Sunday, May 24, 2009

Junk Pet Food Part 4: Tentacles of the monster

Communicating the good health, good news message to other vets became paramount, and so began a cat and mouse game with the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA). As fully paid up members of the association, we could submit letters to the letters page of the AVA News. The AVA and pet food company sponsors were not so keen. Nevertheless, between December 1991 and March 1993, a small band of raw meaty bones enthusiasts managed to get 10 letters published, until A V A N e w s announced it would run no further correspondence.(*17)

At a stroke, AVA members were forbidden to discuss fundamental health issues. In response, and with the annual general meeting fast approaching, we drafted a motion calling on the AVA to lift the correspondence ban and to conduct a full investigation of the diet and disease issue. After "lively" debate, both parts of the motion were approved.(*18)

The AVA report on the diet and disease link was released in February 1994, nine months after the 1993 AGM. Although "assisted" by pet food company vet Dr Barbara Fougere and other pet food company sympathizers, the committee nevertheless reported that, instead of investigating the full impact of diet and disease, it had limited its inquiries.(*19)

• The committee believed the concerns raised required urgent attention and comment. It was considered that within the time frame set by the AVA it was not possible to explore every aspect of dietary interaction with disease.
• Information which could be gathered on the broader issues would be unlikely to add more than is already well known.
• Concentration should be placed on periodontal disease and diet because this was the principal area of current concern to the Australian veterinary profession.
• It was felt that if periodontal disease could be prevented then any secondary complications from this problem would be reduced.

There is prima facie evidence to justify concern by veterinarians. Pet owners should consider the need to provide some "chewy" material as well as the basic nutrient intake of their dog or cat.

Periodontal disease may be associated with the occurrence of other diseases but the available evidence is inconclusive. Periodontal disease is arguably the most common disease condition seen in small animal practice and its effects on the gums and teeth can significantly affect the health and well-being of affected animals. This is sufficient in itself to give reason for concern. Proof of additional systemic effects is not necessary to justify further action.

Further research is required to better define the relationship between particular diet types and oral health
in dogs and cats. Those investigating small animal health problems should also take diet and diet consistency into account when researching systemic diseases, possible confounding effects of diet and poor oral health must be considered in such studies.

Prophetic last words indeed. Hands on research in my practice has confirmed that diet and diet consistency are the prime determining factors in most diseases treated at suburban veterinary clinics. A range of previously hard to treat conditions disappeared as if by magic when dental care coupled with diet change became our top priority. Investigation of pets suffering an acquired immune deficiency revealed a startling restoration of immune function and return to health when the animals' foul mouths were treated and their diet changed to raw meaty bones. The implications are immense, and not just for AIDS sufferers.(*20)

It is relevant for all of us with an immune system and, as I postulated in a paper published in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry, is likely significant to our understanding of the ecology of health and disease on planet Earth. (*21) The pet food industry/veterinary profession alliance, with a multibillion dollar fighting fund, was in no mood to listen, except insofar as its members wished to consolidate their position. With so many problems associated with the feeding of junk food, they are adept at turning adversity to advantage. Their tentacles wrap around a problem; they pour money into research and present themselves as public benefactors. So it was with periodontal disease, which became the new hot topic in pet food company research labs and universities the world over. Their solution: A plethora of artificial dental products carrying inflated health claims, often endorsed by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. (*22)

Getting the products to the end user depends on a willing sales force free from independent thought. Veterinarians enjoy status and respect; once indoctrinated, they are the ideal sales and marketing force. Accordingly, veterinarians are tutored in the mail, in advertisements and in visits from pet food company representatives. With minds filled with pet food company "facts", vets are then encouraged to support Dental Health Month, Pet Smile Month or similar. It's the month when pet owners are bombarded with advertisements and publicity stunts, urging them to visit their vet for a "free" dental check for their pets and receive a good bag full of samples and copies of those same company selected "facts".(*23) Augmenting the propaganda push, there's a campaign to denigrate home prepared and raw food through articles strategically placed in so called professional journals. (*24)

I, myself, have been targeted in a series of bogus disciplinary actions before the Veterinary Surgeons Board of NSW, a government regulatory body made up of AVA members. Threatened with deregistration, a year in prison or a fine of $2,000, legal defense strategies became top priority. Documents on file weigh a combined 12 kilograms (26 pounds) and represent years of hard work and countless hours spent in lawyers' offices. Fortunately, the lawyers and I managed to withstand the harassment and I'm still registered as a vet.

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,

17. AVA News, March 1993, p. 23
18. "Pet food produces lively AGM", AVA News, June 1993, pp. 1, 9
19. "Diet and disease link – final report", AVA News, February 1994, pp. 1 and 6
20. Lonsdale (1995), op. cit.
21. Lonsdale, T. (1994), "Cybernetic Hypothesis of Periodontal Disease in Mammalian Carnivores", Journal of Veterinary Dentistry
11(1):5-8, cyber. p d f
22. Veterinary Oral Health Council,
23. U K Raw Meaty Bones (2006), "Intro to (UK) Pet Smile Month", http://www.ukrmb.
24. "Reassurance for European pet owners following pet food recall in the USA", T h e
Veterinary Record 2007 May 5; 160(18):602-03

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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