DEAR READERS: Cats are carnivores, but for decades now the pet food industry and organized veterinary medicine have done nothing of significance to stop marketing biologically inappropriate diets for cats, high in non-animal (soy) protein, cereal starches and fiber (notably GMO beet pulp). The nascent soy- and starch-free raw pet food market is being closely monitored by the Food and Drug Administration concerning bacterial contamination -- and one sector of this market is pushing for pasteurization, which is a backward step, though not as far back as irradiation treatment. But in terms of volume and frequency, more dry foods than raw foods have been recalled because of bacterial contamination.
I have been editing my files as I slowly rebuild my website, drfoxvet.net -- I apologize to readers for it being down until now -- and I found the following report concerning an all-too-common health crisis in cats. I feel I must share it because, even though it was published more than 10 years ago, the pet food industry's major companies still market cat foods that contain biologically inappropriate ingredients that cause illness, and they derive additional profits from special "prescription" diets, available only through veterinarians, to treat the disease they created (genetics and other factors notwithstanding).
From the American Journal of Veterinary Research, February 2004:
"Evaluation of effects of dietary carbohydrate on formation of struvite crystals in urine and macromineral balance in clinically normal cats ... Conclusions and clinical relevance: Starch and fiber in diets potentially stimulate formation of struvite crystals. Hence, reducing dietary carbohydrate is desirable to prevent struvite urolith formation. In addition, a net loss of body calcium, phosphorus and magnesium during feeding of the fiber diet suggests that dietary inclusion of insoluble fiber could increase macromineral requirements of cats."
For more details on proper cat nutrition, visit feline-nutrition.org.
DEAR DR. FOX: I was wondering if there are intestinal or stomach diseases that animals can transmit to humans. My two grandchildren have been having problems for the past 10 years. They have been diagnosed with gluten problems, have lactose intolerance, had their gallbladders removed and various other diagnoses, but the pain in their gut is still there. They eat antacids like candy. The gluten and lactose problems have been addressed, but the stomach pains are still there. They are eating less and look horrible because of the weight loss.
Is there a possibility of a disease transmitted by their cats or horses? We are at our wits' end, and at this point are grasping at straws. -- M.M., Whiting, New Jersey
DEAR M.M.: You are wise to raise the question of possible zoonotic disease -- an infection transmitted from one animal species to the human species. Doctors may overlook such possibilities when they do not consider the patient's environment and contacts with other species. I was shocked a few years ago when some at a large teaching hospital in Washington, D.C., were baffled by the skin condition I developed from dogs during my work in India and that I diagnosed correctly as scabies (mange), telling them what prescription to give me.
Certainly zoonotic agents (pathogens) such as toxoplasma, giardia, salmonella and E.coli need to be considered by attending physicians and internal medicine specialists. But, and that is the big BUT, human and animal doctors are learning not to blame such potential pathogens alone for various diseases, but also to look at the patients' environment and diet.
Diet can make for strong or weak immune and digestive systems because some food ingredients -- especially sugars, white flour and other refined carbohydrates -- can lead to the proliferation of some kinds of bacteria in the digestive system that disrupt the health-promoting "microbiome," or what I call the bacterial garden of the gut. Both human and animal patients are now being given fecal transplants from healthy donors to restore their microbiomes.
This may be the more holistic approach needed for your grandchildren. I must add that studies have shown that children born into homes where there are dogs and cats do indeed have fewer allergies and infections calling for antibiotic treatments, a finding attributed to their microbiome being enriched or fortified by bacterial varieties acquired from contact with these animal companions.
COMPANION ANIMAL EXPENDITURES IN 2014
Spending on pets increased 4.2 percent in the United States, from $55.72 billion in 2013 to $58.04 billion in 2014, according to an annual report from the American Pet Products Association. The report evaluates five areas of pet spending: food, veterinary care, supplies, the animals themselves and other services. Veterinary care utilization was stable or trending down, while per-visit spending was up as people spent more on life-extending care.
The greatest spending growth was in the services category, which includes grooming, training, boarding and spa treatments. Spending on specialty foods also featured prominently.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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