Thursday, September 18, 2008

Grain mites contaminated dry foods

Before I get going with what’s on my mind today, I felt it was about time and important that I make one thing perfectly clear:
While reading all my comments about the all bad pet food industry, we have to make sure that every pet owner understands: There is good news too. In that there still are high quality pet foods out there and available to us. They don’t use “bad” ingredients and also don’t save under the motto “no matter what it takes to make money”. Companies who care as much about our pets as we do. And there are plenty of them. It just takes some time on your part to find them. As you know my policy here on this blog is not to actually name any brands. But you also know where else you can find me, so that would be a good starting point. And one more hint: Start with companies not listed on Wall Street.
Today’s pet section in my newspaper featured a question to Dr. Fox and asked by an Indianapolis owner of a 5 year old Yorkie. To make it short, here is the sequence of events:
Annual check up at the vet, routine stool sample reveals hook worms, Yorkie gets 3 days of de-worming medication, re-testing shows, not effect, 5 more days of the same medication, still no results, microscopic analysis at the vet’s office brings to light that bug-like creatures live in the stool, vet says hasn’t seen something like that in his 30 years of practicing, samples are sent to an independent lab, results are in after 2 days, dog is infested with grain mites, however, lucky enough does not show any symptoms of illness, vet assumes the mites are coming from the dry food, pet owner contacts pet food manufacturer, they decline any involvement with the case but reimburse her for the food she has left over, woman goes on the Internet, finds out about “mite dust”, also locates the brands associated with having the problem of the dust in their food, learns that there is no treatment for grain mites, vet and independent lab confirm the no treatment available fact, woman learns further that there have been dogs getting seriously ill because of the mites, symptoms include bloody diarrhea and weight loss, apparently some dogs even died because of it, woman finds it suspicious that always the same brands are being fed when a dog gets infested with the mites, her question is “Why are vets not aware of the problem? Especially since it can be assumed that the manufacturers involved are aware of the problem and many others too as web traffic and amount of inquiries clearly indicate.”
Dr. Fox answers by providing his knowledge about the parasites. Says, he assumes the mites have been dead since they can’t parasitize internally. Also thinks they are harmless since the dog shows no signs of illness. However, he warns, they could create problems because of their protein production, which then could lead to intestinal inflammation and diarrhea. Because of the substantial number of mites, he is also wondering about the age of the pet food when it was fed. He finally concludes with some statements about questionable hygiene not just at the pet food manufacturer’s plants but also at the ingredient sources. And ends up with the genius idea that the best solution is for pet owners to buy their own ingredients and make their own food. End of the story.
Come on Dr., we know you can do way better than that. That is not the answer. Thanks for the education on the mites. But we have to be able to trust our pet food. And you only partially answered the question. May I repeat: “Why are vets not aware of the problem?” I assume it was an oversight on your part. Though, somehow I can’t help it to wonder if it has something to do with something what is bugging me for a long time. There is no way it has to do with the fact that the majority of the prescription foods prescribed by some vets are coming from exactly the same sources as the problem foods, right? I wouldn’t think so, ‘cause in my opinion and most of my fellow pet owners agree, our vet is a trustworthy and reliable factor in my pet’s life and your word is our bible. Without limitations we take what he says for granted and written in stone. I don’t even understand how such doubts can cross my mind. But it started when some while ago I told a vet that I’m involved with my own pet food business, that I believe in the benefits of raw food and could make raw diets available to his patients. He sort of shrugged me off telling me that he simply does not believe feeding raw is a good idea. I am a grown up man and I appreciate his personal opinion. I can take “No” for an answer, so I won’t bother him again. However, this was not the time when the aforementioned doubts came to my mind. It happened a couple months later while I was waiting at his office once again. On that day I overheard another patient asking the receptionist for the number of the local raw food store. The doctor had given it to her and she lost it. I guess I must have misunderstood something...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pet Food Safety: Don't worry, the FDA has everything under control.

This current month marks the mandatory deadline for the FDA not just to present updated pet food regulations but also have them in working order. This was ordered by the Congress last year following the deadly pet food recall, in short: The FDA was told to clean up its act.
It will be interesting to see what the result is going to be. I for my part along with many others am skeptical of the outcome to be expected. Why? Generally speaking, some interpretations on the FDA’s point of view on pet food safety pretty much reflect a view that all US pet foods are safe and everything is under control. How much under control? Well, I think based on the FDA’s actions taken so far this can be argued. But see for yourself:
Principally I want you to keep in mind that according to the FDA everything is under control. Hopefully this strong response will satisfy you and you go away with your strange questions.
Remember that it is the Chinese who are to blame for the 07 deadly recall. It was in no way the fault of any US company. There is nothing wrong about the manufacturers profiting from these questionable ingredient imports. Some of these profits don’t realize anyway, because there was a settlement entered into under which a lot of that money goes back to the pet owners.
At the same time, it is not necessary to restrict ingredient imports. Neither is it necessary to advise the consumer on pet food labels that ingredients originated there. Because the FDA has been advised by the Chinese that they have taken steps to prevent similar disasters in future. Hence, these imports can be trusted. This especially since a whopping 1% of all imported products are inspected by the FDA.
Pet owners don’t have to worry about sick, diseased cattle and other animals being processed into pet food. The FDA currently considers sick, diseased cattle to be so called Specified Risk Materials to spread mad cow disease. The FDA is furthermore aware that cats around the world have contracted the feline version of this disease. Yet, amazingly enough, the FDA does not believe that using these ingredients in pet foods is a problem. (I see: Problem doesn’t equal Risk!) In addition, it is very expensive to destroy these risk materials. The most cost effective solution is using them in pet food. This is what the pet food industry leaders and shareholders said and they must know. After all, that’s their business.
The Fish & Wildlife Agency has reported of over 100 Bald and Golden Eagle deaths due to the ingestion of euthanized animals. Animals are euthanized with Pentobarbital. A lengthy study on this drug performed by the FDA concluded Pentobarbital to be safe for pet consumption over a lifetime. With regards to the same drug, the FDA does not know how it gets into some pet foods. However, even within the FDA organization there is an awareness that euthanized animals have been rendered and used in pet food. After finding out, testing procedures to determine the source species for the drug were developed. What did the tests reveal or better said accomplish? It quieted the rumors about what I just said here. We still don’t know how the lethal drug gets into the pet food. And the industry’s stakeholders have assured the FDA that they are not coming from euthanized cats and dogs. Hence, there is no reason for pet owners to be concerned about this issue.
The FDA also believes that there is nothing wrong with the current pet food labeling. And it is perfectly ok that a pet owning consumer has to be a detective in order to find out what is really in his pet food. Most consumers don’t have time to go through all this trouble. So for that reason, everything is ok with the labels. The consistent misleading of consumers with tricky statements on pet food packaging is perfectly fine.
Underlined every statement is the fact that the FDA consistently states she has everything under control.
And if one gets really critical and to the bottom of the issues on hand, then he will be referred to the AAFCO. Because that is the agency the FDA refers most of the pet food issues to. They are in charge of pet food, that’s their job. No problem that they have no legislative rights. And we pet owners are definitely safe and protected under the AAFCO umbrella. Because their advisory board is made up of a sufficient number of pet food industry stakeholders, and they must know. Should you as a pet owner still have any problems, please be considerate and give all of them credit for what they are doing. What do you expect? Because if none of the explanations they provide are satisfactory to you, the FDA and AAFCO is quick to respond that insufficient funding and man power is the root of all these minor problems.
I would like to thank Susan Thixton for inspiring me to this writing after reading her opinion expressed at the Natural News website. She is someone who speaks my mind and definitely does her part in untwisting some people’s logic.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

100% Complete and balanced disaster

Thousands of cats die each year with dilated cardiomyopathy. Cause: Unknown. A study showed low plasma taurine concentrations associated with echocardiographic evidence of myocardinal failure were observed in 21 cats fed commercial “100% complete and balanced cat food. Another test showed the same problem when performed on 37 cats. The findings concluded that the findings ‘definitely were related to the diet and as such could have been prevented.
A dog food test by chemical analysis and the AAFCO growth trial showed the dogs observed and fed a commercial “100% balanced and complete dog formula” had a lower growth rate and food efficiency as well as suboptimal PCV and hemoglobin values during the growth trial. Puppies fed the same diet also had clinical signs typical of zinc and copper deficiencies.

Cats diagnosed with chronic renal disease were reported as being fed “100% complete & balanced processed food” since they were kittens.

Potassium depletion led to generalized weakness of acute onset, apparent muscular pain and persistent ventroflexion of the neck in cats after they had exclusively been fed “100% complete and balanced commercial diets”.

The Journal of Nutrition recommends chloride requirements for cats substantially nearly 50%, than the current AAFCO allowance, which is used to manufacture complete & balanced cat food.

AAFCO feeding trials do not support animals over the long term. They are used as guideline to manufacture complete & balanced diets.

I assume by now you got the message, it’s all about 100% complete and balanced commercial pet foods. All statements quoted here are coming from The Veterinary Forum, The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Veterinary clincs, University of PA School of Veterinary Medicine, The Journal of Nutrition, The Feline Practice, The United States Patent Office and more what I would call “Sources qualified to report on the subject”,
Other statements include:
Riboflavin requirements of adult dogs are higher than currently used estimates.
Nutritional deficiencies of carnitine in dogs and taurine in cats and nutritional excess of calories and sodium have emerged as important considerations in cardiology. However, it has also been said by experts that we currently do not have complete information on requirements for essential nutrients.
Heart failures observed in dogs.
Most pets are kept chronically deficient in L-carnitine.
It is important that animals are being fed optimal rather than minimal diets.
The Veterinary Business says: “It is important to emphasize that the calculations made in the formulation of a diet make a number of arbitrary assumptions and the potential for significant error is high.”
The list is never ending. Let me close out with this: All I see being 100% complete is “disaster” and there is definitely something 100% complete “out of balance” I enjoy reading and would like to thank Dr. R.L. Wysong for his book “The Truth about Pet Foods” and for collecting all this sobering and eye opening, scientifically proven and documented information and making it easily accessible to the public. Whereby I see the public as being responsible pet owners and members of this blog simply no longer falling for marketing claims and pet food myths. I hope one day soon we all are on the same page.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Consumer Affairs: Dog dies because of Swiffer Cleaner?

Yesterday, after posting my comment here I kept browsing the net and came across an article published by Lisa Wade McCormick of Consumer Affairs. It was titled “Dog Owner Claims Swiffer Cleaner Cost Pet’s Life”. In it she reports of a grieving Jacksonville, NC pet owner who claims her healthy five year old Miniature Pomeranian suddenly died in July after she cleaned her floors with Swiffer Sweeper Wet Cloths. Initially she didn’t connect the problem to the floor cleaner. The first time her dog got sick was after she had used the cleaner, but the dog had also gotten into the trash can that same morning. So she figured that may have caused the problem. But then, after a second cleaning, her dog got sick again and immediately passed away. She took him to the vet, told him her story and the vet concluded that dogs like to lick freshly swept floors due to the sweet taste of the cleaner, but the cleaner also contains toxic ingredients that could cause an animal’s death after ingestion. The dog owner contacted Consumer Affairs, they started an investigation. They contacted the vet, he never returned any of their calls. Then they contacted the veterinary toxicologist who runs the Animal Poison Control Center for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Dr. Steven Hansen. He told them that it would be unlikely for the product to be related to the dog’s death and they at that point were not aware of any similar reports related to that product. Finally Consumer Affairs contacted the manufacturer of the cleaner, Procter & Gamble. Their spokesman, Mr. Benton, said he'd never heard of any problems with this product. "This is actually the first time I've heard this story associated with the wet cloths." Benton, however, said false rumors have circulated about pet illnesses and deaths linked to the Swiffer Wet Jet products. According to those rumors, those products may contain ingredients that are toxin to children and pets. "The truth is, all Swiffer products are safe to use around children and pets when used according to directions, a fact confirmed by independent scientists, veterinarians, and the ASPCA," the company said. Consumer Affairs also learned the ASPCA investigated the rumors and confirmed the allegations were unfounded. Veterinarians with the organization said the ingredients in the Swiffer Wet Jet cleaner, water (90-100%), propylene glycol n-propyl ether or propylene glycol n-butyl ether, and isopropyl alcohol (1-4%) , did not pose a health risk to pets. "These ingredients are safe to use around pets when used according to label directions and would not cause liver damage at product concentrations," ASPCA wrote shortly after the rumors surfaced a few years ago. P&G spokesperson Benton said he would forward the dog owner’s concerns to the company's R&D team. "Thanks for bringing this to our attention," he said.
Back in NC, the dog owner is still wondering what happened. "I don't want this to happen to anyone else," she says. "I was devastated when this happened and did not think I was doing anything wrong." She added: "The only warning Swiffer have on the label is to keep out of reach of children and pets in case of accidental ingestion, just the same as any other household product you may buy. They need to have a warning that is more effective in educating consumers."
Let me make it perfectly clear that the dog owner has my absolute sympathy for her loss, nobody deserves to have a loved one taken away neither like this or as a matter of fact any other way. But here is my view:
I haven’t seen the label on the Swiffers yet, my wife doesn’t use them, but I will take a look at it next time I go to the store. Dog owner: Either your comment about the label got sort of bent out of shape when published by Consumer Affairs or you still are confused about what it really says their. Your statement just doesn’t make any sense to me: “The only warning is…to keep it out of reach of children and pets in case of accidental ingestion”??? Is it maybe possible that you only read half of the label? And, I am sorry, I don’t need any warning label. I just use common sense and will never let my pets either even walk on a just mopped floor nor do the worst, let them lick up the cleaner. I don’t care how safe the label says the product is. Plus, at least the 1st time around you were aware of the fact that your dog was in the trash can, so why don’t you start looking there first. Your dog quite often seemed to be without your supervision at least for some short periods of time. I find it a little wrong to blame the resulting outcome on a totally unrelated cleaner manufacturer. I doubt your dog died within minutes after having a little taste of some cleaner, even if it would be toxic. It is your obligation to make sure your pet is safe. Don’t blame someone else for your own lack of responsibility. If I would be like you, maybe I would ask if you fed your dog possibly one of the recall brands. To your vet I like to say that I hate it when people make totally unqualified statements about something they absolutely have no knowledge of. And while I may instinctively have very slim doubts about P&G’s innocence, the fact that the ASPCA said there is no risk convinces me that the product is safe. Though I still will not let my pets lick the floor. There’s no reason for that either, it just have been cleaned. Case closed, swiff it away, I prefer problems based on actual facts, like found sometimes in pet food.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

September: Senior Dog's Month & Responsible Pet Ownership Month

Someone at some point in time someone decided that September was going to be Senior Dog Month. I don’t know who, why and when, and to be quite frank, I am really not to keen about spending a lot of time on finding it out. I believe I have a logical explanation for the “Why” part. It’s probably just a marketing gig. I don’t know if it works though. After all, any senior dog needs attention all year round and not just during the month of September, right? Anyway, there are way more important things for me to worry about. Actually, it’s not bad for me, it gives me a reason to focus our advertising on senior dog related products, kind of gives me a good way in, provides an opportunity to talk about something in all my publications, what else could I wish for? So, initially I decided to put the burning issue on the back burner and save it for the day when I have nothing else to say anymore. And for me it was only logical at the same time there’s got to be a Senior Dog Owner's Month. Wouldn’t that make sense to you?
Guess what? Wrong! September is not Senior Dog Owner’s month, it’s Responsible Dog Ownership Month. Yep, it was reported on the Internet the other day and it is so important that they even had a doctor commenting on it.
Ok, I back off already. Responsible ownership is important and something what needs to be talked about. Maybe even more than about senior dogs. And we need to get into pet owner’s faces to make sure they understand what this responsibility entails. Because it looks to me like the number of pet owners (or as a matter of fact, people in general) using common sense seems to be dwindling.
So here is a list of what you, as a responsible pet owner have to pay attention to:
Make sure there is enough food, water and plenty of love. And shelter too. This by the way is where, according to the doctor, the list for a great majority of pet owners already ends. Not everybody has immediately in mind vaccinations, preventative care, identity tags, licenses and microchips, treatment for chronic conditions, behavioral training, exercise and grooming.
It sounds to me like the doctor was a vet, ‘cause he said: “Responsible Dog Ownership Month,… is an opportunity to celebrate your pet and check your care routines against your veterinarian's recommendations. Regular veterinary care and annual wellness exams that include lab tests, vaccinations, parasite screening and prevention, and dental care. Adequate nutrition and weight management discussed with your veterinarian based on your pet's age and activity level.”
Other items he listed don’t seem to require your vet’s approval and input, like exercising your pet’s mind and body, obedience training, socialization, safety like keeping your dog on a leash or in an enclosed area when necessary and rewarding your dog’s unconditional love with returning to him love and affection. I guess you are allowed to provide these items without your vet’s approval because he doesn’t carry them in his service and product assortment.
All together great and real life, practical advise. Now, I for my part didn’t need such a list, I’m sure our community members don’t need it, we really didn't learn anything new here, but unfortunately there is certainly a need for it. Hey, the doctor must know, at the end of the article it said he’s even a professor. And the Responsible Ownership Month, created by the AKC is now celebrating its 6th birthday. Plus, the AKC’s intention was great: To remind people about the commitment they make when they choose to get a dog or any other pet.
I have nothing to add to that. Except, as a pet food fanatic and all of this coming from a professor, I would have loved to see a sound statement about the food. To make sure pet owners understand that food is not food and only they can decide what’s good for their pets. Even if that means they may have to go on collision course with their vet. To make sure they don’t feed a recall plagued brand. Or a food that’s appropriate for a rabbit. Because our cats and dogs are carnivores and need meat, not a 60% plant based ingredient containing formula. Thinking about these not so minor details is what I call being responsible.