Monday, December 13, 2010

Do they put dead dogs and cats in dog food?

Lately a forward (really a video) has crossed my desk (or computer?) about how when they euthanize animals at animal shelters etc, they send them out, in a semi rotting condition, also diseased animals (they get graphic) for rendering into dog and cat food. Of course, this author, Andrew Lewis, is not giving away his book - he's selling it and then, you don't even get a hard copy... you pay to download it. Great for his overhead - maybe not so good for you?

Because this is a difficult one to check up on, Mr Andrews' video is upsetting dog and cat lovers all over the place. Mr Lewis is apparently some kind of vegan who suggests giving all veggies to your four footed friends.

This is not a good idea since dogs and cats are carnivores which mean they only can digest meat. Things like kibbles are given to clean and exercise their teeth and provide roughage but dogs and cats should also be fed a goodly portion of meat as their staple food (cats have a habit of catching their own meat like mice etc - occasionally they will, to be nice to their owners, bring in a freshly killed mouse or rat for their human to admire and enjoy!) :)

So are Andrew Lewis' claims true? From my research, I would say, definitely no, they are not true!

He claims that since there was a study which found traces of sodium pentobarbital in dogfood (the sedative medication used to euthanize dogs and cats), that "proves" that dog food is made out of euthanized pets.

Actually, when the scientists at the FDA found the trace amounts of this drug in dog food, they wondered about the same thing, so they devised a test to look for dog or cat DNA in dog food:

CVM scientists also developed a test to detect dog and cat DNA in the protein of dog food. Since pentobarbital is used to euthanize dogs and cats at animal shelters, finding pentobarbital in rendered feed ingredients could suggest that pets were rendered and used in pet food. Test results indicated a complete absence of protein material that would have been derived from euthanized dogs or cats. As a result of their study, CVM scientists assume the source of the pentobarbital in dog food is cattle or horses euthanized and then rendered.

It should be noted that small amounts of pentobarbital are not lethal, even for humans - to euthanize an animal, an overdose of this medication must be administered. Otherwise, it's just a sedative (although it's likely the trace amounts found in dog food don't have much of an effect on the animals).

Andrew's first claim is easily disproved by this study! But I decided to look into it further since Andrew seems so passionate about his claims.

I called several animal shelters run by the state or county, both in my state and in New Jersy. All of them told me that they try hard to find homes for pets and if they have to euthanize them, it's done by injection i.e. an overdose of sedative (apparently no more decompression chambers!). The carcasses are buried in a mass grave (in my state) or sent out to be mass cremated in New Jersey.

Checking up on rendering plants (which would be guilty of recycling the animals), I found that they only get dead farm animals, and the leftovers from the slaughter-houses. This is sterilized and cooked into mush and dried into powder and made into tallow used in candles etc as well as feed for swine and chickens. Apparently it's no longer given to cows for fear of "mad cow disease" since cows are included in the dead farm animals and also from the slaughtering plants.

Since those farm animals are apparently euthanized by injection, some of what goes to the rendering plant includes the euthanizing drug. However, I would like to point out that in regular tap water, there are also traces of drugs including female hormones. And no, house water filters do not filter this out - they only filter particulates ( stuff floating in the water) and if you don't change them every two weeks or so, they do not filter out any impurities - two reasons. First, the water does not sit long enough in the filter for reverse osmosis to work well for that and second, the filters get saturated quickly. But if you do change them every two weeks, it gets prohibitively expensive and it's way cheaper to buy bottled water which is more efficiently filtered and sanitized than the best of home filters could do.

Bottom line, anything in which tap water is used in the processing, contains all kinds of traces of medications.

Final claim of Mr Lewis: plastic collars etc are rendered along with the dead animals. Keep in mind, this is not in the dog food but in the feed given to chickens and swine. And according to my research this is true but then, it's also true of human food that there are trace amounts of "other" in it. Other can contain all kinds of things and it's well known that the human body has a good tolerance for the "other" stuff. If we cannot digest it, we pass it on through. Since most of us eat fast and processed food at least some of the time but are living longer than ever, there is no evidence that the "other" in food is lethal as some would want us to believe. So it certainly isn't going to be lethal in the feed for chickens and swine either.

More expensive dog food has more meat and less "filler" like starchy stuff in it. If you want to cook hamburger for your dog, your dog will like it but we've raised healthy dogs on both hamburger and good dog food and found neither was more healthy than the other. The jury seems to be out on whether a part of the dog diet should include kibble type food. Health in dogs seems to be how much you love them and how much exercise they get and not whether you feed them hamburger or dog food. Dogs need cardio once a day just like humans - best is to have a place for them to run or there are available, dog treadmills. Turns out our animals are often as under-exercised as we are. Cardio is the only way to exercise the heart muscle - whether you are a dog or a human.

That being said, I know folks who feed their dogs, garbage from the table and kibbles only and still have healthy dogs with good coats and great longevity - go figure.

Much as we like to think of our dogs as human, they are not - they do like to drink out of toilets and will eat their own feces without any seemingly bad side effects. They also eat human feces and it has been said that this is how dogs and humans first formed an alliance - the dogs would hover around the caves where humans dwelled and eat the human feces, eventually becoming friendly with their human "food suppliers".

So when you look at your pampered pet, which has just finished its carefully prepared meal, comfortably sitting on its own easy chair or your lap, you can definitely say (like the commercial) "You've come a long way baby!"


  1. Dear Sue....
    Well that sure put a different spin on the article --- He has a nice smile and well he should, at $17.95 a pop, he is selling his dog-food recipes. Nothing like watching your dog lick their privates, then come and give you a big Kiss --- it does say we have come a long way baby :-) Barry, NJ

  2. I just stumbled on your article and as it is a few years old I wonder if you have re-checked your sources. In Los Angeles County alone over 200 tons/month of dead animals are picked up and delivered where? Much of it to a rendering plant in Vernon, Ca, and used for dog food.
    In a September, 1995 article titled What's Cooking , Baltimore City Paper takes their readers through Valley Proteins, Baltimore's only rendering plant with very graphic pictures of dead animals stuffed into barrels, one picture shows a dead dog ; another is of fried animal parts! Neil Gagnon, general manager of Valley Proteins says that 150 million pounds of rotting flesh are fed into the plants grinders and cookers each year to produce 80 million pounds of the plants three products; meat and bone meal, tallow and yellow grease. Most goes into chicken feed, the rest into dry pet food.
    You cite a CVM study but don't produce it. The CVM (College of Veterinary Medicine) receives much of their funding from where??? DOG FOOD COMPANIES, as do veterinary schools.
    Digestive issues are on the rise but guess what? They largely go away when dogs are switched to raw, non-commercial, food (ie; human grade chicken, beef, pork, etc). More and more veterinary professionals are recommending raw feeding.

    1. Your comment is kind of enlightening. At the time I wrote this blog, the information was current but things could have changed. Guess I need to do a new research on this - thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    2. Or, Research!

      s there similar video tape of dead dogs and cats being rendered into dog food?

      No there is is not.

      In fact, the entire dead-dogs-turned-into-dog-food-story seems to have been sparked by a single 1995 story in the Baltimore City Paper (a free local newspaper more famous for its "personals" column than its reporting) which asserted -- but never proved -- that a local independent rendering plant was running two separate lines (one for slaughterhouse and butcher waste, and the other for roadkill and euthanized pets) and then mixing the fats at the end of the run.

      But guess what?

      When ABC television's 20/20 news program investigated, they found the story had no legs. It was not true so far as they could tell, and they had to pull the plug on the story that they had intended to take national.

      Other reporters have chased the same story again and again over the years, but they too have come up with nothing despite the fact that everyone with an Ipod Nano now has a miniature camera and recording device capable of making a pile of cash for the right video tape.

    3. @Penguilator - thanks for the interesting comment - you saved me some research on this!