Saturday, October 4, 2008

Feeding cans to cats: A case against dry

Franny Syufy, columnist for the portal, in one of her articles the other day was wondering about the advantages of feeding canned food to cats. While she recognizes and agrees with me that raw food is the best route cat owners can choose, sometimes time restraints and/or expenses may prevent them form embracing a raw diet to their cats. In that case canned food is by far the 2nd best choice. Although many people rely on dry cat food as a staple for their cats' diets, canned cat food is a must for developing strong bones and muscles, while mitigating many potential conditions caused or contributed to by an all-dry cat food diet. Clearly she made a very strong point against feeding dry only.
Her point of view is, and I totally agree:
“It's true that dry cat food is convenient; it doesn't spoil rapidly, and most cats like the "crunch" of eating dry kibbles. However, dry cat food has its definite "downside." Cats eating a diet of only dry food are losing out on the extra nutrition they can get with canned cat food. Many commercial dry foods are packed with carbohydrate fillers, usually corn, listed as "corn meal," "ground whole corn," "corn gluten," or even more thinly disguised as "maize," "ground yellow maize" or other misleading names. The ingredients listings are often split, which gives the consumer a false impression of the true proportion of carbohydrate to protein, e.g., "Poultry by-product meal, ground yellow corn, wheat flour, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, brewers rice..." Of the first six listed ingredients of this popular "grocery store premium" brand, four are carbohydrates, with the combined corn ingredients leading the list.”
I would do the same what she does while at the grocery store: When you see this food, keep walking. Not just because of the high grain content but also because the first listed ingredient is poultry by-product meal.
She continues to explain: “In the wild, a cat will eat only a very small quantity of any grain, namely the stomach contents of mice, rabbits, or birds he catches. Why then, should a pampered household cat eat a diet that is loaded with the one food nutrient he really doesn't need? Although french fries and Twinkies might be tasty treats on occasion, what human would consider living on them day in and day out, much less feed them to their children as a regular diet? Why then, would we do less for our cats?”
And finally, what I like the most about her article is that she addresses the issue of common diseases caused by feeding commercially, mass produced dry kibble to our pets. She says:
“Dry cat food can also contribute or be directly related to certain health conditions.” To underline her view, she even quotes some vets who are with us on the same wave length.
Feline Diabetes: Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM, does not mince words about the connection between dry cat food and feline diabetes. On her web site states: "Without the constant feeding of highly processed, high carbohydrate dry foods, better suited to cattle than cats, adult-onset feline diabetes would be a rare disease, if it occurred at all." Dr. Hodgkins is the editor and moderator of the Your, a web forum dedicated to the management and prevention of feline diabetis.
IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease): Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM, states, "Too often these cats are treated with a high level of steroids and a so-called 'prescription' DRY diet. I feel very strongly that this common therapeutic regimen needs to be re-evaluated. There are an impressive number of anecdotal reports of cats that were terribly ill with IBD exhibiting dramatic improvement when ALL dry food was removed from their diet." Dr. Pierson is a contributor to Jeff Feinman’s DVM “The Home Vet”, a website dedicated to the latest conventional pet care information as well as natural and holistic alternatives. Dr. Feinman: “I strongly believe that integrating both worlds is the best way to raise healthy, long-lived pets and to care for already sick ones.”
CRF (Chronic Renal Failure): Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM, states, "It is troubling to think about the role that chronic dehydration plays in feline kidney failure. And remember, cats are chronically dehydrated when they are on a diet of predominantly dry food."
Urinary crystals and cystitis: More from Dr. Pierson: “The chances of bladder crystals or bladder inflammation are greatly reduced with a canned or raw food diet, which both give the essential hydration needed for a healthy urinary tract.
Diarrhea: Diarrhea and other allergy-related conditions are often caused by corn or wheat fillers in dry cat food. After eliminating other potential medical causes, switching to canned or raw food can make the diarrhea go away almost overnight.
Dehydration: Cats on canned food diets or raw food get sufficient water in their food. Cats on dry food alone must be given plenty of water, especially during hot summer months.”
Anybody still out there believing that I always make that stuff up? I will continue to bring you more of this kind of proof making sure you get the wake up call.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Maybe something is going to change...

One of the stock market watches on the Internet reported recently on Colgate Palmolive:
“…, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the manufacture and marketing of consumer products worldwide. It operates in two segments, Oral, Personal, and Home Care; and Pet Nutrition. The Oral, Personal, and Home Care segment offers toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouth rinses, dental floss, and pharmaceutical products for dentists and other oral health professionals; shower gels, shampoos, conditioners, deodorants and antiperspirants, and liquid hand soaps; and dishwashing liquids, household cleaners, oil soaps, and fabric conditioners.The Pet Nutrition segment produces pet nutrition products for dogs and cats. The company sells its products to wholesale and retail distributors, and to veterinarians and specialty pet retailers. Colgate-Palmolive was founded in 1806 and is headquartered in New York, New York.Colgate is a relatively conservative issue that has held up fairly well in the recent market meltdown due to its strong return on equity and positive earnings growth. The company recently announced excellent worldwide sales and unit volume growth, together with higher than expected earnings growth for latest quarter.Worldwide sales grew 16.5 percent to $3,964.8 million and unit volume grew 5 percent. Global pricing increased 4.5 percent and foreign exchange added 7 percent. The very strong top-line growth was supported by an 18 percent increase in worldwide advertising spending to an all-time record level.”
Where am I going with this? I don’t know, but I just was wondering: With all the cash they are going to have coming in, are they going to invest some serious money into their pet nutrition segment? Finally start making health promoting cat and dog diets? After all, their brand could use a little make over, especially the prescription foods, which seem to help sometimes, but complaints about their prescription diet causing harm are rising. Whether or not this can be scientifically proven I don’t know. But I believe it couldn’t hurt to give it some time and spend some money on real research and implementation the results to benefit our pets rather than throwing all apples in one marketing basket. Now if that indeed would happen, I would not have a problem if the CEO writes himself a nice bonus check for implementing serious change in his already successful company.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Surprise: A vet agrees with me

I can’t believe it. The vet columnist of my local daily paper has 3 times in a row now expressed the same concern about his colleagues as I am doing already for a long time. Here is what he had to say:
Last Tuesday a reader was talking about her 6 year old black & white domestic cat. The poor thing with 22 lbs body weight is definitely having a weight problem. She tells her story, how she went and picked it up 5 years ago as a 1 year old, thin, let’s just say “normal” or better “healthy weight” cat. Over the years she has been through 3 vets. They all tried to cure the problem with an XYZ prescription diet. Strange enough, all three of them tend to agree on exactly the same cure. The owner insists that she feeds her cat ¼ cup twice daily. I don’t know, my dear cat owner, are you sure you are telling us the entire story and nothing but the truth? For some reason I really just have a hard time to believe that the amount you feed causes the cat to be that much overweight, regardless of whether the diet is right or wrong. But here is how Dr. Vet answered:
“Since three veterinarians prescribed the same special diet for your poor cat and they have not worked, there must be something else wrong with your cat, right? Wrong. What’s wrong is that these veterinarians (and countless others) are ill informed on basic cat nutrition and on how to help fat cats get well. Being overweight is a cat’s first step toward obesity (M comment: I thought overweight and obesity were the same!? Yes/No?) and a host of other problems, including diabetes and fatty liver disease. You need to…” and he goes on to make some diet recommendations based on brands he believes in.

Then on Saturday, another woman was writing about her 6 and 17 month old Lab puppies. She too is observing extra ordinary weight gains, while she is feeding VWX. Her vet told her that this indeed would be a fatty food. However, he did not simply prescribe anything else, he just sent her on her merry way continuing to look for the right solution on her own.
Dr Vet says: “Your two dogs need to get on a more healthful diet. The high fat and high protein puppy food should not be given to most breeds after 6 to 8 months of age. And for some breeds, especially Labrador pups, such a diet is actually harmful. Studies indicate this diet can make developing hip dysplasia significantly worse and lead to weight control problems. Many factors could be making your older dog gain weight, become less active and begin to decline in health. Aside from the often dubious ingredients in processed and animal junk foods and the nutrition and pesticide contamination of conventionally grown pet foods, we have environmental chemicals all around us.” And then he gets carried away on another subject, which I do not want to discuss at this place and time.

Finally today, a third female pet owner is sympathizing with another reader. She, owning a Beagle too, has dietary issues as well. Or better, her dog has. She is dealing with a scratching and itching animal. She too has spent a fortune for vet bills without making any progress. And she finally listened to her sister, who recommended a “natural” lamb and rice brand. Since then, the problems are gone. The excessive scratching and biting has stopped, the redness disappeared and the dog’s hair has grown back. Congratulations from the Pet Food Examiner. And Dr. Vet says: “ receive many letters from people whose dogs are scratching…. And the attending veterinarian does not attend to the possible cause. With the number of letters like this having significantly increased over the past years, I surmise that genetically engineered ingredients in pet foods are a major culprit. For documentation …” and he recommends reading his newest book.

I am speechless. Dr.Vet and me, both of us on the same wave length? What happened? You think he is secretly reading my comments on this blog? Just kidding. Seriously, I think it is great that he speaks up and is not afraid to criticize his peers. I 100% agree, it’s about time for a change, every vet should see that. And if the increasing amount of pets with diet originated illnesses is not inspiration enough to make that change, then I don’t know anymore what is required to initiate the revolution..

Pointers directing to the “right” pet food

Most of the pet owners, when they initially contact me, typically and foremost are seeking advise on pet food matters for their dogs or cats. Whether they are feeding the right food. What the advantages are comparing our food to others. Is it necessary to spend a fortune on vet ordered pet food or are there more economical alternatives. These are just some of the reasons and questions they want to be addressed. While my main job is to sell healthy pet food, I am also out on a mission to educate pet owner on how to better feed their pets. In those cases where for any reason I don’t succeed as a sales man, I have absolutely no problem with just giving advise and sending those prospects away on their own. To maximize the benefits of this work, I decided I am going to share some of it here on this blog with you.

Researching pet nutrition in itself is an extremely involved, time consuming and lengthy process. I guess this is foremost the reason why I can exist in the first place in my so far non-paying function as a “consultant” Though I prefer being called “The Pet Food Examiner”, it’s, a.: different, everybody these days is or wants to be a consultant and b.: it hits the nail right on it’s head by exactly saying what I am doing.

Rather than now writing a 1,000 page article, on which all of us would loose interest quickly, I thought I am just dropping, in an unorganized manner, here and there a short comment related to the subject, sort of like a loose leaf subscription.

Today I am going to start with talking about ingredients. To be more specific, actually about ingredients you should avoid when making your buying decision. You can find the ingredient listing typically on the back or side panel of your food’s packaging.

I strongly recommend that you STAY AWAY from food containing:
Animal Fat (preserved with BHA/BHT). The key here is the way the fat is preserved. While animal fat is necessary to be included in a pet food, the chemical preservatives BHA & BHT are very controversial and linked to cancer and tumors. This is not a quality ingredient, and quite simply could be considered a dangerous ingredient. Instead, look for “Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols or citric acid). This fat is preserved naturally, which is positive. However, since there is no classification, i.e. fat deriving from which kind of animal, this is not considered a quality ingredient.
Chicken By-Product Meal. AAFCO defines this as consisting of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines. By-Products are not human quality. Thereby they are neither a quality ingredient nor a quality protein source.
Meat By Products by AAFCO definition are mammal parts other than meat. By-Products are considered left over ingredients from the human food industry and are not considered quality ingredients.
Meat and Bone Meal is one of the worst ingredients allowed in pet foods. Per AAFCO definition it is the rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents. This in turn means, it can contain ANY mammal animal in any condition, including euthanized dogs, cats, cattle, and horses. It is a fact that indeed euthanized animals have been utilized as ingredients for some pet foods in the past (and who knows, maybe still today)
Poultry By-Product Meal according to AAFCO are the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines. This ingredient can be any type of poultry (chicken, duck, turkey, and so forth). The 3 negatives about it are: Not human quality, not a quality ingredient and not a quality protein source.
Poultry Liver/Poultry Liver is not a stay away, but more of a controversial ingredient. Scientists and researchers haven’t made up their mind yet on this one. Some claim it to be nutrient rich and beneficial to pets, others make the claim that since the liver’s function is to filter toxins from the body it can contain poisons and is dangerous to pets. I typically believe in “when in doubt, stay away.” Unless it is made by a manufacturer I really and 100% trust.
TBHQ is a chemical preservative related to BHA. Prolonged use in studies has shown cancer links.
Turkey By-Product Meal same as Poultry By-Product Meal.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pet food regulation protecting the public and guaranteeing health?

The other day I wrote under the headline “Sad: Where did the products go” a comment about the owner of this pet food manufacturer who is at the end of his rope and has had it with all the regulators making his life difficult. I promised you there would be 2nd part following, here it is:
The incident I wrote about is not a unique one. Dr. Wysong, also a pet food manufacturer, talks in his book “The Truth about Pet Foods” among plenty of very informative and educational nutritional topics also about having similar problems with the regulators. In the corresponding chapter he starts with a number of problems he experienced, here are some examples:
At one point his company developed an organic, non GMO (genetically modified organisms) food and wanted to call it “Organic” Their request was strictly denied. Furthermore, they couldn’t call their ingredients “organic despite the fact that this is what they indeed were. Regulators required third party confirmations, affidavits and proofs like “in some kind of criminal case” He complains: “We were trying to do something good and were treated as if we were planning a mass murder.” And he goes on: “Now if we wanted to use AAFCO approved dehydrated refuse and scrap plastic (As listed on an Official AAFCO Publication 1998) and call it “100% Complete”, no problem.” He concludes by asking: “Do you feel safer now that our killer “Organic” food is not on the market?”

He reports of another time when regulators objected to their plans of using the phrase “Optimal Nutrition”. He explains: “They argued that if we used levels of nutrients above their “approved” levels, that would make our ingredients unapproved food additives. In other words, if we were to discover that regulatory minimums were insufficient to prevent diseases (which we, and scientists world wide have done), we could not move our formulas to match this new knowledge. No, regulators would want us to stay at their minimums, condemning pets to preventable disease. Public protection?”

He has many more of similar detailed examples, to show them all here is not the purpose of my writing. Just a few of his next, sort of short list: “The net weight has to be listed in kilograms, not just pounds. The word “complex” has to stand beside a vitamin. Names of the ingredients all have to be in the same letter size and style.Positioning of the Nutrient Analysis on the label has to be “just right”. Wording regarding AAFCO has to match precisely to the dot their regulations. “

It all sounds to me like some people in those regulatory institutions have a lot of time on hand. Time of course costing the consumer. Twice: First taxes to finance the organization and 2nd our pets don’t get healthier, i.e. our expenses to make and keep them healthy rise.

Dr. Wysong then has a 3rd listing in which he talks about what his competitors get away with. Like for example:
““Top Choice (Trademark of Gaines Pet Food)” Here the front panel claims “Better than Hamburger” and “Chopped Beef Burger for Dogs”. Better tasting, better nutrition, better smelling? Exactly how better? The second claim “Chopped Beef Burger for Dogs” should read “Chopped Soybean Meal and High Fructose Corn Syrup Burger for Dogs” since these are the first two ingredients. Where are the regulators?”
“”r/d” (Trademark of Hills Pet Nutrition) – “With 40% fewer calories than grocery store brands” – which brands? “Three times more fiber” – than what? Water? They don’t say. They claim an “optimum supply of vitamins, minerals and protein” – what does this mean? How can they say optimum but we can’t? Where are the regulators?”
And he has many more of these very precise examples. He starts his conclusion on the subject as follows:
“Again, nothing of the above is meant to find fault with other manufacturers. … The public is intelligent enough to separate fanfare from reality. This does, however, demonstrate a double standard when, instead of being cute or offering raffle tickets in our packages, we attempt to make serious health innovations.”
He sees the problem also in the fact that “the “100% Complete” premise has not been critically examined by regulators or for that matter by most nutritionists, veterinarians or the public.” And he concludes that perhaps a solution as being applied to baby formulas may be finally in order: Years ago those formulas being synthetic resulted in being so disastrous that the World Health Organization finally stepped in. Today the manufacturing of baby formulas is subject to the WHO/UNICEF Code.
I don’t know if we have to go that far. I do know, however, the following:
Our companion animals are plagued with diseases in epidemic dimensions. I have learned from being in the business, studying the subject matter and researching that the source for this problem is to find in the commercially mass produced pet food. I also know, or at least believed until now, that organizations like AAFCO were put in place to protect pet owners and their pets from those diseases by monitoring the pet food manufacturing processes. A while ago I started wondering why the percentage of pets suffering from diseases is a steadily growing number. Common sense now tells me that apparently nothing is being done to fix the problem. And then when I read stories like the ones of these two pet food manufacturers I wonder. It is impossible that lobbying has to do with it? Obviously the industry giants would have pockets deep enough to get politically involved. Is it possible that they prefer to spend their money on lobbying rather than on improving their products? Or is it possible that lobbying is still less costly when innovation? Too bad that smaller manufacturers cannot afford lobbying.
Maybe it’s time to dissolve AAFCO. My reasons: A: Whether we have them or not, nothing changes anyway; B: I am sure the government could use the money and if it is just to save some foolish bankers and enable them to fix their mistakes before they destroy the economy completely and C: For the benefit of the smaller or midsized, privately owned pet food manufacturers. As usual and this is typical for them, they concentrate on what they do best: Being innovative and deliver the best possible product for the benefit of the health of our pets. They wouldn’t have to deal with and stumble over road blocks constantly thrown in their way. Or being slowed down by regulators who, while “serving and protecting” accomplish zero. Imagine where we could be without the red tape. We, accompanied by our animals indeed could live in a protected world.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Outlook: All rise, including pet food prices

As any other one, the pet food industry too has been racked by inflation. This is mostly due to fuel and energy cost and unfortunately, the not so good news is that we can expect to see continued price increases on nutritional pet products.
If commentaries, indicators and financial statistics read the same way, our economy is in dire straits in 2008. The bursting real estate bubble and now our government with its astronomical bailout of financial institutions who got a little too greedy and failed to use sound business practices are just another very clear indication that things are everything but rosy. There are other numerous areas of concern, like the low value of the US dollar in the global market, oil prices never seen as this high before and an inflationary spiral like we have not seen it for 30 years. At the beginning of the summer we hit a consumer confidence level of 50, the lowest reading in 16 years. Houston, we got a problem.
As oil prices rise and the dollar looses on value, inflation across all consumer goods sold is way out of balance. Many manufacturers in all categories are levying with two price increases a year by now.
What is the impact on pet food? This category, the core of the pet industry, too has been racked by inflation mostly due to fuel and energy costs. Fuel is important in different ways: It delivers the ingredients to the plants, it drives the food producing plants, it contributes to packaging cost since most packaging components these days are poly bags and last, every bag of kibble and every case of cans has to be shipped from the manufacturer to the distributor, from there to the retailer and from there, like if it is an online store, to the pet owner.
At the same time, the price of raw ingredients has gone through the roof as well over the last couple years. Corn, for example, is up 35%. Predictions are that due to the flooding in the Midwest part of the country it will rise even more. It is (unfortunately) a principle protein source for many brands and also being fed to chicken, which in turn are a primary protein source in natural , holistic and organic brands. Corn prices furthermore impact the prices of soybeans, barley and oats. All this results in the fact that most pet food manufacturers, regardless of their size, are struggling to only keep up with these inflationary pressures, let alone to stay ahead of them.
To the pet owner it simply means sticker shock. Premium pet foods, once around $40 a bag are now easily pushing the mid-fifty mark for a large bag. Add tax, and voila, here you are at a whopping 60 Bucks for a bag of dog food. By the way, you know how they always try to figure out what is more expensive than gas, like the Starbucks deal, etc.? Ironically, the numbers I just gave you mean that food per gallon runs around $4.60.
To finish off with more bad news: It’s going to be quite a while before we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The Food Institute reports that “inflation is a major force … the next three years.” As one independent pet food sales manager put it: “Indeed, we are all over the proverbial barrel if this inflation continues.” All I really hope for is that all pet owners still will be able to feed their animals healthy quality food rather than cheap fillers. It is my wish that they make educated buying decisions and understand that “cheap” usually stands for “after all, not so cheap” and “unhealthy, disease promoting junk and garbage”. Because if the dog gets sick, it’s going to get really expensive.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Where did the products go?

This year’s final quarter is almost here. Reason for me to look at my agenda’s and plans to see what still has to be done to reach my goals made at the beginning of the year. One of the items included on that list is to increase the number of products in the on-line store. It looks like I have some catching up to do to make my goal so I just will have to accelerate and keep cranking away. Anyway, while working on this I came across a letter published by an owner of a pet food company. The company is known for it’s high quality healthy pet nutrition, has received great reviews by independent media researchers and has had more than satisfying results when I was doing my own research, so it’s going to be part of our program.
Coming back to her letter I would like to share it with you, at least certain statements of it. Apparently the company must have offered in the past a number of popular supplement products, which now have been taken off their shelves and discontinued. I don’t know about these products. When I do my historical research I am looking for things like how long has the company been in existence, have they had any issues with recalls and what have been customer’s experiences with their products in the past. Researching discontinued products is certainly not part of my regular routine, there’s just not enough time and it’s a mute point anyway. What counts is what is currently being offered.
So the owner continues to explain why these great products have been discontinued and makes the statement that “simply put, the FDA has asked the company to discontinue the sale and promotion of these products because the company was making claims about their nutritional benefits.” And goes on: “A week doesn’t go by in which I receive a variety of pet product catalogs in the mail, which list page after page of supplements and their related benefits. The FDA has asked us not to make the same kind of claims. As an alternative I do have the option to submit these products for formal drug approval. I’m afraid, however, that it would be and enormous undertaking, both in expense and time, and that the process would more than likely, outlive me and yield nothing in the end. I have, therefore, decided to stop selling these products.
These are companion animal products made from food ingredients that have been used on pets for a lot longer than I have been around. Must I be a vet or have a Ph.D. after my name in order to substantiate what has been commonly known in the general pet community for decades? These supplements are not harmful to pets and your pet may indeed derive great benefits from them. I love to research new ingredients for our products and share that information with you. I thought that you may want to know how our food supplements might be beneficial.
I apologize that our this year’s catalog may not have much of the nutritional information that you have come to except from “our company” and hopefully it was appreciated in the past. We are still doing our homework, researching, and bringing to you the best ingredients available. Unfortunately we can no longer tell you about them. We encourage you to read about our ingredients from reputable online and print resources, as the kids like to say, “Google it!”. When it is all said and done, it is all about providing the very best for our furry children. I promise to continue to fight for the right to bring you nutrition information, but not at your or your pet’s expense!” end of quote.
Wow! Pretty strong I’d say. And it sounds someone got tired of dealing with the administrative overkill, red tape and formal burdens placed on a smaller business, which is just trying to do the right thing. A company owner having more on his mind than endless greed for profits. An owner who does care about his customers and their pets. Simply resigning and running in somewhat lower gear, yet still continuing to do the right thing. Following his believes and ideas. A dying breed? An “endangered species” because he is totally unlike the giants among his competitors, who apparently care less about how many recalls they have had in the past and how many pets are suffering as a result of being fed their products?Regardless of whether this company owner decides to continue or discontinue some of his products, I looked at their products still remaining available. I have made up my mind, these products will be sold in our store. Because they are good for pets. Because they fit our company’s philosophy. That I can understand the owner’s frustration and sympathize with him just makes it better. I like my business partners being caring and at the end of the day just being human. And I am convinced my customers feel the same way. I have more to say about this particular topic. But I am tired myself right now, physically. So stay tuned for a continuation to come.