Saturday, January 24, 2009

Watch your dog to see if you are buying the right pet food

Here’s a common dilemma: Consumers faced with a bewildering array of dog food options, each carrying a carefully crafted rationale designed to convince them that this is the pet food for their much loved pooch. Without a degree in veterinary science, how can they sleep at night with an easy conscience, knowing that they are feeding Fido the right food?
They should take heart. Just as sophisticated computers still can’t match the cleverness of the human brain, all the jargon and lab tests in the world can’t beat what their eyes can plainly see if they’re observant.
Here are some of the more obvious ways that a dog food reveals its contribution or otherwise to a dog’s well being:
Coat: A good pet food will help to stimulate a thick and shiny coat.
Eyes and Ears: Ear infections and goopy eyes can indicate a dietary intolerance.
Skin: Itchy skin or paws can also indicate a problem with the diet.
Wind: Occasional flatulence is common and natural but constant bouts can point to a diet that may be inadequate in terms of quality and indigestible content. Dogs are not well equipped to metabolize carbohydrates which can ferment in the intestine and create some interesting aromas.
Vitality: On a high quality meat based diet, as opposed to a high carbohydrate diet, it should be apparent that their dog is generally consuming less quantity, producing less stool volume and is more healthy and active.
Unfortunately, you can’t judge a pet food by what a dog is prepared to eat because dogs don’t always know what’s good for them. Ice cream is a good example.
There appear to be two schools of thought when it comes to making pet food. One is driven by the formulators who want a palatable product which meets the basic legal nutritional requirements at the lowest cost. There’s no shortage of manufacturers in this category. If you consider that the basic protein level needed to comply with regulations is only around 18% and fat around 8%, that leaves tons of room to bulk out the remainder with inexpensive carbohydrates and by-products¹.
The other school focuses on achieving optimum health. It puts ingredient quality at the top of the list and prices the product accordingly. These are the people that insist that every ingredient is the best they can possibly lay their hands o, companies that opt for a high meat content, no preservatives, colorings, fillers or grains, and processes that preserve original nutritional value.
In pet food, as in most other products, you get what you pay for. If what the pet food dog owners are buying is cheap, chances are the ingredients are cheap. If they are currently using a pet food for their dog that is at the cheaper end, they should try a high meat content pet food for a change (remembering to gradually introduce it) and keep their eyes open for some pleasing results.
¹Nancy Kerns - Why We Like Whole Foods. The Whole Food Dog Journal, February 2005
Contributed by Mike Hodge

Friday, January 23, 2009

Scary Crystal Ball for Pet Owners: Profit hungry pet food manufacturers getting creative

As if we don’t have to worry enough about commercial mass produced pet food and its sometimes more or less mysterious, disease causing ingredients, here are a couple articles I read and figured a better share them with pet owners. The future apparently has not too much good to look forward to.
Stefanie Pes, Consultant and writer for Mediatic, a communications agency serving the pet industry in January 09 wrote in her article “Protein Alternatives” for the Petfood Industry:
“Though worldwide prices of key pet food ingredients such as corn and rice have declined in recent months, dramatic increases a year ago cascaded to the food and feed chain. Prices of animal proteins and fats remain high.
"Pet food players are facing unprecedented challenges highly connected to the raw material issue," states Geert van der Valden, sales manager of Sonac, a leading European supplier of ingredients derived from slaughter by-products. It is part of the Ingredients division of the Vion Food Group, based in the Netherlands.
Pet food companies need flexible, reliable partners enabling them to fulfill customer requests such as finding alternative solutions, diversifying for competitive advantage, being more creative and looking for a "second generation of raw materials," van der Valden adds.
This is especially true for materials that are not as available as before or have increased greatly in price. For example, Kerapro is a newly developed product from feathers, with better quality, improved digestibility and bioavailability than feather meal, says Jarig Komrij, sales manager for dry pet food. It’s also high in protein and low in ash content.
In Sonac’s view, innovation includes picking up on trends and market opportunities, so the company is closely watching the hypoallergenic market. Although Sonac still has "exotic" protein sources such as lamb and duck meal in its portfolio, it’s looking at what it considers the next and best solution: hydrolized proteins.
These proteins—also called peptides—are cut in small pieces so the body does not recognize them as proteins and the allergic reaction does not occur. "Then we look to functionality," says van der Valden, citing examples such as plasma powder and gelatin based binders. "We are also focusing on gelatin hydrolizates for joint problems, an alternative to products like chondroitin sulfate."”
I looked up “Hydrolized Protein” on Wikipedia, there it says: “Hydrolyzed protein is protein that has been hydrolyzed or broken down into its component amino acids. While there are many means of achieving this, two of the most common are prolonged boiling in a strong acid or strong base or using an enzyme such as the pancreatic protease enzyme to stimulate the naturally-occurring hydrolytic process.
According to the FDA, hydrolyzed protein is used to enhance flavor and contains monosodium glutamate. When added this way, the labels are not required to list MSG as an ingredient.”
To me it sounds all very chemical. And chemical as far as I know doesn’t spell like natural. I guess I have to go back to the drawing board and do some more research, but something makes me just feel, shall I say not so good?
On another note but related to “Scared of the future”, on 12/29/09 Petfood Industry on its website reported under the heading “Supermarket Waste to be turned into pet food”
“Waste food from Sainsbury's supermarket stores in Northern Ireland is to be turned into pe tfood, animal feed and other materials instead of going in to a landfill, says Lawrence Christensen, head of Sainsbury's environmental action team.
It is the first step in a commitment made by Sainsbury’s to end the use of landfill sites. The company aims to have no food waste going to landfill by next spring, and no waste of any kind ending up in landfill by the end of 2009.”
If they do it over there then it is probably just a question of time when manufacturers get creative and possibly implement similar processes here in the US. Especially since we know from the first article that they are desperately looking for ways to satisfy demand for shareholder’s returns.
All together both articles tell me we have nothing to look forward to. Pure greed for profit will succeed over health concerns for our pets. Which don’t seem to exist on the minds of the companies I am talking about here. What bothers me too is the fact that it is all going to be blamed on the rising cost for base ingredients. But in my mind nothing could be further from the truth. If that is such a problem, then why are prices increased with great consistency? To pass on these increased cost to the consumer. If you recall, in my comment “Outlook: Pet food prices 2009” I talked about substantial revenue increases for the super market and mass market pet food manufacturers during the last months of 2008. Quite a good slice of that increase had to be contributed to increased prices. Therefore I conclude it is not decreased profits which are to be blamed for the frightening plans of those people in charge here. Sounds to me more like pure greed. So that there is no misunderstanding: I have absolutely no problem with companies making money. I am a business guy and perfectly not just understand but believe in that concept that it has to make sense to be in business, i.e. a profit has to be generated. What I do have a problem with is if attempts are being made to accomplish that goal at any price, even if it means the health of our companion animals.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Salmonella infected Peanut Butter: Risk to animals minimal, more likely to affect people

Just as I clicked the “Publish” button on my comment about the PetSmart treat recall related to the peanut butter problem, I came across this report published by CNN. According to the article, the apparent risk to animals is minimal, but it could affect people who handle treats. Outbreak of salmonella has sickened at least 486 people and killed six. Here is the complete article:

“Pet treats recalled in salmonella outbreak
(CNN) -- PetSmart is recalling seven of its Grreat Choice dog biscuit products because they contain peanut products made by a company that has been linked to a salmonella outbreak in 43 states and Canada, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.
Dr. Stephen Sundlof, a veterinarian who is the director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said that the risk to animals is minimal but that people who handle contaminated treats could come in contact with the salmonella bacteria.
"It's especially important that children wash their hands after feeding treats to pets" because the bacteria could be on the surface, Sundlof said.
Sundlof said dogs aren't immune to salmonella and in some cases could get sick. They may be lethargic or get bloody diarrhea. On the other hand, they may never show symptoms at all but could still carry the bacteria.
The outbreak of salmonella typhimurium has sickened at least 486 people, killing six, and has been linked to products manufactured by the Peanut Corp. of America in its Blakely, Georgia, plant.
PetSmart said it "is not aware of any reported cases of illness related to these products" but has removed the products from the shelves as a precautionary measure.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say that of the nearly 500 people sickened, 107 have been hospitalized. The most recent death was recorded Saturday.
The first illnesses were reported September 8, and the most recent illness was reported January 8. The CDC still considers it an ongoing outbreak.
The CDC does not consider salmonella typhimurium any more virulent than any other strain. The strain "is not more or less than we would expect in a normal outbreak," said Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases.
The FDA had reported that some of the samples from the Georgia plant tested positive for salmonella. On Wednesday, it said one sample was found in a crack of a floorboard near a bathroom and another was found on the floor near pallets in another room. Neither sample tested positive for the specific strain found in the sickened people, however.
Sundlof said the lack of a match makes no difference from a regulatory point of view.
"Those salmonella are not supposed to be there. Having salmonella in the plant is not supposed to happen, regardless if it's the same strain or not," he said.
Peanut butter produced by Peanut Corp. in Georgia is not sold in individual jars in grocery stores, health officials say. However, it is sold to institutions such as nursing homes, schools and cafeterias. Peanut Corp. also produces peanut paste, which is commonly used in cookies, crackers, cake, ice cream and other products, including the Grreat Choice dog biscuits.
Peanut Corp. released a statement Wednesday stating that the company is cooperating with federal and state officials and that it "will address the agency's findings when they are shared with us."
"To date, we have nothing in writing from the agency that documents its findings that result from its ongoing investigation and testing onsite at our facility. We trust that at some point they will share this with us, and PCA will respond accordingly."
Minnesota health officials were the first to link the specific strain of salmonella that made three people ill in one nursing home to an open 5-pound container of peanut butter. Then Connecticut health officials found the same strain in an unopened tub of Peanut Corp.-produced peanut butter.
After interviewing 57 sick people and 399 healthy people, CDC officials found "an association of illness and prepackaged peanut butter crackers in general." These people had consumed specific brands of products, particularly the Austin and Keebler brands, which are manufactured by the Kellogg Co. and have been recalled.
CDC officials recommend that consumers who are uncertain about a product throw out all recalled products. They also suggest avoiding any other products they think could contain ingredients manufactured by Peanut Corp. until they are certain they aren't being recalled.
About 125 products have been recalled. The FDA maintains a regularly updated list at its Web site.
The Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, issued a news release calling for "President Obama to appoint a new FDA commissioner as soon as possible to address peanut butter contamination and a growing list of other food safety problems." “

Nationwide Peanut Butter Recall trickles down into the Pet Food Business

I guess it was just a question of time to see this coming: The currently ongoing pretty substantial recall involving peanut butter products finally affects pet products as well. The market segment mostly concerned and possibly containing the recalled product is the treat sector. Today PetSmart became the front runner, voluntarily recalling its Grreat Choice Dog Biscuits since they apparently contain peanut paste made by PCA (Peanut Butter Corporation of America), the main company involved with the recall. I am sure there will be more to follow. Earlier today I sent out e-mails inquiring with our manufacturers of peanut butter treats about their status and involvement. What sort of upsets me is that it is going to take quite a while to get answers. These days everybody is horrified and scared of legal consequences by saying just one wrong word, so everything going out to the public and concerned consumers and pet owners will have to be blessed by legal advisors. Though I have to say I already did receive one reply, Sojos officially states that its peanut butter products are not involved and safe. I hope all my other manufacturers will follow with the same answer. PetSmart in its official press release stated that as of time and date of its press release they were not aware of any reported cases of illness related to the recalled product. However, as a precautionary measure all product was removed off the shelves and their website.
Let’s talk a little salmonella here: Usually when we talk or hear about salmonella infections it involves meats and raw foods. As a matter of fact, salmonella infection is one of the first arguments which is usually brought up against raw food by those who believe (contrary to facts and truth) there are better feeding solutions. According to the CDC (Department of Health & Human Services Center for Disease Control & Prevention) signs of a salmonella infection are as follows: “Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12–72 hours after infection. Infection is usually diagnosed by culture of a stool sample. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Although most people recover without treatment, severe infections may occur. Infants, elderly persons, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely than others to develop severe illness. When severe infection occurs, Salmonella may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and then to other body sites and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.” The FDA says on its website: “In an effort to prevent the transmission of Salmonella from pets to family members and care givers, the FDA recommends that everyone follow appropriate pet food handling guidelines when feeding their pets. People may risk Salmonella infection not only by handling these pet foods, but also by contact with pets or other surfaces exposed to these foods, so it is important that they thoroughly wash their hands with hot water and soap. Anyone who is experiencing the symptoms of Salmonella or Listeria infection after having handled the recalled product should seek medical attention. … Healthy cats and dogs rarely become sick from Salmonella. Animals ill with Salmonella will display symptoms similar to the ones listed above for humans. People who have concerns about whether their pet has Salmonella or not should contact their veterinarian.”
The FDA also publishes “FDA Tips for Preventing Food borne Illness Associated with Pet Food and Pet Treats: FDA is informing consumers of steps they can take to help prevent food borne illness, including Salmonella-related illness, when handling pet foods and treats. Pet food and treats, like many other types of foods, can be susceptible to harmful bacterial contamination. During calendar year 2007, 15 pet products have been recalled due to Salmonella contamination; however, to date none of these products have been directly linked to human illness. Salmonella in pet foods and treats can cause serious infections in dogs and cats, and, if there is cross contamination, in people too, especially children, the aged, and people with compromised immune systems. Salmonella in pet food and treats can potentially be transferred to people ingesting or handling contaminated pet food and treats. While the FDA has stepped up its efforts to minimize the incidence of food borne illness associated with pet foods and treats, it’s important that consumers be mindful of the potential risks. Pet owners and consumers can reduce the likelihood of infection from contaminated pet foods and treats by following some simple, safe handling instructions. Click here for more details such as buying, preparation and storage tips and raw food diets in general.
Altogether it sounds to me as if we got a relatively new situation on hand here since all information I have found so far deal with salmonella related to raw food and meat only. I will keep searching for more and try to keep everybody updated on the current recall. To me the most important thing about preventing salmonella when dealing with raw food is cleanliness. And it appears to me as if this simple piece of advice was not adhered to somewhere along the production of any of these recalled peanut butter products.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How much meat is really in that bag of pet food?

When people begin the search for better dry foods for their animals they’re often told “Look for more meat!” We certainly think that a meat-based diet is best for dogs and cats – as long as the food is balanced with the necessary vitamins, minerals and fatty acids – but a meat-based diet is not what you find in a bag of dry food, no matter what the label says! The purpose of this article is to help you evaluate the amount of meat in dry pet foods, to look at a few of the common ideas about buying “healthier” foods, and to assist you in getting more fresh meat into your animal’s diet the best way: adding it yourself.
The weight of ingredients determines the order in which they are listed on the label
The rules about labeling allow ingredients with the same weight to be listed together. The manufacturer can choose the order of ingredients. For example, if a formula is 15% by weight meat, rice, wheat, and rice flour, the manufacturer usually lists the meat first. The label will read “meat, rice, wheat, rice flour….” Look closely at all the grain sources when you read an ingredient panel for pet food. If you see three grain sources after the meat, that food is mostly grain, and the manufacturer is playing the “meat first” game.
Should “Real Meat” come first on the label?
Manufacturers use two types of meat in their dog and cat foods: real meat and meat meal. Meat meal is the meat with the water removed for ease of handling and production. One pound of chicken yields about .3 pounds of chicken meal.
Production managers prefer to work with meat meals, not real meats. Real meat is a tricky ingredient for manufacturers. Because it is mostly water, meat causes problems in production, and it also requires significant amounts of freezer space, which most pet food plants do not have. Meat meals are easier to use and store than real meat. Marketing departments want meat listed first, and they often dictate which ingredients are used.
The marketing departments of some of the leading premium dry pet foods have taught us to look for real meat in their dry pet foods, or, at least, meat listed first on the label. This is not necessarily good advice.
In theory, it seems that real “Chicken” or “Lamb” should head the list of ingredients on a pet food label. Labels of “healthy foods” tell us that “Real Meat! Never Been Frozen” is included, and it looks like this must be the major ingredient. This is not always the case! All the water is still in the chicken or lamb, and not in any of the other ingredients. If the water were removed from the chicken, it would weigh 60 - 75% less. Based upon its dry matter (DM) weight, it may move far down the ingredient list.
Formula One: Chicken, Ground Rice, Rice Flour...
There are three major ingredients In the “Real Meat” formula above. In many of the formulas we’ve seen, the first three ingredients all have the same amount by weight – each would represent about 25- 30% of the formula. On a dry matter basis, this food may have very little meat protein in it. Even if it’s 30% “real” chicken, on a dry matter basis it’s only about 7-8% chicken! Most of the protein comes from grain and other non-meat protein sources. The “meat first” does not add a lot to the protein level of the food, but it makes the food attractive to consumers.
This does not mean that all "real meat first" foods have low meat content on a dry matter basis. The quality brands usually have, besides fresh chicken, some chicken meal to enhance the meat based protein sources.
Formula Two: Chicken meal, ground rice, rice flour…
This food, on the other hand, probably has much more meat protein than the last example. On a dry matter basis, this has at least 25-30% meat – perhaps three times as much meat as the previous example.
“Look for two or more meat sources in the first five ingredients”: is there really more meat?
This advice, often seen in articles on how to choose healthy foods, is intended to be an easy way to sort out the “more meat” food from those that use mostly grain or soy to boost their protein levels. However, having meat listed two times does not necessarily mean more meat.
Formula Three: chicken, ground rice, rice flour, poultry fat, chicken meal….
The first four ingredients may be 95% of the formula. The chicken meal may be there so the sales person can say “we have two types of meat in the first five ingredients – more meat.”
“Meat First” with dry ingredients: How much lamb, how much rice?
Formula Four: Lamb meal, Ground Rice, Rice Flour, Rice bran, … rice gluten
Above are the main ingredients of a popular, simple, lamb and rice “healthy” dry food. Rice and rice parts are listed four times. There may be the same amount of lamb meal as ground rice, rice flour, and rice bran, because they are listed in order. Each might each contribute the same weight to the formula. The rice gluten listed further down the line is pure protein, and is a contributor to the protein level of the food, which allows the manufacturer to use less meat meal. This food may contain greater than three times more rice than lamb.
The protein doesn’t all come from meat!
Some of the protein content of all dry foods comes from the grain. For example, wheat can have 14% protein. It’s often used in dry food. Gluten, the protein in wheat, helps to hold food together and provides a boost to the protein level of the food that costs less than meat ingredients.
Want more meat? Add it yourself!
We think it’s wise to add fresh meat to dry foods. Dry foods are high in carbohydrates, and lower in protein than is the natural diet of dogs and cats. Meat adds protein, and therefore decreases the percentage of carbohydrate.
A typical maintenance dry food provides 50% or more of its calories as carbohydrate. The natural diet of a dog has about 14% of the calories coming from carbohydrate. Though dry cat foods are higher in protein than dog foods, they are far higher in carbohydrate than is optimum for a cat.
If you feed dry food, your animals will benefit from the addition of fresh meat and other foods. We recommend adding up to 15% (by volume) fresh, raw or lightly cooked meat to your animal’s diet. If you want to feed more fresh meat than this, learn to make your own fresh food diet, or purchase a commercially prepared complete meat-based diet. If your cat or dog is ill, we recommend that you consult with a veterinarian who is familiar with fresh food diets to help you.
We hope that this discussion will help you decide that no dry food can provide a meat-based diet! Our dogs and cats (and other carnivore companion animals) will be healthier and live longer if we feed them according to the needs of their species. (Contributed and © Steve Brown and Beth Taylor, Authors of “See Spot Live Longer”.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Holistic, Natural, Organic, Healthy?

"2009 is a brand new year in pet food." (At this point) "I" (would like to) "think it is safe to say that every manufacturer, distributor, store, and pet owner is committed to providing the absolute best nutrition for our pets." (Though I am not so sure about the commercial mass producing pet food manufacturers.) "Two years ago we saw a lot of media hype, some of which may have confused people more than it helped them." (Last years things seemed to have calmed down a little.) "Now it’s time to get back to helping our customers decipher and understand the different options available to them.
The most common requests heard in the stores this past year were for Organic, Natural, or Safe foods. Surprisingly, however, the least common terms used at the retail level were Holistic and Healthy. Even more surprising was the fact that a large number of people can’t define the differences between Holistic, Natural, Organic, and Healthy. Ask your sales representatives and customers to define those four terms and you’ll never get the same answer twice. In fact, most people will define one or more of those terms using one or more of the other terms. The most common answer given in response to the question “What does Natural mean?” is “Organic and Healthy”. We’ve blurred these terms together to the point that they don’t have any significant meaning anymore. It has become extremely important for us to focus on this product segment. Therefore, I think it is important to be able to understand the terms most commonly used in selling Holistic, Healthy, Organic, and Natural pet foods.
Definitions from and
Holistic - To treat something as a whole
Natural - Existing in or formed by nature, - To mimic what would occur in nature
Organic - Organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.
Healthy – conducive to promoting a good condition of the body
I find it interesting that only one of these terms, Organic, is precisely regulated in its usage. Therefore, each of us must decide how to apply this information to our product positioning. For example, holistic means “to treat something as a whole”. By this definition, a pet food is holistic if it deals with every health issue your pet faces. When using the word Natural in describing pet food, it is important to remember that the ingredients must come from nature and that the end product must mimic what the pet would eat in nature.
Organic describes the type of ingredients used in producing the pet food, however, there are 4 classifications of organic. Less than 70% organic may list organically grown ingredients on their panel. Foods containing 70% or more organic ingredients can use the term, “Made with Organic Ingredients” in their labeling. Foods containing 95% or more Organic ingredients may call themselves Organic. Foods using 100% Organic ingredients are the only foods that may use “100% Organic” in labeling. A fee is paid to the USDA in order to use the USDA Organic seal.
So what is healthy? The holistic market tends to avoid Corn, Wheat, and Soy. The overall perception is that these ingredients are not healthy. Let’s assume that an Organic pet food uses Organically grown wheat or soy as part of their ingredient listing. Would you consider that food to be healthy simply because it is Organic? What if we are trying to feed our pet a natural food. In nature, wild animals consume raw proteins. Can we consider a food to be natural if the proteins have been cooked?
It seems to me that the two least commonly used terms, Holistic and Healthy, seem to work hand in hand in their common goals. A Holistic diet looks to address every health issue your pet faces as a whole. Again, it is left to us to decide whether or not a food is holistic, regardless of its labeling. Skin, coat, hip, joint, and digestive issues are the most commonly discussed health issues in pet food. But what about kidney disease, liver disease, heart disease, circulatory issues, diabetes, cholesterol, eye sight, etc.? If a food does not address these issues, would you consider it to be Holistic?
The intention of this article was to help simplify the Holistic, Natural, Organic, Healthy debate. I have a feeling, however, that I’ve stirred up more questions than I’ve answered here. Each of us have our own opinions and we need to apply that to our marketing techniques. Hopefully, I’ve given you a strong foundation to base those opinions on. "
(Contributed by Jeff Baker, Founder & CEO of Canine Caviar Pet Foods)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nutrition for pregnant cats and dogs

Feeding for a successful pregnancy starts long before conception. Ideal body condition is critical for normal litter size and normal delivery of the pups. Less than ideal body condition can lead to failure of conception, small litters, or even loss of the pregnancy. Too much condition or fat can lead to difficulty delivering the puppies without intervention. Many people make the mistake of feeding too much during pregnancy and not enough during lactation. For the first two thirds of the pregnancy, approximately 42 days, energy requirements do not increase. A normal maintenance diet, fed at maintenance levels, is adequate to maintain good body condition. During the last one third of the pregnancy, approximately 21 days, fetal size greatly increases and body weight of the bitch should increase 25 to 30% over her starting weight. The necessary increase in food corresponds to this gain, she should eat 25 to 30% more by whelping. Some dogs with large litters have difficulty taking in enough calories because of the space the puppies are taking up in the abdomen. It is important to switch to a premium performance or puppy formula at this point. Large breed puppy formulas with restricted protein, fat, and calcium levels are inappropriate for pregnancy and lactation. Once the puppies are delivered, the bitch should still be 5 to10% above her pre pregnancy body weight. If not, she may be too thin to provide adequate milk to the puppies. Dogs, unlike cats, can increase their feed intake to increase milk production. Feeding free choice is important during lactation. Also, plenty of fresh water is critical. During the third and fourth week of lactation, a large breed dog can require as much as six liters of water per day. Many people want to administer calcium supplements to their pregnant bitch. This not only does not help, it may harm. Excess calcium predisposes to eclampsia or milk fever, hypocalcemia and dystocia, a difficult birth. A high quality, energy dense diet is all that is needed to provide the nutrition for a successful pregnancy and postpartum period. If you want to administer a supplement, check with your veterinarian. Certain supplements should be avoided during pregnancy, while others are acceptable.

Now let’s see what there is to know about felines. It is important for a female cat, called “queen” to be fully mature, which is usually 1 ½ years to 2 years of age and in good body condition prior to becoming pregnant. Queens that are underweight or overweight can have difficulties conceiving, carrying the pregnancy to term, or delivering live kittens unassisted. Queens should eat a growth or premium performance diet throughout pregnancy. Energy density of the diet would ideally be between 4 and 5 kcal/g dry matter. Queens have increased energy needs beginning with conception, unlike dogs. Their energy intake should be 25 to 50% above maintenance levels, but some cats may require up to a 70% increase over maintenance. Fresh water is important during pregnancy and lactation. Many queens will refuse to leave the nesting box immediately following the birth of the kittens, so it may be necessary to take food and water to her. Peak lactation occurs at 3 to 4 weeks post partum. Peak food intake by the queen usually occurs at 6 to 7 weeks post-partum, but this is thought to be partially because of increasing food intake by the kittens. At weaning, usually 6-8 weeks of age, the diet can gradually be switched back to a maintenance formula. Diets that are extremely acidified to prevent urinary tract disease, such as prescription urinary formulas, are not ideal to feed to pregnant queens or kittens. The acidifier in the diet may interfere with normal bone development of the kittens in utero and after weaning. If you have a cat that is being treated for urinary tract problems, it would be highly recommended that she be spayed and not allowed to become pregnant.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Pet Vaccinations: A sickening subject

If there is anything getting my blood boiling it is when I receive yet another call from my vet’s office in the mail: One of the seven pets is up for a vaccination again. And surprisingly, with having 5 cats and two dogs I need to see the vet about every two weeks or so. At least I get the impression that this is the case. This year they came even up with a great new and neat, or I’d say quite tricky idea: A wall calendar for the entire year clearly showing me every birthday. Of course cat and dog birthdays only. It really doesn’t help me to remember my wife’s or any other to her of the same importance relevant dates such as for example our wedding anniversary. I am getting better though, by now at least I can remember Valentine’s Day (that’s around the time when the History Channel shows its annual about Al Capone’s Valentine’s massacre in Chicago). Now, before I get carried away with my capabilities of memorizing what is more or less important to me or to others, let me come back to this new wall calendar. I am honest with you: I threw it in the trash. The calendar was not useable for me, i.e. there was no room for me to make any notes. All room was taken to remind me of yet another vaccination for any one of our beloved pets.
The entire incident made me decide to share with you what a dear friend of one of my pet buddies as a vet once had to say about the issue of vaccinating our pets. Dr. Larry Siegler, D.V.M. He writes in his article “The Truth about Vaccinations”:
“ Most guardians have never been told the truth about vaccinations. On the contrary, you are likely to get annual notices from your veterinarian that your companion is “due for their annual booster shots”. The evidence against vaccinating, however, is overwhelming. Most veterinarians just choose to ignore the research because they don’t want to lose the income from giving booster shots to all those animals each year.
Vaccinations represent a major stress to the immune system. They can not only cause side effects and allergic reactions, they also contribute significantly to long term chronic disease. Chronic health problems frequently appear following vaccination including skin allergies, arthritis, leukemia, upper respiratory infections, irritable bowel syndromes, neurological conditions including aggressive behavior and epilepsy, auto immune diseases and cancer.
I have been practicing veterinary medicine for over 20 years and I see sicker animals at a younger age now than when I began. It is more and more common to see cancer in dogs and cats under 5 years of age. Autoimmune diseases are on the rise as well. Our companions are suffering from generations of over vaccination, which combined with inadequate nutrition, poor breeding practices and environmental stresses are leaving each generation more susceptible to congenital disorders and chronic disease.
Vaccinations do help prevent serious illnesses, but they should be used with restraint. Before vaccinating, consider the risk. If your cat is indoor only and will never be exposed to unvaccinated animals, the risk of infection is low. The decision about vaccinations is very individual and should be guided by your own research on the subject before you go to the veterinarian.
Puppies and kittens should not be vaccinated until at least 12 weeks of age. Their developing immune systems are especially vulnerable to the stress of vaccines. Request individual vaccines and vaccinate at least three weeks apart if possible. Until 12 weeks of age keep your companion safe by avoiding exposure to public areas such as parks and pet stores. Keep them close to home and only expose them to animals you know are healthy. For puppies consider parvovirus and distemper at 12-15 weeks, and not until after 6 months of age for rabies. For kittens - consider one Panleukopenia combination (FRCP). Again, if available, give the vaccine components separately spaced three to four weeks apart. Feline leukemia and FIP vaccines may not be necessary for your cat. Consider its lifestyle and environment. IF your cats go outside and you have rabies in your area, give a rabies vaccine at six months of age. (Legal requirements vary from state to state.)
Vaccinations do not need “boosting”. Studies have shown that a single vaccination for parvovirus, distemper and panleukopenia results in long term protection from disease. Simple blood tests can determine if your companion’s antibody levels for parvovirus and distemper remain high enough to resist infection. Next time your veterinarian suggests a booster shot, request the blood test first. (Rabies may be required by law every three years. Check the regulations in your state.)
I do not recommend vaccinations for Bordetella, corona virus, leptospirosis or Lyme vaccines unless these diseases are endemic locally or at a specific kennel. The currently licensed leptospira bacterins do not contain the serovars causing the majority of clinical leptospirosis today, so it is generally not a useful vaccine.
Homeopathic Nosodes are an alternative some guardians are using when choosing not to vaccinate. They can also be used before three months of age if an animal is at risk. Many guardians use these homeopathic medicines to help protect their companions against Parvovirus, Distemper, Kennel Cough, Panleukopenia and FIP. Some nosodes seem to work more effectively than others. Homeopathic nosodes are not vaccinations. They do not produce titers against these diseases like a vaccination. They do seem to offer some protection by reducing the severity of illness if the animal is exposed, even if they don't prevent it.
Never vaccinate a sick or weakened animal. If your puppy or kitten is showing signs of allergies or skin problems, wait. Vaccinating an already compromised immune system is almost sure to compound the problem!
Educate yourself. Your veterinarian cannot make this decision for you, nor should they. You are your companion’s guardian. It is your responsibility to give them the best care you can by researching and carefully weighing your decisions about their healthcare.”
Dr. Siegler is not the only one stating his take on vaccinations so clearly. More and more of his peers seem to be willing to share his view and speak up against the nonsense going on in may vet offices. After reading the above I would say nobody can blame me for deciding against vaccinating. I will do whatever is minimally required by law and that’s it. There is plenty of other ways my pet can get ill and catch a disease. Like the wrong nutrition for example. And most of the times the exact same vets who are insisting so much on vaccinations are the ones who are trying to sell me their junky prescription food. Here’s an idea: If you guys (i.e. “these” vets) want job security, why don’t you try a government job? Or wherever else you may feel safe and secure. Just don’t make your living at the expense of my pet’s health.