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Animal Doctor: Major pet food recall is tip of iceberg

Animal Doctor: Major pet food recall is tip of iceberg

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Dear Readers: Currently, more than 90% of corn, cotton and soybean acreage in the United States is planted with genetically engineered seeds. Most of these GE seeds are either herbicide-tolerant (HT) or insect-resistant (Bt, short for Bacillus thuringiensis, the bacteria used to treat the seeds). If seeds are HT and Bt, they are called “stacked.” Soybean seeds with stacked traits are currently not commercially available in the United States but are being imported from Brazil. In addition, more than 90% of the U.S. canola crop is engineered to have some level of herbicide resistance.

This means corn, soy and cottonseed cake and oil, and canola oil — all variously incorporated into farmed animal and manufactured cat and dog foods — can contain herbicide residues and Bt insecticide. These contaminants may disrupt the gut microbiome, leading to multiple health problems.

With climate change leading to increased rainfall and higher moisture content of certain crops, corn may be more susceptible to fungal infection or mold that can produce toxins like aflatoxin. Aflatoxin, when ingested, can cause lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and jaundice from liver damage. According to the National Institutes of Health, aflatoxin is associated with liver cancer in humans.

Bt may reduce insect-transmitted fungal infections in stacked corn, but spraying crops with herbicide to accelerate drying prior to harvesting (also done with conventional wheat and other cereals) creates additional food and environmental contamination.

Aflatoxin contamination is one of the most frequent causes of pet food recalls, second only to salmonella from contaminated farmed animal ingredients. Just this past October, pet food maker Sunshine Mills recalled products (mainly dog and cat kibble) containing excessive aflatoxin levels. These products were sold under the following brand names: Champ, Family Pet, Field Trail, Good Dog, Heartland Farms, Hunter’s Special, Old Glory, Paws Happy Life, Pet Expert, Principle, Retriever, River Bend, Sportsman’s Pride, Sprout, Thrifty, Top Runner and Whiskers & Tails. Affected lot codes were 3/April/2020, 4/April/2020 and 5/April/2020.

Corn has no place in cat foods. To help reduce health risks to human consumers and companion animals — as well as avoid costly recalls and potential legal liability for the manufacturers — all corn, soy and other ingredients in pet foods should be certified either organic or GMO-free.

Dear Dr. Fox: A friend was going to give me some information about using garlic to keep ticks and fleas off dogs. He swore by it. But he died from a heart attack, so I never got him to explain the details to me. — D.R.H., Hanna, Oklahoma

Dear R.H.: Sorry to hear about the demise of your friend. Garlic is a potent herbal product with many health benefits, and it is generally believed to help ward off fleas and ticks. I advise one finely chopped clove of garlic (about the size of your index fingernail) per 30 pounds of the dog’s body weight, mixed in with one meal every three or four days. Given without food, garlic will harm the lining of the stomach. I always advise combining garlic with nutritional yeast (NOT baker’s yeast): ½ teaspoon per 30 pounds of dog.

Garlic should not be given to cats or to some dog breeds, such as Akitas and shibus, because it can cause hemolytic anemia. Onions will also do this to cats and some dogs.

Garlic inhibits blood clotting, which can help in cases of thrombosis. It was used during WWI as an emergency antibiotic and antifungal wound treatment. Along with ginger, it helps clear lung congestion and has antiviral properties. Garlic also has antioxidant- and immune system-boosting properties, as well as helping to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol. It is one of nature’s greatest gifts indeed!

Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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