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Junk Pet Food And
The Damage Done
(PDF)
Nexus Vol 14 No 6 October/November 2007
(Unabridged text)

Frequently Asked Questions

Foods
Beef
Chicken
Chocolate
Cooked bones
Fruit
Grains
Onion
Lamb
Marrow bones
Peelings
Table scraps
Vegetables
Chemical Constituents
Antioxidants
Complete and Balanced Diet
Minerals
Vitamins
Health
Bacteria
Bladder stones
Bowel obstruction
Campylobacter, E.coli and Salmonella
Choking
Constipation
HIV AIDS
Parasites
Teeth
Worms
Practical
Cost of food
Dog poo
Hazards
How much?
How often?
Raw food suppliers
What proportions?
Why change to a more natural diet?

'The truth is rarely pure, and never simple' said Oscar Wilde. For this and a host of medico-ethical reasons pet health-care issues are best overseen by a local veterinarian who knows and understands the need for a biologically appropriate diet and healthy mouth.

Owners who wish to seek a second opinion are advised to first discuss their concerns with their veterinarian. Veterinarians are generally pleased to assist in the arrangement of a second opinion which may lead to better health-care. Veterinarians, wishing to discuss medical or professional issues, are welcome to contact Tom. Please note that Tom is unable to correspond directly with pet owners.

FOODS

Beef

Q. Are beef bones good for my pet?

A. Meaty tail bones and ribs are good for dogs. Brisket bones, whilst easy to chew, lack meat and should not form the bulk of the diet.

Chicken

Q. I am concerned that raw chicken may contain harmful Salmonella and Campylobacter. Is this true?

A. Yes, a high proportion of raw chicken is contaminated, regardless of the source of the chicken. Chicken for human consumption needs to be well cooked. When preparing raw chicken, whether for human or pet consumption, practise good hygiene.

Chocolate

Q. My dog likes chocolate. Is it safe to feed him a little now and then?

A. Chocolate in large quantities is toxic for pets. Best to avoid such treats.

(Theobromine, a stimulant, is the major toxic ingredient.)

Cooked bones

Q. Is it OK to give my dog/cat cooked bones?

A. Lots of people get away with this risky activity. However, the nutrient value of cooked bones is much less than raw bones. Cooked bones are harder to digest and give rise to increased risk of obstruction or penetration of the bowel.

Fruit

Q. My pet won't eat fruit. Does it matter?

A. Providing the rest of the diet closely mimics that consumed in the wild the absence of fruit in the diet does not matter.
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Q. My pet dog/cat/ferret likes to eat lots of raw, ripe fruit. Is that OK?

A. Lots of raw fruit appears to do no harm and may be beneficial on condition that the rest of the diet is adequate.
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Q. What's the best way to feed fruit?

A. Cooked or raw, straight from the plate or put through the kitchen mixer.

Grains

Q. Are grains good for my pet?

A. In moderation some cooked grains, for instance bread or porridge is OK for pets.
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Q. Sometimes I have lots of left over bread or potatoes which I would like to feed to my pet.

A. Large quantities of bread or potatoes, fed at one time tend to be indigestible and thus give rise to intestinal complications, including bloat.

Conventional wisdom:
Dry 'complete and balanced' grain based diets are good for cats, dogs and ferrets.

Rebuttal:
Most of the diseases of modern pets can, either wholly or in part, be attributed to a grain based diet.

Onion

Q. I heard that onion should not be given to dogs.

A. That's right. Onions are toxic for dogs, whether cooked or raw. A few onions in left over stew or pizza topping should not create a major problem, but in general it's best to avoid giving onions to your dog.

 

Lamb

Q. I can get lamb necks. Are they good for my dog?

A. Yes, lamb necks make a good meal for middle and large sized dogs.

Marrow bones

Q. Are marrow bones safe? My butcher saws them lengthwise so that my dog can get at the marrow.

A. There is little nutrient value in hard, dense marrow bones. And besides, chewing on the bones is likely to break teeth. This is especially so when the bones are sawn lengthwise - they act as a lever to split the upper carnassial tooth (three pointed tooth) which then becomes infected and painful.

Conventional wisdom:
Large bones are permissible/good for dogs - because they are too big and hard to be eaten.

Rebuttal:
Wolves, lions and other carnivores leave the long marrow bones. It's only hyenas that have the specialised jaws to deal with such bones.

Peelings

Q. Are fruit and vegetable peelings safe for my pet?

A. Yes, if that peel would be safe/nutritious for humans - for example potato, apple and pear peelings and the outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage.

No, if that peel would be unsuitable as food for humans - for instance melon and banana peel and the outer leaves of artichokes.

Table scraps

Q. My diet is not very healthy. Surely the leftover scraps cannot be good for my pet.

A. Let's keep things in perspective. A few scraps from an 'unhealthy' human diet will not be as harmful as a diet of processed pet food. But nevertheless it might be a good idea to improve your own diet whilst ensuring that your pet receives whole carcasses or raw meaty bones as the staple diet.

Vegetables

Q. My pet won't eat vegetables. Does it matter?

A. Providing the rest of the diet closely mimics that consumed in the wild the absence of vegetables in the diet does not matter.
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Q. My pet dog/cat/ferret likes to eat lots of vegetables. Is that OK?

A. Lots of vegetables appears to do no harm and may be beneficial on condition that the rest of the diet is adequate.
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Q. What's the best way to feed vegetables?

A. Cooked or raw, straight from the plate or pureed in the kitchen mixer.

CHEMICAL

Antioxidants

Q. The antioxidants in plants are good for us. Can I give my pet some antioxidants?

A. If your pet receives a good diet based on carcasses and raw meaty bones then his antioxidant levels should be optimum.

Best to steer clear of 'magical' supplements designed to 'improve on nature' because, after a long evolutionary history, nature really does know best.

Complete and Balanced Diet

Q. I want to feed my pet a 'complete and balanced' diet.

A. People living on wartime rations were found to suffer from an incomplete and unbalanced diet, they lacked sufficient fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and milk - hence the preoccupation with the term 'complete and balanced'.
Carnivore needs are different to human dietary needs. The term 'complete and balanced' has been imported into discussions on animal diets, but tends to be seriously misused - instead of food types the chemical constituents, carbohydrates, proteins, etc are emphasised.

Best to treat the commercially inspired notion 'complete and balanced' with suspicion and ensure that your pet is fed according to nature's teaching - whole carcasses of raw meaty bones.

Minerals

Q. I want to do the best for my pet and wonder what minerals you recommend.

A. The minerals in natural food and table scraps are all that your pet requires. Feeding supplementary minerals can do harm.

Vitamins

Q. I want to do the best for my pet and wonder what vitamins you recommend.

A. The vitamins in natural food and table scraps are all that your pet requires. Feeding supplementary, synthetic vitamins can do harm.

HEALTH

Bacteria

Q. I am worried that my pet may contract bacteria from eating raw meat.

A. Pets can contract bacteria from eating raw meat, especially chicken, but this tends to be a mild or rare occurrence.
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Q. I am worried that my family may contract bacteria from our pet if it is fed raw food.

A. Pets can be a source of bacterial infection. However, infections in humans, when traceable, often show poultry meat, eggs, milk and processed foods (including restaurant meals) to be the source of infection.
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Q. What should I do to limit the chance of me or my family contracting bacteria from our pet?

A. Maintain good hygiene.

o Wash utensils thoroughly in hot soapy water.
o Wash hands thoroughly after feeding your pet.
o Discourage pets from licking hands and face of people, especially young children.
o Pick up faecal deposits regularly.
o Restrict/control flies.
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Q. My pet developed diarrhoea and vomiting after being fed raw chicken from the grocery store. Could it be due to a bacterial infection?

A. Yes. Bacteria, for instance Salmonella, Campylobacter or E.coli, could be responsible.

Your veterinarian can diagnose and treat these infections.

Bladder stones

Q. My dog suffers from bladder stones and cannot eat natural food.

A. Many factors affect the formation of bladder stones - most are poorly understood. But in broad terms dental, digestive and urinary tract health all have some bearing on the formation of stones. By keeping those systems healthy the chance of stones forming is thereby reduced. A natural diet is the chief contributor to dental, digestive and urinary tract good health

Some urinary tract stones, for instance urate calculi in Dalmatian dogs, are genetically determined, but nonetheless a healthy diet helps maintain overall good health.
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Q. My cat suffers from bladder stones. What can be done?

A. Diet and dental health need to be optimum. It may be necessary to provide additional treatment. Please consult the articles FLUTD and Preventative dentistry.

Bowel obstruction

Q. How will I know if my pet's bowel/digestive tract becomes obstructed?

A. Diagnosis is not always easy, even with the best equipment and training.

If you notice your pet to be off his food and listless then consult your vet.
If your pet vomits, salivates profusely or seems in other ways to be 'unwell' then consult your vet.

Campylobacter, E.coli and Salmonella

See under Bacteria

Choking

Q. I heard of a dog choking on a raw bone.

A. Choking is a hazard for people and pets. Cutting raw meaty bones or carcasses into small pieces increases the hazard. Pets attempt to swallow the pieces without adequate chewing. Be sure to feed carcasses whole and raw meaty bones in large pieces.

Constipation

Q. How will I know if my dog/cat gets constipated?

A. If he or she strains without passing any poo then he/she may either be constipated or in the case of females may have a bladder irritation or blockage.
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Q. What do I do it I suspect my pet is constipated?

A. Speak with your vet.

HIV AIDS

Q. My friend has HIV AIDS and I am concerned about the risks posed by my pet which is fed a natural diet.

A. Your doctor is the best person to advise regarding the relative risks posed by animals, regardless or whether they be fed a natural or processed diet.

Parasites

See under Bacteria and Worms

Teeth

Q. My dog does not much resemble a wolf. Why can it be expected to eat raw food?

A. Teeth and gums need to be kept clean and healthy. Eating raw food does that best. A dog's digestive system is ideally suited to a natural diet, regardless of the breed or appearance.

Worms

Q. Will feeding raw food to our pets increase the likelihood of my family catching worms from our pets?

A. There should be no increase in the likelihood of catching worms on condition that the food is purchased from a reputable outlet or is food passed as fit for human consumption.
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Q. I heard that hydatid tapeworms can be a problem.

A. In some areas where hydatid tapeworms occur dogs fed on sheep/kangaroo/hare or other carcasses can become infected. Dogs infected with the tapeworm are a source of infection for humans and other animals. Consult your veterinarian if you have reason to believe that your dog may have eaten a carcass infected with hydatid tapeworm.
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Q. My puppy passed spaghetti like worms. Could these have come from the raw meat I gave it?

A. These worms probably came from the puppy's mother, not from the diet. The eggs do pose a hazard for people. Accordingly puppies should be discouraged from licking people and faecal material should be disposed of safely.

PRACTICAL

Cost of food

Q. How much will the raw food cost?

A. Prices and availability vary from area to area. In Australia raw food costs about one-third the price of artificial foods. But food costs are not the only outlay. How much does it cost to visit the vet? How much does it cost in anguish, if not in money, to watch pets slowly get sick on an unnatural diet?

Dog poo

Q. My dog strains to pass his poo now that I feed him raw bones.

A. Yes, that's common and normal.
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Q. My dog's poo turns white and hard after a couple of days in the sun.

A. Yes, that's to be expected because 'natural' dog poo is mostly powdered bone.
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Q. My vet says my dog will become constipated if fed on raw bones.

A. Feed meaty raw bones in large pieces and he should be fine.

Bones in small pieces, for instance chicken necks, or bones without much meat on them lead to firmer faeces and/or impaction of the bowel.

(Chicken necks are good for small dogs and cat - but not large dogs, they tend to swallow chicken necks without sufficient prior chewing.)

Hazards

Q. My veterinarian says feeding raw food is hazardous and should not be practised.

A. Some risks, for instance hydatid tapeworm, and bacterial infection, do exist. However, a small risk should not be allowed to overshadow substantial benefits.

Hydatid tapeworm and bacterial contamination are issues which affect the supply of human food. But there is no large controversy surrounding those issues. Why raise spurious or hypothetical issues?

Despite the hazards, real or imaginary, many veterinary authorities and pet food companies recommend the feeding of raw meaty bones. Presumably they consider the benefits outweigh the hazards.

How much?

Q. How much should I feed my pet?

A. The answer depends on many factors. Please check out the 'Diet Guide'. Once you have a grasp of the factors listed you will likely feel confident about how much to feed your pet.


How often?

Q. How often should I feed my pet.

A. Adult dogs and cats should be fed daily. Although a day or two of fasting each week mimics life in the wild and probably provides benefit - on condition that more food is fed on the other days of the week.

Conventional wisdom:
Dry food can be made permanently available.

Rebuttal:
Dry food is hazardous for dogs, cats and ferrets and should not (except in emergency) be fed.

Raw food suppliers

Q. Where can I get supplies of raw food for my pets?

A. First decide on a shopping list then decide who in your local area might either supply the items or advise where they can be found.

The telephone book, your local butcher, corner store or pet shop may be a source of information.
You may be a pioneer natural-food-feeder. If so, you could encourage would-be suppliers to visit this web site so that they may see what's entailed and the resultant benefits for all concerned.

What proportions?

Q. What proportions of carcasses or raw meaty bones should be fed?

A. Please consult the 'Expanded diet guide'.

Conventional wisdom:
Many veterinary and pet food industry authorities say never to feed carcasses or raw meaty bones. Others say to feed raw meaty bones one or two days each week.

Rebuttal:

Carcasses, for the most part raw meaty bones, are the optimum food for wild carnivores. Feeding the correct food once or twice a week cannot compensate for an otherwise unhealthy diet. (Cars need the correct fuel in the tank all of the time: pets are no different.)

Why change to a more natural diet?

Q. My previous pets all lived to a ripe old age on commercial food and my current pet dog and two cats seem fine. Why should I change their diet to more natural foodstuffs?

A. Are you sure that your previous pets were healthy? What were your vet bills like? Just how healthy are your current pets?

Until we face the facts that our processed-food-fed-pets are not so healthy it is difficult to persuade ourselves that a natural diet could be better.

First we must be honest with ourselves - fair treatment of our pets then follows, automatically.

Raw Meaty Bones