Saturday, May 9, 2009

Raw Pet Food Deceptions Exposed

The correct and healthy archetypal diet for pets is foods they are genetically adapted to. For carnivores, that would predominantly consist of raw prey. The logic and evidence for this is unassailable and Wysong has been teaching this for the past thirty years. As public awareness of this important concept grows, marketers and producers see a profit opportunity in the competitive edge this concept could bring. But stuck with manufacturing facilities designed to cook pet foods, what are they to do? I asked Dr. Randy Wysong, DVM and founder, owner and CEO of Wysong, here’s his response:

“Where substance does not work, clever words might. So brochures, labels and product names are crafted in such a way as to lead consumers to believe they are getting raw dog and cat products when in fact they are not. Sadly, these deceptive practices mislead consumers away from the true health benefits that raw diets can bring to their companion animals.

It is important to understand that all conventional dry pet foods are either extruded or baked. Baking, though it may sound innocuous, is just like what is done in an oven at home. Extruding squeezes ingredients through a long tube with a screw under hundreds of pounds of pressure and at temperatures above 300 degrees. Canning (retorting) also requires high temperatures. Finally there is freeze-drying that takes frozen foods directly to a dried state. In order to speed this difficult process along, most freeze-dry pet food processors heat the food and apply vacuum. All such cooking methods are done in order to create sterile products that can safely be held in packaging for months and years without risk of conferring illness or even death from food-borne pathogens and toxins.

How then, using these methods, is a manufacturer going to create a raw processed pet food to satisfy an alert consumer’s desire for convenient raw meat-based foods? It can’t be done with the above methods. Cooking negates raw.

Two options remain for consumers, feed raw foods from the grocery or feed Wysong True Non Thermal (TNT) raw cat and dog foods.* The Wysong TNT process can only be done in relatively small batches, requires extremely expensive equipment, is very labor intensive, and requires days to complete if the pet product is never raised above approximate body temperature ……… To get around the problem of having to renovate manufacturing and revert to very slow and labor intensive methods, manufacturers leave things as they are and simply get creative with words. Words are cheap, building innovative new manufacturing plants is not.

For example, there is a wave of “grain-free” products on the market. The idea here is to lead consumers to believe the problem with cooked foods is the grains. So the grains are removed and replaced with other starches such as from rice, potato or tapioca. Then claims are made that the resulting products have all the merits of raw. The truth is that the foods are still extruded at hundreds of degrees. Grains, potatoes, rice and tapioca are all sources of starch, a long carbohydrate chain of sugars. Grains are added to extruded products because their starches (the dough) help create a formed nugget. Replacing the starch of grains with other starchy ingredients does not make a food raw or remove dough!

Another ploy is to dust an extruded product with some raw ingredients and then make claims of raw. For example some raw freeze-dried meat could be powdered and then dusted on the cooked nuggets. But if the end food is 99.999999999+% cooked, that hardly fills the bill for a raw pet food. To sort this out, look at the ingredient listing. Vitamins and minerals are usually at the tail end of the list because they are only needed in micro amounts. For example, vitamin B12 may only be at a level of one ten-millionth of an ounce in a normal meal of a pet food. Now then, if vitamin B12 is 25 ingredients down from the top of the list, and then the raw freeze dried meats are another 25 or so ingredients down from there, what can be concluded? The raw part of the food could be at billionths of an ounce, trillionths, or just a few molecules per twenty-ton truckload? Yet raw is the clarion cry about the merit of the food! (For example, see …..)

Here is how such an ingredient list looks:
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21, 22,23,24 (at one ten-millionths of an ounce per feeding), 25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44, 45,46,47,48 (a raw particle dusted on the outside)

Rather than pay the exorbitant prices for such diets, consumers could buy a cheap generic food and touch a couple of the kibbles with their fingers and get about as much raw protein from their fingerprint (less than one-ten millionth of an ounce) on the food as is evidently present.

The "no-grain" tactic always seems to be a sure winner. Consumers assume the “no” part is bad and that the food that has no something must have a good something instead. In this case, having no grain is meant to imply the food has all the merits of a raw pet diet. Allusions to the “science” that is used to make such products are usually made in an attempt to convince people that cooked is the same thing as raw. Saying something that is cooked is raw is not science, it is science from another dimension! Black is not white, left is not right, up is not down, cooked is not raw.

Further, if these dried and canned foods even hint at being truly raw, dangerous pathogenic organisms such as Clostridium botulinum with its lethal exotoxin could lurk within. Such organisms can flourish in high moisture dried and canned foods if they are not cooked to sterility in processing. (This does not apply to Wysong TNT pet foods because of their extremely low water activity [not the same as % moisture on a label], and other Wysong raw pet food safety precautions - see … and Other Raw Pet Food Safety Innovations at Wysong). In addition, if the foods are truly raw the FDA requires that handling guidelines for safe use be put on the label. If these instructions are not there and the consumer is being led to believe the product is in any way raw, then the product is being sold illegally. (This FDA requirement is on all new Wysong packaging, but not found on any of the cooked foods in the market implying that they are raw.)

The concept of feeding according to genetic context is the most important idea people can embrace if they are concerned about their pet’s health (and their own). With this understanding people are led to raw natural foods and away from the disease-producing mainstay of cooked sugars and starches. For producers to superficially take the words of this idea and run to market with it presenting cooked products containing starches as if they are raw and natural is a travesty and perversion of the healthful concept.

The deception is like the ad offering a sculpted bust of Abraham Lincoln, commissioned and manufactured by the U.S. government, made of certified pure copper alloy and delivered to your home by the U.S. government. Price is only $49.95. When, as promised, the U.S. postal service arrives, it delivers a small envelope. Inside is a penny. The only difference between this and the raw ruses is that here people are only out some money. The raw deception is robbing pets of a tremendous health opportunity.

Consumers should be up in arms, stores and distributors promoting the deception should be embarrassed and the government should be stepping in. Are we at Wysong disappointed? Most certainly. First off, the idea of raw is to bring health back to pets and spare them disease and suffering. It's not just an opportunity to profiteer. (And no, Wysong does not fall in that group because if people were to follow our instructions to a tee, no packaged products would need to be purchased - even Wysong’s.) When consumers submit to gullibility and believe producers will be honest with them there is a double tragedy. People are duped and pets suffer.

Additionally, while fake raw pet products are cheaply spit out of the end of extruders and retorters at tons per hour, we (Wysong) must carefully deep freeze meats (less than -20° F) over extended time to kill potential parasites, spend years developing natural preservatives to help make raw products safe from food-borne pathogens, create a natural antioxidant to preserve fragile fatty acids (such as omega-3’s), hand batch ingredients, install huge specially designed stainless steel machines to draw extremely high levels of vacuum to convert frozen products into shelf stable dry ones (at a rate of a few hundred pounds over several days, not tons per hour), tend these machines 24 hours a day, pay the high utility and maintenance bills to run large compressors and vacuum pumps, wait for days for a batch to be properly dried, and then hand package in oxygen - and light-barrier bags. These products are then sold below their cost (see explanation below) just to give people an affordable option and to educate them on the value of true real food. After all this, when we then tell consumers this is a proper option for raw food feeding, they say something like, “Thanks but we’re already feeding grain-free foods that are just like raw,” referring to the above mentioned pretender products.

Consumers must beware. Anyone can say anything. Walking the walk and building manufacturing facilities that actually produce a pet product that emulates the health-giving natural diet is quite another matter. That is why practically no one is doing it. Pet food producers who are promoting "no grains" as the solution to providing raw diets are merely substituting starches. Raw meats do not equal cooked potato, cooked tapioca, yams, plantains or any other cooked starch. (Neither do such diets qualify as low carb as is also promoted by companies. Starch is carbohydrate whether it is from corn, wheat, rice, potatoes or tapioca.) One must also wonder how producers who make claims about science, nutritionists, veterinary designed, and the like (as nearly all of them do), do not understand the most simple of nutritional and food concepts: cooked is not raw and starch is not no- or low-carbohydrate. They either do understand and are purposely misleading trusting consumers, or, even more unthinkable, they don’t understand.

To protect themselves, consumers must ask the skeptical and hard questions of producers to flush the truth out. Do not believe claims at face value. Be a thinking person. On the other hand, distributors, retailers and veterinarians have a special responsibility. Customers come to them expecting expertise and honesty. Such pet owners are not just buying the cheapest brand at the grocery but are seeking health and quality. Specialty retailers are always looking for a sales edge but they must not be too quick to latch on to the latest marketing gimmick. If that ‘edge’ turns out to be deception and incompetence nobody wins: The customer is not getting what they are paying for, pets are not getting health, and the specialty pet market jeopardizes their reputation and the credibility of their business. Merchandizing does not have to be deceptive. Customers need to be given what they want and need. They deserve the truth, not myths and scams.

The truth is simple. Humans are the only creatures on the planet that cook food. Does nature really have it all wrong? Not likely. Pets need their raw archetypal diet and a variety of honest foods. Some grains and starch in the diet here and there is perfectly fine, but just not meal after meal. Cooked oet foods are fine here and there too, but not day after day, or exclusively. The poorest quality starches are refined dehydrated starches used in pet foods such as from potato and tapioca since they can have almost no nutritional value. They can be fine as well, but not at every meal and certainly not as a substitute for raw.

Raw cat and dog food advantages go way beyond the absence of grains. Cooking, extruding, canning, baking, and freeze drying all create hundreds of changes to the natural food matrix including destroying many nutrients and turning components into dozens of toxins. That’s the issue, not no-grains, or low-carbs, or pretending to be just like raw. Pet owners need to learn how to feed fresh whole foods purchased at the grocery. They also deserve honest products designed and made by competent pet product producers (not marketers) that truly embrace health-first design and offer true non-thermal processing options. Such variety of truly healthy foods is what pets are designed for and the only way for them to achieve long-term optimal health.”

*Comment: …or other raw food products like any of the ones offered in our store for example
Note: Contribution by Dr. R.L.Wysong of
Wysong Corporation.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Antioxidants: Elixirs of health?

asked, the on-line community for pet food professionals in its monthly news magazine. The publication recently started a discussion about anti oxidants and concluded that , while, based on mountains of research they are beneficial for the health of our pets, we still have much to learn about the pros and cons of their use in pet foods.

“Oxidative stress is an important cause of many pet diseases. Hence, the pet food industry's strong interest in antioxidants. Pet food researchers have intensely studied these so-called "elixirs of health" and their role in promoting health.

Mountains of research suggest dietary antioxidants have health benefits for pets and people. Conversely, some large clinical trials with antioxidant supplements did not detect benefits with the formulations tested.

Do not annihilate: The following reports focus on dietary antioxidant health benefits for pets. However, when considering antioxidants, it should be remembered that more is not necessarily better. Oxidative stress is involved in the pathogenesis of many diseases, but its complete annihilation may lead to negative clinical effects in our pets. In other words, excess supplementation may be harmful.

Inflammatory bowel disease: Khoo showed that higher levels of dietary antioxidants or nutrients such as fish oil may be indicated for decreasing inflammation in cats (C. Khoo, et al., 2007). He studied the effect of antioxidants on immune and inflammatory parameters in cats with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Ten healthy and 10 IBD cats were fed wet food with low antioxidants (Ctrl) and test food (Aox) with added vitamin E, vitamin C and beta carotene for four weeks each in a randomized cross-over design. Both foods were completely balanced for adult cats. Serum vitamins E and C, DNA damage (comet assay), lymphocyte subsets and proliferation were measured at weeks four and eight.
Results showed that serum vitamins E and C were significantly increased in healthy and IBD cats on the Aox vs. Ctrl food. The Aox food tended to reduce the lymphocyte proliferation activity in both groups of cats. Results showed that IBD cats have a dysregulated and hyper-inflammatory immune response compared to healthy cats.

It should be remembered that more is not necessarily better.

Improving memory: Milgram's work suggests that long-term maintenance on alpha-lipoic acid (LA) and acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) help improve memory in older dogs (N.W. Milgram, 2007). These antioxidants apparently attenuate age-associated cognitive decline by slowing the rate of mitochondrial decay and cellular aging.
Beagle dogs between 7.6 and 8.8 years of age administered a twice daily supplement of LA and ALC over two months made significantly fewer errors in reaching the learning criterion on two landmark discrimination tasks compared to controls administered a methylcellulose placebo.
The improved performance on the landmark task of dogs supplemented with LA and ALC provides evidence of the effectiveness of this supplement in improving discrimination and allocentric spatial learning.

Boosting immunity: Park demonstrated that the dietary antioxidant bixin heightened cell-mediated and humoral immune response in cats (J.S. Park, et al., 2007). Specifically, it inhibited DNA oxidative damage and inflammation in cats.
Bixin is an antioxidant compound extracted from the annatto seed. Female domestic cats were fed bixin daily for 16 weeks. Blood was sampled in weeks zero, six, 12 and 16. All cats were then vaccinated with an attenuated polyvalent vaccine in weeks 12 and 14. Skin hypersensitivity response (DTH) to saline, concanavalin A, the vaccine and histamine was assessed in weeks 12 and 16.
Cats fed 5 mg bixin generally showed the highest immune stimulatory and antioxidative action. In this treatment, bixin enhanced lymphoblastogenic response, populations of T helper and T cytotoxic cells, NK cytotoxicity and IgG production.
Bixin also inhibited DNA damage. At 10 mg, bixin stimulated DTH response to con A, percent of total T and T cytotoxic cells, and IgG production; however, it inhibited mitogen-induced lymphocyte proliferation. All doses of bixin reduced skin response to histamine and CD18 subpopulations.

Oxidative stress is involved in the pathogenesis of many diseases.

Complex impact: The evidence for supplementing pet foods for health benefits is good but mixed. Research focused on dogs and cats is really just in its infancy. It's a highly complex field that will continue to impact pet food formulation.
Can antioxidants be harmful? Pets and people have evolved and adapted to symbiotically live with persistent, low-grade, oxidative stress. To some extent, this oxidative stress may actually benefit the physiological functioning of cells. Thus, using antioxidants to reduce oxidative stress to levels below some physiological threshold may trigger intracellular signaling pathways that damage cellular machinery.

Laviano contends this should be a critical area for future investigations (Laviano, 2007). He complains about the "media-driven assumption that oxidative stress is always harmful and antioxidant supplements are nearly always beneficial." He points out that when considering antioxidant therapy, more is not necessarily better.”
This article appeared in Petfood Industry, March 2009. ©Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pet Nutrition: Requirements and related diseases Part 6 Nutrition in Disease Management

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 and in part 3 we looked at vitamins and minerals. Part 4 discussed pet food types and labels, in part 5 we learned what should be considered while feeding our pets throughout their various life stages. Our conclusion today discusses the important role of nutrition in disease management. In detail we are going to briefly address some of the more commonly seen problems like adverse reactions to food, anemia, anorexia, cachexia, diarrhea, congestive heart failure (CHF), constipation, diabetis mellitus, feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) fever, gastric dilatation or bloat, head trauma, burns and respiratory diseases, hepatic disease, hyperlipidemia in canines, malabsorption and maldigestion in dogs, obesity, pancreatitis and parvovirus enteritis in dogs, renal insufficiency, urolthiasis in dogs and steatitis in cats.
Nutrition is an important part of disease management, even though few disorders can be cured solely with diet. The interaction between illness, health, and nutritional status is multi factorial and complex. The nutritional requirements of sick dogs and cats are qualitatively the same as those of healthy ones; however, they differ in the amounts required, certain nutrients may be needed in greater amounts or may need to be restricted.

Adverse Reaction to Foods
Food reactions are classified using specific terminology. An adverse reaction to a food is a clinically abnormal response to any type of food ingested. Food intolerance is a type of adverse reaction that does not involve the immune system, eg, food poisoning. A food allergy is a type of adverse reaction that does involve the immune system, eg, colitis or atopy.

Dogs and cats with food allergy usually have GI signs (eg, vomiting or diarrhea, or both) or a pruritic skin condition. The prevalence of true food allergies is very small. Most dogs and cats with nonseasonal pruritus are having an adverse reaction to food. Unfortunately, food allergy cannot be differentiated from intolerance. Hence, given all the possible etiologies and limited diagnostics available, any animal suspected of having an adverse reaction to food should be fed a single novel protein, single novel carbohydrate diet with little or no known additives for a 2-mo trial period. If the owner elects to feed a commercially prepared food, several products are available that use single novel protein sources (eg, venison, rabbit, duck, or fish) and a single carbohydrate source (eg, potato). Fish is not a novel option for most cats. A careful dietary history must be obtained from the pet owner prior to selecting the type of diet. There is a possible, but yet unclear, relationship between adverse food reactions in cats fed foods containing scombroid fish and histamine content. Most importantly, the formulation of whatever product or diet is fed must be fixed to ensure that the ingredient composition is consistent from batch to batch. These products are more expensive not only because of their unique and limited sources of protein but also because of the quality control procedures required to ensure fixed formulations and to eliminate cross-contamination with previous production batches of different foods.

Simplified homemade diets are also possible using the same protein and carbohydrate sources suggested above (or other ingredient sources the owner wants to test). Homemade diets actually allow for a wider selection of source ingredients. Beef, lamb, pork, mutton, tofu (soybean), egg, and dairy products should be discouraged as protein sources because animals have likely been exposed to these sources if previously fed foods with an open formulation. Likewise, corn, wheat, barley, and rice should be discouraged as carbohydrate sources. The basic recipe should closely resemble “complete and balanced,” but single sources of protein and carbohydrate can be sequentially tested and replaced. The owner is responsible for quality control and consistency and must be willing to make such a diet for ~2 mo. On average, there is no price advantage in making a homemade diet over using commercially prepared foods.

The trial diet should be exclusively fed for the 2-mo period, eliminating all treats, snacks, and table foods unless made of the exact same ingredients as the trial diet. All chewable medications and supplements must be eliminated from the trial diet because most contain the same protein and additive ingredients as pet foods and treats. A positive diagnosis of adverse reaction to food is made when there is ~50% improvement within 3 mo of eating the trial diet. Other therapies such as hyposensitization and flea control are necessary in animals with concurrent disease. Testing various suspect ingredients by reintroducing them to the diet one at a time followed by recurrence of clinical signs is affirmation of an adverse reaction to that ingredient. Dietary ingredients reintroduced could reproduce clinical signs as early as 12 hr after ingestion but could take as long as 10 days. Lifelong treatment is dietary avoidance, which may be difficult if the offending ingredients are not positively identified.

Iron or copper deficiency (or both) is the major cause of hypochromic, microcytic anemia. A folic acid and B12 deficiency also produces anemia. Most commercial diets have more than required amounts of iron, copper, and vitamins; therefore, secondary causes such as hemorrhage or heavy parasite infection should be investigated. Feeding large proportions of a single item food or an unbalanced homemade diet may result in anemia. The objective of dietary management of anemia is to feed a diet that is known to support RBC production; this avoids the possibility of a particular nutrient acting as the limiting factor. Ample amino acids must be available for the synthesis of Hgb, iron for heme synthesis, and copper for the proper mobilization of iron. Folic acid and vitamin B12 are necessary to support normal cell division, although there is probably a 2-5 yr hepatic supply of B12 in previously normal animals. Anemic dogs or cats should be fed a growth diet to provide adequate nutrition rather than individual synthetic nutritional supplements. Adding cooked liver to the existing diet is another major source of these nutrients but should not be included at >10-15% of the total food fed.

Anorexia (partial or complete) accompanies many disorders, including drug reactions or reactions to environmental changes. Learned food aversions may also contribute to anorexia. Pain may also be a significant contributor to anorexia, and in most cases when the pain is adequately controlled, the anorexia resolves. The nutritional goal is to stimulate normal appetite and maintain adequate food intake. Partial anorexia is seen when the animal is eating some food but not enough to provide at least 30 kcal/kg body wt in dogs and 40 kcal/kg body wt in cats. Complete anorexia is when the animal eats nothing for ~3 days. Anorectic dogs and cats can sometimes be persuaded to eat by adding highly flavored substances to the diet (eg, animal fat, meat drippings, fish [fish juices or oils for cats]). Nutrition can be provided by several methods for anorectic dogs and cats that are hospitalized. Tube feeding using either a nasogastric or gastric tube is most common. Nasogastric tubes are used more commonly for short durations (1-7 days), while gastric tubes are more convenient for longer durations (weeks or months). Dogs and cats can be maintained at home with tube feedings after the procedure has been accepted by the animal and fully explained to the owner. The liquid tube feeding diet should be nutritionally dense to provide at least 30 kcal/kg body wt/day (dogs) or 40 kcal/kg body wt (cats) in a total daily volume tolerated by the animal. It is possible to feed a 20-kg dog three 200-mL meals/day or a cat three 60-mL meals/day and adequately meet nutritional requirements. If anorexia has been persistent for >1 wk, it is advisable to begin feeding smaller volumes more frequently. For example, most dogs can be started with 30-60 mL meals, and most cats with six 20-30 mL meals/day. Several commercially available canned products are calorically dense and (when blended with water) will pass through an 8 French or larger nasogastric or gastric tube. Nasogastric tubes smaller than 8 French require a commercially prepared homogenized liquid. If for some reason a tube cannot be placed, dogs and cats can be maintained by IV solutions that provide adequate calories, protein, electrolytes, B vitamins, and selected trace minerals until access to the small intestine is possible.

Cachexia, usually present in cases of neoplasia or chronic renal or cardiac disease, appears to be a response to increased catabolism with either normal or decreased appetite. The deterioration of the animal’s condition clearly indicates that nutritional requirements are not being met, and the dietary goal is to increase the caloric density and palatability of the food while meeting the animal’s requirements for protein and other nutrients. The usual management of cachexia is to feed smaller amounts of a more calorically dense (ie, higher fat content) but complete and balanced food more frequently (3-6 meals/day). The form of food (dry or canned) that the dog or cat prefers should be fed. Tube feeding and IV nutritional support (see above) should also be considered if the dog or cat continues to lose weight and condition.

This results from increased fluid secretion into, or decreased resorption from, the colon. The etiology should be established, and any intestinal infection or parasites treated. Diarrhea often resolves with the addition of fiber (>10% dry-matter basis in dogs, 5-10% in cats), which modulates intestinal motility, rate of passage, fecal water content, and intracolonic pressure. If dehydrated, the animal should be rehydrated with oral or parenteral fluids, and lost electrolytes replaced. Fat content of the diet is not an issue if there is no steatorrhea, which is rare. Dietary fat content should be adjusted for body condition; however, diets with >12-16% fat (dry-matter basis) should not be necessary. Animals with diarrhea should be offered small, frequent meals (3-6/day). If the animal does not respond within 3-6 wk, a highly digestible, novel protein and carbohydrate diet should be tried.

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF):
One objective in managing CHF is to reduce water retention; restricting sodium intake and lowering sodium levels encourage diuresis. Typical commercial dog and cat foods have a sodium content of 0.45-0.90% (450-900 mg sodium/100 g diet dry matter). Dietary sodium restriction is classified as mild (400 mg sodium/100 g diet dry matter) to severe (240 mg sodium/100 g diet dry matter). In view of these values, commercial dog and cat diets cannot even be classified as mild sodium restriction. Therefore, commercially prepared low-sodium diets or recipes that use low-sodium foods must be substituted. Sodium restriction often requires a special diet, although some manufacturers provide veterinary therapeutic diets for heart disorders. When using a home-prepared diet, all processed meats, cheeses, bread, heart, kidney, liver, salted fats, whole eggs, and snack foods should be avoided. Foods that are reasonably low in sodium include beef, rabbit, chicken, horsemeat, lamb, freshwater fish, oatmeal, corn, and rice.

Failed cardiac contractility may contribute to CHF, and taurine supplementation should be used to exclude a possible depletion of this amino acid in cardiac muscle. Obesity can also be a contributing factor in CHF. Such animals should be placed on a weight management program in addition to sodium restriction. In some instances, edema may give the appearance of obesity and mask emaciation. The edema should first be resolved so that body weight and condition can be evaluated. If the animal is underweight, the food intake should be increased or the caloric content of the diet increased. If renal failure is also present, protein and phosphorus intake must be restricted. Supplementation of carnitine remains somewhat controversial and expensive for long term use.

This results from impaired peristalsis or increased water absorption from the large intestine. The objective of dietary management is to provide a balanced diet with increased amounts of insoluble fiber (10-25% dry-matter basis to effect) in dogs or a balanced diet that is reasonably high in fiber in cats. Such diets increase intestinal volume, stimulate peristalsis, and hold water within the colon. Animals should be fed 2-4 times/day. In dogs, sometimes adding a high-fiber breakfast cereal to the existing diet, 1-10 tbsp to effect depending on the size of the dog, is also effective. In cats, administration of petroleum jelly, 1 tsp (5 mL), PO, once weekly or more often, is helpful in preventing constipation, particularly in cats prone to hairball production. Commercial diets are also available to help manage hairballs and generally contain increased amounts of insoluble fiber.

Diabetes Mellitus:
Most cases of diabetes in dogs and cats are mature onset (type II) and believed due to insulin insensitivity, although insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is seen. The objective of dietary management is to reduce food consumption and to balance carbohydrate intake with insulin dosage, while slowing the rate of carbohydrate absorption. Reducing diets that are available for dogs and cats are usually high in protein and low in fat and carbohydrates and may help in diabetes mellitus management. To ensure a reasonably constant intake of carbohydrates or nutrients that contribute to blood glucose, a fixed formulation food should be fed. Some believe that minimal carbohydrate should be present in the diet overall, but this approach remains controversial. Because removal of both fat (triglycerides) and carbohydrate (glucose) from the circulation depends on insulin, blood concentrations of these macronutrients are known to affect the amount of insulin required. Consequently, meals should be timed to coincide with peak insulin action, and more than 1-2 meals/day may be required. Many diabetic dogs and cats are overweight and benefit from a weight management program, which is especially useful in cases of type II diabetes.

Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD):
In this condition, magnesium-ammonium-phosphate crystals accumulate in the urinary tract, together with mucous-like material. There are other etiologic factors, but providing the cat with a diet that has a low magnesium content and that maintains a urine pH of <6.4>Fever:
Fever increases energy requirements due to increased metabolic activity—a 1°F (0.5°C) rise causes an increase in caloric need of ~7 kcal/kg body wt/day. A highly palatable diet should be fed in quantities that can be consumed easily, and the caloric content should be increased by feeding a higher fat diet. Because animals with fever generally have a decreased appetite, offering smaller meals more frequently with personal attention and encouragement may help stimulate intake. Feeding a feline growth diet or a calorically dense recovery-type diet also increases protein and energy intake in smaller feedings.

Gastric Dilatation (Bloat):
Currently, there is little evidence to suggest that certain nutritional practices (eg, feeding soy protein diets or canned versus dry food) lead to the development of gastric dilatation in susceptible dogs.

Head Trauma, Burns, and Respiratory Diseases:
It is unknown whether the metabolic effects and energy expenditure in dogs and cats with severe head trauma, burns with ≥50% loss of skin, or prolonged dyspnea are the same as those in humans with similar conditions. However, it is anticipated that they are. Thus, providing aggressive nutritional support early is essential. Head trauma significantly alters neurologic control of metabolic rate, which is usually increased. Burns and other causes of significant areas of skin loss increase heat loss to the environment, thereby increasing energy needs. Increased respiratory rate and dyspnea are deceptively intense work that also result in increased energy needs. If a dog or cat is in an oxygen cage for >1 day, nutritional support (feeding IV or via gastric tube) must be instituted. In all cases, energy is provided minimally at 30 kcal/kg body wt (dogs) or 40 kcal/kg body wt (cats) and increased in increments of 5 kcal/kg as the condition progresses and if weight loss is apparent. The energy source should be predominately fat (60-90% calories from fat, 10-40% from glucose) because the body metabolism is predominately lipolytic under these conditions, with the liver utilizing fat better than glucose during response to burns or trauma. Protein intake must also be matched with the energy intake to avoid net protein and muscle catabolism. Food that is 30-45% protein and 25-30% fat (dry-matter basis) that is complete and balanced for all other nutrients should be fed using tube feeding. Human baby foods are not suitable for this purpose. These nutritional goals can also be met by parenteral (IV) nutrition.

Hepatic Disease:
Liver disorders are managed by reducing the need for liver function and providing the nutrients necessary for healing and regeneration. In general, diets should provide a protein source of high biologic value and be limited to an amount consistent with the animal’s maintenance needs. Sufficient energy from fat and carbohydrate are needed to minimize dietary protein transamination and deamination for energy and to reduce toxic nitrogenous waste products of protein metabolism. Foods that contain purines and uric acid, such as shellfish, fish meal, spleen, thymus, liver, brain, etc, should be restricted in a further effort to decrease the load of uric acid precursors, which require hepatic metabolism. Frequent feeding of small meals (4-6/day) lowers the amount of nutrients or metabolites requiring hepatic processing at a single time, thereby imposing less metabolic demand on the liver. In general, protein sources equivalent to egg or milk protein in quality are provided at 2-3 g/kg body wt in dogs and 5 g/kg body wt in cats. If ascites or edema is present, the animal should be placed on a restricted sodium diet that contains ~240 mg sodium/100 g diet (dry-matter basis). If blood ammonia levels are increased (hepatic encephalopathy), the protein intake should be restricted to 1-1.5 g protein/kg body wt in dogs and 3-4 g protein/kg body wt in cats. In practice, protein intake is reduced, and the serum ammonia levels are monitored until they return to normal. Arginine is important in the conversion of ammonia to urea. It is present in adequate amounts in most commercial diets. Animals with liver disorders are frequently anorectic. Thus, food consumption and body weight and condition should be monitored. For dogs, a diet high in fat and low in residue should be selected initially, although fat restriction may be necessary to maintain normal feces. Dietary fats are not a source of short-chain fatty acids, which may exacerbate hepatic encephalopathy. Soluble fiber-containing diets may be a problem, depending on the extent of encephalopathy present. Copper should be restricted in dogs at risk of developing copper-induced hepatopathy, and water-soluble vitamins should be increased above maintenance levels. The effectiveness of manipulation of branched chain and aromatic amino acids in dogs with chronic liver disease has not been demonstrated.

Hyperlipidemia in Dogs:
This can be primary or secondary to hypothyroidism, pancreatitis, hepatic disease, diabetes mellitus, nephrotic syndrome, hyperadrenalism, or high-fat diets. Hyperlipidemia is present when blood lipids are increased with or without gross lipemia and probably results from abnormalities in the synthesis or use of plasma lipoproteins. In primary hyperlipidemia, the abnormalities can be familial and might be genetic, as has been suggested in Miniature Schnauzers. Some dogs with hyperlipidemia are asymptomatic. Clinically affected dogs may have recurrent seizures, depression, recurrent pancreatitis, vomiting, acute blindness, corneal opacity, and xanthogranulomas. The goal of dietary management is to decrease the digestion and absorption of fat by feeding a diet restricted in fat (<10%>Malabsorption and Maldigestion in Dogs:
Diseases of the small intestine and pancreas often lead to a vague clinical syndrome characterized by weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea (with or without steatorrhea), and changes in appetite. In such cases, a highly digestible diet that is low in fiber (0-5%), moderate in fat (10-15%) and protein (20-25%), and contains carbohydrate from noncereal byproduct sources is recommended. Supplemental water-soluble vitamins should also be used. In exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, supplementation with a powdered enzyme supplement, mixed with the food a few minutes before feeding, should be considered.

It is estimated that 40-50% of dogs and 20% of cats seen by veterinarians are overweight and that 25% of dogs and 5% of cats are obese. Obesity, or the storage of excess fat, results from an imbalance between calorie intake and expenditure. The principal cause is excessive food intake combined with inadequate exercise. Obesity is regarded as the most common nutritional disorder in dogs. Its incidence increases with age and neutering because there is a reduction of both metabolic rate and physical activity. Similarly, obesity is a common nutritional disorder of neutered, male indoor cats ~6-11 yr old. Some breeds of dogs, including Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, and Beagles, are more prone to obesity. Dogs fed homemade meals, table scraps, and snacks have a greater tendency to be overweight than those on an exclusive diet of commercial pet food. Obesity appears to be increasing in frequency, probably due to increased dietary fat levels and caloric density of some foods in conjunction with improved palatability of commercial pet foods. An increasing number of neutered dogs and cats confined to living indoors may exacerbate the problem. Pathologic conditions in dogs that may be associated with obesity include hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism, diabetes mellitus, and insulinoma. Obesity predisposes dogs to other problems, including ruptured cruciate ligaments, dyspnea and fatigue, impaired reproductive efficiency, and dystocia. Pathologic conditions in cats that may be associated with obesity include diabetes mellitus, nonallergic skin conditions, and lameness (ruptured cruciate ligaments). Obesity may also predispose cats to other problems including impaired reproductive efficiency and dystocia.

Dietary management of obesity requires a significant reduction of caloric intake until a normal body weight is achieved. In addition, activity level or exercise should be increased (eg, a regular exercise program for dogs or outdoors regularly for cats) to expend energy and possibly reduce appetite. To begin a weight loss program for canine obesity, the normal or ideal weight for the animal should be estimated and enough food provided to meet 60% of the requirement for the animal’s ideal or normal weight (75% of the necessary caloric requirement for cats). An accurate dietary history should also be obtained to determine the animal’s present daily caloric intake. The most effective diets are those that are nutritionally complete, balanced, and formulated as a reducing diet. These diets should be low in calories and fat (5-8% dry-matter basis). High-fiber diets are also often used to dilute caloric density (10-25% dry-matter basis for dogs, 20-30% for cats). Commercial or homemade reducing diets are preferable to feeding smaller quantities of the normal diet so that dilution of other important nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals does not develop. Small meals may be fed frequently during the day. Table food should be eliminated because it tends to be high in calories; other snacks should be accounted for as part of the total daily ration. When the diet is changed, the new diet should be introduced slowly (over several weeks) replacing 25-30% of the old food weekly and then restricting the volume fed into multiple meals per day. Cats should also be introduced to a new diet slowly, replacing 25-30% of the old food weekly until 100% of the new food is accepted. Afterward, ad lib access to the new food for 2-3 mo is followed by the appropriate restricted amount of food fed as multiple meals per day. In dogs, the rate of weight loss should be ≤2% of body wt/wk for the first few weeks. In cats, the rate of weight loss should be 1-3% of body wt/wk, or more commonly 5% body wt/mo for the first few weeks. As the cat approaches optimal weight, the rate of weight loss per week will decrease. It may be more difficult to reduce the weight of cats that weigh ≥20 lb initially, and owners should be aware that a weight-loss program may take ≥1 yr. Progress should be monitored by weighing monthly, and dietary modifications made if necessary. Frequent monitoring and communication help the owner maintain enthusiasm for a weight-loss program, as does a commitment on the part of the owner to increase the frequency of exercise for their pet (eg, walking, running off leash). The burden of resisting the constantly begging dog or cat under these circumstances can be lessened by feeding small amounts (1 tbsp) several times a day and carefully monitoring future food allotments once the desired body weight is attained. Another tip is to have owners make sure that all the food (including any snacks) offered is placed in the animal’s regular food bowl rather than given by hand. This forces the owner to go to the food dish each time a treat is offered and may reduce the number of between-meal snacks.

Pancreatitis and Parvovirus Enteritis in Dogs:
The goal in treating pancreatitis is to minimize stimulation of the exocrine function of the pancreas until inflammation has decreased. Cases of parvovirus enteritis, which is more common in puppies 3-8 mo old, are often treated similarly. In either case, the dog has multiple episodes of vomiting. A standard treatment is nothing per os (NPO) until vomiting ceases, which can last from 3-15 days. Antibiotic, fluid, and electrolyte therapy during NPO treatment is essential, and IV nutritional support should be instituted if NPO therapy continues for ≥3 days. Adult and young dogs can be nutritionally maintained by IV parenteral solutions that provide adequate calories, protein, electrolytes, B vitamins, and selected trace minerals until oral feeding is possible. When oral feeding can be resumed, a commercially prepared, homogenized liquid diet fed as small, frequent meals (1-2 mL/kg, 3-6 times/day) is the next least stimulatory to the pancreas and best used by a small intestine with an abnormal or absent mucosal surface. The liquid can be fed by syringe by placing the syringe tip in the cheek pouch, lateral to the teeth and gums, with the head in a normal or slightly down position. This method encourages voluntary swallowing with less risk of aspiration. When oral feedings of the liquid diet have been well tolerated for 1-2 days, a moderate-fiber diet (10-15% dry-matter basis), low in fat (5-10%) for pancreatitis or moderate in fat (10-15%) for parvovirus, can be fed in increasing amounts until maintenance intakes have been achieved. Pups with parvovirus should not be fed food sufficient to support growth until feces are normal. Also, because recurrent episodes of pancreatitis are common, feeding a complete and balanced low-fat diet on a continual basis is recommended for longterm management. Obesity and hyperlipidemia are common concurrent problems in pancreatitis cases and should be investigated and resolved.

Renal Insufficiency:
Numerous metabolic abnormalities that may alter an animal’s nutritional status develop in progressive renal failure. These include impaired clearance of nitrogenous products of protein metabolism; impaired regulation of sodium, potassium, and phosphorus; impaired vitamin D metabolism; and often anorexia. The objective of dietary management in renal failure is to lessen the metabolic demands on the kidneys and to diminish metabolic end-products that cannot be readily excreted. The first consideration is to ensure normal water homeostasis. Regardless of whether the animal is polyuric, oliguric, or anuric, water should always be readily available. Increased BUN is lowered by reducing dietary components that produce nitrogen (and urea) as a consequence of hepatic deamination. Supplying energy primarily via feeding relatively more digestible fats and carbohydrates and less protein is recommended. The amount of protein in the diet should be the minimum that meets the requirements imposed by turnover of enzymes and tissue repair and maintains a slightly positive nitrogen balance. In addition, phosphorus intake should be restricted. Diets should have high energy density, with a moderate amount of protein of high biologic value (15-20% in dogs and ~28% in cats). No more than 0.4-0.6% phosphorus and 0.2-0.4% sodium (dry-matter basis), with a balanced calcium level and increased levels of water-soluble vitamins, should be included. These amounts are less than those ordinarily found in many commercial diets, which often necessitates a dietary change. If renal failure becomes more advanced, and the BUN and serum phosphorus concentration can no longer be maintained near normal limits, more energy from fat should be included. Adding ½ cup of fat as cooked beef fat, chicken skin, fat drippings, or fish oil to the diet increases caloric density and improves palatability. This helps to meet the animal’s energy needs with less total food consumed and, therefore, less protein. The criteria used (eg, serum creatinine concentration, BUN) to define when dietary modifications should be made are currently being debated. However, it is easier to change the diet when the animal is feeling reasonably well as opposed to when the animal is anorectic. There is likely to be little harm in changing the diet early in the course of renal disease. Some therapeutic renal diets tend to alkalinize blood pH as acidosis begins, which may minimize the effects of acidosis and help the animal feel more energetic and eat better.

Urolithiasis in Dogs:
Uroliths in dogs most commonly are struvite (magnesium-ammonium-phosphate), calcium oxalate, urate, or cysteine. A definitive diagnosis can be obtained only by stone analysis. A medical protocol using antimicrobials and a calculolytic diet for prevention or dissolution of recurrent stones is an effective alternative to surgery once the stone type is known. The dietary goal is to decrease intake of the mineral constituents and to modify urine pH to discourage stone formation. The dietary profile includes a reduced amount of protein of high biologic value (low in nucleic acids), calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, with increased salt to encourage frequent urination. An acidic (<7)>7) urine pH is recommended for calcium oxalate, urate, or cysteine uroliths. These nutritional formulations should be used with caution during growth, lactation, and gestation, and in cases of azotemic primary renal failure, congestive heart failure, or liver disease.

Steatitis in Cats:
Steatitis (pansteatitis, yellow fat disease) is seen most often in kittens fed exclusively large amounts of unsaturated fatty acids, oily fish such as tuna or mackerel (packed in oil not water), or diets that do not have an appropriate balance of antioxidants relative to polyunsaturated fats. Clinical signs are anorexia, pyrexia, pain over the thorax and abdomen, neutrophilia, and subcutaneous nodules of necrotic fat. Cats with steatitis should be fed diets restricted in polyunsaturated fatty acids (monounsaturated and saturated fats are permitted) and given vitamin E supplementation at 10-20 mg, bid for 5-7 days. The diet of choice is a commercial food to which vitamin E (α-tocopherol) or other antioxidants have been added.
Notes: Contribution
Merck Veterinarian Manual

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Take your pet food analysis to the next level

The presence of some or all of the ingredients which are the most commonly used dog food ingredients, or an assortment of these ingredients, does not necessarily mean that your dog is going to be well nourished. The ingredients must be in the right combinations and of good quality, both before and after processing.

Let’s get started with the Biological Value (BV). The BV’s of the ingredients are a key to good nutrition. The biological value of a food is the measurement of the amino acid completeness of the proteins contained by the food.

BV is a scale of measurement used to determine what percentage of a given nutrient source is utilized by the body. The scale is most frequently applied to protein sources, particularly whey protein. BV is derived from providing a measure intake of protein, then determining the nitrogen uptake versus nitrogen excretion. The theoretical highest BV of any food source is 100%. In short, BV refers to how well and how quickly your body can actually use the protein you consume.

Eggs for example are considered a great source of protein because they contain all of the essential amino acids. Here are some more biological value figures:
Eggs (whole) 100, eggs (whites) 88, chicken/turkey 79, fish 70, lean beef 69, cow's milk 60, unpolished rice 59, brown rice 57, white rice 56, peas 55, whole wheat 49, soy beans 47, whole grain wheat 44, peanuts 43, corn 36, dry beans 34, white potato 34.

Neither wheat nor corn would be an adequate diet alone, but fed together with one or two meat based proteins capable of supplying the missing amino acids, they could supply an adequate diet.

Nutrition is the sum of processes involved in taking in nutrients and assimilating and utilizing them. Nutrients are fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water necessary for the growth, normal functioning and maintaining of life. The two main issues here are palatability and digestibility. Ingredients are only as important as the nutrients they contain, how good they taste to the pet, and their digestibility. Picture a big truck having to go through a tunnel to drop off a load of produce. The ingredients symbolize your truck, the nutrients your truck’s load. If the truck is trying to drive into the tunnel, but it won't fit (i.e. food is not digestible), it's not going to be able to drop off its load. This would be a poor ingredient to put into a food. If the truck goes through the tunnel, but only has lettuce in the bed when it could also have additionally fit valuable tomatoes and potatoes, then the load is not an efficient one. This would be an example of how one pet food manages nutrients within one ingredient (truck). If the truck isn't allowed into the tunnel because the person at the toll booth does not authorize the drive, then it's all in vain. The truck could carry the best produce in the world, but it can't deliver. This is an example of a dog or cat rejecting the food (palatability).

Digestibility refers to the quantity of the food that is actually absorbed by the dog's system. These numbers usually can be obtained by contacting the manufacturer directly. If your manufacturer does not provide this information (Red flag to begin with) you can calculate it yourself. Here is how: Weigh the amount of food that you feed and the weight of the stool for several days. Divide the weight of the food into the weight of the stool and the result is the percentage of digestibility. It is important to note, that the stool that you are going to use must be dried to the same moisture content as the food you feed if you want to be close. You will also need a little more math than just add, subtract, divide and multiply if you want to be close to an accurate answer. (Let’s just hope that we can get the appropriate figures from the manufacturer, agreed?) The more food is fully metabolized, the higher is the digestibility figure.

Quality Before Processing: Understanding the definition of an ingredient is not enough. Many grains grown in poor soil will lack needed vitamins and minerals, an unfortunate common occurrence. Grains and vegetables can be polluted with fertilizer residues and pesticides of various kinds.

Ingredients can also be soiled with mold, mildew, and fungus. The quality of meat can be suspect. We have all heard stories or had personal experiences of finding bits of hair and other unsavory additives in our hamburger, but the quality of meats used for dog foods is much lower. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), federal inspection of ingredients used in pet food manufacturing is non mandatory.

However, some states do inspect manufacturing plants, especially those producing canned pet foods. In the majority of states it is legal and common practice for pet food manufactures to use what are known as "4-D" meat sources, animals that are dead, dying, diseased, or disabled when they arrive at the slaughterhouse. Dr. P. F. McGargle, a Veterinarian and a former federal meat inspector, believes that feeding slaughterhouse wastes to pet animals increases their chances of getting cancer and other degenerative diseases. He claims, "Those wastes include moldy, rancid or spoiled processed meats, as well as tissues too severely riddled with cancer to be eaten by people."
Pet food labels provide seemingly a lot of information. Learning how to use this information will require some time. This certainly cannot and should not be done at the pet food market in front of the food aisle. Be prepared, study the labels at home so that you can look at them more thoroughly. Many food manufacturers provide to stores and vets food samples. These are yours for the asking. If you get a variety of samples from different companies, you can then study those labels at home, at your leisure.

As you study, keep in mind that there is also a lot of information not disclosed on the label, such as for example the above mentioned criteria like ingredient quality, biological nutrient values, palatability and digestibility figures. This kind information can be difficult to come by and you may need to rely upon the recommendation of experts, including reps at the pet food store or your vet. You also should consider the price, quality, and reputation of the manufacturer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pet food going wild Part 2: Evolutionary ancestral diet concepts applied to people food and vice versa

Recently I published a comment titled “Pet food going wild: Understanding evolution and ancestral diets unlocks innovation”. It was based on an article by Petfood, an on-line community for pet food professionals, which took a closer look at the industry’s latest trend towards going “wild” with it’s pet food. These days, every day you open a magazine you are assured to be confronted with an announcement of yet another manufacturer introducing his latest “wild” creation. The magazine then went even further and asked “What do you think about making pet foods with so called wild ingredients? Do you like the idea for your pets? How about wild foods for yourself?” Reason why I am bringing up this more or less people related topic is that I believe it contains many considerations that should be taken into account when it comes to pet food as well.

The answer included first some stats:
“Researchers estimate our human ancestors obtained about 35% of their dietary energy from fats, 35% from carbohydrates and 30% from protein. Saturated fats contributed approximately 7.5% total energy, and harmful trans fatty acids contributed negligible amounts.
Polyunsaturated fat intake was high, with an omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio of about 2:1 (versus 10:1 today). Cholesterol consumption was substantial, perhaps 480 mg/day. (S.B Eaton, 2006. "The ancestral human diet: what was it and should it be?" Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 65, 1-6).
Carbohydrate came from uncultivated fruits and vegetables, approximately 50% of energy intake compared with the present level of 16% energy intake in the US. High fruit and vegetable intake and minimal grain and dairy consumption made ancestral diets base (low pH)-yielding, unlike today's acid (high pH)-producing pattern. Honey comprised 23% of energy intake compared with the 15% that added sugars contribute today.
Fiber consumption was high, perhaps 100 g/day. Vitamin, mineral and phytochemical intake was typically eight times that of today except for that of sodium.”
Secondly, it discussed the subject matter in more detail as follows:
“Imagine for a moment a relationship with food that springs from the organic hungers of the body. There are no "forbidden fruits," there is no philosophy to follow. You can eat when you are hungry, until you feel full. The food is not hurtful to the Earth and is very beneficial to your body. You will lose weight automatically and maintain your ideal weight. You will be protected from degenerative diseases. Food cravings will become but a memory, and you will no longer need supplements. The components of this diet are readily available at your local supermarket and natural foods store.
Sound like another slick commercial come-on or New Age panacea? Actually, it’s as old and indigenous as we are — as a species, that is. In its "born-again" form it is variously called "natural diet," "Paleolithic diet," "Native diet," and "ancestral diet." I prefer the latter term, as it is self-descriptive. In sharing recent findings, researchers in the fields of human nutrition and endocrinology, along with anthropologists and archaeologists, have been formulating what they consider to be the ideal diet. They are concluding that the ideal is the pre-agricultural diet on which our species evolved. It contains the foods that suit our digestion best and are least likely of all foods to cause an allergic reaction.
Many of us have already been seeking better health through conscious approaches to diet — vegetarianism, macrobiotics, food combining, supplement use, and reliance on organic foods are some of the most popular approaches. And many of us feel better and have more energy because of them. Yet most of the people I know are not fully satisfied. They still have food cravings to deal with, and some struggle with excess weight and/or chronic health problems. Some of my friends say they just plain don’t feel satisfied from what they are eating.
Our foraging ancestors, and all pre-agricultural peoples, consumed foods that were easy to gather and edible in their raw state. They used little more technology than sharpened sticks and stones to gather their food and processed it minimally, if at all. Yet their diets were lush with vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, and nuts. They consumed five to ten times more fiber than we do, slightly more protein, and more fat.
Their fiber came in part from fruits and non-starchy vegetables, which made up a larger portion of their diet than ours, and in part from the quality of their produce. Ours has been hybridized to increase sugar and starch content, at the expense of fiber. They consumed better quality protein as well — more fish, leaner meat, and more nuts.
The dietary difference between us is based on the fact that our food sources changed dramatically when we became agriculturalists and herders. As our farm-fueled population expanded we increasingly supplanted animal protein with plant-source protein and nourishing plant foods with starch. We made this shift at the expense of fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts (curiously, these are the very foods most health authorities now urge us to consume!).
The most stark change was an astronomic increase in complex carbohydrate (starch) consumption. Starch has become the backbone of our diet, whereas our ancestors consumed practically none. The only starch available to them was from tubers and the seeds of wild grasses, both of which were seasonal, small, and fibrous, making them laborious to gather and prepare. The same is true of sugars. Their virtually starch-free diet was the primary reason for their exemplary health; they suffered virtually no obesity, no diabetes, and no immune disorders (rheumatoid arthritis, tooth decay, osteoporosis, and appendicitis).
We can live our entire lives healthily without starch, but without fat we would become severely ill in a matter of weeks. We have but one hormone (insulin) to control the spike in blood sugar level caused by starch; we have four hormones to help raise blood sugar level, which traditionally remains low when fed by slowly digested fat. These factors indicate that we are designed to metabolize fat rather than starch.
Conventional wisdom would have us cringe at the thought of eating fat and snubbing starch. Fear of obesity and cardiovascular disease loom like razor-edged rocks before a rubber raft. But new findings by dietary specialists indicate that fat does not make fat — starch does. Because we metabolize fat slowly and efficiently, we burn it quite completely. Starch breaks down rapidly and floods the system with calories. The body’s inability to burn them off as fast as they come triggers an immune response, and the body deals with it by dumping the excess as fat.
It’s the quality rather than the quantity of fat we consume that affects the cardiovascular system. The fats of fish and wild animals actually help prevent heart disease; they have a healthy ratio of component oils. Surveys of Native diets indicate that the higher the consumption of these beneficial fats, the lower the incidence of many diseases.
Vegetable, seed, and legume oils were not part of our ancestral diet, so we did not evolve the capacity to healthily assimilate them. Nut and fruit oils (olive and avocado, for example), on the other hand, are part of our food history and remain healthful.
Many of us are already familiar with, and practicing, elements of our ancestral diet. The Atkins and Eades popular weight reducing diets are based on ancestral diet principles. Food combining and macrobiotics, the underlying principle of which is to eat what is naturally and seasonally available in your area, include ancestral approaches. However, in keeping with our cultural tendencies, we import "macrobiotic" foods, thereby negating the principle of eating locally.
Because the ancestral diet is not a philosophy or set of principles, but a list of foods our pre-agricultural ancestors ate, recently-evolved food crops upon which agricultural society are based are not included. Grains, legumes, and dairy foods, for example, often are major components of our present- day diet. But they played negligible roles in our ancestors’ nutrition. Grains and legumes (and most tubers) have toxic properties, which protect them from being eaten. They were not consumed by our ancestors and we cannot digest them properly. Notice that corn, wheat, legumes (which include soy and peanuts), and milk are our most common food allergens.
Forty percent of our adult population shows some allergic response to dairy. Wheat and corn allergies are common. Legumes give most of us at least minimal digestive disturbance, and some legumes are rendered digestible only through processing. Many more of us, while not diagnosed as allergic to these foods, still have stressed immune systems — the instigator of autoimmune disease.
Our systems are stressed by these "indigestible" foods because we have not yet adapted to the onslaught of starch that agriculturalism has imposed upon us. We are only 400 or less generations removed from our foraging ancestors, and genetically, we’re virtually identical to them. Our bodies want what they ate. (Our pets suffer from these foods as well, and for similar reasons. The cancer rate in dogs is skyrocketing, and dogs are afflicted with some of the same autoimmune diseases that visit us.)
All in a Day’s Diet
So how do we reestablish our old diet? Let’s visit our aboriginal past and experience a hypothetical day’s meals:
Upon rising we sate our early hunger with a quick and easy meal of the blueberries and juneberries growing in the meadow before us, then round it out with a handful of nuts from our stores of last autumn. By late morning our appetites return, drawing us to the succulent fish roasting over the fire. While we were making rush mats for a lodge, two of our kin brought the fish up from our traps in the river, and gathered greens for the lunch as they made their way back. This morning the children, instructed by the women, set snares and deadfalls in the thicket just east of camp. Shadows now stretch across the valley — their signal to check the traps. Within minutes they are back with two lizards and a jackrabbit (the women and children generally provided more of the protein than did the men) to add to the flowers and mushrooms they gathered earlier in the afternoon. We look forward to an evening feast!
The Principle of the Thing
Of course in this day it is not practical for all of us to return to a fare of wild foraged foods. Our lifestyles wouldn’t allow that, nor would our crowded Earth. But we can follow the principle with the foods available to us. Obviously, we’re looking at an entirely new concept in food shopping! But don’t let that dissuade you; the diet is quite easy to replicate without altering your food procurement routine. The following guidelines should help get you started.
Shop the edges of your food store. There you’ll find the ancestral foods — fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats. The taboo processed foods — grains and beans — are conveniently sequestered to the middle aisles.
Buy organic, or even biodynamic, when possible, and choose free-range over grain-fed beef. It ain’t wild, but it’s the next best thing.
Choose foods edible in their raw state, even if you plan to cook them.
Select foods and proportions within the guidelines of the Ancestral Food Pyramid.
Seek out new foods. The more varied your diet the more interesting and satisfying it will be and the more broad-based will be your nutritional support.
Choose fish that is not pond raised. They are fed soy mash and do not compare nutritionally with their wild counterparts. Ocean salmon, for example, have twice the omega 3 fatty acids of their pen-raised kin.
Eat a significant portion of your food raw or lightly cooked.
Change your diet slowly to allow your intestinal flora to adjust. If you have any trouble (diarrhea, bloating, gas), eat greens for a couple days, then slowly add meat, nuts, and fruit, in that order.
Incorporate some wild foraged foods.
Remember that what we eat and how we eat it is not a failsafe formula for health; it is only a component. We need clean air, clear water, and a lifestyle low in stress. We need the nourishment we gain from healing, sustaining relationships. Perhaps, eventually, we can gain these lessons from our ancestors as well. For now, we’ll have to make do with their wisdom about food.”
The entire subject matter is certainly a very controversial one. And I personally have a hard time to see ourselves as humans just eating raw food. This is especially since I have seen a lot of research which clearly showed that exclusive raw diet may cause problems, in some cases pretty severe ones. It is different with animals, they always have eaten raw food and never had any prepared meals such as we humans do. However, the human race, ever since inventing fire always prepared its meals by cooking it. I admit, it also maybe just a mental barrier I am having with the thought. What do you think about the concept in itself? I think we still just don’t know enough about nutrition to come up with the right answer, and that applies to pets as well as to humans.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Relax: H1N1 (swine) flue virus no risk for cats & dogs

Since there is already great media coverage on this subject we decided to restrict ourselves to the very bare bone information, rather than adding to the panic approach for no or very little reason. While the H1N1 (swine) flu has been declared by WHO to now be in Phase 5, just short of a pandemic, it is only spread by people-people contact, and actually has very little, if anything to do with swine (pigs.) Therefore, according to both the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and the ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), household pets, such as cats and dogs, should be safe from the swine flu. Dr. Louise Murray, the Director of Medicine at the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Hospital in New York City, has this to say: "At this time there is no data demonstrating any risk of dogs and cats contracting this strain of the virus."
But, it appears as if some people just can't live with good news and always need to paint a darker picture, as Meg Wittenmeyer writes in the Denver Alternative Pet Medicine Examiner: "Do we need to worry about our pets and swine flu? ...caution is always a good idea when thinking about the members of your family, including the four legged ones (or feathered). Upon further investigation, the consensus seems to be that there is no absolute answer to the question of whether or not dogs and cats can contract the virus. Viruses change, but historically there are no known dog/cat to human (or vice versa) influenza transmissions. According to Dr.Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM, there are two types of influenza viruses: Type A and Type B. The Type A viruses are found in humans and many types of animals, usually strains specific to that species. The type B viruses circulate widely just among humans. The H1N1 virus is a type A. Dogs and cats do have their own versions of influenza viruses, both Type A. The canine influenza virus is an influenza Type A H3N8 virus, and the feline version is Type A H5N1 influenza virus. Thankfully, there have not been any reports of any cases that have spread to humans or from humans to pets. Humans and domestic pets are not similar enough a species to share these viruses in their current forms. So, even thought there is no current evidence that dogs and cats can contract swine flu, this is a new strain of virus, and investigators can't rule it out until more tests are done. In the past, the avian H5N1 flu has infected domestic cats and at least one dog in Thailand, according to the scientific literature. In 2004, the equine H3 virus appeared to infect dogs. There have been no reports of dogs or cats spreading the flu to people."
For more reading on the virus related to your pets visit
ASPCA, CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention), AVMA, USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and WHO (World Health Organization).

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Future of pet food: Realistic or ho"rror"listic?

A few weeks ago,, the on-line off-spring of Pet Food Industry Magazine, a publication for pet food professionals, published an article written by Stefania Pes, a consultant and writer for Mediatic (, a communications and marketing agency based in Italy serving the pet industry. It was titled “Online Extra! Protein alternatives”. In it, Pes had Sonac, a leading supplier of meat derived by-products, explain new types of ingredients it's developing. At its plant in Burgum, Netherlands, Sonac processes innovative pet food ingredients, such hydrolyzed proteins from the slaughter of animal protein and fat by-products. While reading the article I concluded that if we think we have problems now with commercially mass produced pet food, wait what’s in the pipeline. In my opinion absolutely nothing to look forward to. And it appears as if some people never seem to learn and willing to change. For those manufacturers profits seem to remain the number one concern. Forget about the health of our companion animals (or our’s), the diseases which have been brought onto them due to processed diets and the suffering inflicted. I am very thankful that we still have a great number of small pet food manufacturers attempting to do the right thing, if that at all is possible with processed pet food. On the other hand though, this topic is certainly subject to a lot of controversy. We have to carefully plan for our resources (and the depletion thereof) and many other factors when it comes to how we are, together with our pets, surviving well into the future. But does it have to be what these people have in mind? See for yourself:

“European supplier of proteins and fats seeks to add value to food chain
Though worldwide prices of agricultural raw materials—including key pet food ingredients such as corn, rice, animal proteins and fats—have declined in recent months, dramatic increases in the first half of 2008 cascaded to the food and feed chain, resulting in higher prices for foods like pasta, bread, milk, meat as well as pet food.

A number of factors seem to be responsible for the situation, and their effects are still under debate: systemic causes like droughts in grain producing nations, increased demand for meat in developing countries, diversion of farmland or crops for biofuels production, structural changes in trade and more.

The price tension on the market generated by high demand was reinforced in the past years by poor harvests and record oil prices, which also induced escalating energy, transportation and ingredient costs. In short, several industries are competing for the same raw materials and are affected by costs that possibly will rise again as a result of joint increasing demand from food, feed and fuel production.

Increased competition: The greater market interest in animal proteins and fats has increased the competition among players in this segment, according to Sonac, a leading European supplier of ingredients derived from slaughter by-products. This competitive situation has reduced the availability of certain raw materials frequently used in petfood.

Sonac, together with business units Rendac, Rousselot and Ecoson, is part of the Ingredients division of the Vion Food Group, an internationally operating group based in the Netherlands that produces high-quality foods and ingredients for humans and animals. Besides Vion Ingredients, the group’s divisions include Vion Fresh Meat, Vion Convenience and Vion UK. The Ingredients division focuses on optimizing the marketing of slaughter by-products, processing them into ingredients for a variety of applications, including food, petfood, animal feed, aquaculture, pharmaceuticals, photographic, fertilizer and technical products.

Sonac collects and processes slaughter by-products exclusively from animals approved for human consumption (category three material according to European Union, or EU, regulations). Under precise conditions these materials can be placed on the market. By doing so, Sonac adds maximum value to all animal by-products released in the meat chain, according to the company.

Direct guarantees: Sonac aims to be a versatile partner able to supply a wide range of reliable ingredients of animal origin. All its products are produced in various Sonac factories so customer needs such as continuous supplies, quality control, tracking and tracing systems are directly checked and guaranteed.

The plant in Burgum, Netherlands, is the largest European category 3 processing plant. It has a meat meal line (pork and bovine), a poultry line, a blood line, a bone meal line and lines for feathers and pig hair. (This end product is not used in pet food due to very poor digestibility but is suitable for fertilizers). About 100 people work at the Burgum plant. Sonac also has facilities in the Netherlands and Belgium, plus subsidiaries in France, Germany, Spain, Poland and Italy.

The Western European pet food sector is a major buyer of Sonac products manufactured from animal-based raw materials like protein meals, fats and minerals (e.g., phosphates from bones). All can be sourced from Sonac as in a kind of one-stop-shop. Producers of wet pet food or snacks can find a variety of specific products like fresh or frozen organs and carcasses (livers, lungs, hearts, necks), skins (for rawhides treats) and gelatin-based products like binders (for semi-moist treats), which are produced by Rousselot.

To produce its products, Sonac’s plants include state-of-the-art equipment, and operators follow several quality and safety programs, including HACCP, GMP+, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.
According to Sonac, its variety of products, combined with ongoing product innovation and the ability to supply tailored products, are of great importance to customers. Its production line specialization and geographical spread mean more accurate separation of raw materials, separate product-specific production lines with resulting higher level of control and the opportunity to fulfill demand for specialty or single-species products.

At the same time Sonac is able to meet customers’ request for high value ingredients—for example, ones with functional properties—or offer cheaper alternatives like mixed meals when producers need to control increased costs. The company can also work with customers to evaluate and develop raw materials best fitting their requirements.

Protein alternatives: “Pet food players are facing unprecedented challenges highly connected to the raw material issue,” states Geert van der Velden, sales manager. Pet food companies need flexible, reliable partners enabling them to fulfill customer requests such as finding alternative solutions, diversifying for competitive advantage, being more creative and looking for a “second generation of raw materials,” van der Velden adds. By offering R&D cooperation and involving customers in every stage of the product development process, Sonac intends to be that kind of partner and to create strong long-lasting business relations, he says.

This is especially true when materials that were available in the past are not as obtainable or have increased greatly in price. For example, Kerapro is a newly developed product from feathers, with much better quality, improved digestibility and bioavailability than feather meal, says Jarig Komrij, sales manager for dry pet food. It’s also high in protein and low in ash content.

In Sonac’s view, innovation also includes picking up on trends and market opportunities, so the company is closely watching the hypoallergenic market. Although Sonac still has “exotic” protein sources such as lamb and duck meal in its portfolio, it’s looking at what it considers the next and best solution: Hydrolized proteins.

These proteins—also called peptides—are cut in small pieces so the body does not recognize them as proteins and the allergic reaction does not occur. “Then we look to functionality,” says van der Velden, citing examples such as plasma powder and gelatin based binders. “We are also focusing on gelatin hydrolizates for joint problems, an alternative to traditional products like chondroitin sulfate. Our hydrolizate has the advantage in that it can be used as a hypoallergenic ingredient and also has positive effects for the joints.”

Quality and safety are key: Product quality, safety and traceability are key items in these processes and of crucial importance in the EU pet food market. Sonac works with state-of-the-art control equipment and adheres to several quality programs such as HACCP, GMP+, ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, fulfilling national and international regulations and legislation.

“The big players usually visit our factory once a year,” says Komrij. “Their research people know exactly what happens in our factory or what kind of raw materials we process, how they are produced. They know everything, included the critical control points of our factories.

“Next to fulfilling the high safety and quality standards of the pet food industry, we are now going for something more,” Komrij continues, “trying to put additional attention on freshness, palatability and digestibility of our raw materials, all measurable and of critical importance to our customers.”

Other Vion units’ roles: With respect to sustainability, the Rendac business unit plays a key role between livestock farming and the production of energy, and contributes to protecting and securing public health. This unit collects and processes fallen stock and materials that present a risk, then sends the end products for use in the energy sector or cement industry or for power generation at the Vion group’s plants. Through its fermentation facility and fat refining unit, Ecoson produce biogas (for green electricity) and bio fuels; a part of the refined animal fat is also used by Ecoson itself as raw material in its plant for biodiesel production. In all these cases, the animal origin raw materials for the production of energy are already available (slaughter by-products), instead of being produced for that special purpose as happens with the grain forms. It is therefore a second generation biofuel. Rousselot is a leading global manufacturer of gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen. Its products and services have a broad range of applications in food, pharmaceutical and photographic industries."