Friday, February 10, 2012
A VALENTINE FOR MY DOG
But on my side, I feel I have let you down. Because you are such a young wildly energetic dog, with much of your earlier life spent scavenging on the street, and have survived eating some things that should have finished you off, I have rationalized that I didn't have to be so careful about what I fed you. Your predecessor was given healthy home-cooked food. But most of the time you've eaten commercial "store-bought" food out of bags and cans.
What you are getting is basically our human food leftovers or rejects plus a bunch of additives to make it taste better, look nicer (for us, not you) and last longer. A lot of this food is made up of grains - even in those more expensive brands that claim to be so healthy. And, as the last few months have shown, they carry safety as well as nutritional risks. One of the main ones is aflatoxin. This mycotoxin (occasionally produced by some molds) is particularly common in grains such as corn, especially in the lower quality corn products that go into making your food.
And yes, now commercial dog food has established limits for these toxins, as also exist in our food, though they are not as well enforced. Nevertheless, sometimes high levels are caught through testing. This happened at the end of last year, with several types and brands of dog food. Cargill Animal Health, Procter and Gamble, Advanced Animal Nutrition, O’Neal’s Feeders Supply and Petrus Feed and Seed Stores each recalled several lots of dry dog food during a six-day span. Others followed.
And that hasn't been the only time. The worst case I know of before that was in 2006 when at least a hundred dogs died and countless others became seriously ill over a period of months as a result of high levels of aflatoxin in 19 brands of Diamond Pet Foods. Even if there isn't enough aflatoxin in your food to be fatal - and it doesn't take much - it can leave you with serious liver problems along with unpleasant symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and jaundice.
No, Gunesh, you are not getting a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day (chocolate is high on the "don't eat list" for dogs) but I do promise to give you safer and healthier food. In fact, I think I'll start by cooking you one of your favorites for Valentine's Day: a turkey burger, with a fried egg on top. We want you to stay healthy and happy and be around for many more years.