Pet Foods’ Insidious Consequences – Part 2

Previous Page


In our modern world the final arbiters of truth are the ‘experts’ (until the populace tires of being misled). Consequently politicians, bureaucrats and consumer watchdogs defer to the veterinary profession as presumed experts for a ruling as to what is acceptable. In fact, the veterinary profession appears to have abdicated its responsibility and is often a mindless mouthpiece for the processed pet food industry.

‘What I recommend is that dogs should be fed a nutritionally sound diet which would be the easiest way to go is with tinned food such as Pal, Whiskas and any of the better known commercial brands. But they need dental exercise and so on that they should have hard dog biscuits or eat bones regularly two to three times a week. But it’s a very simplistic approach to say that if you give a dog just a natural diet of bones he’s never going to have teeth problems. That’s a fairytale.’

Dr Stephen Coles (President, Australian Veterinary Dental Society) Radio National, Daybreak 14/9/1992

Dr H Southwood, President of the Sydney Metropolitan Practitioners Branch of the AVA speaks with admiration of the pet food industry in the March, 1993 edition of the AVA News, Letters Page:

‘First, it is my belief that the widespread availability and use of commercial rations has generally contributed to a longer and healthier life of pets…….. Second, to my knowledge Tom has no post-graduate qualifications or specialist qualification in animal nutrition nor does he have any valid scientific data to back his assertions. This position contrasts strikingly with the major players in the pet food industry…….. Finally, I congratulate the pet food industry on their patience and tolerance in the face of this attack. I have no vested interest in this matter yet my patience is exhausted.’

Without the least show of conscience, should the poor unfortunate animal demonstrate signs of obesity, diarrhea, kidney disease etc, then another can of pulverized offal is prescribed. Just as ‘100% complete and balanced’ but manufactured to a different prescription formula by the same manufacturer, especially for your pet’s requirements. (I speak of the ‘can to counteract the can’ but my solicitor prefers the ‘con to counteract the con’.) The net result of this complicity is a woeful absence of protection from the highly ingenious, resourceful pet food producers.

Dr Grant Guilford makes the same points in a more prosaic way.

‘It is important to emphasize that the calculations made in the formulation of a diet make a number of arbitrary assumptions and the potential for significant error is high.’

(Vet Business, 1993 2:1)

The headline in ‘The Veterinarian’, August, 1993 screamed the recurring truth; RESEARCHER CONTRADICTS ESTABLISHED DIET PRACTICE. Professor David Kronfeld:

‘concluded that the low protein diets often recommended for healthy geriatric dogs and dogs with chronic renal failure were more harmful than diets with moderate protein content’.

(JSAP, 1993; 34:211)

Advertising of an outrageous nature. If one adopts an intelligent approach to the claims one detects not mere ‘puffery’ but outright distortion. That the government and consumer watchdogs allow this exploitation of the public probably traces back to the veterinary (expert) endorsement of the products.

Nutrition articles in the professional journals could mostly come under the category advertising. Just check out the titles and content and you will see they mostly have a commercial ‘angle’. Validating or discrediting rival claims is the order of the day. Sometimes they raise red herrings and deflect the proper interest. Apart from the veterinary profession’s innate conservatism and respect for authority I suspect this nutritional rubbish goes unchallenged due to its being deadly dull and quite indigestible.

Regulations governing pet foods afford the authorities scant control. The Association of American Feed Control Officials sets the guide-lines for processed pet foods. Dr R L Wysong, DVM comments:

‘The confusion, even blindness, by researchers and regulatory agencies (however well intentioned) is apparent in the following incredible contradiction by authors with DVM, Ph.D. and specialty board certification in veterinary internal medicine and nutrition credentials: “These protocols (The authors are discussing AAFCO studies) were designed to assure that pet foods would not be harmful to the animal and would support the proposed life stage. These protocols were not designed to examine nutritional relationships to long-term health or disease prevention.” (G F Collings, et al, Veterinary Forum Oct, 1992, p34)” In other words a food could cause disease and destroy long term health yet at the same time “not be harmful” and be “100% complete”! So after a pet has been fed the “proven” food for a period of time equal to the duration of an AAFCO study (26 weeks), all bets are off. The “100% complete and balanced” food may then be literally poisoning the animal with the blessings of the entire academic, professional, scientific, governmental and industrial pet food establishment.’

(Wysong, 1993)

When viewed at a national level, the annual cost to Australians of processed pet foods exceeds $600 million and the cost of veterinary pet care in excess of $400 million. (AVA News, Aug, 1993) The net result of political and economic mismanagement is that the community and its animals suffer. As in other areas, it is the poor who are disproportionately affected. Natural foods cost much less than the processed and natural food-fed animals suffer less disease. It is alarmingly common that clients present sick animals at our practice having paid huge sums for commercial food. Frequently the animals are suffering a variety of signs attributable to incorrect feeding for which the owner cannot afford the diagnostic and therapeutic work. Alas they are doubly victims with the alternatives being: allowing the animal to suffer, euthanasia of the pet or seeking charity.

Veterinarians are given to pondering if the ownership of animals should be viewed as a right or a privilege of the affluent. This can be seen as fatuous elitism when one considers that in days gone by anyone could own a pet. In the present day, an increasing number of our clients find that natural food feeding ensures owning a pet does not become a financial or emotional burden.


The environmental costs of reportedly the world’s second most traded commodity are:

  1. Unnecessary processing.
  2. Unnecessary packaging.
  3. Unnecessary transportation.
  4. Displacement of perfectly useful table scraps.
  5. Foul, copious excrement as opposed to the more wholesome natural product.
  6. Excrement, packaging and food scraps filling the rubbish tip.
  7. Abattoir offal fed to pets instead of being recycled through stock feed and fertilizer.

As veterinarians if we were to momentarily deflect from our treatment obsession and emphasize prevention then mass benefits would accrue to the environment. The same trained professionals could be employed to work for instead of against the environment which sustains us all.


Scarcely dare I employ the term for the current showing bears little relation to what may be described as ‘scientific’. James Lovelock, the renowned scientist says:

‘Science has taken over from religion and it has become a rather corrupt church, It’s in its mediaeval theological phase.’

This is the more so in the veterinary sphere where much energy is directed to technological manipulation of a few flawed scientific concepts.

The technologists frequently manipulate the content and the form of the argument in committed support of the ‘germ’ theory of disease. Koch’s postulates worked in unsophisticated models of contagious disease but when applied to the multi-factorial world of degenerative/environmental disease they are badly wanting. Indeed the entire ’cause and effect’ model derived of the reductionist paradigm yields smaller and smaller pieces of dislocated information.

Observe the way that the ‘complete and balanced formula’ (which should depend on a ‘complete and balanced’ understanding) mutates and you will perceive the inherent flaws.

‘The ideal level of protein intake for dogs is still a matter of debate amongst nutritionists, veterinarians and breeders, with recommendations varying two- to three-fold. Perhaps the best way to investigate this further is by the use of purified diets, but this brings an added challenge because they do not usually reflect the normal diet. Relating these basic studies to practical feeding of the dog represents a key issue for veterinarians and nutritionists to resolve.’

(Johnson, 1993)

Two volumes summarize the blunders of the processed pet food industry and its army of blinkered stooges. These are ‘The Nutrient Requirements of Dogs’ (1985) and ‘The Nutrient Requirements of Cats’ (1986) where the following absurd statements can be found.

‘Cats /dogs require specific nutrients not specific foodstuffs’.

So deeply uncritical is the profession that, for example, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, Journal of Small Animal Practice gives over one complete edition annually to the publication of papers presented at the Waltham Symposium on pet foods. The editorial committee of that journal is so hoodwinked that they even allow employees of Walthams to write the guest editorial.


Despite its wide usage, ‘health’ is a poorly defined term implying an absence of disease or state of wellness. Veterinary clinicians encounter problems when dealing with animals:

  1. Within the clinical context they obtain only a ‘keyhole’ view of ongoing processes.
  2. The ability of animals both on the physiological and behavioral level to obscure chronic disease.
  3. The aging process which serves to, or is allowed to, obscure underlying ill-health. The result is that veterinarians are frequently misled as to the true state of an animal’s health. Furthermore, little thought goes into correcting this oversight.

Sometimes the health of our animals is abruptly compromised by the forced intake of unsuitable foodstuffs. Gastric dilatation volvulus affects 60, 000 dogs per year in the USA. (Burrows and Ignaszewski, 1990) More commonly the problems are of a slow insidious nature thus the dietary connection is less obvious. Feeding in an optimum wild environment will be of sufficient quantity , quality , and frequency as to provide for the animal’s needs. Both the chemical and physical components must be recognized as two sides of the same coin. You cannot or should not have one without the other.

Chemical Requirements of Natural Food

Quantity of chemicals is important:

‘Hazewinkel et al (J Nutr 121:S99-S106) in a study of growing Great Dane puppies with varying calcium and phosphorus levels, concluded that the dogs are unable to protect themselves against chronic excessive calcium intake regardless of the ratio of calcium to phosphorus. A balanced Ca:P ratio does not offer protection from a high level of calcium in the diet. Many pet foods in Australia, even some especially formulated for puppies, contain higher levels than this new recommended maximum for calcium of 2.5% (according to their own guaranteed analysis). Check these for yourself and see!’

(NutriPet News, 1993)

Quality of the chemicals is important as evidenced by :

‘The conclusion that cats fed a single commercial food exclusively were at greater risk for developing taurine deficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy than cats fed a variety of foods is not unexpected. This and other examples of diet-induced disease should serve as a warning to veterinarians who prescribe or endorse the feeding of one food exclusively to any animals, especially for maintenance.’

(Pion, P D et al, 1992)

Frequency of providing the chemicals clearly affects obesity and under nourishment and possibly other aspects of a healthful existence.

Chemical additives, designed to improve color, palatability or shelf life, when fed monotonously over a long period may be detrimental.

Physical Requirements of Natural Food

As we saw from our early review of natural dog and cat diets the food taken is tough and demanding of the digestive system. In his 1983 Nutrition Course, Professor Kronfeld commented:

‘I have a friend who feeds genuine whole chicken to his racing huskies. Stools in his yard sprout feathers like pre-avian reptiles.’

Evolutionary theory of natural selection is now sufficiently well accepted. The understanding being that adaptation occurs at the margin. In the case of carnivores they have adapted to, and now depend upon, their tough chewy food for survival.

Quantity, quality and frequency of physical stimulation

It is apparent that carnivores occupy an ecological niche as processors of bone. The white powdery droppings testify to the efficiency of the carnivore jaws and short muscular digestive tract. Just how the quantity, quality and frequency have a beneficial effect on the muscular tube is not well researched.

In respect of the oral cavity much more is known on the requirements for the correct balance of chewy food stuffs. This knowledge has been accumulated due in part to commonsense but also intense professional and research interest of the human and latterly, veterinary dentists. In short, the correct quality, quantity and frequency of oral stimulation maintains a healthy periodontium and inadequacy of any one or a combination results in periodontal disease.


‘Several studies have shown that the form of the diet is much more important in controlling plaque build-up and gingival inflammation than is the nutritional content of the diet in dogs. At least over the short medium term, gross changes in carbohydrate and protein content have no effect on rate of plaque build-up. A diet grossly deficient in calcium leads to secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism and demineralization of periodontal bone but does not cause more rapid periodontal tissue breakdown. The ‘rubber jaw’ syndrome of secondary (nutritional or renal), hyperparathyroidism is a periodontosis that does not affect connective and epithelial tissues unless the soft bone permits mobility of teeth that is mechanically harmful.’

(Harvey, 1993)

Periodontal disease is actually a continuing process rather than individual stages, but may be divided up for ease of comprehension.

Healthy Sharp gingival margin, shrimp color, normal stippling and no odor.
Grade I Marginal gingivitis. The leading edge of the gingiva appears inflamed. Odor is usually present.
Grade II Moderate gingivitis. Inflammation of gingiva with the addition of edema causing margins to swell and begin to roll.
Grade III Severe gingivitis. Increased edema, red to purple margin with rolling occurring. Beginning pocket formation beyond normal 1 to 3mm depth. No loss of attachment at this point.
Grade IV Moderate periodontitis. Severe inflammation, deep pocket formation, beginning bone loss with epithelial attachment loss and a slight increase in mobility.
Grade V Severe periodontitis. Advanced epithelial attachment loss, advanced bone loss, tooth mobility and tooth loss.

The orthodox view has it that ‘bacterial plaque’ causes periodontal disease. (Harvey, 1993) This is widely accepted despite being unable to satisfy Koch’s postulates for bacterial causation. My preference is for an interactive model which says that: Plaque organisms must be present, physical cleaning absent, and host responses typical and occurring over time. This accords with the human dentists quadrad of factors viz, tooth, bacteria, food and time. (Gilling, ADA Bulletin, 1993 p18)

Having demoted plaque from primacy in the interaction one can now admit the teething process as an early vital factor. Puppies and kittens cut the first set of teeth between two and six weeks of age. (cf. humans six to twenty-four months). The second set force through the gums with an attendant physiological inflammation between four and six months (cf humans five and half to eighteen years). Foreign body impaction and trauma can be admitted to the periodontal disease picture.

The immune system always plays an intermediary role in the development and rate of progress of the disease. Where there is preexisting immune suppression periodontal disease develops more readily. Cats with FIV or FELV frequently present with a stomatitis. Trench mouth in humans derived its name from the chronically immune-stressed troops who developed a gingivitis syndrome. (Harvey, 1993)

Sir Frank Colyer, the renowned British dentist, spent his lifetime researching the subject and in his eightieth year he states his conclusions:

‘Periodontal disease is always associated with an alteration in the physical or chemical character of the diet of the animal – in other words with a departure from natural diet and conditions.’

(Colyer, 1947)

Borthwick in his study for the pet food industry states:

‘It would appear that the veterinary surgeon/patient approach to reducing periodontal disease in dogs and cats is largely ineffective and that people have come to accept that periodontal disease is inevitable.’

(Borthwick, 1987)

Higgins in his capacity as advisor to the pet food industry states:

‘It is ironic that preventative dentistry towards the end of the twentieth century is based on what dogs and cats found in nature thousands of years ago.’

(Higgins, 1988)

Colyer makes the obvious point that prepared foods increase the contamination of the oral cavity by sticking to the teeth and gums. Milk and tablescraps are equally subject to this error of commission. It is equivalent to the worsening spiral created by a house cleaner who removes no dirt and leaves a trail of muddy footprints.


Opinions within the veterinary profession are divided as to whether periodontal disease has systemic ill-effects. I find it difficult to reconcile how health care professionals might pronounce that a chronic septic focus populated by in excess of 300 different species of bacteria might prove to be innocuous. Dr Jon Lumley comments:

‘You do not need a post graduate degree in nutrition to evaluate the effects of raw bones on a dogs dentition – in fact, it appears that the qualification would be a serious disadvantage!’

(Control and Therapy No 3406, 1993)

Failure to perceive severe bacterial/toxic consequences is not restricted to vets. In a recent survey of renal transplant units it was found that 4 out of 22 did not schedule dentistry prior to renal transplantation. In conclusion the researchers state:

‘A more striking disagreement was what was considered a dental focus of infection since, infection is one of the major complications in renal transplant patients, agreement in this area is of the utmost importance for the standardization of future protocols. In order to reach agreement and improve protocols greater collaboration will be necessary between dentists and the surgical team.’

(Yamalik et al, 1993)

DeStefano et al writing in the British Medical Journal, March, 1993 showed a weak correlation between severe periodontal disease and heart disease. They found a stronger correlation between severe periodontal disease and total mortality. Unfortunately they did not put the question as to whether slight periodontal disease could be a sufficient trigger of systemic disease.

Robert Hamlin writes about his:

‘Theory for the genesis of certain chronic degenerative diseases of the aged dog and proposes a toxic sequence of events.’

(Vet Scope International, 1992)

Gary Beard speaking in July, 1991 said:

“The haematogenous spread of bacteria, originating in dental calculi and embolised by manipulation of the gingival capillaries during dental procedures and even mastication, have been documented in man and other animals. This spread of bacteria, or anachoresis, to other organ systems can result in peritonitis, glomerulonephritis and endocarditis.” “Veterinarians have long suspected, and research supports, the fact that periodontal disease can become systemic and can predispose the animal to problems such as right side heart failure, hepatic compromise, renal failure and bone marrow depression. This anachoretic effect can have drastic repercussions on the overall health of the pet and represents one of the greatest challenges facing small animal practitioners today.”

Our subjective assessment of the situation is that most of the degenerative diseases treated in modern veterinary hospitals in fact derive from the processed pet foods/ periodontal disease nexus.