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GMOs and Your Pet’s Diet

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We’ve all heard the debates about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food, but what about our pets’ food? Are our cats and dogs at risk too?

Two of the most common “fillers” in manufactured cat and dog foods are genetically modified corn and soy. Since cats are strict obligate carnivores, corn can cause bladder inflammation and soy can cause indigestion. Corn and soy can also cause inflammation and indigestion in dogs, and it can even put them at risk of epilepsy. Both dogs and cats have suffered from stones that result in emergency surgery because of the high cereal content.

Dr. Michael Fox is a veterinary consultant, author of the nationally syndicated column, “Animal Doctor,” and expert on the subject of GMOs in pet food. In his practice, he has seen veterinary treatments fail for everything from allergies to skin problems, irritable bowel syndrome, vomiting, asthma, and immune system disease. In many instances, these pets are administered prescription remedies that cause equally harmful side effects. And in many instances, these pets saw improvements in their health after GMO foods were omitted from their diets.

According to NaturalNews.com, more than half of corn on farms in the United States is grown from genetically modified seed. This means that your pet has about a 50/50 chance of ingesting GMOs when you pick up store-bought pet food. A group of Greek scientists published a 2009 journal article, “Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition,” that identified a number of health risks associated with GMO foods. Specifically, the scientists linked GMO foods to chronic gastrointestinal disease, immunodeficiency, and damage to pancreatic, renal, and reproductive systems.

Although these are scary facts, what we don’t know is even scarier. GMO crops have shown to be unstable and mutate unexpectedly. Therefore, we can’t even be sure if the food growing from our crops is safe or nutritious. The 2013 Agricultural Appropriations Bill includes provisions that affect what goes into our food and the food for our pets. Since it can be difficult to track where the ingredients in mass-manufactured pet food come from, the easiest way to keep your pet GMO-free is by buying foods labeled with a USDA Organic Certification.

As a general rule, you should avoid including soybeans, corn, canola, cottonseed, and sugar beets in your pet’s diet, since these foods have a history of GMOs. Always look for labels on your pet’s food (and your own) that verify it is free of GMOs. If you’re still not sure after reading the label, you can always call the number on the packaging and ask the manufacturer directly. Many pet owners are beginning to prepare their pet’s food themselves at home so they feel confident about the ingredients going into the food. But to make sure that you’re creating a balanced diet for your pet, consult your veterinarian or a nutritionist before making the switch from store-bought to homemade. 

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