Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "Mad Cow Disease" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

Mad Cow Disease

By Charlotte Peltz

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and BSE-like diseases have been recognized for years in the United States. In 1985, experimentally infected steers did not develop symptoms of "madness" but instead became ataxic and went 'down."

In that same year, the first reported cases of the bizarre bovine disease were reported in England and many thousands of cattle were destroyed. The disease spread throughout Europe. Before the disease was discovered British cattle were imported into the U.S. and not all those cattle could be accounted for when the investigations began. In 1996 there was a connection made between consumption of infected meat and a human degenerative neurological disease. Recent research suggests that it is not the meat itself, but rather "whole-body contamination" as a result of the slaughtering methods. Many cats (including "big" cats) died and canine deaths have been recorded also.

In 1965, mink farms suffered a BSE-like disease and "chronic wasting disease" (CWD) has long been recognized in deer and elk. The studies show CWD to be a similar disease to BSE.

Cattle, sheep and hogs are fed "ruminant proteins" meaning these vegetarians are fed other animals and therefore all of them are at risk for the disease. In turn, so are you and most certainly your pets, with cats being particularly sensitive. For now, beef appears to offer the greatest risk. Poultry does not seem to suffer from this health issue.

Food animals that arrive at the slaughter house unable to rise on their own are known as "downers" and they DO make it into the human food chain, believe it or not. Any that do not go for human consumption are directed at pet foods. It is estimated that in the U.S. there are 500,000 "downers" each year with only 7500 tested for anything! The question now being raised is, "What if the strain of BSE in American cattle produces more of a 'downer's' disease than mad cow syndrome?"

While there are a few "good" pet foods that do not use animals that fall into the 4 Ds category (Dead, Dying, Diseased and Down) it is unlikely that we have any here [in Mexico]. One clue is if you see the words "animal digest" in the list of ingredients. That means any animal the company gets -- and any way it can get it, including road kill! Downers are sure to be in the package.

If you are still not convinced that a problem exists, note that Dr. Jean Hofve, DVM, reported at, "In 2001 the USDA announced that inspections of feed mills and rendering plants found almost 800 lacking required warning labels and/or systems in place to prevent mixing of banned products into ruminant feeds." Two weeks later a large herd of Texas cattle were quarantined because they were suspect. That is very close to home. Furthermore, it seems that no one is quite sure just how many rendering plants even exist in the U.S.

This problem simply adds to the reasons to feed your pets the very, very best food you can and the one way to do that is know precisely what goes in the food bowl. If you will not make the effort to feed "real" food to your pet, at the very least, learn to read the labels on those packages. Incidentally, the most expensive may well not be the best but you can be absolutely certain that the cheapest foods are filled with many suspect ingredients from cancer-causing preservatives to "animal digest". The latest scare may seem far away but maybe not.

P.S. From a report December 24, 2003, UPI by Steve Mitchell, a U.S. recall of pet foods may well happen because of the positive tests on a cow from the state of Washington. Dr. Lester Crawford, FDA's deputy commissioner to UPI said there is no way of knowing how much pet food would have to be recalled. But, he said the FDA does not consider the infectious agent, called a prion, can be diluted to safe levels. So even if a small batch of infected pet food was mixed with a ton of other food the whole ton would have to be destroyed.

"Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things man will not himself find peace." Albert Schweitzer.

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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