The Animal Doctor

DEAR READERS: Ultra-low doses of the widely used herbicide glyphosate, when fed to rats, is linked to an increased likelihood of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to a recently published study in the journal Nature. A lead author of the study, Michael Antoniou, Ph.D., stated that the findings are “very worrying as they demonstrate for the first time a causative link between an environmentally relevant level of (glyphosate) consumption over the long-term and a serious disease.” The findings point to the growing need to eliminate the widespread use of this herbicide, as it has already been implicated in endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, and kidney and liver damage. (Read the study at nature.com/articles/srep39328.)

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can be caused by several factors, along with often-associated acute and chronic pancreatitis seen frequently by veterinarians in companion animal practice. Many pet owners have contacted me concerning the abnormalities in their animals' liver enzyme levels, which the attending veterinarians cannot explain. Maybe we have the explanation now -- the biologically inappropriate inclusion of genetically modified corn, soy and beet, all resistant to and containing this herbicide, along with glyphosate-sprayed dry wheat and imported GMO rice, used by most pet food manufacturers.

When all the dots are connected, and considering the ubiquitous presence of glyphosate even in human amniotic fluids, this endocrine-disrupting probable carcinogen may prove to be a major factor associated with intestinal dysbiosis, allergies, autoimmune diseases, metabolic syndrome and the obesity epidemic in people and their cats and dogs.

DEAR DR. FOX: We have a 7-year-old cat, Sophie, who is affectionate and good-natured all day -- except at mealtimes.

About three years ago, our vet told us that Sophie was much too heavy for her health and that we should cut back on her dry food. We did so, and she lost a significant amount of weight and is now much healthier. However, starting about a year ago, she began demanding food the moment we woke up in the morning with loud, wailing howls. Even if we do not respond to her for an hour as we go about our morning routine, she continues to howl and scratch and bite our feet and ankles, especially when we are in the kitchen (where she is fed). Once we feed her, she subsides until the evening at about 4:30 or 5, when the demanding howling, biting and scratching begin again until we do the evening feeding. She also tries to forage for other food on the counters and tabletops, even though we never, ever feed table scraps and have always been consistent about a no-counter-and-tabletop rule.

What can we do to help Sophie? We have a second cat, her sister from the same litter, Maggie, who has none of these behavioral issues (and was not heavy at all). -- J.B., St. Louis

DEAR J.B.: Many cats do improve in terms of losing excess weight when given less (or no) dry cat food high in starches and gluten. Corn and wheat gluten may interfere with nutrient absorption in the gut, and along with the intestinal bacteria "microbiome" population changing to process starches (and being harmed by herbicide residues in the grains and soy), could lead to the cat being hungry and wanting to eat more. Also, neutering and being less active may contribute to weight gain and the development of the metabolic syndrome.

Some cats adapt better than others to having grains in their diet and do not gain weight. Of the two formerly feral cats in our home fed the same diet and the same amount, one kept a normal weight, and the other became fatter and fatter and was always hungry.

In your cat’s case, if you are feeding her only twice daily, this could be an aggravating problem in terms of between-meal hunger developing. Four small meals daily is a better feeding regimen for most cats. Adding some dietary fiber, such as a half-teaspoon of soaked psyllium husks or chia seeds, may help the cat feel fuller and more satisfied. Your cat may improve after transitioning to a raw-food diet or part-raw and part-canned -- with no cereals or soy ingredients. My home-prepared cat food diet (posted on my website, DrFoxVet.net) may also help, and there is useful information on the website feline-nutrition.org.

If Sophie is ravenous and losing weight, a veterinary checkup is required, hyperthyroidism being one consideration.

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)

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