THE WEST AUSTRALIAN ‘TODAY’ MONDAY MARCH 11 2002
Are we poisoning our pets?
A controversial Sydney vet says we give our cats and dogs the wrong food. He tells OLGA de MOELLER they should eat raw, meaty bones.
Cats and dogs are finicky customers, it seems. Cast an eye down the supermarket pet food aisle and it seems hard to imagine our four-footed friends could stomach anything other than tender slices of turkey, succulent flaked tuna and gourmet beef.
Not so, says Sydney vet Tom Lonsdale, who is due to visit Perth this month. He says that carnivores, which evolved on a diet of whole carcasses, fare badly on canned and dry foods.
Instead, he says, cats and dogs should eat predominantly raw, meaty bones – the title of his book. This took five years to complete and caused so much fur to fly that he says he sold his veterinary practice in 1997 to ease the load.
Dr Lonsdale, a graduate of the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London, claims pet food diets based on processed meat and cereal are making animals sick by causing dental disease, which can lead to a range of debilitating and often fatal conditions, such as kidney failure and cancer.
He has infuriated his profession, which, he says, acknowledges the severity of oral disease in pets and is making big profits out of animal dentistry by using treatments that should be unnecessary.
“Modern processed diets are known to be responsible for periodontal or gum disease, which affects more than 85 per cent of domestic cats and dogs over three years of age,” he said.
“Slurping canned food does not scrub, clean and polish the teeth, which is what happens when a dog eats a raw, meaty bone.
If bacteria are not cleaned away, they set up major smelly infections, which rot the gums and dissolve the living jaw bone. Ultimately, the teeth can fall out. Bad breath is often the first sign that something is wrong.”
Take foul-mouth AIDS, a form of acquired immune deficiency syndrome described by Dr Lonsdale in 1996.
He attributed the condition to dietary factors and toxins circulating in the blood from dental disease, which depressed the immune system and could lead to skin rashes and lethargy, not to mention more serious heart, liver and kidney problems.
Dr Lonsdale argued that treating the rotting mouth and providing pets with a natural diet allowed the immune system to recover and gave animals a new lease of life.
Even a 12-year-old terrier with few teeth, mammary cancer, a heart condition and liver problems bounced back and gained weight on a diet of raw chicken wings.
Dr Lonsdale stressed that foul-mouth AIDS was not contagious and was not caused by a virus like HIV or the feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
“The veterinary establishment engaged a Queensland University professor to refute the AIDS claim, which I stand by and which the community urgently needs to be informed of,” he said.
Dr Lonsdale said that processed foods were full of additives, such as colouring agents and preservatives, and most contained cereal grains, which were not a natural part of a carnivore’s diet and could lead to a range of health problems.
“The primary ingredients in these foods are unsuitable for carnivores,” he said. “The cooking process changes the composition of fats and proteins, the vitamins often get destroyed and the mineral balance is a hit-and-miss affair.
“Fed on a daily basis, these foods are bound to have an adverse effect on a pet.”
Dr Lonsdale said a domestic dog’s diet should be 70 per cent raw meaty bones, plus table scraps to provide other nutrients. Cats should have at least 80 per cent raw, meaty bones.
“Try to fit the size of the raw meat bones to the size of the animal,” he said. “Cats and small dogs could have whole fish, chicken wings, necks, quail and rabbit.
“Larger dogs could be given pig’s trotters, ox tails, kangaroo tails and lamb shanks.
Dr Lonsdale said kittens and puppies should be offered chicken necks and wings from three weeks to promote good health.
“Raw, meaty bones should not be cut into small pieces,” he said. “It’s best if the animal spends time and effort chewing on its food, as nature intended.”
Cooked bones should be avoided – because they can get stuck in the bowel – as should small bones, excessive vegetables, milk, chocolate, and vitamin and mineral supplements.
“Natural food costs about one-third of commercially prepared varieties,” he said. “Pets fed a natural diet produce small quantities of poo, without the bad smell, which turns chalky white after a day in the sun.”
A spokesman from the Australian Veterinary Association said the AVA could not comment on Dr Lonsdale’s findings because the organisation had not read his book but suggested people go to its Web site www.ava.com.au for recommendations on feeding cats and dogs.
Information sheets there say that periodontal disease is common in pet cats and dogs and existed well before the introduction of commercially prepared foods.
The AVA acknowledges that soft food diets, even if nutritionally complete, can lead to periodontal disease and says that commercially prepared foods may lack the physical characteristics necessary for dental health.
It agrees that raw, meaty bones promote good oral hygiene but do not provide balanced nutrition.
The AVA says there is only circumstantial and little hard scientific evidence to link dental health with other diseases.
Duncan Hall, external affairs manager for pet food manufacturer Uncle Ben’s Australia, described Dr Lonsdale’s views on diet and ill-health as highly individual and not supported by the majority of vets.
Dr Hall said Uncle Ben’s pet foods were convenient, safe and nutritious, but agreed it could be beneficial to give a dog a couple of bones a week with veterinary guidance.
Dr Lonsdale will give a lecture and workshop, entitled Raw, Meaty Bones, for the University of WA Extension program on March 21 and March 23. The lecture costs $22 and the workshop costs $97. Inquiries to (08) 9380 2433.
* Tom Lonsdale’s self published book Raw, Meaty Bones costs $39.95, plus postage.
Telephone: (02) 4574 0537 or visit Web site www.rawmeatybones.com
Sydney Vet Tom Lonsdale says raw, meaty bones are essential for your pet's health
(Photo supplied by Hawkesbury Gazette, NSW)
An example of healthy canine teeth