Sunday, May 24, 2009

Junk Pet Food Part 2: Hippocrates: “Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal your patients with food”

Stop feeding junk pet food is the first and best bit of advice I can give you, for the benefit of your pet(s), the human economy and the natural environment. By stopping doing harm, we take the first step on the road to doing good. It gains us some breathing space, allowing us to survey the scene, investigate further and harness the benefits of our newfound wisdom.

Actually, it's not so new. Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician of the fifth century BC, said: "Leave your drugs in the chemist's pot if you can heal your patients with food." (*10) So why did we lose sight of the ancient wisdom? Why did we ignore the teachings of nature? And of utmost importance, why is it so difficult to discuss, let alone reverse, the current orthodoxy? By way of explanation, let me tell you a story that, when taken to a conclusion, should provide medical, scientific, social and environmental benefits worth billions of dollars. Since 1955, when Juliette de Bairacli Levy published her Complete Herbal Book for the Dog , there have been mutterings about the inadequacy of processed-food diets for pet dogs and cats. (*11) By the late 1980s Australian vets were passing comment, and by the early 1990s they were registering open dissent. Dr Breck Muir often remarked about the foul odors given off from both ends of dogs fed canned food. In the December 1991 issue of the Australian Veterinary Association News, he wrote: (*12)

Canned pet food not the healthiest
The pet food situation has concerned me for some years, my feelings brought to this by the current competitive marketing of various dental work stations for veterinary use. The scene as I see it goes like this: "Here is the best food ever made for your dog, Mrs Jones," handing her a can of commercial dog food or dry food, "but he may develop problems with his teeth, so here is a special toothbrush and paste for you to use to clean his teeth regularly, and then if that doesn't keep the periodontal disease at bay we...have the very latest in dental equipment just like your own dentist has, and we can give Fido that perfectly enamelled ivory grin", that he would have had had you not fed him the commercial food in the first place.

Here we have the perfectly engineered commercial circle, a problem doesn't exist, so we create one, and then come up with all the remedial treatments. Also in December 1991, my article "Oral Disease in Cats and Dogs" appeared in the newsletter of the Sydney University Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science: (*13)
The stench of stale blood, dung and pus emanating from the mouths of so many of my patients has finally provoked this eruption of dissent. The sheer numbers passing through the practice, when extrapolated to the world situation, tell me that oral disease is the source of the greatest intractable pain and discomfort experienced by our companion animals. This is a great and mindless cruelty we visit upon our animals from the whelping box to the grave. Just imagine having a mouth ulcer or toothache for a lifetime. Whilst the chemical contents (masquerading as nutrients) of junk pet foods are a major cause of concern, the new emphasis on oral hygiene opened an important chapter focusing on the physical form of the food. Indisputably, lions, tigers, wolves and all other wild predators don't have access to toothbrushes, dental floss or annual check-ups at the dentist. Nature equipped carnivores with the tools of trade to complete a very necessary evolutionary function: eating and thus regulating herbivore populations on planet Earth. Strong, precision tools need to be kept sharp and clean, and it's by the very act of a carnivore's gnawing and ripping its way through tough hide, muscle, sinew and bone that its teeth and gums get scrubbed, scraped and polished.

For dogs, cats and ferrets, the biological principles are exactly the same as for their wild cousins. Nutrients need to be raw and easily digested; physically, the food should be raw, tough and chewy. (*14) In practical terms, that's a diet of whole chickens, rabbits, fish or similar. A raw meaty bones based diet provides a good second best option.

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,

10. Engel, C. (2002), "Food, Medicine, and Selfmedication", chapter 3 of Wild Health: How animals keep themselves well and what we can learn from them, Phoenix, London, 2003, p. 26
11. De Bairacli-Levy, J. (1955), The Complete Herbal Book for the Dog, Faber & Faber, London
12. Muir, B. (1991), "Canned pet food not the healthiest", AVA News, December 1991, p. 28,
13. Lonsdale, T. (1991), "Oral disease in cats and dogs", Control and Therapy, no. 3128, Postgraduate Committee in Veterinary Science, University of Sydney,
14. AVA News, November 1994, p.19

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

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