Pet Food- Can it Really be Making my Pet Sick?

When Food Makes our Pet’s Sick- A Common Tail

It’s Friday night! TGIF! 7 o’clock rolls around and you feel like hitting the town at one of your favorite restaurants.  A glass of wine, your favorite meal, good conversations; it's just want the doctor ordered.  9pm, your stomach grumbles, “I don’t feel so good.” Time to head home. Then comes the worst night of your life: vomiting, diarrhea: “sick as a dog.”

The next day you finally feel better.  The waves of nausea have past.  You sip some water and start your day of rest and recovery.  In the evening you think you can eat something but all you have are the leftovers from your meal last night.  You pull it out of the fridge, the smell alone causes your stomach to grumble, lurch and churn.  “It’s better to be safe then sorry,”  your intuition says.  Who wouldn’t dump their food in the garbage after how bad they felt?  

The above experience is one that most everyone has experienced at least once in their life, but did you know that it can be a common occurrence for our pets?  

Pet food, regardless of what you feed your pet: dry kibble, raw, dehydrated, freeze-dried, canned and even home cooked foods all have the potential to cause our pet’s tummy to rumble and churn when they consume a tainted bowl.  Excess bacteria, vitamin poisoning, mineral poisoning, rat poisoning, arsenic, lead, melamine, mold, and rancid food are all just a few things that can make our pets very sick.  Vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, dehydration and food aversion are just as common in pets with food poisoning as it is for us.

As pet owners, we care deeply about our pets.  Anyone who has stayed up all night with a sick pet knows that it is just as worrisome as staying up with a sick child, if not worse for some.  As pet owners we are told that our pet is most likely sick for a whole slew of reasons that don’t involve the food that they are eating, but why?

When polled pet parents have reported that even after their pet is extremely sick, with any number of symptoms listed above, they still continued to put their pet’s food down, bowl after bowl, day after day.  Pet owners also report that even after taking their pet in to see their veterinarian to run a variety of tests and scans they still continue to feed their pet's current diet. Too many pet parents to count have said that they have spent more than $1000  in tests and still no one knows what is wrong, all tests and scans are reported "normal."  There veterinarian then prescribes an antibiotic and a bland diet. 

One-two weeks later symptoms clear up and pet parents are told to slowly incorporate their pet's food back into their diet but the symptoms start all over again! Our pet's continue to vomit and have diarrhea, they now start avoiding their food for several meals at a time, which then leads to weight loss.  This can go on for months, under the belief that their pet's food can't be the cause of their distress!  Unfortunately this leads to either a deathly ill pet or they are labeled with a variety of illnesses like;  a “sensitive stomach,” food intolerance, maybe pancreatitis, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome or something else digestive related. 

Why is it easier to believe that something is fundamentally wrong with our pet's body, rather then believe that our pet's food could be the reason they are sick?

Our pets are OUR family members.  They sleep on our bed at night, go on trips and keep us safe, they make us laugh after a hard day, they are one of the only friends that many of us have.  They are more than our companions and we know when they are normal and when something seems off.  

We KNOW our pets and for some reason we aren’t encouraged to trust our intuition when it comes to when our pet is sick, why is that?

My advice to pet owners:  Listen to your pet, listen to YOUR gut when it says that something is wrong with your pet.  We live with our pets day after day, and if we see a pattern that is connected with meal time then yes, you can think there could be a connection to their food. There is not a single brand, company or food preparation method out there that can be considered safe and perfect. Even if your favorite pet food company has never had a recall, it too has the potential to make your pet sick.

When it comes to our pet’s food, contamination can and does happen just like with our food.    

The confidence you have in your pet's behavior, as well as the empowerment you feel as a pet owner to make proactive choices for your pet's health, is more important than what is in your pet's food bowl. It is also more important than brand loyalty. I don't care if your pet’s food is the most expensive food on the market, or one your veterinarian recommends or even the website or friend that states that this food is the “best brand out there.” If you see a connection between your pet’s symptoms and behaviors and their food, then you do what is best for your pet and throw it out or return it.

Pet food companies need to do a better job for our furry friends.  It is an illusion for us to believe that the pet food industry is regulated by certain governing agencies that want the best for our pets. This notion can't be any further from the truth.  Pet food companies self regulate their business practices based on the bottom line $.  It is only after enough of our furry companions die due to a particular contamination that the FDA actually steps in, but by this time its already too late.  We as pet owners need to hold these companies accountable and the way we do that is through our pocket book and through word of mouth.  

To sum up: 

  1. Yes, your pet's food could be the thing that is making them sick.
  2. Listen to your pet's symptoms and behavior and toss the food if you see a connection.
  3. No company, brand or processing technique is perfect.
  4. Listen to your gut, you are your pet's advocate.
  5. Work with your holistic veterinarian or pet nutritionist to find the right diet for your pet.

No other person, business or company is going to know, love and do what is best for your pet. Only you can be their voice.  

Final note:  This article is to bring attention to the possibility that pet food can cause food related illness due to a variety of contaminates. It is also my hope to empower and encourage pet owners to advocate on behalf of their pets. No company or pet food is perfect. It is also important to note that pet food is not the only thing that can cause your pet to be ill.  Your pet's diet, environment, age, and genetics can all play a roll.  If you have questions or concerns about your pet's symptoms or food, please contact your holistic veterinarian or pet nutritionist.   Some pet owners find that a regulated fast or a bland diet of turkey and pumpkin can help alleviate digestive discomfort.