The Douglass Report March 2004

Nutritional propaganda from PETCO could mean big problems for your pet

If you're into pampering your pet, PETCO undoubtedly has the product for you. Apparently, they have all the luxuries you and your dog or cat could hope for--everything from thrones and booties to medical insurance.

But when it comes to nutrition, they're out to lunch. Their advice is outrageous, dangerous, and abysmally ignorant all rolled into one ridiculous package. I found it hard to believe a company of this size (over 650 stores) could be so wrong and basically anti-nutrition. But, come to think of it, why would I think that? It's not like General Foods and Kellogg's give sound nutritional advice for people--why should PETCO for animals?

According to the PETCO website, "some foods must never be fed to dogs because they may produce symptoms ranging from indisposition to illness to death. These include chocolate, onions, raw eggs and meats, liver, bones, pork"

Any pet owner with an IQ equal to his dog would know not to feed chocolate to the animal. (By the way, how much toxic chocolate candy do you feed to your children? Don't they deserve a good diet too?)

And the liver warning is based on complete nonsense. I wrote about the liver toxicity myth 20 years ago. There had been stories circulating for years, dating back to the18th and 19th centuries about explorers getting sick and even dying from eating too much polar bear liver. Investigation revealed not one such case in the medical literature. But PETCO must still be living in the 18th century, since they're still worried that "if your dog eats raw liver or consumes three servings of cooked liver a week, she could be headed for problems"

Bad advice: No bones about it

What does your dog love most? A bone. But PETCO, looking at the cash register, I suspect, tells their clients: "The big, treated bones that you can buy your pet in a pet store are of an entirely different composition from the bones in the meat you buy at the grocery store. Pet-store-bought bones are specially treated so they will not splinter." What a joke. A few months ago, I bought one of these splinter-free, vacuum-wrapped bones at the pet store for $3.50 (the big ones are $10). I put it in the cupboard and planned to give it to my dog Silky, a 16-week-old Weimaraner, to see if she liked it at all. A week later, I opened the cupboard to find that the bone was swarming with red ants--even though it had been protected with vacuum wrap. The thing was undoubtedly loaded with sugar.

Maybe that's how they "treat" the bones so they won't splinter, but that's certainly no way to treat your pet. I'll tell you how to "treat" a nice femur bone for your dog: Buy it at the butcher shop, take it home, unwrap the package, throw it on the garage floor, and let the fun begin. It will cost you little and, if you are a steady customer, the butcher may give it to you. Splintering only occurs when a bone has been cooked and dried out. If you leave it raw, it won't cause any problems.

Raw eggs don't equal rotten eggs

Once PETCO finished attacking bones, they moved on to another favorite canine treat: eggs. Did you know that you're going to give your precious pet a biotin deficiency with consequent hair loss, weakness, and growth retardation if you feed him raw eggs? At least, those are the red flags PETCO is waving about raw eggs.

"Although athletes seem constantly to be consuming raw eggs in one variety or another," they say, "think twice before giving your pet raw eggs. Although cooked eggs are high in protein and make an excellent treat, raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin, which can deplete your dog of biotin, one of the B vitamins. Biotin is essential to your dog's growth and coat health."

Right. "Think twice" and then give your pup plenty of raw eggs. He (like you) could live well on nothing but raw eggs. Let me explain: The complete raw egg is a perfectly balanced food, like most of our natural foods. The yolk of the egg neutralizes the avidin, so it is a non-issue. If you (or your pet) were to eat large quantities of egg white without the yolk, you might get a biotin deficiency. But even that is unlikely, unless you feed him (or yourself) lemon meringue pie three times a day. So do you see how these so-called experts are manipulating the facts?

"Additionally," they advise, "raw eggs are often contaminated with bacteria, such as salmonella, and you could end up giving your dog food poisoning in addition to biotin deficiency." Wrong again. A dog will eat practically anything including paper, rotten meat or fruit, tree bark, bugs, and feces. I know you don't like to hear that about your little Fido, but it is true. Spend a week on a farm; watch the free and happy dogs at play and you will see what I mean. And yet, none of these scavengers seem to have a problem with food poisoning. That's because animals are remarkably resistant to infection.

Your dog probably is finicky, but that's because what he eats is all he knows. Fido will probably turn up his cute little nose at raw chicken liver because he has become civilized and doesn't know that chicken liver is the very best food he could eat--and that's the way PETCO likes it.

The three foods PETCO does allow--and why your dog shouldn't eat them

According to PETCO, "there are three basic types of food: dry, semi-moist, and canned." Notice there's no mention of fresh meat or animal organs. Fresh raw meat, raw eggs, raw liver, raw chicken necks, and bones do not exist. You'd think, the way PETCO sees the world, that all dogs cooked their food in the wild. "Raw" is a dirty word and is mentioned only to tell you how raw animal food is dangerous to your pet's health--and, of course, let's not forget how troublesome it can be for PETCO's bottom line.

Here's what they have to say about the kinds of food they do acknowledge:

Dry Food: "It's the most economical choice. Dry food isn't smelly, can be stashed anywhere, and won't spoil if it sits in your dog's dish all day." Note the pitch is for the convenience of the owner, not the pet. And the food doesn't spoil because it is completely unnatural and nutrition-free.

Semi-moist Food: "Like dry food, semi-moist food doesn't need to be refrigerated, so it's easy to use and store."

Canned Food: "Our canine friends pick canned food paws down." But, PETCO warns: "Canned food also spoils quickly once it's been opened, so you can't leave it out all day." Hmmm it must have some nutritional value left then.

And there's a not-so-subtle condemnation of the grocery store brands as compared to their brands: "Ingredients in individual generic brands vary from bag to bag, which could upset your pal's stomach. Manufacturers will use the cheapest ingredients available to them at the time the food is produced so different batches of the same brand will have different ingredients, and abrupt changes in your dog's diet might throw his digestive system off."

"At some point, your dog also may develop such health problems as kidney or heart disease, which require premium foods that are developed specifically to help manage these conditions. Your veterinarian will advise you if your dog needs a premium therapeutic food."

I can guarantee you your dog will develop "such health problems as kidney or heart disease" if you continue to feed him a diet of meatless kibble. They may call it "real beef," "real fish," or "real chicken," but keep in mind that "meat byproduct" does not mean meat. Paper is a byproduct of trees but paper is not a tree.

The bottom line in all this? Well, how can I express it delicately? As they say in Central America: "Seor PETCO, 'ignorance overflows your pores.'" You are endangering American dogdom with very bad nutritional advice. You are selling nothing more than expensive junk food and setting our pets up for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and arthritis.

Father Nature must be rolling in his grave.

Action to take:

PETCO--not raw food--is a clear and present danger to your pet. My dog Silky gets raw liver twice daily, a raw egg mixed in (with the shell), and frequent raw chicken necks--no cooked food at all, except for occasional table scraps.

The best food for your dog (or cat) is raw mammal bones, raw liver, and raw eggs--including the shells. Add some fruit and vegetable table scraps occasionally and frequent raw chicken necks. You will have the top dog on your block--guaranteed.


"Care sheets/Pet inf Dangerous foods," PETCO (, viewed 1/6/03