Saturday, March 14, 2009

Carbohydrates in the Dog’s Diet

When it comes to human nutrition everybody talks about them. Yet to me it is amazing how few people really know what they are all about: Carbohydrates. But not just in human food, in pet food too these days there is a lot of discussion and controversy about them. What makes it even more difficult, as Steve Brown just recently told us in How much carbohydrate is in the dog and cat foods you feed?, pet food regulations do not allow the word “carbohydrate” on the label. Human foods are required to list carbohydrate on the label. This major difference makes it difficult to evaluate foods for dogs and cats. Concerned shoppers must do the calculations for themselves. Fortunately, pet food labels give you the information that you need to do those calculations. And why is this all so important? Choosing foods becomes much easier when you know what the balance of the animal’s natural diet really is! Almost all dogs and cats will do much better eating diets very close to that natural balance.
The biggest building blocks of dog and cat foods (the macronutrient content) are: Protein, fat, moisture and carbohydrate.
Wellness, in it’s Nutrition 101 explains: “Carbohydrates almost always come from plant sources such as cereal grains. Carbohydrates, per se, are not a required nutrient and the body's need for glucose and other carbohydrates can easily be met by breaking down triglycerides (fatty acids) and amino acids. While an animal could survive without carbohydrates, they are helpful in adding bulk, variety and taste to the diet. The source of the carbohydrates and the way in which they are prepared are important factors in their digestibility and utilization. Carbohydrates are often classified into two groups: Digestible (sugars and starches) and indigestible (fiber).
1. Digestible: Sugars and Starches (Soluble)
Most types of sugars are digested easily by dogs or cats and are almost always quickly utilized for energy. Starches, on the other hand, must first be broken down into sugars in order to be usable. The primary sources of carbohydrates in most diets are cereal grains, such as: barley, brown rice, oats and rye. Proper grinding and cooking of cereal grains is necessary for the animal to efficiently digest cereal starches.
Recent work comparing the glycemic index* (the ability of the grain to raise blood sugar) of various grains in dogs has generated much interest. While likely of minimal importance for most healthy dogs and cats, the use of specific grains and the avoidance of others could prove useful. It is likely important in pet food formulation and in an owners ability to manage the diets of their diabetic animals, young and old.
Sugars and starches supply calories and make up a high percentage of most dry and semi-moist pet foods as well as many canned pet foods. The extrusion process used to make most dry pet foods and the baking process used to make biscuits requires some carbohydrates. Because of the calories they provide, sugars and starches help limit the use of protein for energy purposes. This allows the protein to be used to meet the animal's amino acid requirements rather than its energy needs. Carbohydrates exceeding the amount needed to meet the animal's energy requirements are stored in the body as fat, which may lead to obesity.
Canine Caviar explains the “Glycemic Index”:
“The glycemic index indicates how fast and how high a given food raises blood sugar. It applies only to carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are sugars or starches.
Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal, in fact they behave quite differently in our bodies. The glycemic index or GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Choosing low GI carbs - the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels - is the secret to long-term health reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Go easy on foods with a high glycemic index. Since these foods raise blood sugar to high levels shortly after eating them, the body has to release large amounts of insulin to keep blood sugar in the normal range. Foods with high indexes cause peaks and valleys in blood sugar. Such great fluctuations in blood sugar are not good.
A glycemic index of 70 or higher indicates a food with a high index; values between 56 and 60 are medium glycemic foods; values of 55 or less are low glycemic foods.
The only way to know a food's glycemic index is to look it up on a chart with such values. These charts are in nutrition books and on the Web. You can't guess at a food's index. For example, you would think that table sugar has a high glycemic index. It doesn't. It has a medium value. On the other hand, a baked potato has a high glycemic index. Low GI carbs improve diabetes control, reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce blood cholesterol levels, reduce hunger and keep you fuller for longer and prolong physical endurance” . (Note: Examples of Glycemic Index charts:
Glycemic Edge, Mendosa)

2. Fiber
Fiber is well known (even in the human diet) for its role in regulating bowel function and transit time in diarrhea and constipation. Many apparently contradictory statements about fiber stem from the fact that there are different types of fiber all of which exert different effects. Unfortunately, pet foods are still required by law to list crude fiber, a method for measuring fiber that was developed in the 1800's, which is not very useful. In human dietetics, newer methods that measure dietary, insoluble and soluble fiber types are used and hopefully these will eventually find a place in pet food. Soluble fibers (hemicelluloses and gums) often help nourish the cells in the large intestine and encourage the growth of beneficial microorganisms. In contrast, insoluble fibers (cellulose and lignins) move rapidly through the gastrointestinal tract and provide bulk but no calories. For this reason, high fiber diets are useful for reducing the energy content of the diet and have been recommended for overweight animals. In contrast, diets high in fiber are not recommended for dogs and cats with high energy requirements (growth, late gestation, lactation, stress, and work).”
Dr. Lew Olson, PhD of Natural Health, with asks in his 09/08 newsletter: “Carbohydrates – Good or Bad?” (Make sure to visit his site as he also makes a number of product recommendations related to his own great supplement products, which I have left out here since as of this time we do not (yet) carry his product line).
“Commercial dog foods all contain carbohydrates. These foods offer fiber (to help with firm stools), a less expensive food ingredient and to aid in the ability for dry foods to maintain a longer shelf life. While they serve a purpose in this regard, they also add some liabilities. Carbohydrates make stools larger and have more odor, and they offer less nutrition. It is important to do your research if you use commercial food. Shop for a food with the least amount of carbohydrates offered and with a good primary animal based protein. Some foods are now being offered as grain free. But remember, other sources offered are still carbohydrates, and the most often used is potato. This can be of benefit to dogs with certain grain allergies or gluten intolerance. Some dogs can have digestive issues when fed food with gluten. And commercial foods that are grain free can be a novel food source to try for dogs with allergies.
Carbohydrates are also used in home cooked recipes. The main reason for this is to offer a fiber source. Most carbohydrates are high in fiber and this helps keep the stool firm. When using vegetables sources, fully puree, blend or cook them. Dogs cannot digest grains or vegetables that aren’t fully cooked or pureed. They do not have the ability to break down the cell wall of carbohydrates, nor digest them well in their short and simple digestive tracts. When using carbohydrates in home cooked diets, I generally recommend using about 75% animal based protein, and 25% carbohydrates.
High Glycemic (Sugar Content) Vegetables: Equally important to note is that the type of carbohydrate used affects stool size. In most of the recipes I offer in the B-Naturals articles (in the newsletter directory) use low glycemic carbohydrates. These are vegetables, which offer the lowest sugar content. Dogs are carnivores, and genetically speaking, they do not have systems that need or adapt well to a constant influx of high sugar foods. Dogs need fat and animal protein to survive and thrive. High sugar foods contain more calories and also add unneeded and unnecessary weight gain. They may also offer poor health conditions, such as diabetes, allergies, yeast growth, propensity for urinary tract infections and may contribute to seizure activity in dogs with epilepsy. For more information, see the
article on low glycemic recipes.
Carbohydrates are not necessary in raw diets. Raw diets contain bone, which offer fiber and help create firm stools. Some may wish to add some vegetables to the diet for variety, but I would feed no more than 10% of these of the total diet. They may not add to the nutrition of the diet, but they aren’t harmful either. Adding more than 10% of carbohydrates to the diet will only increase stool size and in some cases may cause gas. (
Further information on carbohydrates and more references)
It is also thought that grains and starches may aggravate incontinence in spayed females and senior dogs. Incontinence is leaking of urine, and chronic conditions can lead to rashes, irritation and urinary tract infections. Removing grains from the diet can alleviate the problem and sometimes completely stop the incontinence, without having to resort to prescription medications.”
Jenifer Boniface of
Aunt Jeni’s in her Health Column expands on incontinence: “The pesky condition of "leaky" dogs is otherwise known as incontinence. Sometimes dogs, especially females, have a tendency to leak or dribble urine. This usually happens while they are sleeping and unaware of what is happening. You may notice that your dog wakes up embarrassed at what she has done. She should not be punished for having this kind of accident; it's not her fault! Some breeds, such as Dobermans, commonly suffer from what has been termed "spay incontinence," which begins sometime after the spay surgery. There is no "usual" time period between the surgery and the onset of incontinence symptoms. Neither does there seem to be any link between the age of the dog when spayed, and the onset of symptoms; they may begin immediately or not until years later. It is a very individualized thing. Older dogs also tend to develop incontinence as a function of aging, regardless of breed or spay status. It is very important that you rule out the possibility that your dog's incontinence is indicative of a bladder or urinary tract infection. Infections usually require medical treatment. An infection left untreated will not only bring your dog much discomfort, but it could turn into an even more serious health problem. Dietary changes can help prevent recurrence by building the proper pH in the body to ward off future attacks.”
Dr. Olson continues: “Dogs with arthritis or other inflammatory affected problems need to avoid grains and starches. The sugar content of these foods may aggravate inflammation and cause pain. This would include avoiding fruit, as well as vegetables in the nightshade family, such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant. I have had many emails from people over the years testifying that moving their dogs to a raw diet or a low glycemic cooked diets has reduced arthritis pain in their dogs.”
Dr. Olson also made another attempt explaining the subject matter with his article “
Carbohydrates” describing them in a lot more detailed and scientifically referenced manner. Please make sure to read it as he makes a great number of good points. I also ask you to visit his website to check out the wide variety of supplements he has developed and, if everything goes well, possibly soon to be found at our store as well.
He concludes the above article: “While carbohydrates are not necessary in a dog’s diet, they can be useful in certain conditions. This would include the benefit of adding fiber to a home cooked diet and in certain liver or renal issues that need carbohydrates to add calories, absorb ammonia or reduce phosphorus in the diet. Using too many carbohydrates can cause larger stools with more odor and gas. They are composed of chains of sugar, so they add calories, and can adversely affect dogs with diabetes, seizures, arthritis, dogs with incontinence and dogs with hypothyroid conditions. It is important to know these variables, to make the best decisions on whether carbohydrates can help or hinder your dog’s health. It is not a question of ‘good or bad’, but rather about the individual needs of your dog.”

Friday, March 13, 2009

Human Grade Dog Food: Buyer beware & scrutinize labels

It's a little confusing to grasp, but here's the gist of it: The term Human-Grade refers to the quality of a finished dog food product. The term applies to a product that is legally suitable and approved for consumption by a person ("edible").
In contrast, the term Feed-Grade applies to a product that is not suitable for consumption by people and is only legally approved to be fed to animals ("inedible").
The FDA and USDA are responsible for regulating human foods and determining 'edible' status. In order to be allowed to produce human foods, a manufacturing facility undergoes far more frequent and detailed inspections by these and other agencies, compared with the inspection that a pet food plant undergoes.
Other terms like "Human Quality" or "Table Grade" are not legal definitions for human food or pet food. A number of manufacturers use these terms to imply that their manufacturing and finished products are better than they really are.
Only a facility that actually produces human foods, undergoes the inspections and approval necessary to have genuine human grade status and therefore, a pet food must be made in such a plant in order to be called ‘human grade’. Human food plants to not make kibble, the dry nuggets of food fed to many pets in the US.
And the term "Made with Human-grade Ingredients" doesn't mean that a finished product is actually, legally, human grade either. An ingredient (let’s say, a carrot) may start off being human edible but once that carrot has been shipped to and processed in a pet food plant, the 'human-grade' term can no longer legally be used. By definition, it is now feed-grade.
Beware also of pet food manufacturers that bandy about the ‘human grade’ term liberally on their web sites and other marketing materials - but don’t actually state it on the bag. This is a good indicator that the authorities have already picked them up for breaking the rules – or that they’re being a little liberal with the truth. Short-staffed and under-funded inspectors generally only have time to check labels and don’t usually get to the online and printed marketing pitch.
So what’s a pet mom to do? Home cooking is one option, though this can be time-consuming, and achieving nutritional balance is tricky. Raw diets are also a nutritious, healthy way to incorporate real human food into Fido’s menu.
When shopping the pet food aisle, look for a brand that is marked as being produced in a human food factory under FDA or USDA inspection. If in doubt, call your pet food manufacturer and ask them where their food is made.
Various ingredients used in many pet foods are not fit for human consumption at all, and may include by-products, chemicals, fillers and parts from '4D' meats (animals which are dying, diseased, disabled or deceased). These ingredients never have 'edible' status and the finished products certainly don't.Other ingredients may be derived from origins that are human grade, but are not actually edible themselves. Examples would be feathers, feet and beaks from a chicken. The meat would be directed to the human food chain and these components, from that same chicken, make their way to pet food plants as approved and acceptable sources of protein for cats and dogs.

Contributed by Lucie Postins of The Honest Kitchen

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Natural Ingredients in pet food: Everybody offers them, only a few selected tell the truth

It has become a huge marketing buzz. Everywhere we go and look, every pet food is natural these days. When I read pet magazines and other, even non-pet related publications, everybody recommends their usage. Rachel Ray and Ellen deGeneris say their food is natural and everybody runs and buys it. Industry publications for the pet food retailer alert me that this is something I “must” offer now to my customers, because that is what they are looking for these days and it is a great opportunity for me to finally make money in this business. It reminds me that we describe ourselves as a store offering, among other characteristics, “natural” pet nutrition. Although we did that quite a while before everybody jumped on the band wagon, I believe back than it had a little more meaning to it. Following the marketing experts’ and analysts’ advice, pet food manufacturers are cranking out billions of tons of pet food, all made with nothing but natural ingredients. Yet, when we look closer, we often come to find out that that there seems to be a great deal of differences between what we may believe “natural” means and what others think it is. So I decided to look a little deeper and tried to figure out what “natural” actually means.
I searched
Wikipedia for “natural ingredients” and was told that “Natural Ingredients, released in 1994 (see 1994 in music), was the first full-length album by Luscious Jackson.” Funny, that went the wrong way. I tried again, this time “natural” only: “Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. Manufactured objects and human interaction generally are not considered part of nature unless qualified in ways such as "human nature" or "the whole of nature".” Now does that mean, pet food, since its made by humans interacting never could be natural? I think that is a justifiable question.
But then I decide to go somewhere else and found the “
Natural Ingredient Resource Center – because Natural matters” (NRC). What they have to say is a lot closer to what I was looking for:
“While it is true that there is no official, U.S. government regulated definition for the term natural pertaining to the natural products industry, the FDA refers to natural ingredients as "ingredients extracted directly from plants or animal products as opposed to being produced synthetically."”
U. S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA Consumer.
I visited the FDA site, and found even more: “What's 'Natural'? Like hypoallergenic, "natural" can mean anything to anybody. "There are no standards for what natural means," says Bailey. "They could wave a tube [of plant extract] over the bottle and declare it natural. Who's to say what they're actually using?" … In addition, natural doesn't mean pure or clean or perfect either. According to the cosmetic trade journal Drug and Cosmetic Industry, "all plants can be heavily contaminated with bacteria, and pesticides and chemical fertilizers are widely used to improve crop yields”
NRC continues: “The key word there is, "extracted directly". In the case of some ingredients, it's easy to see that they fit easily into this definition.
But what about raw materials that need to undergo some processing or chemical reaction in order to extract the ingredient from the natural raw material that is the source?
Even distilling aromatic plants to produce essential oils sometimes results in the creation of chemicals that didn't exist in the raw material, but which are created by the actual distillation process alone!The "Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients" says a natural product is defined as a "product that is derived from plant, animal or microbial sources, primarily through physical processing, sometimes facilitated by simple chemical reactions such as acidification, basification, ion exchange, hydrolysis, and salt formation as well as microbial fermentation."
"In the early '80s the FTC came up with a great definition for Natural - never adopted. They said that an ingredient may be called "natural" only if it contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients and has had no more processing than something which could be made in a household kitchen."
The Green Products Alliance
The USDA has a legal definition for "natural", but it applies only to meat and poultry; "those products carrying the “natural” claim must not contain any artificial flavoring, color ingredients, chemical preservatives, or artificial or synthetic ingredients, and are only “minimally processed” defined by USDA as a process that does not fundamentally alter the raw product."
The USDA National Organic Program defines non-synthetic as "a substance that is derived from mineral, plant, or animal matter and does not undergo a synthetic process". They define a synthetic as "a substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral sources, except that such term shall not apply to substances created by naturally occurring biological processes."
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, which is an independent, nonprofit testing and information organization serving only consumers, states; "Natural is a general claim that implies that the product or packaging is made from or innate to the environment and that nothing artificial or synthetic has been added. There is currently no standard definition for the term except for meat and poultry products. Unless otherwise specified, there is no organization independently certifying this claim. The producer or manufacturer decides whether to use the claim and is not free from its own self-interest."”
After my
recent article about Consumer Magazine, I am skeptical about anything they have to say. But in this case I definitely wish some pet food manufacturers would listen to not just what the magazine, but everybody else named above has to say about “that nothing artificial or synthetic has been added”. Sounds to me like many people, especially the ones who are selling pet food in humongous volume missed that, to me as a concerned pet owner, quite important point.
The NRC’s conclusion on a definition for natural is like this:
Natural Ingredients include plant, animal, mineral or microbial ingredients present in or produced by nature, produced using minimal physical processing*, directly extracted using simple methods and simple chemical reactions or resulting from naturally occurring biological processes.*
Natural ingredients are grown, harvested, raised and processed in an ecological manner.
not produced synthetically, free of all petrochemicals, not extracted or processed using petrochemicals, not extracted or processed using anything other than natural ingredients as solvents, not exposed to irradiation and not genetically engineered & do not contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
Natural ingredients do not contain synthetic ingredients**, not contain artificial ingredients including colors or flavoring and not contain synthetic chemical preservatives.
* Minimal Processing means the ingredient has had no more processing than something which could be made in a household kitchen, stillroom, on a farm, or vineyard. It doesn't mean they have to actually be made in those settings, but that they would require no more equipment or technology than that which could be employed in those settings. Simple Extraction Methods/Simple Chemical Reactions include cleaning, cold pressing, dehydration, desiccation, drying, evaporation, filtering, grinding, infusing [water or natural alcohol], & steam or water distilling.** Produced by synthesis, a compound made artificially by chemical reactions, from simpler compounds or elements.

Now that to me sounds like a workable deal. Mr. President, since you are doing a major overhaul already, can we get this signed into a law? For the sake of all of our health, our own as well as the one of our pets?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How much carbohydrate is in the dog and cat foods you feed?

This important information is not on the label of pet foods! Learn how to calculate the carbohydrate content, and then how to compare various types of food on both a dry matter and percentage of calories provided basis.
Pet food regulations do not allow the word “carbohydrate” on the label. Human foods are required to list carbohydrate on the label. This major difference makes it difficult to evaluate foods for dogs and cats. Concerned shoppers must do the calculations for themselves.
Fortunately, pet food labels give you the information that you need to do those calculations. These calculations apply to both dog and cat foods; the examples we use are for dogs.

The biggest building blocks of dog and cat foods (the macronutrient content) are: Protein, fat, moisture and carbohydrate. The total must equal 100%. (Ash is sometimes listed, usually for cat foods. Ash is what remains after the food is burned. It consists primarily of elements (Calcium, Phosphorous, Iron, Zinc, Selenium and others). Typically ash content is in the 5 to 8% range, on a dry matter basis.)
Guaranteed analysis of pet food is required information on the label of treats and foods
Here is a typical adult dry food:
Minimum percentage of crude protein 26%
Minimum percentage of crude fat 15%
Maximum percentage of crude fiber 4%
Maximum percentage of moisture 10%
These numbers tell you the percentage by weight of the macronutrients. In 100 grams of this food there are 26 grams of protein (minimum), 15 grams of fat (minimum), 4 grams of fiber (maximum), and 10 grams of moisture (maximum). Fiber is considered a carbohydrate, so don’t subtract the fiber when calculating carbohydrate.
The listed figures are a good estimate, because most manufacturers keep the protein, fat and moisture levels close to the listed amount. Protein and fat look good on the label, and water adds free weight for the manufacturer.
The FDA defines how to calculate carbohydrate: Subtract the weight of crude protein, total fat, moisture, and ash from the total weight ("wet weight") of the sample of food.

Calculate Carbohydrate Percentage On An "As Fed" Basis
Formula 1: 100% - protein% - fat% - moisture% - ash% = Carbohydrate
Using the Guaranteed analysis example above:
Carbohydrate = 100% - 26% protein -15% Fat -10% Water – 6% ash = 43% carbohydrate.
This typical dry dog food is about 43% carbohydrate by weight.
Compare Canned and Fresh Food Diets
The label of a typical wet food states:
minimum protein, 10%
minimum fat, 8 %
maximum moisture, 75%
maximum fiber, 3%
To compare dry and wet foods you must first subtract the water from the food. What remains is the dry matter: the, protein, fat, carbohydrate and ash. a dry matter analysis tells us the percentage of the dry matter (DM) that is protein, fat, and carbohydrate.

Formula 2: How to calculate carbohydrate percentage on a dry matter basis
Step 1. Calculate the total dry matter in the food.
Subtract the percentage moisture from 100%.
If a food is 75% moisture, it is 25% dry matter (100% – 75%)
Step 2: divide the listed macronutrient percentage by the dry matter percentage.
Protein : 10%. divide 10% by 25% = 40% Protein
Fat : 8%: divide 8% by 25% = 32 % fat
Step 3: Use formula 1 above and calculate carbohydrates
(remember to subtract the ash)
Carbohydrates = 100% - 40% (protein)-32% (fat) -6% (ash) = 22%
Compare Dry Food with Canned and Fresh Food
With these results, it is now possible to compare the macronutrient content of dry and canned foods. Chart 1 compares these foods on a dry matter basis.

A better picture of the overall balance of the diet emerges when the actual percentage of calories from each nutrient is known. Fat provides 8 – 9 kcal per gram, more than twice as much as carbohydrates and protein, which provide 3.5 to 4 kcal/gram, depending on the quality of the food.

Chart 2 compares the percentage of energy provided by protein, fat, and carbohydrate for five different foods: a typical dry food, canned, frozen, the natural diet of a dog, and senior dry food. (To calculate percentage of calories provided, first subtract the percentage fiber figure from the carbohydrate, since fiber provides no kcal.)

This chart clearly shows the striking difference between the profile of the natural diet of the dog, and the dry or senior foods. The premium canned and frozen foods provide a more natural macronutrient content, with fat providing about 50% of the calories.

Choosing foods becomes much easier when you know what the balance of the animal’s natural diet really is! We think that almost all dogs and cats will do much better eating diets very close to that natural balance. For more detail on this topic and other label reading skills, read our book See Spot live Longer.
Notes: Contributed by Steve Brown and Beth Taylor
© Steve Brown and Beth Taylor See Spot live Longer

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What’s Really in Pet Food? Part 2 Label basics, standards and regulations

In Part 1 of this series we briefly introduced the subject matter and discussed the major players in the pet food industry. But as we have learned the trend to bigger doesn’t necessarily translate into better and unfortunately we learned, not that it would be anything new, that there are major differences between what pet owners think they are buying and what they are actually getting. This comment focuses in very general terms on the most visible name brands, the pet food labels that are mass-distributed to supermarkets and discount stores. However, just so that we are on the safe side, there are also many highly respected brands that may be guilty of the same offenses. What many pet owners to this day still don’t know is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a convenient way for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered “unfit for human consumption,” and similar waste products to be turned into profit. In order for the consumer to make an educated decision it is necessary to learn, among many others considerations, how to read pet food labels to begin with.
There are special labeling requirements for pet food, all of which are contained in the annually revised Official Publication of AAFCO.2 While AAFCO does not regulate pet food, it does provide model regulations and standards that are followed by U.S. pet food makers.
The name of the food provides the first indication of the food’s content. The use of the terms “all” or “100%” cannot be used “if the product contains more than one ingredient, not including water sufficient for processing, de-characterizing agents, or trace amounts of preservatives and condiments.”
The “95% Rule” applies when the ingredient(s) derived from animals, poultry, or fish constitutes at least 95% or more of the total weight of the product (or 70% excluding water for processing). Because all-meat diets are not nutritionally balanced and cause severe deficiencies if fed exclusively, they fell out of favor for many years. However, due to rising consumer interest in high quality meat products, several companies are now promoting 95% and 100% canned meats as a supplemental feeding option.
The “dinner” product is defined by the “25% Rule,” which applies when “an ingredient or a combination of ingredients constitutes at least 25% of the weight of the product (excluding water sufficient for processing)”, or at least 10% of the dry matter weight; and a descriptor such as “recipe,” “platter,” “entree,” and “formula.” A combination of ingredients included in the product name is permissible when each ingredient comprises at least 3% of the product weight, excluding water for processing, and the ingredient names appear in descending order by weight.
The “With” rule allows an ingredient name to appear on the label, such as “with real chicken,” as long as each such ingredient constitutes at least 3% of the food by weight, excluding water for processing.
The “flavor” rule allows a food to be designated as a certain flavor as long as the ingredient(s) are sufficient to “impart a distinctive characteristic” to the food. Thus, a “beef flavor” food may contain a small quantity of digest or other extract of tissues from cattle, or even an artificial flavor, without containing any actual beef meat at all.
The ingredient list is the other major key to what’s really in that bag or can. Ingredients must be listed in descending order of weight. The ingredient names are legally defined. For instance, “meat” refers to only cows, pigs, goats and sheep, and only includes specified muscle tissues. Detailed definitions are published in AAFCO’s Official Publication, revised annually, but can also be found in many places online.
The guaranteed analysis provides a very general guide to the composition of the food. Crude protein, fat, and fiber, and total moisture are required to be listed. Some companies also voluntarily list taurine, Omega fatty acids, magnesium, and other items that they deem important, by marketing standards.

Pet Food Standards and Regulations
The National Research Council (NRC) of the Academy of Sciences set the nutritional standards for pet food that were used by the pet food industry until the late 1980s. The original NRC standards were based on purified diets, and required feeding trials for pet foods claimed to be “complete” and “balanced.” The pet food industry found the feeding trials too restrictive and expensive, so AAFCO designed an alternate procedure for claiming the nutritional adequacy of pet food, by testing the food for compliance with “Nutrient Profiles.” AAFCO also created “expert committees” for canine and feline nutrition, which developed separate canine and feline standards.
While feeding trials are sometimes still done, they are expensive and time-consuming. A standard chemical analysis may also be used to make sure that a food meets the profiles. In either case, there will be a statement on the label stating which method was used. However, because of the “family rule” in the AAFCO book, a label can say that feeding tests were done if it is “similar” to a food that was actually tested on live animals. There is no way to distinguish the lead product from its “family members.” The label will also state whether the product is nutritionally adequate (complete and balanced), and what life stage (adult or growth) the food is for. A food that says “all life stages” meets the growth standards and can be fed to all ages.
Chemical analysis, however, does not address the palatability, digestibility, or biological availability of nutrients in pet food. Thus it is unreliable for determining whether a food will provide an animal with sufficient nutrients. To compensate for the limitations of chemical analysis, AAFCO added a “safety factor,” which was to exceed the minimum amount of nutrients required to meet the complete and balanced requirements.
In 2006, new NRC standards were published; but it will take several years for AAFCO’s profiles to be updated and adopted, let alone accepted by the states.
The pet food industry loves to say that it’s more highly regulated than human food, but that’s just not true. Pet food exists in a bit of a regulatory vacuum; laws are on the books, but enforcement is another story. The FDA has nominal authority over pet foods shipped across state lines. But the real “enforcers” are the feed control officials in each state. They are the ones who actually look at the food and, in many instances, run basic tests to make sure the food meets its Guaranteed Analysis, the chart on the label telling how much protein, fat, moisture, and fiber are present. But regulation and enforcement vary tremendously from state to state. Some, like Texas, Minnesota, and Kentucky, run extensive tests and strictly enforce their laws; others, like California, do neither.
Reprinted with permission from and contributed by
Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute and reprinted with permission. © 2003-2009 - Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute - All rights reserved

Monday, March 9, 2009

Selecting a commercial Pet Food Part 3: Vegetarian Pet Foods & Pet Food Label Rules

In part 1 and part 2 of this series we talked about pet food ingredient standards and the problems pet owners are facing when selecting a commercial pet food. We came up with a basic check list of things you may want to consider when shopping for pet food and we addressed some feeding guide lines for our companion animals. Today we are going to conclude this series by briefly addressing vegetarian pet foods and discussing some secrets you should know about pet food labeling.
Vegetarian Food
Dogs and cats are classified as carnivores, but many dogs can thrive on a vegetarian diet. There are several vegetarian and even vegan pet foods available which are supplemented with nutrients unavailable in plants. Your dog might do very well with one of these diets, or even with a balanced homemade vegetarian diet. However, you should watch your dog carefully for problems such as a dull coat, dandruff, low energy, diarrhea, or other symptoms. It can take months or even years for a deficiency to develop.
Cats have very specific metabolic requirements for several nutrients found only in animal products, such as taurine, pre-formed Vitamin A (they cannot convert the plant precursor, beta-carotene), and arachadonic acid. They may not be able to adequately digest some plant-based proteins. There is at least one product marketed as a feline supplement for vegetarian diets, but these nutrients are chemically synthesized or highly purified, and may lack the enzymes and co-factors needed for optimal absorption and function. The long-term implications of these supplements are unknown. Therefore, API does not recommend that cats be fed a strictly vegetarian diet.
Pet Food Label "Rules"
The 95% Rule: If the product says “Salmon Cat Food” or “Beef Dog Food,” 95% of the product must be the named ingredients. A product with a combination label, such as “Beef and Liver for Dogs,” must contain 95% beef and liver, and there must be more beef than liver, since beef is named first.
The 25% or “Dinner” Rule: Ingredients named on the label must comprise at least 25% of the product but less than 95%, when there is a qualifying “descriptor” term like “dinner,” “entree,” “formula,” “platter,” “nuggets,” etc. In “Beef Dinner for Dogs,” beef may or may not be the primary ingredient. If two ingredients are named (“Beef and Turkey Dinner for Dogs”), the two ingredients must total 25%, there must be more of the first ingredient (beef) than the second (turkey), and there must be at least 3% of the lesser ingredient.
The 3% or “With” Rule: A product may be labeled “Cat Food with Salmon” if it contains at least 3% of the named ingredient.
The “Flavor” Rule: A food may be labeled “Turkey Flavor Cat Food” even if the food does not contain such ingredients, as long as there is a “sufficiently detectable” amount of flavor. This may be derived from meals, by-products, or “digests” of various parts from the animal species indicated on the label.
Contributed by and © 2004-2009 -
Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute - All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Recommended reading:
Celeste Yarnall. Natural Cat Care. Journey Editions. ISBN 1-8852-0363-2.
Celeste Yarnall. Natural Dog Care. Journey Editions. ISBN 0-7858-1123-0.
Kate Solisti-Mattelon and Patrice Mattelon. The Holistic Animal Handbook: A Guidebook to Nutrition, Health, and Communication. Beyond Words Publishing Co. ISBN 1-5827-0023-0.
Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., and Susan Hubble Pitcairn. Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. Rodale Press, Inc. ISBN 0-87596-243-2.
Donald R. Strombeck. Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: The Healthful Alternative. Iowa State University Press. ISBN 0-8138-2149-5.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Pet food ingredients de-mystified: Green Tripe

We all have been there: Standing in the pet food isle, studying pet food labels and wondering, what are they saying? With the constant marketing hype generated by pet food manufacturers we see with great frequency new ingredients showing up all the time. This business is very competitive. In their efforts to hold on to market shares, pet food manufacturers need to be creative and offer new products all the time. Blueberries are out, Akayi Berries are in. Salmon? Well, becoming too common, so now at the very least it has to be salmon from the very coldest waters. Besides that, since everybody has it, let’s see if Menhaden will do the trick. Though it has to be noted that Menhaden is also being used for cost saving reasons (Is that why McDonalds uses it in its Filet-O-Fish?). Regular duck does not do it any more, these days it has to be an exotic off spring species. Canola oil over sun flower oil? Many of the ingredients we find listed on a pet food label sometimes sound more like a book of mysteries rather being than an easy understandable tool designed to make it easy for the pet owning consumer to make an educated decision. I am not even talking about the ones with names like they came straight out of a chemistry book, like for example “Saccharomyces cerevesiae fermentation solubles”. Excuse me, what did you just say? Sacch*&$HOI*&Y)*? There are plenty of those. But there are also “non-chemical” sounding, or “good”, natural ingredients we wonder about. Some of them may be exotic, so not knowing enough about them comes natural. Others sound to be more common yet are basically still unknown. To explain what all of them are and do for your pet is the purpose of this series. Some of them, in human minds often considered to be garbage have shown to be very beneficial to our pets. And since they are surrounded by so much mystery created by many horror stories circulating on the Internet, in many minds they end up disapproved as not being “good” for our companions. My list of such ingredients is already endless, so be prepared for this series haunting you for a long time into the future. But I also invite everybody to participate. Let me know which ingredient you would like to learn more about and I will give those reader requests priority.
As such, one ingredient well known, yet imbedded in a cloud of mystery is tripe. The mystery starts with the simple fact that, probably based on the many rumors one can hear and read about it, it is not or somewhat limited in its use and not fit for human consumption. Wait, a second, do me a favor please: Next time you are out doing your grocery shopping, pay attention in the meat department and then tell me whether or not you found tripe. First, human unfit is simply a rumor and factually incorrect, but second, this in itself makes it something horrible, or as the kids would say “eeeeh, yuk”. Unfit for humans in many minds means unfit for pets. Especially since a new trend is towards “human grade quality” food. Wait a second here, not so fast. Listen first:
“Tripe is a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various farm animals.” Says
Wikepedia. Edible? “Beef tripe is usually made from only the first three chambers of a cow's stomach: the rumen (blanket/flat/smooth tripe), the reticulum (honeycomb and pocket tripe), and the omasum (book/bible/leaf tripe). Abomasum (reed) tripe is seen much less frequently, owing to its glandular tissue content. Tripe is also produced from sheep, goats, pigs, and deer. Unwashed (or "green") tripe includes some of the stomach's last content, giving it an unpleasant odor and causing it to be considered unfit for human consumption. However, this content is desirable to dogs and many other carnivores and is often used in pet food. Though it is called "green," its color is often brown or grey because of its high chlorophyll content from undigested grass. For human consumption, tripe must be washed and meticulously cleaned.” Now that explains it better. And gets us on the right path since we are already addressing carnivores.
I am sure you are thinking, "ok, but what is Green Tripe?". The answer to that is simple, because it is the best, most natural food you could feed your canine companion. It has been a well known secret of top breeders/kennels of performance dogs for years. The following excerpt from
Juliette de Bairacli Levy's book, The Complete Herbal Book for the Dog, says it best:
"I would suggest breeders make good use of such flesh foods as the following:...paunches of all animals (the raw, uncleaned paunches of healthy grass-fed animals can be fed with much benefit to all breeds of dogs). I learned this from a gypsy in the Forest of Dean: this man had bred many famous greyhounds, and he told me that such fare was the finest of natural food tonics."
Tripe is the stomach of ruminating animals. These animals (i.e. cattle, buffalo, sheep, deer, goats, antelope, etc.) are classified as being four footed, hooved, cud chewing mammals with a stomach that consists of four chambers. The four chambers of such a stomach are known as the rumen, reticulum, omasum and the abomasum. The food the animal eats (i.e. grass, hay) is swallowed un-chewed and passes into the rumen and reticulum where it is then regurgitated, chewed and mixed with saliva. It is again swallowed and then passed through the reticulum and omasum into the abomasum, where it is then further broken down by the gastric juices, amino acids and other digestive enzymes. Yummy!
So how can something so disgusting, be so good? These same gastric juices and enzymes not only aid the animal in digestion, but also aid a dog in digesting and efficiently utilizing his food. The amino acids are necessary for muscular development and, the other gastric juices, according to Mary Voss of, are the best cleaner for their teeth!
Also according to Voss, “in an analysis of a sample of green tripe by a Woodson-Tenant Lab in Atlanta, Georgia, it was discovered that the calcium to phosphorous ratio is 1:1, the overall pH is on the acidic side which is better for digestion, protein is 15.1, fat 11.7 and it contained the essential fatty acids, Linoleic and Linolenic, in their recommended proportions. Also discovered, was the presence of Lactic Acid Bacteria. Lactic Acid Bacteria, also known as Lactobacillus Acidophilus, is the good intestinal bacteria. It is the main ingredient in probiotics.
Finally, because of it’s rubbery texture, serving it in large chunks also aids the canine in strengthening it’s jaw muscles and has an added benefit as a form of canine dental floss.
The white tripe that you find in the grocery store has been cleaned, scalded and bleached. It has almost no nutritional value for the canine. This tripe is usually found in dishes such as menudo.
Green tripe does not necessarily refer to it's color. In this instance it refers to the fact that it has not been touched - not cleaned, not bleached and not scalded. It's actual color is brown, however, sometimes there will be a greenish tint due to the grass or hay the animal ate just before slaughtering.”
Nothing beats the "green" tripe from a freshly slaughtered animal, but in an effort to make dog owners’ lives easier, the few manufacturers offering raw tripe now have available green tripe that has been ground and frozen, packaged in different size packs.
Mary Voss of wrote in her informative, yet somewhat humorous article for the Afghan Hound Review about tripe, “No Guts, No Glory... another chapter in feeding green tripe!”:
“Everyone has to admit, there is nothing more upsetting than finding a flea or tick on your dog. Country life, as romantic as it may sound, is the perfect breeding ground for these parasites.
Several years ago I started looking into natural methods of reducing the flea & tick population. Chemicals may help control a small area, but anything larger than one acre is a problem. The most effective chemicals are also environmentally dangerous and toxic to both humans and animals.
So the Search began for the perfect natural way of keeping these pests under control. Many of the books I read suggested certain plants and grasses that helped repel fleas or ticks. There were also many herbal sprays that would help. The philosophy here was to keep the problem under control…not to annihilate them, although I don’t think you will find anyone heartbroken to see fleas or ticks on the endangered species list!
What I found interesting, in almost all of the books I read, was the belief that a truly healthy dog will not be bothered by these parasites. So what did this mean? Natural Rearing. Almost all of the books recommended feeding raw meats, vegetables and grains, raw bones, herbal supplements, fasting one day per week, fresh water supply and plenty of fresh air and exercise.
Our dogs always have plenty of fresh water, fresh air and exercise…a "run with a view", what more could an afghan ask for? Raw meats were the next thing to try. At first, I would buy meat from the grocery store…ground beef, beef heart, lamb and chicken. With the chicken, I would soak it in a grapefruit seed extract and water mixture to kill any salmonella. I did see some improvement over the cooked meat I had been feeding.
Not long after switching to raw meats I heard about feeding green tripe. In Europe it had been used for years and many of the old time breeders swore by it. Problem was finding green (raw, uncleaned) tripe here in the US. The USDA has strict rules about that sort of stuff. One slaughter house, several hours away, required I sign a USDA release form before I could buy it from them. Luckily, I found a local "butcher" that did custom slaughtering. If they did a cow that day, I got the phone call in the evening to come get my tripe…one could not help but feel like Dr. Frankenstein awaiting phone calls for new body parts! In retrospect, I was very thankful. There is no way I would have survived a 2-3 hour trip, especially in the middle of summer, with several cow stomachs in the back of the truck…no matter how they packaged them!
I always heard people talk about how bad the smell was, but until you experience it, you could never imagine how bad it actually is. The first tripe we brought home was in an old cooler in the back of the truck. Even with windows open, in the back of an open truck, it was still horrible. Ten seconds after we pulled into the driveway, the howling began. I have never seen my dogs in such a frenzy.
When I first started using the tripe, I had to open, drain and rinse the excess hay and grass out myself and then of course, cut it up. It was really disgusting, but the dogs loved it and thrived on it. My attire and equipment usually consisted of a heavy duty butcher’s apron, latex gloves, several buckets, a hose and one of the biggest knives I could find. I looked like something out of a horror movie!
There are suppliers now that do provide green tripe ground and frozen in small packages. It can, however, be expensive. The advantage, of course, is the convenience and the fact that you don’t even need gloves to handle it…just a good hand soap! I have found that Dial antibacterial hand soap works the best.
I have tried the frozen/ground form, but I’m back to the "real thing" - fresh from the cow. I prefer to cut it myself because I like to give bigger pieces to the dogs so they can really work those jaw muscles and it also allows me distribute the fat better to those dogs that need it more. Fat is a concentrated energy source and very important in the diet of hard working and sporting dogs.
Was all of this torture worth it? YES. Within a couple of weeks of when I first started feeding green tripe, I noticed drastic improvements in coat, skin, energy, teeth and stools…less in number, small and hard…a good sign that the canine is efficiently utilizing his food.
The most noticeable improvement was on a very old rescue afghan. When she was turned into the shelter, her age was given as 6yrs old. It wasn’t until I was shaving down her mats, that I found a collar with a rabies tag. When I called the vet clinic, they informed me she was 12. Her teeth were terrible. She could not eat kibble and she could barely walk across the backyard. On January 12th, 2000 she turned 17! She has been eating tripe for almost 5 years and can still run with the pack, discipline the "young and restless" and has the most beautiful set of white teeth without ever having dental cleaning done.
We have not been the only ones to notice the benefits of the green tripe diet. In the past couple of years, several other people have been trying it with very pleasant results. They have all noticed better coats…more luster and shine, no more flaky skin, richer colors, etc. Many comments have been made regarding how white their dogs teeth have become…without dental work! Everyone seems happier about the better stools, but they are more impressed by the increased energy level. Many of the older sighthounds have been revitalizing their running careers and have been very successful in competition over the younger dogs. As an example, a few years ago at the ASFA Region 2 Invitational our then 7 ½ year old veteran, sire of our first litter, beat his 2 year old sons for the BOB (his second BOB title at the Region 2 Invitational) and then ran very competitively in the Best In Field run. He had been eating green tripe for at least 1 year at that point in time.
I’m not quite sure if it is related, but we also noticed a change in the two litters we bred. The first litter was before we were using the tripe. As a matter of fact, we started using a muscle meat/tripe mix when the pups from that litter were 3 months old. With the second litter, both sire and dam had been on the tripe for at least 2 years before the breeding. It was a more robust litter than the first. The pups had been on tripe essentially since conception and are far superior, in many ways, to the first litter.
So what makes green tripe the perfect food for the canine. Recently, an analysis of a sample of the packaged frozen tripe was performed by Woodson-Tenant Laboratories, Inc. in Georgia. The results were what many people had speculated but never proven with scientific fact.
The calcium:phosphorous ratio is indeed 1:1, the overall pH is on the acidic side which is better for digestion, protein is 15.1, fat 11.7 and of course it contained the essential fatty acids, Linoleic and Linolenic, in their recommended proportions.
What was surprising to find, was the presence of Lactic Acid Bacteria. Lactic Acid Bacteria, also known as Lactobacillus Acidophilus, is the good intestinal bacteria. It is the main ingredient in probiotics.
Green tripe is also loaded with gastric enzymes, amino acids, and other gastric "juices". The gastric enzymes not only help the cow in digestion, but also aid the canine in digesting and efficiently utilizing his food. The amino acids are necessary for muscular development and, the other gastric juices, I believe, are the best cleaner for their teeth! Because of it’s rubbery texture, serving it in large chunks also aids the canine in strengthening it’s jaw muscles and has an added benefit as a form of canine dental floss.
Cooking, bleaching or scalding the tripe destroys almost all of the enzymes and amino acids. Freezing destroys some too, but certainly not as many and still manages to keep most of the nutritional content intact. It is also more convenient than burying raw meat underground.
It has been my observation that people, in general, are afraid to feed their dogs raw meat, especially green tripe, because of the E-coli scare. Don’t forget, a canine’s system can handle much more than we can. After all, when they bring down prey, they usually go for the innards first. If you don’t care to think about the hunt scenario, picture the loose neighborhood dog rummaging through everyone’s garbage pails.
I know this is all really "hard to stomach", but they really do thrive on it. From couch potato to sport and working dogs, they all will benefit from green tripe.
In conclusion, there is nothing tripe about tripe!”
Way to go Mary, I am on your side. This is why we at our store carry many tripe products, from frozen raw to freeze dried versions, raw food with tripe, tripe in cans and a number of tripe treats. (if interested, pl.
e-mail me for more info) I know our dogs love it, but so must our customers’ companions. Our data shows, once someone orders tripe he/she for sure come back for more.
Sources & references:
GreenTripe.comAfghan Hound Review, Sept/Oct 1997 Dogs In Review, Volume 2 Issue 2, Feb 1998 Woodson-Tenent Lab Report # G97-16346, Woodson-Tenent Laboratories, Inc., Gainesville, GA Feed Them Well, Test Them Hard, Martin J. Lieberman Owning An Irish Wolfhound, A Guide to Rearing and Training, published by the Irish Wolfhound Club of Ireland Natural Insect Repellents, Janette Grainger & Connie Moore The Complete Herbal Book for the Dog, Juliette de Bairacli Levy
Image credit: Wikepedia