Saturday, June 20, 2009

Pet food ingredients de-mystified: Millet, a very old food

Millet is one of the oldest foods known to humans and possibly the first cereal grain to be used for domestic purposes. It is mentioned in the Bible, and was used during those times to make bread. Millet has been used in Africa and India as a staple food for thousands of years and it was grown as early as 2700 BC in China where it was the prevalent grain before rice became the dominant staple. It is documented that the plant was also grown by the lake dwellers of Switzerland during the Stone Age.

Today millet ranks as the sixth most important grain in the world, sustains 1/3 of the world’s population and is a significant part of the diet in northern China, Japan, Manchuria and various areas of the former Soviet Union, Africa, India, and Egypt.

Millet is a major crop in many of these countries, particularly Africa and the Indian sub continent where the crop covers almost 100 million acres, and thrives in the hot dry climates that are not conducive to growing other grains such as wheat and rice.

The Hunzas, who live in a remote area of the Himalayan foothills and are known for their excellent health and longevity also enjoy millet as a staple in their diet.

Millet is used in various cultures in many diverse ways: The Hunza’s use millet as a cereal, in soups, and for making dense, whole grain bread called chapatti.

In India, flat thin cakes called roti are often made from millet flour and used as the basis for meals.

In Eastern Europe, millet is used in porridge and kasha, or is fermented into a beverage and in Africa it is used to make bread, as baby food, and as uji, a thin gruel used as breakfast porridge. It is also used as a stuffing ingredient for cabbage rolls in some countries.

Millet was introduced to the U.S. in 1875, was grown and consumed by the early colonists like corn, then fell into obscurity. At the present time, the grain is widely known in the U.S. and other Western countries mainly as bird and cattle feed. Only in recent years has it begun to make a comeback and is now becoming a more commonly consumed grain in the Western part of the world.

The plant is now grown in the U.S. on 200,000 acres in Colorado, North Dakota, and Nebraska, but much of the crop is still used for livestock, poultry, and bird feed. It is remarkable that despite the grain being an ancient food, research on millet and its food value is in its infancy and its potential vastly untapped.

Research results so far are promising, showing the grain to have great aptitude and versatility and more and more uses for millet are being discovered every year, including its potential benefits in the American diet. Millet is superior feed for poultry, swine, fish, and livestock and, as it is being proven, for humans as well.

Millet is related to sorghum, which is used to make the thick dark sweetener, sorghum syrup. Discrepancies exist concerning exactly what family millet actually belongs to, with some references giving the family name as Gramineae, and others claiming it is in the family Poaceae. There are many varieties of millet, but the four major types are Pearl, which comprises 40% of the world production, Foxtail, Proso, and Finger Millet. Pearl Millet produces the largest seeds and is the variety most commonly used for human consumption.

Millet is a tall erect annual grass with an appearance strikingly similar to maize. The plants will vary somewhat in appearance and size, depending on variety, and can grow anywhere from one to 15 feet tall. Generally the plants have coarse stems, growing in dense clumps and the leaves are grass like, numerous and slender, measuring about an inch wide and up to more than 6 feet long.

The seeds are enclosed in colored hulls, with color depending on variety, and the seed heads themselves are held above the grassy plant on a spike like panicle 6 to 14 inches long and are extremely attractive. Because of a remarkably hard, indigestible hull, this grain must be hulled before it can be used for human consumption. Hulling does not affect the nutrient value, as the germ stays intact through this process.

Once out of the hull, millet grains look like tiny yellow spheres with a dot on one side where it was attached to the stem. This gives the seeds an appearance similar to tiny, pale yellow beads. Millet is unique due to its short growing season. It can develop from a planted seed to a mature, ready to harvest plant in as little as 65 days. This is an important consideration for areas where food is needed for many.

Millet grows well on poorly fertilized and dry soils and fits well in hot climates with short rainfall periods and cool climates with brief warm summers. The plants need good drainage, have a low moisture requirement and do not do well in waterlogged soils.

Millet is highly nutritious, non glutinous and like buckwheat and quinoa, is not an acid forming food so is soothing and easy to digest. In fact, it is considered to be one of the least allergenic and most digestible grains available and it is a warming grain so will help to heat the body in cold or rainy seasons and climates.

Millet is tasty, with a mildly sweet, nut like flavor and contains a myriad of beneficial nutrients. It is nearly 15% protein, contains high amounts of fiber, B-complex vitamins including niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, the essential amino acid methionine, lecithin, and some vitamin E. It is particularly high in the minerals iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium.

The seeds are also rich in phytochemicals, including Phytic acid, which is believed to lower cholesterol, and Phytate, which is associated with reduced cancer risk.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Veterinarian on What a vet should recommend: Small Animals Benefit on Whole Foods Diet

Reading the Veterinarian Practice News I recently came across the following interesting article written by Doug Knueven, DVM and thought I need to share it with you:

“I returned to my alma mater, Ohio State University, in May 2007 to attend an American College of Veterinary Nutrition symposium. Three veterinary nutritionists spoke on such topics as “Optimal Nutrition for the Healthy Pet,” “Nutrition Myths and Mistakes,” “Raw Food Diets” and “Home-Cooked Meals: Avoiding a Dining Disaster.”

Advice from Dr. Tony Buffington, the nutritionist at Ohio State, made the biggest impression on me. He said that when making a judgment on what food to recommend, the practitioner should not rely on pet food brochures, websites or even the food labels themselves because all these resources can be misleading.

He recommended that we take a careful diet history of each patient we see and make note of its general health. Only by correlating health with diet can a veterinarian truly judge the nutritional value of a food. I have made a startling discovery based on this sound expert advice: The healthiest pets in my practice eat a variety of “real” foods, including raw diets.

By real foods, I mean the kind of food Mother Nature intended carnivores to eat–the diet our patients evolved eating for 5 million years.

Imagine if after your exam, your doctor plopped a bag of kibble on the table and told you that you were to only eat a bowl of it for every meal, every day, for the rest of your life. No fruits, no vegetables, no meats. Surely you would be skeptical of the nutritional completeness of such a recommendation.

Yet many of us make this same recommendation for our patients every day. Are the basic tenets of nutrition for our patients and us really that different? According to research and my clinical experience, they are not.

A recent study highlights the importance of whole food nutrition for people: “There are 8,000 phytochemicals present in whole foods. These compounds differ in molecular size, polarity and solubility, and these differences may affect the bioavailability and distribution of each phytochemical in different macromolecules, subcellular organelles, cells, organs and tissues. … The vitamin C in apples with skin accounts for only 0.4 percent of the total antioxidant activity, suggesting that most of the antioxidant activity of fruit and vegetables may come from phenolics and flavonoids. … We propose that the additive and synergistic effects of phytochemicals in fruit and vegetables are responsible for their potent antioxidant and anticancer activities, and that the benefit of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is attributed to the complex mixture of phytochemicals present in whole foods.”(1) Likewise, current veterinary research shows the health benefits of whole foods for dogs: “The data indicate that the consumption of any type of vegetable > three times a week was associated with a 70 percent to 90 percent reduction in risk of developing TCC in Scottish Terriers.”(2)

Of course, a totally vegetarian diet is far from appropriate for dogs and cats, but the concept that they benefit from whole foods is obvious. In fact, the modern understanding of small-animal nutrition concedes that supplementing commercial foods with fresh foods, including meats and vegetables, provides vital nutrients.(3) The emphasis here is on “whole foods” because, according to multiple studies, the processing of food destroys many nutrients and important phytochemicals.(4-10)

Variety is not only the spice of life, it is essential for vibrant health for humans and pets alike. Animals may become sensitive to the foods they are fed most often, so periodically changing the diet can help pets avoid food allergies. Plus, rotating foods presents to the body a smorgasbord of nutrients in various forms.

Any one diet may be lacking or excessive in specific factors when fed long term. According to Dr. Buffington, “The recommendation to feed one food for the life of an animal gives nutritionists more credit than we deserve.”(11) The notion of finding a food that a pet likes and feeding it for life is obsolete.

I have found that when an animal’s system becomes accustomed to variety in the diet, it does not develop diarrhea with every change as might be expected. At first the changes need to be made gradually, but over time a smooth transition can be made swiftly.

Over a decade of recommending raw food for many of my patients and feeding it to my own pets, I have found that the concern over pathogenic bacteria and parasites is overblown.

I see many fewer cases of diarrhea in my raw-fed patients than in those fed strictly processed pet food. In my experience, dogs and cats fed a rotating diet that includes raw food are the healthiest. Careful and non-judgmental questioning of your clients might just yield the same results.”

To further strengthen his argument for a raw food diet, Dr. Knueven also provides a brief history of a live example, a patient he treated at his office:
“Louie was a neutered, male Newfoundland mix who came to me at the age of about 3 years with a terrible case of generalized demodicosis. He also had severe pruritus.
Before coming to me, Louie had been treated with several rounds of antibiotics as well as Ivermectin and at one point prednisone, all to no avail.
Louie had generalized alopecia and scabs and scales all over his body. His skin reeked of the typical rancid-fat smell of chronic dermatitis. He could barely open his eyes from the blepharitis. A skin scraping confirmed demodicosis.
Let’s face it, when it come to demodex, the problem is not the mites; it’s the pet’s immune system. The course of action was simple; I switched him from a standard processed dog food to a raw food rotational diet plus a whole food multivitamin. At no time under my care was he on any antiparasitic medications.
Louie did not recover overnight. It took about a year for his transformation to fully manifest. “

Contribution by Dr. Doug Knueven, D.V.M. has been practicing alternative veterinary medicine since 1993 in Beaver County, Pa. He just released his second book, “The Holistic Health Guide: Natural Care for the Whole Dog.” He is a consultant for Nature’s Variety.

Foot notes/references:
1. Liu H.R., “Health benefits of fruit and vegetables are from additive and synergistic combinations of phytochemicals.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003; Vol. 78, No. 3, 517S-520S2. Raghavan M., et al, “Evaluation of the effect of dietary vegetable consumption on reducing risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2005; Vol. 227, 94-1003. Remillard R.L., Paragon B.M., Crane S.W., et al: “Making pet foods at home,” in Hand M.S., Thatcher C.D., Remillard R.L., Roudebush P.(eds): Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, ed 4. Topeka, Kan., Mark Morris Institute, Walsworth Publishing Co., 2000; 163–182.4. Angelino P.D., et al, “Residual alkaline phosphatase activity in pasteurized milk heated at various temperatures-measurement with the fluorophos and Scharer rapid phosphatase tests.” Journal of Food Protection, 1999; 62(1):81-855. Severi S., et al, “Effects of home-based food preparation practices on micronutrient content of foods,” European Journal of Cancer Prevention, 1998; 7(4): 331-335 6. Yadav S.K. and Sehgal S., “Effect of home processing on ascorbic acid and beta-carotine content of spinach (Spinacia oleracia) and amaranth (Amaranthus tricolor) leaves,” Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 1995; 47(2): 125-1317. Dawson D. and Waters H.M., “Malnutrition: folate and cobalamin deficiency,” British Journal of Biomedical Science, 1994; 51(3): 221-1308. Schroeder H.A., “Losses of vitamins and trace minerals resulting from processing and preservation of foods,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1971; 24(5), 562-5739. Garrison and Somer, “The Nutrition Desk Reference,” Keats Publishing, 1995; 66-14510. Ghebremeskel K. and Crawford M.A., “Nutrition and health in relation to food production and processing,” Nutritional Health 1994; 9(4) 237-25311. Smith C.A., “Changes and Challenges in Feline Nutrition,” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 1993; Vol. 203, 1395-1400

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pet Food Labels 101: Net Quantity Statement

Pet food labeling is regulated at two levels. The Federal regulations, enforced by the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), establish standards applicable for all animal feeds: proper identification of product, net quantity statement, manufacturer's address, and proper listing of ingredients. Some States also enforce their own labeling regulations. Many of these have adopted the model pet food regulations established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These regulations are more specific in nature, covering aspects of labeling such as the product name, the guaranteed analysis, the nutritional adequacy statement, feeding directions, and calorie statements.

The net quantity statement tells you how much product is in the container. There are many FDA regulations dictating the format, size and placement of the net quantity statement. None of these do any good if the consumer does not check the quantity statements, especially when comparing the cost of products. For example, a 14-ounce can of food may look identical to the one-pound can of food right next to it. Also, dry products may differ greatly in density, especially some of the "lite" products. Thus, a bag that may typically hold 40 pounds of food may only hold 35 pounds of a food that is "puffed up." A cost-per-ounce or per-pound comparison between products is always prudent. Manufacturer's Name and Address The "manufactured by..." statement identifies the party responsible for the quality and safety of the product and its location. If the label says "manufactured for..." or "distributed by...," the food was manufactured by an outside manufacturer, but the name on the label still designates the responsible party. Not all labels include a street address along with the city, State, and zip code, but by law, it should be listed in either a city directory or a telephone directory. Many manufacturers also include a toll-free number on the label for consumer inquiries. If a consumer has a question or complaint about the product, he or she should not hesitate to use this information to contact the responsible party. Ingredient List All ingredients are required to be listed in order of predominance by weight. The weights of ingredients are determined as they are added in the formulation, including their inherent water content. This latter fact is important when evaluating relative quantity claims, especially when ingredients of different moisture contents are compared.

For example, one pet food may list "meat" as its first ingredient, and "corn" as its second. The manufacturer doesn't hesitate to point out that its competitor lists "corn" first ("meat meal" is second), suggesting the competitor's product has less animal-source protein than its own. However, meat is very high in moisture (approximately 75% water). On the other hand, water and fat are removed from meat meal, so it is only 10% moisture (what's left is mostly protein and minerals). If we could compare both products on a dry matter basis (mathematically "remove" the water from both ingredients), one could see that the second product had more animal-source protein from meat meal than the first product had from meat, even though the ingredient list suggests otherwise.

That is not to say that the second product has more "meat" than the first, or in fact, any meat at all. Meat meal is not meat per se, since most of the fat and water have been removed by rendering. Ingredients must be listed by their "common or usual" name. Most ingredients on pet food labels have a corresponding definition in the AAFCO Official Publication. For example, "meat" is defined as the "clean flesh of slaughtered mammals and is limited to...the striate muscle...with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh." On the other hand, "meat meal" is "the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents." Thus, in addition to the processing, it could also contain parts of animals one would not think of as "meat." Meat meal may not be very pleasing to think about eating yourself, even though it's probably more nutritious. Animals do not share in people's aesthetic concerns about the source and composition of their food. Regardless, the distinction must be made in the ingredient list (and in the product name). For this reason, a product containing "lamb meal" cannot be named a "Lamb Dinner."

Further down the ingredient list, the "common or usual" names become less common or usual to most consumers. The majority of ingredients with chemical-sounding names are, in fact, vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients. Other possible ingredients may include artificial colors, stabilizers, and preservatives. All should be either "Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS)" or approved food additives for their intended uses.

If scientific data are presented that show a health risk to animals of an ingredient or additive, CVM can act to prohibit or modify its use in pet food. For example, propylene glycol was used as a humectant in soft-moist pet foods, which helps retain water and gives these products their unique texture and taste. It was affirmed Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use in human and animal food before the advent of soft-moist foods. It was known for some time that propylene glycol caused Heinz Body formation in the red blood cells of cats (small clumps of proteins seen in the cells when viewed under the microscope), but it could not be shown to cause overt anemia or other clinical effects. However, recent reports in the veterinary literature of scientifically sound studies have shown that propylene glycol reduces the red blood cell survival time, renders red blood cells more susceptible to oxidative damage, and has other adverse effects in cats consuming the substance at levels found in soft-moist food. In light of this new data, CVM amended the regulations to expressly prohibit the use of propylene glycol in cat foods.
Another pet food additive of some controversy is ethoxyquin, which was approved as a food additive over thirty-five years ago for use as an antioxidant chemical preservative in animal feeds. Approximately ten years ago, CVM began receiving reports from dog owners attributing the presence of ethoxyquin in the dog food with a myriad of adverse effects, such as allergic reactions, skin problems, major organ failure, behavior problems, and cancer. However, there was a paucity of available scientific data to support these contentions, or to show other adverse effects in dogs at levels approved for use in dog foods. More recent studies by the manufacturer of ethoxyquin showed a dose-dependent accumulation of a hemoglobin-related pigment in the liver, as well as increases in the levels of liver-related enzymes in the blood. Although these changes are due to ethoxyquin in the diet, the pigment is not made from ethoxyquin itself, and the health significance of these findings is unknown. More information on the utility of ethoxyquin is still needed in order for CVM to amend the maximum allowable level to below that which would cause these effects, but which still would be useful in preserving the food. While studies are being conducted to ascertain a more accurate minimum effective level of ethoxyquin in dog foods, CVM has asked the pet food industry to voluntarily lower the maximum level of use of ethoxyquin in dog foods from 150 ppm (0.015%) to 75 ppm. Regardless, most pet foods that contained ethoxyquin never exceeded the lower amount, even before this recommended change.

Pet owners and veterinary professionals have a right to know what they are feeding their animals. The pet food label contains a wealth of information, if one knows how to read it. Do not be swayed by the many marketing gimmicks or eye catching claims. If there is a question about the product, contact the manufacturer or ask an appropriate regulatory agency.

FDA Animal & Veterinary Resources Pet Food Labels - General Consumer information provided by David A. Dzanis, DVM, Ph.D., DACVN.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hot Spots, Rashes & Infections: Holistic skin and coat care

One of the most common medical complaint in dogs is the notorious “Hot Spot,” also called “acute moist dermatitis.” There are dozens of causes of hot spots, including allergies, parasites, or just licking and chewing, but the common factor is infection, whether bacterial or fungal or yeast. And hot spots can appear anywhere on the body: Hind leg, feet, rump area, neck, etc. The bottom line for your dog is that there is an infection and intense itching, regardless of how it got that way. Sometimes hot spots seem to appear out of thin air. For example, many dogs are very sensitive to simple lawn grasses. These animals are physically and nutritionally normal, but show signs of inflamed skin and hair loss. Or, a skin lesion can occur as a result of moisture on the skin surface from rain, pond or lake water. Minute scratches on the skin from, for example, a clipper blade, may trigger other cases. Moist eczema is one example of a hot spot type. If the coat is dense or allowed to become matted, moisture on the skin may remain long enough to allow superficial bacteria to reproduce and create an infection. Some cases of moist eczema will spread very rapidly and require rather aggressive therapy to correct.

Rashes and Skin Infections (Infectious Dermatitis)

Bacterial, fungal and yeast organisms are notoriously obnoxious skin and coat pathogens. They can cause skin infections, rashes and other problems in otherwise healthy dogs. Bacterial dermatitis rarely occurs spontaneously. Normal healthy skin has tremendous numbers of a variety of bacteria present all the time. If something upsets the normal balance, such as antibiotics eliminating one or two types, the remaining types proliferate. Any contact with grass, plastic, an abrasion or moisture, or parasitic invasion can bring down the skin’s defensive barriers and opportunistic bacteria then have their way. Fungal infections first appear as one or more small areas of hair loss that may be reddened or inflamed. As infection progresses, crusts may form on the area of hair loss, the patches increase in number and size, and large portions of skin may become involved. Yeast, a type of fungus, can irritate an already diseased skin surface. Yeast infections typically create greasy, odorous and inflamed skin in affected dogs. Symptoms may include blackening of the skin, dry flaky skin or greasy type grit on the skin. As the condition worsens, a bad yeasty smell or odor may accompany this, and the dog will experience severe itching, leading to endless biting, chewing and hair loss.

Parasites and Mange

Skin Problems Caused by Parasites (Fleas, Ticks, Mange Mites and More) A parasite is an organism (a flea, for example) that spends a significant portion of its life in or on the living tissue of a host organism (your pet) and which causes harm to the host without immediately killing it. Some parasites are relatively innocuous, some are not, and some can cause serious skin problems. Fleas, Flies, Chiggers, Ticks, and Gnats When a pet parent sees her dog scratching and biting at itself, the first thing she thinks is “Oh no! Fleas!” Chiggers, deer flies, and gnats (sometimes called No-See-Ums) can be considered nuisances and generally do not create remarkable systemic skin problems. But repeated exposure to fleas can trigger a hypersensitivity to the bite of even a single flea, leading to an allergic response, and ultimately to hot spots or worse. Tick bites seldom trigger an allergic reaction, but can leave a slow-healing lesion.

Mighty Mites and MangeMites are microscopic creatures resembling tiny spiders. Among the species that attack animals are members of the Sarcoptic mange mites (family Sarcoptidae), which burrow under the skin. Demodex mites (family Demodicidae) are parasites that live in or near the hair follicles of mammals, including humans. Cheyletiella mites look like tiny spiders under a magnifying glass and are often called “Walking Dandruff” because upon close inspection it seems like little flakes of dry skin are actually moving about. Sarcoptic mites are very nasty critters. Called scabies or red mange, infestations of these mites are highly contagious and produce intense itching, reddening of the skin, thinning of the hair (alopecia) and development of crusts and scabs. Bacterial skin infections commonly occur in the inflamed, irritated skin. Sarcoptic mite infestation, or mange, is frequently misdiagnosed as allergic dermatitis by even very competent and experienced veterinarians. The mites burrow right down into the skin where they are virtually undetectable by skin scrapings. Sarcoptic mites prefer skin with little hair, so they are most numerous on the ears, elbows, abdomen and hocks. As the disease spreads, hair is lost and eventually the mites occupy large areas of skin. Sadly, many dogs are treated with cortisone or prednisone for a supposed allergic dermatitis when in fact these Sarcoptic mites are the cause of the pruritic or inflamed skin, and the unnecessary cortisone eventually makes the condition worse.Then there are Demodectic (or Demodex) mites, which cause another kind of mange. These mites are found in small numbers in the hair follicles of normal pets. In stressful situations, however, they proliferate, and large numbers inhabit the skin and hair follicles. The good news is that Demodex mites can easily be seen on a skin scraping viewed under the microscope. The less good news is that generalized demodicosis is serious and often difficult to treat. Large areas of the body may be affected, and often the affected areas are also infected by bacteria. In these cases, the skin is red, crusty and warm, and has many pustules. It may bleed easily and has a strong, rancid odor.

Why Not Steroids?

Corticosteroid drugs, called "steroids" for short, are potent chemical substances that can reduce swelling and inflammation quickly. Common corticosteroid drugs used to treat skin issues in dogs include cortisone, hydrocortisone, prednisolone and prednisone. These compounds reduce itching by reducing inflammation. In other words, these drugs treat the symptom of itching, but can do nothing about the underlying cause of the itch. Unfortunately, they also affect every organ in the body. Prednisone is the most potent anti - inflammatory and anti-itch steroid and is often used for treating allergies in dogs. It is usually reserved for dogs with moderate to severe skin allergies, or skin diseases that are difficult to diagnose. These medications are often over prescribed without a positive diagnosis and without careful monitoring, and the pet owner can be unaware of the potential seriousness of the side-effects.

Whether a dog has hot spots or mange or allergies, often it’s the secondary infections that cause the worst itching. If steroids are given to treat the symptoms of itching, the bacterial or fungal secondary infections will be given a boost, and will get much worse very quickly. The reason for this is that cortisones depress lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, making it easier for bacterial infections to occur and then to proliferate unchecked. In other words, steroids can compromise, or crash, your pet’s natural immune system. When this happens, your dog will lose hair and his skin will become black with a terrible odor and insane itching. Traditional medicine can no longer help him when the disease reaches this stage, and your vet is likely to recommend euthanasia. Even holistic, naturopathic veterinarians may recommend treatment with small amounts of corticosteroids to give some affected pets relief during the flea season. However, these treatments may be dangerous to your pet if prolonged and only offer temporary relief of symptoms at best.

These treatments may include topical medications, soothing baths, ointments and sprays, oral antihistamines, or steroids. Caution: If you are sent home with a prescription for cortisone, or your dog has been given “a cortisone shot to stop the itching”, your dog may ultimately be worse off than before if the true diagnosis happens to be an unrecognized case of Sarcoptic mites!

We carry at our on-line store a holistic series of products coming from a company called
DER Magic. I have tried their products and experienced success with both, our cats as well as our dogs, this stuff really works. You know I don’t like to advertise the products we carry at the on-line store. But sometimes I just can’t help it and feel, if in general it really helps your companions, why not passing on a recommendation. Other stores do it too, even vets make their very specific recommendations when it comes to food, treats and remedies and illness cure. Coming back to DER Magic Skin & Coat Care: This company, as so many within the holistic circle of pet food, treat and supplement suppliers, was started because it’s founder, Dr. Adelie Ritchie, also proud owner of a couple Shih Tzus, tried to figure out how she could help her pups, who often were in need of a quick fix for bug bites, rashes, hot spots or other dermal boo-boos. The doctor’s original prototype product was formulated many years ago, back when Dr. Ritchie was breeding and showing Yorkshire Terriers and teaching organic chemistry at a community college in Florida. At the time, her prize show dog developed a serious skin disease and then progressively got worse under standard veterinary treatments, to the point where her vet suggested euthanasia to put the dog out of her misery. Shenanigan was her name and she had thick black skin by this time, smelled horrible and cried constantly. Back then, as is still the case today, there just weren't any good choices out there for veterinary treatments that weren't loaded with cortisone, steroids, antibiotics or strong chemicals, and even those treatments were not effective enough to save Shenanigan's life. This is when Dr. Ritchie got to work on formulating an effective topical treatment with natural, herbal and organic ingredients. Shenanigan got dunked, slathered, gooped, and drenched in potions, all somewhat effective, but not quite enough. Finally, after a few trials, the prototype DERMagic Hot Spot Lotion was born, and Shenanigan's relief was visible and immediate. She stopped crying and scratching, and her hair was sprouting again within 48 hours of the first treatment. Within six months, she was again in full coat and was parading herself proudly around the show ring. Over the years, Dr. Ritchie used her formulations to treat dogs and cats and horses belonging to family members, friends, and her colleagues in the dog show business, but it was not until much later that a good friend challenged her to make her great products available to every pet owner facing skin problems with their beloved companion animals.
Today, Dr. Ritchie offers a well rounded program of just a few, but extremely effective holistic skin and coat care products. All of them constantly receive very positive recognition in the pet oriented and related media including for example Animal Wellness Magazine to name just one. The line includes a complete 4 step skin care system, a hot spot salve, lotions, soap bars, Dead Sea aromatherapy bath salts and of course shampoos and conditioners.

Besides the very powerful fact that they simply work, what I like the most about Dr. Ritchie’s products is that she enables me to offer yet another effective solution within a well rounded holistic program, from food and treats to supplements and skin & coat care, all together designed to successfully help our customers in their efforts to get rid of their pet’s allergy problems.

Related to today’s comment, here is how Dr. Ritchie (who also by large contributed today’s comment) addresses the task on hand: DER Magic products stop infections associated with parasitic infestations, and kill certain parasites outright. They kill bacteria, yeast and most types of fungus, fast, and are the first line of defense against hot spots. Aside from being immediately effective at relieving itch, fighting fungal and bacterial infestations and promoting healing of affected areas, these products are safe and free from corticosteroids.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Travelling and nutritional needs

With the summer having arrived, the number of activities involving our pets, one of them being travelling, has increased as well. Dogs typically enjoy travelling to the highest degree.

With new sights and smells, travel can be both exciting and overwhelming for us pets. Going into “foreign territories” is stressful at times even for well adjusted pets and can lead to drastic appetite changes. Animals are instinctively cautious about eating in unfamiliar surroundings and this lack of appetite cannot only affect bowel movements and energy levels, but even a pet’s overall health. For your peace of mind and your pet’s comfort, preparation is the key in traveling.

In times of high stress, hormones produced by the body can give animals poor appetites. So eating for calories is often the main nutritional focus. Make every bite count and travel armed with a tasty diet of foods that are just too good for a pet to pass up. Ideally this would be the pet’s normal diet to minimize any other stressful changes. But if that doesn’t work, the following suggestions might come in handy:

Foods that are higher in protein and fat are generally more palatable than foods higher in carbohydrates. Therefore, selecting a high protein and low carbohydrate food is a simple solution. For many brands, carbohydrate levels are not typically listed on packaging, but they can be easily calculated by adding all the percentages for protein, fat, moisture, crude fiber and (if available) ash and subtracting the total from 100%. The remainder is an approximation of the percent of carbohydrate in the food. Dry foods with less than 18% carbohydrates for dogs and 12% for cats would be considered low in carbohydrates. Canned dog and cat food with less than 2% carbohydrates would be considered lower in carbohydrates. Increasing fat and protein also allows us pets to get more calories per bite of food and helps boost our immune systems.

Hydration is also imperative for travelling pets to avoid overheating. One way to keep a pet hydrated is to provide frequent access to fresh, cool water. Another convenient way to help with hydration is to feed canned food. The greater water content in canned food, up to seven times as much as in dry food, can help to meet our water needs. In addition, canned wet food to some of us is just more tempting than dry foods.

Providing treats at different points on a trip is another great way to reassure pets and letting them know that travelling is fun. Selecting treats that are easily stored and that come in a variety of shapes and flavors can make giving treats both easy for you and enjoyable for your pets.

In the end, the more comfortable and satisfied we pets are during a trip, the more enjoyable the entire experience will be for everybody.

Monday, June 15, 2009

FDA 101: Animal Feed

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on 06/10/09 published its FDA 101 on Animal Feed. Sounds interesting I thought when I found the announcement in my inbox. However, knowing what we all know I was skeptical of what it really means and if it is going to change anything for us pet owners. Here’s the wording, note that because of our specific interest as pet owners I rearranged the paragraphs a little:

As long as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been regulating food for people, it has also regulated food for animals, including animal feed for millions of chickens, turkeys, cows, pigs, sheep, and fish. In addition, FDA regulates pet food for America’s more than 177 million dogs, cats, and horses.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires animal feed, like human foods, to
-be pure and wholesome
-be produced under sanitary conditions
-contain no harmful substances
-be truthfully labeled
As is also the case for human foods, the act does not give FDA the authority to require approval of animal feed, including pet food, before it is marketed. But the agency has the authority to take action against feed products that are in violation of the law. And FDA approves the additives or drugs that are used in feed products.
Animal feed manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that
-feed is truthfully labeled
-feed does not contain unsafe additives or contaminants
-if the feed contains drugs, the drugs are approved by FDA for use in animal feeds
Federal and state regulatory agencies work cooperatively to provide the rules, guidance, and oversight to assist industry in producing and distributing safe animal feed and feed ingredients.

Pet Food
Pet food, including dry and canned food and pet treats, is considered to be animal feed. Like other animal feed, FDA regulates pet food and establishes standards for labeling.
Pet food labeling is regulated at two levels: federal and state. The federal regulations, enforced by FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, establish standards that apply to all animal feeds:
-proper identification of the product
-net quantity statement
-manufacturer’s address
-proper listing of ingredients

Some states also enforce their own labeling regulations. Many of these follow the model pet food regulations of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a non-government advisory body with representative regulatory officials from all the states. These model regulations are more specific than federal regulations, covering aspects of labeling such as product name, nutritional adequacy statement, feeding directions, and calorie statements.
FDA carries out its animal feed regulatory responsibilities in cooperation with state and local partners, and works together with AAFCO on uniform feed ingredient definitions and proper labeling.”

These paragraphs deal with what we as pet owners are interested in: Pet food. However, as it states, “Pet food, including dry and canned food and pet treats, is considered to be animal feed”, I figured, I also share with you the paragraphs dealing more with other animals, like for example chicken or beef, i.e. the stuff what is being used in our pet foods. My desire of sharing the following paragraphs comes especially since it makes very clear what we may be faced with when we buy a bag or can of chicken formula for our cats and dogs, and what these chicken may have been fed before they found their final destination.

“Medicated Feed
Drugs may be added to some animal feeds to prevent or treat diseases, or to improve animal growth and productivity.
“The use of drugs in the food of animals is essential to keep animals healthy,” says Steven D. Vaughn, D.V.M., director of the Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation in FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “Administering drugs to animals takes into consideration the best methods for providing the needed medicine while minimizing the stress to the animals.”
For example, coccidiosis is a disease that commonly infects chickens and can cause death if untreated. The parasites responsible, coccidia, are passed in the droppings and can infect other chickens housed near the sick chickens.
“It’s not practical for the poultry farmer to isolate and individually dose chickens within a flock,” says Vaughn. “Catching, restraining, and handling chickens can be stressful and potentially harmful to the animals, particularly if they are already stressed due to disease. Providing medication through the feed or drinking water eliminates the stress to the animals. Medicated feed to treat all the chickens is necessary for good animal health, and ultimately to the health of humans who consume the chicken products.”
The types of drugs that may be used in feed include
-antimicrobials (such as antibacterial drugs) to fight infections
-anticoccidials to fight coccidial parasites
-hormonals to suppress estrus (the female “heat” cycle) in cattle
-anthelmintics to fight parasitic worms
-sulfonamidics to fight certain types of infections
-beta agonists to promote leanness in animals raised for meat
-anti-bloating drugs to prevent swelling of the stomach compartments or intestinal tract of cows caused by excessive gas.

Residues and Resistance
FDA is responsible for assuring that animal drugs and medicated feeds are not only safe and effective for animals, but that food products from treated animals are safe for humans to consume. This safety responsibility includes making sure that drugs used in medicated feed
do not leave hazardous residues in human foods, such as milk, meat, and eggs do not contribute to antimicrobial resistance—the ability of bacteria and other microbes to grow in the presence of a drug that would normally kill them or limit their growth Before a drug can be approved for a food-producing animal, FDA requires the drug sponsors to provide data to show how much drug remaining in the animal’s system (residue) would be safe for people to consume that the concentration of actual residue in the edible part of the animal would not result in a person consuming more than the safe level the potential for the drug, if it’s an antimicrobial drug, to contribute to antimicrobial resistance FDA has produced guidance to help drug makers provide these data. For example, FDA provides a scientific process for determining the likelihood that an antimicrobial drug used to treat an animal may cause an antimicrobial resistance problem in humans consuming products from that animal. This process can help prevent drugs with a high risk of causing such problems from being improperly used in food-producing animals, potentially leading to antimicrobial resistance in humans.

While recognizing that drugs in animal feed are essential, FDA encourages food-animal producers and veterinarians to apply good judgment and common sense in using animal drugs.
“The judicious use of all drugs in animals, particularly food-producing animals, is very important,” says Vaughn. “The use of medicated feeds in food-producing animals is evaluated and regulated to prevent harmful effects on both animal and human health.”

Manufacturers can do their part in providing safe and effective feed products by properly mixing the feed and complying with regulations that require current good manufacturing processes (cGMP) for medicated feeds. In addition to guidance, FDA provides brochures, videos, and other products on its Web site to encourage judicious drug use in animals.
The law requires feed manufacturers to be licensed if they use certain types of medication in manufacturing their feeds. FDA and the state inspect these licensed facilities routinely to make sure they are complying with cGMPs. During FY 2008 (Oct. 1, 2007, through Sept. 30, 2008), FDA conducted 453 inspections of licensed medicated feed manufacturers throughout the United States.”

I think at this point you may agree with me, it sure makes me think twice not just about what I feed my companion animals, but also what I feed my family and myself. And makes me also to reconsider possibly other food types like for example organic, or with ingredients from free range and pasture fed animals.

To me the bottom line is this: This all sounds good in theory. But unfortunately we also know that it still leaves a lot of lead way for pet food manufacturers. They still can stretch pretty far what they are doing with regards to manufacturing processes and ingredient composition and legally get away with it.

But, as always there is hope: The FDA also provides an outlook for the future and promises quite a few changes, which possibly could improve things in general:

“Improvements to Feed Safety
FDA is improving its Animal Feed Safety System, a program first established in 2003 to protect human and animal health by ensuring safe feeds. The system covers a broad range of agency activities from pre-approving additives for use in feed, to establishing limits on feed contaminants, providing education and training to federal and state feed regulatory personnel, conducting inspections, and taking enforcement actions to ensure compliance with agency regulations.
FDA is also taking action to improve the safety of pet food and ingredients used to make pet food, such as
-establishing ingredient standards and definitions, processing standards, and labeling standards for pet food
-establishing an early warning system to identify pet food in violation of regulations, to identify illness outbreaks, and to notify veterinarians and others of pet food recalls
-establishing a searchable database of recalled human and pet foods to ensure effective communications during a recall
-establishing a “reportable food registry” for animal feed as well as human food. Reportable food -is any food that carries a reasonable probability that its use or exposure to it will cause serious health consequences or death to humans or animals
-collaborating with state regulators and academic partners to set up a network for reporting and investigating unexpected and undesirable signs (adverse events) in pets”

It all sounds promising. My only questions are, how long will it take and how severe will the impact be on future pet food safety. As always I would like to say, let’s be optimistic. On the other side, I have been around long enough to already know today, the differences are not going to be revolutionary. Let’s keep chipping away, one little piece at a time. And keep in mind, not everything finding the FDA’s blessing is always in the best interest of our pets. Stay tuned for more on this hot topic.

Note: Visit the FDA site to read the
article in its entirety.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

FDA approved pet food

A statement made by a pet food company caught my eye the other day: “FDA Approved” it said – and made me wonder: I wasn’t aware there was such an approval, neither as a requirement nor as an option. But I have been wrong before in my life and so I decided to further investigate the matter. Here is what I found, related to pet food right at the place where people should know best: The Food & Drug Administration or FDA. Here I came to find out that they were confronted with that same issue before I came around. So much indeed that they figured it would be even worth for them to publish and dedicate an entire brochure on the subject matter. Like I said, I only want to address pet food related statements, for the entire article including a link to the publication visit “Is it really FDA approved?” In a narrative it looks like this:

“FDA approved": Maybe you saw the words on a company's Web site or in a commercial promoting a new product or treatment. Some marketers may say their products are "FDA approved," but how can you know for sure?
FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by regulating human and animal drugs, biologics (e.g. vaccines and cellular and gene therapies), medical devices, food and animal feed, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.
But not all of these products undergo premarket approval—a review of safety and effectiveness by FDA experts and agency approval before a product can be marketed. In some cases, FDA's enforcement efforts focus on products after they are already on the market. This is determined by law.
The following facts can shed light on when the term "FDA approved" is appropriate after such a determination is made by the agency.

FDA does not approve companies.
FDA does not "approve" health care facilities, laboratories, or manufacturers. FDA does inspect product manufacturers to verify that they comply with good manufacturing practices.
Owners and operators of domestic or foreign food, drug, …facilities are required to register with FDA.

FDA approves new drugs and biologics.
New drugs and biologics must be proven safe and effective to FDA's satisfaction before companies can market them. FDA does not develop or test products; FDA experts review the results of laboratory, animal, and human clinical testing done by manufacturers.
If FDA grants an approval, it means the agency has determined that the benefits of the product outweigh the risks for the intended use.

FDA approves drugs and additives in food for animals.
FDA is responsible for approving drugs and food additives given to, or used on, over one hundred million pets, plus millions of poultry, cattle, swine, and minor animal species. (Minor animal species include animals other than cattle, swine, chickens, turkeys, horses, dogs, and cats.)

FDA does not approve pet food, but rather approves the food additives that are used in pet food. FDA has the authority to take action against pet food products that are in violation of the law.

FDA approves color additives used in FDA-regulated products.
This includes those used in food, dietary supplements, drugs, cosmetics, and some medical devices. These color additives (except coal-tar hair dyes) are subject by law to approval by the agency, and each must be used only in compliance with its approved uses, specifications, and restrictions.
In the approval process, FDA evaluates safety data to ensure that a color additive is safe for its intended purposes.”

Up to here, this is pretty much what the FDA guys have to say related to an approval process. In one word: Negative.

I also think the following statements, though related to human applications, make further clear that the FDA does not have too much of an involvement related to any mysterious food approval:

FDA does not approve medical foods.
A medical food is used for the dietary management of a disease or health condition that requires special nutrient needs. An example of a medical food is a food for use by persons with phenylketonuria, a genetic disorder. A person with this disorder may need medical foods that are formulated to be free of the amino acid phenylalanine. A medical food is intended for use under the supervision of a physician.
Medical foods do not have to undergo premarket approval by FDA. But medical food firms must comply with other requirements, such as good manufacturing practices and registration of food facilities. Medical foods do not have to include nutrition information on their labels, and any claims in their labeling must be truthful and non-misleading.

FDA does not approve infant formula.
FDA does not approve infant formulas before they can be marketed. However, manufacturers of infant formula are subject to FDA's regulatory oversight.
Manufacturers must ensure that infant formula complies with federal nutrient requirements. Manufacturers are required to register with FDA and provide the agency with a notification before marketing a new formula.

FDA does not approve dietary supplements.
Unlike new drugs, dietary supplements are not reviewed and approved by FDA based on their safety and effectiveness. Most dietary supplements that contain a new dietary ingredient (a dietary ingredient not marketed in the United States before October 15, 1994) require a notification to FDA 75 days before marketing.
The notification must include the information that was the manufacturer or distributor's basis for concluding that the dietary supplement will reasonably be expected to be safe. After dietary supplements are on the market, FDA evaluates their safety through research and adverse event monitoring.

FDA does not approve the food label, including Nutrition Facts.
FDA does not approve individual food labels before food products can be marketed. But FDA regulations require nutrition information to appear on most foods, including dietary supplements. Also, any claims on food products must be truthful and non-misleading, and must comply with any special requirements for the type of claim.
Manufacturers are required to provide the serving size of the food and information about the nutrient content of each serving on the "Nutrition Facts" panel of the food label (or on the "Supplement Facts" panel for dietary supplements.)

FDA does not approve structure-function claims on dietary supplements and other foods.
Structure-function claims describe the role of a food or food component (such as a nutrient) that is intended to affect the structure or function of the human body. One example is "calcium builds strong bones”.
Dietary supplement firms that make structure-function claims on labels or in labeling must submit a notification to FDA. This notification must be submitted no later than 30 days after marketing the dietary supplement with the structure/function claim. Additionally, the notification must include the text of the claim, as well as other information, such as the name and address of the notifier. FDA does not require conventional food manufacturers to notify FDA about their structure-function claims.
Structure-function claims on dietary supplements carry a disclaimer stating that the claim has not been reviewed by FDA, and that the product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Conventional foods are not required to carry such a disclaimer.”

This lets me conclude that they don’t approve any animal prescription food, puppy or kitten food or dietary supplements for pets either.

Therefore my advice to you is this: The next time you see any pet food manufacturer making such a claim, think again. They may have some marketing gurus who are in a very bold fashion testing how long they can cash in on not better knowing consumers before they get caught. They also may be extremely profit driven and simply greedy if they are willing to take such a risk. But what risk am I talking about? The FDA states on this very same page only that “Misuse of FDA's logo may violate federal law. FDA's logo should not be used to misrepresent the agency nor to suggest that FDA endorses any private organization, product, or service.” So, it looks to me, making such bold statements doesn’t bear too much of a risk of prison time or heavy penalties.

As usual, it is all up to you, the educated consumer, to make the right decision. The pet owner who is smart enough to look beyond such misleading statements in order to figure out what else may be wrong with the actual product. Manufacturers offering quality products don’t need to rely on distracting the consumer with wrongful information. Their product, even in an overcrowded market as the pet food playing field, speaks for itself.