What Are Our Furbabies Eating?


My elderly dog, Missy had bladder cancer, arthritis and was taking drugs for chronic constipation. Her days were numbered so I radically changed her diet from Hill’s Science Diet CD to a variety of home prepared food mixtures. Mystery of mysteries: overnight the constipation problem disappeared. I was stunned at Missy’s transformation and curious to learn the details of pet food ingredients. It didn’t take long to discover that MOST commercial pet foods are a nightmare brew of unimaginable ingredients such as rubber stabilizer, rancid restaurant grease, euthanized pets and indescribable animal tissues.

It’s a wonder dogs and cats are not succumbing to a mad-cow-like disease known to develop out of cannibalization.  “Animal feed containing recycled animal tissue is the source of the infection that led to the mad cow cattle epidemic in the United Kingdom.” (www.encarta.msn.com)

The major source of animal protein comes from 4 D animals – dead, diseased, dying or disabled – that are processed in rendering plants after being denatured with carbolic acid, creosote, fuel oil or kerosene. More on this later.

The Animal Protection Institute (API) says nutritional factors are known to play a role in causing and perpetuating diseases such as: cancer, allergic skin, inflammatory bowel, food intolerance, chronic ear infections, cystitis, bladder and kidney stones, heart disease, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, hip dysplasia and diabetes.

Food labels speak for themselves. For example, Hill’s Science Diet uses both BHA and BHT (preservatives) in most dry food with an interesting exception being the Sensitive Stomach formula which uses vitamins C & E as preservatives. Is Hill’s saying: animals with stomach problems should not ingest BHA and BHT? I wonder why?!

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) is a preservative and antioxidant. Safety data on BHA says: “possible human carcinogen; apparently carcinogenic in animal experiments. May be harmful by ingestion or inhalation. May act as a skin, eye or respiratory irritant.” API says it is associated with stomach and urinary tract cancer.

BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) is associated with esophageal cancer. According to Cognitive Enhancement Research Institute, “BHT acts as both a promoter and antipromoter of carcinogenesis…..When BHT is administered after carcinogenic exposure, the incidence of cancer is frequently increased.” Its effects are determined by the type of cancer.

Ethoxyquin (EQ) is a rubber stabilizer-insecticide known as the cheapest and most powerful (long lasting) preservative on the market. A barrel of EQ directly from Monsanto production is labeled with skull-and-crossbones with the word “poison” prominently displayed. It is listed as a pesticide by the Department of Agriculture. OSHA calls it a hazardous chemical rated 3 out of 6. “A compound rated 6 is so potently toxic that 7 drops can cause death.” According to API, EQ is associated with immune deficiency syndrome, leukemia, blindness, DNA mutations, chromosomal aberrations and many forms of cancer.

API has a partial list of pet foods that contain EQ: Hill’s Science Diet, Iams, Ralston One and 9 lives Friskies. It’s listed in ingredients of cat food such as Whisker Lickens and Whiskas. Jean Hofve, DVM, explains that EQ is not listed on labels when it’s added to fish meal, a prominent ingredient in most cat food.

How come most veterinarians across America have an array of Hill’s Science Diet on display in their offices? I’d really love to hear from some veterinarians regarding Hill’s. Don Hamilton, DVM in Ocate, NM, says misinformation is the culprit. In Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs he writes, “My nutrition training in veterinary school was minimal, to say the least, as it was for most of my contemporary colleagues. Table foods, we heard, were an absolute invitation to disaster. Dry food was considered the best choice for cats and dogs. Then we were given literature – something like today’s infomercials – on a couple of brands of food. Not surprisingly, these two companies command the major share of the marketplace, largely due to recommendations by veterinarians. I now believe much of the information to be incorrect. Furthermore, I see this information as contributing to the deterioration in the health of our companion animals that we have witnessed in recent years.”

Rendering Plants
Rendering plants process decomposing animal carcasses into a dry protein product. Ann Martin writes, “One small plant in Quebec, Ontario renders 10 tons of dogs and cats per week.” Earth Island Journal states: “Each year in the US, 286 rendering plants quietly dispose of more that 12.5 million tons of dead animals, fat and meat waste……Renderers are thankful that most people remain blissfully unaware of their existence.”

Dr. Belfield was a veterinary meat inspector for the US department of Agriculture. He writes in Earth Island Journal, “To prevent condemned meat from being rerouted and used for human consumption, government regulations require that meat is ‘denatured” before removal from the slaughterhouse and shipment to rendering facilities.” When you see ‘meat and bone meal’ on pet food labels it refers to cooked and converted animals with a large % being euthanized pets. Pets euthanized by veterinarians contain pentobarbital which survives rendering without undergoing degradation.

According to Earth Island Journal “meat and bone meal from sources not fit for human consumption has found its way into poultry feed……Remember this when you are eating your next piece of chicken or turkey.”

 Dry-Food Horrors
Vegetable protein in dry food is primarily made of “sweepings from milling room floors.” (Earth Island Journal; Summer ’96) Literally garbage! In 1999, Dina Butcher, Agriculture Policy Advisor for North Dakota, stated the grain that goes into pet food is not high quality. Butcher was trying to calm fears that people would die from mycotoxins in corn that killed over 25 dogs. Humans don’t eat grains intended for the fur-baby market. Isn’t that comforting?    

The dry-food production line sounds like an archetype of trans-fatty acid production.  Dead animals and other waste products are mixed and cooked at high temperatures for hours before moving through a high pressure/high heat device that puffs the material into various kibbles, bits and nuggets. The final step involves spraying restaurant grease, animal tissues and fat on the kibbles for palatability. Imagine what’s in the restaurant grease. Rancid, heavily preserved fats are extremely hard to digest and can produce a myriad of health problems. 

10/03 Issue of Nexus                                                                                                                                                                                   Ann Martin spent 10 years researching the pet food industry. Much of the information in the Nexus article comes from Food Pets Die For. All caring pet owners should give a look at the ingredients allowed by the Department of Agriculture and Association of American Feed Control Officials such as “dehydrated garbage, manure, swine waste, ruminant waste, poultry waste and excreta from any animal except huimans.”                                                                                                           Martin writes in Protect Your Pet that California operates more rendering plants than any state in USA. “Los Angeles sends 200 tons of euthanized cats and dogs to West Coast Rendering every month.” Sodium Pentobarbital, drug used for euthanising animals, is found at high levels, 32 parts per billion in pet food samples. This is not allowed for human or animal food yet the FDA/CVM has no plans to prohibit the presence of sodium pentobarbital in pet food. Yet it’s evident that animals killed with sodium pentobarbital should be incinerated, not rendered and fed back to pets. Martin writes: “Are we slowly killing our pets each tme we feed them commercial pet foods?”                          Another aspect of the pet food is experimentation conducted by commercial companies such as Iams which ncludes the following: The usual surgical horrows; pets confined to tiny cages for 6 years; removal of vocal cords so dogs couldn’t bark. Other companies involved in experimentation: Pedigree Pet Foods, Alpo Pet Foods, Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Home Prepared Food     
Furbabies need a variety of fresh, unprocessed food. Variety is a major factor in good nutrition and avoiding excesses and deficiencies occurring when the same commercial brand is eaten for years. Quality table scraps are preferred to commercial pet food. Use organic meat when feeding it raw. Regular meat is known to contain hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, pesticides and chemicals. It’s easy to observe, smell, taste the difference between inorganic and organic meat.

Recopies for balanced, home-prepared meals are available in a number of books including Pitcairn’s Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. Another approach is the B.A.R.F. (bones and raw food) diet. It might be too rich for elderly and sick animals. Read about it on the internet.

Quality Commercial Food
Quality commercial food uses human food-grade ingredients without artificial preservatives and sodium nitrate (major carcinogen.) Labels list ingredients in order of prominence. Meat should always be first on the list in both canned and dry foods.

Expiration dates provide evidence for reading between the lines. Natural preservatives support a shelf-life of less than a year. When used with a long-term expiration date, something is wrong. Look closely. Fish-meal may be hiding EQ in a prominent position on the list of ingredients.

Cats and dogs have different dietary needs. Cats need taurine, an amino acid found in raw animal tissue. Approximately 80% of taurine is lost through boiling. So make sure the cat gets raw meat every week.

At Least Do This Much
Avoid generic store brands. They use the poorest quality ingredients. Mix table scraps and greens with commercial food. Add raw eggs and raw organic meats several times a week. Cultured yogurt protects the stomach and digestive system from antibiotics found in most meat. Add a little to each meal. Avoid food with the fast-food smell of rancid fat and oil. Cheap, unsavory dry food has an unforgivable odor wafting from obviously oily bags. Always think variety.

Boycott a product made for indoor cats: clumping kitty litter. It is a killer. The clumpers use sodium bentonite. When liquid is added, the granules become hard, insoluble, cement-like and swell to 15 times their original volume. What happens when cats breathe the fine dust into their lungs? Does their gut become blocked by ingesting small particles when cleaning themselves? Have you tried cleaning it out when it’s packed between the toes? The makers of easy-clumping litter admit to problems but say it is a buyer-beware market. There are many fur-raising stories on the internet under: kitty-litter problems.      Be aware of what is happening with your pet’s digestion. Chronic diarrhea, constipation and bad breath indicate the need for dietary changes. Consult helpful books such as those mentioned above and The Essential Book for Dogs Over Five by Tamara Shearer. There’s a wealth of info at www.api4animals.org. Don Hamilton, DVM is available by phone for residents of northern New Mexico.

Missy is alive and well in New Mexico. She’s amazingly well for a 14 year old girl with cancer. Exercise is of major importance. We go for walks in the forest everyday. We walk when she doesn’t particularly care for exercise. It helps to keep her bowels normal. She’s no longer the very swift runner but her nose does a lot of traveling and she’s happy to be alive. And of course I consider every day with her an incredible blessing. 

Further reading:
How to Have a Healthier Dog by Belfield DVM and Zucker
The Very Healthy Cat Book by Dr. Belfield
“How Dogs and Cats Get Recycled into Pet Food” John Eckhouse in San Francisco Chronicle
“The Truth About Cats and Dogs” by Ann Martin in Summer ’96; Earth Island Journal
“Food not Fit for a Pet” by Wendell O. Belfield DVM 


1989 – June 18, 2003