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UPDATE #2 - March 9, 2009
This article continues to be one of my most popular and most requested so an update is in order. The mainstream press reported of hundreds of dog and cat deaths in 2006 from commercial food contaminated with aflatoxins, a fungus that contaminates corn and other grains, that causes liver failure. [see
MSNBC story and Science Daily]

A year later in 2007 saw more deaths from a toxic substance called melamine, a chemical that is not approved for use in human or animal food. Thousands of dogs and cats died or sufffered kidney disease after eating this contaminated food from a Chinese importer. The shocking fraud and deception by some Chinese and American companies - and their eventual indictments by the U.S. Attorney General, have been well documented. [see Consumer Affairs News]

Many other chemical additives are harmful to our pets. One particularly insidious one that has emerged in the last few years is Xylitol, an artificial sweetener that has killed many pets. My own dog nearly died from it. From the WiseGeek website:

"Xylitol: This is a sugar substitute found in many types of candy, chewable vitamins, sugarless baked goods, and in sugarless gums like Trident™ and Orbit™. As little as three grams (e.g. about five pieces of gum) can kill a 65 pound dog, with smaller dogs succumbing to just one or two sticks. Within 15-30 minutes of ingesting xylitol a dog's insulin levels will surge and blood sugar levels will drop, resulting in lethargy and loss of balance. Permanent brain damage can occur and without treatment liver failure will result in death within 24 hours. Diabetics that might have sugarless baked goods or other sugarless products in the home should be especially careful to read all ingredients before sharing food.

If a dog should ingest a product that contains xylitol call your veterinarian or animal emergency services immediately. You might be instructed to induce vomiting if the dog is already having a reaction or if the office is more than 30 minutes away. Do not leave products containing xylitol within a dog's reach."

Sadly, my commentary remains relevant because it discusses the day-to-day poisoning that goes on with approved pet foods, foods that contain ingredients that are accepted as safe, yet by their very nature are quite dangerous. As long as it remains acceptable to use slaughterhouse remains, rendered animal products, and other garbage  in our pet foods, they will continue to sink into ill-health. Just like with humans, huge industries have sprung up to profit from ill-health.

The situation has gotten even more complicated since I wrote this piece 10 years ago with the introduction of so many "high quality" designer pet foods into the marketplace. These foods appear better, but how can we ever know for sure? And their cost is outrageous. I have switched to a brand called "California Natural" for my dogs. They seem to be doing well on it, but the company recently reduced their 20 pound bags to 15 pounds while charing the same exorbitant price!! (nearly $30 a bag). 

Getting accurate information is nearly impossible. It is easy to find lots of posts about how just about every food causes illness, but you cannot make decisions based on these reports alone. There is no way to tell if they are real or not and in a population of hundreds of millions of dogs and cats, there will be every possible range of happenings, none of which may be applicable to your pet. Unless you cook for your pet with human grade ingredients in your own kitchen, you can never be sure.

So what do you do? Here are some ideas:

1. Write to pet food manufacturers and let them know of your experiences.

2. Watch your pet's reactions to their food. Remember, an animal will usually not show any symptoms of a serious illness until near the end. This is a holdover from their natural instincts. In the wild, an animal cannot show symptoms of illness or it will become prey. Look for subtle changes in mood, behavior, and habits.

3. Don't immediately conclude that your pet food is bad if your dog is vomiting or getting sick all of a sudden. There are lots of possible toxic substances they could have ingested. Or they may be sick from some other source. Watch them, call your veterinarian, and look around the house for suspect substances or objects they could have eaten. 

4. When shopping for food, human or animal, fewer ingredients with fewer syllables are generally better. 

5. Let pet food manufacturers know that they MUST find ways to reduce costs and bring the prices down. You can also make the food stretch by adding fresh food like vegetables and certain of your leftovers. Your dogs will benefit from this. Be sure to research which foods are OK. [you can start with this MSNBC article]

6. Don't let your dog drink tap water (nor should you). Research the bottled waters in your area and select one that is from a good, high altitude spring with proper treatment. Most municipal water systems are in bad shape as are the pipes in your home, which add lead and other heavy metals. I have a high-quality filter on my tap water (MultiPure). I use that water for cooking and plants. I wouldn't drink filtered tap water unless I could afford an expensive reverse-osmosis system, which I cannot. I use Mountain Mist spring water for drinking. They are a family owned company with high quality water. Don't be scared off by reports of how bad bottled water is. This is not true for every company.

As always, think carefully, research, get lots of advice, and then make your best choice. Good luck and take care.

Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D., Seattle, WA. [jackie@deepteaching.com / jackie@healingourworld.com]
See my new blog at http://www.healingourworld.org

UPDATE TO THIS ARTICLE: October 14, 2002
My dog Banshee succumbed to her bone cancer in June 1999 after a 6-month struggle. I believe that she was able to last a few more months than predicted - giving us some precious time together - because of the acupuncture and other alternative medicine supplements she was taking. I suspect the fluoride in the tap water she drank for the first few years of her life before I became aware of the issues.

Thanks to the many readers who have sent their regards. Not a day goes by that I do not think of that sweet red doggie. See the memorial plaque I have for her in my back yard.

March 28, 1999
Healing Our World: Weekly Comment

By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

Food Even a Dog Shouldn't Eat - Killing Our Pets with Every Meal

I hear a voice,
the cry of a wounded animal,
Someone shoots an arrow at the moon;
A small bird has fallen from the nest.
People must be awakened,
Witness must be given,
So that life can be guarded.

-- W.S. Rendra

Each year, Americans spend $10 billion on pet food for our beloved companion animals, animals we treat like members of our families and whom we love as our closest friends. Yet 95 percent of the food fed to these treasured creatures is made up of materials that are unfit for human consumption and contain little nutritional value. puppy

Banshee as a puppy (Photo(c) 1999 Jackie Giuliano)
As a result, "man's best friend" has skin disorders, arthritis, obesity, heart disease and a variety of cancers. Without speech, our animal companions cannot tell us of the insidious, often life threatening ill health they experience.

A large percentage of commercial pet food is made up of meat by-products, a toxic brew containing diseased and contaminated meat from slaughterhouses, animal heads, toenails, chicken feathers, feet and beaks. It also includes dead animals picked up from the nation's roads, rancid kitchen grease and frying oil from the nation's kitchens, and millions of pounds of dead animals from the country's animal hospitals and shelters.


Meat Packing Plant (Photo courtesy Sterling Industries)
The meat industry produces a tremendous amount of waste. Half of every cow and one-third of every pig butchered is wasted. Add to that the millions of tons of dead animals each year and you have an incredible waste problem.

In the United States alone, rendering is a $2.4 billion industry with 286 rendering plants disposing of over 100 million pounds of dead animals, meat wastes and fat EVERY DAY.

A few years ago, Baltimore reporter Van Smith visited a rendering plant in his city and found that the large vats that collect and filter the animals prior to cooking contained a vast array of animals including dead dogs, cats, raccoons, opossums, deer, foxes, snakes, a baby circus elephant and the remains of a police department horse. This one rendering plant alone processes 1,824 dead animals every month. Every year this one plant turns 150 million pounds of decaying, diseased and drug filled flesh and kitchen grease into 80 million pounds of meat and bone meal, tallow and yellow grease. This nutritionally dead, often toxic material provides the base for most pet foods and is found in a vast array of products used by humans as well.


Shredding before boiling at the rendering plant (Photo courtesy Fan Separator Company
This meat and bone meal is used to augment the feed of poultry, pigs, cattle and sheep destined for human consumption.

The deceptive product label names to watch out for that indicate the presence of this deadly soup include meat meal, meat by-products, poultry meal, poultry by-products, fish meal, fish oil, yellow grease, tallow, beef fat, chicken fat and fatty acids.

Fatty acids can be found in lipstick, inks and waxes and other rendering products such as tallow and grease go into soaps, candles, tires, many drugs and gummy candies. The health conscious consumer should avoid all these ingredients in human and pet foods.


Downed dairy cow waiting to be picked up by the rendering plant (Photo courtesy Farm Sanctuary)
Many toxic chemicals make their way into the rendered products. In addition to the unused meat from the livestock slaughtering process, dead, dying, diseased and disabled animals are also included. These animals are known as "4D meat" in the trade. Along with the meat comes disease, antibiotics and other drugs used during the animals' lives, pesticides, cattle ID tags and surgical needles.

Unsold supermarket meats, still in their plastic and Styrofoam wrappings, go into the mix as well as the plastic bags they are delivered in.

The millions of dead dogs and cats from veterinarians and animals shelters go into the rendering pots, including their flea collars containing toxic pesticides, ID tags and a variety of powerful drugs.

The city of Los Angeles sends 200 tons of euthanized cats and dogs to West Coast Rendering plant every month. This is just from the city's animal shelters and does not include animals from private veterinarians.


Euthanized dogs (Photo by Barbara Ward from http://www.critterconnection.com/casey.html)
A common drug found in the rendering brew is phenobarbital, commonly used to euthanize sick animals. The American Journal of Veterinary Research did a study in 1985 that showed there was virtually no degradation of this drug during the typical rendering process and that measurable quantities of it remain present in the rendered material used for pet foods and for feeding cattle destined for human consumption.

The grains in pet food bear little resemblance to the nutrient rich cereals we assume are present. Pet food grain consists of the leftovers after the grain has been processed for humans. It also contains moldy grain that has been declared unfit for human consumption. Some of the mold is toxic and potentially deadly.

The preservatives added to pet foods, and human foods, are highly toxic. Sodium nitrite, a coloring agent and preservative, ethoxyquin, an insecticide, BHA and BHT have all been linked to cancer. Your dog could be consuming as much as 26 pounds of preservatives each year if it is fed these foods.

The state of ill health that these non-foods generate is responsible for a host of health problems and can cause a hypersensitivity to flea and insect bites. Many flea allergies would go away in animals if their diets were changed.


8,000 gallon fat boiler ((Photo courtesy National Bi-Products)
The pet food industry is unregulated by government bodies. An organization called the Association of American Feed Control Officials sets the standards. Its membership includes a few state agency representatives, but it is mostly run by commercial pet food industry workers.

Don't be fooled by pet food sold at a veterinarian's office. Depending upon the brand, this food can contain most of the same ingredients as commercial pet foods sold in supermarkets. The corporations that own these brands are simply very clever with their advertisement and product placements and begin courting vets during their training with free food, lectures and even clothing.

Fortunately, there are alternatives and some are presented below, but you will need to pay more. Rather than paying 15 cents a pound for toxic commercial pet food, you may need to spend a dollar a pound. But the thousands of dollars you could save in treating your pet's food-caused illnesses could more than make this up.

As always, larger issues loom. We must cast off the comfortable assumptions we have lived with all our lives, discover the truth and act on it. Change your pet's food today. And change your own, while you are at it!

And don't forget the water - if you wouldn't drink tap water, why are you giving it to your pet?


NOTE: Some of these websites may no longer exist, but most can still be found with the help of the Internet Archive. If you are unable to find a site, go to http://www.archive.org and enter the link address. The Archive keeps a copy of most files from the entire Internet from the last 4 or 5 years.

1. Visit the following websites for details of the shocking situation in the pet food industry:

2. Visit the following websites to learning the disgusting truth about the rendering industry: "The Invisible Industry" by PR Watch at http://www.prwatch.org/Q1-96/madcow13.html

Rothsay Rendering Plant website at http://www3.sympatico.ca/rothsay/render.htm

3. See for yourself who regulates this industry at the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) website at http://www.aafco.org/

4. Read an Animal Advocate article about the AAFCO at http://home.att.net/~wdcusick/03.html

5. There are many alternatives to commercial pet food. I use products by the Wysong Company and friends have recommended products by Solid Gold and Flint River Ranch. Here are some ideas for you to research. Many pet stores and even health food stores are starting to carry their products. Ask your local stores for them or you can get them by mail order. Wysong human and animal health products at http://www.wysong.net/

Solid Gold products at http://www.solid-gold-inc.com/dog.html

Flint River Ranch at http://www.freeyellow.com/members2/frr/

6. See the ingredients of commercial brands at http://www.aloha.com/~wolfepack/foodcht5.html

7. See alternative dog food ingredient comparisons at http://www.aloha.com/~wolfepack/foodcht3.html

8. One of the best books on pet care and nutrition is "Natural Health for Dogs and Cats" by Richard Pitcairn, DVM and Susan Pitcairn (Rodale Press, 1995). You can also learn how to prepare meals and supplements for your pets at home (it is not that hard). Visit Powell's books on line at http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/associate?assoc_id=212 and search for it. You will find used and new copies. Support independent bookstores.

9. Don't expect much help from your regular veterinarian with this issue. Most haven't been trained to understand. No one professional will suit all your needs. I have three vets on my team: one specialist, one general practitioner and one holistic practitioner. My holistic vet is Dr. Nancy Scanlon. If you live in Southern California, you can contact her at (818) 784-9977. She also practices in Oakland, California at (530) 224-5107. I have been taking my pets to her for six years and she is the best. You can read a little about her at her website at http://www.hibridge.com/drsfaq.htm

10. To find a holistic vet in your state, visit the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Directory at http://www.altvetmed.com/ahvmadir.html

11. Find out who your Congressional representatives are and e-mail them. Demand meaningful government intervention and the creation of standards for pet foods. If you know your Zip code, you can find them at http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ziptoit.html or you can search by state at http://www.webslingerz.com/jhoffman/congress-email.html. You can also find your representatives at http://congress.nw.dc.us/innovate/index.html

http://www.xlibris.com/HealingOurWorld.html{Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in Seattle and the author of "Healing Our World", A Journey from the Darkness Into the Light," available at: http://www.xlibris.com/HealingOurWorld.html or your local bookstore. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at: jackie@healingourworld.com and visit his web site at: http://www.healingourworld.com}


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Copyright (c) 2008, Jackie A. Giuliano Ph.D.