The recently posted issue of dogs developing acute kidney disease (Fanconi syndrome) from meat jerky treats imported from China may be due to such products being subjected to irradiation. Meat-based treats imported from Canada and Germany are also subjected to irradiation. According to the Center for Food Safety:
“Food irradiation uses high-energy gamma rays, electron beams or X-rays (all of which are millions of times more powerful than standard medical X-rays) to break apart the bacteria and insects that can hide in meat, grains and other foods. Radiation can do strange things to food, by creating substances called ‘unique radiolytic products.’ These irradiation byproducts include a variety of mutagens (substances that can cause gene mutations), polyploidy (an abnormal condition in which cells contain more than two sets of chromosomes), chromosome aberrations (often associated with cancerous cells) and dominant lethal mutations (a change in a cell that prevents it from reproducing) in human cells. Making matters worse, many mutagens are also carcinogens.
“Research also shows that irradiation forms volatile toxic chemicals such as benzene and toluene -- chemicals known, or suspected, to cause cancer and birth defects. Irradiation also causes stunted growth in lab animals fed irradiated foods. An important 2001 study linked colon tumor promotion in lab rats to 2-alkylcyclobutanones (2-ACBs), a new chemical compound found only in irradiated foods. The FDA has never tested the safety of these byproducts. Irradiation has also been shown to cause the low-level production of furans (similar to cancer-causing dioxins) in fruit juice.”
Essentially, food irradiation creates “mummified” food, killing off bacteria that cause spoilage (a natural process) to prolong shelf-life. It’s done primarily for financial, rather than health, reasons. Endotoxins, which can cause illness and death, are produced by some bacteria prior to irradiation; they remain in the various animal parts recycled into pet foods, and are not destroyed by irradiation.
As I reported in 2009, cats in Australia developed neurological problems from being fed an irradiated brand of imported cat food. Consumers beware. As with the “GMO-free” label that manufacturers and allied government agencies have sought to prohibit, all foods, beverages and ingredients that have been subjected to irradiation should be labeled as such, and countries of origin should be indicated, as well. At this time, it is best to avoid all pet foods and treats not manufactured in the U.S. And avoid products with evasive phrases like “manufactured for” or “distributed by” on their labels.
DEAR DR. FOX: Last February, we had a fire in our home while we were at the store. (My landlord had replaced some outlets, and left some loose connections.) We found our 2-year-old dog, Sugar, on the kitchen floor, unresponsive. I gave her CPR until the firefighters got there and saved her. After the fire, we took her to the vet. He told us that she was fine health-wise, just a bit weak, and just needed to rest from the trauma she had suffered.
Two days after we took her to the vet, we noticed that Sugar was bumping into walls and furniture, startling easily and acting apprehensive. She had a sudden inability to find toys or her food and water bowls.
My poor Sugar went blind. Is there anything that can be done to help her get her vision back? -- National City, California
DEAR N.C.: I am so sorry to learn about the terrible ordeal you and your poor dog went through, for which there should be some financial remuneration under insurance liability with the property owner.
That your dog survived and you were there in time to save her life is remarkable. I regret that the brain damage -- caused by toxic fumes and lack of oxygen, which caused blindness and possibly other neurological and respiratory complications -- may be irreversible. But all may be not lost; the brain does have some recuperative abilities, which may be helped by various nutraceutical supplements. A few to try: coconut oil, brewer’s yeast, vitamin B complex or Nordic Naturals cod liver oil. Try my home-prepared dog food recipe (drfoxvet.net), and add some blended fruits and vegetables for antioxidants.
For the anxiety and PTSD, I would put drop or two of lavender essential oil on a bandanna around your dog’s neck three times a day. Keep her on a long leash connected to you much of the time, and get her to respond to sound commands since she can no longer read your body language and anticipate your actions. Walk her frequently around the house and along your usual walk routes, on a harness, which will be more comfortable, and talk to her about what you are seeing. Give her plenty of whole-body massages and 3 milligrams of melatonin at bedtime.
The California fires and mudslides this year have been a tragedy, with many pets lost and wildlife populations diminished. This is surely a lesson in better controlling our encroachment on vulnerable ecosystems prone to floods, fires and droughts, and a call to adopt “green” real estate principles with limited growth and population densities.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)