ASK THE DOCTOR
with Ferenc Molmar, MD
Q. Dear Dr. Molmar, We have neighbors who often punish or discipline their children by chaining them up in a dark basement with dishes of dog food and water. It’s canned dog food, I believe, though sometimes they also get kibble. I’ve heard of old people taking a fancy to cat food, which is understandable since that’s often a sort of low-grade tunafish (to judge by the smell), but dog food has me wondering. We were always told not to feed dogs chocolate or garlic because it might kill them, but I’m wondering if perhaps the reverse is also true: don’t feed people Gravy Train because it will make them sick?
Incidentally, these kids do look pretty sick much of the time, all hollow-eyed and tired-looking, at least on those few occasions I’ve seen them out and about. What’s your take on all this?
A. My dear CONCERNED, I am not a veterinarian but I suspect this is a common question. Dog food and cat food are sort of like paint chips: sooner or later stupid kids will try to eat the stuff. If it were truly toxic, we’d have all these accounts of three-year-olds rushed to Emergency after finishing off the doggie dish. In the old days they put all kinds of offal into dog food (you’ve heard of “meat by-products”), like horse intestines and pig brain, but my guess is the stuff is pretty safe now.
I suppose if the kids are getting fresh water in the water dish they should make it through. But a dank basement will breed mildew and lots of pathogens. If the parents are like neglectful dog owners I’ve seen, the water dish is probably a rusty old pie pan and they only change it every two or three days. So that’s something I’d watch out for. If you’re wondering whether you should get involved and “report them to the authorities” then I recommend holding off. Tales of child abuse are pitiable and unfortunate, but so long as there’s no sex perversion involved you might not want to stir up trouble.
Author: “Uncle Bill” Cobbett
Old as dirt and twice as jolly.