Friday, March 27, 2009

What’s Really in Pet Food? Part 5 Nutrition Related Diseases

Today we are going to discuss nutrition related diseases to continue this series contributed by Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute. 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. Part 2 addressed in very general terms labeling basics, standards and regulations, while Part 3 focused on ingredients and Part 4 was subject to discussion of pet food manufacturing processes, various recall issues and the potential dangers with pet food. This series 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.

Nutrition Related Diseases
The idea that one pet food provides all the nutrition a companion animal will ever need for its entire life is a dangerous myth.
Today, the diets of cats and dogs are a far cry from the variable meat-based diets that their ancestors ate. The unpleasant results of grain-based, processed, year-in and year-out diets are common. Health problems associated with diet include:
Urinary tract disease. Plugs, crystals, and stones are more common in cats eating dry diets, due to the chronic dehydration and highly concentrated urine they cause. “Struvite” stones used to be the most common type in cats, but another more dangerous type, calcium oxalate, has increased and is now tied with struvite. Manipulation of manufactured cat food formulas to increase the acidity of urine has caused the switch. Dogs can also form stones as a result of their diet.
Kidney disease. Chronic dehydration associated with dry diets may also be a contributing factor in the development of kidney disease and chronic renal failure in older cats. Cats have a low thirst drive; in the wild they would get most of their water from their prey. Cats eating dry food do not drink enough water to make up for the lack of moisture in the food. Cats on dry food diets drink more water, but the total water intake of a cat eating canned food is twice as great.7
Dental disease. Contrary to the myth propagated by pet food companies, dry food is not good for teeth.8 Given that the vast majority of pets eat dry food, yet the most common health problem in pets is dental disease, this should be obvious. Humans do not floss with crackers, and dry food does not clean the teeth.
Obesity. Feeding recommendations or instructions on the packaging are sometimes inflated so that the consumer will end up feeding — and purchasing — more food. One of the most common health problems in pets, obesity, may also be related to high-carb, high-calorie dry foods. Both dogs and cats respond to low-carb wet food diets. Overweight pets are more prone to arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. Dry cat food is now considered the cause of feline diabetes; prevention and treatment include switching to a high protein, high moisture, low-carb diet.
Chronic digestive problems. Chronic vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and inflammatory bowel disease are among the most frequent illnesses treated. These are often the result of an allergy or intolerance to pet food ingredients. The market for “limited antigen” or “novel protein” diets is now a multi-million dollar business. These diets were formulated to address the increasing intolerance to commercial foods that pets have developed. Even so, an animal that tends to develop allergies can develop allergies to the new ingredients, too. One twist is the truly “hypoallergenic” food that has had all its proteins artificially chopped into pieces smaller than can be recognized and reacted to by the immune system. Yet there are documented cases of animals becoming allergic to this food, too. It is important to change brands, flavors, and protein sources every few months to prevent problems.
Bloat. Feeding only one meal per day can cause the irritation of the esophagus by stomach acid, and appears to be associated with gastric dilitation and volvulus (canine bloat). Feeding two or more smaller meals is better.
Heart disease. An often-fatal heart disease in cats and some dogs is now known to be caused by a deficiency of the amino acid taurine. Blindness is another symptom of taurine deficiency. This deficiency was due to inadequate amounts of taurine in cat food formulas, which in turn had occurred due to decreased amounts of animal proteins and increased reliance on carbohydrates. Cat foods are now supplemented with taurine. New research suggests that some dog breeds are susceptible to the same condition. Supplementing taurine may also be helpful for dogs, but as yet few manufacturers are adding extra taurine to dog food.
Hyperthyroidism. There is also evidence that hyperthyroidism in cats may be related to diet. This is a relatively new disease that first surfaced in the 1970s. Some experts theorize that excess iodine in commercial cat food is a factor. New research also points to a link between the disease and pop-top cans, and flavors including fish or “giblets.” This is a serious disease, and treatment is expensive.
Many nutritional problems appeared with the popularity of cereal-based commercial pet foods. Some have occurred because the diet was incomplete. Although several ingredients are now supplemented, we do not know what ingredients future researchers may discover that should have been supplemented in pet foods all along. Other problems may occur from reactions to additives. Others are a result of contamination with bacteria, mold, drugs, or other toxins. In some diseases the role of commercial pet food is understood; in others, it is not. The bottom line is that diets composed primarily of low quality cereals and rendered meals are not as nutritious or safe as you should expect for your cat or dog.
Stay tuned when we unveil some pet food industry secrets and the magic of pet food marketing in part 6 soon to follow.
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

Diet affecting our pet's behavior?

The other day, a prospective raw feeder asked me a great number of questions. One of those was: “Doesn’t feeding raw wake the wild instincts in my dog and make him wanting to kill and become dangerous?” It wasn’t the first time I was asked this and my answers is always simply “No”. But that is just the way I feel about it, I really so far was not able to find anything related to this and providing more substantial backup. It was just coincidence that the other day I glanced trough a copy of’s newsletter. There Tim Phillips, DVM, had written the following related to this subject matter:
“Dietary nutrients can affect neurotransmitter and hormone levels and thus can influence behavior. By increasing serotonin levels, dietary tryptophan can help decrease canine fearfulness. Behavior is regulated by neurotransmitters and hormones, and changes in the availability of their precursors may influence behavior. But unfortunately, the effects of nutrients on behavior are largely unknown. Following are examples of dietary nutrients most likely to have an effect on canine behavior:
Phytoestrogens, found primarily in soy, may decrease anxiety but increase aggression;
Antioxidants may lessen age-dependent cognitive decline in dogs; Tryptophan may decrease canine aggression and fearfulness.
Preventing euthanasia
At present, few studies have been conducted to evaluate the role of nutrition in canine problem behavior. But studies that explore this relationship may help improve the welfare of dogs and their owners.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have an important role as structural constituents in brain development. Dietary supply of omega-3 and omega-6 PUFAs could modify aspects of the dopaminergic and serotonergic systems and, consequently, cognitive performance and behavior.
Finally, persistent feeding motivation between meals can increase stereotyped behavior and aggression and decrease resting time. This feeding motivation may be decreased by the dietary fiber content of the diet.
Diet and mood changes
"Infants do not have an inborn ability to select a balanced, nutritious diet."
Nutrition and behavior are not usually considered to be closely related, but there are key areas of overlap between these fields. Behavioral factors determine the choice of foods in the diet, and any attempt to change dietary patterns must necessarily involve the central nervous system and may be associated with mood changes.
That diet influences behavior is an ancient human belief. Primitive people attributed friendly and unfriendly feelings to plants and animals and expected these feelings to be transferred to anyone who ate such foods. The reduction of dietary risk factors for chronic disease and the development of effective means to do so are key to good health.

Persistent feeding motivation between meals can increase aggression.
Eating disorders in humans
Although infants do not begin life with a choice of foods, some of the most obvious reflexes at birth are those associated with eating. Infants learn to associate eating with security and relief from anxiety, tension and distress. Later, children eat in conformance to cultural and familial standards. Ingrained meanings attached to the roles of food in society suggest reasons that food habits can be changed only with difficulty.
Food selection includes multiple environmental, cultural, genetic, social and sensory variables that interact in complex ways. One exception appears to be an innate preference for foods that are sweet. This preference is acquired in early childhood and continues throughout life.
Selection of foods for nutritional or health reasons is a learned behavior. Infants do not have an inborn ability to select a balanced, nutritious diet. The variety of foods available has an important effect on food consumption; the more the available foods are varied, the more of them people will eat.
Reducing risk for pets
Behavior change is a key element in reducing the risk for chronic disease. Eating behaviors are acquired over a lifetime; to change them requires alterations in habits that must be continued permanently beyond any short term period of intervention.
For humans, dietary advice is often restrictive and viewed as depriving. It may also be incompatible with cultural or familial standards. Environmental factors such as peer pressure, advertising of high calorie foods and alcoholic beverages may strongly counteract recommended changes.
Despite these difficulties, considerable evidence supports the effectiveness of nutrition education in changing dietary intake. These changes can reduce risk factors for many conditions, and the same can be true for pets.

Increasing satiety: This study ("Comparative in vitro fermentation activity in the canine distal gastrointestinal tract and fermentation kinetics of fiber sources," G. Bosch, et al. J. Anim Sci, 2008, 86:2979-2989) evaluated the variation in fermentation activity along the distal canine gastrointestinal tract. It also assessed fermentation kinetics and end product profiles of 16 dietary fibers for dog foods using canine fecal inoculum. Results of this study can be used to formulate canine diets that stimulate dietary fiber fermentation along the distal gastrointestinal tract and stimulate the level of satiety in dogs.”
This article is based on "Impact of nutrition on canine behavior: current status and possible mechanisms," G. Bosch, et al. Nutrition Research Reviews (2007), 20, 1-16.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What a treat! Choosing the right goodies for your companion

Think of pet treats and many of us envision those highly processed, highly flavored morsels in the shape of fishes or mailmen. They might be fun to buy and give to your dog and cat, and your animal might love eating them, but at best all they do is add empty calories to his diet. Most also contain all kinds of risky ingredients, including artificial colorings, sugars and fillers. Just like people who are always snacking on candy and cookies, animals that eat too many treats can become prone to obesity, diabetes and other health issues.
Here’s a look at the different types of pet treats you can buy and the pros and cons of each.
These are an old standby, so familiar we don’t think about what’s in them. But they are what they look like: Cookies! The average dog biscuit contains more grain than most dry foods, as well as flavorings of all sorts.
Here’s an example: Yodel is a heavy 30 pound beagle. He gets two medium sized biscuits in the morning, two for “lunch,” and two after he goes out before bed. Each biscuit contains 35 calories. Yodel’s ration for the day is about 550 calories; with six biscuits a day, 210 of those calories are being provided by treats, on top of what he’s already eating. His owners didn’t do their arithmetic, and Yodel got fat. Because of this, his life may be shortened, and he may be more likely to develop arthritis and other chronic health problems.
When buying biscuits, choose organic, natural products made with only whole grains and that contain as few synthetic ingredients and additives as possible. Keep in mind that even natural biscuits will add to the carbohydrate level of your animal’s diet, making it harder for him to maintain a proper weight. Break the treats up into small pieces, or buy the smallest size you can find, so you’re not giving your animal as much at a time.
Meat based treats
These come in all shapes and forms, from jerky to tiny freeze-dried cubes. Look for whole food products. Brands that bear “meat-sounding” names may be full of artificial coloring to make the treat look like bacon, beef or other meats.
Meat-only treats include freeze-dried or dehydrated meat such as liver, turkey breast strips, lamb lungs and other body parts. These treats are mostly protein, but they still add calories. A 20 pound dog who consumes a full piece of lamb lung is getting most of his calories for the day, and not in a balanced way. Again, break these treats into small pieces.
Hint: Cats love meat and fish based treats. Read labels carefully: attractively packaged, smelly treats may contain low quality ingredients.
Freeze dried meat and vegetable diets make excellent, often “complete and balanced” treats. They contain both protein and fat, though, so they add more calories than meat only treats of the same size.
All meat based treats should be bought in small packages and used promptly. Store them in the freezer to preserve the fats and keep the treats dry.
People food treats
It’s not surprising that every time you open the fridge door, Fido shows up, wondering if there’s something inside for him! In fact, human food can make fresh, nutritious treats for dogs and cats, so long as you choose the right things. Blueberries, carrots, apples, melon, eggs, or bits of cheese or meat are all tasty tidbits. As with any treat, size and quantity are important, but since many of these foods still have their water content, they aren’t as fattening. A piece of apple has far fewer calories than even a small biscuit.
Peanut butter and celery is an entertaining dog treat, but it does have an extremely high caloric content, and should be saved for special occasions.
Hint: Avoid giving your animal raisins, grapes, onions, and chocolate; these can all have toxic effects. Also, don’t feed him junk food like potato chips or hot dogs.
Chew treats
Chew treats can promote mental, dental and overall physical health, and may also help prevent a growing puppy from gnawing on your furniture or shoes. Here’s what you need to know about them:
A raw meaty bone (not cooked) is the best and healthiest chew treat.
Food stuffed toys provide lots of physical and mental stimulation. A rubber Kong fillled with a few crunchy treats, a piece of cheese, or a bit of peanut butter will keep a dog working for a long time. Treat balls stuffed with small crunchy treats add an element of play as the dog throws and bounces it around to get the goodies out.
Avoid rawhide treats. Not only do they contain no nutrient value, but dogs tend to swallow large chunks which can cause life threatening blockages in the digestive system. Even small pieces can be irritating to the GI tract and may cause diarrhea.
HintAlways supervise your dog when he has a chew treat.
The green chews promoted for dental health are often made with a gluten base. Gluten is one of the most common causes of allergies in dogs and should be avoided.
Other cooked or smoked body parts also need to be carefully evaluated. Pigs’ ears, for example, are not recommended because they are high in fat. Tracheas and tendons are easy to digest and add cartilage to the diet, but can pose a choking hazard.
Hint: “Cat grass”, available as a kit or already growing, is an excellent kitty treat, providing entertainment and live green nutrients for indoor felines. Some dogs also enjoy nibbling on fresh greens. Look for an organic product.
Treat time is an important part of the day for your companion animal. The most healthful goodies you can give your dog or cat are those made from fresh, whole foods. It’s all right to buy those cute little fishes and mailmen once in awhile, but stick to real food or meat treats most of the time. You’ll help your animal maintain a healthy weight and live longer.

Contibuted by Steve Brown and Beth Taylor, co-authors of "See Spot Live Longer: How to help your dog live a longer and healthier life."
Originally published in the "Pet Food Report, 2007" by the publishers of Animal Wellness Magazine

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pet Food Ingredients de-mystified: Beet Pulp

Beet pulp is probably one of the most misunderstood and aligned ingredients in manufactured dog foods. It is true that too much of a good thing is bad and this is the case with beet pulp too. Take the time to understand to understand the role of prebiotics and probiotics in the maintenance of the healthy body. If this is done, then one can begin to understand the role of beet pulp in a feeding program.
This post speaks to misinformation that has perpetrated about beet pulp. This is not just theory on my part. The input is from scientists, medical and nutrition people who have studied in the area of prebiotics and probiotics. I will address villae clogging, use of fiber, and sapponins. Please note that the positions held in the misinformation have not been proven scientifically. They are theories only.

1. Statement: Beet Pulp clogs the villae in the intestine. False
Beet pulp does not clog the villae in the intestine. This is a theory by an owner of a dog food company. There are no scientific studies, which support this theory. There are several studies, which show how beet pulp is beneficial in promoting a healthy digestive system.What can clog the villae? If villae are blocked, the prime cause is typically insufficient or total lack of a probiotic colony in the gut. (More on that later.) Another cause of villae clogging is bentonite, which is fine clay that is used in some cheap dog foods.

2. Statement: Beet pulp is an indigestible fiber.
While this statement is true, the beet pulp is not in the food for nutritive value to the dog. It is not supposed to be digested by the dog. The beet pulp has two purposes.
First, the beet pulp provides nutrition for the probiotics. (It is a prebiotic.) Having good food available encourages the colonization of probiotics. (Prebiotics, defined by Gibson and Roberfroid (1995) as "non digestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon and thus improves host health," may include starches, dietary fibers, other non-absorbable sugars, sugar alcohols, andoligosaccharides.." Gibson et al., 1996).

1. Gibson, G. and Roberfroid, M.B. 1995. Dietary modulation of the human colonic mibrobiota: Introducing the concept of prebiotics. J. Nutr. 125: 1401-1412.
2. Gibson, G.R., Williams, A., Reading, S., and Collins, M.D. 1996. Fermentation of non-digestible oligosaccharides by human colonic bacteria. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 55: 899-912.

The second purpose is to provide bulk to the stool, which allows it to move through the digestive tract at a rate which assures maximum digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Note: The probiotics cling to the wall of the intestine and dine. While they are there, the bad bacteria cannot gain a food hold. Of course, they won't be there if there is not a proper servings at the banquet table on which to feast..

3. Statement: Saponins in the beet pulp might be responsible for bloat. False.
In the paper, "Toxic Substances and Crop Plants" by the Royal Society of Chemistry states that "saponins at the levels fed in modern diets are not toxic but in fact exert a variety of health enhancing benefits, (*including providing fermentation for probiotic viability.)

From Dr. K. Kern Wysong Corporation and Research Facility Jan 27, 1993
"The claims ...... that saponins cause bloat in is not documented by any reference to any scientific literature. It is simply conjecture and assertion and not fact" Saponins are found in over 100 plant families. These foods have been a part of the mammalian and human diet for thousands of years. Saponin-containing foods are also known to be of therapeutic and health enhancing benefits. . There is no documented proof that feeding a pet food with micro-amounts of saponins causes gastrointestinal paralysis and vomiting (bloat).

Below find information from documented scientific sources:

"Beet pulp has been found to be an ideal source of moderately fermentable fiber. Fiber sources such as cellulose, peanut hulls or soybean hulls are poor sources because they are not very fermentable. The correct amount and type of fiber is necessary for a normal healthy digestive tract. There are bacteria in the normal healthy digestive track. These bacteria have the ability to ferment or digest certain types of fiber. The ideal fiber is on the partially fermentable or digestible, i.e., beet pulp. We want some fiber left to provide that bulk to the stool that is necessary for a healthy digestive system, but we also want some of the fiber to be digested by the bacteria.

1. Beet pulp in a diet encourages colonization of those bacteria which best ferment or digest that form of fiber and discourage those organisms which do not effectively ferment fiber. It so happens that many good bacteria that commonly inhabit the large intestines can deal with beet pulp (Lactobacillus acidophilus and Enterococcus faecium are just two) and many pathogenic bacteria are not supported by its presence (Clostridium sp.,Salmonella sp. and e. coli)

2. Because beet pulp is an ideal food source for these good bacteria, they tend to overgrow potentially bad bacteria (pathogens and gas producers) and make the gut much more resistant to these harmful organisms. As a result of this digestive or fermentation process, vital nutrients called short chain fatty acids are produced which provide superior nutrition to the cells lining the large intestine enhancing their ability to function.These short chain fatty acids (SCFA) are the key to a healthy and efficient digestive tract. The cells that line the intestinal track feed voraciously on SCFA. These cells have a high turnover rate and rely on SCFA to provide adequate nutrition.

3. That portion of beet pulp left after the fermentation of bacterial digestive process promotes ideal nutrient digestibility. The volume of stool is not excessive thus allowing the motility of the gut to move the nutrients along at a rate which assures maximum digestion and absorption.

References:1. Buterwick, Maxwell. The effect of level and source of dietary fiber on food intake in the dog. Journal of Nutrition 1994 Vol. 1242. Collins MD, Gibson Dr. Nutritional modulation of microbial ecology. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 19983. Hallman JE, Moxley RA, et al. Cellulose, beet pulp and pectin/gum Arabic effects on canine microstructure and histopathology. Veterinary Clinical Nutrition 1995;2:137-1414. Albert s. Townshend DVM, Wellness for Life, Am Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999
Contributed by Jeff Baker,
Canine Caviar Pet Foods

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Glowing pet food? Irradiation applied to pet food

Warning: Today’s comment may have 2 different side affects: Either it turns the reader into an ”Einsteiny” rocket scientist or it turns the reader away from this blog for ever. Therefore, please read this only if you are specifically interested in the topic and don’t mind heavy and long reading. I promise, in future I will try to refrain from writing similar comments. This one is an exception as the subject matter in itself is quite complicated to begin with.

Just recently towards the end of last year Canadian Champion Pet Foods made headlines abroad as pet owners were warned about its high end Orijen brand. Consequently here in this country too warnings were issued, we ourselves included a warning on our recall alert
Recall Update and I briefly addressed the case to some degree in my comment “Pet Food Recalls: Does the pet food industry require federal watch dogs?”. Back then, the company was found to be the only link between a strange illness that paralyzed cats with the unfortunate outcome that the animals had to be euthanized. To bring everybody up to speed, here is what (in Australia only) had transpired in a summary background provided by Orijen: “On November 20, 2008, Champion Pet Foods announced a voluntary recall of its Orijen Cat food brand sold in Australia. The recall is restricted to Australia ….. was issued in response to reports from the Australian veterinary community of cats showing symptoms of a neurological syndrome after consuming Orijen cat food. To prevent the risk of cats eating Orijen dog foods and becoming ill Champion ceased the sale of Orijen dog foods in Australia. The recall was unique to Australia and did not affect any of the other 50 countries to which Orijen is exported. Champion Pet Foods believes the Australian cases resulted from the high-level irradiation (exceeding 50kGY) applied to Orijen upon entering Australia. This high-level irradiation procedure for is unique to Australia and Orijen foods are not irradiated in any other market or country. Champion Pet Foods no longer exports or sells its Orijen pet foods in Australia.”
Susan Thixton of the Truth About Pet, back then when it all came to light, spoke with Orijen. On her website she shared the conversation she had with an Orijen representative:
“The only reports of sick cats (or any pets) have been in Australia. All pet foods shipped into Australia must be irradiated, treated with radiation, before they are sold. Orijen has no control over this, this is a mandated issue from the government of Australia. Orijen has sent two samples of the irradiated food, along with non irradiated food from the same batch to two separate University testing laboratories. It is not sure if an answer for the illnesses will be found in these tests, however it should provide a wealth of information regarding effects of irradiation of foods.” Note: Those results were subsequently posted on Orijen’s website at Susan then continued: “Orijen told me they feel the irradiation is the concern. Although this is frightening for already frightened pet owners, at this point I am in agreement that the irradiation is the concern. Food is irradiated, treated with radiation, to kill bacteria and molds. In the process, much more is destroyed. Not only is the nutrition destroyed, but far more research than the FDA lets on to, tells us much more damage can occur. Irradiation breaks chemical bonds, and it is suspect that broken chemical bonds within foods containing numerous ingredients (a pet food) can alter the entire ‘food’ in many ways. “

Orijen, on 03/10/09 issued another press release to Australian consumers, which addresses various details and summarizes as follows:
“Background: On November 20, 2008, Champion Pet Foods announced a voluntary recall of its Orijen Cat food brand sold in Australia.
The recall is restricted to Australia only and is a result of the high level of gamma irradiation (61kGy) that was applied to Orijen cat foods upon entry into Australia.
As the Australian regulations provide no alternative option but to irradiate our products, we stopped all Orijen sales in Australia, and cancelled our Australian distribution in November of 2008.
No other countries or markets are affected by the Australian recall.
Judging the irradiation process to be unsafe for our foods, Champion Petfoods pledges not to distribute or sell our products anywhere that requires irradiation.
All of us here at Champion deeply regret the effect irradiated Orijen foods have had on those families whose cats were affected, and we are committed to providing support in the following areas: Compassion fund; Contribution to Australian cat community; Ongoing research into irradiation of dry cat foods”
“ongoing research into irradiation of dry cat foods
Although Champion Pet Foods has permanently withdrawn from the Australian market, we remain committed to on-going research which we hope will bring added clarity to the effect of high irradiation on dry cat foods.
Through extensive test results, experts confirm Orijen Cat foods meet and exceed all nutritional standards that are set by AAFCO, NRC, and other various research on cat foods.
Our research team – including international nutritional experts and veterinary toxicologists – has reviewed all data and test results concerning Orijen cat food in Australia, including research on existing scientific journal articles and available research data.
With the exception of the pathway of increased oxidation and reduced vitamin availability resulting from the high (61kGy) irradiation dosage applied in Australia, all known causes for the Leukoencephalomyelopathy in cats have been eliminated. As Champion Pet Foods Ltd. does not endorse testing on animals, we will not physically test this hypothesis in a laboratory, and believe there is sufficient evidence from previous published scientific studies to conclude that irradiation is the cause of disease in Australia.
What champion knew about irradiation in Australia:
The error made by Champion was in not realizing our foods would be irradiated upon entry into Australia. The health certificates issued for pet food export to Australia make no reference for irradiation upon arrival and while some reference is made to potential irradiation in background documents, this was not noticed as a concern within our company.
A “permit to import’, which does make a clear reference to the irradiation requirements, is sent only to the importer, and not to the manufacturer. It is not stated on this document that irradiation poses a potential risk to the pet food, and we cannot find any reference to the potential danger of irradiation on any subsequent document in our files of export and import requirements for Australia.
Once we discovered our foods were irradiated, we began to investigate why and whether the process was safe. We engaged the Canadian Consulate in Sydney to discuss with AQIS the reasons why our foods were irradiated and to ask whether there were possibilities to avoid the irradiation process. AQIS advised our consulate that:
“As the products your client exports to Australia have not been subjected to any heat treatment other than those applied during the extrusion and drying process we were unable to consider the processing as being equivalent to a moist heat treatment achieving a minimum core temperature of 100°C for at least 30 minutes. As a result, the only remaining option available was to gamma irradiate the products at 50 kGrays upon arrival in Australia.
When early reports began to emerge from Australia concerning cats fed Orijen, we immediately re-tested retained samples and found them to be completely normal. As more reports emerged, we began to suspect environmental factors specific to Australia, including potential contaminated water supplies, poisonous insects, other foods fed in conjunction with Orijen, and irradiation.
We contacted the company contracted to perform gamma irradiation in Australia and received assurances that the irradiation process was safe for our foods.
At this time very little research on the effect of irradiation on dry cat foods was available. We were assured by irradiation experts in Australia that the process was safe.
While Champion Pet Foods no longer exports to Australia, we believe that the tradition of irradiating dry cat foods entering Australia continues which, we assume, reflects the belief at AQIS that the process is safe.
None of the above detracts from the very strong feeling all of us have at Champion - that we should have known more about exporting to Australia prior to making the first shipment. Rather, this information is provided to explain the sequence of events.
Of the more than 50 countries to which we export Orijen products, none require irradiation as part of the import process”.

Pet food treated with radiation is something we don’t hear about every day. However, primarily because I have been asked quite often about this popular food and pet owners of course are concerned about this issue and second, because I thought, in this world of constant recalls and problems with our pet’s foods it is certainly worth our time to take a closer look at its meanings.
Well, that initially sounded easy, but turned out a little more difficult than I had initially thought. There is really not a lot to be found about the subject matter. Of course, as always I invite and welcome everybody’s input if better and most desirable, easier understandable information is available to share that with everybody here on the blog.
For starters I have chosen to quote the free and famous on-line encyclopedia since I figured there I would find an easy to understand explanation of what irradiation is all about. As you keep reading you will probably agree with me since it gets pretty complicated. So here is what
Wikipedia says: “Irradiation is the process by which an item is exposed to radiation. The exposure can be intentional, sometimes to serve a specific purpose, or it can be accidental. In common usage the term refers specifically to ionizing radiation, and to a level of radiation that will serve that specific purpose, rather than radiation exposure to normal levels of background radiation or abnormal levels of radiation due to accidental exposure.” Well, so much for easy understandable, right? Within this explanation I also found a link to the Food Standards Agency, which is the British FDA so to speak. Using a FAQ approach, the agency explains on it’s site:
“Irradiation can be used to kill bacteria that cause food poisoning, such as salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli. It can also delay fruit ripening and help stop vegetables such as potatoes and onions from sprouting. …..
What is food irradiation?
Food irradiation is a processing technique that exposes food to electron beams, X-rays or gamma rays, and produces a similar effect to pasteurization, cooking or other forms of heat treatment, but with less effect on look and texture.
Irradiation can be used to kill bacteria that cause food poisoning, such as salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli. It can also delay fruit ripening and help stop vegetables such as potatoes and onions from sprouting. It is used in many parts of the world because it is an effective way of killing bacteria and with some food, such as spices that are dried in the sun, irradiation kills bacteria without changing their flavors or aromas.
How does food irradiation work?
Food absorbs energy when it is exposed to ionizing radiation. The amount of energy absorbed is called 'absorbed dose', which is measured in units of Gray (Gy). The energy absorbed by the food causes the formation of short lived molecules known as free radicals, which kill micro-organisms and also interact with other food molecules.
Free radicals are formed by almost all food processing techniques, including cooking, chopping and grinding. Radiation also kills bacteria directly by affecting their DNA.
There is only one source of ionizing radiation permitted for food irradiation in the UK: gamma rays from cobalt-60.
How safe is food irradiation?
Decades of research worldwide have shown that irradiation of food is a safe and effective way to kill bacteria in foods and extend its shelf life.
Food irradiation has been examined thoroughly by joint committees of the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), by the European Community Scientific Committee for Food, the United States Food and Drug Administration and by a House of Lords committee.

Does irradiated food taste different to other foods?
There is no significant difference to the smell, taste or appearance of food that has been irradiated. This is due to the fact that very small levels of energy are absorbed by the food during irradiation.

Does food irradiation change the food in any way?
All food preservation techniques cause chemical changes in food – that is how they work. The changes caused by food irradiation are similar in nature and extent to those caused by other preservation techniques, such as cooking, canning and pasteurization. There is no evidence that any of the chemical changes caused by food irradiation pose a risk to the health of consumers.

How do I know if a food has been irradiated?
It is required that all foods, or ingredients of foods listed on the label, which have been irradiated, are labeled as 'irradiated' or 'treated with ionizing radiation'. When irradiated food is not pre-packed and is sold for immediate consumption (for example, in restaurants) it must be marked or labeled on a menu, notice or ticket that the consumer can see when choosing the food.

How does the Food Standards Agency know if a food has been irradiated?
A number of tests have been perfected and validated for the detection of different irradiated foods, including herbs and spices, poultry and meat containing bone and products containing fats. These tests have been verified in trials involving laboratories throughout Europe. Regular surveys are undertaken by the Food Standards Agency. Further research is currently taking place to extend the range of irradiated foods which can be detected.

Can non-irradiated food become irradiated by contact with irradiated food?
No, irradiated food has been exposed to radiation but is not contaminated with radioactivity. Many foods, however, contain ingredients from different sources, such as curry powder. The law states that if a permitted irradiated food is mixed with a non-irradiated food, the resulting product has to be labelled as either ‘irradiated’ or ‘treated with ionizing radiation’.

What do other countries do?
… In the US a variety of foods have been approved for irradiation, for several different purposes. The current list includes wheat, potatoes, fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices, pork, poultry and beef.
Other countries irradiate food, including Canada, France, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Israel, Thailand.

Where are foods irradiated?
Foods are irradiated in authorized irradiation facilities which must be licensed, regulated and subjected to strict safety inspections by the Food Standards Agency. Irradiation facilities are of mainly two types: gamma sources and electron beams.

What are the effects of irradiation on food packaging materials?
One of the practical aspects of food irradiation is that is can be used on food already in its final package. The effect of irradiation on plastics and other packaging was investigated in the 1960s and early 1970s, in order to identify safe packaging materials for use in the space program. Only a few materials have been approved for use in packaging food that is to be irradiated and many more need to be tested if food irradiation is to become widely used.

Directly related to the case on hand, Orijen reported published details about its research as follows:
“Two independent scientific publications support Champion Petfoods position regarding the potentially harmful effects of gamma irradiation on dry cat foods in particular.
1. Research findings of a 2007 study published by the AMERICAN COLLEGE OF VETERINARY PATHOLOGISTS WWW.VETPATHOLOGY.ORG/MISC/TERMS.SHTML determined that the feeding of a gamma-irradiated diet of 35-45 kGy was associated with the development of the same conditions as are reported in cats in Australia.
2. JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR LABORATORY ANIMAL SCIENCES, vol 47, no. 6, 61-66. November 2008 entitled “EFFECTS OF GAMMA IRRADIATION AND PASTEURIZATION ON THE NUTRITIVE COMPOSITION OF COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE ANIMAL DIETS” finds that “results raise questions regarding the suitability of gamma-irradiated diets for the long-term exclusive feeding of cats in particular, given that such feeding regimes have been associated with the development of leukoencephalomyelopathy in this species”.
Key study findings are summarized below “Irradiation reduces the vitamin content of food, the effect of which may be indirect in that inadequate amounts of
antioxidant vitamins (such as c, e, and b-carotene) may be available to counteract the effects of free radicals generated by normal cell metabolism... Furthermore, the irradiation of diets containing fats with high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids increases the onset of oxidative rancidity due to peroxidation of the contained unsaturated bonds.”
“the irradiation of a variety of commercial dry cat diets at 25 kGy resulted in considerable reductions in vitamin A levels, with up to 93% reduction observed in a diet with a relatively high fat content.”
“concentration of peroxide in the dry cat diet was increased to 11- and 21- fold after the typical [28.9-34.4 kGy] and high-end [38.4-48.7 kGy] irradiation treatments respectively.
“the results of this study confirm that gamma irradiation, at the doses used, (which were less than those used on ORIJEN foods) has profound effects on the vitamin A (retinol) and peroxide content of the dry cat food analyzed.”
“the fatty acid composition of the fat in the diet and especially the degree of unsaturation of these acids is particularly important.”
“…polyunsaturated fatty acids containing 3 or more double bonds are destroyed readily by irradiation.” From hammer ct, wills ed. 1979. The effect of ionizing radiation on the fatty acid composition of natural fats and on lipid peroxide formation. INT J RADIAT BIOL RELAT STUD PHYS CHEM MED 35: 323-332.
“the formation of peroxide in irradiated fat is dependent on factors such as the chemical composition of the fat, type of radiation used, total dose-rate of the radiation, dispersion of fat in the diet, nature of the medium used for dispersion, and the presence of water.”

And finally I found this very detailed article explaining the history of food irradiation and some serious side effects: “Food Irradiation” by Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D., GNSH. Her
article, after a number of updates, was revisited by Talya Rotem, B.A., M.A., C.N.P.. Here are the what I believe important passages of both articles: (Note, this is not the full version, for the original articles please refer to the links embedded above)
“Basic to the question of food irradiation is an understanding of wellness or health. Food is not just another form of "pills" or an inert pile of chemicals. One doesn't choose to have "sickly" chicken or to eat moldy looking eggplant for the evening dinner. A healthy plant or animal is able to balance harmful and healthful bacteria so that it maintains its normal size, shape, texture and color. Even a child can distinguish between a rotten apple and red juicy wholesome apple freshly picked.
Conventional human wisdom has identified freshly caught fish and game, freshly picked fruits and vegetables, and healthy domestic animal meat as the best nourishment for humans. Once the fruit is picked or the animal killed, it can no longer perform its balancing task and the forces of death and decay begin to take over. The decay process can be slowed through various means such as dehydration, cooking or heat processing, freezing or the newly proposed irradiation process. None of these has the ability to differentiate between desirable and undesirable bacteria. None has the ability to remove pesticide or herbicide residue, toxic nonliving material, or even all bacteria, yeasts or molds. Completely dead food loses its taste, color texture and attractiveness. It also loses vitamins and other nourishment.
With this in mind, the comparative benefits and disadvantages of food irradiation can be briefly sketched, including an assessment of the need for new food processing methods, the scientific studies on the wholesomeness of irradiated foods, and the political and economic climate under which the technology is being promoted.

Although patents for food irradiation were taken out as early as 1921 in the U.S.A and 1930 in France, the technology was not implemented. In 1957 irradiation of spices was permitted in West Germany under the assumption that spices make up only a small percentage of any food. This permission was withdrawn in 1958 and all food irradiation was banned. Canada permitted irradiation of potatoes in 1960 to prevent sprouting, i.e. that is to make the potato sterile, and in 1963 the U.S.A. granted permits for irradiation of wheat, potatoes and bacon for export. The U.S. food and Drug Administration withdrew the permit for bacon in 1968.
The impetus for food irradiation has not come from farmers, the developing world, retail grocers or consumers. In the early 1970's the international Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose mandate is to promote nuclear technology, began to hold seminars on food irradiation and established a joint committee of experts from IAEA, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). This group, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Irradiation (J.E.C.F.I) decided in 1976 that the new chemicals called radiolytic products, which are produced in irradiated food, do not need to pass tests of toxicity as do other food additives. It declared irradiation to be a process not an additive, although free radicals (highly reactive molecules) and new chemicals are produced in the food. Some of these radiolytic products are the same as those produced in cooking or thermal processes, for example hydrogen peroxide and formaldehyde, but they occur in larger proportions in irradiated food. Other by-products are unique to the irradiation process.
The question of classification of food irradiation as a process or and additive is not trivial. Food additives must be tested for toxicity. Food processes do not require such testing. In this case, there is a need for new legislation to cover "additives attributable to processing", requiring toxicological testing of the new chemicals produced by irradiation.

Food Irradiation Controversy
The food irradiation controversy penetrates deeply considering that the global advocates of food irradiation and the food industry include the WHO, FAO and the IAEA ( What has not been publicized, however, is that these «supposedly independent international organizations all accept the advice of a small NGO, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), which dictates what is and is not permissible, despite it not being a health-based organization» (Bertell 2004). These organizations support the food industry's promotion of the food irradiation process as a viable protective barrier against deadly bacteria such as E. coli and listeria causing food-borne illness. Marketed by the industry as a food decontamination tool, food irradiation is perceived of as an answer to modern society's attempt at coping with large-scale microbiological contamination and food-borne illnesses. It is being sold to the public as a means of protecting «children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems» ( And it is the fear of food and water contamination outbreaks, almost commonplace globally, which helps the pro-irradiation camp set the foundation for social acceptance of food irradiation.
On the other side of the food irradiation controversy are NGOs concerned with the short- and long-term effects of food irradiation on human health. Across-the-border allies in the battle against food irradiation are organizations like the Toronto-based International Institute of Concern for Public Health (IICPH) (, the Washington-based consumer group Public Citizen (, and the Cancer Prevention Coalition (, to mention but a few. These organizations contend that food irradiation should not be deemed safe by any government or industry without immediate in-depth research into its potential health effects on humans. In fact, according to the IICPH, «through research that has already been done, there are enough indicators to tell us that food irradiation has the potential of adversely affect[ ing] the health and well being of humans, especially fetuses and children» ( In Food Irradiation, Dr. Rosalie Bertell, points out the shortcomings of food irradiation: the impossibility of killing all of the pathogens; post-irradiation bacteria contamination; and the presence of carcinogenic toxins in irradiated foods (

Potential problems with irradiation
In thermal food processing there is a rather homogeneous reduction of all bacteria, both the relatively harmless and those that are pathogenic or toxin producing. In irradiation, bacteria are killed in a proportion relative to their sensitivity and resistance to radiation. Some of the bacteria, which produce the natural indicators of unwholesomeness in food, i.e. staleness, disagreeable smell or unpleasant taste, would be killed off while some of the most pathogenic bacteria would be left alive. For example, Clostridium Botulinum resists irradiation below the 10-kilogray upper-limit for food processing. The toxin produced by Clostridium Botulinum can cause botulism. It flourishes in anaerobic (oxygen free) conditions. This deadly pathogen would not be destroyed by irradiation and in fact could even thrive. Irradiated food requires some protection against re-contamination but the anaerobic growth-enhancing environment for Clostridium Botulinum rules out the use of vacuum-sealed cans for this purpose. The "old fashioned" canning of food done in the proper manner effectively eliminates botulism food poisoning.

Salmonella Poisoning
Irradiation can kill some bacteria, those most sensitive to it, but it never removes toxins already deposited in the food. For this reason, the cleanliness and health of food chosen for preservation can never be neglected. Moreover, food irradiation should not be allowed to replace sanitary handling of food.
The nuclear industry is promoting food irradiation primarily as a preventative action against Salmonella in poultry. From 1983 to1985, there were 28 deaths in Canada attributed to Salmonella poisoning. Present statistics are unknown at this time. The report of the standing committee on food irradiation from 1983 to 1985 notes that:
"Relatively rough extrapolations have indicated that Salmonella may have contributed to approximately 750 deaths in Canada in 1985, but actual statistics attributed only 28 deaths to Salmonella from 1983 to 1985. Which figures may be more accurate is unknown at this time, but Salmonella contamination is a major source of food poisoning and a significant public health concern in Canada and elsewhere."
Salmonella contamination is due to improper handling techniques by processors, handlers, consumers and restaurants. Mechanical cleaning of chickens (which bursts the gut) is the single greatest cause of the problem. According to an article by economist R. Krystynak, irradiation of poultry ranks sixth out of eleven methods of food processing investigated to control Salmonella poisoning on a cost/benefit analysis basis. ("Current Concerns, Food Irradiation An Economic Perspective", Food Market Commentary, Ottawa, Agriculture Canada September 1986)

The Joint Expert Committee on Food Irradiation (J.E.C.F.I) declared (with a disclaimer) that there would be no toxicological problems with irradiated food not exceeding an average dose of 10 kilograys. It gave no specified minimum to ensure the killing of radiation sensitive bacteria; nor did it specify a maximum, which would avoid the production of radiolytic by-products or stimulation of the production of known harmful pathogens. It is well known that irradiation can increase the production of some extremely toxic aflotoxins by certain fungi, especially nuts and grains. These aflotoxins are known to be extremely potent carcinogens and their ability to continue production following irradiation has not been addressed by the Joint Committee. Proposing and average exposure only leaves this technology open to widespread misuse.
Pesticides and other Chemical Hazards in Food
Irradiation fails to eliminate pesticide residues and other chemical hazards in food. It has been proposed as an alternative to pesticides and preservatives. However pre-harvest pesticides will still be used, and their chemical interaction with irradiation is unknown. Irradiated food will still require cooking, freezing, preservatives and other means to avoid re-contamination.

Loss of Nutrients
Some key vitamins, especially E, C and Thiamine are lost through irradiation. The production of hyper oxides apparently reduces the concentrations of fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. This may in turn influence absorption and utilization of the food.

Assessment of US food irradiation research
There have been about 2000 research papers on food irradiation published internationally. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration selected about 400 for serious review. They chose 6 "considered by agency reviewers to be properly conducted, fully adequate by 1980 toxicological standards, and able to stand alone in support of safety" (U.S. Federal Register). Two studies were in English, three in French and one in German. Upon investigation, in one of the English language papers, published in 1964, the authors state, (about their own research): "consequently in many cases statistical comparisons were not possible. However, examination of data intuitively suggests that the differences have no real significance." There were differences between the control rats and rats fed irradiated wheat, with a statistically significant increase in stillbirth rate among those fed irradiated wheat. Other findings failed to reach significance because of the small number of animals. This hardly constitutes strong proof of the safety of food irradiation.
The second English language paper reported unexplained deaths and abnormalities in animals given irradiated food, not reaching statistical significance because of the small number of animals in the study. One of the studies indicated negative effects on older animals, but the finding was not pursued. The food used in the English language studies had been irradiated at 20 kilorad (equivalent to 0.2 kilogray), fifty times below the proposed level of irradiation of human food, i.e. below the 10-kilogray average.
In two of the three French studies, the dose to food was less than 50 kilorad (0.5 kilogray). No adverse effects were reported. In the German study, animals fed irradiated food weighed significantly less than controls and had reproductive abnormalities. Both of these effects were mitigated with administration of vitamins.
Certainly no scientist would accept these studies with low dose irradiation of food well below the proposed level, small number of animals, short follow-up time and negative results, as firmly establishing the safety of irradiated food.

Ionizing radiation breaks chemical bonds
Both the U.S. F.D.A. and the Science Council of Canada attempt to minimize the effects of food irradiation by quoting a report from Ames, Iowa, July 1986, (Report No. 9, Council for Agricultural Science and Technology) saying that each kilogray of ionizing radiation breaks only 6 chemical bonds out of 10 million in food. This makes the magnitude, the nature and the biological impact of the breaks seem small. However, in 100 milliliters (or 0.1 liter) of water there are 5-gram moles, that is 1025 molecules. At the low-dose of one kilogray, 6 times 1018 chemical bonds are broken creating the hydroxyl radical, one of the most reactive entities known in biochemistry. Water makes up some 80% of most foods. Food irradiation will be permitted to an average dose of 10 kilograys. There is no maximum permissible dose mentioned in the regulations.

Labeling requirements for irradiated food offer no assurance to the consumer that food has not been irradiated because there is no test to detect irradiation.
The flower like radura symbol is misleading and should be accompanied with the word "Irradiated". The wording should appear on all foods that have irradiated ingredients. The proposed labeling exemption for irradiated ingredients that comprise less than 10% is not acceptable. A food could contain six ingredients, each one less than 10% of the whole, which together comprise 45% of the product. All irradiated ingredients at any percentage in the food product should be listed.

The IICPH sees little Canadian benefit in food irradiation other than economic gain for Canada's nuclear industry. In the U.S., it can be shown to benefit the nuclear weapons industry since it will require commercial reprocessing of nuclear fuel rods to separate out the cesium 137 requirements. For the farmer, the consumer and the developing world, it means higher priced food, less nourishment in the food and probable harmful side effects in terms of pregnancy outcomes, cancers and chronic diseases. The IICPH recommends complete cost/benefit analysis of food irradiation and much more well- designed scientific testing of its impact on health. Both should be independent of the industries that tend to profit from the technology, for without this assurance, food irradiation becomes a massive experimental program on humans.
The Canadian and American public are justifiably concerned over the unknown effects of the irradiation of food. Consumer resistance will and should continue until these effects are known and quantified. Toxicological testing should be mandatory.
Skepticism by Canadian consumers in regard to food Irradiation can only be increased by the failure of the Government of Canada to follow the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Food Irradiation.
Export of food irradiation equipment to developing countries at this time is premature and exploitative.
Not covered in this brief report are questions of worker exposure, accident potential and waste disposal from this experimental technology.”

Ms. Bertell briefly addressed labeling issues and the flower like radura symbol shown at the beginning of this comment. According to
Wkipedia, “The Radura is the international symbol indicating a food product has been irradiated. The Radura is usually green and resembles a plant in circle. The top half of the circle is dashed. Graphical details and colours vary between countries.” Susan Thixton on her site a little while ago asked her readers “Do you know what this symbol means?” The results were not all that surprising, Radura is a little misleading indeed. In their responses her readers described their initial thinking of this logo as standing for “friendly, safe, non-threatening, organic type, flower like, definitely something good, healthy, earth friendly”. This shows that basically very few people have an idea about not just what the symbol stands for, but also that it describes something way more complicated and possibly not being so friendly and non-threatening if not properly applied. And to answer the question posed in today's head line: No, the food isn't glowing. I did however, due to improper application cause serious harm. This in itself justifies this long and complicated comment.

Source links embedded in the comment. The following is the acknowledgement posted by IICPH along with the articles quoted.
The IICPH is grateful for research assistance on this issue from Food and Water Inc., Probe International, the Food Chain, the National Institute of Nutrition of India, testimony from the U.S. Congressional Hearing on Food Irradiation and the New Jersey State Assembly public hearing on food irradiation.
In particular, we are grateful for the research of Donald B. Lauria, M.D., Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, New Jersey Medical School; George Tritsch, Ph.D., Cancer Research Scientist, Roswell Park Memorial Institute, Buffalo, New York; and Richard Piccioni, Ph.D, Senior Staff Biophysicist with Accord Research and Educational Associates, New York City.
International Institute of Concern for Public Health is a Canadian-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping communities assess and improve their environmental health status. The IICPH alerts and informs the public of the health hazards of pesticides, nuclear industries and other commercial, military, and industrial products. As well -- independent of government and industry -- the Institute provides the evidence and documentation needed by survivors of environmental disasters. This unique and essential service both supports and furthers the key principle on which the IICPH operates: that a safe environment is a fundamental human right. IICPH works in cooperation with Native Peoples, professionals, grassroots organizations, and citizens groups in Canada, the United States, Russia, the Central Pacific, India, South America, Europe, South Africa, and many other countries.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Struggling economy affecting pets’ health

Unfortunately these days it has become a common topic almost daily written about in every newspaper nationwide and on every pet related news website: The state of our economy also hits home with every pet owner. Just a brief comment unrelated to pet nutrition: I strongly believe it would help a great deal if the media would report in a more optimistic manner on what is going on with our economy. If one gets up every morning and starts reading and listening to the news, being confronted with bad news over and over again, it does not come as a surprise to me that nobody is willing to do anything positive, everybody gets depressed before the day even starts. Sure, there is a lot of negative to report about, but gee, there is also positive happening and a little cheering would probably work wonders. Our government officials should do the same: Look back in history and every bad event happening. Regardless of how bad it was and how “down” we were as a nation, if the President said “let’s get our act together and move on in a positive spirit. We can do it”, then things usually started turning around. What happened to our President’s positive “let’s do it because we can” pre-election attitude? We need some more of that. The world didn’t (and for a matter of fact never does) come to an end. Just a thought on the side…
Now back to what really counts: The matter of our healthy pets.
Swansea resident Brian J. Lowney, past president of the Wampanoag Kennel Club and an active dog show judge who shares his home with two shelter adopted cats wrote for the pet column of South Coast Today:
One emergency veterinarian reports that the nation's struggling economy is also affecting our pets.
Dr. Michelle Lampe, president of the Mass.-RI Veterinary ER in Swansea, says that she's seen an increase in the number of pets with treatable conditions being euthanized because owners can't afford surgery or prolonged treatment programs.
The veterinarian adds that she also has received numerous calls from owners seeking advice about treating sick cats and dogs with over-the-counter medications such as Advil and Tylenol or their own prescription drugs. One caller asked if it was ok to give Percocet to an animal that was suffering from intense pain.
"They want to do something for their pets," Dr. Lampe acknowledges. "The bottom line is that no one should give their animal anything unless a veterinarian has given the animal a physical exam."
The veterinarian explains that it's less expensive to treat a sick pet with appropriate medications rather than pay for drug intoxication or poisoning, if the animal survives the ordeal.
"It's not legal to prescribe medication for an animal that we've never seen, and it's not good medicine," Dr. Lampe emphasizes, adding it can be potentially harmful to offer advice based on an owner's assessment of a condition rather than on the results of an examination and diagnostic tests.
Dr. Lampe notes that when pet owners face difficult economic times, they often choose less expensive brands of cat and dog foods that have little nutritional value. These foods are made from cheaper cuts of meat and grains, and often lack vital nutrients.
"Don't be tempted to switch back and forth," Dr. Lampe warns, noting that abrupt changes in a pet's diet can cause painful gastrointestinal upsets.
"Sometimes people end up spending dollars to save cents," she continues, noting that it's wiser to invest in a quality brand dog food than in a less expensive brand made with fillers that makes a pet so sick that the poor creature requires medical attention.
"Don't always go for cheaper," Dr. Lampe advises. She recommends comparing prices at supermarkets, large volume discount chains and pet supply stores. Smart shoppers can use coupons or purchase cases of premium cat food or large bags of quality dog food and share the cost and contents with a relative or friend who feeds the same brand.
The emergency veterinarian comments that tough times often force owners to neglect preventive care such as inoculations, heartworm treatment and spaying or neutering.
"These decisions could cost money in the long run, Dr. Lampe says, adding that unspayed female pets are prone to developing painful and repetitive uterine infections. Pets not vaccinated for rabies run the risk of contracting the potentially fatal disease.
"Try to save money in smart places, and don't be afraid to consult a veterinarian if your pet needs help," she advises.
Dr. Lampe adds that the holiday seasons are a busy time of year for most veterinarians. "We get a lot of holiday related problems," Dr. Lampe says, noting that many cats love to eat tinsel, which can lodge in the intestines and cause blockages. Some animals develop severe pancreatitis after devouring turkey grease and scraps of other rich foods served at holiday gatherings.
While Dr. Lampe doesn't advocate feeding table scraps, she says it's ok to offer your pet a small slice or two of cooled roasted chicken. She warns owners never to give pets chocolate, which contains theobromine that spikes an animal's blood pressure and heart rate and causes seizures.
The veterinarian warns owners never to give pets a piece of Styrofoam as a substitute for a toy. It can cause choking. She also cautions pet lovers not to let their four-footed friends drink water from a Christmas tree stand. Stagnant tree water or water containing preservatives could result in stomach upsets.
The recent cold snap has forced field mice to flee indoors. Dr. Lampe says that pet owners should be observant and make sure that pets don't eat the pellets that have been put down to kill the destructive rodents.
"Rat poison is made to kill small animals," she emphasizes. "If your pet ingests the poison, it could be fatal." Only anti-coagulant rat poison can be effectively treated with an antidote, Dr. Lampe states. Other types, if ingested, will cause death.
She adds that many owners take the "wait and see" approach when a pet has ingested a toxic substance. One man recently waited four days after his dog had eaten rat poison. By the time the pet was brought to the emergency clinic, there was widespread hemorrhaging and the animal was near death. Luckily, the dog survived.
Dr. Lampe says that before buying a pet, the cost of food, grooming and veterinary care during the animal's lifetime should be considered carefully.
"People should see if they can afford a pet," she advises. "If they can't, they shouldn't buy one. People are dumping their pets left and right because they can't afford to feed them."
I am kind of glad that someone finally said what was said here in the last sentence. I have to admit, I really feel the very same way. People all too easy forget that animals are living creatures and not just toys, which after initial interest and excitement and after reality sets in can be set aside like a puppet or remote controlled toy car. Or for that matter of fact a home or car which one couldn’t afford to begin with. That is basically wrong with too many people within our society: Too easy obligations are entered into and when it gets serious it is being left up to others to pick up the slack. But it will never change as long as they are allowed to act this way and as long as these people too easy get away with their irresponsibility. Only problem I see with our poor animals: I have not seen them being part of any federal bail out package. Just another side note…

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chew on this: You are what you eat.

Since allergies are a part of many pet owners’ and their animals’ lives, I figured I share with you this interview conducted by Business Times Weekend’s Melissa Heng with Dr. Jean Paul Ly, D.V.M., veterinarian and clinical nutritionist and director of the Animal Recovery Centre in Balestier:
As far as nutrition is concerned, this maxim is as true for humans as it is for pet dogs. "Today's dogs are different," says veterinarian Jean Paul Ly, "They have evolved, and so have their nutritional needs. They need variety in food the same way a human child would in order to stay healthy."
In tandem with rapid social development, even pets are more vulnerable to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and even high cholesterol, just like humans.
"Dogs today face diseases that are virtually unheard of two or three decades ago," says Dr. Ly, who has been practicing for 33 years in Singapore as well as Australia. "In fact, up to 70 per cent of all pet dogs today are likely to develop some form of chronic' illness in their lives. "
But unlike humans, dogs have much shorter life spans, which means that
diseases tend to hit them harder and at an earlier age. Tell tale signs that all is not well include skin eruptions, discharge from the eye or ear, a persistent cough, frequent vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal gas and lethargy.
"Many pet dogs suffer from neuro endocrine/immune deficiency," says Dr. Ly. "Basically, what this means is their immune systems cannot stand up to stress, so they are much more likely to fall victim to all sorts of diseases. This stress can take two forms: Internal stress resulting from diet deficiencies and external stress
triggered by environmental changes.
"Diet is very important to your dog's health. Gone are the days when you could feed your dog scraps and leftovers from the table. Dogs today simply don't have the digestive abilities that their ancestors had," says Dr. Ly, who blames rampant inbreeding as one reason for today's problem pets. "Breeders breed for vanity, not for survival. The dogs these days are mostly Frankensteins. Their genetic makeup is all messed up. They can't survive anymore without human help." says Dr. Ly.
Such human help must necessarily take the form of a proper diet, something pet owners tend to ignore or take for granted. "The type of food we give to our dogs makes a huge difference," says Dr. Ly. "Most owners solely feed their dogs dried food because it's hassle free. But owners should be aware of what goes into a pack of dried dog food. Firstly, not all dried foods are created equal. Some use real meat, while others grind up discarded piece s of organ s such as intestines and pass that off as meat. "Secondly, dried foods often contain preservative s and other additives to enhance flavor or color. These toxins will do no immediate harm, but taken over a long period of time, such additives will inevitably take a toll on your dog's health."
Frustrated by the lack of healthy food options, Dr. Ly, who also runs a state of
the art animal hospital in Shanghai, consulted with a dog food company to develop a range of ultra premium dog and cat foods that contain no by-products, fillers or preservatives. That was five years ago. Today, the home grown pet food company, Addiction, is widely known for its unique food blends and use of game or free range meat.
"I felt there was something lacking in the market. Every other brand of dog
food was offering the same old traditional meats, beef, chicken and lamb. But that's the problem, many dogs have developed allergies to such foods. At the time, no other company was offering novel protein." Novel proteins refer to non traditional sources of protein like venison, emu, rabbit, kangaroo, geese or duck meat. Such game meats have hypoallergenic properties and are suitable for all breeds, according to Dr. Ly. "Most dogs are unlikely to develop allergies to such meats because their bodies do not recognize such proteins. Their immune system is not primed, so they usually don't have negative reactions."
While pleased with this new range of pet food, he recommends that owners give their dogs regular supplements of fresh vegetables, fruit and half cooked or raw food. "Commercial pet food is not complete, so please feed your dog something fresh," says Dr. Ly candidly. Ultimately though, Dr. Ly's advice for pet owners is simple: "Treat your pet like you would your own child. Don't feed your dog things you won't give your own kid. That's the basic rule. Food makes the difference in fighting allergies."