Friday, April 3, 2009

Purina vs. Natural Pet Food Industry. It’s all about what? Probiotics?

On 02/10/09 Wysong surprised us with disturbing news: “WYSONG UNDER ATTACK - NESTLE/PURINA VS THE NATURAL PET FOOD INDUSTRY
Nestec S.A. (better known as Nestle), parent company of Purina, a pet food manufacturer based in St. Louis, Missouri, and Wysong Corporation, a health education and nutritional development company in Midland, Michigan, have filed suits against one another in the Eastern District Federal Court in Missouri. The suits are related to a technology invented by Dr. Wysong in the early 1980’s to enrobe pet and human foods with probiotics – health giving organisms such as found in yogurt.” I reported on the news in “David vs. Goliath in 2009 - Let the battle commence: Nestle/Purina vs. the Natural pet food industry (Featuring: Wysong as "David")”. Since then, in the actual case very little known to the public has come to light. I am sure that behind the scenes both sides are feverishly working on getting ready for show down. Fact is that Wysong has received a lot of support so it seems on its website. We as a business support the cause as well with a special ongoing promo, since we very strongly believe Wysong, a company providing some of the best nutritional pet products available on the market today, should come out as the winner and it is in my opinion ridiculous that the suit was filed in the first place. But, what are these guys actually arguing about? We have learned that it is about who has the right to use probiotics in their products, whom’s idea it was in the first place and who should be paying whom any or all licensing fees to use the technology employed to utilize these probiotics. Since I am more than usually involved in general discussions with my customers about all this, one question typically comes up? What are “probiotics” to begin with? Well, I figured let’s hear it straight from the horse’s mouth:
For those unfamiliar with probiotics and their importance to health, here are extracts from Dr. Wysong’s writings that will explain why Wysong has incorporated them in its human and animal foods for almost 30 years. Some may be repetitive, but we offer this to show the extent to which Wysong has been advocating this important food element:
● When an animal eats its prey, it will naturally not only consume the meat, but also the viscera (internal organs). Within that viscera of prey are billions of organisms that populate the digestive tract.
● While some microorganisms are villains, others, termed probiotics, can and do play a very beneficial role in maintaining health. Such probiotic microorganisms mainly consist of lactobacilli, enterococci, lactococci, bifidobacteria and others.
● Probiotic bacteria implant on the mucus-coated walls of the intestine and, through competitive exclusion, prevent colonization of pathogenic or “unfriendly” microbes.
● Certain species of probiotic bacteria are capable of rapid multiplication, competitive inhibition of disease producing microorganisms, lowering of the intestinal pH by the production of lactic acid, and production of bacteriocins (natural antibiotics). The probiotic hypothesis suggests that if sufficient numbers of these bacteria are introduced into the intestinal tract at a time when the balance has swung in favor of pathogens (such as at birth, during periods of stress or disease, or following antibiotic therapy), then disease can be minimized or overcome. Further, lactic acid bacteria have many other mechanisms by which they are able to prevent the growth of potential anaerobic pathogenic bacteria.
● Probiotic Mechanisms of Action That Inhibit Pathogens in the Gut:
1. Produce lactic acid and some fatty acids to help decrease intestinal pH.
2. Form hydrogen peroxide, a bactericide, and antibiotics (bacteriocins) such as acidophylin, acidolin, lactallin, and nisin.
3. Decrease the production of toxic amines and ammonia.
4. Displace harmful pathogens through competitive antagonism by colonization and adhesion to intestinal cells.
5. Initiate non-specific immunostimulation.
6. Produce digestive enzymes and B-vitamins, which aid in digestion and provide necessary nutrition.
7. Produce antienterotoxins. lactalin, anti-enterotoxins, and antienterotoxins.
● In addition to the inhibition of pathogens, probiotics are believed to exert a variety of subtle effects that can enhance overall health and disease resistance. In exchange for the nutrients and comfortable environment provided by the host (symbiosis), probiotics biosynthesize vitamins, essential amino acids, fatty acids, numerous enzymes and unidentified growth factors. Some probiotics also have the capability of inactivating carcinogenic intestinal beta-glucouronidase and nitroreductase. Probiotics also encourage appetite and facilitate the thorough breakdown and absorption of food substances.
● Prebiotics are food elements that serve as a preferential food for probiotic organisms enhancing their growth, proliferation, and competitive exclusion of pathogens.
● The functions of probiotics and prebiotics are just beginning to be revealed. Fermentive probiotic action produce lactic, acetic, and propionic acids, vitamins (such as folic acid and B12), antibiotics, proteases, peptones, and unknown growth factors.
● Probiotics (pro-life), as opposed to antibiotics (anti-life), can enhance the immune system, inhibit pathogens, decrease disease recovery time, and create an overall improvement in health.
Probiotics represent a safe and effective alternative to pharmaceutical methods, which introduce toxic chemicals foreign to biological experience. Probiotic usage is a rational, preventive approach to health care without contraindication.
● Probiotic Nutritional and Health Enhancement Occurs Through:
1. The synthesis of certain amino acids, which are directly assimilated (e.g. lysine from specific strains of L. plantarum).
2. Increasing leukocyte and antibody response to disease challenge.
3. A protein-sparing effect. The Lactobacilli primarily use carbohydrates as a growth medium, while the pathogens use primarily protein. By decreasing the pathogenic population, more protein is made available for assimilation.
4. Decreasing intestinal pH increases gastrointestinal tone and motility.
5. Reducing the number of putrefactive bacteria, which prevents bad breath, gas and bloating.
6. Alleviating antibiotic-induced diarrhea, caused by the indiscriminate killing off of both “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Lactobacillus can be taken both during and after antibiotic treatment.
7. Reducing the incidence of cold sores by the virus Herpes Simplex Type I.
8. Producing B vitamins, such as folic acid, niacin, riboflavin, B12, B6, and pantothenic acid, which are biocatalysts in food metabolism and help fight stress.
9. Lactobacillus species possess anticholesterolemic and antilipidemic factors, which aid in cholesterol reduction.
10. Inhibition of Candida albicans, which is the primary yeast responsible for Candidiasis.
11. Studies at the Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research and the University of Nebraska show Lactobacillus to possess a definite anti-tumor activity, and to inhibit tumor proliferation.
● Along with numerous mechanisms of actions that are part of probiotics’ ability to inhibit pathogens, Lactobacilli bacteria actively secrete lactic acid, making the environment about them more suitable for their growth and the exclusion of pathogens.
● The rapid rate at which Enterococcus faecium will grow and multiply enables this probiotic culture to act as an aggressive agent in blocking the growth of pathogenic, toxin-producing microbes.
● Since Pasteur’s germ theory of disease, microorganisms, by and large, have been viewed mostly as an enemy to be vanquished. But increasing evidence indicates that the microbial world is mostly in symbiotic partnership with more complex life forms. Disease may be related more to an organism’s inability to resist illness than to the actual presence of a microbe. Even tragic scourges have been shown to be ameliorated not because of antimicrobials, but rather as a result of the restoration of balances through hygiene and dietary improvements.
● Theoretically, if beneficial organisms could be supported by, and/or introduced into the gastrointestinal tract, health could be enhanced and potential pathogens inhibited. The use of organisms for this purpose is termed probiosis, meaning “for life.” This is in contrast to antibiosis (represented primarily by antibiotics) which means “against life.”
● When it is considered that microorganisms within the digestive tract of a human can exceed 100 billion cells per gram, over 100 trillion cells total, 10-fold the total number of eukaryotic cells in the body, one can begin to understand their potential impact. Such an enormous microbiota interacts nutritionally and physiologically in profound ways only now beginning to be understood. Studies have isolated and identified a host of autochthonous microorganisms (native inhabitants) in the gut and have further shown several of these to directly or indirectly affect health.
● In herbivores, such as the horse, these microbes are more fully understood and respected. They constitute the very means by which plant stuffs (indigestible to humans) can be converted to energy and tissue building blocks.
● Normal gastrointestinal microflora play an indispensable role in combating potential pathogenic microorganisms. Certain species of probiotic bacteria are capable of rapid multiplication, competitive inhibition of disease-producing microorganisms, lowering of the intestinal pH by the production of lactic acid, and production of bacteriocins (natural antibiotics). The probiotic hypothesis suggests that if sufficient numbers of these bacteria are introduced into the intestinal tract at a time when the balance has swung in favor of pathogens (such as at birth, during periods of stress or disease, or following antibiotic therapy), then disease can be minimized or overcome. Although microorganisms have long been used in various fermentative industries and are essential to vast ecological cycles, their use for the explicit purpose of building health is a relatively new, but highly promising application.
● In one study using young pigs as a model, Enterococcus faecium, a probiotic culture found in several Wysong products, was fed for ten days after weaning, and total Escherichia coli (a potential pathogen) counts were made of the feces (see Figure 6). Counts in control pigs (no probiotics) rose dramatically in the first five days and then came back down. The test group receiving the Enterococcus faecium maintained a low fecal E. coli count throughout the test period of ten days. The numbers of hemolytic E. coli, those thought to be most pathogenic in baby pigs, were also measured, and the response was similar. Of interest in these tests is the resurgence of E. coli after the Enterococcus faecium was discontinued while there was no similar resurgence of the hemolytic bacteria. This suggests that Enterococcus faecium is particularly effective in controlling the pathogenic forms of E. coli bacteria. This same conclusion may be drawn if weaning-age foals were used as model.
● In addition to the inhibition of pathogens, probiotics are believed to exert a variety of subtle effects that can enhance overall health and disease resistance. In exchange for the nutrients and comfortable environment provided by the host (symbiosis), probiotics biosynthesize vitamins, essential amino acids, fatty acids, numerous enzymes and unidentified growth factors. Some probiotics also have the capability of inactivating the carcinogenic intestinal b-glucouronidase and nitroreductase. The pronounced microbial role in digestion encourages appetite and facilitates the thorough breakdown and absorption of food substances which are essential to favorable growth in foals and maintenance in adult horses.
● The constant infusion of friendly organisms in the diet, as it happens in the wild through contact with the mother’s milk, and then from natural forage, helps prevent the colonization of diseaseproducing bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Shigella and others. Probiotic bacteria implant themselves on the mucus-coated walls of the intestine and crowd out and prevent colonization of pathogenic or unfriendly microbes by competitive exclusion. The lactic acid and altered redox potential produced creates an intestinal environment that is not conducive to the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Probiotic organisms compete for food and are also capable of producing natural antibiotics and hydrogen peroxide, which sharply discourage the growth of enteropathogens.
● Resistance to disease in chickens is actually decreased when increasing the “hygiene” of chicks by removing them from the mothers’ droppings. Resistance (to infective doses of 103-106 cells of Salmonellae, for example) can be actually increased by feeding the chicks these droppings. The droppings are the autochthonous inoculum for establishing probiotic cultures in the chicks’ digestive tracts.
● The results of many research studies have pointed out the possibility of improving the health and performance of cattle and other farm animals including the horse, dogs and cats, and even humans through the use of probiotics (bioregulation). Lactobacilli probiotics have been found, for example, in newborn pigs just four hours after birth. (The inclusion of Lactobacillus acidophilus in the diet of young piglets also decreases the number of E. coli in the digestive tract.) Nature has obviously recognized the importance of providing a healthy start on life by implanting helpful bacteria via colostrum and environmental contact, before harmful bacteria can overpopulate the young’s initially sterile system.
● Optimal health, not just the absence of disease, must be the goal every horseman strives for with each newborn foal. Sound health translates into optimum growth. Probiotics provide an excellent safe, natural, and effective means of helping to achieve these goals. Not only can probiotics fight and resist disease, but they have the capability of bolstering overall health.
● Enterococcus faecium benefits are many: fermentation of carbohydrates to lactic acid thus lowering pH and discouraging pathogenic growth; increased palatability and appetite stimulation; production of antitoxins; microbial insensitivity to many antibiotics; production of hydrogen peroxide which exerts a bacteriocidal effect on pathogens; yielding of a metabolite that has specific activity against E. coli; production of a variety of bacteriocins which act against such pathogenic species as Pseudomonas and Salmo- nella; a significant increase in feed efficiency; improvement in daily weight gain; and a decline in mortality.
● Lactobacillus first implants in the young’s digestive tract via the mother’s milk, then begins to exert a protective and beneficial role which is important throughout life. Lactobacillus spp. increase resistance to stress and resultant disease; increase feed efficiency and weight gain; increase food palatability and appetite; inhibit the growth of enteropathogenic organisms; and have a direct nutritional enhancing effect. Lactobacilli include the following species: acidophilus, lactis, plantarum and casei. These Lactobacillus species inhibit such pathogens as S. aureus, B. proteus, Salmonella, Pseudomonas, and E. coli.
● Prebiotic short-chain carbohydrates are components of yeast cultures, artichoke, garlic and other plants, and are beneficial to the horse in several aspects. Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are utilized by Bifidobacteria, a probiotic strain of bacteria. Multiplication of these bacteria contributes to the competitive exclusion action of probiotics. Mannanoligosaccharides (MOS) are actual pathogen inhibitors in the gut which act by binding lectin receptor sites on the pathogenic bacteria, thereby blocking implantation on cell membranes (see Figure 8). Digestive function is enhanced by increased digestibility of soluble fiber and fiber-like activity of non-digestible oligosaccharides. Stimulation of specific and non-specific immune responses, including cancer preventing activity, are also benefits. Studies in pigs and turkeys have shown that systemic IgG (immunoglobulin G) and IgA concentrations increase significantly after consuming oligosaccharides, indicating enhanced immune response.
● Bacillus subtilis fermentation products, which have been used for 50 years or more in animal feeding, generate protease and amylase enzymes which promote digestion of proteins and carbohydrates over a broad pH range. Due to the variety of non-enzyme metabolites produced in addition to amylase and protease enzymes, inhibitory effects upon other microbial populations in close regional proximity can occur due to competitive inhibition (see “Rationale for Probiotic Supplementation”). Bacillus subtilis also produces b-glucanase, an enzyme which breaks the b-1, 3-glucose polymer in complex carbohydrate grains: soy, barley, milo, and others. Bacillus subtilis remains active when excreted with manure, resulting in less odor, faster decomposition, and improved reduction of solids in the manure.
● Probiotics – dietary friendly microbial cultures – such as found in Wysong Probiosyn, have also been proven to be effective in arthritic conditions. By populating the digestive tract with beneficial organisms, the digestive process is enhanced, micronutrients are synthesized and absorbed, pathogens are inhibited, and the immune response is modified.
● Probiotics play a vital and beneficial role in health. Intestinal probiotics help digestion and augment overall health by improving nutrient availability, synthesizing enzymes and vitamins, promoting anticarcinogenic activity, enhancing the immune system, and regulating bowel function. Further, one of the best mechanisms for protecting against digestive tract infections is the competitive exclusion of pathogens via establishment of proper intestinal flora. If the digestive tract is populated with sufficient numbers of “friendly” microorganisms, pathogens cannot easily take root. Although the exact mechanism of action is not known, it is believed that probiotic organisms act through nutrient exclusion, competition for attachment sites, production of volatile fatty acids and fermentative gases that inhibit pathogens, and by decreasing the oxidationreduction potential.
● Dentatreat TM probiotics and enzymes provide many internal benefits which have been described at great length in other publications, and also offer benefits specific to dental health. One action is to reduce the number of putrefactive bacteria responsible for bad breath. The probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus aids in optimizing calcium metabolism and produces the amino acid L-lysine, which has been linked to limiting tooth decay. DentaTreat also provides important prebiotic oligosaccharides, which function to nourish the beneficial active probiotics.
● Despite the inclination to regard microorganisms as the enemy, the majority of these tiny life forms favor cohabitation and cooperation – not conflict. While some microorganisms are villains, others, termed probiotics, can and do play a very beneficial role in maintaining health. Intestinal probiotics, particularly bacteria, play an important role in determining the digestive mechanisms and general health of all animals, humans included. In essence, just about anything that changes the natural, quiescent, homeostatic state can create stress, disrupting gastrointestinal flora. Probiotics (pro-life), as opposed to antibiotics (anti-life), can enhance the immune system, inhibit pathogens, decrease disease recovery time, and create an overall improvement in health.
● Wysong Super Flour TM also contains prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Fructooligosaccharides are indigestible carbohydrates, which pass intact into the colon where they promote the growth of certain “friendly” bacteria (probiotics). The selective stimulation of probiotic bacteria is accompanied by a significant reduction in the number of pathogenic bacteria via competitive exclusion.
● There is a constant battle in the digestive system between the good and bad bacteria. Probiotics are active (live) yogurt-like cultures of microorganisms that shift the balance in favor of the good guys – thus increasing immune strength and digestive function.
● For over 3,000 years, people in various parts of the world have been making and consuming yogurt. Known for its beneficial probiotic properties (immune enhancement, growth factors, antagonism to disease agents, nutrient production, etc.), the yogurt powder used in WPS contains 34% protein, 12.5% calcium and is devoid of trans fat. The natural fauna of L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus – the healthy bacteria in yogurt, is further enhanced with added probiotics including Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bifidus, Lactobacillus plantarum and Enterococcus faecium.”

So here you have it.
Here is my version: All mammals have “good” bacteria in their gastrointestinal tract. Billions of the right bacteria naturally occur in the small and large intestines. It is estimated that the number of bacteria in the bowel outnumbers the number of cells in the body. When GI bacteria are the correct type and in balance, good things happen, vitamins are made, harmful bacteria are inhibited and toxins are broken down. The balance can be upset or diminished by a high grain diet (fermentation of complex carbohydrates causes growth of yeast and unfriendly bacteria), a weak immune system, toxins from food, artificial food ingredients such as coloring agents, dyes, digest, chemical additives or preservatives and antibiotics. The addition of prebiotics can reestablish the population of these beneficial organisms. Or, shorter yet: Probiotics aid the digestive and immune systems. They also aid in nutrient absorption for a healthier, happier pet.
Stay tuned for part 2 when we take a closer look at the relationship between probiotics and enzymes, also related to this topic.
Contributed in large by

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Browsing today’s pet column in the local news paper: Elderly cat loosing weight

I haven’t done that for quite a while: Contributing to this blog nutrition related comments I find in the pet column of my local newspaper, The Palm Beach Post. Some while ago now they changed from a weekly frequency to publishing the column twice a week and by now a quite sizeable pile of news paper sections with a note to my wife “Pl. save” has accumulated on my already cluttered desk. This pile along with many other reference materials I am using here at this blog and on our website is just getting out of control, so I decided to just dive into it starting right now. And I like the idea because they should make for short comments, something my blog visitors here are not used to too much. I know, my and my contributors’ comments often are quite lengthy and also do not always make for the “lite” reading material you’d pick to relax.
One issue really makes me wonder: Why are pet owners using the pet column to find out about health issues they are having with their pets and how to address them? I understand, there may be a number of them who don’t want to or cannot for whatever reason afford to see their vet. ‘k they need help. But quite often I get the feeling that the pet owners inquiring are most definitely frequenting their vets. Do they not trust them? Could well be, and sort of does not come as a surprise to me when I read some of those cases. However, I want to make one thing very clear here: As you will see, many of these cases most definitely require veterinarian assistance, some of them I would even consider emergencies. I plead to those pet owners: Don’t experiment on your own by trying to figure out what’s going on with your pet by studying and discussing in pet columns, blogs, Internet forums and similar places. A precise diagnosis cannot be made via a pet column by you describing the problem. That would be like you e-mailing me stating you have some pain in your chest and I diagnose you having a lung infection while in the meantime you are on the verge of experiencing a heart attack. A correct diagnosis only can be found through a physical examination performed by a vet. I also do not understand why some vets in these columns even offer advice rather than referring the inquiring owner to one of their colleagues. Get your pet to the vet now before it is too late. If you cannot afford a “regular” vet, seek help at your local animal shelter. While they are not always providing free services, they often are less costly and chances are they will not turn you away and the financials can be worked out later in a mutually acceptable manner. As you go on there still will be plenty of time left for you to discuss things via the media listed above. And at that point I encourage you to do so, because there is sure a lot to be learned out there and all these sources can provide an incredible wealth of information for you.
If you already see a vet and have the feeling he is of no help, go see another one. Especially in more complicated cases, just as you handle it with your own body, it is good and advisable to seek a second opinion. I recommend that quite frequently to my customers when they come telling me that they are trying to get a problem resolved through their vet and just don’t make any progress. Don’t waste any more time than necessary, move on and most important, get your pet the help it needs and at a bare minimum deserves. But that is all general stuff I would ask anybody to keep in mind. Let’s get to today’s case:
This lady has an elderly male cat at home, approximately 15 years old. The cat was a rescue and when they found him obviously nobody was able to tell how old he was, so they estimated him being 5 back then. That’s all secondary. The owner is concerned. The cat’s entire spine and hip bones are starting to show. The owner says: “you can’t really see them, but when you pet him, you can feel every bone in his back. He still has great appetite. He has dry food available all day and he gets one can of Fancy Feast at night. He still has normal bathroom habits and he hasn’t been vomiting. Should I be concerned or is this the “normal” aging process?”
Let me quick throw in before I forget: Good: Cat has appetite and eats, normal bathroom habits, no vomiting. Not so good: Fancy Feast and I would assume the dry food provided falls in the same quality range.
The pet column vet recommends that the cat needs a good comprehensive physical exam. Really, why hasn’t the owner’s vet figured that out yet? I assume she has one, she definitely sounds to me as if she does. Then the paper’s vet continues: “Older cats are often in a delicate balance that needs to be monitored to keep them in good health. Their bodies are not as forgiving as when they were young, but with a little extra care they can live longer and more comfortably than ever before. First ask your veterinarian to select a senior diet for your cat to optimize his nutrition. Some older cats have sensitive digestive systems and need food that is easy to digest, others have decreased kidney function and need specialized food to help the kidneys. Some have tooth pain and need soft food. A blood profile may help your veterinarian determine your cat’s needs.”
Here are my questions to the column vet: Rather than confusing the pet owner I would have definitely sent her to see her vet. Granted, this does not seem to be an emergency since it sounds like the cat appears to be feeling fine despite the weight loss. But what was done here was just making the owner’s life difficult. She now is going to look for the right food. Good luck with that, that’s going to take for ever and she will end up with a million opinions and still not know what to do about that. Why do vets always right away push for a change in diet? Granted, it is the food what causes the diseases we are fighting and our animals are plagued with. However, switching the animal over to a “scientific” wonder food, which after all typically is not so much of a wonder healing miracle, is not the answer. And let’s face it, there is only a very few vets who will recommend any other food than their favorite prescription diets.
Then you bring up a possible kidney problem? Granted, yes there is a possibility of that, but again, it just confuses the owner. Let a vet determine that by doing a physical exam and don’t put that in the poor owner’s head needlessly increasing her worries.
My next question to the vet is: You wrote a great article on the paper’s website titled “
Do you know when to see your vet? Here are guidelines about taking your pet to see a doctor.” In it you say: “Question: When should I take my pet to see my vet? Answer: These question/answer columns are extremely helpful, but there are certain situations with pets where no time should be wasted in getting your pet to a veterinarian. Everyone needs to understand that, just as in humans, problems can not be diagnosed without examining the pet and/or lab work. A good rule of thumb is: Emergencies (need a vet immediately) are: seizures, Bufo toad, collapsed, problem breathing, hit by car, bleeding, in labor, ate poison, eye injury/problem, and vomiting blood. If your vet is not open at the time these happen, be sure you know where the nearest emergency clinic is located. Get to a vet today: not eating, diarrhea, vomiting, weak/lethargic, in pain, cat that can't urinate /defecate, and ANY sick bird. These are the standards we give our new receptionists and staff to use as guidelines when making appointments.”
See what I am saying, I think that would have been the appropriate and only way that cat owner’s inquiry should have been answered.

And if anybody is interested in hearing what I would have recommended: Go see your vet and have a physical done. Then based on the results come back and if the vet recommends a change in diet let’s figure out what we’re going to do. It all depends on the results of the vet’s exam.

Assuming the outcome of the exam is that except for some weight loss there is nothing wrong with your cat, let’s look at two possibilities: Is the cat “underweight”? If so let’s try an increase of the amounts to be fed daily (probably by 50%) and also lets possibly consider a diet with higher fat and protein content. If we are dealing with a “lean” cat, I would suggest an increase of the food ration by 25%. Let’s start weighing the animal at least once a week, this way we can monitor our progress.
In the past I have been very successful by using
Dr. Wysongs Recommendations for Specific Health Conditions. He recommends for “Underweight cats”: A dry or canned growth formula, a raw variety combined with all meat canned or raw meat, a supplemental nutrition enhancement for animals that are undernourished. A supplement designed to reflect this understanding and can be mixed with water to form a paste for force feeding if necessary. It is made of a base of gently processed, concentrated meats and organs from various sources to provide the major natural proteins, fats, and calories. Vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and probiotic cultures are naturally derived, and provide nutrients to the animal in the form that its system was designed to recognize and utilize, and the Wysong Supplement Mother’s Milk.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quality assurances on pet food labels – Realistic or marketing as usual?

Holistic, super superb and better than that, organic, natural, the cure for everything and anything, you name it, the pet food market is going extremely strong in these and similar categories for foods and treats. This comment is meant to be a crash course and a quick overview of what you need to know when deciphering pet food labels of products falling into any of these categories.

“Premium” and superlatives thereof: Many pet foods are labeled as "premium," and some now are "super premium" and even "ultra premium" and whatever else marketing gurus will come up with to out-do these aforementioned classifications trying to imply that the newest super food just has arrived on earth. Other products are touted as "gourmet" items. Don’t be fooled, products labeled as premium or gourmet are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients, nor are they held up to any higher nutritional standards than are any other complete and balanced products, i.e. this is a meaningless claim.

“Natural, All Natural, 100% Natural”: While being extremely well received by pet owners or consumers, this claim again is nothing more but meaningless. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) “All fresh meat qualifies as natural”. Food labeled this way should not contain any artificial flavors, coloring, chemical preservatives or synthetic ingredients and only can be minimally processed (example: Ground). Minimally processed? Right there goes your dream of buying “Natural” kibble, the manufacturing process of making dry food in my opinion is everything but minimal processing. One requirement the USDA makes is that food labeled as “natural” is that it also must include a statement that explains the use the term, like for example: “No artificial flavors added”. The label does not prohibit the use of any animal by-products in cattle feed. Jo Robinson, author of “Pasture Perfect” and a leading expert on the benefits of grass feeding, in an interview with Whole Dog Journal back in September 2008 claimed: “Virtually all the beef in your supermarket comes from animals that were treated with growth promoting antibiotics. You can’t tell by reading the label, however, because the FDA doesn’t require antibiotic use to be listed. It’s agribusiness as usual.” Here is the FDA’s exact wording about the meaning of the “Natural” claim on a pet food label:
“The term "natural" is often used on pet food labels, although that term does not have an official definition either. For the most part, "natural" can be construed as equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives in the product. As mentioned above, artificial flavors are rarely employed anyway. Artificial colors are not really necessary, except to please the pet owner's eye. If used, they must be from approved sources, the same as for human foods. Especially for high-fat dry products, some form of preservative must be used to prevent rancidity. Natural-source preservatives, such as mixed tocopherols (a source of vitamin E), can be used in place of artificial preservatives. However, they may not be as effective.“

"Natural" is not the same as "organic." The latter term refers to the conditions under which the plants were grown or animals were raised. I just for the purpose of doing research for this comment, visitied the FDA’s website and learned that “There are no official rules governing the labeling of organic foods (for humans or pets) at this time, but the United States Department of Agriculture is developing regulations dictating what types of pesticides, fertilizers and other substances can be used in organic farming.”

According to the
Organic Trade Association (OTA), “stringent standards put in place a system to certify that specific practices are used to produce and process organic agricultural ingredients used for food and non-food purposes.
National organic standards set out the methods, practices and substances used in producing and handling crops, livestock and processed agricultural products. The standards include a national list of approved synthetic and prohibited non-synthetic substances for organic production. See for more details.
Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Organically produced foods also must be produced without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering and other excluded practices, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Cloning animals or using their products would be considered inconsistent with organic practices. Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation to maintain the integrity of the food.
National organic standards require that organic growers and handlers be certified by third-party state or private agencies or other organizations that are accredited by USDA. Although farmers and handlers who sell less than $5,000 a year in organic agricultural products and retailers that do not process these products are exempt from certification, they must meet all certified organic grower and handler requirements to maintain the organic integrity of the organic products they sell. Anyone who knowingly sells or mislabels as organic a product that was not produced and handled in accordance with the regulations can be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per violation.” Note: Now here is a solution that seems workable, maybe the same should be applied to pet food labeling in general. I am sure imposing penalties would clear up a lot of the existing confusion in no time.
The OTA continues: “Consumers can look for the “USDA Organic” seal or other approved labeling, and for the name of the certifier on the label of the products they consider for purchase. Products labeled “100% Organic” and carrying the “USDA Organic” seal are just that, they contain all organically produced ingredients. Products that are made from at least 95% organic ingredients, and have remaining ingredients that are approved for use in organic products may also carry the “USDA Organic” seal. In addition, products that contain at least 70% organic ingredients may label those on the ingredient listing. Producers and processors voluntarily use these labels, and may use organic ingredients without being required to label them. “
For pet food, the organic label, which applies to meats, poultry and dairy products has the backing of a strict legal standard and certification system. This means that the consumer can rest assured that animals being used for organic food certified have not undergone genetic modification, they were fed grass or grain free from chemical pesticides, fertilizers, animal by-products and other adulterants, were not genetically modified and not treated with any antibiotics, growth hormones or chemical pesticides. While the animals must have access to the outdoors, they are not necessarily raised on pasture and their access to the outdoors may be limited. Additionally, despite the fact that their feed has to be produced organically, it does not need to be fresh or of high quality.
There for sure may be many loop holes in this entire system of organics, however in my opinion, compared to any other pet food labeling standards, I rate the organic statement due to the certification process required probably the safest bet to get a pretty close idea about the food one is buying.

“Grass or pasture fed” animal ingredients in pet food according to the USDA are defined as “animals living on pasture and eating only grass and forage after weaning for their entire lives.” The term implies, though not required by the USDA organic farming methods.
Let’s take a look at the term “Pasture raised”:
Sustainable Table, an organization dedicated to educating consumers on food related issues and working to build community through food, defines the term as follows: “ Today’s dominant form of agriculture relies on synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides, large amounts of water, major transportation systems and factory-style practices for raising livestock and crops. Artificial hormones in milk, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, mad cow disease, and large-scale outbreaks of potentially deadly e.coli are all associated with this industrial form of food production. Pasture-raised animals spend most of their time outdoors, where they're able to eat nutritious grasses and other plants as they would in nature. In addition to dramatically improving the welfare of farm animals, pasturing helps reduce environmental damage, and yields meats, eggs, and dairy products which are tastier and more nutritious than foods produced on industrial farms. Animals raised on pasture enjoy a much higher quality of life than those confined within factory farms. When raised on open pasture, animals are able to move around freely and carry out their natural behaviors. This lifestyle is impossible to achieve on industrial farms, where thousands of animals are crowded into confined facilities, often without access to fresh air or sunlight. These stressful conditions are a breeding ground for bacteria and the animals frequently become ill, so factory farms must routinely treat them with antibiotics to prevent outbreaks of disease. Grazing on pasture is especially beneficial for cattle and other ruminants, whose bodies are developed to eat grass. The roughage provided by grasses and other plants allows ruminants to produce saliva, which helps neutralize acids that exist naturally in their digestive systems. When taken off pasture and put on a diet of grain, a ruminant will produce less saliva, causing an increase in acidity within its digestive tract. As a result, grain fed cattle often suffer from a number of health problems including intestinal damage, dehydration, liver abscesses and even death. Despite the fact that grain diets can sicken cattle and other ruminants, factory farms feed these animals grain (usually corn or soybeans) because it's a cheap way to fatten animals and force them to grow to market weight as quickly as possible.”
Poultry is often classified as “Free range or free roaming”. This classification implies that the animals have been grass fed and had unlimited access to open pasture. Because the term is not specifically defined in the US it can be another misleading claim. All it takes is an open door in the chicken cage and the chicken may or may not use that open door. Maybe they won’t because by doing so they end up standing and walking on concrete or gravel. When having the privilege of standing and walking on grass, the chicken normally and preferably gets classified as being “pastured”.

With “No antibiotics” classified ingredients like meat, poultry, eggs or dairy are coming from animals that have been raised without the use of just such.

“No hormones” has to be used in combination with pork or chicken based ingredients. Legally hormones cannot be given to these animals, therefore again we are looking at another claim without any meaning.

Simple is “No animal by-products”, it is supposed to be just what it says.

And finally, a term yet rarely to be found is “Biodynamic”. Ingredients certified as such are sourced from animals raised organically according to strict standards developed in the 1920’s by Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner. It is a classification which is way beyond the “organic” certification. According to the
Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, the term refers to “…a unified approach to agriculture that relates the ecology of the earth organism to that of the entire cosmos. … If the results of the Biodynamic approach may be found in the quality of produce, the health of land and livestock, and the freedom from environmental problems increasingly generated by many modern farming methods, what of the approach itself? What distinguishes it from other agricultural attitudes and techniques? Essentially, biodynamic farming and gardening looks upon the soil and the farm as living organisms. It regards maintenance and furtherance of soil life as a basic necessity if the soil is to be preserved for generations, and it regards the farm as being true to its essential nature if it can be conceived of as a kind of individual entity in itself, a self-contained individuality. It begins with the ideal concept of the necessary self containedness of the farm and works with furthering the life of the soil as a primary means by which a farm can become a kind of individuality that progresses and evolves. … Biodynamic farming and gardening combines common sense agriculture, an understanding of ecology, and the specific environment of a given place with a new spiritual scientific approach to the concepts, principles, and practices of agriculture.”

In summary, pet owners and veterinary professionals have a right to know what they are feeding or recommending to feed their animals. The pet food label contains a wealth of information, that is, if one knows how to read it. However, today more true than ever before, don’t be swayed by the creativity of the industry’s marketing departments with their marketing gimmicks and eye catching claims. If in doubt, if you have questions about a product, ask your retailer, if he can’t help as he is supposed to, contact the manufacturer or ask an appropriate regulatory agency. As C.J.Puotinen, a frequent Whole Dog Journal contributor and freelance writer and author of
“The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care” and other books on holistic health care and herbal remedies says in a comment for the Journal back in September 2008: “Because so many label claims are unregulated and because so many firms and ranches operate outside the certification process, the best way to find out how your meat, dairy products, eggs and poultry are raised and processed, is talk to the growers. Pasture farmers are usually passionate about what they grow. They will explain everything in detail and invite you to visit.” Doreen Eldred a pasture farmer in Chester, NY in that same comment adds to Poutinen: “A label is only as accurate as the person placing it on the package. If you want to know the quality of the meat you are getting, you need to know the farmer and how the animals are being raised. It is all a matter of trust.”

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Niche and Special Needs Diets

Perusing your pet food store can be a daunting venture if you enter unsure of what you want to leave with. The shelves seem overloaded lately, with niche and specialty diets for various ailments, specific breeds, activity levels and more. There seems to be something for everyone with diets tailored to the finest detail. A juvenile Chihuahua with diabetes and an exceptionally small mouth can now find something just for her, it seems!
Are these niche diets all they're cracked up to be? Probably not. When you take a closer look at the ingredients in each, there really aren't even too many differences between each of them within a given manufacturer's line. Oftentimes, it's all in a name.
Some breeds certainly are prone to specific health concerns and some illnesses to respond well to dietary adjustments, but for the most part, a few basic food buying guidelines can set the majority of animals on the path to good health.
Here's a quick checklist for things to consider when choosing a sound canine diet:
Quality not quantity (don't be too penned in by numbers) Just because your vet suggests a certain percentage of protein, doesn't mean that a food 1% outside the recommendation is unworthy of consideration. A diet with 18% protein might contain by-products and fillers. Broaden your range and you might find something with a meat-based protein source that will maintain healthy kidney function, just as well!
Expense doesn't always equal quality. Don't just assume that buying the costliest food will assure you of its suitability.
Look for more than just a pretty label - As with lots of things in life, marketing tactics abound in pet food products. Beautiful illustrations and clever names might lead you to think a food is better than it really is!
Choose to buy from a company who offers sound, thoughtful customer service and product recommendations specific to your pet.
The dangers of relying on a diet that's marketed just for your breed can lead to a false sense of security, too. The food you feed must be selected according to your individual animal's unique requirements, not the breed that's pictured on the label. No two bulldogs are exactly alike and one single diet shouldn't be expected to meet the needs of every bulldog under the sun.
That said, there are many great quality, broad reaching diets that the vast majority of dogs will thrive on. Avoiding by-products, fillers, chemicals, colors, and flavor enhancers, is a must for everyone. Grains should often be avoided in those prone to chronic GI upset, ear infections and skin irritation, all of which are frequently caused by a dietary gluten overload. But some dogs actually need grain in their food to maintain a healthy bodyweight.
For the most part, a diet with a moderate nutritional profile and a good quality spectrum of ingredients will serve the task well. Don't automatically shy away from higher protein foods just because your pup is over age six. Healthy Seniors can actually benefit from a substantial protein percentage, it helps maintain collagen, which provides amino acids that are essential for tissue growth and repair. Celebrating his seventh birthday shouldn't automatically warrant a change in food!
Try to encompass variety wherever possible. Good quality, whole food, people ingredients are not bad for dogs when offered in moderation, as an accompaniment to a good quality basic diet. Don't be duped by the big guys, into thinking that all you should feed is the product they make. They are thinking about their bottom line, if you don't share your food with your pup, the more you'll need to buy of their product.
If your dog has special requirements, try keeping a notebook with comments about which foods seem to trigger reactions. Was it high carbohydrates or increased fat that leads to a gain of those few extra pounds? Does more protein really set off her urinary tract problems? Do all grains make his ears flare up or just the high gluten ones?
Sure, a large breed puppy does have somewhat different nutritional requirements than a senior small breed but they are both Canis Major with the same basic organ systems and their needs might not be quite as diverse as some companies would have you believe.
Contributed by Lucy Postins, The Honest Kitchen

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pet Nutrition: Requirements and related diseases Part 3 Vitamins & Minerals

While American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the National Research Council (NRC) cooperate to publish dog and cat nutrient profiles for growth, maintenance, and reproduction, this series goes beyond the percentages suggested by these organizations and explores in more detail why nutrients are required and what happens if they are not supplied in sufficient quantities. In part 1 we discussed water and energy, in part 2 we talked about protein, fats, carbohydrates and fiber. Today we are going to address the nutritional requirement for vitamins and minerals.

Most commercial dog and cat foods are fortified with vitamins to levels that exceed minimal requirements. There is no AAFCO dietary requirement for vitamins C or K for dogs. Cats have no documented dietary requirement for vitamin C. Deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, and E in dogs; A, D, E, and K in cats) and some of the 11 water-soluble B-complex vitamins have been produced experimentally. Water-soluble vitamins are usually readily excreted if excess amounts are consumed and are thought to be far less likely to cause toxicity or side effects when ingested in mega doses. Vitamin B12 is the only water-soluble vitamin stored in the liver, and dogs may have a 2- to 5-yr depot. Fat-soluble vitamins (except for vitamin K in cats) are stored to an appreciable extent in the body, and when vitamins A and D are ingested in large amounts (10-100 times daily requirement) over a period of months, toxic reactions may be seen. Only clinically relevant vitamin-related imbalances are described below.

Vitamin A: Excessive consumption of liver can lead to hypervitaminosis A and may produce skeletal lesions, including deforming cervical spondylosis, osseocartilaginous hyperplasia, osteoporosis, inhibited collagen synthesis, and decreased chrondrogenesis in growth plates of growing dogs.
Unlike most other mammals, cats cannot convert β-carotene to vitamin A because they lack intestinal carotenase. Therefore, cats require a preformed source in their diet, such as that supplied by liver, fish liver oils, or synthetic vitamin A. Signs of a vitamin A deficiency in cats are similar to those in other species, except that classic xerophthalmia, follicular hyperkeratosis, and retinal degeneration are rarely seen and usually are associated with concomitant protein deficiency. Nonetheless, cats fed diets deficient in vitamin A exhibited conjunctivitis, xerosis with keratitis and corneal vascularization, retinal degeneration, photophobia, and slowed pupillary response to light. Certain of these alterations also result from the retinal degeneration that is seen in taurine deprivation. Hypovitaminosis A in cats may exhaust vitamin A reserves of the kidneys and liver; affect reproduction causing stillbirths, congenital anomalies (hydrocephaly, blindness, hairlessness, deafness, ataxia, cerebellar dysplasia, intestinal hernia), and resorption of fetuses; and cause the same changes in epithelial cells noted in other animals. Squamous metaplasia of the respiratory tract, conjunctiva, endometrium, and salivary glands has been noted. Changes such as subpleural cysts lined by keratinizing squamous epithelium and extensive infectious sequelae are frequent in the lungs and are occasionally noted in the conjunctiva and salivary glands. Focal dysplasia of pancreatic acinar tissue and marked hypoplasia of seminiferous tubules, depletion of adrenal lipid, and focal atrophy of the skin have been reported. Borderline deficiency is more common, especially in chronic ill health. Retinol at 9,000 IU/kg of diet should meet dietary needs for vitamin A during gestation and lactation and exceed the needs of the growing kitten. Excessive consumption of liver can lead to hypervitaminosis A, which is characterized by new bone formation without osteolysis. Vitamin A toxicosis produces skeletal lesions of deforming cervical spondylosis, ankylosis of vertebrae and large joints, osseocartilagenous hyperplasia, osteoporosis, epiphyseal plate damage, and a narrowing of the intervertebral foramina.

Vitamin D deficiency results in rickets in young animals and osteomalacia in adult animals. Classic signs of rickets are rare in puppies and kittens and most often are seen when homemade diets are fed without supplementation. Rickets has been reported in kittens fed diets deficient in vitamin D, even though dietary amounts of calcium and phosphorus were normal. In rickets, serum calcium and phosphorus are decreased or low normal with a corresponding high parathyroid hormone level; bone mineralization is decreased, and the metaphyseal areas are enlarged. Osteomalacia rarely causes clinical signs in dogs or cats. Hypervitaminosis D causes hypercalcemia and hyperphosphatemia with irreversible soft-tissue calcification of the kidney tubules, heart valves, and large-vessel walls. Death in dogs is either related to chronic renal failure or acutely due to a massive aortic rupture. Death in cats is related to chronic renal failure.

Vitamin E: In cats, steatitis results from a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly from marine fish oils when these are not protected with added antioxidants. Kittens or adult cats develop anorexia and muscular degeneration; depot fat becomes discolored by brown or orange ceroid pigments. Lesions are seen in cardiac and skeletal muscles and are similar to those described for other species.

Thiamine: Deficiency generally does not develop in cats fed properly prepared commercial diets. Thiaminase, which tends to be high in uncooked freshwater fish, can produce a deficiency by rapid destruction of dietary thiamine. Although canned commercial cat foods may contain fish, the heat associated with canning is sufficient to destroy thiaminase. Destruction of thiamine has also resulted from treatment of food with sulfur dioxide or overheating during drying or canning, but deficiencies are now rare. Thiamine-deficient cats develop anorexia, an unkempt coat, a hunched position, and with time, convulsions that become more severe, leading later to prostration and death. At necropsy, small petechiae may be found in the cerebrum and midbrain. Diagnosis can be confirmed in the early stages by giving 100-250 mg thiamine, PO or IM, bid for several days. Recovery occurs in minutes to hours but, if the diet is not supplemented after this treatment, relapse can be expected. Thiamine deficiency may cause a number of other neurologic disorders, including impairment of labyrinthine righting reactions, seen as head ventroflexion and loss of the ability to maintain equilibrium when moving or jumping; impairment of the pupillary light reflex; and dysfunction of the cerebellum, suggested by asynergia, ataxia, and dysmetria.

Minerals can be classified into 3 major categories: macrominerals (sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium) required in gram amounts/day, trace minerals of known importance (iron, zinc, copper, iodine, fluorine, selenium, chromium) required in mg or µg amounts/day, and other trace minerals important in laboratory animals but that have an unclear role in companion animal nutrition (cobalt, molybdenum, cadmium, arsenic, silicon, vanadium, nickel, lead, tin). A balanced amount of the necessary dietary minerals in relation to the energy density of the diet is important. As intake of a mineral exceeds the requirement, an excessive amount may be absorbed, or a large amount of the unabsorbed mineral may prevent intestinal absorption of other minerals in adequate amounts. Indiscriminate mineral supplementation should be avoided due to the likelihood of causing a mineral imbalance. Mineral deficiency is rare in well-balanced diets. Manipulation of dietary intake of calcium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium (dogs and cats), and copper (dogs) for therapeutic effect is common. Limited evidence exists for the recommendations of dietary mineral requirements for cats made in
Table: AAFCO Nutrient Requirements for Cats; many are based on the mineral content of successfully fed diets.

Macrominerals: Calcium and phosphorus deficiency is uncommon in well-balanced growth diets. Exceptions may include high-meat diets that are high in phosphorus and low in calcium and diets high in phytates, which inhibit absorption of trace minerals. In both dogs and cats, the requirements for dietary calcium and phosphorus are increased over maintenance during growth, pregnancy, and lactation. In dogs, the calcium:phosphorus ratio should be ~1.2-1.5:1; a range of 1:1 to 2.5:1 is sufficient. Less phosphorus is absorbed at the higher ratios, so an appropriate balance of these 2 minerals is necessary. Also, insufficient supplies of calcium or excess phosphorus decrease calcium absorption and result in irritability, hyperesthesia, and loss of muscle tone with temporary or permanent paralysis associated with nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism. Skeletal demineralization, particularly of the pelvis and vertebral bodies, develops with calcium deficiency. By the time there is a pathologic fracture and the condition can be confirmed radiographically, bone demineralization is severe. Often, there is a history of feeding a diet composed almost entirely of meat, liver, fish, or poultry. Excess intakes of calcium are more problematic for growing (weaning to 1 yr) large- and giant-breed dogs. Excessive supplementation (>3% calcium [dry-matter basis]) causes more severe signs of osteochondrosis and decreased skeletal remodeling in young, rapidly growing large-breed dogs than in dogs fed diets with lower dietary calcium (1-3% [dry-matter basis]). The clinical signs of lameness, pain, and decreased mobility have not been reported in small-breed dogs or more slowly growing breeds fed the higher calcium amounts.
Magnesium is an essential cofactor of many intercellular metabolic enzyme pathways and is rarely deficient in complete and balanced diets. However, when calcium or phosphorus supplementation is excessive, insoluble and indigestible mineral complexes form within the intestine and may decrease magnesium absorption. Clinical signs of magnesium deficiency in puppies are depression, lethargy, and muscle weakness. Excessive magnesium is excreted in the urine. In cats, there is evidence that magnesium concentrations >0.3% (dry-matter basis) may be detrimental if the diet is too alkaline.

Trace Minerals:
Iodine deficiency is rare when complete and balanced diets are fed but may be seen when high-meat diets are used (dogs and cats) or when diets contain saltwater fish (cats). Deficient kittens show signs of hyperthyroidism in the early stages, with increased excitability, followed later by hypothyroidism and lethargy. Abnormal calcium metabolism, alopecia, and fetal resorption have been reported. The condition can be confirmed by thyroid size (>12 mg/100 g body wt) and histopathology at necropsy. The etiology of hyperthyroidism that develops in older cats with increased blood thyroxine and triiodothyronine is unknown.

Iron and copper found in most meats are utilized efficiently, and nutritional deficiencies are rare except in animals fed a diet composed almost entirely of milk or vegetables. Deficiency of iron or copper is marked by a microcytic, hypochromic anemia and, often, by a reddish tinge to the hair in a white-haired animal. Deficiency of zinc results in emesis, keratitis, achromotrichia, retarded growth, and emaciation. Decreased zinc availability has been noted in canine diets containing excessive levels of phytate, which emphasizes the value of feeding trial tests over laboratory nutrient analyses of pet foods. Manganese toxicity has been reported to produce albinism in some Siamese cats; a deficiency of manganese in other species results in bone dyscrasia.
Stay tuned for part 4 with a discussion of Pet food labels and Food product types.
Notes: Contribution
Merck Veterinarian Manual