Saturday, November 8, 2008

Starch in cat food

One of the recent pet corners in the paper included an inquiry of a cat owner. She is feeding her 6 year old Main Coon daily half a cup of Hills CD dry formula , mixed with a quarter cup of Hill’s Hairball Control Light and a tea spoon of Friskies wet food in a variety of flavors. She also gives her 6 to eight Dentabyte Treats twice a day. Though, she is considering cutting down on the treats since her beautiful cat is “turning rather chubby”. To further help the chubbiness she also reversed the dry food ratio and reduces the wet food. All the food is being served in a dish filled with water and she thinks she’s noticed a slight weight loss since changing the routine. That all, however, doesn’t seem to be her problem. Apparently she is more worried about her cat’s habit of daily getting some of her “human” food. As these habits typically come about, she too started doing it one day and now the cat will sort of go on strike if her owner doesn’t adhere to the daily scheduled feeding at the table. All we cat owners can feel with her since we know how our animals get once they are used to something. That’s the time when they show us who really is the boss and running the show.
The vet answering the inquiry made a strange comment, which I didn’t quite understand and I am going to e-mail him to find out what he was trying to say. He goes: “As long as your cat is healthy and does not roam outdoors where she could pick up disease, I see nothing wrong with feeding her at the table.” What does the one have to do with the other? Obviously this clearly is an indoor cat contempt with the life she has and not cruising the neighborhood for more food because she doesn’t get enough at home. So why bring it even up? The part of his answer I like better has to do with the dry food in itself. He says that he thinks it is wrong in general to feed cats dry food, even if it is mixed with water. His reasons are that dry food contains high numbers of starches, which are needed to bind the kibble in the manufacturing process. And since cats are carnivores they do not handle these starches well with diabetes and obesity being common consequences.
As to the teeth maintenance treats he says that he’d rather recommend unprocessed whole foods to be given. They include thin strips of raw beef shank bone and raw chicken wing tips with plenty of skin. He reminds to scald the beef and wings to kill off any potentially harmful surface bacteria. And he adds that rubbing aloe onto the cat’s gums as well as giving her a daily teaspoon of cod liver oil (mixed into the food) will help to reduce gum inflammation.
I couldn’t agree more on his comments about dry food and the starch content of those, however I am not completely against feeding cats dry. I would however add that it is not only the starches, which have to be of concern. High quality ingredients are another one and essential for a healthy cat food. Many of the mass market or so called economy brands are made with inexpensive, low quality, you get what you pay for ingredients that are not easily digested. As a result they do not provide healthy and most possible optimal nutrition. Although they may theoretically and technically meet the legal specifications for AAFCO minimum requirements of protein, fat, carbohydrates, etc., these foods typically have low energy values and contain low grade proteins. Because of this, many health building nutrients may pass right through the digestive system without being absorbed.
In addition, I believe that it is the variety, which makes the difference. This cat owner is definitely on the right track when it comes to variety, she is most definitely doing already a much better job than the majority of cat (and dog) owners, who feed the same old stuff day in day out for their pet’s life span. While I do have a problem with the brand she’s feeding (I just think there are better choices available), at least she is doing some mixing and providing variety with different kibble formulas, various flavors of wet and table food. I think she should expand upon this. To me, varied feeding includes feeding alternatives like raw food in any shape and form, from naturally raw as various meat based protein to freeze dried or other gently demoisturized variations, food mixes, meat only canned formulas and fresh whole foods like veggies and fruits. Use common sense and also take a look at how nature itself handles it to get the best pointers in the right direction.
Finally I also like the comments made about the “dental care” treats. This is a problem I see quite often. Cat owners just overfeeding treats because they believe that they are doing the optimal and best thing for their pet’s dental health. Remember, while the nutritional value of such treats is questionable they also are one reason why so many pets suffer from obesity. As this cat owner clearly admits and I have to say that I don’t think so much that the regular food itself fattened the cat, I am convinced it was the 12 to 16 “junk food” snacks daily. And as the vet points out, there are much better and natural ways to tackle the problem on hand.

When is it time to see the vet?

This actually shouldn’t really be such a big deal and in my opinion, as I say usually, common sense should answer any questions there are about this question. But I notice lately that with budgets being as tight as they are in these rough economic times and that combined with the steadily rising already high cost of veterinarian medical care, more pet owners these days are reluctant to take their pet to the vet. Home remedies can help with minor incidents of illness, but sometimes there is just no way around the visit to the vet’s office.
Look for these general warning signs, a collection of the most common ones and certainly not a list to be considered complete:
Fever, bad or foul odor coming from mouth, ears or skin, attitude changes, changes in energy, lumps or bumps, sudden weight loss or the opposite, sudden gains, unusual discharge from eyes, nose mouth or any other body opening, sudden increase or decrease in water consumption, stiffness, difficulties rising,. If you notice any of these on your pet, I would strongly recommend to see your vet.
Others include vomiting, diarrhea and limping. Vomiting is a symptom rather than a disease. It can occur with a great number of illnesses. The most common one is often also the most obvious: Eating something that upsets the stomach. With cats this could be hair for example, dogs sometimes react to table food this way, just because its simply nod made for them. If your pet vomits but otherwise seems to be ok, take away any food for a period of up to a full day and provide water only (very important!). If that seems to help get the animal back on its regular diet, start with small rations and gradually slowly increase back to the regular schedule. It is time to see the vet if the cat or dog does not keep the water down, has abdominal pain, is lethargic or even has fever, simply cannot keep any food down, these are more indications that it is time for a vet checkup. Keep in mind that even simple cases can lead to death from dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Also remember that the youngsters, puppies and kittens as well as the elderly seniors are at increased risk.
Diarrhea can be a symptom of anything ranging from change in diet to cancer. Mild cases can be resolved with home treatment. This is similar to what was said above about vomiting. However, go and see the vet immediately if the stool is bloody, the diarrhea is persistent and or combined with other symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy or pain.
If your pet is limping check out its legs, if it lets you. If not, its no longer your, but the vet’s turn. Let the pet rest for an extended period of a couple days. If the problem seems to go away, slowly go back to your usual routine of walking or other exercise routine you have your pet on. Do NOT give your pet over the counter medications without checking with your vet first. Also, seek help immediately if the symptom is accompanied by great pain, fever or drastic loss of appetite.
Use the same common sense as you do with yourself or any other human family member. Key is that you need to know your pet. Once that is the case you should be able to easily notice any problem with your animal’s well being. Remember, while there are many clear indications that something is wrong, as described above. I always know when there is something wrong with my cats or dogs, I can tell immediately. In those instances I keep a close eye on hem. Keeep in mind your cat or dog can’t talk and tell you. It is up to you to figure it out and make sure it is well and healthy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Canine Protein Requirements Part 2b Definitions

In Part 2a of this series I talked about the fact that protein is made up of amino acids which are chemical units or building blocks. Today I am going to take a closer look at these acids and how they relate to our dogs’ diet.
Arginine is an alpha amino acid. It is one of the 20 most common natural amino acids. Generally, in mammals it is classified as a semi-essential or conditionally essential amino acid, depending on the developmental stage and health status of the animal. Puppies are unable to meet their requirements and thus arginine is nutritionally essential for these youngsters. The AAFCO Nutrient Profile for Dog Food classifies arginine as an essential amino acid and its presence in dog food is required at a minimum of 0.51% for adult maintenance and 0.62% for growth and reproduction profiles. Arginine plays an important role in cell division, the healing of wounds, removing ammonia from the body, immune function, and the release of hormones. The benefits and functions attributed to arginine include among others: Stimulation of the release of growth hormones, improves immune function, reduces healing time of bone injuries, increases muscle mass, reduces tissue body fat an helps decrease blood pressure. Arginine is found in a wide variety of foods. They include animal sources like dairy products (cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, whey protein), beef, pork (bacon and ham), poultry (chicken and turkey light meat), wild game (pheasant, quail), seafood (salmon, tuna in water) and vegan sources like wheat germ, oatmeal, nuts (coconut, pecans, cashews, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazel nuts, pine nuts, peanuts), seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), cooked soy beans. Research has also shown that a low carbohydrate, high protein, high arginine (meat amino acid), low omega-6 fatty acid and high omega-3 fatty acid diet is useful for both preventing and treating cancer.
Histidine is one of the 20 standard amino acids present in proteins. For dogs, since they don’t produce this amino acid in sufficient volume on their own, it is considered to be essential. AAFCO standards require its presence in dog food at a minimum of 0.18% for adult maintenance and 0.22% for growth and reproduction profiles.
Isoleucine is an essential alpha amino acid. As an essential amino acid, isoleucine is not synthesized in animals, hence it must be ingested, usually as a component of proteins. AAFCO requirements for its presence in dog food is a minimum of 0.37% for adult maintenance and 0.45% for growth and reproduction profiles.
Leucine is an essential alpha amino acid, which means that dogs cannot synthesize it. Hence it must be ingested, usually as a component of proteins. AAFCO required minimums are 0.59% for adult maintenance and 0.72% for Growth and reproduction stage. As a dietary supplement, leucine has been found to slow the degradation of muscle tissue by increasing the synthesis of muscle proteins Leucine is utilized in the liver, adipose tissue, and muscle tissue.
Lysine is an essential amino acid. Lysine is a base like arginine and histidine. It must be provided with the food. Lysine is important for proper growth and it plays an essential role in the production of carnitine, a nutrient responsible for converting fatty acids into energy and helping to lower cholesterol. Lysine appears to help the body absorb and conserve calcium and it plays an important role in the formation of collagen, a substance important for bones and connective tissues including skin, tendon, and cartilage. If there is too little lysine in the diet, kidney stones and other health related problems may develop including loss of appetite, slow growth, and reproductive disorders. It is extremely rare, however, to obtain insufficient amounts of lysine through the diet. Generally, only vegetarians are at risk for deficiencies. For them, legumes like peas are the best alternative source. Regular good sources of lysine are foods rich in protein including meat like red meat, pork, and poultry, fish like cod and sardines, nuts, eggs, soybeans, spirulina, and fenugreek seed.
Studies conducted to identify the requirement of lysine for dogs show that a young female dog was found to require between 0.461% and 0.577% dietary lysine for dogs for optimum growth and nitrogen balance. For young male dogs they would need lysine starting from a range of 0.577% for a maximum growth and nitrogen balance. AAFCO standards require 0.77% for growth and reproduction stages, 0.63% for adult maintenance.
Methionine (-Cystine) is an essential alpha amino acid. Together with cysteine, methionine is one of two sulfur-containing proteinogenic amino acids. High levels of methionine can be found in sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, fish, meats, and some other plant seeds. Most fruits and vegetables contain very little of it; however, some have significant amounts, such as spinach, potatoes, and boiled corn. Most legumes, though high in protein, are also low in methionine. DL-methionine is sometimes added as an ingredient to pet foods Methionine, cysteine, and soy protein heated in a small amount of water creates a meat-like aroma. AAFOC requirements call for a 0.53% methionine cystine content in food for growth and reproduction stages and minimum 0.43% for adult maintenance. Methionine is a principle supplier of sulfur which prevents disorders of the hair (promotes hair growth), skin and nails. It helps lower cholesterol levels by increasing the liver's production of lecithin, reduces liver fat, and protects the kidneys. dl-methionine is a chelating agent for heavy metals. It regulates the formation of ammonia and creates ammonia-free urine which reduces bladder irritation. dl-methionine is an essential amino acid which serves as a urinary acidifier. Methionine typically is added as supplement to cat food to create acidic urine. In dog foods, the meat normally supplies sufficient amounts.
Cystine is the amino acid dimer formed when a pair of cysteine molecules are joined by a disulfide bond (refers to the structural unit composed of a linked pair of sulfur atoms). In animal food disulfide bonds can be broken at temperatures above about 150 °C, especially at low moisture levels below about 20%. One of the richest nutritional sources of cystine in the diet is undenatured whey proteins from milk. The disulfide bonded cystine is not digested or significantly hydrolized by the stomach, but is transported by the blood stream to the tissues of the body. Here, within the cells of the body, the weak disulfide bond is cleaved to give cysteine, from which glutathione can be synthesized.
Cysteine is an alpha amino acid and is a non essential amino acid, which means that dogs can synthesize it. Because of the high reactivity of this thiol, cysteine is an important structural and functional component of many proteins and enzymes.
Phenylalanine Tyrosine Phenylalanine is an alpha amino acid found naturally in the breast milk of mammals and manufactured for food products. L-Phenylalanine (LPA) is an electrically-neutral amino acid, one of the twenty common amino acids used to biochemically form proteins.. Breast milk from mammals is rich in phenylalanine. It is also produced by plants and most microorganisms from prephenate, AAFCO requirements call for a 0.89% phenylalaline tyrosine content in food for growth and reproduction stages and minimum 0.73% for adult maintenance.
Tyrosine is one of the 20 amino acids that are used by cells to synthesize proteins. This is a non-essential amino acid and it is found in casein. In fact, the word "tyrosine" is from the Greek tyros, meaning cheese, as it was first discovered in 1846 by German chemist Justus von Liebig in the protein casein from cheese. Casein is the predominant phosphoprotein that accounts for nearly 80% of proteins in milk and cheese. Mammals synthesize tyrosine from the essential amino acid phenylalanine, which is derived from food.
Threonine is an alpha amino acid. AAFCO requirements call for a 0.58% threonine content in food for growth and reproduction stages and minimum 0.48% for adult maintenance. As an essential amino acid, threonine is not synthesized in dogs, hence they must ingest threonine in the form of threonine containing proteins. Foods high in threonine include cottage cheese, poultry, fish, meat, lentils, and sesame seeds.
Tryptophan is one of the 20 standard amino acids, as well as an essential amino acid in a dog’s diet. AAFCO requirements call for a 0.20% tryptophan content in food for growth and reproduction stages and minimum 0.16% for adult maintenance. Amino acids, including tryptophan, act as building blocks in protein biosynthesis. Tryptophan is a routine constituent of most protein based foods or dietary proteins. It is particularly plentiful in oats, bananas, mangoes, dried dates, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, poultry, sesame, chick peas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, and peanuts. It is also found in turkey at a level typical of poultry in general.
Valine is an alpha amino acid. AAFCO requirements call for a 0.48% Valine content in food for growth and reproduction stages and minimum 0.39% for adult maintenance. Valine is an essential amino acid, hence it must be ingested, usually as a component of proteins. Nutritional sources of valine include cottage cheese, fish, poultry, peanuts, sesame seeds, and lentils.

Reduction of struvite and calcium oxalate in cat urine through the diet?

Customers having this problem with their cats keep come to me for many reasons. I would say the most cited one is that their cat has been diagnosed by their vet and prescribed a specific, though helpful, yet very expensive diet. This brings up the question of which dietary factors have to be considered and what are the non prescription options if there are any.
I have looked a little deeper into the issue. To say that the problem is strictly due to wrong feeding is only partially, if, in some cases, at all true. Additionally this opinion is strongly supported by vets who keep prescribing specific diets to cure the condition. It appears as if there is no evidence that a diet directly causes feline lower urinary tract disease, also short called FLUTD. However it also looks like that there is definitely some evidence that a diet may increase the risk that a cat may develop urinary crystals, stones or (urethal) plugs.
Let’s start with what we know for sure: Development of crystals and stones is by large depending on urine pH, urine volume, and mineral concentration in the urine, feeding habits/schedule (i.e. scheduled or free choice all day) and/or genetics.
A veterinarian study performed by the pet food industry addressing the issue reveals: Crystals and stones containing struvite (= magnesium ammonium phosphate) were common in cats (more so than in dogs). Because of this the pet food industry developed diets designed to minimize the risk of struvite forming. These diets were low in magnesium and caused the cats eating them to produce acidic urine with a low pH value. When cats were fed these specific diets, the percentage of those with struvite stones decreased from 75% in 84 to 48% in 1995. However, at the same time the number of cases with calcium oxalate crystals and stones went up from 2% in 84 to 40% in 1995. As of today, struvite is still the more common component of urethal plugs.
Dietary factors affecting struvite crystals development appear to be concentration of magnesium, urine ph and water consumption. The dietary factors affecting struvite stones (or uroliths) minimizing the risk are low to moderate protein content and low magnesium values. Additionally it is also a fact that besides decreasing the magnesium content of a diet, acidifying the urine is even more helpful.
This means the diet you feed your cat can indeed influence the health of the urinary tract. Controlling mineral levels, changing the urine pH, increasing water intake and adjusting feeding schedules reduces the risk of a cat developing urinary crystals and stones. Following are diet related issues to keep in mind when feeding a cat suffering from the condition.
The FDA does allow statements such as for example “reduces urine pH to help maintain urinary tract health”, however at the same time requires that such statements only are made if the food delivers on the promise. Such determinations are made based on controlled veterinary studies, which provide data used to ensure this safety. Pet food manufactures walk a fine line here because too much acidifying can cause serious health problems for the animal. The feeding directions need to say that the diet is for adult maintenance only (since safety for kittens and pregnant cats has not been established yet) and that the food is to be used as a stand alone diet to be fed throughout the day. While talking about feeding another factor plays an important role: Water. Water supply and consumption is an important part as it influences the development of urinary crystals and stones. Provide ample water supply. This results in a lower urine concentration and thereby reduces the risk of stone or crystal formation. More water means more urine. More urine translates into shorter urine presence in the bladder. Cats naturally are not crazy about drinking water due to the fact that they simply do not need as much water as other animals. You may have to play a more enforcing role. Try providing numerous bowls in various easy accessible locations, running water, flavor enhanced water and mixing water into the food.
Another important factor is the mineral concentration in the food. This includes magnesium and phosphorus. Look for the ash content on the label. Ash is considered the inorganic portion of a food remaining in the food after it is burned at 600 degrees Celsius for a 2 hour period. Ash includes calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, manganese and trace minerals. AAFCO in its nutrient diet profiles for cats requires minimum values of these components to be present in cat food. FDA requirements state that a “low ash” claim is not allowed on cat food. Such or similar claims, even if they don’t reference FLUTD, are inherently false and misleading and originally were based on a by now outdated scientific consensus, which concluded that ash is not related FLUTD. Basically, there are no valid reasons to reference ash on the product label (other than in the guaranteed analysis) except in regard to this outdated theory.
In the past it was generally assumed that lowering dietary magnesium would be important to lowering the risk of struvite formation. Magnesium is one of the constituents of ash. This led people to assume that a low ash content in food meant it was low in magnesium. That is simply wrong. Low ash diets could contain normal amounts of magnesium, but be lower in any of the other minerals. According to FDA guidelines, in order for a food to be considered “low magnesium” it must be present with less than 0.12% (dry matter basis) and less than 25 mg/100 Kcal.
With regards to magnesium, further consideration has to be given to its actual form as it is present in a food. Back in the seventies research demonstrated that high levels of magnesium oxide in a food could contribute to the formation of stones. More current research shows that this is simply not true if the magnesium is in the form of magnesium chloride. It appears as if magnesium oxide causes alkaline urine while magnesium chloride results in the formation of acidic urine.
Since phosphorus is a component of struvite, it should theoretically be of value to reduce dietary phosphorus in an attempt to reduce the formation of struvite stones and crystals. Slightly lower levels of dietary phosphorus may be beneficial, but extreme care needs to be taken to not reduce the phosphorus too much, since the ration of calcium to phosphorus is important to many body functions. Acidified diets have been proven to decrease phosphorus levels in adult cats. This could cause a calcium phosphorus imbalance.
Provide smaller amounts of food to cats at risk for developing struvite crystals or stones all day long rather than only feeding a larger meal once or twice a day. After eating a large meal, the pH of the urine usually becomes more alkaline. If the cat is fed smaller portions several times and throughout the day urine pH will stay more acidic. However, do not over feed. Keep in mind that over feeding results in more than the recommended amount of magnesium being consumed. The excessive amount of magnesium is excreted in the urine and may increase the risk of stone formation.
Some cats are genetically predisposed to develop oxalate crystals if they are fed diets resulting in acidic urine and low in magnesium. To reduce this risk, I usually recommend a diet formulated to contain moderate calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium levels and with decreased urine acidifying potential.
Calcium oxalate crystals and stones are more likely to occur in acidic urine. Excess levels of vitamin C in the diet can acidify urine and increase the risk of calcium oxalate crystals. Stay away from food with high vitamin C content.
Important: When feeding such a diet do not provide additional supplements with the specific goal to help this particular health condition. Neither magnesium, calcium nor phosphorus should be restricted or supplemented for the following reasons:
Diets that are either very high or very low in magnesium can increase the risk of calcium oxalate stones.
High levels of urinary calcium increase the risk of calcium oxalate crystals, especially in concentrated acidic urine. High urinary calcium results from excess intake of calcium in the diet, abnormal hormonal regulation of calcium levels by the parathyroid gland or hyperparathyroidism and excess vitamin D intake. At the same time it is important that calcium intake is not restricted too much. Decreasing calcium too much may increase the amount of calcium oxalate found in the urine. When calcium is high in the diet, it decreases the absorption of oxalate from the digestive system, and the excess oxalate is excreted in the feces. When dietary calcium is low, more of the oxalate is absorbed from the digestive system and is then excreted in the urine. Levels of phosphorus in the bloodstream affect the levels of calcium.
Vitamin D should be fed at a moderate level, since deficiencies or excesses of this vitamin can result in abnormal blood and urine calcium and phosphorus levels.
If all of this is of concern to you and you want specific suggestions with regards to which diets I recommend, please e-mail me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Are we feeding our pets to death?

An alarming number of 54 Million obese pets live in the United States. That is 40% of the pet population! Obesity is when your pet exceeds its ideal body weight by 15 or more percent. Female pets are more prone to obesity then their male counter parts.
Why is there an obesity problem? One of the biggest feeding mistakes pet owners make is portion control. For example, to a 20 Lbs. dog, 1 ounce of Cheddar Cheese is like a human eating 2 hamburgers or chocolate bars. Or, a cup of milk to a 10 Lbs. cat is like you eating 5 hamburgers or 5 chocolate bars.
Recent weight management studies concluded that compared with cats of optimal weight, overweight cats are more than twice as likely to develop skin conditions, 4 times as likely to develop diabetes and finally 5 times as likely to develop lameness, all conditions requiring veterinarian treatment. Overweight leaves pets at a greater risk than ever before for type-2-diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, many forms of cancer, especially intra-abdominal cancer, osteoarthritis and potentially a shorter life expectancy.
42% of dog owners share people food with their dogs and more than 70% provide some sort of treat regimen. Too many dog owners use food as a primary way to show their affection.
Last year's pet food recalls caused many pet owners to prepare their own, home made diets. Unfortunately these meals often lack the nutritional values needed by our pets. They often contain excessive salt, sugar, fat and cholesterol. They are high calorie meals. Combined with table scraps, excessive treats and a lack of exercise, they certainly make an impact on the growing pet obesity epidemic.
Following are 4 basic considerations to control your pet's weight:
Choice of diet: For example, all, truly natural food products available to you, whether they are for your dog or for your cat, raw, freeze dried, dry or canned, are serious alternatives. Carefully select your suppliers based on their credibility and motives. Look for places offering a wide spectrum of products so that you can provide variety to your pet. A rotation diet consisting of more meat protein and less grain fosters biologically appropriate weight control. Lean feeding leads to less obesity. An example of a good solution for home made meals are Sojos Food Mixes. Made by experienced experts they are a safe base and with their nutritional value offer many benefits, one of them being balanced weight.
Portion control: Don't listen too much to your pet. Many of them don't know how much is good for them and when to stop. Follow the manufacturer's feeding guide lines available within product descriptions or on the back of each package. Consider lifestyle, activity level and medical conditions of your pet. Important: These guide lines usually refer to the "ideal body weight" of your pet, i.e. what your pet should weigh rather than what it weighs actually. Not keeping this in mind can lead to constant "over" feeding. Example: If your cat weighs 15 Lbs. and is 20% overweight, give her only as much as the manufacturer recommends for a 12.5 Lbs. cat.
Controlled "Treat"ments: Treats are great rewards and training aids. Your choice is seemingly endless. Make sure the treats you offer to your pet are not just all about fun. Look for functional treats, meaning they are made using healthy and palatable main ingredients providing many health benefits. As wellness products they are supplementing your healthy food. "Treat" treats as what they are: They are not a food item. Dogs appreciate a thumb nail sized bite as much as they like a 2 Lbs. bag of biscuits, the latter not being helpful in you solving your pet's obesity problem. As with everything in life, remember the word "moderation".
Regular exercise: The best thing to do is asking your vet about the ideal exercise program for your pet. Following are just a few ideas to inspire your creativity. Change your walk with your dog into intervals of jogging and running. Cut down on the typical every 2 minute sniffing and marking breaks. Change the pace from 20 to 25 minutes a mile to 12 to 15 minutes. Don't worry, dogs are built to run anywhere between 0 and 100 miles an hour with a very little risk of injury. After all, you're not doing an all-out sprint. Be consistent. Let the dog know you're not on a stroll and have other places to go too.
Move the food bowl as far away as possible to force the dog to walk. Don't let them sleep right next to their food.
Play, chase, fetch, catch. Combine exercise with play time, for example check out this link on the Dog Channel: "Fun Backyard Games With Your Dog" by Cathy M.Rosenthal. Get moving toys. Get busy. And do it regularly. Use your fantasy and be creative. And remember, to your dog what's fun today may be boring tomorrow, so be innovative as well.
Remember, pet obesity is not an animal problem, it is a human problem. When feeding your pet, look for products, which are designed and have proven to be supportive of obesity prevention. Imperative to your objectives is also that your pet food source provides in-depth information on effective holistic, healthy nutrition. Contributing to your pet's health and vitality requires self education. With the help of the information provided by people like us and others in the field, you will be able to make the right and correct, healthy and informed decisions on behalf of your pet. After all: All we want to do is help our beloved pets to live a longer, healthier and happier life. If you want to read more on this topic I recommend the APOP (Association for Pet Obesity Awareness) website as being very informative. It provides in-depth details as well as many downloadable tools such as for example caloric needs tables, ideal weight tables and much more, all in PDF format and best of all, it's free.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Chinese destroy large amounts of tainted animal feed

The Palm Beach Post today reported from Shanghai, China, that regulators over there said over the weekend they had confiscated and destroyed more than 3,600 tons of animal feed tainted with melamine. If you recall, melamine is an industrial chemical that has contaminated food supplies in China and led to global recalls of Chinese dairy products. Here in the United States we were confronted last year with melamine contaminated pet food, which has led to US history’s largest pet food recall ever. According to the Post, in what appeared to be China’s biggest food safety crackdown in years, the Chinese government also indicated that it had closed 238 feed makers in a series of nationwide sweeps.
I wonder finally triggering all this action was the fact that China itself was just recently in the news for melamine baby food contaminations, which has led to serious health problems. According to a Chinese government statement issued on 10/25/08, more than 3,600 babies remained in hospital in China after drinking tainted milk products that have sickened more than 53,000 children. Of the 3,654 infants still in hospital, three remained in serious condition, while 46,700 children had recovered and been released from medical clinics as of October 22, the health ministry said in its statement.
Regardless of what called the action abroad, finally a step in the right direction was taken. This brings up another, related issue I found out last week
The Philippines Bureau of Customs began on 10/24/08 testing all pet food and animal feed imports originating in China; as well as testing milk and dairy products and meat imported from China. The Philippine Government reacted in response to the many recent products that have been discovered to contain melamine. The Philippines is holding all products from sale until they have been tested clean of melamine. So far, six milk products were found to contain, according to Philippine custom officials "alarming levels of melamine." That’s in the Philippines. But how about here on our own shores? Why does our government not take similar action and test every single Chinese imported drug, food, regardless of whether it is for humans or pets, or imported ingredient? As far as I have learned (thank you Susan Thixton), the FDA inspects only 1% to 3% of all food and drug imports into the United States.
I find it interesting. We are the Number One country on this planet. We tell everybody what has to be done and how they have to do it. Aren’t we supposed to set an example for everybody else? How comes a country like the Philippines, a country everybody here is laughing and making jokes about, has to set an example? All I learned here lately is about a recent advisory from the US Food and Drug Administration said around 1,500 dogs in Beijing have died from eating pet food tainted with melamine. So again, we criticize what’s wrong abroad. And I haven’t seen too many changes with regards to the pet food problems we have to be worried about following last year’s recall. (See some of my recently posted comments and watch for more to follow). Ooops, I almost forgot, we have become a country rather reacting to problems (typically after disaster strikes and when it is too late) than taking a proactive role. Well, that explains everything and I shall rest my case. Though, I am glad that at least a great number of pet owners don’t follow that lead, have taken things under their own control and are doing the right thing for the sake of our beloved companion animals.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Therapy pets beneficial to your health

This comment is actually for once not related to benefit the health of our pets but to ours, the pet owners’ very own. While I make it sometimes sound like owning a pet and taking care of it properly can be quite involved and requires a lot of tedious preparation and studying, there are, as we all know also many benefits in having a companion animal. In my opinion the benefits clearly outnumber the efforts we have to put in.
Related to this, I wanted to share with you what Dr. Watts, D.V.M. of Clevenger’s Corner Veterinary Care wrote in his interesting article for the Culepeper Star Exponent titled “Having a pet can be beneficial for your health”. I found it interesting because usually we don’t hear that much about the benefits he is talking about. He is taking the subject a hole level higher and says:
“Most pet owners probably agree that owning a dog or cat enhances one’s life and often leads to relief of stress or anxiety. Now, thanks to the efforts of dedicated, caring people, the benefit is being shared with nursing home patients, hospitalized individuals and even persons with social, cognitive, and/or physical disabilities.”
According to Dr. Watts, the American Heart Association in a medical study actually provided scientific proof that therapy with pets can lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety among patients with heart failure. Scientists carefully measured vital signs and stress hormone levels in 76 heart failure patients and found out, those who had visits with therapy pets exhibited less anxiety. These patients additionally had lower levels of epinephrine (a stress hormone) and had lower blood and lung pressure values compared with patients only seeing human visitors or no visitors at all.
Delta Society, an organization on a mission to “improve human health through service and therapy animals, says none of the AHA’s findings are new. ” For about 3 decades already, Delta Society has been a leader in promoting the use of therapy animals to help educate the public about the health benefits of pet ownership and to help improve the recovery quality of ill patients.
Therapy Dogs International has also been serving the needs of hospitalized patients, nursing home residents, and other places where therapy dogs are needed. Between the two organizations, more than 20,000 dogs are registered across North America.
An important clarification between therapy dogs and service dogs needs to be made though: Almost everyone is familiar with the Seeing Eye Dogs or Canine Companions for Independence. These highly trained canines are specifically trained to assist the individual with the chores of day to day living. Most often, a service dog is likely to be one of just a few larger breed dogs. In contrast, a therapy dog, or cat, can be of almost any breed and size, as long as the temperament is sound.
Therapy dogs are trained in two ways: AAA (Animal Assisted Activities) is the most common use of therapy pets. The animals are brought into situations to interact with individuals who may be bedridden or unable to interact in a normal social situation, such as children in long term care facilities. More commonly called “meet and greet” sessions, these activities can help bring joy to people whose lives might otherwise consist of repetitious treatments or other activities that fail to stimulate their emotions and intellect.
AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) uses therapy pets to interact with a single individual. These activities have specific goals set for each individual and often involve coordinating certain physical actions with an interaction with the pet. For example, to help assist a child with fine motor skills, a therapist might bring a cat along and have the child feed the cat small treats from a container.
Even though these visits have documented beneficial effects, concerns about disease transmission, especially with immuno compromised individuals, should still be paramount. Many organizations have set guidelines as to when and where therapy pets can be used and will avoid taking pets into situations that might pose a risk. The Virginia Veterinary Medical Association has developed animal health guidelines for the administration of animal assisted programs.
If you feel that your pet might make a good therapy animal and are interested in possibly participating in any such programs available, contact either the Delta Society, Therapy Dogs International or a local therapy pet group. Your local hospital, nursing home, or humane society may be of assistance as well. You also should make sure to discuss your plans with your veterinarian to determine your pet’s qualifications and health status.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Advertising and/or promoting named products on this blog

When I originally started this blog, my intention was to create a completely independent, neutral, no advertising blog. A place, where a community and I myself with common interests would discuss any nutrition or other pet related topics without bringing my business, or for that matter of fact, any other business into the game. At least not in a fashion, where I would push for one or the other or speak against one or the other specific, named product. That is why all the products I named so far had these funny names like XYZ or DEF, etc.. Now, a couple of months later I am getting ready to deviate from this original thought. The reasons for this change are various. First of all, I am looking at any other blog. I see hundreds of them throughout a week of my regular work. I read columns about pets either on-line or in hard copy. I have yet to come across only one incident where absolutely no advertising is involved. This can be seen either with ads being placed in blogs or simply bloggers making specific recommendations. Columnists have absolutely no problem to recommend a specific product, and both columnists and bloggers, sometimes even are vets. I also believe that many readers are most likely looking for specific recommendations so they can figure out ways as to how to help their pets and be better pet owners.
I am not the kind of guy who starts revolutions. So why should I be doing things so totally different than anybody else does? The second reason was to use it as a tool to generate some interest not just in my thoughts, advice and comments. But I also was hoping that some of this interest would spark over into my business and help me there as well. This has not come to fruition so far and I strongly believe that this has to do with my strategy. Therefore, and in consideration of the fact that I spend a considerable portion of my daily work time with finding topics and writing/commenting for this blog, in future I will no longer hold back and make very product specific recommendations. One thing however I want to keep doing as I have done so far: I am going to try to stay as objective as possible, I will not allow myself the bashing of a specific product brand or name and I sure would not want to see any comments made in such a fashion. I am seeing many blogs where it seems to be common that specific products are simply being ripped apart and bad-mouthed with totally unqualified comments and bad language. This is not going to happen here. Let’s all act like human beings and provide constructive criticism with one common goal in mind: Healthy and happy pets, happy pet owners (the health of the latter is subject in many other blogs).