An Introduction to GMO’s and Dog Food


detailed illustration of a blackboard with GMO Term Explanation,


If you are the type of person who is feeding (or considering feeding) raw pet food, you probably are already conscious of the effect nutrition can have on your pet.  Nutrition is the foundation of why raw diets work – raw food is unspoiled by processing and heat, allowing it to retain as many nutrients as possible in an easy-to-digest way for your pet.  So it will probably come as no surprise to you that common sense and the international scientific community agree that keeping your food as close to nature as possible is kind of a good idea.



That means using food that comes from the earth and not a laboratory.  One of the growing outrages of the American public at the moment is the powerful lobby that pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies hold over our government, allowing them to control what we eat, and worse – our right to know what is in the food available to us.  Why do I say worse? Because knowledge is the key to voting with your pocketbook, which is the one thing large corporations will listen to. And without the right to know whether your food is laden with chemicals, pesticides, and GMO’s, you are incapable of showing them with your dollar where your opinions lie.

With dog food this is no different.  If you are currently feeding a kibble and thinking of switching to raw, the information you learn from raw food advocates may come across as scare tactics designed to convince you to buy a product. Unfortunately, we don’t need to put a spin on it to convince you to switch. The facts themselves are scary enough, and the reality is that big box stores sell cheap pet food that is full of chemicals, animal byproducts (including kill-shelter cats and dogs), skunks and raccoons, GMO corn and soy, and renderings unfit for human consumption. They have enough nutrition to sustain life, but evidence shows that, like humans, full bellies can belong to nutritionally starving pets.





gmo potatoGMO’s are a big part of the problem, and knowledge is the key to the solution.  So what are GMO’s, and why should you care about avoiding them?

According to Wikipedia, “A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.”  According to the US Department of Agriculture, by 2012 88% of corn grown in the USA and 94% of soy was genetically modified.  The majority of these crops are designed and owned by Monsanto, the biochemical giant, and have been genetically altered to grow bigger, faster, and to be “Roundup-Ready”, meaning that they can resist the pesticide produced by Monsanto that would kill any other plant living – a pesticide that is, among other things, rapidly depopulating the earth of a non-resistant and crucial part of the eco-system: honeybees.









Igmocornf this doesn’t worry you, maybe it should.  Corn is the number one ingredient in kibble, (and in many human foods), because it is heavily subsidized by the US government and so can be grown cheaply by farmers.  Yet as prevalent as it is in our food, the largest buyers of corn in the US are not food manufacturers, but large-scale meat companies that feed their animals an unnatural, corn-based diet, which their bodies were never designed to eat.  This translates into a decrease of nutritional value in the meats you and your dog eat.  Nutritionally deficient cows = nutritionally deficient meat.  The rise of chronic disease, cancer, infertility, anxiety/depression, ADHD, obesity, and many more diseases can be linked back to nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances that come from eating cheap foods manufactured with an eye on the dollar and not on public health.






Does it get worse?  Of course it does.  It is scary that GMO’s were never fully studied for safety in human or pet food.  The FDA accepted short term studies funded by companies with a vested interest in producing GMO’s – studies that showed no negative effect. These studies were not peer-reviewed by disinterested parties at the time, and current third party studies and longer term studies are beginning to show links to kidney damage, shorter life spans, infertility, mammary tumors, and more. Articles that claim this isn’t true cite ‘long-term studies’ – of 90 days up to 2 years. This is hardly adequate to judge the effects of 90+ years of consumption in the average human.  Oh, wait – obesity and chronic diseases means that our kids are the first generation in centuries expected to live shorter lives than their parents, so let’s knock that number down to 75.  That is just in humans. Those two year studies can’t even give us adequate results for our pets’ lifespan of 10-15 years. In essence, GMO’s are considered safe by the FDA despite the lack of research, and are not regulated any differently than natural foods.  Click on the photo below to get an idea of why this might be…


If the government will not step in, it is up to the general public to defend itself against these attacks on our health. The good news is people are stepping up and the movement is growing.  The Non-GMO project, the increase in awareness, and the growing demand for Organic food is fueling the only change American culture will react to – the dollar.  As demand grows, large corporations are increasing their focus and production on products that are certified to be free from these GMO’s and pesticides – a clear sign that you are not alone in your disapproval.  Corporations are realizing there is money to be made here, and are adapting their products accordingly. Conversely, companies that are founded on GMO’s and chemicals are seeing their profits spiraling downward, and institutions as iconically American as McDonalds are scrambling to try to revamp their fast food image as consumers run the other direction.




The Disappointing Reality of Labeling


Unfortunately, for some corporations that refuse to truly understand the market, this just means adjusting their labels, rather than making any real change.  The FDA has very little ability to enforce proper labeling, as anything claimed to be a ‘trade secret’ can be left off the federally mandated food label.  Some companies have realized the market for ‘freshness’ and ‘natural food’, and are changing to green packaging, slapping on the word ‘natural’ (which has no regulated meaning or standards) and calling it good without improving their product at all. So it is important to know what different labels mean.

When looking at pet food for your dog, remember that corn- and grain-free are best. The number one ingredient should be meat, and it should be identifiable meat, such as chicken or pork. Even better if it tells you exactly what part of the animal it is, such as beef hearts or pork loins.  You should be able to recognize every ingredient on the list, as GMO Soy can be hidden under a number of different names. Finally, if they can’t explain the ingredient in an easy to understand way, it may be bad for your pet. If you are just starting into the world of educated label-reading, this is a good starting point.



Smart phones are your best friends in this day and age, as you can quickly look up an ingredient to see if you really want it in your pets’ body (or yours!) before you purchase. It is worth the time to stand there for twenty minutes at the store looking at an ingredient list if it will save your pet from cancer later, and it is worth paying a little more at the pet store to save on vet bills in the long term.  Not only will your pet be happier and healthier, but you will save money and improve their quality of life when you consider thoroughly what you are feeding your pet, and take the time to educate yourself on the risks and benefits of different pet foods.  Of course, if you have read this far, you are clearly doing your research, so good job, pet parent!  Cheers to your beloved pet!

Happy little girl with her mastiff dog on a meadow in summer day


sustainable farming

Steve’s Real Food is dedicated to the education and increase of awareness of the consumer.  That is why we have an open book policy, where you can ask us anything, and we will give you an honest answer.  In case you are wondering, Steve’s Real Food is completely GMO-Free.



In the United States, cancer is estimated to be the number one cause of death in dogs over the age of 2 years old. The National Canine Cancer Foundation estimates that 1 in 3 pets will develop cancer – the same rate as in humans.

If you are a loving, caring pet owner, hearing your veterinarian say, “I think your dog has cancer” can be the most feared sentence in the English language. If you are so unfortunate as to have to live through that moment, a million questions and thoughts will be running through your mind. I remember hearing those words myself, as I sat with my best dog friend, McCain, at the vet’s office, when we learned that McCain had cancerous masses on his liver and spleen. Being a Specialty Veterinary Nurse for many years didn’t change the power of that moment as I sat on the receiving end of the news, nor did it change the thoughts and emotions that we were about to venture through.sick dog

So it is with that personal experience that I would like sort through some of these really big questions.

In this three-part blog I will go in-depth on the question of Cancer, both my experience and what you as a pet parent should know.

So, what is Cancer?

What causes it, and how do we diagnosis and treat it?  Why is cancer so common with our pets, and why do certain types of cancer affect certain breeds and afflict humans in the same ways?  These are a few questions that I have.

Cancer by definition – Cancer describes diseases involving the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells within the body. These cells are able to invade other tissues, spreading to other parts of the body through the blood and lymphatic systems. If caught early cancer may not be a life threatening illness; however, if left undetected the abnormal cells can spend to vital organs shutting down your pets system and eventually leading to death.

There are many things, some that may not even be known at this time, that can potentially cause our pets to develop cancer. The primary known causes for pets are; genetic factors, vaccines, environmental chemicals and toxins, and early spaying and neutering.


Genetic Factors:

Genetics can play a role for some types of cancer. For example, Giant breed dogs tend to develop osteosarcoma (bone cancer) far more than non-Giant breeds. Genetic pre-dispositions can be perpetuated through an entire breed or on a smaller scale through a breeding line.


Vaccinations have been proven to play a role in causing cancer. In cats, vaccine-associated sarcomas (VAS) are well documented. Vaccination-site tumors may occur when a pet receives repeated needle-sticks in the same place year after year. Components of the vaccination formula aside from the actual vaccine (adjuvants) may cause cancer to develop.


Chemicals and Toxins:

When it comes to environmental factors, the list is depressingly long, and food is at the top of that list. Possible carcinogens in food include:

BHT/BHA and Ethoxyquin: Take a look at those dog food labels – does your food contain BHT/BHA and Ethoxyquin? These are preservatives that are often used in pet foods to preserve fats and stabilize the entire product. This is how your kibble can stay fresh sitting in your pantry for months at a time. The problem is that your fresh smelling, BHA laden pet food is full of carcinogens.

GMO’s: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are replacing natural food sources on a wide scale, and are designed to grow bigger and faster than nature intended. Corn, one of the first ingredients in many pet foods, is almost always GMO in the US, and GMO’s in general are facing a strong public outcry and international backlash because of the many health problems they propagate.

Aflatoxcin-Grains:  Molds called aflatoxins can easily grow in less than ideal situations, such as poor growing conditions or substandard/extended storage, and produce a very potent carcinogen. Contaminated grains such as corn, wheat, and rice, as well as nuts and legumes, are often found in low-quality pet food.  To make it worse, Aflatoxins are very stable and even the high temperature processing involved in kibble manufacturing won’t destroy them – even as it destroys what little nutritional value the kibble had to begin with.

Early Spaying and Neutering:

In recent studies with 3 breeds that are experiencing higher-than-normal cancer rates (Golden Retriever, Vizula and Rottiweiler) the conclusions were all similar:

The Golden Retriever study looked at cancer rates and found that the incidence of lymphosarcoma was three times higher in males neutered before 12 months of age than in unneutered males. Interestingly the percentage of hemangiosarcoma in females spayed after 12 months was four times higher than that of intact and even early-spayed females. Additionally, 6% of females spayed after 12 months were affected with mast cell cancer, while there were zero cases among the intact females.

Vizsla study researchers learned that spayed females had significantly higher rates of hemangiosarcoma than intact females (nine times higher). They also found that spayed/neutered dogs were 3.5% more likely to suffer mast cell cancer and 4.3 times more likely to suffer lymphoma.  (M. Christine Zink, DVM, PhD et al., Evaluation of the risk and age of onset of cancer and behavioral disorders in gonadectomized Vizslas. JAVMA, Vol 244, No. 3, February 1, 2014)

Rottweilers were analyzed in a retrospective cohort study that broke the risk down by age at spay/neuter. It found that the elevated risk of osteosarcoma was associated with spay/neuter of young dogs. Rottweilers spayed/neutered before one year of age were 3.8 (males) or 3.1 (females) times more likely to develop osteosarcoma than intact dogs. Indeed, the combination of breed risk and early spay/neuter meant that Rottweilers spayed/neutered before one year of age had a 28.4% (males) and 25.1% (females) risk of developing osteosarcoma. These results are consistent with the earlier multi-breed study but have an advantage of assessing risk as a function of age at neuter. A logical conclusion derived from combining the findings of these two studies is that the spay/neuter of dogs before 1 year of age is associated with a significantly increased risk of osteosarcoma. (Endogenous gonadal hormone exposure and bone sarcoma risk.Cooley DM, Beranek BC, Schlittler DL, Glickman NW, Glickman LT, Waters DJ.Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA).

If you are worried your pet may have cancer, here are some of the warning signs and symptoms to be aware of:

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Pet Cancer

  • Abnormal swelling that persists or continues to grow
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Unexplained weight loss/Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding or abnormal discharge regardless of the orifice
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Hesitation or loss of stamina
  • Persistent lameness
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating

Diagnosing Cancer

If you have noticed these symptoms, then what do you do? How is cancer diagnosed? Well, there are many diagnostic options that are available to us as pet owners and this is where sometimes a “team approach” comes in.  Consulting with your Veterinarian, an Oncologist (cancer specialist) and a Holistic Veterinarian is the starting point to help guide you through the process of discovering the type of cancer. The experts on your team may suggest some of the following for diagnosis:

  • CT Scan (cat scan)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Radiograph
  • Fine needle aspirate/Cytology
  • Biopsy with Histopathology
  • PET imaging (positron imaging tomography)
  • Bloodwork and Urinalysis

These tests will help narrow down the type of cancer, severity, location, etc., so you can determine a treatment plan So after the tests have all been ran then all we can do is wait for those answers.

Stay tuned for Part II, when we will discuss the different types of cancer and the potential treatment plans.

Sleeping Dogs Lie







This blog has been adapted from it’s original form. It was originally written by Amber Kingsley.

Ever heard of letting sleeping dogs lie? There is some real truth to this old saying – both as a metaphore and when talking about the kind of dogs that have tails!  If you’re a dog owner, you should know to let your pup get some rest, and just how much they  need.

Dogs sleep on average eight to ten hours more than humans, which means our dogs spend much of their lives sleeping. How much shut-eye your dog gets depends largely on his activity level, with service dogs and K9 officers getting the least amount of sleep. Because dogs can be very task-oriented, with motivation your dog could require less sleep.

The average housepet, however, likely rests quite a bit, even if your dog is part of an active family unit. Unless you live on a farm where the animals fend for themselves, deciding on where your dog should sleep is an important part of caretaking. Because dogs sleep so often, it’s a good idea to provide several sleeping spots around the home. For example, families like to have an area for the dog in the living room or TV area so that the dog can be around for quality time.

Depending on how your home is set up and how you would like it to be run with regards to dogs, children, furniture and the like, there are several widely used options for your pup’s main sleeping area. This sleeping spot should be encouraged every night from the time you bring your dog home, especially if you want to keep your pup away from certain spots in the house, like a child’s bed or an expensive sofa.

Some owners let their dog sleep with them. This is feasible usually when the dog is smaller, or the bed is bigger. Even if your dog sleeps with you every night, it’s still useful to provide the dog with at least one other bed of its own in the master bedroom, should it want a little more space. If you prefer to not have your dog in bed, they need to have a bed of their own in a designated area, whether it’s in the room with you or in some other area of the house.

Of course, some dog owners choose to keep their pups outdoors. Depending on their lifestyle people who live in the country or who have fenced-in yards may find that keeping the dog outside is best. If this is your situation, it iss necessary to create a dog house to protect your pooch from the elements. Be sure it’s leak proof and insulated for both rain and snow.

Depending on your dog’s behavior, health, and your own preferences, you may prefer to store your dog in a crate at night. Keeping your dog crated at night time keeps it from wandering onto furniture, making messes, having accidents, or sleeping with the kids.


There’s a lot of options for finding a place for your dogs to sleep, it’s simply a matter of what works for you and your pet! Click on the link below to see the infographic for more about the sleeping habits of dogs.



About the author Amber Kingsley on Dr Jo's Blog

Amber Kingsley is a journalist as well as a lifetime pet lover. When she’s not traveling the world, she’s usually spending time at home with her pets, and wants to help others make sure that their pets are as happy as they can be. From time to time, she contributes content to PetWave.

Guest Blog – Can Raw Food Kill Your Dog?

This article was originally posted on


Many of you have probably heard about the benefits of feeding raw dog food. Many more of you have probably heard that feeding your dog raw food is bad and if it doesn’t harm your dog it might cause your children to get really sick and die.

603771_10206583646012758_4390119323194080345_nNow as a disclaimer, I have been feeding my dog Steve’s Real Food for years. Steve’s is a brand of raw dog food. And for all those years at my dog’s annual check up, my vet has told me how healthy my dogs are, followed by the question, “What do you feed them?” When I would tell him raw dog food he would give me a lecture about all the evils you hear about raw dog food. After 7 years he finally stopped lecturing me and told me that he had heard anecdotal evidence that people who fed their dog raw food could get salmonella from them.

Well, after all these years (at least 7) of warning me, his prophesy finally came true. While we had fed our two Golden Retrievers Steve’s Raw for 6 years till their passing, well into their 14th year on this planet, we have also fed our current dogs, a Chihuahua and Husky, Steve’s for more than 3 years without a singe issue.

That is until recently. A little over a month ago our Husky started vomiting every once in a while after she was fed. Considering she would eat cat poop, go through the garbage and destroy any tissue type substance when we left home we did not think anything of it.

Then one day we arrived home to find a floor covered with bloody vomit. Our first concern was the Husky ate the Chihuahua. She had attacked the Chihuahua once before. After finding the dogs both intact we determined that the Husky must have had ingested something sharp so we called the vet immediately and took her right in. Our regular vet was off that day but his partner saw us. He came in the room and sat down without even examining the dog.

He asked what the problem was and after I told him he asked what we fed our dog. I told him Steve’s Real Food and he said he had never heard of it. I told him it was a Frozen Raw Dog Food.  And that’s where things started going sideways. He immediately started scolding me and telling me all the bad things about raw dog food. After that he started telling me how great he was. Sorry, listing all his accomplishments and how he was a trained epidemiologist and was going to go to Africa to help deal with the Ebola Virus.

After all the lectures and scaring my 11 year old son who was in the room who now thought he was going to die from salmonella if he touched the dog he prescribed an antibiotic, a pain reliever and a solution like Pepto to coat the stomach. He never even touched the dog.

So now we take her home and give her the prescribed treatment. She does seem to get better. No more bloody vomit. Just the occasional vomit after eating like before.

But then about two weeks later she stopped eating her food. We tried everything and she would barely eat anything. And what she would eat would be barely an ounce or two.

So this time we made an appointment with our regular vet. Although he was not a raw proponent he would not just dismiss everything out of hand and blame all the ills of the world on raw food. He’s actually a really good guy and pretty decent vet as well. It’s hard to find a good vet that isn’t adverse to raw. Even the holistic vet around here promotes the latest kibble craze over raw.

So now we take her in to see the regular vet and he listens to us and proposes we do an ultra sound and some X-rays. When he does that he sees a large mass in her stomach and biopsies it. When the results come back it is not cancerous. But the vet told me something I found interesting. When I saw the partner I told him the dog ate cat poop and we have clumping litter. The regular vet said that when he was preparing the slide of the biopsy that it felt gritty. I asked him if it could be clumping kitty litter. He said that they wouldn’t test for that but it is possible.

Our dog was barely eating and was not getting better so we scheduled surgery to remove whatever was causing her pain.

As it turns out, the mass in her stomach was cancer. It was in a place where if he had removed it she wouldn’t live. And not removing it she would die of starvation in a short period of time.

We had hoped that it was clumping litter and after surgery we would have our beautiful Husky home happy and well.  Instead we decided that it would be cruel to stitch her back up and wake her up only to die from starvation in weeks or days while recovering from surgery as well.

So to answer the question, Can Raw Dog Food Kill Your Dog? Quite possibly. If you have a veterinarian that doesn’t even look at your dog and just assumes it’s the dog food. Actually more dogs have died from melamine and other things that shouldn’t be in dog food at all.

Another disclaimer. I sell Steve’s Real Food. I have for years. I have know more than 20 dogs who have or are currently eating Steve’s and know of many more who eat other brands of raw dog food.

I also have many of my customers tell me that their vets tell them every year at their dogs annual check up how healthy they are and ask what they feed them. And just like my vet almost every year they get lectures on how bad raw dog food is. You would think after the first time they would open their mind and actually pay attention to the results.

So my advice to you would be do your research. If your dog has a problem and your vet automatically blames it on the food to find another vet.  I knew it wasn’t the food because I was not only feeding it to another dog in my house but personally knew other eating the same food from the same batch with no problems. Another thing that my vets partner would not listen to.

And the standard disclaimer. I’m not a Veterinarian so I can’t give medical advice. You should always consult your veterinarian. Sort of ironic since a veterinarian can give you bad advice and their only liability is very limited where mine is not.

Bill from


Transitioning a Sensitive Dog Part IV – the Finale

Baxter Driving

January 14th, 2015

So it has now been six weeks that my Baxter baby has been on raw food. He has fully transitioned with absolutely no problems.  I am very glad I did it gradually, it took a full month to do, but now he can handle food he could never eat before without having troubles just fine.  Now that his digestion is doing so much better, I am less fearful of giving him little treats, like a piece of my bacon fat, or eating the leftover sauce when I have spaghetti.  This makes him very, very happy, because for a full year he hasn’t had anything but kibble and what he could scrounge off the floor at family dinners with my nephews.  The kids like it too, because they are allowed to play with him and feed him treats again.  His coat is feeling softer, and his energy is up despite his advancing years.

Each dog is different, and Baxter has definite preferences to the different lines of Steve’s.  He is not a big fan of the turkey-based products, he much prefers the Chicken and he LOVES the Beef.  He laps up the yogurt like nobody’s business, as well.

We are planning on getting him a bowl with a center you can freeze to keep it cold all day.  He is used to just eating whenever he feels like it so keeping him on a consistent eating schedule has been difficult.  He doesn’t want to eat on our time, he wants to eat on his!  Plus with the flexibility of my schedule and my boyfriend’s, it is hard for us to feed him at exact times so he can get used to it.  For our lives that is a challenge, so having a bowl that will keep the food cold throughout the day so he can eat when he wants will help a lot, I think.

It’s been much less stressful than I expected it to be with Baxter’s past digestive history, so I have overall been really pleased.  He is adapting to his new life fantastically – with me around more and much less stressed (I had a high stress job that was not a good fit for me last year), he is happy with life.  He is a little cuddle bunny, and last night hopped into bed with me no less than five times.  With two cats that like to cuddle/take over your pillow and a dog, I don’t sleep very consistently…

Speaking of cats, I want to let you know that Magic, the cat attacked by a pitbull, is doing much better.  It was so touch and go there for awhile, but we knew he was in the clear when a few nights ago he started playfully hunting and chasing the other cat around the apartment. We have gotten all the bedding he leaked on cleaned, and things are feeling like they are back to normal besides his shaved belly and the stitches that we need to get taken out.  We feel so blessed and lucky that our cat is still alive, and that he is returning to health, poor thing.  It was a nightmare, but it is pretty much over now.

Thanks for following my journey as I transitioned my baby over to raw food.  I hope that you found it helpful and semi-interesting, and that it will encourage you, if you are thinking of turning to raw, to not let it be too intimidating of an idea for you.  I have found he is happier, healthier, and the overall wellness in my home has improved. Because the Steve’s line is so convenient to feed, it has not added to our stress levels at all compared to him eating kibble.  Wanting good things for him has inspired me to do more for my own nutrition, and in the same six weeks (but mostly the last three) I have cut sugar out of my diet, starting juicing regularly, and eating out less.  I did no sugar and low carbs a couple of years ago and lost a considerable amount of weight in five months (almost ten pounds a month) but with peer pressure and the stresses of life I lost hold of that healthy lifestyle and go figure, the weight came back. I am returning to healthfulness, and I can definitely attribute some of that to Baxter and giving him a quality diet.

So all I can say is that if you are thinking of doing it, DO IT!  You can’t put a price on good health!



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