Americans love cereal! The cereal aisle is one of the most densely populated sections of the grocery store, lined with boxes upon boxes of fortified and enriched contents. Moms feel good feeding this stuff to their children because it’s fortified with all of those vitamins and minerals we’ve been led to believe are the building blocks of health.
Have you ever thought about how similar a box of cereal and a bag of dog food are? If you haven’t, then I’m here to tell you they are remarkably similar. Here are a few things they have in common:
They are both highly processed foods
The food needs to be “fortified” with vitamins and minerals to have any value
They both cause ill health and disease in the unlucky consumer
The Dog’s Breakfast
The dog’s breakfast is slang for “a complete mess.” While nobody took the time to write down the exact origin of the phrase, the allusion seems to be to food that is fit only for consumption by the last resort, Fido. It means something so fouled up as to be utterly useless.
When you look at a box of cereal, you’ll often see the words “vitamin enriched” and “fortified.” What do these statements mean? It means that the food has “vitamins” sprayed all over it. But if the food needs to be fortified in the first place, you can bet it’s because there’s something missing in that food.
High heating and processing does that to food – once processed, the food is devoid of any nutrients or enzymes – it is devoid of “life.”
Dog food is treated much the same way. It’s heated, processed and extruded until the final product is virtually unrecognizable as food by the body. Even if the finest quality, human grade ingredients go into the food, by the time it comes out of the extruder, there isn’t much left to separate dollar store food from the expensive premium brands.
In fact, the resulting product is so deficient in nutrients, it’s not even capable of passing minimal AAFCO standards.
Enter The Premix
Like breakfast cereal, kibble needs to be fortified to be recognizable as food. So the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, enzymes and beneficial bacteria that were baked and processed out of the food are added back to the food as something called a “premix.”
A premix is basically a bag of vitamins and minerals. This is added to the food and this premix enables the food to pass AAFCO standards and be sold as “complete and balanced nutrition.”
This all sounds pretty logical to the kibble manufacturers, but smart pet owners might ask this question before buying that bag of food:
“Can a dead and sterile food be called nutritionally complete simply because some cheap, synthetic vitamins are sprayed on it?”
The Problem With Synthetic Nutrition
Have you ever looked at a dog food label? Not the part about chicken and rice, the bottom half where it starts to look more like an organic chemistry textbook than a food label. All of those long, convoluted chemical names are, you guessed it, chemicals! They’re not food.
Real vitamins are living complexes that contribute to other living complexes like cell repair, circulatory activities and collagen production. They coexist in food with other living complexes like enzymes and essential trace minerals and they all function synergistically.
Synthetic vitamins, the kind found in premixes, were never alive nor part of anything alive. That’s what synthetic means: it occurs nowhere in nature. Synthetic vitamins are chemicals and the body recognizes them as chemicals, just like it does any other drug. This is why vitamins and drugs are both measured in milligrams. This is also why we have something called “vitamin toxicity.”
It’s virtually impossible to get too much vitamin D from sunshine or foods but dogs are harmed from vitamin D toxicity from pet foods each and every year. Vitamin D toxicity, or hypervitaminosis D, causes bone loss and abnormally high serum calcium levels, which can result in kidney stones and the calcification of organs like the heart and kidneys. These are really common issues in dogs today yet nobody looks at food as a cause until dogs literally drop dead from eating it. Otherwise, nobody makes the connection and the synthetic vitamin D builds up in the dog and creates insidious and seemingly unrelated disease.
Similarly, it’s virtually impossible for real food to cause vitamin A toxicity but synthetic vitamin A toxicity is well published and probably a lot more common that you might think. The effects of vitamin A toxicity include:
- increased tumor growth
- joint disorders
- dry skin
- enlargement of the liver and spleen
- immune depression
- birth defects
Half of adult dogs die of cancer while joint disease is affecting today’s dogs at epidemic proportions.
Kibble Creates Malnutrition
Here are the takeaway points every pet owner should know about synthetic vitamins and premixes (and this applies to all premixes, not just those made in China):
- Vitamins, minerals and enzymes all work together as co-factors. If one part is missing, in the wrong form or in the wrong amount, then entire chains of metabolic processes will misfire, causing a downward spiral in health that can take months or years to manifest as disease.
- Synthetic vitamins are treated as drugs by the body and like any other toxin, must be filtered by the liver. Dr Casimir Funk says this about synthetic vitamins: “these are highly inferior to vitamins from natural sources, also the synthetic product is well known to be far more toxic.”
- Even small doses of vitamin D and vitamin E have been shown to significantly decrease immune function.
- Ascorbic acid is not vitamin C, it is a chemical isolate of vitamin C.
- Synthetic vitamin B is manufactured from coal tar and vitamin B12 comes from activated sewage sludge
- Most vitamin D and lecithin is made from irradiated vegetable oils. Isn’t just a bit counter intuitive to eat something derived from oxidative trans fatty acids with the expectation of better health?
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be associated with virtually every disease. Dr DW Cavanaugh of Cornell University states, “There is only one major disease, and that is malnutrition.”
Real Life Research On Fake Vitamins
What are the real life ramifications of these synthetic vitamins? There are a lot of studies that have a common theme and that is that synthetic vitamins don’t behave in the body like the real ones do. Their actions are either incomplete or harmful. Here are some studies you should be aware of:
- The 1994 New England Journal of Medicine contains a study were 30,000 Finnish subjects were given beta carotene (which the body turns into vitamin A, a vitamin valuable for DNA synthesis and protecting the cells from harmful free radicals) to show the value of antioxidant vitamins. In this study, the subjects who received the synthetic beta carotene were actually 8 times more likely to suffer fatal heart attacks and strokes than those who didn’t.
- In that same study, people taking the fake beta carotene also suffered significant increases in cancer. Lung cancer alone increased by 18%. The study was actually stopped because of the dangers to the people in it. What’s ironic is that synthetic beta carotene which, along with vitamin A, is a powerful antioxidant, is stabilized in refined vegetable oils which are oxidized trans fatty acids, the very things that antioxidants are meant to protect against!
- Two years later, another study was published in the Lancet showing that synthetic beta carotene actually blocked the antioxidant activity of all the other naturally occurring carotenoids in the diet. So the naturally occurring vitamins in the food were blocked by one fake synthetic vitamin.
- In one study done in pigs, vitamin B rendered every subject sterile. (Dr Barnett Sure, Journ Natr 1939)
Two Wrongs Don’t Make Alive
The solution to dead food isn’t adding dead chemicals. At best, they are useless and at worst, they are toxic to the dogs eating them. Pet food manufacturers know their food is devoid of nutrition so they add synthetic premixes in. Pet owners know kibble isn’t as good as real food, so they add supplements and most of these products also contain fake, dead, synthetic vitamins. You can put lipstick on a pig – but it’s still a pig!
If you want your children to get all of their vitamins and minerals, walk right by the cereal aisle and buy them some actual food. You remember food – it’s the stuff that grows in the ground and actually looks like it’s got some life left in it. Your dog also needs to eat real food and the best way to tell if it’s real food is that the label has food on it, not chemical names. If you see any ingredients on your dog food label that look like they would come from your drug store instead of your fridge, then don’t buy it – it’s fake!
Looking at a typical dog food label we see such things as: Acetate, Palmitate, Thiamine mononitrate, Thiamine hydrochloride, Thiamine Chloride, Pyridoxine hydrochloride, Cobalamin or cyanocobalamin, Ascorbic Acid, Pycnogenols, Irradiated ergosterol or Calciferol, dl-alpha tocopherol, Menadione, Beta Carotene and Retinoic acid . How many of these are true vitamins? None – they are all synthetic chemical derivatives.
To meet all of his nutritional needs, feed your dog food. Not people food, not dog food, just good old fashioned food. Clean, fresh meats are an excellent source of vitamins A, E and D (as is coconut oil). Other vitamins can be sourced through organic produce grown in mineral rich soil.
Can’t afford organic food for your dog? Then you should probably give him supplements. But look for whole food supplements. Unlike their synthetic counterparts, whole food vitamins are made from entire plants with the whole vitamin complex intact. The body actually recognizes this as food, not a drug, and the body doesn’t have to compensate for any missing elements because they are all there, just the way Mother Nature intended them to be. Whole food vitamins don’t leech the body of their missing co-factors and don’t cause a vitamin imbalance leading to disease.
The dog’s breakfast is indeed so utterly messed up, it’s become completely useless at best and harmful at worst. Your dog relies on these synthetic vitamins to make up for deficiencies that already exist in his food. What do you think the outcome will be?
About the Author Dana Scott
Dana Scott is Editor In Chief for Dogs Naturally Magazine. She also breeds Labrador Retrievers under the Fallriver prefix and has been a raw feeding, natural rearing breeder since the 90’s. She is an advocate for natural health care for dogs and people and works tirelessly to educate pet owners so they can influence veterinary medicine and change current vaccine, food and preventive health practices. Visit Dana’s Labradors at Fallriver Labs.