The Animal Doctor

DEAR READERS: The labels on pet foods are often in such small print that a magnifying glass is needed. I read the contents of one widely marketed canned food that indicated, in bold print, “Prime Filets” and “Turkey Dinner with Gravy” and claimed “100 percent Complete and Balanced Nutrition for Adult Cats & Kittens.”

The main ingredients, in descending order, were: turkey liver (not turkey meat), meat byproducts, wheat gluten (not good for cats), soy flour (cheap protein, not good for cats), chicken (very small percentage), corn starch (not good for cats), modified natural and artificial flavors (probably monosodium glutamate), and Red 3 (not good for any animal, possibly carcinogenic).

“Meat byproducts” are defined by the pet food industry as the non-rendered parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals (mainly pigs and cattle). They include, but are not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, and stomachs and intestines emptied of their contents.

Turkey livers may contain residues of drugs used to prevent disease and stimulate growth, including antibiotics and ractopamine, a drug that stresses animals and makes them grow more lean muscles -- widely used by pork producers.

This kind of food is not appropriate for cats, which are carnivores. As per the book I co-authored with two other veterinarians, “Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Foods,” these foods are likely to contribute to a variety of health problems -- from diarrhea /inflammatory bowel syndrome to a host of other conditions, including skin disease and constant hunger, which gives the caregiver the false impression that the cat really likes the food.

Consumers beware.


Exposure to toxic blue-green algae is suspected in cases of liver failure in a 5-pound miniature Pomeranian and a 65-pound golden retriever in the Stuart, Florida, area. The owners of both dogs sought veterinary care quickly when their dogs began showing symptoms, which probably saved their lives, said veterinarian Cristina Maldonado.

“If you have any suspicion that your dog is vomiting or having diarrhea because of contact with blue-green algae, get it to a veterinarian -- quick,” Dr. Maldonado said. (, 9/4)

Read on for more on this topic.

DEAR DR. FOX: I live in Florida, and I am scared for my dog if she gets out and drinks from any water with that poisonous blue-green slime. She does like to run off-leash. It’s never been this bad down here. Any advice? -- S.A., Tampa, Florida

DEAR S.A.: I am afraid that your dog must have limited freedom, and be kept away from any and all open freshwater sources where you live.

Your area also has the red tide, washing all those dead sea creatures up on your shores: a tragedy, indeed. The freshwater problem with blooms of toxin-producing blue-green algae is spreading nationwide as seasonal temperatures rise, which calls for extreme vigilance by public health and municipal water authorities.

I see these critical environmental health problems as arising from climate change. We have accelerated the metabolism of the planet by burning coal and oil, causing global pollution and warming, compounded by deforestation. These and other anthropogenic causes of climate change are compounded by forest fires, as well as by cosmogenic causes that some scientists have identified: notably, increased solar radiation. The impact may be lessened if we effectively rectify our contribution to climate change and engage in planetary CPR: conservation, protection and restoration.


Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s announcement banning the use of “cruel” electric shock collars in dogs and cats in England, following a public consultation earlier this year, has been applauded by the British Veterinary Association. It is time for such an initiative in other countries, including the United States, where these devices cause much suffering and are no substitute for proper training.

(Send all mail to 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.

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