and balanced” products.

This book is well documented and should help stimulate a long-overdue revolution in agriculture and specifically, in what we feed our dogs. The authors are founders of a new dog food company ( www.justfoodfordogs) that is bearing the fruits of efforts by earlier writers and advocates ( whom they do not credit in the book) to inform the public and improve companion animal nutrition and related health and well-being ( Ann Martin, Foods Pets Die For, W. Jean Dodds, DVM and Diana R. Laverdure, Canine Nutrigenomics, and veterinarians Michael W. Fox, Elizabeth Hodgkins and Marion E. Smart Not Fit for a Dog!.) It is also regrettable that they do not give any vegetarian recipes, include “microbiome” in the subject index or mention the hazards of food-irradiation.

Using USDA-approved whole foods, fit for human consumption, this is one of a growing number of companies that informed consumers are supporting and who know that paying more for quality foods means paying less for health problems because good nutrition is the cornerstone of preventive medicine and sustainable health-care. I spoke with co-author Dr. Chavez, a graduate of the Royal Veterinary College London, (where I also graduated some 44 years earlier) and was encouraged to learn that they are developing some biologically appropriate foods for cats who have suffered in so many ways from the products from the Big Kibble pet food industry. Endotoxins from bacteria in the animal parts recycled into pet foods along with mycotoxins from moldy grains may cause intestinal inflammation, leaky gut syndrome, food allergies/intolerances and microbiome dysbiosis with carcinogenic and organ-damaging aflatoxins. This book does not index bacterial endotoxins but covers enough about aflatoxins to make their point. I would add another, which is not a conspiracy theory but the reality of the linkage between the pet food industry and the pharmaceutical industry. This is exemplified by the widespread, current TV market advertising and ever more veterinarians prescribing Apoquel ( for details visit for these food allergy and Big Kibble related conditions.


This commentary is based in part on the excellent review by Drs. Jon Hardy and Isuru Gajanayake, “Diagnosis and management of adverse food reactions in dogs and cats” published in the Veterinary Record, vol 190, p 196-203, 2022 There were several issues that they did not address and which I have included in this review. Too many dogs and cats suffering from adverse food reactions and less common food allergies are improperly diagnosed and treated for a skin issue such as “atopic dermatitis”, as with prednisone and immunosuppressants like Apoquel, rather than having their diets investigated and changed as needed.

Adverse food reactions can be signaled by various dermatological and gastrointestinal conditions. True food allergies, often associated with inflammatory bowel disease in dogs can be caused especially by beef, dairy, chicken and fish. And in cats, beef, fish and chicken. Wheat can cause seizures in some dogs.

Adverse food reactions may be more common in some breeds such as German shepherds, Boxers, Rhodesian ridgebacks, Labradors, Golden retrievers and Pugs.

Adverse food reactions involving the external body include various inflammatory and itchy skin conditions, ear inflammation and secondary infection, anal gland problems and symmetric lupoid onychitis—inflamed nails fall off. Cats may develop eosinophilic granulomas which can be in the throat, lips or other body regions. Most common signs in cate are vomiting soon after eating, and excessive grooming, licking and scratching, and fur-pulling. The latter behaviors can also be associated with fleas, mites, separation anxiety and hyperthyroidism.

Adverse food reactions and allergies in dogs and cats can cause vomiting, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, flatulence and poor growth in young animals. Gluten and gliadin sensitivity (from grains and pulses) causing gastrointestinal problems is common in some breeds such as Irish setters and Wheaten terriers. Dogs and cats may also develop conjunctivitis, excessive salivation, respiratory difficulties and hyperactive behavior.

Inflammatory bowel conditions can lead to the so-called leaky gut syndrome. The gastrointestinal tract is one of the body’s primary defenses against the external environment. The loss of these intestinal defenses is commonly called “leaky gut.” Increased intestinal permeability (“leakiness”) can contribute to chronic inflammatory disease and increase the risk of food allergy or food sensitivity reactions. In most cases, normal permeability can be restored once the causative factors are identified and corrected. Treatment with probiotics and prebiotics and even fecal microbiome inoculation can be curative provided responsible dietary ingredients are identified and eliminated and inflammatory and dysbiotic conditions corrected with short term corticosteroid and antibiotic treatment along with elimination of possible parasites, especially giardia.

Food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG/hydrolyzed protein//”natural flavors”) can cause gastrointestinal and metabolic problems and possibly obesity and even brain damage and seizures in dogs ( Niaz, K., Zaplatic, E., & Spoor, J. (2018). Extensive use of monosodium glutamate: A threat to public health?. EXCLI journal, 17, 273–278.

Carrageenan can also cause gastrointestinal and other problems. ( Tobacman JK (2001) Review of harmful gastrointestinal effects of carrageenan in animal experiments .Environ Health Perspect 109(10):983-9). Also, herbicide residues, especially of glyphosate in high-cereal-content pet foods, may be a contributing factor to gut microbial dysbiosis. ( Barnett, J.A. and Gibson D.L., Separating the Empirical Wheat From the Pseudoscientific Chaff: A Critical Review of the Literature Surrounding Glyphosate, Dysbiosis and Wheat-Sensitivity Front.Microbiol., 25 September 2020

Diagnosing and treating adverse food reactions and food allergies are not generally effective or reliable according to Drs. Hardy and Gajanayake and the best approach is to provide suspected cases, after also considering seasonal pollen, flea-bite and in-home dust mite allergies where skin problems are presented, a single-protein diet. This can be challenging since many cat and dog foods tested for single animal proteins were found to contain other animal proteins. As authors Hardy and Gajanayke advise, a home-prepared diet of known ingredients, additive-free may be the best first step. Or a hydrolyzed protein diet. I am concerned that hydrolyzed protein diets could be problematic for some animals because they are intolerant of the main protein ingredient and because MSG may be included. (see Flavoring and Coloring Agents: Health Risks and Potential Problems Muthusamy Ramesh, Arunachalam Muthuraman, in Natural and Artificial Flavoring Agents and Food Dyes, 2018)

For more details see Diseases of the Small Intestines Debra L. Zoran, in Handbook of Small Animal Practice (Fifth Edition), 2008 She emphasizes that if homemade diets are used in dogs, well-cooked rice, potatoes, and tapioca are highly digestible, gluten-free carbohydrate sources. Immunosuppressive doses of prednisone reduce the inflammatory and immunological stimulus within the GI tracts once infectious or parasitic causes are ruled out. A few animals are eventually maintained with diet alone, but these are likely to be animals with a primary dietary sensitivity, not idiopathic eosinophilic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Antibacterial therapy is generally justified in IBD since secondary overgrowth of bacteria or development of antibiotic responsive enteritis is relatively common, and because bacterial antigens are believed to be of major importance in the development of IBD. Metronidazole is the preferred drug in both dogs and cats for initial therapy. Tylosin may also be effective and has immunomodulatory effects (similar to metronidazole). In severe cases of IBD, fluoroquinolones (enrofloxacin) may be indicated. Read full chapterView PDFDownload book.

In cases of severe pruritis many dogs are given Apoqel and other immunosuppressive drugs, long term and all too often with no significant benefit for what owners are often told is “atopic dermatitis”. A survey by the American College of Veterinary Dermatology revealed “across all the dermatological diagnoses made by primary care veterinarians, 46% did not match the veterinary dermatologist’ diagnoses. The top 3 diagnosis mismatches [i.e. mistakes] were food allergy, breed-associated genetic skin condition and skin allergy.” ( Hanna,B., Earlier dermatology referral rewards primary care practice (part1): easing client expenses and enhancing patient care. DVM360 May 2022, Vol 53: 42-43

It is notable that ElleVets Sciences has published research findings of its CBD+CBDA oil’s efficacy on dogs with atopic dermatitis. The results displayed that over 65% of the dogs participating in the study had a substantial improvement in skin itchiness. (Loewinger M, Wakshlag JJ, Bowden D, Peters-Kennedy J, Rosenberg A. The effect of a mixed cannabidiol and cannabidiolic acid based oil on client-owned dogs with atopic dermatitis. Vet Dermatol. 2022. doi: 10.1111/vde.13077.) Dogs diagnosed with seasonal skin allergies, notably “hot spots” benefit from weekly shampoos and anecdotally, supplements of vitamin B complex or Brewer’s yeast (which may repel fleas) and local bee pollen or honey daily in their food.

Supplements providing omega 3 essential fatty acids such as fish oils, marine algae, flax seed oil and oil of primrose can improve general skin health and barrier functions. This can help dogs with skin problems associated with diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease. Secondary bacterial and fungal infections of the skin are best treated with dermatopical shampoos containing miconazole or chlorhexidine. Dogs diagnosed with atopic dermatitis can benefit from such medicated shampoos along with oral immunosuppressing drugs such as lokivetmab, oclacitinib, glucocorticoids and cicisporin. (Prost, K. Making Rash Decisions When Choosing a Treatment Plan for Your Canine Dermatology Patients? Don’t Forget Dermatopicals. DVM360.May 2022 53: 67-73,)


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 by researchers at my alma mater, the Royal Veterinary College, London, offspring from mothers fed a ‘junk food’ diet in pregnancy and lactation exhibited exacerbated adiposity that was 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…. This study shows that the increased adiposity was more enhanced in female than male offspring”. (S A Bayol and associates, 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).

The truism that we are what we eat carries with it the legacies of culture, custom and food choices that influence the health and well-being of one generation after another.


By Dr. Michael W. Fox Due June 29th 2021

DR.FOX, There is no evidence that irradiation of foodstuffs make the food toxic, as you claim in your 6/20/2021 column. Our astronauts have irradiated food for safety reasons.

John A. Melson, MD Medford OR

DEAR J.A.M., On the contrary, dear doctor, there is much evidence that food irradiation can both lower the nutrient value of foods and cause serious health problems for some animals, notably cats. While astronauts are not cats, I think they would fare better in space ( where I do not believe humans have a right to invade until we heal our own planet) on re-constituted freeze-died foods and sprouted and fermented foods, primarily plant-based and highly nutritious as well as after than irradiated, “mummified” foods.

Here are some of my notes on this issue: On the back of my bag of Waggin’ Train Jerky Tenders it reads “Made in China” on the bottom left, and on the bottom right is the green logo “TREATED BY IRRADIATION FOR FRESHNESS & HEALTH”. The contents look like strips of mummified, but very pink strips of flesh. The Ingredients label says its chicken breast plus vegetable glycerine and “natural flavor” (MSG or animal digest?). Chicken breast is normally white, no mention being made of any coloring agents being used. Thousands of dogs have developed kidney disease and many died after being fed such jerky treats.

The Organic Consumer Association notes that “The FDA based its approval of irradiation to treat meat products on only 5 animal studies of 441 studies submitted, and these 5 either showed health effects or had obvious scientific flaws. In fact, animal studies have shown many health effects, such as tumors, kidney failure, death of offspring and miscarriages”. Laboratory animal tests of the effects of irradiated food have reported embryonic deaths & lower offspring survival: internal bleeding (associated with Vitamin K deficiency); nutritional muscular dystrophy (associated with Vitamin E deficiency). Irradiated foods contain novel free radicals and other compounds with the potential to cause mutations and cancer, and the process can damage essential nutrients such as Vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B3, B6 & folic acid. ( The government may also be under pressure from food manufacturers to ignore rather than trigger renewed public concern over this (mummified) food irradiation technology that the meat industry in particular wants to see approved in the U.S. because of the continued problems with bacterial contamination and costly recalls following mass outbreaks of food-borne illnesses in the consumer public.

A scientist who discovered a connection between irradiation of pet food and deaths in cats is calling for a ban on the process for animal food. ( Eugene Bingham, May 23 2021 writes: “Dr Georgina Child made a link between batches of cat food treated with gamma irradiation and the deaths and neurological damage to dozens of cats in Australia in 2009. “It was one of the saddest episodes I have seen in my career as a neurologist and one that was very difficult to attract attention to at the time – and I hope I never see the equivalent again,” says Child, a veterinary neurologist based in Sydney, Australia. “More than 35 cats died or were euthanized and many others had permanent neurologic deficits.” After the cat food scare, Biosecurity Australia required irradiated dog food to carry a warning that it shouldn’t be fed to cats.”

For a detailed review of this issue of pet food irradiation, see Cats susceptible to neurological problems when fed irradiated diets. Australian outbreak is the latest of at least three June 8, 2009 (published) By Edie Lau. Lau ( ) Lau writes: “Child told The VIN News Service by e-mail that all the cats had eaten an imported dry diet, sold under the brand name Orijen and made in Canada by Champion Petfoods. The food was subject to gamma irradiation upon entry to Australia at levels greater than or equal to 50 kilo-Grays (kGy). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also allows animal feed, including pet food and treats, to be irradiated up to 50 kGy. By comparison, most human foods in the United States allowed to be irradiated are limited to levels of 30 kGys and below. Packaged meats for astronauts are an exception; those may be treated up to 44 kGy. The FDA requires all irradiated foods to be labeled as such; Australia does not require labels on irradiated pet food.”

“Symptoms in the Australian cats first appeared three to six months after they were exposed to the dry food, Child said. Some had eaten the food for as few as three weeks; others for more than six months. Most of the cats were fed other foods, as well. The affected cats ranged in age from less than one year to 15 years. Early signs of illness included a wobbly gait, unwillingness to jump onto sofas or beds, and loss of balance exhibited, for example, by falling off tables, according to a Q&A for consumers prepared by Champion Petfoods.”

“Child said about half of the affected cats remain paraparetic or tetraparetic; some remain paraplegic or tetraplegic. “Many cats have been at their worst for two or more months before showing any improvement,” she said, noting that fewer than one-fifth have recovered fully.

Child said histopathology showed “diffuse, symmetric, severe white matter degeneration of predominantly the spinal cord but also (the) brain stem and cerebrum, with demyelination the predominant feature.” “No specific treatment has resulted in an improvement in the outcome of affected cats,” she said. “A change in diet, nursing care, physiotherapy and time seem to be the only factors common in recovered cats.”

“But even patients who are paralyzed and lose vision as a result of eating irradiated food can fully recover, given sufficient time, nursing care and food that hasn’t been irradiated, said Dr. Ian Duncan, professor of neurology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. That’s what Duncan saw with cats housed in a private laboratory in Wisconsin that were fed irradiated diets. The irradiation was meant to help keep the cats — known as “specific pathogen-free” or SPF cats — from unwittingly acquiring infections. In that episode, which was reported this spring in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (“Extensive remyelination of the CNS leads to functional recovery,” PNAS, March 30, 2009, Duncan I.D. et al.), the food was irradiated at levels of 25 to 50 kGy. The symptoms took about four months to appear, and they abated after another two to four months once the cats were given a non-irradiated diet. Altogether, about 30 cats were affected, and most made impressive recoveries, Duncan said. Oddly, only cats that became pregnant while on the irradiated diet developed neurological symptoms, he noted. Male cats and offspring exposed to the same diet did not become ill. Male cats have been affected elsewhere, however.” “In the Irish case, 190 domestic short-hair cats housed together developed hind limb ataxia and proprioceptive defects during a period of four years, from 1998 to 2001 (“Leukoencephalomyelopathy in Specific Pathogen-free Cats,” J.P. Cassidy et al., Vet Pathol 2007; 44:912-916). As with the Wisconsin colony, those animals were SPF ( specific pathogen-free) cats.”