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Junk Pet Food and the Damage Done

Morgan Spurlock conducted a risky experiment. In the film Super Size Me, Spurlock put McDonald’s food to the test. Every day at every meal for 30 days he ate at McDonald’s restaurants across America. By the end of the experiment Spurlock was in bad shape. He gained 24 and half pounds (eleven kilos); his liver turned to fat; cholesterol shot up; and he doubled his risk of heart failure. Fortunately for Morgan Spurlock he did not become addicted to junk food, was able to follow his doctor’s orders and stop the experiment. Also his holistic health counsellor girlfriend was on hand to nurse him back to health.

Just for a moment and with little danger to our physical health, let’s conduct a thought experiment. Imagine if all the Big Macs, Happy Meals and Coca Colas consumed by Spurlock during his month-long binge were tipped into a vat, mixed to a uniform consistency and cooked under pressure. Using the most modern, automated, computer controlled technology supervised by scientists in white coats; imagine if the resultant glop was divided into two parts; half to be sealed in cans and the other half to be dehydrated, extruded into kibble and packed in brightly coloured bags.

I know it may seem strange, but imagine if Spurlock then 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 neither had a toothbrush nor the ability to ask for one, so consequently didn’t clean his teeth for the month-long experiment.

Now I ask you: 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 kibble diet? Indeed, would it be likely Spurlock picked up his McCans and McKibble at his local medical or dental practice?

OK, experiment over, no need for wild imaginings. 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 every-day 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.

For the first fifteen years of my working life as a graduate of the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, I went along with the veterinary conventional wisdom. I counselled 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 pose 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 ending.

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 animals needed my services. Yes, it’s as simple and dramatic as that and for the following three sometimes five reasons.

1. Soft canned 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 defence, the immune system, mobilises against the bacterial invaders. The result: inflamed gums, bad breath, circulating bacteria and bacterial poisons that affect the rest of the body.

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 degrees.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.

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 diarrhoea. Long term exposure to the diet-related toxins listed in 1, 2 and 3 leads to diseases of body organs. Diseased organs produce more toxins which enter the blood stream and add to the spiral of worsening disease.

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. Instead they diagnose diseased organs as mentioned in 4. Treatment usually involves strong pharmaceuticals which then contribute another level of toxic insult.

What about the genetic diseases, infectious diseases, the parasitic diseases, the broken legs, other traumatic diseases and the diseases of old age? You may ask. For sure these are all important factors governing the wellbeing 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 longer too.

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