DEAR DR. FOX: When I buy cat food, I never buy food made in Thailand or any other Asian country. I have noticed that many, many brands are now made there -- cheaper labor is the reason, I'm sure. Am I being unduly cautious?
I have heard that clumping litter can be dangerous in that cats can ingest it while grooming their paws, causing digestive problems. True or false? What type of litter do you recommend?
Finally, a question regarding our well water: It is extremely acidic, and we have it treated with calcium carbonate. I worry about my cats' kidneys, especially since one was diagnosed with kidney disease. She lived quite a few years, but she had a huge tumor on her only kidney. She lived for a while after that, weathering high blood pressure, blindness and extreme weight loss, and we had to put her to sleep. Is the calcium carbonate what caused the kidney problems? -- E.S., Earlysville, Virginia
DEAR E.S.: Clumping cat litter (I use the corn-based World's Best brand) does stick to cats' paws somewhat, which just means more vacuuming. I have had no evidence that cats get blocked/impacted internally after grooming themselves and swallowing the clumping litter. Some are allergic to corn, which could be problematic. I am more concerned about inhaled silica dust and synthetic fragrances in other types of litter.
Well water across the U.S. is problematic in many areas, thanks to arsenic, agricultural fertilizer (nitrates), pesticide contamination and even fecal bacteria from animal factory farm run-off. You can now add chemicals used in fracking to the list.
Everyone using well water should have it tested. Cats need pure water, and you should purchase a good-quality spring and perhaps use a reverse-ionization system. For details on this water issue, see my report on my website, DrFoxVet.com.
I've written extensively about your concerns about pet foods manufactured abroad, notably in Thailand, and treats from China, which are now off the shelves in the big pet stores after years of making dogs sick. Now a plethora of oral care products for pets, also manufactured in China, are on the shelves of these big stores, while some good natural products manufactured in the United States are not.
It is profit margins that drive the American business enterprise to outsource manufacturing, from pharmaceuticals to pet products, and import dubious vitamins, nutritional supplements and pet foods. They cannot afford effective monitoring and quality controls, passing the costs to taxpayers.
This is an affront to legitimate, ethical business practices and United States-based companies -- not those that evasively say, "Distributed by" but those that state, "Manufactured in the U.S." Indicating the country/countries of origin, even of hamburger for human consumption, is currently being hotly contested!
Dogs can detect smells up to 100 million times less concentrated than those detected by humans thanks to some 300 million olfactory receptor cells (compared with 5 million in humans), specialized airflow, the ability to smell in stereo and a highly developed region of the brain for processing the information.
"A dog smells an entire story, from start to finish," according to a TED-Ed video by Alexandra Horowitz, revealing "a whole other world beyond our eyes." Watch the video at ed.ted.com.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 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.com.)