DEAR READERS: Since the publication of the book "Sugar Blues" by William Duffy in 1975, there has been rising consumer awareness over the healthfulness of sugars in the human diet. Much research has been conducted, yet ever more sugar is consumed worldwide as food manufacturers deny the risks. It is not mere coincidence that a cluster of serious diet-related diseases in humans are also seen in cats and dogs, and these can be prevented and often reversed with sugar-free, biologically appropriate diets.
Many diseases that affect us and other animals, wild and tame, are anthropogenic -- brought on by ourselves -- through our collective misuse of chemicals, drugs, natural resources and ecosystems. Some of these causes of the "diseases of civilization" will not be rectified for generations, if ever. But others can be addressed, notably what we choose to eat and what we feed our companion animals, beginning with cereal-derived carbohydrates and sugars.
Dogs are more carnivorous than omnivorous humans, while cats are absolute ("obligate") carnivores. All of these species, cats in particular, are harmed by refined sugars and those derived from high glycemic index carbohydrates, which the bodies of cats, dogs and humans convert into sugars, triggering insulin release and storage of the calories from sugars as fat. Cereal glutens, phytases, genetically modified organisms, herbicide residues and various chemical and pharmaceutical "obesogens" (foreign chemical compounds that disrupt normal development) may be co-factors in diet-related health problems.
The health issues our cats and dogs now suffer from are telling us that what most of us are eating and feeding to them is wrong -- biologically inappropriate diets high in sugars for humans and high in starches for all three species. These health issues include: dental problems; oral and intestinal dysbiosis (disruption of health-promoting populations of bacteria leading to hyper-reactive immune systems triggering allergies and autoimmune diseases); fatty liver disease; obesity; metabolic syndrome and inflammatory diseases arising therefrom, including arthritis and some cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, eye disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, chronic pancreatic enzyme insufficiency, inflammatory bowel conditions, kidney disease and urological problems, especially in cats.
For humans, I recommend eating less sugar and only a modicum of functional complex carbohydrates in their diets (i.e. cruciferous vegetables; fresh, whole fruits -- but not grapes; gluten-free grains; green, leafy vegetables; and legumes rich in phytonutrients and prebiotics). For most dogs, add only some complex carbohydrates to their diets; for all cats, a minimal amount (approximately 5 percent of the diet) of carbohydrates is called for. For more details, see "Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Food" and "Smart and Canine Nutrigenomics."
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 12-year-old cat named Gabby. I have been taking her to the vet for regular checkups, and he says she is in perfect health for her age and is very active and alert. She loves to play, and she sleeps well. But sometimes she has this deep cough that almost sounds like kennel cough, and sometimes it's almost like she is having a hard time swallowing.
This only happens once in a blue moon. Most of the time she is in great health. I've told the vet about this, and he says it might be an allergy or something like this.
We also have a dog named Max. He is a beagle, and he is 13 years old. He has a partially collapsed trachea and is prone to bronchitis and pneumonia, and he has chronic cough.
What suggestions do you have for my dog and cat? Thank you for your time. -- J.B., Fargo, North Dakota
DEAR J.B.: These two issues are not uncommon in canine and feline companions.
The first possibility to consider for your cat is that the sound may be from gagging up hair balls. Cats do not always vomit these; instead, the gagged-up fur is swallowed and eventually evacuated. In some instances, it can accumulate as a mass in the stomach and must be surgically removed. Adding a little olive oil to the cat's food and giving her some high-fiber treats can help, as can daily grooming.
Dogs pulling too hard on the leash and wearing collars can damage their tracheas, as do those idiot people who discipline their dogs by jerking and snapping sharply on the leash. A Gentle Leader or harness is safer and less injurious for dogs who pull hard on the leash.
(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.)