Saturday, May 23, 2009

Junk Pet Food Part 1: The Damage Done

Imagine if all the Big Macs, Happy Meals and Coca-Colas consumed by Morgan Spurlock during his month-long binge for the film documentary Super Size Me(*1) were instead tipped into a vat, ground to a pulp and cooked under pressure. Let us imagine that half the resultant glop was sealed in cans and the other half dehydrated, extruded
into kibble and packed in bags, with brightly colored labels asserting the health benefits.

Suppose, then, that Spurlock either slurped through the contents of the McCans or crunched his way through the McKibble. And now, this is an important aspect, imagine that Spurlock had neither a toothbrush nor the ability to ask for one, so consequently didn't clean his teeth for the month-long experiment. Now I ask: what would Spurlock's physical, dental and mental health be like after such a crazy experiment? Would doctors, dentists and health regulators provide official endorsement for the canned and kibbled diet? Indeed, would it be likely that Spurlock picked up his McCans and McKibble at his local medical or dental practice?

For the vast majority of pet dogs (modified wolves), cats (modified desert predators) and ferrets (modified polecats), a diet of McCans or McKibble is their everyday reality. Spurlock's doctor told him he had to stop his unnatural experiment inside 30 days because he was killing himself. By contrast, the world's pet doctors (vets) encourage pet owners to feed McCans and McKibble every day of their pets' lives. I know; I was one such vet.

Poisoned five ways
For the first 15 years of my working life as a graduate of the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, I went along with conventional veterinary wisdom. I counseled my clients against the feeding of home-prepared meals because they were unlikely to get the "balance" of nutrients right, I suggested. Raw meat posed a risk due to bacteria and lack of calcium, so I said. As for bones, everyone knew that bones posed a hazard for breaking teeth and causing obstruction. And whoever heard of feeding bones to cats? The manufacturers have removed the guesswork, I assured my clients. "Giant companies understand the science and have the resources to ensure the best possible fare for your pet. It's convenient, too!"

With the matter of diet for my patients glossed over, I could return to the more pressing problems associated with diagnosis and treatment. After all, that's what I was trained to do and that's what my clients expected of me, and the stream of sick pets with skin disease, heart, liver, bowel and dental disease, cancer and other maladies was never

Oh, how I cringe! How culpably, horribly wrong I had been! As varied as my patients were in size, species, age, sex and breed, the one common uniting feature was their junk food diet. They were all fed McCans and McKibble, and almost without exception this was the reason why the animals needed my services. Yes, it's as simple and dramatic as that, and for the following reasons:

1. Canned soft foods and grain-based kibble do not clean teeth. In fact, food sludge sticks to teeth and feeds the bacteria in dental plaque. The body's second line of defense, the immune system, mobilizes against the bacterial invaders. The result: inflamed gums, bad breath, circulating bacteria and bacterial poisons that affect the rest of the body. (*2,*3)

2. Dogs, cats and ferrets don't have the digestive enzymes in the right quality or quantity to deal with the nutrients in grains and other plant material, whether those nutrients are raw or cooked. When grains are cooked at high temperatures at the pet food factory, the starches, proteins and fats become denatured or toxic to varying degrees.(*4) Junk food is laden with colorants, preservatives, humectants and a raft of other strange chemical additives, none with any nutritive value and all toxic to varying d e g r e e s.(*5) Once in the bowel of a carnivore, toxic nutrients are absorbed into the circulation and affect various body systems.

3. Poorly digested grain based junk food supports a large population of toxin producing bacteria in the lower bowel. The bowel lining, in constant contact with poisons, may be adversely affected. Some poisons pass through the bowel wall into the blood circulation, are carried to other organs and create further problems.(*6)

4. Like Morgan Spurlock, some pets show signs of ill health after a short time consuming junk food. For instance, puppies frequently suffer from bad skin and diarrhea. Long term exposure to the diet related toxins listed in categories 1, 2 and 3 leads to diseases of body organs. Diseased organs produce more toxins, which enter the bloodstream and add to the spiral of worsening disease. (*7)

5. Mostly pets suffer in silence; they can't speak in words. But when animals are affected by the above four categories of poison, their body language tells observant owners to seek help from the vet. Some vets say: "Stop! Stop feeding junk food." Sadly, though, most vets ignore categories 1, 2 and 3, and instead they diagnose diseased organs as mentioned in 4 (above). Treatment usually involves strong pharmaceuticals, which then contribute another level of toxic insult. (*8)

You may ask: What about the genetic diseases, infectious diseases, parasitic diseases, the broken legs, other traumatic diseases and the diseases of old age? For sure, these are all important factors governing the well-being of our pet carnivores. But clearly, undeniably, pets worn down by the toxic effects of a junk food diet are at greater risk of succumbing to other diseases, and the recovery phase is likely to be longer, too.(*9)

Stay tuned for the continuation in Part 2

by Dr Tom Lonsdale
Veterinarian and author Dr Tom Lonsdale, BVetMed, MRCVS, graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, in 1972. In the 1980s he became aware of the dietary disease epidemics affecting the animals under his care. Since 1991, Dr Lonsdale has campaigned to bring the information to public attention. In 2001, his landmark book Raw Meaty Bones: Promote Health was published (reviewed in NEXUS 12/03), followed in 2005 by Work Wonders: Feed Your Dog Raw Meaty Bones (reviewed in 13/04). Dr Lonsdale can be contacted by email at For more information, visit his website,

1 . Spurlock, M. (2004), Super Size Me,
2 . Harvey, C.E. and Emily, P. (1993), "Periodontal disease", in Small Animal Dentistry, Mosby, St Louis, 1993, p. 92 3 . Garcia, R.I. et al. (2001), "Relationship between periodontal disease and systemic health", Periodontology 2000 25 : 21-36
4 . Sugimura, T. (2000), "Nutrition and dietary carcinogens", Carcinogenesis 21(3): 387-95
5 . Roudebush, P. (1993), "Pet food additives", J . American Veterinary Medical Association 203(12): 1667-70
6 . Uncle Ben's of Australia (1996), "Nutrition in Practice" (pamphlet), Albury-Wodonga, 3rd ed.
7 . Garcia, op. cit.
8 . Cresswell, K.M. et al. (2007), "Adverse Drug Events in the Elderly", British Medical Bulletin, 18 June 2007
9 . Lonsdale, T. (1995), "Periodontal disease and leucopenia", Journal of Small Animal Practice 36:542-46, pdf/periodontal-leuco.pdf

Junk Pet Food Part 1: The Damage Done
Junk Pet Food Part 2: Hippocrates: “Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal your patients with food”
Junk Pet Food Part 3: Blowing the whistle, catching attention
Junk Pet Food Part 4: Tentacles of the monster
Junk Pet Food Part 5: The price we pay

1 comment:

samm said...

Thanks for the information about junk pet food.