Responsible pet parents do their best to keep pets healthy: they feed their pets premium-quality food, read labels, limit snacking, provide plenty of fresh water, and make sure they get sufficient exercise. So why are we seeing an accelerated rise in allergies, obesity, cancer, epilepsy, diabetes, and arthritis in our pets along with a never-ending list of new maladies?
My husband and I were forced to address these questions when we had an epileptic German Shepherd in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, when poor Jasmin had her first grand mal seizure at age three, not much information was available for alternative therapy. The standard, acceptable treatment at that time was Phenobarbital, a barbiturate with sedative and hypnotic properties, and potassium bromide, a salt solution. The high doses required to control the seizures turned our happy, high-energy dog into a zombie.
When it became evident that food additives exacerbated the problem, we changed dog food. This helped, but we were never able to completely wean our dog off the seizure medication. In Jasmin’s last years we supplemented her diet with K9 Formula from Cheval International to help alleviate arthritis and stiffness problems. It not only provided relief for her joints, but amazingly reduced the number and length of her seizure episodes. At that point we realized the dog food was lacking some necessary nutrients. Even though we never entirely eliminated Jasmin’s seizures, our dog ended up living 12 years.
All this occurred before the international awareness of pet food manufacturers using genetically modified food or poisoned ingredients from China that killed thousands of pets in 2007, spawning a pet food recall of epic proportions. More than ever, consumers rallied to learn about the ingredients in their pet food and their origination.
Our four-year-old Australian Shepherd Asher has had seizures since age two. What are the odds of having two epileptic dogs? He was on high-quality premium dog food that we supplemented with K9 Formula since he was a puppy; this may account for the fact that he had only one very mild seizure every six or seven months.
But one evening in February, Asher had a series of cluster seizures. By the time we reached the emergency veterinarian clinic, he’d been seizing almost an hour. After two shots of liquid valium, the seizures stopped. The next day we took Asher to our vet, who tested him thoroughly, then prescribed Phenobarbital. In despair, I looked for every possible answer. Asher hadn’t gotten into anything, the food was free of preservatives, we used green cleaning products, the water was filtered, and so on.
But then I discovered the website of a veterinarian named Dogtor J. who treated canine epilepsy successfully with diet most of the time. Evidently, wheat, corn, and soy fillers in pet food are major culprits. We assumed because we fed our dogs premium food, the fillers were safe as well. What an eye opener! In the 1990s, genetically modified foods, especially corn and soy, were introduced into our food supply. About this time, life-threatening food allergies increased greatly in humans as well as animals. Dogtor J. recommends switching to a food that uses potatoes as the filler. Even brown rice and oats can sometimes cause problems in epileptic dogs, so a limited-ingredient formula is even better.
We immediately changed Asher’s food. He hasn’t had a seizure since. By July, he was doing so well that we weaned him entirely off the Phenobarbital. We also noticed another benefit of the food. Asher had been overweight all his adult life and lost little even on a strict diet and exercise program. After several months on the new food, however, our dog began to lose weight. During his checkup this fall, our vet said he looked fantastic.
Because two of our cats are overweight, we decided to change our cats’ food. After eliminating the soy, wheat and corn fillers, we noticed all our cats have softer, silkier coats and more energy; the two hefty cats are slimming down nicely. Even better, they eat far less which offsets the higher cost of the food. My friend Tanya had a ten-year-old cat that developed horrible scabs and bare patches on her skin caused by food allergies. After several months of eating food without soy, wheat or corn, the cat is now completely healed.
Fortunately, many sources are now available to help you figure out the best way to feed your pets. If you are currently giving a pet medication for a specific disease, do not decrease the medication without your veterinarian’s help—it can be dangerous, even deadly. Your vet can also help you select a healthier diet. Many people now prefer home-made or raw-food diets for their pets, but they still must use ingredients that are free of growth hormones, antibiotics, additives and pesticides.
It is understandable that many people do not have the time or money to make their own food or buy the brands that don’t use cheap fillers. However, please keep in mind that your pets will eat less of the high-quality food, will feel better, and may not need as much medication. In our case, we were able to save $20 a month in meds. If your pets are currently healthy, providing a better diet is good preventive care.
Because we saw such dramatic results in our pets, we cannot in good conscience ever go back to feeding our animals their previous food. If you are feeding your pets food with corn, soy, and wheat fillers, challenge you review the resources provided in this article and consider an alternative food for your pets. Like us, you may be at the results.
Copyright 2010, Debbie Decker
Debbie Decker is a technical editor and the author of Treasure Cat Tails From the Trash Can to the Parlor, a beautifully illustrated book with inspiring, true cat-rescue “tails.” She lives in Fountain, Colorado, with her husband, two dogs and their rescued cats. For more information, visit www.TreasureCatTails.com.
 Cheval International, K9 Companions, <http://www.chevalinternational.com/page8.html>, (12 November 2010),
 FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Melamine Pet Food Recall of 2007,” 15 March 2007, <http://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/safetyhealth/recallswithdrawals/ucm129575.htm>, 7 October 2010
 “Dog Nutrition,” 2009–2010, Three Little Pitties, <http://www.three-little-pitties.com/dog-nutrition.html>, 14 November 2010.