Against the Grain

There has been an explosion in the availability of grain-free canine diets, not to mention the increasing popularity of meat-based raw diets which accompany the belief that dogs are “natural” meat eaters and little changed from their supposed carnivorous wolf ancestors. Unlike cats, even wolves are not obligate carnivores and eat a varied diet including the grain and grasses in the stomachs of their prey as well as berries.

It bears repeating yet again then, that the domestic dog is not descended from any living wolf but from a mega-fauna wolf that is now extinct. In the initial process of self-domestication, rapidly accelerated when man began to intervene, the dog adapted to new environments and became something utterly unique.

Whole-genome re-sequencing of dogs and wolves has identified 3.8 million genetic variants and 36 genomic regions that are thought to represent targets for selection during dog domestication. Ten of the genes play key roles in starch digestion and fat metabolism which show also that dogs changed as they became domesticated. Mutations in key genes enabled increased starch digestion in dogs relative to wolves, indicating that the early ancestors of modern dogs thrived on an omnivorous diet rich in starch relative to the largely carnivorous diet of wolves. This was a crucial step in
domestication because early dogs probably both scavenged from and lived with man, either way sharing a diet that included starch-based nutrients.

Further evidence that dogs are perfectly well-adapted to eating grain and starch has come from recent research into the Mayan civilisation dating from 1000 BCE to 250 CE. The Pre-classic Period between 1000 BCE and 175 CE provides the earliest direct evidence that live dogs were traded in the Americas as remains of two dogs and one jaguar-type feline, deposited between 400 and 300 BCE, were found to be non-local animals. The remains were recovered from two large pyramids in a central plaza and dated using radiocarbon dating techniques, leading researchers to conclude that that all three animals may have been involved with early ceremonial events at the site. It is thought that the dogs originated from the Guatemalan volcanic highlands and the foothills of central Guatemala and that they were imported via a trade network as gifts or as companions belonging to humans travelling along the route.

Remains of dozens of local dogs proved that they had been eating a diet rich in maize, whilst the two imported dogs showed evidence suggesting that they also consumed less meat than a carnivore. The canines were mostly small and resembled modern Chihuahuas. Butchery marks found previously on ancient dog bones at other Mayan sites suggest that the dogs were raised as a food source and it is possible that maize-fed dogs were a significant protein source for the Mayans before they domesticated turkeys.

Anti-microbial Resistance – Are YOU Making Things Worse?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) regards anti-microbial resistance as being “one of the biggest threats to global health”. The Wellcome Trust commissioned a survey in 2015 to evaluate the perception of antibiotic effectiveness and potential problems in the UK. The worrying conclusions were that

“…resistance’ is either not on the radar or misunderstood – everyone assumes it’s the person that becomes resistant”

“There’s a natural tendency to dismiss the idea – or to purposefully blank it out”

“…everyone assumes that the experts will work it out – they are confident that time and money will be spent to find a ‘cure’ and that it will eventually all be ‘sorted’ and some then struggle with what they personally can really do about it”.

The majority of the population alive in the UK today has grown up in a world where antibiotics and mass vaccination are easily available (and often free or heavily subsidised at the point of use). Many of these people have become complacent and latched onto panics when they fail to assess the actual level of risk posed by the miniscule chance that a reaction will occur. Conversely, they are much more likely to ignore the very real risk that resistance is occurring and that the commercial realities of capitalism mean that big pharma mean has not developed an effective new class of antibiotics since 1987.

Antibiotic resistance is not just a problem for humans directly, but for our companion animals and those in the human food chain. Whilst misuse by human and animal health professionals and the public has contributed to the problem, the increasing popularity of raw food diets fed to companion animals may be providing a new source of resistance.

Escherichia coli (E.coli) is just one of the so-called “superbugs” that is causing worry and is prevalent in commercial raw food diets for companion animals examined recently in the Netherlands. The study found that cats and dogs fed raw meat are much more likely to become infected with such antibiotic-resistant bacteria than animals on conventional diets and that shedding of ESBL-producing Enterobacteriaceae was more likely in dogs that ate raw meat.

Campylobacter infection is a serious concern in poultry and, while the FSA has made great strides in working with supermarkets to lower the levels of contamination, the same cannot be said of independent retailers where owners feeding home made raw diets may shop for products such as chicken wings that are not available in supermarkets.

There was “universal agreement” at the recent British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) congress “that homemade raw feeding is dangerous because it is so difficult to get right in terms of nutrients and balance. They also agreed that handling raw meat products is riskier.” Several studies were presented to the congress proving that raw meat diets pose a “serious health risk to the animals concerned, their owners and the wider public”. Mike Davies, a vet who specialises in clinical nutrition stated that veterinary professionals would be “crazy” to recommend raw diets not least because they could be held legally liable and open to prosecution if a person became seriously ill or died as a direct result of them recommending a raw diet. Marge Chandler who practices as a private consultant in small animal medicine and nutrition also concluded that homemade raw diets are too variable, unbalanced and lacking in essential nutrients and that few commercial raw diets have
been properly evaluated in feeding trials. Davies suggested that clients be asked to sign disclaimers if they opt for raw feeding but that would still do nothing to protect staff or the wider public from the effects of pathogens that their animals are shedding. (Veterinary Record 2017 181: 384 doi: 10.1136/vr.j4709)

The presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in raw diets poses a serious risk to animal and human health because infections are difficult to treat and because they contribute to a widespread occurrence of the bacteria in the environment.

Don’t contribute to the problem in the false belief that your animal will be healthier – nothing could be further from the truth.

With thanks to Paul Overgaauw for making the full text of his study [Zoonotic bacteria and parasites found in raw meat-based diets for cats and dogs, Veterinary Record, V182(2)] available as well as published articles discussing the results.

What’s In Your Pie?

In spite of plenty of peer-reviewed studies and veterinary advice to the contrary, owners are still being conned by the “feed raw” myth.

Well unsurprisingly, another peer-reviewed study has concluded that raw food is often riddled with parasites and bacteria:
Bacteria

  • Escherichia coli serotype O157:H7 (infection can lead to haemorrhagic diarrhoea and kidney failure) – present in 23% of products
  • Extended-spectrum beta-lactamases-producing E coli (can cause urinary tract infections that can also progress to sepsis and which are resistant to many penicillin and cephalosporin antibiotics and other types of antibiotic) – present in 80% of products
  • Listeria monocytogenes (one of the most virulent food-borne pathogens responsible for an estimated 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths in the USA annually, with 20% to 30% of infections in high-risk individuals proving fatal) – present in 54& of products
  • Other Listeria species were present in 43% of products
  • Salmonella species the second most common food-borne pathogen in Europe) – present in 20% of products.

Parasites

  • Sarcocystis cruzi (causes acute fever, myalgia, bronchospasm, pruritic rashes, lymphadenopathy, subcutaneous nodules associated with eosinophilia, elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate and elevated creatinine kinase levels. Symptoms may last for five years in humans) – present in 11% of products
  • S tenella (causes similar effects as Sarcocystis cruzi) – present in 11% of products
  • Toxoplasma gondii (can cause changes in human behaviour by altering the effects of dopamine and testosterone causing reduced psychomotor performance) – present in 6% of products.

The study examined 203 products from 21 brands. Alarmingly, the authors noted that warnings and handling instructions on packages were lacking from all but one brand”. Even where that one warning was apparent, it does not mitigate the fact that salmonella in particular are resistant to destruction even when food bowls are cleaned at high temperatures, using detergents in a dishwasher or treated with disinfectant. Salmonellae infection in raw foods varies from 7% to 80% in Canada and 5% to 45% in the USA. A systematic review of case–control studies has shown that direct contact with companion animals plays a major role in human salmonellosis and direct transmission has been reported frequently. Human outbreaks of salmonella infections have been associated with contaminated dried pig ears and contaminated chicken jerky treats as well as raw diets. Animals are exposed directly to foodborne pathogens when they ingest food and humans through direct contact with the food, contact with a contaminated animal by sharing the same bed and allowing licking of the face and hands, contact with household surfaces or by ingesting cross-contaminated human food. Cross-contamination may occur after preparing RMBDs or cleaning infected food bowls.

Unlike in companion animals, L monocytogenes can cause serious illness in human beings. Infection of healthy adults usually leads to influenza-like symptoms, but can be life-threatening, especially in neonates and pregnant women where it may cause abortion. Contaminated food products, including raw meat, are common sources of infection and the bacteria replicate easily in food bowls at room temperature. Vacuum cleaner waste from households with RMBD-fed dogs has also been shown to be more
frequently contaminated with salmonella species than waste from other households because animals fed on raw food will be continually shedding pathogens into the environment.

The authors of the study concluded “The results of this study demonstrate the presence of potential zoonotic pathogens in frozen RMBDs that may be a possible source of bacterial infections in pet animals and if transmitted pose a risk for human beings. If non-frozen meat is fed, parasitic infections are also possible. Pet owners should therefore be informed about the risks associated with feeding their animals RMBDs”.

Dogs and cats may be asymptomatic even though infected. Humans are more likely to develop illnesses picked up from their animals because pathogens remain for much longer in the digestive tract and have the opportunity to multiply. Young, elderly and immuno-compromised people are much more at risk and can be infected by asymptomatic humans as well as their animals. Pathogens can also harm other animals: bitches have aborted when infected by pathogens from raw meat products and fatal septicaemic salmonellosis has killed cats fed on raw meat diets.

So, apart form not providing a balanced diet including all of the requisite nutritional elements for dogs and cats, feeding raw diets could result in illness and death as pathogens are shed by animals into the environment and spread after being handled by humans.

FSA Warn Against Raw Chicken – Again

Yet again the FSA has been obliged to issue a warning against eating raw and undercooked chicken. The latest warning was prompted by a chef who was promoting chicken sashimi and who stated that “…if birds have been free range, kept in quality conditions and processed in a clean environment, there’s not so much to worry about”.

Not much other than campylobacter, salmonella and e coli that is. The FSA state yet again that “All raw chicken is unsafe to eat” regardless of the conditions in which the birds have been kept. They add that, in humans, eating raw or undercooked chicken can result in “Symptoms [that] include abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. In some cases, these bugs can lead to serious conditions”.

In an update on October 19th, 2017, the FSA published their annual results, and, although levels of campylobacter have continued to fall in tested chickens, between 46.7% and 67.3% of chickens tested positive. the high-level campylobacter prevalence among the top nine most popular retailers surveyed was 5.6%. That means for every 100 chickens purchased, at least five are likely to have very high levels of contamination. Smaller retailers and butchers had a significantly higher prevalence at 17.1%. This is especially significant as people who feed raw diets are more likely to shop at independent retailers, presuming that the food will be “healthier”.

Dogs have different digestive systems to humans; they have a shorter digestive tract and a higher stomach acidity. This means that, if otherwise healthy, they are less susceptible to the pathogens present in raw chicken as bacteria do not stay in the dog’s body for as long as they do in a human. The bacteria have less time to multiply to dangerous levels and dogs are generally better able to cope with the toxins that the bacteria produce which is the cause of illness in humans and dogs. Whilst healthy dogs might be able to cope with the pathogens that they shed when fed a raw diet, young, old or sick dogs will be less resilient and all of the humans with which they come in contact will also be exposed.

A peer-reviewed paper published in April 2017 noted that the cats in the study shed pathogens as a result of eating a raw diet “for months” and concluded “The practice of feeding raw meat to dogs and cats may increase the potential transmission risk of meat-borne pathogens to people. Pet owners, especially individuals at increased risk for infectious diseases (small children, old people and immunocompromised individuals), should be aware of the safety risks of feeding RMBDs”[raw, meat-based diets]. Of course the transmission of pathogens from handling the food and the dog or cat will not only affect people in the household. Dogs and outdoor cats have the potential to come into contact with vulnerable people every day as well as other animals.
Charity Burns By Your Side is the most recent organisation to exclude dogs from their volunteer scheme if they are fed a raw diet.

There is a lot of anecdotal support that can be found online from supporters of raw diets but, not only is there no peer-reviewed evidence to back it up, a growing body of a veterinary organisations and scientists are finding that such diets are harmful because they lack essential nutrients and can cause damage when digested and excreted.
There is another worrying factor that is not immediately obvious for some owners who feed raw. There is evidence to suggest that such owners are also less likely to use prophylactic health care such as vaccination and treatments that prevent parasitic infestation because they do not trust veterinary advice.

The serious contamination of pet food with illegally imported melamine in 2007 still has repercussions, although food in the UK was not affected. Marion Nestle’s Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine provides the only independent account of this scandal. Anyone contemplating feeding raw because they do not trust commercial dog food should read it. Similarly, scares about the dangers of human vaccines abound, even though disproven and have spread to companion animals.

The wide availability of NHS services means that most people in the UK are not used to paying for healthcare at point of use. Many are therefore shocked at the cost of veterinary treatment and accuse vets of profiteering, having no idea of the actual cost to the vet, and ignoring the fact that, if vets do not make a profit, they will go out of business. They are similarly inclined to accuse pharmaceutical companies of advising over-vaccination. Again, this is illogical: no vet would ethically or professionally administer a drug that was not necessary. In fact they could be prosecuted if they did.

Not vaccinating puts your dog and every other dog at risk from dying of parvo-virus, leptospirosis, canine parainfluenza, distemper and hepatitis. Not worming your dog puts other dogs and humans at risk of picking up tapeworms, lungworm and toxocariasis amongst others.
Some of these diseases such as parvo virus and distemper were rare due to mass immunisation in the 1970s and later, but are now on the increase fuelled in part by the number of illegally imported dogs. This, combined with irresponsible owners not vaccinating their dogs reduces the herd immunity conveyed when the majority of dogs are protected, so the danger of catching a potentially fatal disease is increased for each unvaccinated dog.

The evidence is plain. Don’t feed raw , vaccinate your dog and treat it for fleas and ticks. It is your responsibility to your dog, every other dog and your community.

KC Plays Tail End Charlie

The KC has just published a report entitled What the Kennel Club does for Dog Health

Many dog owners may feel that the title is a bit rich given that canine health would probably not be in such dire straits were it not for the KC’s implementation of closed stud books and perpetuation of breeding for looks.

The Kennel Club has been playing tail end Charlie in the court of public opinion since at least 2008. Its brand is being seen as being increasingly toxic and any efforts that it makes to improve the situation are likely to be doomed to irrelevance in the face of the scale of the problem that is, after all, largely of their own making.

Is it too little too late?

Read more…

AMR – Dog Owners Need To Take Responsibility

salmonella Two extremely worrying bulletins have been published by the Food Standards Agency this week. One concerns the recall of Nature’s Menu “Country Hunter” frozen pet food because of the presence of salmonella and the other the dangers of anti-microbial resistance to pathogens found in food.

Nature’s Menu Country Hunter food is described by the vendor as being “A tasty complete and nutritionally balanced Country Hunter raw meal of Farm Reared Turkey”… that “contains raw minced bone for added nutrition”. If the meal is already “nutritionally balanced”, why the need for raw, minced bone “for added nutrition”? This is a complete nonsense (never mind the poor punctuation) that tells the purchaser nothing. Of course, Nature’s Menu are not alone in being deliberately obscure about the marketing and labelling of pet food.

At the risk of dragging semiotics into the debate, the name “Country Hunter” strikes me also as being bizarre. Two suggestive words thrown together actually make no sense whatsoever in context. Is this meant to suggest that the turkey has been hunted in the country by a chap with a nicely oiled Purdey? Maybe not, because we are also informed by the label that the turkey is “farm-reared”. Well, it is hardly likely to be roadkill or reared round the back of the producer’s cousin’s council flat. Perhaps they are trying to suggest that it is “free-range” in the same manner as those “polite notices” are meant to fool people into thinking that they are “police notices”. Legally, to be labelled as “free range”, turkeys must have continuous access to an outdoor range that is largely covered in vegetation during the daytime. However, even if products are labelled as being derived from “free-range” livestock, which this product is not, it is entirely possible that the poultry will still spend the bulk of the day indoors and be reared in high densities because it is not economically viable to do anything else at the price you are being charged for the food and the scale on which it is produced. Possibly it is trying to suggest that you have a gun dog that lives a wonderful life doing what it was bred to do. Were that the case, you are highly unlikely to be feeding it this food.

They go on to say “We only use quality, human grade meats in our raw meals, and absolutely no meat meals or meat derivatives. All of our complete and balanced meals are veterinary approved and made to FEDIAF guidelines.” Well, here are the FEDIAF guidelines should you choose to read them. They are well-written and it is good practice to abide by them.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with meat meal. Meat meal is simply a highly concentrated protein powder that is produced when meat and water are cooked to remove most of the moisture and the resulting residue is baked. For instance, chicken comprises about 70% water and 18% protein. After rendering, the resulting chicken meal contains just 10% water but 65% protein. The important factor to consider when assessing meat meal is the quality of the meat that went into it in the first place.

Similarly, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with meat derivatives. Legally, they are defined as being “All the fleshy parts of slaughtered warm-blooded land animals, fresh or preserved by appropriate treatment and all products and derivatives of the processing of the carcass or parts of the carcass of warm-blooded land animals”. As with meat meal, the quality of the products that went into it producing the derivatives are the most important factor to consider. Feral dogs and the domestic dog’s wild cousins eat all parts of the animals that they kill or scavenge (but bear in mind that wild dogs have different digestive systems and processes in order to cope). This includes hair, hide, offal and bones – the products encompassed in the term meat derivatives. They get a nutritionally balanced diet because different parts of the animal yield different nutritional requirements. Canids, including domestic dogs, are omnivores and will eat the stomach contents of grazing animals (which cats as obligate carnivores do not) and will eat vegetation in addition to meat. Muscle meat of the type that many humans think is best for their dog is only one component of a dog’s nutritional needs and, if fed to excess without balancing nutrition, can lead to serious problems in growing dogs, especially medium and large breeds, and may overload kidneys and liver in old or sick dogs.

Adding raw, minced bone to food could also be problematic. Apart from the potential for pathogens in uncooked bones, feeding too much calcium can make your dog very ill indeed. It is not uncommon for dogs fed raw bones to accumulate large amounts in their stomachs which can cause constipation and may obstruct the gut. They can also cause tearing as they pass through the dog’s digestive system. Farm animals are bred to grow quickly which can result in their bones being less dense and thus more brittle than slower reared animals of older breeds. This can be exacerbated by the fact that, free-range or not, many farm animals sinply do not get sufficient weight-bearing exercise to assist with creating bone density. Bones can and do result in broken teeth. Balancing calcium and phosphorous levels is essential and this can be difficult as, even if they are present in the right amounts in a raw diet, they may not be nutritionally available and could be difficult to digest.

The pathogens that are indisputably present in raw food can and do harm humans as well as the dogs that are fed raw diets. Illness caused by salmonella, e. coli, listeria, giardia, campylobacter, to name but a few, can range from the unpleasant to the fatal. This is becoming a more serious problem, not just because of the popularity of feeding raw diets and the likelihood that more people are thus exposed to pathogens via pets, but because of the increasing difficulty in treating bacterial illness with antibiotics.

Anti-microbial resistance builds up because of overuse and/or misuse of antibiotics; this is now a major risk to public health worldwide. Humans are exposed to resistant bacteria through human-to-human spread, animals, the environment and the food chain. There is currently uncertainty regarding the types of anti-microbial resistant bacteria found in foods on sale in the UK and of the contribution food makes to the problem.

One of the points that Nature’s Menu make is that they are veterinary-approved. Well, there is a massive range of opinion amongst vets on all sorts of matters. Some recommend and practice homeopathy as well as endorsing raw diets, for instance. However, the vast majority of vets neither support homeopathy nor raw feeding. A growing amount of peer-reviewed research and evidence backs this up.

So, don’t rely on the opinion of someone in the park or the “evidence” of one dog that has supposedly had a miracle turnaround on a raw diet. Read the research, give weight to the experience of canine professionals who have fed and worked generations of dogs and, above all, bear in mind that, if you feed raw, it is not only your dog’s health and well-being that you may be compromising, but any human with whom he comes into contact.

Can You Rise To The Bulldog Challenge?

bulldog-illness UC Davies has recently published a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology examining the genetic diversity among 102 registered English Bulldogs, all used for breeding. The authors’ objective was to assess whether the breed retains enough genetic diversity to correct the abnormalities associated with poor health which have a genetic basis and which can be seen in the outward appearance of many dogs.

Predictably, some in the bulldog fraternity have attempted to discredit the paper while other continue to stick their fingers in their ears and their heads in the sand. The health problems of this breed, as the authors note, are well documented and include:

Severe conformational changes necessitating a high rate of artificial insemination and Caesarean sections
Small litter sizes (inbreeding depression)
Extremely high levels of congenital disease and associated puppy mortality including flat chests with splayed legs, anasarca and cleft palate
Poor lifespan ranging from 3.2 to 11.3 years with a median of 8.4 years as dogs requiring extensive veterinary care at a young age rarely live beyond 5–6 years of age.

The bulldog suffers its own particular problems due to brachycephaly combined with a tongue that is excessively large at the base, a large palate that is easily obstructed by the base of the tongue, a lower jaw that is pushed forward, frequently stenotic nares and a hypoplastic trachea. Consequently, they suffer from loud panting during exercise, stridor and slobbering during rest, sleep apnoea, hypercapnia and hypochloremia/hypomagnesemia, exercise intolerance, cyanosis and collapse and choking fits manifested by gagging, retching, vomiting, aerophagia, flatulence and aspiration pneumonia. The breathing difficulties of English bulldogs also make them very sensitive to overheating and heat stroke.

Chondrodysplasia, a heritable skeletal disorder, predisposes English bulldogs to hip and elbow dysplasia, luxating patella and shoulders, intervertebral disk disease, cruciate ligament rupture, hemivertebra, torsional pelvic deformity and, as mentioned, difficulty in achieving normal copulation and parturition. Prognathism predisposes to dental disease, while excessive folding of the skin, especially on the face, is associated with skin fold dermatitis, muzzle acne, folliculitis, furunculosis and eye conditions such as entropion, ectropion and eversion of the third eyelid. The cork-screw tail can result in tail fold dermatitis. Inbreeding has also produced cataracts, heart valve defects including pulmonic stenosis, hydrocephalus, cysteine urolithiasis and hiatal hernias, immunologic disorders including a propensity for severe demodectic mange due to immunodeficiency, allergies associated with atopic dermatitis and ear infections and autoimmune diseases such as hypothyroidism. The common range of cancers include glioblastoma, mast cell sarcoma and lymphoma.

Doesn’t sound like a very healthy breed does it?

Many owners who accept these defects as “normal” pay huge amounts for treatments as their dogs stagger through their shortened lives but many dogs also end up in rescue or are euthanised due to the prohibitive cost of treatment.

All may not be lost as there are a few bulldogs out there that can breathe and move freely, reproduce naturally and that are free from skin and eye problems, allergies and other immunologic disorders.

The papers authors are therefore calling the bluff of bulldog owners outraged by their paper. They have issued a global challenge to bulldog breeders and owners to provide proof that their dog is a purebred (registered), healthy English bulldog. Owners are requested to e-mail the authors with supporting evidence. If the dog is deemed to meet the criteria as defined by the authors, the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at UC Davies will provide a free DNA collection kit from which a genetic profile of the dog can be compared with the information provided in the genetic assessment paper and added to the genetic profile database for the English bulldog. The aim is to identify a genetic profile that is conducive to greater health and it may yet save the breed from imploding.

Pedersen NC et al (2016) A genetic assessment of the English bulldog, Canine Genetics and Epidemiology, V3(6) DOI: 10.1186/s40575-016-0036-y [accessed online at https://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/dog/GeneticDiversityInEnglishBulldogs.php]

Thanks to Pedigree Dogs Exposed for this information.

Potions, Pills and Prosecutable?

bodybuilder Research published by More Th>n insurers yesterday of a survey of 1,000 pet owners has revealed horrific results.

1.4 million owners admitted to (illegally) administering potentially toxic human medicines to cats and dogs. As the Royal Veterinary College state “It is illegal, in terms of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, for non-veterinary surgeons, however qualified in the human field, to treat animals.” More than one third of those surveyed were trying to avoid paying veterinary fees. Medications administered without veterinary dierction included anti-histamines (36%), paracetamol (28%), antiseptic creams, ibuprofen (17%) and aspirin (14%) for complaints ranging from injured paws to cuts and stings. 21% decided that the injury or ailment did not warrant a trip to the vets, 33% decided that their pet was suffering and needed immediate pain relief and 27% stated that they believed that over the counter human medications are safe to self-administer to pets.

As if that weren’t bad enough, 5% of the owners surveyed (that’s at least 50 animals) had been forced to consume protein shakes and bars, diet pills, vitamins or exercise supplements. 21% of owners said that they wanted to improved their pet’s fitness and stamina,
40% were aiming for rapid weight loss and 35% believed that it would make their pet more healthy. 6% of those owners confessed that they did it “so my pet would look more impressive in public”. Yes, really.

Should we just write these people off as misguided or should we consider prosecution?

Owning a pet is a responsibility and, unless we use existing legislation to combat the actions of people who take their obligations lightly, dogs will consider to suffer.