Saturday, November 22, 2008

Link between ear infections and allergies?

An owner of a 12 year old female Golden Retriever in the Palm Beach Post’s pet column had an inquiry about her dog experiencing ear infections every few months. She was wondering if these infections are related to the dog’s age. The dog is being fed an Iams diet for all her life and there were no changes made to the dietary habits. In the past, her vet was prescribing her Otomax, which apparently did take care of it in clearing up the infection. Also the dog has been given Animax for a couple times. But for whatever reason, now all the sudden nothing seems to work anymore. The dog went through complete blood work and at the first glance everything seems to be “normal”.
As a side note, Otomax is a FDA approved prescription drug. I personally am not too crazy about it since it comes as any drug these days with almost more side effects than benefits. While it may cure the problem, it also may cause, among others and according to the manufacturer, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss and more. Animax is even worst. Also being a prescription drug, treatment with it comes automatically with the risk of various serious problems. I could live with the fact that it shouldn’t be given to pregnant animals to avoid offspring deformations. However it blew my mind when I read (and this is according to the manufacturer) that there is the risk of deformations in the forelegs and more. So now the dog’s ears are fixed but he can’t walk anymore? No, thank you. I stay away from that and hope that everybody else does too, unless it becomes a question of life or death.
The column's vet responded: “Don’t ever believe that being on the same food means that diet has nothing to do with an animal’s health problems. Ear problems and allergies are closely linked. Each batch of pet food under the same label is different because ingredients never are identical in quality and even in kind.”
With regards to this allergy assumption I personally also would like to add here that allergies don’t occur over night. They develop slowly over years. Pet owners often are under the wrong impression that allergies must be linked to a change in diet. That is not true, it is exactly the fact that our companion animals typically are being fed the same food day in and day out over years that is causing allergies to develop.
What are the indications of your dog having an ear infection? They include odor, scratching or rubbing of ears and head, discharge in the ears, redness or swelling of the ear flap or canal, shaking of the head or tilting it to one side, pain around the ears and changes in behavior such as depression or irritability
Ear disease is one of the most common conditions I hear about when I talk to my customers. Just not too long ago I read that it is estimated that up to 20% of the dog population is affected by this disease.
I think the doctor is acting a little too premature by assuming that the dog is suffering from an allergy. I am not saying he is wrong but I would have asked a few more questions. Like these: Is the dog spending a lot of his day outside? How often do you groom, or better, clean the dog (and most important in this case her ears?).
There are quite a few causes for ear infections, allergies just being one of them. If an allergy is the cause, as a matter of fact in my research I found out that an ear problem may be the first sign of the allergy. Since the allergy changes the environment within the ear, sometimes secondary infections with bacteria or yeast are quite common. In these cases just treating the ear infection is not the solution. It is necessary to figure out the root of the problem and treat the allergies and secondary infections as well.
Sometimes parasites, like the ear mite, are a common cause of ear problems. Some dogs are hypersensitive to the mites, however, and the resultant itching can be intense. These dogs may scratch so much they severely traumatize the ear.
Then there are micro organisms, like bacteria and yeast. These organisms could not find a better place to live in than a warm, dark, moist ear canal. Dogs with heavy, floppy ears may have ear problems due to the excess moisture that builds up in their ears. Numerous types of bacteria and the yeast, Malassezia pachydermatis, cause ear infections. The normal, healthy ear has a good defense against these organisms, but if the ear environment changes due to allergies, hormone abnormalities or moisture, the bacteria and yeast can greatly multiply and break down these defenses.
Foreign bodies like plant awns, those little "stick-tights" that cling to our clothes and our dogs' fur, can sometimes enter the ear canal. Their presence causes irritation, the dog scratches, and before you know it we have a traumatized, infected ear. It should be your habit to groom your dog after a walk in the woods, or any extended stay outside where he could be exposed to such foreign bodies. Make sure to check the ears.
Deficiencies or excesses of various hormones can result in skin and ear problems. Thyroid hormones produced by the adrenal gland and sex hormones influence the health of the skin and ears.
Because of the many potential causes of ear infections, one can’t just say it is a bacterial infection, dispense antibiotics, and it will go away. To be on the safe side more work should be performed. Your vet with his otoscope should check the ear canal to determine the amount of inflammation. Is the ear drum is involved? Are there any foreign bodies, tumors, or other potential causing the problem? Swabs of the ear can be taken and examined for bacteria, yeast, and mites. History and physical exams may help to determine if it is a hormonal, allergic, or hereditary problem. If these are suspected, further diagnostic testing will be needed.
Regardless of what the actual cause of the ear disease is, hygiene is priority treatment number one. Always keep your dog’s ears clean. Furthermore, severe ear infections of the canal can spread to the middle and inner ear, so prompt attention to the problem needs to be priority number one.
Further treatments can be the use of antibiotics (for bacterial infections) and anti fungals (for yeast infections). They may have to be combined with products reducing the amount of inflammation. Hormone abnormalities and allergies require treatment of the dog as a whole and may include hormonal replacements and allergy testing. Allergies, besides being treated by changing the diet, should include specific ear cleaning solutions, antihistamines and fatty acid supplements. Severe or chronic bacterial infections in most cases require the use of antibiotics.
So, with now knowing what the causes could be, how it’s diagnosed and treated, you understand why I felt that the doc’s conclusion for an allergy was a little too fast.
The column's vet proceeds in his comment by recommending a diet to be found at his place. Due to my own business interest I am not going to repeat the ones he made but would like to make my own recommendations. Instead of now listing a ton of food products I find suitable, if you are interested please e-mail me for more info.
Following what we have learned above, the vet additionally to diet changes recommends food supplementation with cod liver oil and ear cleansers and drops based on tea tree oil. Apparently he has had good results with both of those, I only can agree, my customers report similar results and complete satisfaction with similar and/or tea tree oil based ear washes and drops. The same as what I said above for the food applies here, e-mail me if you are interested in specific product recommendations.
In conclusion, the key to healthy ears is to keep them clean. Check your dog’s ears regularly. A slight amount of waxy buildup may be present in normal ears. If your dog swims a lot, has pendulous ears, or a history of ear disease, routine cleaning up to three times weekly is recommended. If your dog shows severe discomfort, if the ears have bad smelling discharges, or the ear canals look very abnormal, see your vet immediately. If your dog has a ruptured or weakened ear drum, some ear cleansers and medications could do more harm than good.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Complete and Balanced Diets Part 1: Let’s reason…

Rebecca L. Remillard, PhD, DVM Diplomate at the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, Staff Nutritionist, Angell Memorial Hospital, Boston, MA, Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University some time ago was asked the following question by a pet owner: “All this talk of "balanced" makes me a little curious. If our pets need balanced meals each and every time they eat, why is it not recommended that I eat three bowls of Total each day? Can you tell why it is OK, even desirable for them to eat a bowl of doggy Total for each and every meal and it is certainly not for me?” The Doctor’s response was: “Nutritionally and legally speaking for pet foods: "Complete" means that all the nutrients known to be required in the diet of the pet are present in the food product. The dog and cat have some 40+ different nutrients known to be required in their diet. "Balanced" means the concentration of the nutrients within the food is correctly proportional to the caloric density of the food. In other words, at the point where the dog or cat has consumed enough food to meet their immediate caloric requirement, all the non-energy nutrients requirements have also been met. For example, in whatever volume of food is needed to meet the animals' energy need, the concentration of calcium, phosphorous and all other minerals and vitamins have been consumed in a sufficient quantity for intermediary metabolism to proceed. Hence nutrient concentrations are best expressed on an energy basis, e.g., grams of Calcium per 100 kcal of food. Do they need all these nutrients every day? No and I know of no qualified veterinary or animal nutritionist who has said or written that they do need all 40 nutrients everyday, although I have heard and read 'others' recommend or say so. However, it is the most prudent statement when making recommendations to masses of people as does the FDA, USDA. If you were responsible for make a feeding recommendation to the owners of over 100 million dogs and cats in the US alone; how would you word it? Nutritionists know that some nutrients are stored in the body while others are needed every day. For example, pets in the USA most likely have months of vitamin A stored in their livers. Other nutrients such as the water soluble vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, etc) are not stored, but eliminated from the body within hours of consuming an excess and therefore these nutrients should be consumed on a daily basis in order for intermediary metabolism to run at peak efficiency. For example, many people note the darker color of their urine within hours of taking a multi vitamin tablet with a water soluble vitamin content, excesses being eliminated and not stored in the body. PEOPLE: I am not a human nutritionist nor will I pretend to be one, but I have read several large nutritional survey completed in children, middle aged adults and the elderly in the USA that confirm we have certain vitamin and trace mineral deficiencies. So the USA population, in general, is not successfully or wisely making their food choices. On the other hand, there is no product sold for people in the US claiming to be complete and balanced for a whole day. Maybe there should be. Clearly most people in this land of plenty are not making the right choices.”

Here we go: “no product sold for people claiming to be complete and balanced.” That’s the key. So if there is no such claim for people food, how can we make that claim for pet food? Don’t we know less about them than we know about ourselves?
This goes right along with ideological idol, Dr. Randy Wysong, D.V.M.. I like him foremost because he thinks the same way I do: If a problem arises and you don’t know how to solve it, go back to the basics, use common sense and think logical. Logical in the most simple sense. Black is black and white is white, zero is zero and one is one. When I grew up, my Dad trained me for my mind to kind of work like a computer. Zero means power off and “No”, One means power on and “Yes”. It’s clear and simple, there is no if’s and but’s about it. Any of those variations again can somehow be explained with “zero or one”. To me only this makes the most sense. If someone tries to explain something to me, however his explanation in my opinion is not logical, then I don’t consider the explanation as valid. There has to be a logical explanation for everything, if not it is a “made up” story.
Dr. Wysong believes that “Nutrition rests on the pillars of the 4 basic sciences.” They are: Genetics, biology, physics and chemistry. Dr. Wysong further says that “Since no one claims 100% knowledge of any of these 4 supporting pillars, how can 100% be known in nutrition? If 100% is not known in nutrition, how can nutritionists create a “100% complete” diet?” Now that indeed makes a lot of sense to me. A 100% complete processed diet requires first a 100% complete knowledge of food, second a 100% complete knowledge of nutrition and third a 100% complete knowledge of food and nutrition requires a 100% complete knowledge of every science. Well, we know, none of those three areas of complete knowledge exist, therefore, logically a “100% complete” processed diet cannot exist.
Let’s try another approach, again, a logical one: In his book “The truth about pet foods” as well as in many others of his writings, he says: “our world is complex beyond comprehension. It is not only largely unknown, it is inknowable in the “complete” sense. In order for nutritionists and manufacturers to produce a 100% complete and balanced pet food, they must first know 100% about nutrition. However, nutrition is not a completed science. It is, in fact, an aggregate science, which is based upon other basic sciences, such as chemistry, physics and biology. But since no scientist would argue that everything is known in any of those 3 basic sciences, how can nutritionists claim to know everything there is to know about nutrition, which is based upon the three basic sciences? This is the logical absurdity of the 100% complete and balanced diet claim.”
“Claiming that anything is 100% is like claiming perfection, total knowledge and absolute truth. Has pet nutrition advanced this far? Does a chemist make such a claim? A physicist? Doctor? Professor? Did Einstein, Bohr, Pasteur, Aristotle, Plato or any of the greatest minds in history make such claims?“ I think Albert Einstein at this point would have said :”People, let’s reason”.
Don’t you agree that at this point we can conclude that the 100% complete claim is actually 100% complete guesswork? Or as Dr. Wysong, who also has a great sense of humor, though sometimes combined with sarcasm, calls it: “At best one could say that such a claim is the firm possibility of a definite maybe.” This basically leads me to conclude that there is actually no answer to the question raised by the pet owner at the very beginning of this article. This pet owner also could have been simply told that the 100% complete and balanced claim is simply unbelievable, regardless whether it refers to pet food or human food. It is a spurious unsupported boast intended to build consumer trust and dependence on regulators and even more so, commercial products. It is, as of this day, still not a way to create optimal health neither in your pet nor in yourself. Isn’t that a logical conclusion? Stay tuned, I like this topic and will talk some more on it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Confusing subject pet food

You have a simple question. Which product of a certain brand should you feed your pet? You visited the manufacturer’s website and hopefully found the information, but it is overwhelming and typically confusing. While visiting the pet store you discovered that the clerk did not understand that manufacturer’s philosophy and couldn’t help either. You called customer service but didn’t get the answer you were looking for. Why does pet food have to be so complicated?
Let me turn the tables and ask you what I, a human being, should eat? Would you tell me to just go and buy a box, can or package of something, like you are hoping that manufacturer will tell you to do for your pet? Would you give me that kind of a simple answer? Feeding humans involves a vast array of foods, not just a package of a food. You might tell me to have cereal at breakfast, but not the same cereal all the time. Then you say I should add milk and fruit to it. You might also suggest some fruit, toast, coffee and orange juice. All the sudden it’s not simple anymore. You go on and say for lunch I could have a burger and fries, a sandwich, a cookie, a shake, a salad. Now you are overwhelming me. For supper you suggest some chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed asparagus with butter and salt and some apple pie. You even list some snacks for in between and tell me that everything you have just described could vary meal to meal and day to day. Help, now I’m lost. If you are really concerned about my health you even tell me to take some vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements. Is all that “simple”? Where is my one food in a package in all that? And why are you expecting a pet food manufacturer to provide such a simple answer with regard to your pet?
When it comes to human food there is no one who really finds this to be a dilemma or confusing. In fact, eating a variety of foods, hundreds of options, with barely a thought given to it is fun. Almost nobody runs to the doctor or nutritionist to find out what to eat at their next meal. Or go to the food manufacturers to ask them what to feed their family. So why are so many pet owners confused about what to feed their pets? Why do people latch onto myth, fable and lore propagated by breeders, a neighbor, a clerk at a pet store or pet food manufacturers, or feel they need the advice of a nutritionist or a veterinarian? Can feeding a pet really be any more mysterious than feeding yourself?
The answer is a simple “No”. Your pet does not need “a” food. It doesn’t need a certain % of protein, calcium, taurine or any other nutrient guaranteed on a package. It needs a variety of foods and different meals. These meals should be as fresh, natural and healthy as possible. You can virtually start with any food. Then cycle through the dozens of options. As absurd as it may sound on the surface, in some cases you can even feed cat food to dogs and vice versa, or senior to puppies and growth to seniors. You should offer some good, appropriate table scraps, fresh meats, veggies and fruits and use supplements. Cycle everything, even the supplements. Fast your pet once in awhile for a meal or two, or a day. Feed only fresh meat at a meal once in awhile. Offer some yogurt, some cottage cheese, and tidbits of real cheese or some sliced apple or carrots. Be as creative with your pet’s food bowl as you are with your own. Read literature and learn all about your options. You do not have to feed every nutrient with every meal. Your pet has reserve capacity. Apply the same simple logic to pet feeding that you do to yourself. Change your definition of “simple,” from one specific food fed at every meal, to the “simple” logic of feeding pets like you feed yourself.
Pet food marketers may try to make pet feeding sound too complicated for you to do all by yourself, or appeal to your desire for convenience and simplicity. I agree, how wonderful it would be if some experts somewhere bundled up ideal health in an easy to open package, and all we had to do was pour it in a bowl day after day. Yes, you can go to a store and find a diet specific for your pet’s breed, or your pet’s age, or its size, or with a certain % of whatever, or its health condition or with some fancy ingredient, or some demon ingredient left out. But that is not where good nutrition and good health will be found. Let me put it this way: You can have simplicity by feeding a certain diet to your pet day in and day out. But you will trade that simplicity for a whole lot of complexity dealing with the illness that will likely eventually result. And just in fairness to your pet, would you want to eat one food 24/7? Health is not something somebody else like a doctor or a vet or a food manufacturer does to you. It is something you do to yourself … and your pet. So relax. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to feed your pet. Just use the same common sense you use for yourself and your family everyday. After all, pets are people too. (Inspired by Dr. Wysong, DVM)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New “value based” ingredient Ethanol making its way into pet food?

Here we go again: Our pet food industry, once again in its very own mysterious way, is thinking about yet another way to make more money on already very much compromised mass produced commercial pet food. This time, at least to me, just the sound of it is scary.
The president of the Pet Food Industry officially has made it clear that he thinks it is, as Susan Thixton called it “ time for left over ingredients from the processing of ethanol to be utilized in pet food. Being more concerned with rising costs of grain products instead of quality nutrition, Greg Aldrich, PhD feels it is ´time´ pet food manufacturers use spent-fermentation leftovers. He feels it will be well received if it’s pitched to pet owners as a ´green´ ingredient. Wonder if it will make pet’s feel “green”? As if the pet food industry does not have enough problems, now the president of The Pet Food Industry is encouraging dog food and cat food manufacturers to consider using leftovers from ethanol processing. Geez.” “The production of ethanol in the past has meant many things to the pet food industry, much of which hasn't been pleasant because of the pressure it has placed on grain supplies. Okay, so a cheap dollar, high fuel costs and a few natural disasters have had their impact as well. But, maybe there is some redemption for ethanol production that pet food companies have overlooked these last few years. Redemption in the way of an ingredient - specifically the protein-enriched, spent-fermentation co-product known as distillers dried grains with solubles (DDGS). Currently, only a few of the "value brands" of pet food are brave enough to incorporate DDGS in their formulas. Considering consumers generally have a favorable view of "green" ethanol and pet food companies have a need to recapture some lost margin encountered with rising commodity prices, it may be time for the broader industry to explore its use.”
According to the Pet Food Industry’s officials, availability is not an issue. Dr. Greg Aldrich is president of Pet Food & Ingredient Technology, Inc., which facilitates innovations in foods and ingredients for companion animal, writes on the organization’s website:
The basic steps for today's ethanol production follow the same steps as that of distilled spirits: Grain is milled and fermented with yeast, the alcohol is removed by distillation and the remaining wet residue is fed directly to livestock (predominantly cattle) or dried for use as an ingredient in the feed industry.
With DDGS, a dry milling process is used rather than a wet milling process that results in corn gluten feed or meal. Both types of processing are deployed for ethanol production, but the dry milling that results in the production of DDGS is more efficient, less capital intensive and subsequently more popular.
This means availability is not an issue. Last year, 2.3 billion bushels of grain were used in the production of ethanol with nearly one-third of the starting biomass recovered as distillers grains. In other words, over 3.5 million metric tons of DDGS was produced.
What do we know about DDGS? As it turns out, we know quite a bit about its nutrient composition, but only a smattering about its application in pet food. Regarding nutrient composition, the theme of the day is variability. Most reference texts place protein concentration at around 27% or more. Fat, fiber and ash are also concentrated as the starch is fermented off (9.0%, 8.5%, and 4.7%, respectively; NRC, 2006). The proximate composition varies between seasons and among producers with no established industry or regulatory standard nutrient composition.
Adding to this variability, not all DDGS come exclusively from corn. Other feed grains can be and are used in the production of DDGS, and the net result will be an ingredient that is somewhat reflective of the parent material. For that reason, the "predominating grain shall be declared as the first word in the name" on labels, according to the AAFCO 2006 Official Publication.
The amino acid profile differs little from that of the native grain, and the yeast fraction can contribute nearly half the amino acids. The fiber fraction is fermentable and a rich source of hemicellulose. The mineral composition is also variable with sodium content reported to fluctuate the greatest.
Work to evaluate this ingredient in pet food began nearly 50 years ago when distillers' grains were derived from the beverage and solvent industry. Since today only a small percentage of the overall DDGS supply is derived from this source, the research that was started in the late 1950s and continuing through to the 1980s doesn't completely apply. It does, however, give us some direction.
To summarize this battery of studies, the inclusion of DDGS at up to 30% of dog diets was reported to be acceptable; but, digestibility, stool consistency and palatability were measurably diminished. At intermediate levels of 9 to 16% of the diet, dry matter and energy digestibility were reported to decline 2 to 5 percentage points with an increase in stool volume. Including DDGS in diets at less than 8% did not affect dry matter or energy digestibility, alter nitrogen retention, hamper puppy performance or affect gestation or lactation. Unfortunately, no studies have been found that evaluated DDGS in cat foods.
More recent evaluations indicate that the protein quality of DDGS is superior to corn gluten meal; but this was due to a better amino acid profile rather than better digestibility. Protein utilization of DDGS, especially the digestibility of the essential amino acid lysine, is sensitive to heat damage during the drying process. This may be seen as a darkening or browning and can be a rough "eyeball" check for quality and process consistency.
DDGS are seldom, if ever, found in wet pet foods or treats, but in extruded diets may be added at 5 to 12% of the formula. At these levels, the ingredient won't have an impact on extrusion or kibble appearance versus corn or other grains as it relates to expansion or cell structure.
However, if higher inclusion levels displace grains and protein meals like soy or corn gluten meal, expansion and functionality may be compromised due to lower starch content and a decline in functional proteins. Further, the fiber fraction of DDGS may require a fine grind to prevent the kibble from having a "fuzzy" surface.
One drawback to DDGS is the potential to concentrate mycotoxins, especially given that fermentation and distilling do not destroy these mold metabolites. Nor is the ethanol industry obligated to operate under the same restrictions as the food and feed industries. In one extension report from South Dakota State University, mycotoxin concentrations for 2000 through 2007 were reported to be measurable in each testing year. Aflatoxin averaged 2.12 ppb (+/- 2.49), and vomitoxin averaged 3.62 ppm (+/- 4.12).
To put this in context, the USDA action levels for aflatoxin are 20 ppb. Vomitoxin was reported to affect palatability at levels greater than 4.5 to 7.7 ppm and cause vomiting and diarrhea at 8 to 10 ppm for dogs and cats, respectively. So, while reported levels were below these thresholds, it points to the need for vigorous monitoring efforts.
All together it sounds to me as if I am having a bad dream. I hope that this is all what it is and the idea doesn’t materialize further. I almost feel like sounding like Susant Thixton who commented on Dr. Aldrich’s explanations and “deep thoughts”:
“He” (Aldrich) “feels it will be well received if it´s pitched to pet owners as a ´green´ ingredient. Wonder if it will make pet´s feel ´green´? Allow me to interpret…The production of ethanol has raised the cost of otherwise cheap grains commonly used as protein in pet food. Ah, but I discovered something that we might have overlooked…and it´s even cheaper! After they process grain for ethanol, the left over garbage still analyzes as protein goodie for us! Jump on this gang, before the price goes up!”Her interpretation of Aldrich’s research: “Using up to 30% of this cheap @#$% is fine, even though it won´t provide much nutrition and will probably give the pet the runs (and big time gas!).”On Aldich’s comments about the drawbacks she says: “There is one problem, and it´s big… DDGS (left-overs from ethanol production) are extremely prone to a deadly mold that is known to be a killer of pets. Extensive research has shown it´s very risky. But remember, it´s cheap so it´s probably worth the risk.”
And finally she concludes: “As if the above isn´t bad enough…Dr. Aldrich feels petsumers will welcome this change: "Considering consumers generally have a favorable view of "green" ethanol…" Well Dr. Aldrich, we might not all have a PhD behind our name, but we certainly are not stupid! ´Green´ pet food is NOT huge piles left in the backyard or litter box! AAFCO currently name these types of products "Distillers Grains", "Distillers Dried Grain Solubles", "Wet Grains", and more. We can only guess that if this becomes a popular ingredient, AAFCO will graciously accommodate The Pet Food Industry with a nice, safe sounding ingredient name. Something like "Protein-rich Solubles" – after all…"left-over @#$% from the processing of ethanol" on a pet food label probably won´t sell much pet food. By the way, Dr. Aldrich reports there is no shortage of DDGS – last year there was over 3.5 million metric tons produced. Instead of pet food, the perfect place for this left-over @#$% to go is to produce BioFuel. Why not take the left over ingredients from producing ethanol and turn it into even more energy? Perhaps that makes too much sense.”
Way to go, Susan. I am with you all the way on this. And what I really wonder is if Dr. Aldrich would feed that stuff to his own dogs. Maybe I am going to e-mail him to find out. Plus it amazes me with what creativity these people think when it comes to their marketing efforts. Like, well, we know it’s not the greatest, but right now labeling it “green” will do the trick, because that’s right now in.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dragging economy affecting our pets

The economic slowdown (or actually I would say by now it's way more than that) are now even trickling down to our pets. Not a day goes buy when we don't read about pets left in abondened foreclosure homes and humane society shelters are crying the blues about their shelters filling up too quickly without having sufficient demand for the now homeless animals. For example, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer a local animal control officer in Campbell County has this year already been called five times to save cats and dogs from homes where the residents can't afford to keep their pets anymore because they are going through a home foreclosure. Officer Baker takes the pets to the county-run animal shelter. Most of the cases have involved cat or dog owners seeking help with finding a home for their animals, she said.
And as surveyed by the Dog Channel, pet "Owners to Cut Dog Luxuries in Financial Hardship".
The survey finds most dog owners would cut back on luxuries such as toys, clothes, and professional grooming. However, "Even in a recession or financial hardship, pet owners are more likely to curtail their monthly expenses (electronics, entertainment, clothing, groceries, household goods) than on care or supplies for their pets, according to a national survey conducted by public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard International Communications. Pet owners did say that they would cut back on pet luxuries if faced with financial constraints, such as toys, pet fashion, professional pet care such as day care and walkers, professional grooming and name brand pet food.
I sure hope they were totally wrong with the last mentioned cut back. Remember, though it seems sometimes as if such products are more expensive than others, you get what you pay for: Highest quality ingredients for a happy, healthy pet, which in turn will thank you with overall better health and lower vet bills.
How can you save on pet supplies? Here are some ideas: Think big, buy bulk rather than small units. For instance the price for dry food typically goes down drastically when purchased in the largest bag available. Example: Dry Dog Formula. When purchased in a small 5 lbs bag, price per pound is $1.70. If you order the 30 lbs bag, the price goes down to $1.22/lbs, that's almost 30% less.Remember that cheap isn't always the least expensive route. Most of the times cheap food requires increased feeding. There go your savings. High quality foods may seem more expensive but typically when looking at "how much to feed daily" numbers, they are not.Plan ahead: Don't wait 'til it's too late and you're out of food now requiring expedited delivery. Expedited and air delivery rates are up to 10-fold of ground shipping. Place your orders on automatic scheduled shipping, the store will remember that you need the food and make sure you have it in time at the lowest shipping rate available.Combine smaller orders into bigger ones. Based on UPS published retail rates it costs $6.13 to ship a package of 1lbs to our neighbor across the street. If shipping 5 lbs, the rate is $6.78, only 65 cents (+11%) more for 4 more pounds (+400%), or 1 pound shipped for $6.13 vs. a 5 pounds at a rate of $1.36/lbs.Raw food Tip 1: Buy freeze dried instead of frozen. You get exactly the same food at a fraction of weight resulting in shipping cost far less than the heavy frozen. For example a 25 lbs. case of frozen patties weighs freeze dried only 11 lbs not accounting the extra 5 lbs in ice packs and special packaging required for the frozen food. Plus, the special and expensive packaging is reflected in its price, i.e. approximately. $0.80/lbs+.Raw food Tip 2: Similar to "Think big" from above, when buying frozen utilize large quantity offers. You buy two cases for the packaging cost of one and fractionate shipping cost.Consider alternative solutions such as for example food mixes, dehydrated foods, which too are heavy items but the bags are longer lasting, or for example Wysong's UnCanny TNT processed canned food, where a 13 oz "can" only weighs 2 oz. or the See Spot Live Longer Homemade Dinner Mix (1.2oz/meal). In addition, these alternative foods most likely are way healthier than their old fashioned counter parts. Always shop for specials, which are offered all year round and sometimes let you save serious percentages on a particular product.Take advantage of promotional rebates and coupons or loyalty rewarding frequent buyer programs. Manufacturer rebates and promotions are additional ways to pick up a Dollar here and there.So regardless of the economy, you still can make sure your pet gets all the healthy nutrition it needs without you going broke. (Note: All savings tips apply to figures obtained at

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why Cats are going to the vet

I found this in an official Press Release from Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) in Brea, CA: “There’s no way around it: sometimes Fluffy gets stuffy and even cats can end up sick as a dog. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the nation’s oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, recently analyzed its medical claims received in 2007 to determine the top 10 most commonly claimed conditions for dogs and cats. For both canines and felines, the top 10 conditions accounted for about 25 percent of all medical claims received last year.”
I recently talked about the stats for dogs, here they are for our feline companions:
Each year VPI analyzes its claims to compile a list of the top ten reasons that cats were taken to the veterinarian. Not surprisingly, urinary tract infections hold the number one spot on the list. Chronic renal failure held the number 3 position while diabetes mellitus hit the list at number 5. Interestingly, digestive upset in the form of diarrhea moved up the list from the number 16 to number 4. Vomiting was in the prominent number 2 position and colitis/constipation were number 7. Just like for dogs, the increase in digestive issues were attributed to dietary issues in about 1/3 of the cases. This includes diet (wrong diet choice for the pet or a problem with the food), diet change and dietary indiscretion. VPI veterinarians recommend seeking your veterinarian's advice when choosing the food for your pet, choosing a diet specific for your pet's needs (yes you may need to feed 3 different foods to your 3 cats!) and maintaining a consistent diet. Also on the list were skin allergies at number 6, ear infections at number 8, respiratory infections at number 9 and hyperthyroidism at number 10.
While I like to find out that my opinion of “the pet food is to be blamed for many illnesses and diseases in our pets” is shared by others as well as stated above, I do have a problem with VPI’s recommendation to find the “right” diet for your pet at your vet. This is simply because I don’t believe he or her may always know the right answer either. After all, they are vets and not nutritionists. Dr. Wysong in one of his books (It’s 2.30 in the morning and I am not in a mood and don’t have the time right now to look up which one it was, but it’s true) once admitted that while he went to vet school, they only were taught a few hours about nutrition. As he said, it was definitely not enough for him to make comfortably recommendations for the “right” nutrition after he started practicing as a vet. He just followed what the older guys were dong and telling him. Bingo, I agree. I don’t blame the vets for not knowing enough about nutrition, let’s face it, that’s not their job in the first place. But I also believe they should not claim they are experts in the field. After all, while there may be exceptions, most of them are not. All they do is “selling” food off which they make a commission or gross profit. And when I look at those recommended foods as I have done so many times in this business, I have my serious doubts, as you all know by now. So, when it comes to pet food, what indeed differentiates them from me? As a matter of fact, since I do nothing else but working with pet food for a living, during these past years I may have learned more than they ever did. All I know as a fact is that I have plenty of customers being very happy with the recommendations I made for their pet’s food. I also know that many of them came to me because they were not happy with their vet’s recommendation. So therefore I am all for job sharing here: Let the vet handle the medical stuff and nutritionists or people like me handle the nutritional stuff. Hey and you know what? If we all work together it may benefit our companion animals. Now that would be really cool.
Here are a couple more noteworthy paragraphs of VPI’s press release (which by the way relates to 2007 claims):
“Some pet owners may be surprised by what’s not on the list,” said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. “Falling just short of the top 10 are the major injuries that often motivate pet owners to purchase pet insurance – broken bones, poisonings or trauma from car accidents or animal attacks.”
“Some of the top 10 conditions can be associated with age-related changes in a pet, such as osteoarthritis and renal failure. However, most of the top 10 conditions can occur at any age to any pet – purebred or mixed, those kept inside or outside. No matter what age or breed of pet, pet owners should familiarize themselves with their pets’ daily routine in order to identify abnormal behaviors that might indicate an illness. In addition, regular semiannual physical exams can help prevent and identify certain conditions before they become chronic and costly.”
“If left untreated, any of the top 10 conditions could result in serious health problems and cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to treat. In 2007, … For cats, the most expensive common condition was renal failure, with an average submitted claim fee of $279.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The other side of pet nutrition

What goes in has to come out: Those of you who want to read this comment over a cup of coffeee or while eating maybe want to come back later, today’s topic doesn’t go along too well with eating.
Sue Novak from the Lawrence Journal World & News was talking about this topic after she “read in Janet Evanovich’s book about Stephanie Plum’s dog Bob who heard nature call while he sat in her car in a fast food parking lot. She let him out to take care of business, and he did: Right there in the middle of the lot.”
No need to go into details. But while the description made for humorous reading, the method made me realize that some pet owners, of both dogs and cats, in many communities don’t do much better under similar circumstances.
88.3 Million Cats and 74.8 Million Dogs are living in American households, 71.1 Million American households have at least 1 pet. On a daily basis there are 18,165 cats, 16,559 dogs and 11,277 humans born in America. These numbers annualized total to 6.63 Million cats, 6.05 Million dogs and "only" 4.12 Million humans. Note, the cat stats don't include ferals, which account for another 30 to 50%.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported under the headline “The environmental impact of pets,” that “America’s 75 million dogs produce around 10 million tons of dog poop per year ... and the litter from America’s 90 million pet cats results in around 2 millions tons of cat litter being sent to landfills each year.”
That’s a lot of waste. Now, since I am into healthy, all natural pet food I was wondering about the “natural aspect” of all this. After further research I have to say the idea that all this is all natural is not quite true.
Fecal matter does biodegrade after a while. It’s never quick enough, though, for those of us who aren’t as regular as we should be about picking it up, or for other people who find the unwelcome droppings left on side walks, parking lots, parks and in yards by inconsiderate dog owners who don’t clean up after their pets, or by felines left to roam free to make their “deposits” in neighborhood vegetable gardens and flower beds.
It really has become more than a problem of just being unsightly, or smelling bad or being disgusting to step in.
On a minor level, dog waste contains nitrogen that feeds weeds when it’s left on lawns.
But worse, both dogs and cats harbor some nasty types of bacteria in their guts that are released when they do what they have to do. These may include E. coli, fecal coliform bacteria, giardia and salmonella. Cats can contribute Toxoplasma gondii. Both could contain parasite eggs that can be passed on to other animals or to humans.
These bacteria, left on lawns, in gardens or in parks, are washed away by rainwater into storm drains and then move on to rivers and stream, polluting the water for humans and wildlife. In many areas, the problem is bad enough to close beaches and require posted warnings about exposure to the water.
Unfortunately, the bacteria means that pet waste can’t be composted for use on vegetable gardens.
For dog owners who like to walk their companions in public areas, the best thing to do is to always carry a bag with you, always pick up your pet’s afterthoughts and always toss them in a garbage can. The plastic bags your newspaper comes wrapped in works for smaller dogs, and plastic grocery bags can work for larger ones, but this creates another problem of the waste being encased in a non biodegradable container that will stay in the landfills for hundreds or thousands of years. Some companies make biodegradable bags with the disadvantage of being prohibitively expensive for many of us.
Dog waste can be safely flushed down a toilet, our city waste management systems can effectively deal with that. I think while this may be a solution, it is too complicated and if you are like Susan Novak, the very thought of doing that may cause you problems.
Cat waste in a toilet, however, is not such a good idea because our waste management systems are not designed to handle toxoplasma. It seems that, for now, we are still best off to empty our litter boxes into bags and throw them in the trash.
It all wouldn’t be a problem if all pet owners would act responsibly. Unfortunately many don’t. And I guess that only can be taken care off by getting into their wallets. Like they do in England big time, but also here in our own country more and more cities are implementing laws calling for some quite steep penalties (in our larger cities hundreds of dollars) if dog owners don’t take care of what their dogs leave behind. Rightfully so, I don’t like to step into it. Neither do you.