Saturday, January 31, 2009

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: Healthy Dietary Building Blocks with Many Health Benefits

Omega- 3 and Omega- 6 fatty acids are important building blocks of a healthy diet. Learn how these essential fatty acids help prevent heart disease, decrease inflammation and strengthen the immune systems of both dogs and cats.
What are omega-3 fatty acids? Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fats, one of four basic types of fats that animals and humans derive from food. (Cholesterol, saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat are the others.) All polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3s, are increasingly recognized as being important to good health. Some doctors and scientists believe that consuming too many foods rich in saturated fats attributes to the development of degenerative diseases, including heart disease and even cancer. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, however, are healthy for animals and humans. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found primarily in cold-water fish, fall into this category, along with omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in grains, most plant-based oils, poultry and eggs.
Omega-3s (and one omega-6) are considered important fatty acids because they are critical for good health. They are essential building blocks your dog and cat needs for a healthy heart and strong immune system.
There are different types of omega-3 fatty acids. Key Omega-3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), both found primarily in oily cold water fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. Aside from fresh seaweed, plant foods rarely contain EPA or DHA. A third omega-3, called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is found primarily in dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oil and certain vegetable oils. ALA is not readily accessible to animals, which must use several enzymatic steps in their metabolism to convert it into a useful configuration like EPA. Thus, scientists estimate that only a small fraction of ALA benefits dogs; and cats totally lack one of the metabolic enzymes to utilize ALA. Some dogs, too are extremely poor in utilizing ALA, especially if high amounts of metabolically "competitive" Omega -6 fatty acids are present. These poor dogs constantly suffer with skin problems unless their food is supplemented with EPA from for example salmon oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve heart health in dogs, cats and humans. They play a part in keeping cholesterol levels low, stabilizing irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) and reducing blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids are also natural blood thinners, reducing the "stickiness" of blood cells (called platelet aggregation), which can lead to such complications as blood clots and stroke. Specifically, two papers reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with investigators from the University of California at San Francisco have shown levels of omega-3 fatty acids to be inversely correlated with the risk for coronary artery disease (CAD) and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help a dog or cat avoid arthritis and stiff jointsAs dogs and cats' age, their movement may become labored, their joints may stiffen and they may suffer from arthritis. These signs of inflammation can make them less comfortable and can greatly limit the amount of exercise they get. Scientific studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce joint stiffness, swelling, tenderness and overall fatigue. Numerous studies report that participants with inflammatory diseases who ingest omega-3s are more successful in combating arthritis.
"Fatty acids contained in fish such as salmon may prove to function as nature's own anti-depressants," says a study of 30 patients conducted by a research team headed by Andrew Stoll, M.D., director of the pharmacology research laboratory at Harvard University. The university's McLean Hospital found that some of the patients' symptoms of manic depression responded favorably to treatment with fish oil supplements. Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University in Toyama, Japan, showed one omega-3 acid, DHA, to prevent an increase in extra aggression during periods of stress.Omega-3 fatty acids, both DHA and EPA, are found in fatty fish, including salmon and cod. They may work by increasing serotonin levels, thus boosting neurotransmitter activity, as do anti-depressants such as Prozac. They may also help by restocking the outer brain cells, which receive chemical signals.
Medical research shows omega fatty acids have health benefits. Scientists made one of the first associations between omega-3 fatty acids and good health while studying the Inuit (Eskimo) people of Greenland in the 1970s. As a group, the Inuit suffered far less from certain diseases (coronary heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus, psoriasis) than their European counterparts. Yet their diet is very high in fat from eating whale, seal, salmon and other fish.Eventually researchers realized that these foods were all rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which provided real disease-countering benefits.
Omega 3s help prevent discomforts related to inflammation. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Raynaud's disease and other autoimmune diseases greatly decrease quality of life. Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish oils) have been shown to increase survival in people with autoimmune diseases. This is probably because the omega-3s help the arteries, as well as many other parts of the body stay inflammation free. EPA and DHA are successful at this because they can be converted into natural anti-inflammatory substances called prostaglandins and leukotrienes, compounds that help decrease inflammation and pain. In 1998, an exciting review of well-designed, randomized clinical trials reported that omega-3 fatty acids were more successful than a placebo ("dummy drug") in improving the condition of people with rheumatoid arthritis. The research also showed that getting more omega-3 fatty acids enabled some participants to reduce their use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Friday, January 30, 2009

Pancreatitis in Cats & Dogs Part 1: Introduction, causes, symptoms & diagnosis

The pancreas (image) is an organ in the body located next to the small intestine just after the stomach. It has two primary functions. It is an integral part of the digestion of food and it is the primary organ responsible for regulation of blood sugar in the body. When the pancreas is diseased, it can result in a very painful and debilitating condition called acute pancreatitis (Image). Disease of the pancreas may also cause diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) or chronic pancreatic insufficiency, EPI. (Image) EPI results in the inability of the body to digest foods properly. Pancreatitis has been documented in dogs for many years. Until recently it was not thought to exist in cats. We are now recognizing this disease more frequently in cats due to better diagnostic aids.
A recent study has shown that acute pancreatitis. is almost as frequent in cats as dogs. Chronic forms are more common than acute forms. Pancreatic insufficiency and pancreatic cancer are less common than inflammatory disease. Other forms of pancreatic disease in cats are cysts and pancreatic parasites.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas resulting from auto digestion by prematurely activated zymogens.(1) It is the most common disorder of the canine exocrine pancreas and is being diagnosed more frequently in cats as awareness increases and diagnostic tools improve.(1,2) The disease can be classified as acute (reversible following removal of inciting cause) or chronic (irreversible changes from on-going inflammation), and mild or moderate to severe.(1) Cats tend to have more of a chronic disease than dogs.(2) The diagnosis of pancreatitis is usually presumptive, as pancreatic biopsy is not always an option. Although several diagnostic tests have been advocated for use in the diagnosis of pancreatitis, many of them are not sensitive enough to be clinically useful.
The main causes of acute pancreatitis may be caused from an on-going or long-term viral infection, poor diet, stress and from certain medications. Symptoms of acute pancreatitis are similar to chronic pancreatitis. Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis can include, but are not limited to moderate to severe abdominal pain, nausea, fever, reduced mental acuteness, abdominal swelling, weight loss and fatty stools. Symptoms of an acute pancreatitis or inflammation are abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, weakness, anxiety, fever, abdominal gaseous fullness, abdominal indigestion, chills, fatty stools, anxiety and weight loss.
The Merck Veterinary Manual defines as causes of the disease: “Pancreatitis in dogs can be caused by a high fatty diet, eating a large fatty meal at one sitting, obesity, an underlying condition, some medications, and genetics. For example, some dogs that are fed pork products or dark chocolate develop pancreatitis as a result of the sudden amount of fats that enter the body. In some cases the cause of pancreatitis is termed ‘idiopathic’ meaning the cause of the condition remains unknown.”
Dr. Laura West, D.V.M. and Dr. Frederic Almy, D.V.M. write in their abstract “Diagnosing Pancreatitis in Dogs and Cats by Laboratory Methods”: “The underlying cause of most cases of pancreatitis is usually unknown in both dogs and cats; however, there is a considerable list of associated risk factors. Obese animals as well as animals fed a diet high in fat are more prone to developing pancreatitis.(1,3) Hyperlipidemia has been associated with pancreatitis, although it is unclear whether it is a result of the pancreatitis or part of the cause. Certain breeds of dogs are considered predisposed to developing pancreatitis, such as the miniature schnauzer or terrier breeds.(1,3) A large number of drugs and drug classes have been thought to cause pancreatitis in people, but a direct causal relationship has not been established. Drugs used in veterinary medicine that may be associated with pancreatitis are numerous and include L-asparaginase, azathioprine, estrogen, furosemide, potassium bromide, salicylates, sulfonamides, tetracyclines, thiazide diuretics and vinca alkaloids, among others.(1,3)
Additional causes or risk factors for pancreatitis include exposure to scorpion venom, zinc toxicosis, hypercalcemia, congenital anomalies of the pancreatic duct system, reflux from the duodenum into pancreatic ducts (secondary to surgical creation of a closed duodenal loop, blunt trauma, or vomiting), surgical manipulation (rare), pancreatic ischemia and endocrinopathies (hypothyroidism, diabetes mellitus, hyperadrenocorticism).(1,3)
In cats, toxoplasma gondii and Amphimerus pseudofelineus (hepatic fluke) have an established causal relationship with pancreatitis. Feline infectious peritonitis and panleukopenia have also been implicated. As in the dog, blunt trauma, surgical manipulation and ischemia can result in pancreatitis. Organophosphate intoxication and inflammatory diseases of the liver and intestines are also implicated as causes.(2,3)
In the normal pancreas, proteolytic and phospholipolytic enzymes are synthesized, stored and secreted as inactive zymogens and it is these enzymes that are utilized in the majority of diagnostic tests for pancreatitis. The pancreatic zymogens are only activated once they are cleaved, a process which does not normally occur until they reach the small intestine. Once in the small intestine, enteropeptidases from duodenal enterocytes cleave trypsinogen to make trypsin, which can then activate other zymogens.(1)
Pancreatitis is the end result of a cascade of events but is ultimately caused by the autodigestion of the pancreas.(4) Current literature suggests that this cascade of events begins with a decrease in secretion of pancreatic enzymes in response to some noxious stimulus.(4) Subsequent to the decreased secretory activity, abnormal fusion of lysosomes and zymogen granules results in premature, intrapancreatic activation of trypsinogen.(1,4)
When premature activation of trypsinogen occurs, there are mechanisms in place which limit the activation of other zymogens. First, trypsin is very effective at hydrolyzing itself. Second, pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor is synthesized, stored and secreted with the digestive enzymes. If significant activation of trypsin occurs within the acinar cell or duct system, this molecule will inhibit trypsin activity. Additionally, α-macroglobulin and α1-proteinase inhibitor are protease inhibitors in the plasma.1 However, once inhibitory mechanisms are overwhelmed, more zymogens become activated, inflammatory mediators and free radicals are released, and pancreatitis develops.(1)
Common clinical signs in dogs with acute pancreatitis include anorexia (91%), vomiting (90%), weakness (79%), and abdominal pain (58%).(1,5) Abdominal palpation may reveal a cranial abdominal mass.(1,3) A retrospective study of 70 cases of acute canine pancreatitis reported dehydration in 97%, icterus in 26%, fever in 32%, abdominal pain in 58%, and obesity in 43% of dogs at the time of initial examination.(5) Other systemic complications can include respiratory distress, bleeding disorders and cardiac arrhythmias.(1,3)
On the other hand, cats have extremely variable histories and clinical signs. More typical clinical signs include anorexia (97%), lethargy (100%), and dehydration (92%).(6) Vomiting and abdominal pain, while common in the dog, are less frequently reported in the cat (35% and 25%, respectively).(6) Other clinical signs reported include hypothermia, dyspnea, diarrhea, ataxia, and weight loss.(6) Pancreatitis in cats has a tendency to occur with certain other diseases, such as cholangiohepatitis/cholestasis, nephritis, diabetes mellitus, and inflammation or ulceration of the intestines.(2,3)
The cause for acute pancreatitis in most cases is not known. Several cases have been reported that were caused by trauma, abscessation of the pancreas, ingestion of certain food borne toxins, and of pancreatic duct obstruction. In cats, infectious agents such as toxoplasma, herpes virus, FIP, and feline parvo virus may cause pancreatitis. Some cases of liver disease may also cause pancreatitis, such as cholangiohepatitis and fatty liver disease in cats. Clinical signs are non-specific. Fever, rapid heart rate and vomiting, abdominal pain were observed as well as lethargy loss of appetite, and dehydration. Other signs include respiratory distress, and icterus (jaundice). Diagnosis is made by history, clinical signs, x-ray and ultrasonography. The latter is most helpful in the diagnosis. A blood test called the trypsin-like immunoreactivity (TLI) has been very helpful in the diagnosis of the disease. High blood sugar levels are also common with the disease in cats and some cats become diabetic following recovery from acute episodes of pancreatitis. Newer tests are now available, but the tests are still not one hundred percent reliable. Most of the diagnostics are performed by clinical signs. Ultrasound is proving to be invaluable in the process of ruling out other diseases.
The most common cause of pancreatic insufficiency is chronic pancreatitis. With chronic pancreatitis there is an absence of digestive enzymes. Therefore, food will pass through the digestive tract without being absorbed. Thus, a form of malabsorbtion of food occurs. This form of pancreatitis in cats is commonly accompanied by diabetes since both the digestive as well as the insulin producing cells of the pancreas are involved. Clinical signs of chronic pancreatitis include soft, pale and voluminous stools, weight loss, greasy soiling of the area around the rectum, and sometimes the entire hair coat.
Note: Treatment of animals should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian.
Merck Veterinary Manual
Laura D. West, DVM and Frederic S. Almy, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVP
VCA Columbia Animal Hospital
Images: Hill’s pet Food
1. Williams DA, Steiner JM. Canine Exocrine Pancreatic Disease. In Ettinger SJ, Feldman EC (eds): Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Diseases of the Dog and Cat, 6th ed. St. Louis, Elsevier Saunders, 2005, pp. 1482-1487.
2. Steiner JM, Williams DA. Feline Exocrine Pancreatic Disease. In Ettinger SJ, Feldman EC (eds): Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Diseases of the Dog and Cat, 6th ed. St. Louis, Elsevier Saunders, 2005, pp. 1489- 1491.
3. Simpson, KW. Diseases of the Pancreas. In Tams T. (ed): Handbook of Small Animal Gastroenterology, 2nd ed. St. Louis, W. B. Saunders Co, 2003, pp. 353-365.
4. Steiner JM. Diagnosis of acute pancreatitis. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 2003; 33: 1181-1195.
5. Hess RS, Saunders HM, Van Winkle TJ, et al. Clinical, clinicopathologic, radiographic, and ultrasonographic abnormalities in dogs with acute pancreatitis: 70 cases (1986-1995). J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998 Sep1; 213(5): 665-70.
6. Hill RC, Van Winkle TJ. Acute necrotizing pancreatitis and acute suppurative pancreatitis in the cat. A retrospective study of 40 cases (1976-1989). J Vet Intern Med 1993; 7: 25-33.

Recall Alert Update 01/30/09

Please check the Recall Alert for important updates posted today as the list of peanut butter related recalls of pet products possibly contaminated with salmonella is growing

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pets in Detox

Detox: Though the word actually means something good, it always has some negative touch to it. When humans go through detoxification, they usually are at the end of a bad habit, like any dependency of drugs, alcohol or nicotine and have started a new life free of the bad stuff. This new start and the experience the body has to go through during the period starting right at the beginning of a life without having any of these poisons supplied anymore is called detoxification. Ok, you may say, my dog doesn’t get high, does not smoke nor does he addicted to alcohol. So what does the term have to do with animals and what does it mean when we say our pet is going through detoxification? The term is usually applied when one changes the feeding habits for a domesticated cat or dog.
The majority of pets in this fast paced world of convenience items is being fed some type and kind of commercially mass produced and marketed diet, either canned or dry food. In addition this is usually the case for a long time in the pet’s life span. As we all know by now, such commercially manufactured foods are filled with additives, sugars, preservatives, dangerous chemicals and all kinds of other garbage, all not so healthy for the animal. Additionally, many pets due to this kind of dietary regiment become victims to illness and disease. Now, under veterinary supervision they are being treated with all kinds of medications, antibiotics, etc..
Then, after reading this and many other blogs, after countless hours of research on the Internet, after talking to numerous fellow pet owners, pet owning family members and friend, one day we all come to realization that this misery has to stop. And we decide to start a new life for the animal. A healthy life in a world of all natural, fresh and wholesome nutrition.
But then, how disappointing, by doing so, during the transition and at the very beginning of this new feeding style we notice that our pet gets sick. Now what did we do wrong? What is causing the problem?
The fact that the animal gets sick is actually quite normal. Every pet reacts to a new diet in a different way depending on age, health, and how long they were given commercial unhealthy diets. The symptoms may range from nonexistent, to mild or even severe. Some symptoms possibly to be noticed are: Diarrhea, vomiting, itchy skin, oozing skin, ear infections, eye discharge, anal gland problems, and more. What is going on? Well, these reactions are a reflection of how the animal’s body is getting rid of the toxins accumulated during the previous years of being fed a wrong diet.
Relax. There is no reason to be alarmed if you notice some of these things happening to your pet at first. It is actually a classic example of something that must get worse before it can get better. The body is healing itself from the inside out. Once the detoxifying process is concluded, these symptoms will disappear and you will have a healthier, happier pet. The symptoms should not last more than 2 weeks, provided your pet is relatively disease free at the beginning. Pets with histories of health related problems may experience longer episodes of detox. If the detoxification symptoms should persist or become worse I strongly suggest to see your vet, better yet, get in touch with a holistic vet. By the way, talking things over with your vet is always a good idea. Especially if you are making such a drastic change to your pet’s life. Just be open minded and try to see behind the reasons why your vet may advise you not to make such a change. I’d say that would be especially suspicious if he is trying to talk you into feeding him just the food he so happens to sell at his office. But not all vets are the same, I’d like to think that the majority is less profit driven and really has your pet’s well being at heart, so if yours is one of those, listen carefully what he has to say
Besides nutrition, hygiene during detox is another important issue. Bathe your pet more often than usuall, weekly or even more often if the skin is badly infected. It is a good way to clean the skin and wash the toxins away.
Always keep fresh, pure drinking water available. It helps the flushing process.
Dr. William Pollak, D.V.M of the Fairfield Animal Hospital on his site for "Holistic & traditional approaches to support the best of animal health" brilliantly covers detoxification in his article “Healing Episodes” and says:
“Times like this require more rest and an easier, less stressful style of functioning, for only a few hours, a day or even longer. … the body needs chunks of time during which special cleaning can take place. This occurs from taking care of and improving the daily business of life and improving quality of functioning. What is in fact usually happening is not that disease is rearing its ugly head, but that the body needs quality rest time, to push out some weakness; reorganize and restructure to a level of higher quality.
Telling the difference between times of needed rest that form the basis of greater vitality (healing episodes) from times of further breakdown (advancement of disease) is the basis for maintaining a holistic appreciation throughout the whole process. This is the key for understanding and acting from a holistic perspective. In being aware of the localized and non localized conditions simultaneously we can then proceed with loving certainty what is best to do and not do during these times. Appreciating what is going on and responding clearly and accurately as a result of using this understanding, will alone bring great comfort to all concerned, not only by procuring the best outcome possible, but also being in the best place, as it unfolds. Knowing more fully what is going on, will make it easier for you to choose what is best for you and your pet, whether it's trying to do it at home or going to the veterinarian.
Healing episodes manifest as localized symptoms while your pet is energetically normal or has even more energy than what is accustomed. The temporary symptoms of healing episodes can mimic any disease. The severity and duration of these signs are very moderate and abbreviated, from hours to a day or two. The important point is that life for your pet remains full and happy with clarity and normalcy while these signs are evident.
However, if your pet is not energetic, is dull, not clear in the eyes, not eating for more than 48 hours or appears in any general way to be unwell, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. Your pet is sick and should be looked at by a professional. This change in your pet's system is such that clarity of mental functioning and sensitivity to the environment is severely compromised, and serious enough, that minimum normal functioning is no longer possible. This is a sign of serious instability that often times reflect a profound deficiency in minimal acceptable functioning, something is missing or is in excess beyond the animal's system to rebalance. This can be either a chemical, electrical or structural abnormality. Again this is serious and requires whatever is necessary to help get through the situation. It is during these times that a veterinarian's efforts are most appropriate in helping your pet get over some weakness. Any treatment at this time is most appropriate whether it be natural or chemical.
Healing Episodes in our pets are usually seen in the skin as excessive flaking or a transient return of old sores. Or it can be seen in the coat as hair loss, thinning or just poor, dull looking. Healing episodes can manifest as an unsettled digestive system; seen as soft bowels and or diarrhea, with or without mucous or blood. These transient periods can last hours, a day or two at most. They can simulate any previous disease; oftentimes they do. As long as your pet is bright eyed and bushy tailed with good energy through the day and good appetite, these short periods will go away by themselves, they will pass on their own, and rarely is any medical intervention of any kind necessary. In fact unnecessary intervention can reduce your pet's ability to maximally shed old disease predisposition.
Providing fresh pure water or diluted chicken broth will help you and your pet get through this transient episode most easily. Feeding half rations for a day or two after these episodes will also help bring back health most clearly and uneventfully.
This is higher purification in action, let it unfold most naturally. The newly energized immune system is now more capable of relieving itself of unwanted influences. Certain weaknesses must be shed in this way by the body for its complete elimination. Interference at this time with chemicals or even natural remedies can in fact reduce the likelihood of long term cure. Treatment of the localized condition, and not taking into account the strength of the animal's general well being can cause us to loose sight of the overall (holistic) situation. Failure to notice the strength and vitality of your pet in general will oftentimes result in overmedication for the purpose of relieving ourselves of our own unsubstantiated fears. Even this approach, from a holistic perspective is also OK; if our fear is too uncomfortable to bear without action, then treatment of your pet of any kind is in order, to help us feel better.
Do not fret, but know that with natural approaches to living, your pet will get stronger and more vital. With each passing month on raw foods, regular exercise, fresh air and natural husbandry, the need for medical intervention will go down, and the reassurances of more vibrant living that your pet is showing you will give you the strength to more actively pursue what your intuition is telling you.
Successfully going through a healing episode with our pet is a wonderful experience. It brings reassurance and strength to an emotional functioning that is rarely called upon in a society that is quick to blame others for our trouble, while we frantically look for the silver bullet for all our pain and suffering. Blaming others only delays and exacerbates an uncomfortable situation; our attention from this angle only serves to drive our own dis-ease even deeper.
Seeing health return to our pet quickly and by itself after a healing episode, is an encounter of great blessing and comfort. This art of self heal is an unmistakable reminder of the inner strength and vitality of a biological system working as it was designed to do; not only to maintain itself through daily repairs, but improve in style of functioning with increased life experience.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pet food marketing: Playing misleading word games

When browsing the advertising section in the weekend’s paper I sometimes wonder: There are all these car dealers praising their latest and greatest models. It seems to be of highest priority to them to let the reader or prospective buyer know that his brand new 09 model comes with power windows and a/c. Boy, is that all you can talk about? In these days and ever since the Japs told us how to build, equip and sell cars it appears to me as if these, according to the dealer apparently “outstanding features” should be and simply are “standard” equipment by now and belong to the package just as the wheels, brakes and radio. Then, if that indeed is true why do they make such a big deal out of it? This is where I start wondering: Is this car just so plain and simple that it is not worth looking at it? Or do they even have to hide something?
And just this past Sunday I looked at the pet food industry. Surprisingly, if you think about it, isn’t there something similar going on? I clearly would say so. So I went and asked Mark Heyward about his take on my thought process. Mark is the founder of Timberwolf Organics and here is a short script of our conversation:
“Mark, pet owners oven approach us wondering about the numerous claims about pet foods they hear about. These claims are using phrases such as "human grade", "antibiotic and hormone free" "meat based" etc. and these pet owners do not know what to believe anymore. Could you please address this subject and support our efforts to finding the truth ?”
“Paul, no problem at all. Let me try to address some of the claims that are really half true and that could be construed as being misleading.
First let me say that federal labeling law precludes pet food manufacturers from including "misleading" statements on their bag. For example: Some say that they use only antibiotic and hormone free chicken, lamb etc. That is not exactly true. It is against federal law for chicken to be labeled as hormone free. That's because growers may not use hormones on chickens. To label your chicken as hormone free would imply that your chickens are the only ones that are hormone free when in fact they all are! What happens with other animals used for human consumption is that they must test free of hormones, antibiotics or pesticides before slaughter. It usually takes three to five days to clear their systems of any chemicals. Those animals that are earmarked for slaughter are kept free of chemicals for several days and then butchered. When I think of "antibiotic and hormone free" I think of an animal that has been raised chemical free, not just for a few days. A play on words perhaps but it borderlines on fraud. Ask if it is Certified Organic, "pasture grazed only" or imported from a country that restricts the use of chemicals if that is what you want. Of course you will pay a lot more.
Another example is : "Our meat comes from USDA inspected plants". All slaughter houses that process for human consumption must be USDA inspected.”
PFE: “I heard of one natural dog food company claiming: "Digest is the full guts including the manure".
Mark: “This is simply not true. It is made from whatever it is named for (chicken digest, liver digest etc.) and is digested by enzymatic activity and then dried. We do not use digest in our formulas but there is nothing wrong with it.”
PFE: “Or this natural food supplement maker that lists molasses as the second ingredient claims: "We use molasses because it is a nutrient not a sugar.””
Mark: “Molasses contains many nutrients and is technically not a sugar but it contains 60% sugars by weight and 20% water. Maybe it is not thought of as a sugar in Fufu Land but most of the world uses it as a sweetener. Dogs love sugar and it’s added mostly for palatability. If sugar must be used to help preserve a product, then molasses would of course be better than sucrose or dextrose, but only if it’s necessary.”
PFE: “The same supplement maker also claims: "Our product contains natural enzymes and probiotics that are naturally present in food".
Mark: “Even if that were true, because you are only adding 1 teaspoon of supplement, it would only contain enough enzymes to assist in digesting that one teaspoon. If you ask them what the enzyme levels are they will not tell you. That is because they are so low they cannot be measured. If you want to replace the enzymes lost in the food due to processing you must add enough to assist in digesting the full amount of food you are feeding. However, this is expensive to do.”
PFE: “My favorite is "Made with only 100% human grade ingredients."
Mark: “One quick way to determine if this is not true (other than cost) is if the food contains any "meals". Guess what? There is no such thing as human grade chicken meal or lamb meal. I don’t know of any restaurant where you can say, "Waiter, may I have some beef meal to go with my baked potato?" Or "May I have my chicken meal on a bun please?" The meat starts out as human grade because remember it’s from an inspected plant, but does not receive an inspection sticker because it’s not intended for human consumption so cannot be labeled as human grade. There are different grades (classifications) of meals however and are graded (classified) by protein content, ash content and price. Some are of very high quality. For example, our lamb meal is imported from New Zealand and is a special low ash high protein (8% ash, 70% protein) lamb meal that we have classified and most of the bone is filtered out (all lamb, chicken, beef meals contain a lot of bone because it’s made from what is left over from cutting away steaks or boneless chicken breast for example). It’s the most expensive and probably the best lamb meal in the country as it’s made from the organs and contains a lot of blood, which gives it a very complete amino acid profile. Is it human grade? Come on class, I'm listening? Most lamb meals are high in ash and are low (50%) in protein. We searched six different suppliers before finding the current suppliers for chicken meal and for lamb meal.”
PFE: “Well, that’s fine. But what about dog foods that list meat?"
Mark: “Good question! Oh what clever listener you are! First, only a handful of mills have the equipment to add meat. Some companies may list meat but actually use meal. Of those that actually can add meat it’s not quite what you would expect. It’s usually mechanically de boned and mixed with water to make a slurry that is pumped into the extruder. The most you can use in a formula is limited to about 30% but can be as little as 3%. What starts out as chicken with 78% moisture is now perhaps 90% moisture cooked down to 10%. That 30% you started out with is now about 3.3% or less dry matter. To get the protein up you must now add corn gluten meal or another protein source. Corn gluten meal is a good protein source, it’s high in the sulfur containing amino acids, but a lot of people (myself included) prefer an animal based protein which means you must add animal meals which means it is not 100% human grade.”
PFE: “What about the other ingredients?"
Mark: “The brown rice I get in looks just like the brown rice on your supermarket shelf, it’s clean and looks indistinguishable. The only difference is that it doesn’t have an FDA tag on it. Our oats are of exceptional quality. Higher in linoleic and alpha linoleic acid than locally grown oats because of the cold (probably grown organically as well) and they’re the same oats that are supplied to food processors. Growers don’t have separate fields for dogs and people. The point I’m trying to make is that I have trouble believing that a company would pay five times as much for the same ingredient just to get that FDA sticker. Let me give you an example: I buy a chicken fat from a company that supplies soup manufacturers etc. If I buy a tanker of fat it doesn’t have to have an FDA tag and my price is $.11 per pound. If I buy less it must have an FDA tag and the price goes to $.58 per pound. Same product. That chicken fat is apparently human grade but I cannot call it that. A lot of my ingredients are human grade, some even certified organic but at the end of the day I cannot make the claim 100% human grade because it ‘s not, but neither can any other company (unless maybe they are charging $2 - $5 per pound).
Another example is that if a truck load (40,000 lbs) of frozen whole broilers were purchased for $.50 per pound, and if a custom chicken meal were produced, it would be exorbitant in cost. Chicken meal is made from chicken meat (usually mechanically de boned) that is put into a vat and is brought to the proper temperature and pH and then enzymes are added. The meat is broken down into a liquid and either spray dried or roller dried into a fine powder. Now go back to the truck load of chickens at $.50 per pound. It takes several pounds of chickens to make one pound of chicken meal. So let us say 7 pounds times .50 equals $3.50 plus the rendering charge. Let us assume $4.00 per pound okay? I am using about 50% chicken meal so $4.00/2 is $2.00+ per pound of dog food my cost. Just for ingredients. Not including herbs, oils, probiotics etc. Does any of this make sense to some of you?
One natural dog food company uses poultry meal but lists on their ingredient label chicken meal, turkey meal. AAFCO allows listing animal meals by particular animal if you know what animal was used in making it. If the meal is made from more than one animal or a composite you may list all the animals used in making it. What they mean however is "chicken/turkey" meal for poultry or if you know the exact percentages than you may list them where they should appear in order of weight on the label but not chicken meal, turkey meal as the first two ingredients. Chicken meal and turkey meal gives the impression that the food is meat based when in fact it is not.
One question you can ask a dog food company to determine if it’s meat based or grain based is "what percentage of your formula is animal meals?" or "what’s the percentage of protein that is animal based?" or "how many pounds of animal meals are used per ton of your formula?" They probably will not tell you or say, "That is proprietary." We use 48 to 52% chicken, lamb or fish meals by weight or 900 to 1100 pounds per ton! Put another way 91% of our protein is animal based. That is meal not meat. If someone tells you they use 1000 pounds of meat per ton that is equal to only 200 pounds of chicken meal or ten percent. Another way is to look at the calcium content. Chicken, lamb and meat meals are usually 4 - 5% calcium (Special "classified" low ash meals with lower levels of calcium can be used but are up to 3 times as expensive), so if a company claims to be using 50% animal meals by weight and their calcium is only 1.2% then you know something somewhere does not add up. Or maybe they are using "new" math. The only reason we disclose this is that it’s very expensive and not many other companies will do this and those that do will have to raise their prices. Of course someone may tell you they use a high amount but if so the kibble should be very dark. Our Lamb, Barley and Apples kibble is almost black.
Now that you have listened to this please pass it on to your readers. At least they'll know what is in the food. If I decide to put in goat's eyes, tongue of wren and pickled fish pan fried in roasted sesame oil you'll know it. None of my formulas contain 4D animals, simple (read white) carbohydrates, dextrose or other sugars for palatability enhancement, soy, BHT, BHA or Ethoxyquin. We personally have sold and used a lot of specialty and super premium foods and have seen more positive results and heard more positive feedback with this food than any other. I invite you to go to testimonials page and read some of the testimonials. I hope I have answered some of your questions, but don't take my word. Call the FDA or AAFCO or some feed ingredient suppliers and see what they say.”
PFE: “Thank you very much for your time, Mark.”
If you would like to learn more about Mark’s products, please e-mail me for more info.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Vegetarian carnivores?

I find it interesting how many pet owners transfer the same nutritional habits they impose, at free choice or unwillingly on themselves onto their pets. What do I mean by that? If pet owners decide to live and eat healthy, they usually switch their dietary habits to wholesome food. Very often they then realize the benefits and make the entire family follow suit. And since pets are family too, they as well going forward now will enjoy the benefits of being fed healthy food. Or people go organic. In most of the cases their pets will be fed organic as well. And that is all great. After all it takes away the mass produced and marketed commercial pet food consisting of mostly not so beneficial ingredients causing illness and disease. So far I am not complaining. But where I do sometimes have a problem is when I talk to vegetarians and if they want to make their pets now vegetarians as well. Somehow that goes against my thought process. After all, as far as I know our domesticated cats and dogs are carnivores, i.e. meat eaters. So how does a vegetarian dietary regiment impact a carnivore? To me that just doesn’t make any sense. Am I wrong or right? While looking for the answer I came across an article written by my one of my favorite, healthy pet (and people) food advocates, Dr. Randy Wysong D.V.M.. In his comment he writes:
“Wysong’s commitment is to the truth. The truth is, with regard to food for carnivores, is that their health is best served by the abundant incorporation of meat based products in the diet. This absolute dependency has been made clear in numerous scientific studies. A case in point is the thousands of deaths and untold suffering of cats from taurine (an amino acid) deficiency in commercial cat foods. These pet foods were not even vegan foods, but were deficient because the meats used were processed, which resulted in the loss of taurine. A vegan diet is essentially totally devoid of taurine. Is it ethically correct to doom captive animals to suffering and death by feeding them a diet they would never naturally eat in the wild, and for which they are not genetically adapted? The choice is to inflict suffering and death if we do not feed our pets or ourselves as genetically programmed, or inflict death on the food required for health.If we were to advocate our vegetarian pet diet as the exclusive food for pets without the caveats, we would face the ethical dilemma of knowing we would be the direct cause of disease and suffering. Dogs and cats are carnivores. That is what they are genetically programmed to be. If you veer too much from that, there will be health consequences - unavoidably.
All life requires the diminishment of other life for survival. A cow kills grass, a cat kills a mouse, a whale eats a fish, an elephant mutilates a tree, an immune cell destroys a bacterial invader, and so forth throughout all of nature. This is truth, real and unavoidable. We may not like the fact that sustenance of life requires the taking of life (we at Wysong certainly don’t), but that does not change the fact. We can try to avoid this by creating arbitrary definitions, for example, eschewing the killing of non-“sentient” creatures and those without a “brain and nervous system.” But, who gets to decide what “brain,” “nervous system,” or “sentient” is and who gets to be lucky and fall under the rubric? Who decides how to draw lines when in reality there are no clear demarcations among life forms? True, a blade of grass appears clearly different from a cow, but the spectrum of life must be looked at in its entirety. It is one thing to say we “feel” that this or that food is ethically wrong, a purely subjective decision. It is quite another to attempt to justify that choice by creating objective physical distinctions which do not exist. There are no clear separations except those we artificially impose. The more we learn, the more it becomes impossible to unequivocally classify. Without classification, it is impossible to assign right versus wrong in order to eat based upon physical criteria. All living creatures have the ability to react to stimuli. And, whatever criteria we decide upon to establish what is ethical or unethical to eat breaks down on its edges since life is a continuum. All life, all matter – the entire universe – is inextricably interrelated. There are no clear lines other than those we artificially and arbitrarily create.
It is a difficult ethical question that Dr. Wysong has wrestled with for decades – and still does. He has properly focused the issue on pet health. Our heart tells us to spare lives of food animals, but our heart also tells us to properly care for our pets and protect them from disease. Strict vegetarianism (veganism) risks the health and life of our pet who is specifically designed to eat meat. There are nutritional elements in meat products not found in plant materials. You can try to get around it with synthetic additives and the like, but that forces pets to eat synthetic, primarily cooked concoctions they would never find, nor eat in the wild. Once again, health consequences will follow.
Our hearts are with those who seek to listen to their inner voices and treat all of nature with love and respect. Our mind, on the other hand, forces us to face the reality that feeding improperly is a clear and unavoidable cruelty. Is it any less cruel to make an obligate carnivore such as the cat “go meatless” than to keep a fish, but not in water? The consequence may be delayed for the cat, but is just as sure.
There is no physical or biological certainty as to what is or is not ethical to eat. There is only certainty about what is or is not healthy to eat. The food a creature is genetically adapted to is the healthy food. If we violate this law, cruelty in the form of disease, suffering and death will result. It is, therefore, a choice of whether to, as humanely as possible, take the life of others for the sustenance of our nutritional health, or arbitrarily make choices that will cause disease, suffering, and death of ourselves and the pets in our care.”
I guess that clearly answers my question and provides me with a response in future if I am again will be confronted with the issue. But, so may some of you say now: If that what was said above is indeed Dr. Wysong’s believe, why is he marketing a vegetarian formula? In a pamphlet written just for this formula, the company provides the answer as follows:
“Wysong Vegan has been specifically formulated to achieve the best possible nutritional value for dogs and cats. The purpose of this diet is three fold:
1) It can be used as an elimination diet to determine which meat products can be tolerated by allergic or food sensitive animals. By combining Vegan with different singular meats, one at a time, and then feeding, the determination can be made as to which meat products an animal may be sensitve or allergic to. This is far superior to any laboratory test and feeding protocol.
2) Vegan can be used as the vegetable base for home-prepared diets. In this case, Vegan provides properly processed and digestible grains, legumes, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and probiotics, then the owner feeds fresh meats and organs combined with this diet. This is arguably the best conceivable way pets should be fed, i.e. only those food ingredients that need to be cooked (grains and legumes) are, whereas those food ingredients that have nutritional value diminished by cooking (such as fresh meats), are not.
3) Vegan provides the best possible processed diet for people who desire to feed their animals veganstyle (no animal products whatsoever).
Although we have formulated this diet to the best of our ability to meet current NRC nutrient minimums for both dogs and cats, we do not subscribe to the belief that the optimal diet can be achieved by simply meeting arbitrary nutrient minimums for basic nutrient categories such as protein, fat, ash, vitamins, and minerals. (It is important to note that the Vegan diet does not meet NRC minimums for protein for the feline.)
As Dr. Wysong discusses thoroughly in the CD, “The Thinking Person’s Master Key to Health,” and in the book “The Truth About Pet Foods,” the pet food industry and the majority of the public proceed under the mistaken belief that so-called “100% complete and balanced” diets can be fabricated in pet food manufacturing plants. Unfortunately, 100% is not known about nutrition, and therefore the “100% complete and balanced” claim is a myth. Owners who subscribe to this belief and feed foods based on the claim do so at extreme risk to the health of their animal.
As described thoroughly in Wysong literature, humans and the companion animals in our care are removed from our proper genetic context. Part of that context was fresh raw foods. Such foods have bounties of nutritional value not even imagined by modern nutritionists, much less analyzed for, or with “minimums” established.
We therefore advise all pet owners to supplement any processed diet (including Wysong) with fresh whole natural foods (which includes…(e-mail me for more info)) as much as possible to augment nutritional value.
For animal owners who wish to feed a purely vegetation-based diet to pets which are by their nature carnivores (dogs and cats), it must be understood that they do this with inherent risk. Carnivores through millennia have adapted to meat eating. It is an experiment for us here, in this latest moment of time, to attempt to switch them to an entirely vegetation-based diet.
If it were our choice, given an ideal world, no life would be destroyed in order to sustain another. Unfortunately, this ideal is difficult for most humans to implement, much less impose upon pets which are genetically tuned carnivores.
There are some logical difficulties with imposing ethics on food. First of all, it is not logically possible to differentiate in a physical or purely biological sense, between the life of a cow, chicken, or mouse, and that of plants growing in the field. Therefore, just sparing animal life is arbitrary. In the so-called “lower” life forms, it is, in fact, difficult to differentiate between plant and animal. One could reason, therefore, that eating either animals or plants is the unethical destruction of life.
To carry the logic of food ethics further, we could reason that fruit is the ideal food. We wouldn’t be killing plants that way. Also, fruit eating helps disseminate the seeds so new plants can grow (in the natural setting anyway, a toilet, however negates this justification.) But fruit cells are alive and we kill them when we eat them. Another ethical dilemma.
We could try Breathairianism: Eat nothing and live off the air only. But even if this were possible, it could be reasoned that our use of oxygen might deny it for another. Again, an ethical dilemma.
Even if we were to choose to die to spare all other life, resources would be used for our funeral and burial, compromising the environment, and oxygen would be consumed in our decomposition.
There is no escape. Our existence lessens the existence of other life. The very act of living, therefore, means we must compromise an idealistic spare-all-life ethic.
Compromises must be made if we choose to live. At Wysong we believe the best choice is to choose those foods which most enhance health, thus averting the cruelty of disease and suffering. Such foods are natural, organic, humanely raised, environmentally sensitive, and species specific. Choices will not always be black or white, right or wrong, but on a scale from worse to better.
What to eat and what to feed companion animals is perhaps a personal choice, but one that certainly comes with responsibility. No net good is accomplished in the world if the life of a “food” creature is saved, but the life of a companion animal is lost as a result of nutritional imbalance from an artificially imposed, imbalanced, or deficient diet.
Please consider this brief discussion as a preliminary to informed pet feeding. Space does not permit a thorough discussion of these issues. Please refer to the many Wysong publications and our website for more complete information on health-nutrition-environmental-animal welfare issues.”
I have nothing left to say but that I agree with the Doctor’s closing, where he says: “We wish you the best of luck as you wrestle with these important ethical questions, and welcome your comments and questions.”

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pet Nutrition: Requirements and related diseases Part 1 Water & Energy

Dogs are a biologically diverse species, with normal body weight of anywhere between 2 to 175 lbs. Normal birth weight of puppies depends on breed type and is on average 4 to 20 oz. During the first two weeks a puppy’s life is spent eating, seeking warmth, and sleeping. External food sources beyond mother’s milk is rarely needed unless the mother cannot produce enough milk or the puppy is orphaned. In these cases, the puppy must be hand reared. Growth rates of puppies are rapid for the first 5 mo; in this period, pups gain an average of 2 to 4 g/day/kg of their anticipated adult weight. The growth rate begins to reach its peak and plateau after 6 months. Growth may be completed by 9 to 12 months of age in small breeds and by 12 to 18 months in large breeds. By comparison, the average mature body weight of domestic cats is 7 lbs for males or toms and 6 lbs for females or queens. Normal birth weight of kittens is 3 to 4 oz. The growth rate is exceptionally rapid for the first 3 to 4 months and kittens gain 50 to 100 g/wk. The growth rate begins to plateau at 150 to 160 days of age and growth is completed within 200 to 220 days.

Dogs and cats require specific dietary nutrient concentrations based on their life stage. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) publishes dog and cat nutrient profiles for growth, maintenance, and reproduction. These are based in part on the 1974 and 1985 National Research Council (NRC) nutrient requirements for these species (Table: AAFCO Nutrient Requirements for Dogs and Table: AAFCO Nutrient Requirements for Cats). Updated NRC requirements have recently been established and will be published soon. These provide a comprehensive review of the nutrient requirements for various life stages and may be used by AAFCO to modify their profiles.

In developed countries, nutritional diseases are rarely seen in dogs and cats, but only if and especially when they are fed good quality commercial rations or nutritionally balanced homemade diets. Dog or cat foods or homemade diets derived from a single food item are inadequate. For example, feeding predominately meat or even an exclusive hamburger and rice diet to dogs can induce calcium deficiency and secondary hypoparathyroidism. Feeding raw, freshwater fish to cats can induce a thiamine deficiency. Feeding liver can induce a vitamin A toxicity in both dogs and cats. Malnutrition has been seen in dogs and cats fed “natural,” “organic,” or “vegetarian” diets produced by owners with good intentions, and most published recipes have been only crudely balanced by using calculated nutrient averages. Because the palatability, digestibility, and safety of these recipes have not been adequately or scientifically tested, it is difficult to characterize all of these homemade diets. Generally, most formulations contain excessive protein and phosphorus and are deficient in calcium, vitamin E, and micro minerals such as copper, zinc, and potassium. Also, the energy density of these diets may be unbalanced relative to the other nutrients. Commonly used meat and carbohydrate ingredients contain more phosphorus than calcium. Homemade feline diets that are not actually deficient in fat or energy usually contain a vegetable oil that cats do not find palatable; therefore, less food is eaten causing a calorie deficiency. Rarely are homemade diets balanced for micro minerals or vitamins.

Some nutritional diseases are seen secondary to other pathologic conditions or anorexia, or both. Owner neglect is also a frequent contributing factor in malnutrition.

Clean fresh water should be available at all times. Multiple water sources encourage consumption. Several approaches have been used to estimate daily water needs. In a thermo neutral environment, most mammalian species need about 44 to 66 mL/kg body wt. Another approach takes into account the fact that water needs appear to be highly associated with the amount of food consumed. In this case, daily maintenance fluid requirements in mL should equal the animal’s maintenance energy requirement in kcal of metabolizable energy (ME). A third technique sets daily water intake as 2 to 3 times the dietary dry matter intake. When provided ample amounts of water, healthy animals can effectively self regulate their intake. Water deficiency can be seen as a result of poor husbandry or disease. Dehydration is a serious problem in disorders of the GI, respiratory, and urinary systems. If dehydration has occurred, here is what your vet most likely is going to do: During anorexia or increased fluid losses, for dogs a 2 to 5% or for cats a 1 to 2% glucose and electrolyte solution should be administered to adult dogs or cats at 60 to 80 mL/kg body wt/day or 80 to 100 mL/kg in puppies and kittens to maintain normal fluid balance.

The most useful measure of energy for nutritional purposes is ME, which is defined as that portion of the total energy of a diet that is retained within the body. It is typically measured in calories or joules. Dogs and cats require sufficient energy to allow for optimal use of proteins and to maintain optimal body weight and condition through growth, maintenance, activity, pregnancy, and lactation. Of the 6 nutrient groups, only protein, fat, and carbohydrate provide energy, whereas vitamins, minerals, and water do not. Dogs and cats not consuming sufficient calories lose body weight and condition. Energy requirements for dogs and cats are not a linear function of body weight. Recent evidence indicates that pets maintained in households require fewer calories per day compared with dogs held in kennels, but considerable variability exists. Breed differences also affect caloric needs independent of body size. For example, Newfoundlands appear to require fewer calories/day than Great Danes. Other factors that determine daily energy needs include activity level, life stage, percent lean body mass, age, and environment. Even when specific formulae are used, any given animal may require up to 30% more or less of the calculated amount. Consequently, general recommendations may need to be modified within this 30% range, and body condition scoring should be regularly performed. In view of this variability, energy requirements for dogs are about 65 kcal/kg body wt for kennel or active adult dogs, about 50 kcal/kg body wt for inactive adults, about 120 kcal/kg for growing puppies, about 200 kcal/kg for lactating bitches, depending on litter size, and about 450 kcal/kg for heavily worked dogs. For cats, energy requirements are around 70 kcal/kg for lean adults, about 200 kcal/kg for growing kittens and 150 kcal/kg for lactating queens.
The precise ME values for many dog food ingredients have not been experimentally determined and are often estimated using those for other monogastric species (such as pigs) or calculated using Atwater physiologic fuel values modified for use with typical dog food ingredients. The precise ME values for many cat foods are not known, although it is believed that the factors used for dogs may apply. The modified Atwater ME values for dogs are 3.5 kcal/g for carbohydrate or protein and 8.5 kcal/g of fat. The impact of various environmental temperatures is described in the recent NRC publication on nutrient requirements of dogs and cats and has been documented under certain conditions. For example, energy requirements increased from 120 to 205 kcal/kg in Huskies as ambient temperatures decreased from 14°C in summer to -20°C in winter. Effects of environmental temperature are not well characterized in cats because most of the research has been done under thermo neutral (68 to 72°F) conditions. However, unacclimatized adult cats increased their daily caloric intakes by nearly two fold when environmental temperatures of 23°C and 0°C were studied.
Source: Merck Veterinary Manual
Soon to follow: Part 2 Protein, Fats, Carbohydrates & Fiber

Sunday, January 25, 2009

For and against raw, dry and canned foods – A comparison (Part 1)

A great number of pet owners are confused by the magnitude of pet foods available. The choices available to us are mind boggling. Add to that pretty labels, fancy packaging, discount prices and conflicting information on the web and it becomes very clear why there is so much confusion.What is a buyer to do? Whom can you ultimately trust? The local grocery super market? The mass merchandise market? In both cases I would clearly vote a no. How about the brick & mortar pet retailer? Maybe. The fashionable pet boutique with all the fancy stuff from pretty clothing, exclusive pet bedding to more and more awesome (for the eye) treats made right in front of your eyes to higher priced (higher quality?) pet food? Definitely a better chance for success.
There are so many ingredients available in pet foods with a wide array of nutritional positives and negatives. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that many pet owners are overwhelmed and seek advice from their vet. And end up buying his well positioned national brand, which is his best friend (since it most likely contributes heavily towards his profits). Your pet will enjoy the comforts of a veterinarian’s office. Your hard earned dollar will disappear very fast. Wouldn’t you rather have those extra dollars for you to enjoy? Ultimately you only can trust one: Yourself. And that in turn means you have to become an educated consumer.
Your buck stops at the store’s cash register. And that is where your pet’s health starts.
Many foods available pay special attention to quality nutrients and incorporate high grade ingredients. Lately such quality foods are appearing in greater numbers in quality pet stores, regardless of whether it is raw food diet, freeze dried diets or kibble.Today I want to take a closer look at the benefits and (to some pet owners) negative aspects of these food categories.Dry food or kibble is the most common way of feeding your pet. The advantages are that it is easy to serve, convenient, comes in a wide array of flavors, has the lowest cost of all pet food categories, lately comes in different formulas supposedly accommodating requirements for various ages and health conditions, is offered with a wide array of fruits, berries and vegetables incorporated, comes in beautiful packaging and with impressing marketing materials (to whom ever this may be an important factor and it has probably the longest shelf life.
What speaks against dry food? Synthetic vitamins, which may or may not be absorbed properly by your pet. It may have by-products and by-product meals, corn or wheat gluten meal, potatoes, ocean fish meal which can cause health issues. Ingredients may include soy, peanut shells, mill run, colorings, flavorings, which again can cause health issues. It may include preservatives that have been linked to cancer. The high retail cost factor coming with the marketing of inferior ingredients while these in reality are inexpensive and contained in most minimal proportions. It may have allergens. Much of the information provided about dry food is misleading information. And the worst negative: Manufacturing requires high heat processing. This in turn translates into lost nutrition of the ingredients. There is no question about it, kibble has matured. There is a great number of quality kibbles are now available. Knowledge is the key to making the best possible choice.
Now let’s take a look at raw food diets. By now raw foods have become the forefront of nutritional excellence in pet foods. Raw food is stated to be the closest to a natural diet a dog or cat can obtain in food. Many vets however proclaimed a raw food diet would cause bacterial problems. Nothing could be further from the truth. The animals digestive system is extremely short making a bacteria sticking to the lining walls very unlikely. Dogs and cats are in the contact with various forms of bacteria just by walking on grass. Many vets probably are against it since they obviously want to push their own line of dry food. I believe that it is more the pet owners handling the raw food having a problem with the bacteria than it is the pet. Raw food requires a strict compliance with all safety rules related to it. So what speaks for raw? It is highly nutritious, has very active nutrients, is closest to natural feeding, just like in the wild, comes in many hypoallergenic formulas and some manufacturers even use organic ingredients, an ingredient classification guaranteeing the currently highest quality standards.
Against it speaks that there are many brands out there providing formulas with inferior raw ingredients. Many brands also offer formulas which are not considered to be a balanced diet. Some say it is very expensive, I challenge you on that and believe this statement is highly debatable. Raw food requires a good amount of freezer space. It has a short storage life after it has been thawed. In summary, feeding raw is exceptionally beneficial for pets. High quality products are manufactured in USDA human plants or organic facilities and are nutritionally balanced without the use of synthetics.How about canned food? For it speak the great number of flavorful choices. The manufacturing process compared to kibble does not require as much ingredient manipulation. Some say it is inexpensive. I cannot agree with that. This may be true if you have one small dog, but boy, when you own a couple large breeds it really strains your pocket book. Against it speak, just like with kibble, the heat with its nutrient destroying factor during manufacturing. Though less than kibble it still may contain some synthetic nutrients. Many of the formulas look like a flavored mush. Some of them are lacking sufficient. It may contain harmful ingredients.I always recommend that canned foods should not be used as the main food for your pet and think it should be considered as a supplemental feed helping to provide variety and bring some “color’ in your pet’s menu. Lately a number of manufacturers introduced so called “meat only” or “high percentage meat content” formulas, an option getting very close to raw meat since in most cases contains ony the protein source and water sufficient for processing as the main ingredients. However, there is still the factor of the heat processing during canning.Stay tuned for part 2 on this subject when I am going to address the new comers in the pet food market and assortment such as dehydrated, freeze dried, TNT and other more modern processing methods making pet food.