I’m going to write this post backwards. First, I’ll list a bunch of symptoms (called clinical signs in animals) and have you go through the list. Tell yourself how many of these clinical signs you have experienced. With your pets, of course. Think of the different pets you’ve had. The different things they’ve been through. Then, we’ll talk about why this is so important.

Here is that partial symptom list:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pneumonia
  • Enlarged liver
  • Enlarged spleen
  • High fever
  • Dry cough
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Eyelid ulcers
  • Red eyes
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Skin ulcer (might look like a “hot spot”)
  • Meningitis
  • Blindness
  • Kidney failure

The clinical signs listed above that really trigger something in my mind are the first four: enlarged liver and spleen along with the vomiting and diarrhea. These are some incredibly common issues experience especially by dogs but also by cats. So many times, the pet is taken to the vet and a lot of diagnostics are run but no definitive diagnosis is ever made. Sometimes the worst diagnosis is mentioned – like cancer, or Cushing’s disease – without complete diagnosis.

I can’t tell you how many dogs I’ve known with an enlarged liver who have had every test under the sun and don’t have a diagnosis. And cats in kidney failure? It’s an incredible number of kitties!

But what if there’s a common denominator? Like – something that isn’t on anyone’s radar but should be? What if this disease is transmissible to humans? Here is food for thought: many times, pets with the above clinical signs are put on antibiotics “just in case.” Sometimes they get better. But why?

What if it’s some crazy infection that people don’t think “will ever happen to them?”

Like tularemia?

Most people have never even heard of tularemia; as veterinarians, we learned about it in vet school. (Medical doctors learn about it too. We all learn about the plague as well, but how common is that?…) It’s a pretty nasty disease – a lot like the plague, in fact. For example, it is transmitted by rats, rabbits, and other wildlife. And it can be fatal!

So what the heck does this have to do with pet food?

Have you ever seen pictures of livestock dead for several days on a feedlot? Those bodies don’t get buried or composted; they get sent to the renderer. The renderer functions to “render” (make) this carcass safe through the rendering process. Then the by-product enters the pet food chain. This is not necessarily where this particular problem even comes. (There are other problems with rendered tissue.)

Bio-security at the rendering facility? Mediocre. Rodents, wildlife, roaches, other pests – they are all over the place. What we’re really talking about here is ground up dead animal bodies stored in open containers.

What I’m describing is gross.

But what I’d really like to do is spark an idea at the back of your mind. Because most of us have, through our learning process, fed kibble at one time or another. Some people still do. I understand; that’s how the world is.

But what if this bacterial disease, this tularemia, is being bagged up into conventional pet food? Being fed to our pets. And we handle this food – so do our kids. Could we all be at risk?

What if this unexplained liver enlargement, or unexplained vomiting and diarrhea is due to exposure to this supposedly rare, fatal if undiagnosed, disease?

And no one knows because the symptoms get treated and the diagnosis is never made? But what about the ones that don’t get treated? What if it could’ve been avoided? What happens when the human family gets sick?

So keep this information in the back of your mind. You might even dismiss it – after all, I’m the crazy food lady! But watch the news. And if all of a sudden tularemia is reported in the news, you might ask how it relates to your life and the life of your pet.

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