Feeding Camels to Dogs is not only bad for the camel but bad for the dog too!
Indospicine - a deadly Amino Acid
While the presence of camel meat in dog or cat food is not done by any
major pet food in North America, with the ever present internet,
international trade and the growing interest in alternative and raw
diets, the availability of camel meat exists. In early 2011, a group of
dogs in Australia were diagnosed with indospicine toxicity from eating a
commercial dog food diet that contained camel meat. Three of the dogs
had to be euthanized due to liver toxicity. Camel meat can be toxic if
the camels have ingested indospicine which is a toxic amino acid present
in many of the species of the Indiofera genus. Camels are not the only
animal that eats this plant.
Indiofera, Indospicine and Indigo Ink... oh, my!
The Indigofera genus of plants includes hundreds, about seven hundred, different species and is wide spread throughout the world. In Australia, Birdsville Idigo, Indigofera linnaei, is widespread through Western Queensland and the Northern Territories. It is a concern with the horsemeat industry and so meat there is sourced from Indofera free regions. While indospicine is known to be deadly to dogs, the human potential for toxicity is still unknown. While horse meat is generally not consumed in Australia by people, it is exported to Japan, Russia and Europe. For those of you in the United States that are concerned about the horsemeat industry, the last horse slaughter house was closed in Dekalb, Illinois by court order in 2007. In Canada and Mexico, horsemeat is still readily available. In China, horse meat is not generally eaten and thus not widely used.
The Indigofera plants are also widespread in the United States. The species Indigofera tinctoria and Indigofera suffruticosa were brought from the Caribbean to Charleston where Eliza Lucas learned to cultivate the plant and developed the process in the US for extracting the indigo dye. As a result, indigo dye became South Carolina's second largest cash crop (after rice) until the American Revolution. The South Carolina State's flag color is representative of the color of the uniforms which used indigo dye.
These plants might have been a common pasture crop if not for their toxic properties. Their toxicity lies in several compounds but one of the primary toxins is indospicine. Indospicine is toxic to most mammals but some animals like horses and camels have some resistance to its toxicity. Dogs unfortunately are highly susceptible. These plants are toxic to sheep and cows and so indospicine is not seen in beef or lamb meat.
Indospicine is a non-protein amino acid analog of arginine.
Let's break this down...
It is an amino acid meaning that has the basic structure similar to other amino acids like arginine, lysine, etc. (Technically it has an amine group, a carboxylic acid group and a side chain).
It is a non-protein amino acid because it is not one of the basic 22 amino acids that make up protein. Protein can be defined as a biologicvally active polypetptide.
The fact that it is an analog of arginine means that it "looks" similar enough to the conditionally essential (read... important) amino acid arginine that the body tries to use indospicine in place of the arginine. This leads to multiple problems including liver failure.
Argnine is important in the formation of nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide should not be confused with Nitrous Oxide (N2O) which is laughing gas. Nitric oxide is produced in the vascular endothelium (lining of the blood vessels) by the enzyme Nitric Oxide Synthase which uses arginine. With the presence of indospicine, nitric oxide is unable to be made which allows organs like the liver to be at risk for ischemic damage. Futhermore, indospicine also increases superoxide (O2-) levels which is a dangerous Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) or free radical. This is thought to be one of the main mechanisms of action for toxicity.
Indospicine's incorporation in other mechanisms where arginine is used, such as protein synthesis, is also assumed to be part of its toxic property. Another common legume non-protein arginine analog amino acid is Canavanine and works similar to Indospicine.
South Carolina Colonial Flag
Indigo dye: indofera, extracted dye and dyed fabric
Hand woven cloth that is dyed with natural Indigo Ink from an Indiofera plant
Summary and Future Concerns with Indospicine and Canavanine
Argninine - a conditionally essential amino acid
In the United States the use of horse meat in dog food is not permitted. Nor will you find camel meat. However as horse meat is still considered a delicacy in many countries like France, Belgium and Japan (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1587279,00.html), the potential access of horse meat for our pets exists.As the toxicity with horse and camel meat is due not to an intrinsic property of the animals but as to whether or not the animal ate a fairly ubiquitous genus of plant, Indigofera, prior to slaughter; there is concern that small, private meat sources could potentially contain this toxin. Small amounts of indospicine may lead to inflammation of the liver and a blood level rise of ALT but may or may not lead to clinical signs. Thus we must be very careful in choosing food sources for our pets. Once again, when we look at the sources for our dog and cat foods, we must rely heaving on trusting the company that makes it. It is they who chose the sources and quality of ingredients and are responsible for ensuring nutritional adequacy.
But what about Animal By Products?? Do they contain horse?
No. Again, horse is not allowed in pet food in the United States. Upon researching this page I came across, as always, many spurious claims debasing animal by products including that they may include: horse meat, euthanized dogs and cats, hoofs, hair and feathers.
For a complete explanation of by products, please click on my internal link to the right.
In short: by products by law may not contain horse, dog or cat. They may not contain hoofs or horns. And may not contain any more hair or feathers than you would find with normal meat that you find in the grocery store. (a feather or two may be present on the whole chicken you buy). It is important to note that "Feather By Product" is not allowed in pet foods. Finally, by products include liver, intestines and other nutrient rich organs which are usually the first to be consumed by wild predators when taking down prey. By products are no more processed than meat. Furthermore the term Meal whether it refers to meat meal or by product meal, has the same definitions as meat or by product but is delivered in a dry, ground form.
So when it says "animal", what animal is it? Hamster??? Typically, when the term is broad like "Animal Fat" versus "Lamb Fat", the animal in questions is most commonly pig. This is due to availability. However it can be other animals or a mix which can include cattle or sheep.