Friday, December 12, 2008

Obesity: How much to feed a pet

We all know that it is important that our pet receives the proper nutrition in order to maintain and repair body tissues and to meet their energy requirements. You should feed your pet according to his size and energy output. The pet’s activity level is important in determining the amount of calories that it needs. A pet that stays indoors will require fewer calories than a pet that regularly gets exercise outside. Outside temperatures also will influence your pet’s energy needs. It takes more energy to keep warm or cool, which requires more caloric intake. Animals that are ill or recovering from surgery may need higher nutrition for healing and to fight infection. Though I am all for feeding free will, i.e. let the pet eat as much as it wants, this method is not recommended for every pet. Some of them don’t know when to stop and need our help in pacing them. Rather than letting your pet feed freely at will, it is a good idea to feed your pet with portion control. You measure the amount of food necessary one or more times daily. Portion control is good for weight control. If your puppy is a giant breed dog, do not free feed him. If he overeats, it can cause him to grow more rapidly by consuming too many calories and calcium, which can cause a greater incidence of bone diseases. Puppies require at least twice to 4 times as much energy intake as adults and typically need 25 to 30 percent more protein. Be sure to feed your puppy food especially formulated for puppies for the first year. A small breed dog, I would say up to 15 lbs, will reach mature body weight at about 9 to 12 months, while a large or giant breed may not be there until they are 2 years old. This however, in my opinion does not require it to be fed puppy food for the first two years. As a matter of fact, the above times are guidelines are commonly recommended, I personally believe that a puppy can be switched to a high quality adult formula somewhere between 8 and 12 months of age.By eight weeks, kittens can be fed freely as their need for energy intake is two to three times that of an adult cat. Thirty percent of their total energy needs should be from protein. It’s best to offer your kitten formulas especially made for kittens for their first year. Always make sure to provide plenty of drinking water.Obesity is a common problem that can be detrimental to your pet. It increases the risk for diabetes, joint pain and liver disease. Obesity is caused by your pet consuming more calories than it can burn. These excess calories are then stored as fat. A pet of normal weight should have a “waist” between the back of the rib cage and the hips. You should be able to feel your pet’s backbone, and if you need to press to feel your pet’s ribs, there is an excess of fat. Some dogs are more prone to obesity, such as Labrador retrievers and pugs. The same applies to older dogs. To overcome obesity, talk to your vet about selecting the appropriate food for your pet. Also look for low fat, or reduced calorie formulas. Calculate and give your pet the right amount of food. High fiber diets dilute calories but lead to an increased amount of stools and can decrease the digestibility of nutrients. Not food related, increasing the amount of physical exercise helps too to avoid obesity. This will not only burn more calories, it will also reduce your pet’s appetite, change his body composition, and increase his metabolic resting rate. Some things you can do to help your pet lose weight are to remove your pet from the room while you are eating (or better yet, simply don’t feed human food), feed your pet more often smaller portions, reduce the amount of treats, and give your pet other attention that does not include food.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Canine Protein Requirements Part 4c: Too much or not enough?

In part 4a of this series I started “Can we feed too much protein to our companion animals? Expert Opinions” As I had promised following in subsequent parts are various view points on this controversial topic explained by their expert owners: Today I am continuing with Dr. Wysong’s, D.V.M.thoughts. He took a look at the impact of protein intake on kidney related problems. Many pet owners are under the impression that protein causes kidney disease in older animals. This is because their vets promote the idea that food containing high levels of protein causes a progressive decrease in kidney function as animals get older. Consequentially they suggest and prescribe low protein diets for senior pets.
Dr. Wysong adds to that “The conclusion has been deduced from studies in rats, which have shown high protein diets may cause kidney lesions. Additionally, it is known that once animals have kidney disease, protein restriction may help alleviate signs.
However, it does not logically follow that an experimental result on one species of animal, in this case rats, can be extrapolated to other species. Secondly, the fact that protein restriction helps in pre-existing kidney disease does not equate to protein being an etiological cause of kidney disease. In one study, thirty-one dogs were divided into two groups and studied for four years after they had reached seven to eight years of age. Half of the group was fed a diet consisting of 34% protein and the other half received 18% protein. To make the animals even more susceptible to kidney changes, the researchers removed one kidney.”
At this points he comments that such cruel experimentation was totally unnecessary. I agree with him, sometimes I don’t understand, where is the logic in removing body parts or organs? That has nothing to do with testing real life scenarios.
A little marketing of your own thrown in here and there can’t hurt as long as it is not overwhelming the reader. And in this case, the logic of the Wysong’s Optimal Health Program philosophy would have easily predicted the answers
He then goes on: “The results: six dogs in the 18% protein group died, whereas only one in the 34% group did. Examination of kidney tissue showed no significant difference between the two groups in terms of kidney degeneration or disease. The fact that neither group experienced significant kidney disease, but that the group on the lower protein diet experienced a higher mortality may speaks to the beneficial effects on the immune system of a higher protein diet.
An added finding in this study was that higher dietary levels of phosphorous did not contribute to kidney disease since the diets used in this study were at 0.9% phosphorous, whereas those commercially available for treatment of renal failure are at 0.3% phosphorous.
Moreover, consider that kidney disease in pets fed starch-based processed diets is not seen to any extent in wild animals. Wild animals of all ages consume high protein muscle and organs from their prey. ( DVM (veterinary medical journal), June 1996; page 1S, Dr. D.R. Finco, DVM, PhD, Dip. ACVIM, Head Dept. Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine.
Further evidence regarding the cause and prevention of kidney disease:
1. Protein may not be a factor in slowing the kidney disease progression--
"...Restriction of protein intake does not alter the development of renal lesions nor does it preserve renal function." (See Kirks Veterinary Therapy XIII, Small Animal Practice, W. B. Saunders, page 861). The effect of protein restriction on the progression of renal damage in dogs and cats remains controversial and no definitive study exists on this matter. Not enough protein in the diet can be equally detrimental and protein malnutrition in patients with renal failure can facilitate the occurrence of other complications or lead to an early death. Studies have revealed that protein restriction made no difference at all in longevity. The effect of dietary protein restriction alone on the progression of chronic renal failure is either minimal or non-existent.
2. Ingredients and processing dramatically influence the quality of the protein in mixed processed pet foods. The poorer the quality of the protein and the more it is processed, the more "junk" protein must be excreted by the body putting stress on the kidneys. Studies have shown that there is an inverse relation between the blood urea content and the biological value of the diet. The more meat and organs, and the less they are processed, the less "junk" protein must be excreted by the kidneys. All meat Archetype, Rx Diets, and Treats that have been TNT (true non thermally) processed are of the very highest biological value.”
Note: TNT processing is a process utilized by Wysong in food manufacturing. Without going into too much detail, this is a processing method that does not destroy important raw natural food attributes. The end result looks like a freeze dried product. The advantage is that, unlike with freeze drying, there is no heat involved during processing. You also could call it “cold processing”.
Back to Dr. Wysong:
“3. Chemicals in food (like preservatives, coloring agents, artificial flavoring agents, and the toxins created by processing) and in the environment (contaminated water, air and soil) are directly stressful to the kidneys. These factors are the likely candidates for precipitating kidney disease, not the natural high protein diets carnivores have adapted to over eons.
4. High blood pressure in the kidney deteriorates the organ rapidly. A decrease in blood pressure can thus slow the progression of kidney disease. Studies have shown that supplementation with dietary omega-3 oils provides renoprotective effects in dogs with subtotal nephrectomy. Proteinurea & histologic injury (glomerulus) were less in dogs receiving fish oil. Omega 6 oils, usually in abundance in processed pet foods, are pro inflammatory and increase kidney glomerular pressure and filtration rate. Omega-3s in Wysong Diets and supplements thus can help retard the onset or progression of kidney disease.
5. Probiotic bacteria in the gut hydrolyze urea to ammonia and incorporate it into their own protein. When the bacteria are passed in the feces, along with them go the nitrogenous wastes rather than being absorbed and having to be excreted by the kidneys. Wysong probiotics help facilitate this process.” I don’t know if you feel the same way: Sometimes I don’t know what to believe. If veterinarians are practicing under wrong assumptions, as Dr. Wysong has clearly shown above and underlined with documented backup, what are we supposed to do? What is the “right thing?” It reminds me of my question posted on 09/05/08: “Cats & Dogs with Kidney problems”, which concluded “I understand there are different opinions but it seems to me as if what I found so far just goes from one extreme to the other. Like protein intake if the animal suffers from the disease.” Now after reading Dr. Wysong’s comment, I think we can answer the question of protein intake being related to kidney disease. It appears as if amount of protein being fed has little to do with it. I’m going to keep searching and will bring more opinions here. Because we still don’t know just what exactly defines how much is too much or too little protein.

Previous Blog Comments posted on the topic “Canine Protein Requirements”:
Canine Protein Requirements Part1 Introduction
Canine Protein Requirements Part 2a Definitions
Canine Protein Requirements Part 2b Definitions
Canine Protein Requirements Part 3: Evaluating Protein sources
Canine Protein Requirements Part 4a: Too much or not enough?
Canine Protein Requirements Part 4b: Too much or not enough?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Types of pet food, many choices Part 1: Dry over canned?

Basically a simple question, but the answer is not quite as easy. Just as we humans, pets are individual in their needs. While there are many other types such as for example raw food in all kinds of shapes and forms, today I am going to limit myself to dry and canned food. When making a decision about what type of diet to feed, we need to consider, among other things, our pet's age, size, breed, and perhaps even any existing medical problems. We also need to consider the nutrient content of the diet we feed. I always recommend feeding a premium quality diet that meets AAFCO Official Nutrient Profiles for the appropriate life stage of the pet. This preferably is a diet with meat as the first or second listed ingredient and of course without any artificial preservatives or colors.
Typically I do not recommend semi moist types of food. We don’t even offer them in our online store. This is because they tend to have high salt and sugar content. Our companion animals do not require this much salt and sugar in their diet. In addition, sticky, sugary foods can contribute to dental disease. While dental caries or cavities are related in people to the amount of sugar in the diet, it is infrequent in dogs and unusual in cats. However, tooth loss is more commonly associated with gingivitis and periodontal disease. Inflammation and infection of the gum tissue causes loosening and retraction of the gum tissue around the tooth. This eventually leads to tooth loss. Sticky, sugary foods can contribute to the development of gingivitis and periodontal disease. In general, I recommend a premium quality dry or canned food.
For large breed dogs, most pet owners choose a dry food, for several reasons. Larger breed dogs require a larger amount of food than smaller dogs. Dry food is easy to transport, store and prepare. It is also probably the less expensive option. Because canned food contains a much larger percentage of water (average around 80%) than dry foods (average around 10%), dry food is usually more economical to feed on a per serving basis, especially when feeding a premium quality food.
Many pet owners also choose to feed their pets dry food believing that dry kibble has a significant scraping or wiping action on the teeth and will slow the accumulation of plaque and tartar. Dry food does exercise the mouth during chewing. However, the average dry kibble actually does not provide very much scraping action. When the tip of a tooth comes into contact with regular dry kibble, the kibble shatters before the tooth can penetrate far enough into it for any scraping to take place. Of course, the pet food industry’s marketing gurus immediately noticed this new marketing opportunity. There are specially designed dental diets on the market, with a kibble designed to hold together longer, allowing more tooth contact before the kibble breaks apart. This allows for more of a wiping effect on the tooth. However, in my opinion, dry food is simply not a replacement for good dental care. We don’t clean our teeth by eating crackers either. While canned foods may promote somewhat faster accumulation of plaque and tartar, plaque and tartar will still eventually accumulate no matter what type of food is fed. Because of that, regular home care, yearly dental exams, and professional cleanings as needed still are essential for optimum dental health.
Smaller breeds of dogs obviously eat less than larger dogs, and for them canned food may be more of a financially affordable option. However, smaller breed dogs often have more crowded teeth, providing areas where plaque and tartar easily accumulate. Sometimes owners report that their dog is used to canned food, and refuses to eat dry food. These dogs can still be fed canned food, but home dental care needs to be especially emphasized. Needless to say that the same dental care rules apply as with the larger breeds.
Dry food, until most recently also was usually recommended most often for cats. However, recent research in feline nutrition is causing some rethinking in this area. The typical dry cat food is quite high in carbohydrates (often 45% or more) and there is some indication that this may pre-dispose certain cats to becoming overweight and possibly developing diabetes as they get older. The typical diet of cats in the wild (which usually is mostly mice and other small rodents) is thought to be about 45% protein, 45% fat, and only 4-5% carbohydrates. Dry pet food requires fairly high carbohydrate content in order for the kibble pieces to stick together. However, canned food is typically much lower in carbohydrate content, about 10%. Some veterinary nutritionists are recommending that cats, especially those with a tendency toward obesity, be fed a canned diet with a protein, fat, and carbohydrate content as close as possible to a “wild” diet. Interestingly, early reports seem to indicate that a canned diet does not seem to increase dental disease in these cats. More research is needed, but this is a very interesting finding.
It is important to note that specific health conditions may affect the type of diet that is recommended for your animal. For example, cats with urinary tract problems or animals with kidney disease may benefit from increased water in their diet, and feeding canned food can help with this. Make sure to talk to your vet before making any changes to your pet's diet.
And just so that you don’t think I changed my mind and philosophy: I have not. As I mentioned in the beginning, there are other feeding options such as for example raw. And I prefer that all day long over dry and canned food and so do my animals. You can’t get closer to nature.
While I understand that there are many reasons calling for a dry or canned food option such as economical restrictions, convenience and many others, here is one example why I am sort of against canned or kibbled: By the time commercial dog food has passed from the manufacturer, to the distributor, to the store and finally to your pet, this food could now be months old. At room temperature, meat, chicken, lamb, turkey, etc. have less than a 24 hour shelf life. Actually, after a few hours meat starts to decompose. If you had raw meat in the refrigerator, you would throw it away after 3 days and if the meat was cooked, and then refrigerated, you would throw it out in no more than 6 to 7 days. Do you think that you can have either raw or cooked protein or meat at room temperature for more than 12 to 18 hours? You can’t! So how is dog food kept from decomposing? Answer: Preservatives and Chemicals. Chemicals are also used to enhance taste and looks. These additives can have detrimental effects on your pet's short and long term health. I would say no further comments are needed.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Basics of puppy feeding

One of my customers recently had acquired a German Shepherd puppy. Before she did so she diligently, first without and later with my input and in great detail had researched dog and puppy food. She came to her own conclusion, and I congratulated her on her decision, that it would be best to let the puppy grow up on a raw diet. We decided upon the freeze dried version of AFS Beef nibblets to be once in a while supplemented with some freeze dried Beef Tripe nibblets. She was in heaven, her most cutest puppy loved it, her vet had nothing but positive comments on the puppy’s health and of course I was happy as well as I had acquired a new and loyal customer for our business. Then, all the sudden out of the blue, one day she called me. She was a little down and after some small talk I came to find out that she simply had come to realize that, though it was a great choice, she simply could not afford the raw diet due to the simple fact that her, just like any other, puppy was eating unbelievable amounts of food without any consideration for his mom’s budgets. And it certainly was a burden on her finances. This was the point when once again we started discussing puppy feeding. I told her, look, it’s just like this:
All puppies during the early stages of their lives go through a rapid growth and development period. Normally they require at least double, some even 3 to 4 times the amount of nutrients compared to older dogs. Additionally they require higher levels of nutrients. Nutrients, which typically are not available in regular adult maintenance food. When feeding dry or canned food you want to make sure you get the puppy formulas during the first year. These special formulas usually are higher in protein (28%-30%), and enriched with the fat soluble and water soluble vitamins, minerals, fats, and other essentials nutrients your puppy needs during the growth period.
When you get your puppy make sure to find out what the breeder or from whomever you get it, was feeding and stay with that same food for at least a while. I have a lot of breeder customers and what we do with many of them is that they increase their puppy price slightly and in return also provide the new owners with an initial food supply. Then slowly start using the food you have chosen to feed going forward and based on the information you received from the breeder and your veterinarian. A pet needs to be switched to a new food slowly to prevent intestinal upset. A typical transition period lasts about 10 days to 2 weeks. Initially start with mixing 10% of the new food with 90% of the old one, then slowly increase the ratio of new to old, feeding each new ratio mixture for about a couple of days until you are at the final point of feeding 100% of the new food. If during the transition period you notice vomiting, loose stools or that your puppy appears constipated, slow down with the new food and take more time. Ultimately your puppy will get used to it.
I never recommended semi moist food for puppies. Based on my and my customers’ experience I also no longer recommend canned food. Canned foods are typically higher in calories and fat. On average they are around 80% moisture, the pet food industry’s fancy name for water. The high moisture content also makes them an expensive food considering the nutrient value of the can. Semi moist foods is on average slightly above 50% in moisture but for preservation uses high salt or sugar content, both of them not being good for your puppy. Similar to canned food you are paying too much for water. Dry foods on average contain 8 to 12% moisture and are made of the same quality ingredients as cans and semi moist. Kibble diets are simply the most economical way to go. They also are convenient, easy to store and use and in my mind for your pup simply better than semi moist of cans.
Dogs on dry foods typically have fewer intestinal upsets usually reflected in diarrhea or constipation. They also have fewer problems with unwanted weight gain. I see no advantage over canned food as far as hair coat or skin quality is concerned. Additionally, some manufacturers and even vets want to make us believe that dry is also better for dental health due to the abrasive nature of a dry kibble. I don’t go along with that theory, in my mind dental health and maintenance is a subject on its own having something but very little to do with food.
Another issue always brought up in puppy food discussions are table scraps. Most vets are strictly advising against them. So are many pet food manufacturers, especially the commercial mass producers. While the manufacturers have a certain intention behind such philosophy, which is simply selling you more of their food, I came to the conclusion that many vets are against table scraps for the simple reason that they don’t want you to feed your puppy junk food. Unfortunately many pet owners don’t make a difference of good, healthy (such as veggies & fruits, meats) and unhealthy, bad (fried food, fatty, heavy sauces, etc.) table scraps. Many nutritionists these days say that dogs that on a good quality commercially prepared dry food are nutritionally better off than their owners are. This has been shown in many studies. And they argue that table scraps are usually high in calories, certainly are not balanced and neither are they fortified with required vitamins/minerals as your dog requires them. This last statement lets me conclude that they are talking about table scraps as an exclusive feed, not what I am talking about, an occasional treat.
Just like you would pick for an adult dog, make sure the dry food you select has a meat based protein source as one of its first two ingredients.
With regards to money, like with everything else, with dog food, you (careful, unfortunately not always) get what you pay for. Stay away from economy or super market brands. They are cheap, made of the cheapest ingredients available, useless, will make your puppy a sick dog and very often involved in recalls. Their energy values are lower, they use lowest grade proteins with lower digestibility. This means the majority of the food passes right through the puppy’s digestive system and is not absorbed. Premium brands, which include those classified as Super Premium and Performance, use higher quality ingredients from sources with higher biological values. Because better quality ingredients mean better digestibility, your puppy does not need to eat as much and less waste is produced (which means less to pick up in the yard).
Learn the secrets of how to read and correctly understand the package labels. Remember, the back of the dog food bag does not tell the entire story. This includes important information like for example info on digestibility, i.e. how much of the food is actually being used by your puppy’s body. Talk to your vet, a pet nutritional consultant or a professional breeder about the best food for your puppy. Typically store clerks at the general merchandise supermarket, grocery market or pet super market are not reliable sources when it comes to optimized puppy nutrition. You may find out they may know less than you do.
Your puppy’s feeding schedule will be somewhat dictated by your own personal schedule. Get them used to a strict schedule starting on day 1 or latest day 2. Puppies under six months of age should be fed three times daily; between six and twelve months old, two times daily; and once per day after twelve months of age. Puppies maturing into adults will naturally decrease the number of feedings per day on their own.
Feeding your puppy on a schedule also helps you for house training. After the meals the puppy will need to go to the bathroom. Doing that on a more set schedule makes housetraining easier and faster. Make it a habit to give the puppy some quiet time after the meal. Keep excitement away, for example, do not let the children play with him for the first hour to one to two hours after a meal. It could lead to some stomach upsets that can sometimes be very serious. Still, just a reminder, the puppy will need to go to the bathroom, however.
The amount of food given with each meal should never be dictated by what is on the back of the puppy food bag. Those numbers give you a basic guideline. From my own experience, many puppies need less than what the food manufacturer recommend, some others may need more. Adjust the amount of food to maintain your puppy’s optimal weight. Remember to always have water available with or immediately following the meal.
Quite frequently puppy owners come to me complaining that their dog doesn’t eat enough. The owners feel the dog is not putting on weight or growing as fast as they think he should. They are tempted to somehow encourage their animals to eat more. Don’t do that. Growth rates and appetites of puppies on a good quality food are primarily dictated by genetics. Do not interfere with nature and try to make your dog grow faster than he should or into something he is not. This will only cause problems. Artificially accelerated growth leads to bone and joint disorders. I always say feed them the amounts they want. At the same time, use common sense, puppies sometimes don’t have that and need your help and strict supervision. But principally let their bodies dictate their needs.
While it is good for our business, it sometimes makes me feel uneasy when I see that pet owners buy (and use) treats in bags as large as kibble bags. Treats should never account for more than 10% of your puppy's caloric intake. Your puppy's food is his sole source for the nutrition he needs. Just like you don’t give children chocolate before meal time, do not fill up your puppy with treats before meal time. Good treats for puppies are trip and/or liver products, best freeze dried with nothing added to them and as a 100% single protein source. They provide nutrients your puppy is unlikely to obtain from any other food source. Hard chew treats like raw bones, tendons, possibly a natural rawhide (make sure of US or South America origin), keep your puppy not just entertained and busy but also improve dental health by exercising the gums and scraping the teeth. Make sure you apply the same quality standards for treats as you expect them you’re your puppy food. Treats also satisfy teething puppy's need to chew and all day long are better than your shoes. Treats also should or can be used as training aids rewarding your learning puppy for good behavior. Always supervise your pet when giving treats to avoid accidents.
Finally, something often getting ignored is water. Puppies may seem to drink large quantities of water. That is simply because they need it. Do not deprive them of it. A dog can starve and lose almost all of his body fat and half of his protein mass (muscle) and still survive. However, if this same patient loses 15% of his body water, he will die. Water is the most important nutrient of all. Dogs of any age being fed dry food need water to rehydrate the food in their stomachs for digestion. Puppies need more water per pound than adults do because they are growing. Growth comes through very active metabolism at the cellular level. These processes produce many wastes and by-products that are excreted into the blood. It requires plenty of water to carry these substances to and be flushed through the kidneys. On a daily basis you must allow your puppy to consume what it wants and needs, even if this is on a scheduled basis, like along with the scheduled meals. And make sure the water is always fresh. This is important because infectious agents and diseases such as leptospirosis, Giardia, E-coli, and Cryptosporidium can be transmitted through contaminated water. Always providing plenty of fresh water greatly reduces the risk of disease.
As to my customer: While all of this while being interesting but really wasn’t anything new to her since we had discussed it before, we still had to come up with an idea as to how to soften the financial burden she was carrying due to her puppy’s humongous appetite. We ended up with the idea of feeding a varied diet of Innova Large Breed Puppy kibble and the AFS raw. This way, as a much more economical solution, the kibble would take over a large part of the diet and still be supplemented with the best possible, a raw diet. Doing so, right in the beginning of the transition we ran into a few minor, but typical and normal problems. Initially the puppy was already spoiled and at first refused the kibble, however shortly after that changed his mind. Then during the initial and typical days of adjustment with some loose stool, we got a kibble with a little higher fiber content (actually it just so happened that Innova had introduced it’s new and improved formula with pumpkin being one of the ingredients) and finally got it right. Now everything is in best order again, the budgets are balanced, so is the food and guess what: My customer just got herself another puppy. It’s cute and small. Right now. The “being small” part will change: It’s a Bull Mastiff. Maybe down the road I have to go through the same scenario once more. Bring it on, I love my job.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Complete and Balanced Diets Part 2: 99.9%? Close enough is not good enough

In part 1 of this topic we came to the conclusion that there is actually no answer to the question a pet owner was asking: “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?” We discussed in more detail that 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 an attempt intended to build consumer trust and dependence on regulators and even more so, commercial products. There is, as of this day, still not a way to create optimal health neither in your pet nor in yourself.
Coming back to Dr. Wysong, in his writings he mentions another fact, which challenges us to think twice about the “100% complete” nonsense. What is does “complete” really mean? He says, “each time regulatory agencies convene to decide how much of which nutrients comprise “100% completeness”, debate always ensues and standards usually change. This not only proves that what they claimed before was not “100% complete”, but it also should make us highly suspicious about what they now claim to be “100% complete.” As he in his book “The Truth About Pet Foods” at a later point delivers medical and scientific proof, altogether the completeness claim consistently was and to this day is still found to be fundamentally wrong. Unfortunately too many times this had to be learned the hard way and ended up with animals suffering and tragic endings. Here are some of the Dr.’s cited, documented examples:
“Myocardial failure in cats associated with low plasma taurine. A reversible cardiomyopathy. Summary:…low plasma taurine concentrations associated with echocardiographic evidence of myocardial failure were observed in 21 cats fed commercial cat foods. Diets used: “Complete & balanced premium processed pet foods.”
“Comparison of procedures for assessing adequacy of dog foods. … dogs given one regionally marketed food had lower growth rate and food efficiency as well as suboptimal PCV and hemoglobin values during the growth trial. Pups fed this diet also had clinical signs typical of zinc and copper deficiencies…”.
Dr. Wysong’s list goes on and on, without going into to much detail here are some head lines:
Development of chronic renal disease in cats fed a commercial diet. Or: Potassium depletion in cats: Hypohalemic polymyopathy (muscle problems). Or: Chlorine requirement of kittens for growth is less than current recommendations. Or, finally: Riboflavin requirement of adult dogs at maintenance is greater than previous estimates. There are plenty more of the same on about 15 pages. The best part about the list, this is not something the Doctor came up with, all he did was collecting information available to the interested public and generated by I would say, sources with credible credentials: Science Journal, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Feline Practice, Journal of Nutrition and others. All written by D.V.M’s, PhD’s, professors and other well educated and knowledgeable authorities.
To me it is interesting that we always come to the same conclusion. It really doesn’t matter who addresses the issue, whether it is people with PhD’s or university professors, veterinarians, other credible authorities with their specialized blogs, smaller, not publicly held pet food manufacturers, pet food stores, even many pet owners (more and more of them joining), all have one common interest as their objective: The well being of our companion animals. Yet, sometimes I wonder, since this is the case, why is the “100% complete” claim still such an effective marketing tool? And it definitely is effective, otherwise the marketing gurus wouldn’t use it anymore. I guess it is the ratios. If one looks at the above list of people interested in our pet’s health, all the doctors, specialists, manufacturers, etc., though there are many by now, are still a very small group compared to the millions of American pet owners. It is obvious to me that there is a tremendous amount of educating still to be done to make an impact, which would cause an effective change in the right direction.
But so far only the opposite takes place: Once commercial mass producing pet food manufacturers with their nutritional scientists and official regulators discover that they were wrong in the past, they typically enter into a stage of denial and then change into an attack mode. Then, as their final solution, once there is enough evidence that they were wrong and there is no more way out, more research is being done. Problems are being fixed by reformulating pet food. Typically this is accomplished by adding more and other synthetic nutrients and, voila, “the problem is all fixed now, here’s your new, 100% complete diet!” No more problem, says the pet food industry. After all, we all make mistakes, right? Why don’t we give them credit for their willingness to discover a problem, admit their wrong doing and perform the necessary repairs. Why don’t we forget about yesterday, move on with today and look forward to tomorrow? I agree with Dr. Wysong: Typically we would not have a problem with doing so. Unfortunately, the errors, which have been made in this case have caused disease and illness in our pets, in too many cases even death. This fact to me makes it very difficult. I wouldn’t even be so hard if it would be a one-time incident. But it happens over and over again, and it continues to happen. All because they claimed perfection to begin with by selling us a “100% complete” pet food. That is what we expected, we didn’t ask for 99.99%. Close enough in this case is not good enough, it may have fatal consequences.
To blog visitors interested in this topic I highly recommend to read R.L. Wysong, D.V.M The Truth About Pet Food as well as any other of Dr. Wysong’s titles.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Survey clearly shows pet owners don’t know their pet food

I recently became aware of an interesting survey on pet food. It was conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Wellness, a pet food manufacturer/brand.
The results of this survey reveal that many cat and dog owners do not have as much knowledge as they think they do when it comes to the pet food they are feeding their companion animals.
Here are some extracts of the results:
91 percent of dog and cat owners said they would not want their pets' food to contain ingredients that cause allergies or food intolerance.
Another 66 percent said their preference would be to only feed natural pet food.
56 percent of dog and/or cat owners worry their dog and/or cat food contains ingredients they wouldn't want their pets to consume.
Only 38 percent of both categories, dog owners and cat owners say they always or often read the labels on their pets' food.
Just 38 percent say they understand all the ingredients listed on their pet food labels.
When asked to name the first ingredient listed on the label of their cat(s)' dry food, 48 percent of cat owners answered they are not sure
Franny Syufy of About read the same survey I was reading and asked in her newsletter: “Do you see some discrepancies there? Using the 80-20 rule, judging from my email and many of the comments posted on this blog I'd hazard a guess that maybe 15-20 percent of my readers read cat food labels, and possibly 60 percent of those people completely understand them.
If 66 percent want to feed only "natural" pet food, but only 38 percent actually read the labels, where are the others basing their buying conclusions? Most likely from the vivid claims on the front of the bags or cans.”
She brings up an example of a feline dry formula, which she had reviewed in the past. Her findings come as no surprise to me and only reflect what I have been saying on this website ever since I started and what I am telling my customers ever since I started my business:
“The back of the bag sports a colorful "food pyramid" (pictured here) which proclaims Natural nutrient-rich vegetables, Real natural chicken, and Natural whole grains. The front of the bag boasts real chicken - no fillers, among other merits.
So, what are the ingredients? The very first ingredient listed is ground corn, which is not only a known allergen for cats, but a notorious filler. The second ingredient? Chicken by-product meal , followed by corn gluten meal and animal fat. Yes, chicken and whole grain rice are listed in the fifth and sixth place. “
She then backs off in order to “not leave “example formula” on the hot seat for too long” and tops off her comment with something else I have been saying:
“… should be noted that even some veterinarian-recommended pet foods contain ingredients that are not all that great. Here's a brand: Hill’s Science Diet Dry Adult Cat Formula. This formula is often sold in veterinary clinics. Note the first ingredients: Chicken by-product meal, Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Ground Whole Grain Corn. Interestingly enough, this food received 5-star rave reviews from the three consumers who reviewed it. I'll be posting my own review later. In fairness, the same company manufactures another formula Hill’s Science Diet Nature’s Best Dry Adult Cat Formula of cat food, which I will also review later. This one fares much higher on the protein content (first ingredient chicken), although it contains several different grains up front (Cracked Pearled Barley, Maize Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Oats, Brown Rice). Where I'd really find fault is the seventh listed ingredient, Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid). “
Just yesterday I had a customer of mine stop by for his regular food pickup and as usual, we got into chatting about pet food, the importance of a high quality food, and all the “bad stuff” being offered in the store shelves everywhere from supermarket to on-line stores to veterinarian waiting rooms. And he admitted that before he got into studying pet food with more interest and before he learned that there are important differences from food to food, he too bought the Hills’ Science Diet, for 2 reasons: First because his (back then) vet had recommended and sold the food to him and second, that back in those days he didn’t even get the idea that this could be what he now calls “problem food”. Just those two facts, a descriptive name (he says: “What can be wrong with “science”, sounds “scientific” right?”) and his vet were enough to make him feel comfy with his, what he today thinks was a “wrong choice”.
Here are some more of the survey’ results I find to be interesting:
Of 1,305 U.S. adult dog and/or cat owners, two thirds say they feed their dogs and/or cats as if they are members of the family. However their actions don't support the claim. 56% of dog and/or cat owners reported that they always or often read the label on their own packaged foods (e.g. pasta, pre-packaged or frozen meals). Yet only 38% of dog owners and the same percentage of cat owners claimed they always or often read the labels on their pets' food.
There is no doubt whatsoever that we Americans love our pets. 85 percent of dog and/or cat owners agree that the health of their dogs and cats is as important to them as the health of their family. But the survey shows a disconnect between what pet parents think should or should not be in their dog/cat food, and what really is.
As an example, 91% of dog and cat owners said they would not want their pets' food to contain ingredients that cause allergies or food intolerance. Another 66% prefers to only feed natural pet food. Yet reality is, most pet owners are buying pet food that is not natural, and food including some unwanted ingredients.
56% of dog and/or cat owners worry their dogs'/cats' food contains ingredients they wouldn't want their pets to consume.
55% of dog and/or cat owners were unaware of the fact that pet food is subject to regulation by the USDA
When asked to name the first ingredient listed on the label of their dogs’ dry food, almost half of them, 44% of dog owners admitted they are not sure.
In my mind there is no doubt: Today’s pet owners have come a long way in improving their knowledge of pet food ingredients since the pet food recalls of last year. And I am sure that mass producing commercial pet food manufacturers have collectively learned what has been a very expensive lesson for some of them. Yet on the other side and based on this survey it becomes very clear that we all together still have a long way to go. I only hope that after reading this come some of my readers are asking themselves questions like: Is it about time for me to change my pet food buying habits? What alternatives are available to me and should I try such alternatives such as for example raw food? Isn’t it time for me to start learning more about pet food so that I can better understand the meanings of the labels on the packages?
"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," said Wellness President Michael Meyer.
His company and many similar pet food manufacturers with a serious concern for the well being of our companion animals just like his company along with many independent third parties including myself have made it our mission to educate dog and cat owners. Our goal is to explain what makes a quality ingredient and to empower them to know what they are feeding their pets. Only armed with this knowledge they can be confident that they truly are feeding their pets a high quality food. Now it’s up to the pet owners to take advantage of the information being made available to them.