Can dogs or cats get mad cow disease? Research into prions and how to protect your dog or cat.
What is Mad Cow Disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)?
Mad Cow Disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was in the news again this January 2022. A customer of ours reached out to find out if Mad Cow Disease could affect dogs. As such, we thought we’d share short research we did into BSE and expanded the research to include cats.
Mad Cow Disease or BSE is a fatal disease that affects cattle who eat feed mixed with the rendered remains of infected meat products. Basically, cows which are herbivores are fed bones, blood, and meat products, which could result in damages to the central nervous system of the cow and eventually death.
Why are cows/ herbivores fed meat products?
This started in the UK, when the price of soy rose high. As a result, farmers who used to use soy in feeds switched to animal by-products. However, as it is a herbivore, a cow’s system is not designed to process meat
Can dogs get Mad Cow Disease?
A research paper published in 2020, shows that “the amino acid residue at position 163 of canine cellular prion protein (PrPC ) is a major determinant of the exceptional resistance of the canidae family to prion infection.”1 Basically, dogs do not get Mad Cow Disease or BSE. Another way to explain a prion is that it is an abnormal form of a normally harmless protein.
Can cats get Mad Cow Disease?
Cats can get their own version of this disease called feline spongiform encephalopathy.
What can you do to protect your dog or cat?
The FDA in the USA and Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has banned the use of high-risk parts (brain, spinal cords) of cattle in feed. However, there was a loop hole where sheep and other ruminants could be fed to cattle but this still caused diseased cows.
Cooking does not kill the prion for BSE. As we explained earlier, this is because the prion is an abnormal form of a normally harmless protein.
The only way to get rid of BSE is to make sure the diseased animal is destroyed completely and not reused in feed.
Dog owners have a lot less to worry about than cat owners. We’d still suggest that if you feed beef, you feed grass-fed and finished if you can afford it.
More importantly, ask your pet food manufacturer to source from farms that can prove that their feed do not contain rendered meats. You have the power to make change by sending emails to your pet food manufacturer so that they are more transparent about their sourcing.