Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Hierarchy of Your Family (From Your Dog's Point of View)

Dogs are pack animals and have a pack mentality. They think that you with your family are other members of their pack! It is important from the beginning and on a continuing basis to establish and maintain a "pecking order" which your dog understands and accepts as his way of life in your family, or his view, his "pack". This requires nothing more than ensuring that your dog knows you are the boss, or "top dog", and he/she is somewhere below you.
Other adults in the household must be above your dog in the "pack". There is only one "top dog". Other adults normally come below you unless of course your spouse or any other adult is actually the "top dog" and you are a little lower in the pecking order.
Children will also be below the "top dog" and above your dog. With younger children your dog is less likely to agree that they can tell him what to do! This is because your dog is well aware that older dogs get to boss young puppies around. To a dog a younger child may well be seen as a puppy. It is funny how dogs know that children are not the same as adults. This is probably because kids tend to be more boisterous, more interested in playing around, often louder, and very often inconsistent in their behaviors. It is important to reinforce to your dog that he/she is in fact at the bottom of the hierarchy of the pack, but with small children, this can be problematic and sometimes even impossible. The dynamic between dog and child is really interesting, and shows us just how innately intelligent our canine friends are.
Back to the dog's pack mentality: If a dog is not taught the core concept of its owner being the top dog, it will be intolerable to live with and very often aggressive or potentially aggressive. This does not make for either a happy family life, or a happy dog. And believe it or not, if a dog is not a happy dog, it is not likely to be as healthy as it could or should be.
Some dog owners think that dog psychology is a bit silly. It is really not. Think about it: Psychological principles can be applied to a lot of animals, certainly most animals that people have as pets. Sometimes dogs can develop problem behaviors for no apparent reason. Those behaviors can most often be traced to an incident which happened to the dog, or an anxiety which has developed maybe due to separation from the owner or any other stressful occurrence. If such problem behaviors surface, your vet or a dog trainer may well be able to suggest strategies for modifying that behavior or psychology. However, the very best way to discourage or prevent such behaviors from surfacing in the first place is to ensure that your dog is happy and contented. Remember: A happy dog is a psychologically healthy dog.
The bottom line is: Make sure your dog always understands his/her place in your family (whether it's just you and your dog, or a family of 10). It is essential for your dog's happiness. If your dog shows any signs of anxiety or starts behaving not quite him/herself, think about what might be bothering him or her. If you can't figure it out, go have a chat with your vet. Simple! You don't want to end up in a position where your dog says: "Humans, if properly trained, make good companions for dogs."

Preventive pet care during challenging economic times

One major issue in these days of challenging economic times is looking for ways to cut back on expenses. Dr. Tracy Acosta, D.V.M. at the Biloxi Animal Hospital says in an article written for the South Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association and published by the Idaho “One area you don't want to cut back on is the basic preventive care for your pets. So, how do you define basic preventive care? First, keep in mind that prevention is worth a pound of cure and that prevention is always less expensive than treatment.
Depending on how dire your economic situation is, will help to determine where you should trim the budget. The best place to look for help with those questions is your pet's personal veterinarian. Your veterinarian knows your particular pet and its health status best, and can definitely help make critical decisions with you. Be honest with your veterinarian about your situation; while at the same time explain that you don't want your pet's health to fall to the wayside either.
The bottom line for most pets' basic requirements include good nutrition, parasite prevention and necessary vaccinations.
As you can see, a fancy bed or collar is not on that list. Not that those items aren't nice, but they can be added later once the basic health care needs have been met.
In regard to good nutrition, this is one area you can truly make a difference in the quality and length of your pet's life. You get what you pay for. I do not encourage any pet owner to ever skimp when it comes to feeding their pet a good quality food. At the same time, I don't believe you have to pay a fortune for quality food. Now, with so many different foods and choices, any pet owner can be easily overwhelmed and find it difficult to make a good choice. Remember, quality commercially produced pet foods are available. So, ask your pet's veterinarian to give you a couple of brands they think would be a good choice for your particular pet's needs. Remember, with the better quality foods, you actually will have to feed your pet less, because it has less fillers, which in the end (literally) means less fecal output.
As far as parasite control goes, no owner can fail to do their part to provide their pet proper external and internal parasite prevention. The paramount reason is many parasites can pose a health risk to the humans who live with them. The Centers for Disease Control encourages veterinarians to be vigilant against any disease or parasite that can have a zoonotic potential, which means can be passed from animal to human. Most pet owners are aware of the dangers of ticks on their pets as a source of a zoonotic threat, but most, unfortunately, are unaware of the serious dangers their pets' intestinal parasites can pose, especially to young children.
Where you and your pet live in the United States, will determine what types of parasite prevention will be necessary. Some of the top parasites of concern: fleas, ticks, heartworms, roundworms and hookworms. Consult your local veterinarian on this area of preventive care for your pet. Not only will your pet be healthier, but you will also assure the health of your entire human family.
Vaccinations for your pet are another critical aspect of a healthy pet and a healthy human family. We have come too far in absolute preventive care with the use of proper vaccinations in both human and veterinary medicine to let this aspect of care be ignored.
Where you live and the lifestyle of your pet, help determine the best vaccination protocol to keep your pet healthy.
There is no "blanket" approach to vaccination protocols, so discuss with your pet's veterinarian what your particular pet needs.
Hopefully, I don't have to remind pet owners that rabies is a disease that poses a human risk. This is only one of the zoonotic diseases that we vaccinate pets for routinely, so be sure to have your pet properly vaccinated.
Those are just a few of the basics of pet health care that should not be cut back. Every pet has its own special needs and should always at least have an annual physical exam by a veterinarian, or twice a year if over the age of 7 years. Veterinarians believe prevention is imperative when it comes to every pet's health. So, I encourage all pet owners to provide the best they can for their pet's health since it not only promotes a healthy and happy pet, but also promotes a safe environment for its human companions. “
For my taste, Dr. Acosti places a whole lot of the burden on the pet owners’ veterinarian community. While I am not saying don’t follow her advice and disregard your vet completely, I would say though that running to your vet with every little issue and question you have is not necessary. Since the objective was to come up with some money saving strategies and ideas, I also would say that frequenting your vet is certainly not the way to save money. After all, his/her business nowadays seems more and more to be making money, rather than following his original veterinary ideologies, which as far as I see it were to make sure that you don’t need him or her, rather than making you more vet dependent. Related to pet nutrition, definitely an area of my expertise, if you are a follower of my blog, you know already that I am not a fan of the idea of having the vet make decisions or recommendations about pet food. Most of them do not have the required knowledge of a nutritionist and adopt pet food just as an additional profit center for their offices. Yet in most cases their prescribed or recommended diets are, as we have found and shown many times, often questionable and certainly leave room for discussion.

Pet food ingredient Grain: Controversy vs. chemistry Part 2

In part 1 of “Pet food ingredient Grain: Controversy vs. chemistry” I started the discussion about an ingredient we see heavily discussed in pet food marketing these days: Grain. We took a closer look at what the experts Dr. Wysong D.V.M and Dr. Harvey, D.V.M had to say on the topic and concluded that the issue and controversy about grain is not the ingredient itself, it is the way how the commercial mass producing pet food industry is using it. There is nothing wrong with adding grain to our pet’s diet. I am sure some of you were shaking their heads in disbelieve while reading the above. They go “Dogs and cats eating grains? Not my pets. They are meat eaters and not rabbits.” Now I have to admit this is true. But nobody here is saying feed them exclusively grain. We are talking about adding fractions of it to the food. Whole grains in appropriate proportions, applied using common sense is the golden rule here. Today let’s see what Steve Brown, co-author of “See Spot Live Longer” has to say about the issue on hand:
“Do Dogs and Cats Need Grains?
The natural, ancestral diet of dogs and cats included minimal amounts of grain, yet even the “healthiest” dry foods are half grain. Help your animals live longer by feeding them diets more appropriate for their bodies! Learn about the differences between the natural diet of dogs and cats and the modern diet of dry foods.
Dogs and cats are designed by nature to be primarily meat eaters
Dogs are scavengers. Their diet included almost any food that provided calories – but rarely grain. A major factor in the domestication of dogs was the food available at the human garbage dump: The “tamer” wolves, those least afraid of humans, over a period of tens of thousands of years, became our close companions. According to a recent study by biologists Ray and Lorna Coppinger, the natural diet of dogs included: ”Bones, pieces of carcass, rotten greens and fruit, fish guts, discarded seeds and grains, animal guts and heads, some discarded human food and wastes” (1)
Cats are more selective about food by nature and anatomy: Their ancestral diet consisted of small rodents. Their usefulness to humans had much to do with their eagerness to dispatch the rodents so plentiful around human habitats.
There is almost no grain in the natural diet of dogs and cats
The natural diet of both cats and dogs includes high levels of protein, fat, and water, and very little carbohydrate. The “recommended” diet of dry foods, which is the diet of most cats and dogs, is the complete opposite of this natural diet: High in carbohydrate, low in protein, fat, and with almost no water.
Dogs and cats do not need carbohydrates, and most veterinary textbooks agree:
Canine and Feline Nutrition ( co-authored by two scientists from Iams®): “The fact that dogs and cats do not require carbohydrate is immaterial because the nutrient content of most commercial foods include (carbohydrates).(2)
Small animal Clinical Nutrition III, written by the founder of Science Diet® (Mark Morris Sr.) and his son (Mark Morris Jr.): “Some question exists regarding the need of dogs and cats for dietary carbohydrate. From a practical sense, the answer to this question is of little importance because there are carbohydrates in most food ingredients used in commercially prepared dog foods.”(3)
The Waltham Book of Companion animal Nutrition: “There is no known minimum dietary requirement for carbohydrate….”(4)
More Grain, More Insulin, More Inflammation
A highly processed, grain based diet fed to an animal designed to thrive on a meat based, fresh food diet is very likely to produce symptoms of ill health over time. Diets to address disease most frequently address the symptoms that are the result of a lifetime of inappropriate food, not the cause of the symptoms. The optimum diet for a dog or a cat should closely resemble their natural diet.
A diet balanced heavily toward grain promotes insulin production and the production of inflammatory chemicals. Over-production of insulin makes it hard for the body to maintain its correct weight, and can lead to diabetes and other problems. An overabundance of inflammatory chemicals means more aches and pains.
Improve the balance of your dog’s diet by reducing grain, and you may not need the dangerous Non-Steroidal and Steroid drugs so commonly prescribed for dogs. Less grain means less inflammation! Toxic drugs make animals more comfortable, but are likely to shorten their lives.
Diabetic animals or those with any other medical condition making a switch to a more protein-based diet should be under the close supervision of a veterinarian.
It is our opinion that the best diet for a dog or cat is a fresh meat, bone and vegetable diet. We can’t always follow that advice due to financial constraints; the following suggestions will help you to move toward that goal. Every step helps.
Add Meat To Promote Health
Reduce the grain content of your animal’s diet by adding meat. The following steps can have a profound effect on your animal’s well-being! Please remember to reduce the total amount of dry food your pet eats.
Add up to 15% fresh meat, raw or cooked. This increases the protein and reduces the carbohydrate content of the pet’s food. This simple step will not unbalance the levels of any essential nutrient in your animal’s diet. Be sure that the meat scraps you’re adding are mostly meat! Your doggie bag is likely to have much more fat in it than meat. Fat is a very important nutrient but one that needs to be kept in balance. Every fat gram provides double the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrate.
Don’t use “senior”, “lite” and “diet” foods. These varieties usually have fewer calories per cup because the manufacturer increased the fiber and carbohydrates, and reduced protein and fat, compared to adult maintenance diets. This is the opposite of what is needed, and has no scientific foundation. Older and overweight pets need meat, not grain.
Add canned food. Good canned food has no grain, and has more protein and fat than dry pet foods. “Complete and balanced” canned diets may be fed as an animal’s sole diet. For cats, we highly recommend switching all the way. Cats should not eat dry foods. Urinary tract problems and kidney failure in cats have been closely related to dietary water, which has a different effect on the body than water an animal drinks. It’s much better for the cat to eat her food with the water in it!
Add a commercially prepared frozen raw diet. As with canned foods, if these are “complete” they can replace all other food fed to your animals.
Research proper homemade meat, bone and vegetable diets and supplement with good dry food to cut cost. Homemade foods can be nutritious and affordable, but must be made correctly. This option provides the protein and fat our pets need, reduces the amount of grain they eat, and is affordable by most people.
Feed your animal a meat and vegetable based diet, the best choice for almost every animal.”
Origin, Behavior & Evolution, Scribner, 2001. 59 – 78.
2. Case: Cary, and Hirakawa, Canine and Feline Nutrition, Mosby, 1995. 93.
3. Morris, Mark, Lewis, Lone and Hand, Michael, Small Animal Clinical Nutrition III, Mark Morris associates, 1990. 1-11.
4. Burger, I., Ed. The Waltham Book of Companion Animal Nutrition, Pergamon 1995. 26-27: 10
Steve definitely seems to be against grain in general and tends to favor vegetables instead. Certainly an acceptable opinion in my mind and as he also documents with the references he refers to. Additionally Steve too, just as Dr. Wysong and Dr. Harvey, makes clearly his point about whole vs. highly processed grains. What I do find kind of amusing is the reference where he quotes the scientists representing Iams and the founder of Science. I am somewhat confused: According to these gentlemen we (and they/their companies) know that our companion animals require very little or no dietary carbohydrates. But this is “immaterial” or “of “little importance” because (their companies’) food includes them anyway? Am I missing something here? If the animals don’t need it why to we give it to them? That to me says we have done wrong since the introduction of kibble. I can see that, and we have made this point numerous times before. But what actually justifies wrong doing by simply ignoring Mother Nature’s rules? Or is it ok just because your name is Iams and Science and you are overwhelmingly represented in the market? So much indeed that one could say there is sort of a dependency of pet owners on your products. I am sue glad that we still have choices and that well educated pet owners take advantage of that opportunity.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Omega 3 & 6: Good fat demystified

For many pet owners it is hard to believe, but some fats are good and in fact necessary for your pets’ health. But what are they, and why are they beneficial and why is such a big deal being made about them?
Dogs derive 70% to 90% of their energy for muscle contraction from fat metabolism and only a small amount from the energy derived from carbohydrates. There is 2 ¼ times more energy in fat than in the same amount of protein or carbohydrates. Fat can originate from plant and animal sources.
For humans: Essential Fatty Acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat which the human body derives from food, and have long since been regarded as key to human health. As they cannot be produced by the body and need to be obtained from our food intake, they are called essential. Just like in humans, essential Fatty Acids cannot be produced naturally by dogs and cats. There is increasing awareness of the need for these essential Fatty Acids to be supplied in pet diets. Amongst the many kinds of Fatty Acids, two in particular feature significantly in the synthesis of physiological regulators in pets, Omega 3 & Omega 6. As Omega Fatty Acids play a big role in dogs and cats by establishing a strong barrier to infections and maintaining the nervous system, a pet that is suffering from an Omega deficiency often displays eczema like skin conditions, hear and circulatory problems, arthritic symptoms, susceptibility to infections and excessive hair loss and shedding.

However, there are good news. Pets in such apparent poor condition can be treated effectively by just taking nutritional measures. The culprit of a deficiency in Omegas 3 & 6 in dogs and cats is a poor quality diet. Typically this is the case with mass produced commercial pet food that contains harmful fillers and chemicals but yet very few healthy supplements. Many worrying skin, heart and arthritic conditions often disappear when the pet receives sufficient amounts of Omegas 3 & 6, along with a good quality diet. The manifold benefits of Omegas 3 & 6 help the management of allergies and inflammatory skin conditions by building up a healthy skin barrier, maintaining a handsome coat and healthy skin, supporting the proper development of the nervous system and visual acuity, aiding in reducing arthritic conditions, aiding in clotting after an injury and helping your pets’ immune system respond to injury and infection. Latest research also shows that the Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids, when provided in a proper ratio to one another (Vaughn DM, Reinhart GA, et al Evaluation of dietary n-6 to n-3 fatty acid ratios, Veterinary Dermatology pg. 163 to 173) are to be of value in treating chronic renal disease. Their vasodilatory properties alter hemodynamics, lower intraglomerular³ pressure and slow the progression of renal disease in dogs. (Brown S.A. Influence of dietary fatty acids in intra renal hypertension – Recent advances in Canine and Feline Nutrition Vol. 2 pages 405 to 411)
Omega 6 Fatty Acids are common in most pet foods. They are derived from plant sources such as corn and sunflower oils. Omega 6 Fatty Acids are considered pro inflammatory, immunosuppressive and pro aggregatory. Omega 3 Fatty Acids on the other side are far less common in pet foods as they are derived from more expensive ingredients like for example flax seed and cold water fish oils and fish meals. They are considered less inflammatory, anti aggregatory, vasodilatory and not immunosuppressive. (Reinhart GA, Review of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and dietary influences on tissue concentration, Recent advances in canine and feline nutritional research, pg. 235-242) In order to get the full benefit of those two Omega Fatty Acids, they must be in a proper ration to one another. This ratio is believed to range between 5 to 1 and 10 to 1, i.e. a ratio of 5 to 10 parts of Omega 6 to 1 part Omega 3. This ratio is considered to be ideal in order to achieve the maximum benefit of the fatty acids. As usual, the low end foods are nowhere near these ratios, thereby delivering little value. Pet food manufacturers of high quality pet food having the well being of our pets in mind fully understand the importance of making Omega 3 & 6 Fatty Acids readily available to your pets. Their holistic range of food products very often is unique in that they utilize premium ingredients such as for example venison, salmon, and alikes for their Omega rich properties. Thereby they are making it as easy as possible for pet owners to ensure their pets receive the essential Fatty Acids they need.
What does it mean to you when you are looking for pet food? Naturally preserved chicken fat is highly digestible and perhaps provides the best balance of fatty acids. When combined with fat from flax, deep water fish meal and fish oil, the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 can be considered as being ideal.
¹ Vasodilation refers to the widening of blood vessels resulting from relaxation of smooth muscle cells within the vessel walls, particularly in the large arteries, smaller arterioles and large veins.
² Hemodynamics, meaning literally blood movement, is the study of blood flow or the circulation
³blood flow regulating

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Coming up with an answer in Layman’s terms: What pet owners need to know about Pet Food Ingredients – An impossible task?

The question I am being asked by pet owners the most is “How do I pick the right food for my cat or dog?” Usually I have a standard explanation and I also refer to the many articles not just I have written myself on the subject, but also comments and articles, even books written by other experts knowledgeable about the subject. Yet, and I agree with the pet owners looking at these answers, these explanations are usually very extensive, therefore making the issue even more confusing.
Actually it should be easy, after all, the rules are seemingly pretty simple. But instead, the rules to the average pet owner make it more complicated. In addition, marketing tactics and strategies used by the pet food manufacturers do their own part to finally confuse us to the point that we don’t know anymore what to do.
That is why I made it my objective to come up with a simple solution to the problem, one that is easy to understand and useable by anybody without even knowing too much or getting too involved in studying pet food pro’s and con’s. But as we will learn today, it remains a complicated subject. I guess we just have to get used to it.
Pet food is regulated on individual state legislative level. The states are provided with guidance from the AAFCO (American Feed Control Officials). However, contrary of what they are made to believe, pet owners need to know that this does not mean that pet foods contain the optimal ingredients for all pets. Pet food companies represent the largest single outlet for human food by-products. Many of these ingredients can consist of inexpensive, inconsistent, and less nutritious fractions or waste. Following here I will try to make some recommendations on what pet owners should look for on pet food labels concerning the most important main ingredient categories: Protein, carbohydrates, fats and oils and preservatives.
Starting with your protein sources, as a rule of thumb, good pet food will have a high quality protein source. In most cases you want to make sure that the main protein source is listed as one of the first couple ingredients, I personally always make sure I take one which lists it as number one ingredient. I would rate as the best choice any named meat meal. “Named” meaning by what it actually is, like for example chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, duck, venison, etc. rather than “unnamed, generic” “poultry” meal or “animal meal”. As an example, AAFCO considers as chicken meal “the dry rendered product from a combination of clean flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts of whole carcasses of chicken or combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet, or entrails.” And so that everybody can understand it: A named meal, such as for example chicken meal is considered to be a good source of protein in commercial pet foods.
That was simple, right? So where does it become confusing? For starters, let’s see the remainder of the AACO statement, which I have left out: “(the meal) shall be suitable for use in animal food.”??? The remainder left out in “so that everybody understands”: …it is basically cooked down chicken.??? The quality of the chicken meal depends completely on the chicken it is derived from??? Plus: There are minimum requirements (AAFCO Nutrient Profiles) for all life stages of an animal. Animals at different life stages require different amounts of protein. And why is a “chicken meal” better than pure “chicken”? What is the difference in the first place?
Let me throw in more important things we are told to pay attention to: Digestibility, metabolizable energy, dry matter basis. By now I probably have most of you scratching your heads. And I don’t blame you.
That is why I like Dr. Wysong’s, D.V.M. straight forward, simple advice:
“Your pet does not need “a” food. It also 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. Those meals should be fresh, natural and healthy as much as possible.
… Be as creative with your pet’s food bowl as you are with your own…. You do not have to feed every nutrient at every meal. Your pet has reserve capacity. Take it easy; 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…. Health is not something somebody else like a doctor, food manufacturer or pharmacist does to you. It is something you do to yourself … and your pet. So relax a little. You don’t need a rocket scientist to help you feed your pet. Just use the same common sense you use for yourself and your family everyday. Think of it this way: After all, pets are people too.”
If we all follow his advice, we are not going to need a rating system. For the ones who still would like to have one, I will keep thinking about it and promise to come up with something. Just not this morning at 2 am. Of course it would be helpful if I could get some feed back and even maybe ideas how to approach this objective. Concepts and visions of what the resulting easy reference rating system should look like. My problem is that I sometimes myself get carried away and with my best intention to cover every possible aspect then make it too complicated again. Just yesterday a friend of mine who is also a good customer told me: “At one side I learn a lot from you. But on the other side you are no help. You make it too confusing because you give me too many options.” If I am honest with myself I have to agree. I am going to chew on that for a while and in the meantime will be waiting for your feedback to come in.

Monday, December 22, 2008

FDA Continues To Receive Complaints about Chicken Jerky Products for Dogs and Cautions Consumers

It continues to amaze me with what speed news sometimes travel on the Internet. Within a couple hours of receiving an e-mail from the FDA earlier today I had immediately some inquiries from concerned prospects and customers. The FDA e-mail contained the following “Preliminary Animal Health Notification” issued on 12/19/08:
“FDA Continues To Receive Complaints about Chicken Jerky Products for Dogs and Cautions Consumers
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to caution consumers of a potential association between the development of illness in dogs and the consumption of chicken jerky products also described as chicken tenders, strips or treats. FDA continues to receive complaints of dogs experiencing illness that their owners or veterinarians associate with consumption of chicken jerky products. The chicken jerky products are imported to the U.S. from China. FDA issued a cautionary warning to consumers in September 2007.
Australian news organizations report the University of Sydney is also investigating an association between illness in dogs and the consumption of chicken jerky in Australia. At least one firm in Australia has recalled their chicken jerky product and the recall notification stated the chicken jerky product was manufactured in China.
FDA believes the continued trend of consumer complaints coupled with the information obtained from Australia warrants an additional reminder and animal health notification.
Chicken jerky products should not be substituted for a balanced diet and are intended to beused occasionally and in small quantities. Owners of small dogs must be especially careful to limit the amount of these products.
FDA, in addition to several veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the U.S, is working to determine why these products are associated with illness in dogs. To date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses. FDA has conducted extensive chemical and microbial testing but has not identified any contaminant.
FDA is advising consumers who choose to feed their dogs chicken jerky products to watch their dogs closely for any or all of the following signs which may occur within hours to days of feeding the product: decreased appetite, although some may continue to consume the treats to the exclusion of other foods; decreased activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; and increased water consumption and/or increased urination. If the dog shows any of these signs, stop feeding the chicken jerky product. Owners should consult their veterinarian if signs are severe or persist for more than 24 hours. Blood tests may indicate kidney failure (increased urea nitrogen and creatinine). Urine tests may indicate Fanconi syndrome (increased glucose). Although most dogs appear to recover, some reports to the FDA have involved dogs that have died.
The FDA continues to actively investigate the problem. Many of the illnesses reported may be the result of causes other than eating chicken jerky. Veterinarians and consumers alike should report cases of animal illness associated with pet foods to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator in their state.”

To me, besides being a general concern for all my pet owning friends out there, this at first worried me since we carry the DogsWell product line in our store. Some of their chicken jerky products are being manufactured in China as clearly stated on the bags. While this is in general a concern, especially because of the seemingly never ending flow of bad news coming in about contaminated Chinese food ingredients, both for pets and humans as well, I am not the kind of guy who for no reason condemns everything coming from China just because it’s “in” to do so. I have adjusted to the fact that we live in a global environment and parts for everything being made in this world are coming from everywhere in this world. This is nothing exclusive to the United States, it works both ways, the Chinese are buying many products coming from the States. Whether they experience similar problems as we do with their imports, we don’t know.
Coming back to the original subject: When I visited the DogsWell website to send an inquiry to the company, I found there readily waiting a letter from the company’s CEO immediately responding to and addressing the issue within 24 hours on 12/20/08:

“Dear Valued Customers,
We would like to assure you that all of our products are safe, natural, and healthy and we have never been involved with any FDA issues or warnings.
The DOGSWELL manufacturing facilities in the United States and abroad meet the highest and most strict sanitary conditions. All of our plants have HACCP programs, have received high scores by independent Third Party auditors, have strict raw ingredient standards and continuously check our products during processing and when they are finished to ensure they meet our high quality standards. We regularly visit our manufacturing facilities to ensure the quality and safety of our products.
Along with knowing our supply chain very well, we conduct regular tests in APPA and FDA-approved U.S. facilities to assure you that we are only providing your pets with the very best ingredients. We certify that our products are safe and clean and ensure that our products meet our high quality standards. Feel free to contact me with any comments or concerns you may have.
Sincerely, Marco Giannini, President and CEO, DOGSWELL “

To me, for the time being this is a satisfactory response. Even more so since according to the FDA there have been no recalls issued in the States and only one overseas in Australia. The Australian recall was a voluntary one taken by KraMar Pet Company, a well established family owned pet supply manufacturer. The voluntary recall was issued by the company as a precautionary measure and concerns their KraMar Supa Natural Chicken Breast Strips made in China. The KraMar Pet Company had tested every shipment for E-Coli, Salmonella and Melamine. More recently at the request of some veterinary surgeons tests were done for other potential Toxins. The manufacturing facility in China has been approved by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS). All tests to date have been clear.
In addition, the FDA states: “FDA, in addition to several veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the U.S, is working to determine why these products are associated with illness in dogs. To date, scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses. FDA has conducted extensive chemical and microbial testing but has not identified any contaminant.”
Therefore I do not see any reason to take any further action. With highest confidence we will continue to recommend DogsWell products to our customers.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How to Deal with the Food Allergy Suspect: The hypoallergenic diet trial

To determine whether or not a food allergy or intolerance is causing the skin problem, a hypoallergenic diet is fed for a set period of time. If the pet recovers, the original diet is fed for up to two weeks to see if itching resumes. If the result is recovery on the test diet and a return of the symptoms with the original diet, then a food allergy is diagnosed and the pet needs to be returned to either the test diet or another appropriate food. Looking for a “good hypoallergenic diet” can be approached in two ways:
Obviously, the test diet must be of a food source that the pet could not possibly be allergic to. The traditional method is the use of a novel protein and carbohydrate source, i.e., something the pet has never eaten before. In the past, lamb has been the protein source of choice as pet food companies had traditionally not offered any lamb based pet foods. Unfortunately, recent production of lamb and rice based foods have removed lamb from the acceptable hypoallergenic diet list due to the high number of such products now available on the market.
Many pet food companies have discerned the need for diets using unusual protein and carbohydrate sources with a minimum of additives. Foods can be obtained based on venison and potato, fish and potato, egg and rice, duck and pea, and even kangaroo, brush tail, ostrich, llama, herbs and more.
It is important that during the diet trial no unnecessary medications be given. No edible chew toys like for example rawhides or bones should be given. Treats must be based on the same food sources as the test diet. Be careful though, like for example stay away from rice cakes since wheat is commonly used as a filler. Replace chewable heartworm preventives with tablets.
Home cooking was originally the only option felt to be appropriately free of allergens but for most animals these special commercial foods are adequate. Occasionally home cooking ends up being necessary after all.
In the past, 4 weeks was thought to represent a complete trial period. More recent work has shown that some food allergic animals require 8 to 10 weeks to respond. This may be an extremely inconvenient period of time for home cooking. My current recommendation is to reevaluate after four weeks of diet trial and then again after eight weeks of trial. Eighty percent of food allergic dogs will have responded to diet trial at least partially by six weeks. Labradors, Retrievers and Cocker Spaniels appear to require up 10 weeks of trial diet before showing a response. Some dogs may even require a longer period.
To confirm that your pet indeed has a food allergy, return to the original food; itching resumes within 14 days generally if food allergy was truly the reason for the itchy skin. Many pet owners do not want to take a chance of returning to itching if the patient is doing well; it is not unreasonable to simply stay with the test diet if the pet remains free of symptoms.
It is possible to more specifically determine the identity of the offending foods after the pet is well. To do this, a pure protein source, like for example chicken or any other single food is added to the test diet with each feeding. If the pet begins to itch within 2 weeks, then that protein source represents one of the pet's allergens. Return to the test diet until the itching stops and try another pure protein source. If no itching results after two weeks of feeding a test protein, the pet is not allergic to this protein.
And if the trial is unsuccessful? Generally, this strongly suggests that an inhalant allergy is the primary problem but there are a few considerations that should at least be mentioned: Are you certain that the dog received no other food or substances orally during the trial? Your pet may require a longer diet trial. Are you certain regarding the factor that pointed us toward the food allergy?