Endotoxins - The Hidden Toxin Damaging Your Pet's Gut.

Endotoxins - The Hidden Toxin Damaging Your Pet's Gut.

The current H5N1 bird flu is the deadliest in US history.  It began overseas in late 2021.  It reached the US in 2022 and as of this writing in March 2023, nearly 60 million US poultry have been culled.

Destroying flocks is a gruesome and inhumane act.  About 75% of those 60 million birds have been destroyed by turning up the temperature and shutting off the ventilation in their living areas.  They die over the course of a few hours.  The other 25% generally are killed by spraying them with fire retardants. 

Eventually the “soup” of dead birds, excreta, flies, and all manner of foulness is shoveled out.  The FDA permits this poultry to be sold as the “chicken” or “turkey” on pet feed labels.  It permits that poultry (along with those fire retardants) to be rendered into meals that also are pet feed ingredients.  And, the FDA permits those dead chickens or turkeys raised on organic farms to be sold as “organic chicken” or “organic turkey” on a pet feed label.

The toxicity of these ingredients is incomprehensible. One toxin that occurs widely but rarely is discussed is endotoxin.

Endotoxins In Pet Food From Pathogenic Bacteria Damage The Gut

Endotoxins are released when pathogenic bacteria grow or die.  Endotoxins activate several immunocompetent cell’s signaling pathways. At unmanageable levels they can initiate and perpetuate damage to and inflammatory diseases of the gut.  

How much is unmanageable?  To answer that question, we should look at the whole picture of what our pets eat.

First, imbalanced feeding worsens the disease states caused by endotoxins –namely diets with poor protein nutrition and lots of saturated fats.  We need to consider that this is precisely what most pets are eating.  To assume otherwise would be to accept that rendered fats are healthy fats, meat meals are quality protein, and "chicken" on a pet feed label means the same thing as the chicken humans eat.

Second, increasingly feed additives – like many amino acids and vitamins – contain significant levels of endotoxins because they are manufactured from gram-negative bacteria.  The volume of additives pets eat is significant because the quality of many base pet feed formulations is so poor.  There are also concerns over the presence of antibiotic resistant genes in these kinds of feed additives.

Third, endotoxin entering the body is carried to the liver where it is inactivated. Increased endotoxin levels can damage the liver.  But more importantly, even when the amount of endotoxin reaching the liver is normal, the presence of another substance can interact with endotoxin to damage the liver. The other substances are not necessarily toxins - or present in toxic amounts.  Clearly rendered ingredients that go into pet feed can be highly contaminated.  But the presence in the liver of endotoxins along with substances like vitamin A, copper and iron, and many drugs can damage the liver too.  This is especially concerning given what we know about the nutritionally provoked canine illness of copper associated hepatopathy.

Rendered Ingredients In Pet Food Are A Source Of Endotoxin

So what can you do as a pet parent to ensure your beloved companion is thriving? 

Kibble is responsible for the vast majority of pathogenic bacteria pet food recalls because of their inferior ingredients and processing.  And where there's pathogenic bacteria there is endotoxin.  

Choosing a human grade, species appropriate gently cooked food is an excellent start.  It would be ideal if this food comprises 100% of your pets' diet, but if that is not in your budget, then start small.  Science shows that replacing as little as 20% of a process pet-feed diet (like kibble, canned, or roll packed feeds) with human-grade whole foods has a positive impact on a pet's body.