Saturday, January 10, 2009

Case file Pet Food: Pro's and Con's of information sharing on the Internet

Due to the fact that I have received numerous inquiries regarding the same issue I decided to dedicate a small comment here on the blog. Customers of mine feeding Innova dry formulas to their dogs have contacted me concerning Innova Dry Food and an incident circulating on the Internet. Note that the incident dates back to July 2007. That would not make it right if there indeed would have been a problem, but it is important to remember that the timing falls into the direct aftermath of history’s largest pet food recall ever. I strongly believe that many such stories without any merit have been published on the Internet either by people who enjoy creating panic and thrive on scaring concerned pet owners or by people who just don’t know better and believe they need to share their unsubstantiated wisdom with the rest of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I honestly believe that one of the greatest advantages of the Internet is the fact that we all can share information with each other instantaneously and it seriously helps if there are events like pet food recalls which, if unknown to pet owners can be extremely harmful. However I also believe that it is important that we initially take everything first with a grain of salt. Not all information published on the net can be taken for granted and sometimes it is even harmful to companies being involved in such wrongful accusations. Therefore all I am saying and asking for: Yes, please let’s share everything we know and learn, but also let’s make sure that while we are sharing our knowledge and experiences, that everything we publish is the truth and not just some wild idea we came up with or some unfounded assumption we make.
Coming back to the Innova issue I wanted to talk about:
This was found on I visited the site, there is no clear indication as to who is standing behind the site, like any “About us” section. That in itself to me already is suspicious. If you have something to say, do it loud and clear (as certainly done on this site) and state your name, address and contact information so I can comfortably feel that I deal with a reliable source. I did some more reading on the site. Without getting into too much detail, it appears that the site owner is a pet owner who had to deal with fatal consequences after feeding contaminated pet food, which was subject to history’s largest recall ever. He states: “Chuckles was the nicest little cat I've ever known. She was murdered by Menu Foods in January.” Here is my response: “Dear Pet Food Recall site owner: I completely understand your frustration and bitterness. Please trust me, you have my deepest sympathy and condolences. There is nothing in this world what could replace what you have lost. I admire you for having the strength to make such an effort as you do with your site to make sure such incidents do not happen again. All I am asking for is come forward and let us know who you are so that we know we are dealing with a credible and reliable source here. Thank you.”

Coming back for the second time to the Innova issue I wanted to talk about: Here is the statement on the recall site:

NOTE: What follows is Donna's description of her efforts to find out why the unrecalled Innova dog food she was feeding her pets was making them sick, along with a small photo of the food in question. In addition to issues related to cyanuric acid and acetaminophen, her story brings to mind a previous pet food recall where pets sickened or died as a result of massive vitamin overdoses in the food. But let's let Donna tell it:In May we decided to test our dog food because we discovered black and beige chunks of unknown substance embedded in the kibble in two 33-lb. bags of Innova adult dry dog food. We contacted the pet food company and forwarded samples of the product to them for analysis. We also paid for samples to be tested at ExperTox laboratory. A week after receiving the samples, ExperTox called to advise us that the chunks yielded cyanuric acid (3.71 ug/g) and acetaminophen (trace). (test link)Natura Pet had advised us it would take 3 weeks for analysis of the samples. At the 3 week mark (June 8), we called to advise them of the laboratory’s findings and ask the results of their tests. A representative from Natura returned our call on June 13 and was unaware of any issues with their food. They discovered the sample we sent was still sitting on the desk of the person we shipped it to and had not been analyzed. They called 2 hours later with a message referencing a news article stating the FDA had “ruled out acetaminophen.” They called again on June 15 to advise the chunks were vitamin mineral premix that had “clumped” and “not been ground up completely.” We are not certain how they identified the chunks so quickly after our call. Also, if they knew it was a “vitamin mineral premix clump”, why had they not already advised us during the previous three weeks they held the samples. As of June 29, we have had no further contact from the company.Our dogs were both sick with sporadic gastric-related problems beginning in January through May. Symptoms: gastric upset, vomiting, eating grass, refusal to eat kibble, increased water intake. Most significant was our female developed extreme incontinence almost overnight. We began calling the pet food company in January asking about formula changes or supplier/ingredient changes and were told “absolutely no changes.” We continued feeding this food as (1) it was not on the recall list; (2) our symptoms were totally different from the reported acute renal failure; and (3) the company insisted their food was safe and they had begun new expanded testing protocols.On June 1 when we received the analysis results, we stopped feeding all purchased dog food and began home cooking for our dogs. The gastric problems cleared up and the incontinence disappeared within two days and has not returned.We have a laboratory report specifying toxins in the dog food. We have a pet food company who stated the chunks were vitamin mineral premix; however, they have yet to advise us of their analysis results. The only conclusion we can draw at this point is while our dogs ate this food they suffered sporadic gastric illness and incontinence and when we stopped feeding this product all symptoms disappeared.”
By the way, I looked at the test link provided in the claim, there is no legally substantiated evidence that the samples provided indeed were Innova samples. This is not to say that I don’t believe Donna what she is saying, but at the same time I have to say, I am sorry, but I cannot accept this the way it is.
After my last customer contacted me with regards to this posting, I personally contacted Innova and received their following response:
“Dear Paul,

Thank you for contacting Natura Pet Products. We at Natura Pet Products have never had a recall in the history of our company, with any of our foods. Below is a letter that I have attached from our President, Peter Atkins; in regards to this incident.

Natura tested both samples from Donna as well as retains of the premix used in that production run for melamine and cyanuric acid. All three came back negative. We also sent representative samples of the production run of Donna’s food for additional testing at UC Davis and Expertox; all of which came back negative. We have had no other complaints from this (or any other) batch of food, and we are 100% confident in the safety of all of our products. It is important to note that the only lab to make this acetaminophen finding is Expertox and both the FDA and the ASPCA ( ) have found their results to be unfounded.

If you’ve seen our food over time, you know that it is normal for some of the bigger pieces of the raw materials that we use to end-up being visible in the final product. Because our formulas include whole foods and grains, occasionally some larger pieces can make it through the process and appear in the finished kibbles. So, from time to time we do see larger pieces of brown rice, oats, flaxseed, chicken and turkey bones (remember that chicken meal and turkey meal contains the lean tissue and some bone and cartilage material), carrots, alfalfa sprouts, apple seeds, and on rare occasions vitamin/mineral premix. This is normal and certainly not harmful in any way.I hope that this information is helpful. I know that in these post-recall times everyone is very worried about ANY commercial pet food and I can appreciate your worry and concern. Please be assured that Natura is a responsible company and we pride ourselves on the quality of our ingredients, our quality control programs and our commitment to making the healthiest pet foods in the world. Peter AtkinsNatura Pet Products

It is also important to remember that Natura stands behind our products 100%. If you have any additional questions or concerns please feel free to contact me at your convenience.

Best Regards,

Natura Consumer Service Rep”

In my opinion this case clearly has to be dismissed. The claim was never substantiated and the final outcome clearly was that the accusation was a wrong one. It would have been nice if the owner of the recall site would have published a statement to that extent as well. Well, that’s why I publish this comment: To bring the case to closure.
Stay tuned as I will write more on similar topics soon. Unfortunately too often I had and have to learn that pet food is being blamed for health issues, which have absolutely nothing to do with the food. Just because there was a massive and very serious recall in 2007 does not mean going forward from there on every problem is to be blamed on the pet food. You all know me, I am absolutely not a fan of commercially mass produced and marketed pet food. As a matter of fact, I almost fight them. Too often these foods have been in negative news and involved in recalls. I do however believe that there are still companies out there making good and healthy food. After all the research I did for our business and for my own sake and pets, I strongly believe Innova is one of them and, unless something serious would make me change my made, they certainly have 100% of my support.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Alarm going off: Overweight and obesity 2008: A problem for 48% of our pets !!!

Sometimes I cannot help it but I feel like I am over doing things. Maybe I am talking too much about the same issues over and over again. Because I believe it is important that I talk about the issues which I am addressing. If that means to repeat myself over and over again, so be it. Maybe this way sooner or later at least some pet owners get the message and make appropriate changes for a better health of their pets.
Like for example, let talk “Our pets and obesity”. Since I started this blog back in I wrote 2 dedicated comments on this topic. (Actually that’s not as bad as I thought it would be and now I think it’s not enough).
Obesity: How much to feed a pet and Are we feeding our pets to death?
If one runs a search for “obesity” on this blog, the results return 14 articles in one way or the other addressing the topic of obesity. That’s 10% of all the comments I wrote since I started this blog back at the end of August last year. And again, I think now, that this is possibly not enough. Reason for that is that I found today an article published on 01/07/09 by, written by Lea Terry and titled “Study estimates that 78 million cats and dogs are overweight or obese
Did I read this right? 78 Million??? The info what I had and based my writings on was always based on a number of 54 million. That would make it 40% of the entire US pet population of about 135 million cats and dogs. If it is indeed 78 million, what could be the case because maybe my stats were a little older, then that would translate into a whopping 58% of the pet population. Now, you know me this substantial difference in numbers bothered me. So I visited the website of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), as the name suggests an organization dedicated to obese pets. There it is even somewhat more confusing, mainly because there is talk about the 78 million overweight and obese pets and a certain national study at the same time. The study was performed by some vets and conducted on a small number of cats and dogs, apparently representative enough to come up with a statistical conclusion. I kept digging further into the site and finally found what I was looking for: The most up-to-date numbers are:
US Pet population 2007: 75 million dogs and 88 million cats for a total of 163 million pets.
According to APOP, the 2008 figures are:
An estimated 48% or 78 million of all pets in the United States are overweight or obese and an estimated 15% or 25 million of those are obese.
An estimated 43% or 32 million of all dogs in the United States are overweight or obese and an estimated 10% or 8 million of those are obese.
An estimated 53% or 46 million of all dogs in the United States are overweight or obese and an estimated 19% or 17 million of those are obese.
To put things in perspective: US Human population (US Census Bureau 2006): 300 Million. 60 Million or 30% of all Americans age 20 and older are obese.
It really does not matter one way or the other, either one number is simply scary enough to me. This and the fact that these numbers are clearly showing an increase over the 2007 stats clearly indicates that we have a serious problem on hand here. And if we don’t fix it, it just may grow out of control. According to Lea Terry in her article, “obesity in humans in America is considered to be epidemic.” And she notes that now, because of the numbers, the problem with pets seems to get the same level of attention. I would say it’s about time. To me those numbers are even scarier than the stats for humans.
Let’s take a step back. What is obesity? As obesity is considered when your pet exceeds its ideal body weight by 15 or more percent. In addition, the problem is that overweight and obesity unfortunately link to many other health problems as well. Recent weight management studies concluded that compared with cats of optimal weight, overweight cats are more than twice as likely to develop skin conditions, 4 times as likely to develop diabetes and finally 5 times as likely to develop lameness, all conditions requiring veterinarian treatment. Overweight leaves pets at a greater risk than ever before for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, many forms of cancer, especially intra abdominal cancer, osteoarthritis and potentially a shorter life expectancy. That’s what I say. But if you don’t want to take my word for it, here is what APOP says: “Common Health Risks of Obesity in Pets: Osteoarthritis, Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Hypertension (high blood pressure) and many forms of cancer.”
Coming back to my introduction, I think you agree with me now, it is an important issue and we cannot over emphasize on the importance that it has to be addressed when we deal with our pets. It is simply not healthy and much can be done by us, the responsible pet owners. As Lea states in her article’s conclusion: “The dog cannot speak for himself. We have to be able to read the animal.” And deal with any problem there may already be or better yet, make sure there is not even going to be a problem. So be prepared for much more on this topic to come on this blog. You know me by now and it is needless to say that much of it will be centered around the right and healthy nutrition. Let’s face it, that’s where it starts and let’s attack the problem at its roots. And as always, I invite you to comment on the topic, tell us about your experiences, the ways you figured out how to deal with it once it occurred or how you prevent it.

How to choose the “Best” Pet Food

The better first question is: “What actually is the best pet food for your pet?” How should a pet owner choose from the many options available today? These are basic questions I am being asked every day. They deserve basic and straight forward, simple answers, which is what I am going to try with this article today by explaining the important nutritional features of a good quality pet diet. Many opinions state that “Pets use the nutrients in the food, not the ingredients.” While this may be a true statement, let’s consider that the ingredients provide the nutrients, so these are important as well. Having both, a basic understanding of pet nutrition and the nutrients provided by various ingredients will help you make an educated decision on which diet is best for your pet. Don’t forget, though, that a diet that has a perfect label or apparently perfect nutritional content may not necessarily work for your pet. That is if you even find such a food. But don’t give up, a little trial and error will put you well on the road to finding the best food for your healthy pet. Remember to not let it turn into a science either. While you may be spending tons of time figuring out what right or wrong for your pet, the pet is hungry and needs something to eat. Make up your mind, because in my and many other experts’ opinion there is no such thing as the “perfect” food. What does “perfect” mean anyway? Who are we to determine what is “perfect”? We can’t even figure out for ourselves what is the “perfect” diet. While we think the pet food we select is “perfect”, our pets may have a completely different opinion, only problem is that in many cases we will never find out, or at least not until it is too late. A good idea is using common sense. Using common sense let’s you handle many problems a lot easier and by the way, not just pet food related problems. What I always recommend as well is: Take a step back and look at what nature is doing. Follow that concept and you are right on track.
Now many people in the past (and probably will continue in future) have tried to argue with me on this one. They claim that what is or was so far going on in nature is not the best for our companion animals.
That’s when I usually remind them of a quote from Albert Einstein who said “People, let’s reason.” Because I cannot help it but to agree with Dr. Wysong, D.V.M. who makes an excellent point within his Time & Adoption Theory: “If we measure the time during which life has adapted to the natural environment, this would be represented by a line 276 miles long. Now let’s compare that with the time since the industrial revolution, approximately 200 years, went by. The 200 years then represent a line of 1 inch length. The time since the industrial revolution is also the time during which humans and animals have been eating and fed modern, processed food.” Dr. Wysong in his “How to apologize to your pet”: “Life forms have spent eons adapting to natural food, thriving on their nutrients and developing protective mechanisms against toxins. To suddenly consume the modern processed concoctions present to the body new chemicals, toxins and altered nutrients for which it has not had time to adopt. We - and our pets – are therefore part of a giant experiment. The results of which perhaps only our grandchildren will fully know.”

Nutrition for dogs with cancer

Cancer, a disease that most of us are familiar with and nobody really wants to talk about. Just the thought of it makes us shiver, which, in my opinion, is mainly due to the fact of the disease’s reputation. It is very difficult to overcome and, yes, things have gotten better and we can do much about it these days, however, it also remains a fact that it is sort of incurable in many, typically progressed cases. And since we are dealing with pets on this blog, another reality is, these days it becomes more and more common that this dreadful disease also affects our companion animals. As life expectancies of cats and dogs continue to increase, so increase the risks of developing cancer.
Investigations into dietary effects on the survival of pets battling cancer have been made and resulted in interesting studies about certain cancers and how they are affected by nutrition.
Pets with cancer often develop a condition called cancer cachexia. In plain English this means the pet is losing body condition despite adequate calorie intake. Just as we humans, pets undergoing chemotherapy in most cases don’t feel very well and may not eat as well as they should. However, chemotherapy in pets is way different than it is for us humans. To avoid hair loss and vomiting, much lower doses are used. No matter what is causing their illness, keeping ill pets in good body condition helps them recover more quickly.
In this entire equation, diet composition plays a great role. Cancers are most able to use carbohydrates as an energy source, so low carbohydrate diets are best for cancer patients. Diets are made up of protein, fat, moisture, ash, fiber, and carbohydrates. In traditional pet foods, carbohydrates make up the biggest percentage of the diet. If we lower the percentage of carbohydrates, we must add higher percentages of some other category or categories. Since we don’t want to raise the ash or fiber, this leaves protein, fat, and moisture. Most dry pet foods are less than 10% moisture to help prevent mold from developing in the bag. Therefore raising moisture is not an option either. Protein and fat are typically the two nutrients that are present in higher quantities. This helps the patient by restricting carbohydrates that are available to the cancer. Increasing the fat content helps provide more calories to the pet to help prevent cancer cachexia. Fat is also the nutrient that cancer cells are least able to use for energy.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for keeping many systems of the body in ideal condition. These important substances are known to inhibit the growth of tumors and enhance the body’s ability to fight the cancer by stimulating the immune system. Many pet foods contain ratios of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids of 5:1 to 10:1. Recommended for cancer patients is a ratio as low as 3:1. Therefore, a supplement of omega-3 fatty acids may be required.
Arginine is an amino acid that is essential for cats and conditionally essential for dogs. This means that cats must obtain arginine from their diets, while dogs require it in their diets only in certain situations. Cancer may just be one of those situations. Arginine enhances the immune system by stimulating T-cells (one of the types of cells that is responsible for attacking foreign invaders). The mechanism behind this is not very well understood. Arginine may also suppress tumor growth, like omega-3 fatty acids.
Vitamins may affect cancer as well, particularly the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. The Vitamin A family may be responsible for impeding the cancer’s ability to develop new cells. Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin that has been studied extensively. Despite numerous studies, there is little scientific proof that vitamin C is as effective as many people believe. Vitamin E is the most promising of the three vitamins, with scientific proof that it interferes with cancer and enhances the immune system.Minerals have beneficial and detrimental effects on the cancer patient. Selenium and zinc have the ability to block the development of cancer in rodents. Iron is required by most cancers to grow and multiply. So, restricting iron intake may help slow the process.
It is critical to provide the patient with adequate calories and nutrition to maintain body condition. This may not be possible without other methods of feeding (besides oral). Tubes can be placed into the esophagus, stomach, or directly into the small intestine to provide nutrients directly to the gastrointestinal tract. This is especially true in cases of mouth cancer or facial cancer. Needless to say that working closely with a veterinarian to develop a treatment plan is critical. Focusing on nutrition is just as important as the surgical or medical treatments that are involved.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Practicing a healthy life style for the whole family? Remember, pets are family too.

People are without question becoming more and more health conscious these days. Therefore it is just as obvious that concerned pet owners should start to place the same emphasis on their pets eating and lifestyle habits, as they do for the rest of the family.
I always say, our pets are like children. And just like children pets learn by example. Just as parents to their children, it is the pet owners who are responsible for teaching their pets healthy eating habits. After all it is the pet owners who are feeding the pets.
Just as you wish for your family members, wouldn’t you want your dog to be healthy, obedient and live to a good old age? Well, here is something for, this time you and not your dog, to chew on: Scientists have determined that dogs have the potential to live to 20 years. However, in reality, most of our canine companions struggle to survive beyond their 10th birthday. Veterinarians are reporting an increasing number of heart and respiratory disease, joint problems, diabetes and countless other diseases. Almost in pandemic dimensions. Animal shelters are full of dogs that come from their originally planned "forever” homes because they exhibit hostile and even violent behavior. To me it is certain that most of these health and emotional issues (except violent behavioral issues) could have a solid basis in the type and quality of food these dogs have been given. It's not enough to merely fill up a bowl with any dog food so your pet doesn't go hungry. Dog owners need to evaluate what is going into their dog's dishes. After all those ingredients can mean a better life or one that is filled with specific health conditions or plain illness.But what entails making sure a pet eats healthy? Here are a couple ideas:
Purchase only food made with the best natural ingredients. Buy a premium dog food. Generally, this type of food is not sold in mass merchandise supermarkets, grocery stores and not even at your vet´s office. There are a very few top quality foods that you will find at these sources, if any at all. Meats, fruits, vegetables and grains free of chemicals, preservatives and other chemical additives will ensure your pet stays healthy and lives longer. Make sure, when you are planning health conscious meals for your pet, that you understand the importance of wholesome, natural ingredients. Only those make for healthy food and therefore a healthy life. And as we ask over and over again with so many choices out there, how does a pet owner select the best natural pet food? Start by looking for food that meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards. By AAFCO standards, the term "natural" requires a pet food to consist of only natural ingredients without chemical alterations.
Before making a selection of dog food read the ingredient list. Check out the first 5 ingredients since they make up the bulk of the dog food. If more than 2 of them contain grain products, like corn or wheat, the food is mostly vegetable protein and provides low nutritional value. Dogs being fed this type of food will have more bowel movements because their bodies are not absorbing a high level of nutrients. As a result these ingredients are processed as waste. Look for real meat sources like for example “chicken meal" or “lamb meal" since they are a great source of animal protein. Avoid foods that contain preservatives, like BHT or BHA and other chemicals or additives. They can be harmful to your pet's health. Canned food often contains more preservatives because they are needed to keep the food fresh.
Like their owners, pets also love natural, wholesome ingredients that taste great and keep them healthy. The right natural pet food is gentle on their stomachs, helps maintain kidney and bladder health, provides balanced nutrition and supports a healthy immune system.
Often overlooked, yet so simple: Portion control. An alarming number of 54 Million obese pets live in the United States. That is 40% of the pet population! Obesity is when your pet exceeds its ideal body weight by 15 or more percent. Female pets are more prone to obesity then their male counter parts. Why is there an obesity problem? One of the biggest feeding mistakes pet owners make is portion control. Recent weight management studies concluded that compared with cats of optimal weight, overweight cats are more than twice as likely to develop skin conditions, 4 times as likely to develop diabetes and finally 5 times as likely to develop lameness, all conditions requiring veterinarian treatment. Overweight leaves pets at a greater risk than ever before for type-2-diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, many forms of cancer, especially intra-abdominal cancer, osteoarthritis and potentially a shorter life expectancy.

Controlled "Treat"ments: Keep treats to a minimum. Treats are okay here and there, but try to provide a healthier alternative. Treats are great rewards and training aids. Your choice is seemingly endless. Make sure the treats you offer to your pet are not just all about fun. Look for functional treats, meaning they are made using healthy and palatable main ingredients providing many health benefits. As wellness products they are supplementing your healthy food. "Treat" treats as what they are: They are not a food item. Dogs appreciate a thumb nail sized bite as much as they like a 2 Lbs. bag of biscuits, the latter not being helpful in you solving your pet's obesity problem. As with everything in life, remember the word "moderation". If you want to give your dogs treats, the same selection rules as for food apply. Check the list of ingredients. Cheap treats with no nutritional value don’t do your dog any good because that may make it difficult to offer a premium dog food that is not artificially enhanced with flavor additives.
Finally, instead of rewarding good behavior with food, go for a walk or play a game with your pet. Regular exercise: Following are just a few ideas to inspire your creativity. Change your walk with your dog into intervals of jogging and running. Cut down on the typical every 2 minute sniffing and marking breaks. Change the pace from 20 to 25 minutes a mile to 12 to 15 minutes. Don't worry, dogs are built to run anywhere between 0 and 100 miles an hour with very little risk of injury. After all, you're not doing an all out sprint. Be consistent. Let the dog know you're not on a stroll and have other places to go too.Move the food bowl as far away as possible to force the dog to walk. Don't let them sleep right next to their food.Play, chase, fetch, catch. Combine exercise with play time. Get moving toys. Get busy. And do it regularly. Use your fantasy and be creative. But always remember (dogs are like children, everything becomes unattractive very quick), to your dog, what's fun today may be boring tomorrow, so be innovative as well.
In conclusion: Whether it is nutrition in form of food or rewards, health management or exercise and fun, treat your pets as you treat the rest of your family. Make sure your furry friends are getting the best that nature has to offer. In return they will thank you with a happy, healthy long life.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Nutrition for the aging dog

Older dogs have special nutritional needs. Feeding mature dogs a diet that is specifically designed to meet these specific needs will support your efforts to have your aging dog live longer and healthier.
When considering the changing energy requirements keep in mind that as the adult years pass by, your dog’s required calorie intake is likely to decline. Feeding a lower calorie diet with less fat should help maintain a healthy body condition.
L-carnitine is a vitamin like nutrient that has some great effects within the body. Besides being responsible to help regulating the blood sugar level, it also helps the body to convert fat into energy. As a result the older dog will stay fit and lean.
In recent studies, a lean body condition throughout the entire life is directly linked to the length and quality of life. Lean dogs live longer and healthier. For this reason it is important that you follow the food manufacturer provided feeding guidelines on the package. (Contrary to what most pet owners seem to believe, they are most definitely sufficient. Also, I always like to remind everybody that the feeding recommendations typically refer to ideal and not actual body weight. This means if you dog is over weight to begin with, feeding him or her according to the actual weight is not going to help you in your efforts to trim weight). Furthermore it is important that you take into account all extras, such as for example table food given while you’re eating your own dinner and, often and typically not considered, treats. Remember, it’s like with us humans. We may eat our regular food following all dietary restrictions all day long, if we don’t count those deserts into our overall intake, it’s hard to make progress. Make sure you subtract the calories included in these extras from your dog’s daily energy requirements. Tables with calorie requirements for your dog are available on many websites (example: Calorie Requirements for Pets) or from your vet.
Another key consideration is protecting your dog’s body from aging change. Antioxidants have captured a lot of media attention recently. As our pets metabolize the food that they consume, their bodies produce free radicals. Free radicals are oxygen particles that have an electronic charge attached. As pets get older, the formation of free radicals increases. The problem with the increase in free radicals is that they charge freely within the body and damage healthy cells. It is impossible to stop the aging process with antioxidants. However, we can counteract some of the damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants are an effective method to neutralize free radicals. Once neutralized, they loose their ability to damage healthy cells. Two of the most prominent antioxidants in pet nutrition are vitamin E and selenium. Feeding a diet that contains both of these important antioxidants is beneficial for your maturing dog.
Another ailment that commonly plagues our mature dogs is arthritis. There are many medications that can help relieve the pain of arthritis, but there are also some effective natural therapies.
Glucosamine and chondroitin have been studied and proven to be effective in alleviating the discomfort of mild arthritis. These naturally occurring compounds help block inflammation within the joints and help keep the joint fluid healthy, providing proper cushion within the joint. Feeding a diet that contains glucosamine and chondroitin may allow you to improve your dog’s mobility without administering a daily supplement.
Earlier above I mentioned L-carnitine and its ability to help the body convert fat into energy, promoting a lean body condition. Another feature of this nutrient is its ability to help the heart muscle work more efficiently, which is particularly important in older dogs.
Taurine is an amino acid that is required by cats. From recent studies we have learned that some dogs may also have a dietary requirement for taurine. For this reason, many of today’s better quality premium foods now include taurine in their ingredients. Dogs produce their taurine on their own from two other amino acids, cysteine and methionine. Some dogs are less efficient at using these two amino acids to make taurine, and may require more of these two amino acids to make enough. Lamb is lower in cysteine and methionine than other protein sources. As a result, when you have the combination of a dog that is inefficient at manufacturing taurine and a diet that is made from lamb, you may end up with a taurine deficiency. A taurine deficiency in dogs causes the same type of heart disease that it does in cats, dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM. The Veterinary Services Department at Drs. Fosters & Smith says about heart diseases the following: “In people, the phrase "heart attack" is generally used to mean coronary thrombosis (a blockage of the blood vessels in the heart with fatty deposits). Dogs and cats very rarely get this type of heart condition, although, they do get other cardiac diseases. The most common form of heart disease in cats is called "cardiomyopathy." This is a disease of the heart muscle itself. In the past, one type of cardiomyopathy (dilated cardiomyopathy (A heart condition in which the heart enlarges, but the heart muscle becomes thinner.)) was more common because cats were not receiving enough of the amino acid called taurine. Now, most cat foods contain sufficient taurine to prevent this type of cardiomyopathy. Dogs can also get cardiomyopathy, but are more prone to diseases of the valves of the heart. The valves of the heart are located between the different chambers of the heart (atria (The two chambers of the heart that receive blood. The right atrium receives blood from the body. The left atrium receives oxygenated blood from the lungs. ) and ventricles (The chambers of the heart that pump the blood to the body or lungs)). They prevent the blood from flowing backward through the heart. Diseases of the valves often result in heart murmurs.
Fatty acids play a role in several aspects of ideal nutrition. Omega-6 fatty acids are present in all pet foods, contributed by their primary fat source (such as for example chicken fat). Omega-3 fatty acids have to be provided by a special ingredient, and because they a. are more expensive, and b. are not listed as a required nutrient by AAFCO, many low end pet foods do not contain any omega-3 fatty acid sources. Flax seed is a natural plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. This ingredient should be added at the appropriate level to produce the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which is between 5 to 1 and 10 to 1.
Most pet owners know that fatty acids help keep the skin and the hair coat healthy. However there are additional benefits to omega-3 fatty acids affecting other systems within the body. They can help controlling skin inflammation associated with skin allergies. They are helpful in controlling joint inflammation associated with arthritis. They promote healthy kidney function and even may have a role in the prevention of some cancers.
Dogs with a healthy gastrointestinal system will enjoy better overall health. The right types of fiber in the right amounts will help your mature dog have a healthier gut. For example, dried chicory root and beet pulp are also known as pre-biotics. The digestion of pre-biotics produces short chain fatty acids, or SCFA’s. SCFA’s serve as the energy source for the cells in the intestines as well as for the beneficial bacteria throughout the digestive tract. As dogs age, their ability to digest certain nutrients may be compromised. With the inclusion of ingredients such as dried chicory root, beet pulp or other pre-biotics, senior dog formulas will help your older dog have a healthier digestive system.
As you see, it is relatively simple to feed your senior dog for optimal health, thereby making him/her enjoy their golden days. Protect the health of your maturing dog with good nutrition and good veterinary care. Senior check ups are recommended at 6-month intervals. Your veterinarian will be more likely to detect a health problem and correct it before it becomes more serious if you are taking your pet in for a veterinary visit at least two times a year.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Chemicals in pet food can lead to bad behavior, says top vet Part 1

Jonathan Owens of “The Independent UK” recently reported of British campaigners warning dog and cat owners of the health risks caused by additives in major pet food brands.
Millions of animal lovers are putting the health of their pets at risk by feeding them brand pet foods that are packed with additives and chemicals, according to a new, recently launched campaign.
Spearheaded by British TV vet Joe Inglis, the Campaign for Real Pet Food warns that the increasingly common behavioral issues in children, associated with some food additives, are also a problem with family pets.
Food allergies and intolerances are being cited as causes of bad behavior, such as hyperactivity, and illness in pets, warns the vet, whose concerns are backed by experts including clinical animal behaviorist Inga MacKellar, and dog behaviorist Carolyn Menteith.
Pet food manufacturers use general phrases, such as "meat and animal derivatives" and "EC permitted additives", in ingredient lists that hide the real content from pet owners.
Mr Inglis, who has his own line of natural pet food, said: "Some big brands are hoodwinking the public with the food that they put out and labeling in such a way so that pet owners cannot make an informed choice. Profits are being put before the welfare of pets and it's irresponsible to be using all these artificial additives in pet foods when there is so much anecdotal evidence that they cause harm."
The term "EC permitted additives" covers a list of about 4,000 chemicals. Some artificial colors have been shown to cause hyperactivity, while others have the potential to cause tumors, as have antioxidants including BHA.
Mr Inglis added: "Over the 12 years I've been a practicing vet, I have seen a substantial rise in cases of problems caused by poor diet, including allergies and intolerances, and behavioral issues linked to artificial additives in food."
The campaign has already secured the support of British celebrities including Dragon's Den entrepreneur Deborah Meaden. The businesswoman, who has 23 pets, including two dogs, said: "With so much emphasis on 'we are what we eat', it's about time we knew exactly what we were feeding our pets, too."
The British designer Bruce Oldfield, who cooks fresh cod, potatoes and vegetables daily for his dogs, also attacked pet food manufacturers. "I'm pretty careful what I put into my own body, so I think it's outrageous that the pet food industry should be allowed to act in a less than transparent way," he said.
A spokesperson for the British Pet Food Manufacturers' Association, however, said there was no evidence that pet food caused behavioral problems in animals.
"The use of additives in pet food is strictly regulated by the EU," he said. "The authorization process is rigorous and food/pet food additives are regularly reviewed to ensure safety. Consumers want reassurance on additives, but not full listing. There is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence currently available, or that we are aware of, to suggest a link between behavioral problems in pets and additives in pet food."
But in an attempt to prove the case against mass produced pet food containing additives, Mr Inglis plans to run a trial with a group of 30 hearing dogs for the deaf later this year. Half will be fed on a natural diet during their training, over several months, and half will be given food with additives. The dogs will be assessed for any differences in behavior and performance.
Already then, you may say now, but this only talks about pet food in England. How does all of that relate to us pet owners in the States?
Well, knowing that you are going to throw that argument at me, I proactively did some research on the issue here in the US. It sure didn’t come as a surprise to me that there are plenty of reasons why we should be concerned about exactly the same issue here in our home land. If one reads as many pet food labels as I do, too many of those questionable ingredients sound too familiar. Stay tuned for soon to follow part 2 on this topic when I am going to address this issue and talk about chemicals and additives in American pet food.