Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cat allergic to fish

In today's paper this cat owner was writing in the pet corner that she found out her cat was allergic to fish and the world fell apart for her. She cannot believe it. And isn’t it rue, when we humans think cat, one of the first things coming to our mind is always this cartoon character with some fish cartilage hanging from his chops. But the vet put it all back together for her again by saying: “Many cats are allergic to seafood which is understandable. Where would they ever get fish in the wild? After all, the domestic cat was originally a desert dwelling carnivore.”
But he also made another important point, which is that it may well have been any corn products contained in the food. Or other ingredients, which, typically for cat food could be meats like beef, turkey or chicken. And just like me he’s preaching: Read the labels on the back, don’t just go by the pictures on the front of the bag. They very often have some very surprising news for you. He also says to not blindly following the vet’s diet recommendations, be open minded and consider, he too is just a human being and may not know it all.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cat not eating , simply ignoring any food: Help wanted

Today I was approached by a customer from overseas. Her cat is not eating, period. For 10 months already! (Yes, I confirmed that to make sure there is no misunderstanding). She is looking at the food and then walks away. The owner has tried everything possible, pretty much every food available over there (which is actually a much better food and variety than what we have here available to us, but that does not mean they don’t face similar problems like we do) and including spending thousands of $ for vets and other specialists, all without any success. Currently she is force feeding the animal. I was just wondering if there is anybody out there with a similar experience who may be able to provide some input and advice. This is a first one for me and I would greatly appreciate any contribution on this topic.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

People food for dogs?

It always amazes me when I hear from customers what kind of stuff they are feeding their animals. Here I am not talking about the regular dog food (though that, as you probably can tell by now, I find an amazing story in itself), no, I am talking people food, some call it table food. I agree, “but the dog likes it”. Yes they do indeed. As a matter of fact very much so. Dogs will eat anything as long as you (preferably) give it to them. Because they don’t know better, that is why they teamed up with you so you can protect them. Therefore there are a bunch of things you may want to consider before you share your food next time again. First, it could turn into a problem as to that your dog likes your food so much better that he will not eat his regular food anymore. Then don’t come to me and tell me you have a finicky dog, I warned you. The other thing, and this is important since too many dogs already are suffering from obesity, the number one disease among dogs, make sure you watch the calories. Your table food under no circumstances should account for more than a tenth of your dog’s caloric intake. If you can’t help it, provide at least a variety of lean meats and healthy veggies and fruits, not always the same stuff. And finally you want to consider a number of facts with various food items, which if not taken into consideration may cause all kinds of problems from diarrhea to vomiting, even possible life threatening toxicities. Following is a list of some major items I feel should be addressed:
Raw meat: No, I am not going against myself. But I am talking about possible salmonella contamination. So be careful and follow the safe handling instructions for raw meat provided on raw food manufacturer websites our mine. Grocery store type raw meats like chicken, turkey, beef, pork or lamb are preferred. Add in and mix with organ meats such as liver, kidney, hearts and poultry giblets. Use organ meats to muscle meats at a ratio of 1 to 5, five being the muscle meat. Cooked meat, lightly broiled or baked are the best, stay away from charcoaled, fried and deep fried. Good meat sources are the 50 to 100% slowly processed, all meat cans available these days from almost every recommendable manufacturer
Milk: Best is whole milk, I am talking direct from the farm, good luck with that. The more whole and less processed, the better. Some dogs may have intolerances towards dairy products. This is especially as they get older. The reason for them not being able to tolerate milk is because they can’t digest the milk sugar or lactose. Milk, for this reason may result in loose stools. Adding active yogurt culture and dilution with purified water may help here. Other dairy products, which I would consider good choices are cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt. Stay away from the sugar or jam containing yogurts, get whole milk, plain versions. A good idea is to mix dairy products in with other foods, fresh or commercially processed.
Raisins: Absolutely No, they are toxic for dogs, because they cause kidney failure, dose depending on the dog’s size.
Chocolate: The same thing here, the darker the chocolate the higher the toxic compounds, Contains theobromine, methylxanthines, both of which are caffeine like ingredients causing diarrhea, vomiting, irregular heart beat, tremors, seizures and eventually even death.
Bones: A lot of people advise against them saying they can cause teeth damage (that’s why the wolves are always lining up at the dentists’ office, lol). They can though cause gastrointestinal obstruction and perforation. Too much of cooked bones can cause severe constipation. Always supervise the dog when feeding him bones, just to be on the safe side. Stay away from bones which tend to splinter, like cooked bones or chicken bones.
Raw eggs: May contain salmonella. Enzymes in raw egg whites prevent uptake of the Vitamin B biotin.
High fat items: Can cause pancreatitis (pancreas inflammation) especially in genetically predisposed breeds like for example Mini Schnauzers
Onions, fresh garlic: May cause gastrointestinal irritation and anemia if fed in too high doses. There is a lot of controversy going on about garlic as a pet food ingredient lately. But that’s a hole other article.
Avocado: Can cause digestive tract irritation with diarrhea and vomiting.
Yeast (like in bread) may rise in the dog’s digestive tract and cause obstruction. Also, yeast is an alcohol producer a when it’s rising.
Raw cashews, pecans, walnuts, macadamia and Brazil nuts (unsalted, not cooked in oil) are excellent foods and your dog will eagerly accept them. Soak and rinse pecans, almonds and walnuts for 12 to 24 hours and make sure they are crushed or mashed. If swallowed as a whole, nuts will not be properly digested.
Don’t feed the dog outrageous portions of stuff like French fries, deep fried food, etc. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t eat too much of that stuff either. Chances are, if you know it’s not good for you, most likely it’s not good for your dog either.
As I always say, use common sense and you and your dog will be fine. Just remember, after all it is a dog.

Calcium supply in home cooked dog diets

We all know that dogs cannot live on meat as a stand alone diet. Due to the problems we are facing these days, like basically not knowing whom to trust when it comes to pet food, many pet owners have transitioned over to preparing their own, home cooked meals. That in itself is not a bad solution, however it also comes with some difficulties to begin with. The biggest concern is nutritional balance. It just so happened that the discussion came up today when I was talking to one of my home cooking customers and we ended up on the subject of a dog’s requirements for calcium.
Dogs with calcium deficiencies primarily are typically victims of lameness, bone demineralization like for example osteoporosis and an increased tendency towards fractures due to weakened bone structures. If you feed your dog a diet containing raw meaty bones you should be safe, your dog is getting ample supply of calcium. You also can obtain calcium through egg shells. Though this source may be a problem if the dog is not tolerating dairy products. One source very few people know about is actually sesame seeds. However, since dogs are by heart meat eaters, an animal based source has to be the better choice.
But there is yet another issue dog owners have to consider. As with everything it all is relative and sometimes they are providing too much supply of calcium. Too much calcium can increase risks of orthopedic disorders like for example hip dysplasia (degenerative joint disease), hypertrophic osteodystrophy (also known as HOD, a bone disease usually affecting young, rapidly growing, large breed dogs. Other names for this disease include skeletal scurvy, Moller-Barlow's disease, osteodystrophy II, and metaphyseal osteopathy. Causing severe lameness and pain and usually affects multiple limbs) or osteochondritis dissecans (also known as OCD, a disease of the cartilage affecting the joints in a dog’s body. In any joint in the body two bones come together and movement is allowed between them. Where the two bones meet, the actual joint, a smooth area of cartilage covers the bones’ surfaces. This acts as a cushion and protects the underlying bone. If anything disrupts this smooth cartilage surface, movement of the joint becomes painful. In a dog suffering from OCD, the cartilage is damaged or grows abnormally. Instead of being attached to the bone it covers, it separates or cracks, causing great pain. In some cases, small pieces of cartilage break off and float free in the joint. These pieces of cartilage do not die, but rather continue to grow and increase in size. These are known as joint mice. Approximately 15% of all dogs will develop OCD), as well as too much growth in too short of a time. Helpful guide lines are provided by organizations such as AAFCO (in their nutrient dog food profiles recommending 0.6% for an adult dog maintenance feeding and 1% for puppies, with a maximum of 2.5% for all dogs, all based on dry matter basis) or the NRC (National Research Council) (stating a maximum of 1,800 mg/kg body weight). Actually, come to think of it that is quite a bit and it should be difficult to exceed these recommendations. However, it does happen, especially when calcium is supplied with a supplemental source, like for example bone meal.
Finally one more fact to consider is the ratio of calcium to phosphorus. AAFCO recommends in their profiles a 1 to 1 ratio with a maximum of 2 to 1 for all dogs. So, when feeding your dog home cooked meals with meat and supplemented with bone meal powder, make sure you use bone meal powder without phosphorus as meat in itself already contains phosphorus and you may easily get out of balance here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

US pet owners following the English example of feeding their pets “green”

In my yesterday’s comment on the English pet owners feeding their pets green diets I promised you an US based survey dealing with the same issue and questions. Here is what I found: in a press release news wire reported beginning October this year of a survey resulting in the observation that “Consumers crave green nutrition for themselves and their pets”.
A national survey done in August earlier this year shows 79 percent of dog and cat owners are eager to include more green foods in their pets' diets. In doing so, they just might inspire themselves to eat more of what they know is good for them.
Green nutrition is now the latest way for pet owners to go green, according to a survey of 640 dog and cat owners across America. When looking at this survey you want to keep in mind that it was done on behalf of one of the major suppliers of green ingredients to the pet food industry. The survey shows consumers are eager to provide their animal companions with more nutrition options from green foods, such as broccoli, spinach and wheat grass. In doing so, they just might inspire themselves to eat more of what they know is good for them. Highlight question of the green nutrition survey was: Would you like to include green nutrition more often in your dog’s or cat’s diet was answered with a “Yes” by 79% and “No” by 21%.
An overwhelming majority of those surveyed believe in the power of green nutrition for themselves and their pets and favor pet food products that include it. A full 90 percent of American dog and cat owners believe in the importance of green nutrition for their own diets. A majority (79 percent) of dog and cat owners say they would like to include green nutrition more often in their pets' diets. Younger dog and cat owners are especially enthusiastic about getting their pets in on the green nutrition craze. Eighty-four percent of survey respondents between the ages of 18 and 44 would like to provide more green nutrition for their pets, vs. 73 percent of their older counterparts. Sixty-five percent of American dog and cat owners say they'd choose a treat that includes green nutrition over a non-green treat for their pets, depending on the price. Twenty-five percent would be willing to pay more for treats with green nutrition. Thirty-three percent admit they need more information about green nutrition benefits for pets before making a decision. When given a choice, pet owners value the potential medicinal benefits of green nutrition over other qualities. Thirty percent of American dog and cat owners say that neutralizing infection, healing wounds and overcoming inflammation are most important to them. One in five (20 percent) pet owners value improving skin and coat condition most. The same amount (20 percent) say adding fiber to a pet's diet is a primary concern (20 percent). Gum health and improving the condition of diseased gums is most vital for 16 percent of pet owners.
There is indeed some similarity between the pet owners on the 2 continents. My comments for both sides are the same.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pet owners going “Green” (and against their pets?)

Mary Clarke of Glee Wire, a Birmingham in the UK based Internet news site reports that in a bid to boost their pet’s health 145,000 cat and dog owners in the UK have placed their pets on a vegetarian diet and 40% feed them three portions of fruit and vegetables a day. This is according to a survey commissioned by a British Insurance company. Only 24 per cent of UK dogs now have a meat only diet, the company said. Of those owners that had increased their pet’s fruit and vegetable intake, 42 per cent said it was because of perceived health benefits and 16 per cent said they were simply following government recommendations for human health. Among benefits noticed by respondents were better digestion and a glossier coat. 27 per cent claimed their pet had encountered fewer health problems since the switch and another 13 per cent highlighted the weight-loss benefits of the diet.
I would say there is something potentially wrong here. Not with the survey, but with the pet owners. I wonder where 42% learned of such health benefits when fed as a stand alone diet, and also, what would they be? 16% following the recommendations for human health? People, we are clearly talking about a total different “animal”. I understand that many of us including myself consider our pets to be part of our family, however I never look at mine as human beings. And for the 13% weight loosing pets, could it possibly be this is because they didn’t want to eat a food which is totally against everything nature had intended?
I was glad to find out that the surveying insurance company has warned these pet owners of the possible health issues and problems, which could be encountered.
Sometimes I am surprised. There are so many basics of which one would think they are just common knowledge by now. Apparently that does not seem to be the case. Cats cannot survive on a vegetarian diet and will need specialist supplements, and although dogs could survive, such a change in diet is likely to cause problems. Cats are carnivores, which means meat eaters. Look at their teeth, they have four large canine teeth used to grasp their prey, and large molars, including two carnassials, for the purpose of ripping and tearing raw flesh or meat. The mainstay of every feline’s diet is raw meat. With the exception of size, the domesticated felines of today very closely resemble their biological wild counterparts. Both, a short intestinal tract and a reduced time in food digestion clearly indicate the biological makeup of a carnivorous eating mammal. By passing their foods more quickly, the digestive period of felines is shortened leaving very little chance of harm from potential bacteria. I’d say if they would be plant eaters they would be more built like a rabbit. The same as a basic principle pretty much applies to our dogs, though they show more characteristics alike human beings as omnivores. In nature the only time they eat plant based food it is when they eat the predigested contents of their prey’s stomachs (like for instance a mouse which ate grains, a rabbit, which ate grass or roots, etc.). But what about this scenario: “I have seen my cat or dog eating grass!”? Well, there are 2 expert opinions on this subject: Many believe this has to do with the animal trying to eliminate something bothering them in their stomach, or cats trying to get rid of hair balls. Others say that it is because our domesticated animals don’t live on natural prey with the predigested plant based stomach content contained herein and try to make up the deficiency. So, yes, some or a little grass is fine, actually some veggies and fruits are even recommended, but a 100% green diet? Where is the common sense in that?
What is this trend anyway? More and more people (strange enough very often vegetarians themselves) think that their pets need to be fed vegan diets. Animals are just like humans in that they need a mixture of minerals and vitamins to keep them healthy, and cutting out whole food groups, like protein, can seriously damage their health. Who are these people making such drastic and substantial changes to what nature had intended? I believe in the theory of “Live and let live”. To me this means, if you are a democrat be one, if you believe in God, do so, if you believe in someone or something else, that’s fine with me, if you are vegetarian, so be it. I even discuss all this and your view points with you. I will share with you my view points. But don’t try to force your believes onto me. Especially not if they are scientifically proven wrong, as in my today’s topic.
Here are a couple more interesting results from the survey: Other reasons for switching to vegetable and fruit-heavy diet recorded by the survey included monetary concerns; 12 per cent of owners said they had reduced the meat content of their pet’s diet to save money (that I could understand if it indeed would be factual, but I don’t see veggies and fruits being that much less expensive any more), 4 per cent cited ethical concerns about meat (sorry, but I just I do not see anybody having the right to change nature’s intentions and to be quite frank, I see it as being unethical to feed a cat or dog veggies and fruits only). The most popular non meat ingredient was carrots followed by potatoes and peas. Now many of you may say, yeah, but this is in England. Well, I will be looking for an US based survey and promise you one to follow soon.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

When it comes to pet food, we, as an entire community of pet owners, still don't know what we are doing

PR Newswire reported of a poll conducted earlier this year in August. The results show that most pet owners don’t know what ingredients are in their pet foods and also, when pressed for the issue, admit that they are ultimately not feeding the ingredients they think they are. The survey questioned 2,151 adults ages 18+, of whom, 1,305 are dog and/or cat owners, 906 are dog owners and 783 are cat owners. Data were weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population. Two thirds of the 1,305 dog and/or cat owners say they feed their companion animals as if they were family members, when asked how about the health of their animals the number was even higher, 85% said their pet’s health to them is as important as the family’s health. However, their actions show no support of this claim. For instance 56% admitted that they always read the ingredient labels when it comes to their own, human food, yet only 20% of dog owners and 19% of the cat owners read the labels on their pet food. Only 38% say that they understand all the ingredients listed on those labels.
91% of the pet owners said they would not want their pets’ food to contain ingredients causing allergies and food intolerances. Plus, 56% worry that their pet food contains such unwanted ingredients. Another 66% prefer to only feed natural pet food. Yet, reality is that most consumers buy pet food that is not natural and that contains unwanted ingredients.
Additional findings of the survey were: 55% of pet owners don't know which federal body is charged with regulating pet food quality. When asked to name the first ingredient listed on the label of their cats’ kibble, 48% of cat owners answered they are not sure, among the dog owners that number was 44%.
And why do I talk about this boring stuff, reading off numbers almost making you fall asleep? Because I hope the opposite is the case. I wish it is a wake up call for all the pet owning community members, especially the ones who fall into the category of not quite being where they should be. I mean when it comes to doing the right thing for their pets.
The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and commissioned by a major pet food manufacturer, one who provides the “good” stuff, a food, which has earned quite a few seals of being “officially recommended” from independent parties.
In regards to the survey, the manufacturer’s president said: "We know that with pets, as with people, you are what you eat, which is why it is so important to understand the ingredients we're feeding our cats and dogs. We've made it our mission to educate dog and cat parents as to what makes a quality ingredient and to empower them to know what they are feeding their beloved animals. That way they can be confident they truly are meeting their mission of feeding their pets as high quality a food as they would the rest of their family."
This man is talking my language, it is all about providing information educating the consumer. There can’t be enough of it often enough until even the last pet owner understands what is required to keep a pet healthy and happy.
And what should you do if you want to feed the best? Start with informing and educating yourself before you go shopping. These days it is easy: Everybody has access to the best resource available to the human race ever: The Internet. Here you find such a wealth of information that you never ever will have the time in your life to read it all. And pet food doesn’t have to become such an integral part of your life as it is in mine. Learning just the basics will make a huge difference for your pet. Then, when shopping for pet food, pick up the bag, turn it around and read the ingredient label. Of course, latest then you’ll realize that it helps to be informed beforehand. Use the knowledge you gained in your studies. Know what the various ingredient classifications are. What the pitfalls are when it comes to interpreting pet food labels. Know the marketing tricks. Be informed about the "good" and the "bad" players in the pet food game. Which ingredients to look for and which are the ones to avoid. And most important, always remember, the most simple ingredient in this game is your “common sense”. It will mean a world of a difference for your cat or dog.