Pet Health Is Our Responsibility

I want to past on a disturbing fact, there are no assurances of quality in pet food.

I am certain at some time you have noticed a change in your dog after feeding him or her different batches of the same brand of pet food. Your pet may have diarrhea, increased flatulence, a dull hair coat, intermittent vomiting, or may scratch more often. These are the most common symptoms I have observed over the years, and they are all associated with commercial pet foods.

Mr. Eckhouse, an investigative reporter, writes: “Each year, millions of dead American dogs and cats are processed along with billions of pounds of other animal materials by companies known as renderers. The finished products — tallow and meat meals — serve as raw materials for thousands of items that include cosmetics and pet food.” There were the usual denials by pet food executives. Yet federal and state agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and medical groups such as the American Veterinary Medical Association and the California Veterinary Medical Association, confirm that pets, on a routine basis, are rendered after they die in animal shelters or are disposed of by health authorities, and the end product frequently finds its way into pet food.

Prior to World War II, most slaughterhouses were all-inclusive; that is, the livestock was slaughtered and processed into fresh meat in one location. There was a section for smoking meats, a section for processing meats into sausages, and a section for rendering. During the years after World War II, the meat industry became more specialized. A slaughterhouse just slaughtered and dressed the carcasses; the making of sausages was done in a separate facility; and the rendering of slaughter waste also became a separate specialty — and no longer within the jurisdiction of government meat inspectors.

The condemned livestock carcasses treated with these toxic chemicals can then become meat and bone meal for the pet food industry. Worse yet, since rendering facilities are not government-controlled, any animal carcasses can be rendered, including those of cats and dogs. Eckhouse quotes Eileen Layne of the California Veterinary Medical Association: “When you read pet-food labels and it says meat or bone meal, that’s what it is — cooked and converted animals, including some dogs and cats.”

Some of these dead pets — those who were euthanized by veterinarians — already have sodium pentobarbital in their bodies before being treated with the denaturing substances. In veterinary offices most cats and dogs are put to sleep with this chemical. According to Eckhouse, veterinarians at the University of Minnesota warned that the sodium pentobarbital used to put pets to sleep “survived rendering without undergoing degradation,” but they concluded that the residue amount would be too small to cause problems if the carcasses of euthanized pets were mixed with other raw materials during a day’s production run. No mention was made of the cumulative effects on a cat or dog from ingesting this small amount daily for years. Thus far we have come across the denaturing chemicals and the sodium pentobarbital, and I have only just begun.

Lead also shows up frequently in pet foods, even if they are made from livestock meat and bone meal, simply as a result of our environment. A paper from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, titled “Lead in Animal Foods,” had two frightening conclusions. First, a 9-pound cat is ingesting more lead daily than what is considered potentially toxic for children. Second, since some commercially prepared pet and laboratory animal foods routinely contain lead, feeding these preparations to laboratory animals could add a significant, uncontrolled variable to experiments and may lead to uncertain experimental results (James G. Fox, et al., Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Vol. 1, 1976).

One last word of caution, not for pets this time but for their owners: meat and bone meal from sources not fit for human consumption has found its way into poultry feed. This means that the animal products rendered under questionable conditions are being fed to birds that may wind up on your table. Remember this when you are eating your next piece of chicken or turkey. I have to add, however, that the bone meal sold as a calcium supplement is from carcasses graded for human consumption; it is not from condemned animals.

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