A new client walks in with their first dog. They have the
food recommended by the pet store. “It’s grain-free” they smile with an
expectant affirmative response. After all isn’t that the best diet for their
dog (cat)? As veterinarians this is a very common dialogue. Unfortunately, the response to the client is
a letdown. Grain-free
diets are: extrapolated from the human side of nutrition, they do not meet all
of your pet’s nutritional needs and new research shows these diets maybe
harmful to your pet. The lack of grains requires replacement ingredients such
as potatoes, legumes, peas and lentils. These ingredients lead to low levels of
Taurine an essential amino acid.
recent UCDavis study (7/2018) discovered the dogs seemed to have a higher
correlation of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) when on grain free diets due to the
replacement ingredients. Taurine deficiency is well-documented as
potentially leading to DCM. DCM
is a disease of the heart muscle that results in weakened contractions and poor
pumping ability. As the disease progresses the heart chambers become enlarged,
one or more valves may leak, and signs of congestive heart failure develop.
This disease is serious and in some cases sudden death.
Breeds that are typically more frequently affected by DCM include large and giant breed dogs, such as Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers. It is less common in small and medium breed dogs, except American and English Cocker Spaniels. However, the cases that have been reported to the FDA have included Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Whippets, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog and Miniature Schnauzers, as well as mixed breeds. see source FDA…
If the problem is
identified early and if the patient has been on a grain-free diet the patient can
be treated. However, early detection is not usually the case. Prevention is
through dietary awareness. Ask your veterinarian for nutritional advice.
Recently, the Brown Family went for a hike in the Mountains. What a pleasure to get out of the city for awhile to enjoy nature: fresh air, sunshine and pure stream water. Within 48 hours they all had diarrhea including Dudley their pet dog.
The Browns and Dudley had been infected with Giardia. In the early 70’s and 80’s Giardia had been “the most common infectious disease reported to the health departments”. Currently in Oregon9.73% of dogs tested are positive for Giardia! It is a protozoa that is found in streams and stagnant water and any moist areas that are contaminated with stools containing Giardia. A common way to acquire Giardia is from a water supply where beavers have defecated upstream. Any warm blooded mammal or bird can be infected.
When animals present to us (dogs more so than cats) they have usually had a profound diarrhea and a decrease in appetite. Often the pet owner can identify when the problem began. However some animals may have a more gradual disease with on and off diarrhea, vomiting, flatulence and weight loss. In this case the owner is not able to pinpoint when the problem started. ( Many people think these symptoms are from feeding cheap food.) Either way the small bowel disease is serious because it can spread to other animals including pet owners. This is by definition a zoonotic disease.
In order to diagnose the problem samples of stool must be examined microscopically or via an enzyme test. The bacterial flora should be examined microscopically, too. Humorously, one form of the tiny protozoa looks like a monkey face under the microscope. There they sit with “big eyes” looking back at you. The treatment may range from antibiotics and a temporary bland diet to hospitalization and fluids. It depends on the severity of the symptoms. The treatment for the protozoa is conventionally a specific antibiotic. However, no treatment is 100% effective. Retreatment or alternative treatments are needed and negative stools to confirm elimination. If an animal carries the Giardia but does not appear sick then he will be a silent carrier and continue to spread the disease. The yard and any areas where stools have been left should be thoroughly cleaned. This may include shutting down the coy pond or cleaning the bird bath because they are stagnant water sources prime for growth of Giardia. Avoid letting you dog drink from puddles.
Firstly, an diet that says “for all stages of life” you already have problems. All diet have modications for the various stages of life. A puppy requires lots more in fat , calories and proteint for growth . The old lab that really is overweight and winding down needs less fat, calories and protein. It is that simple.
Many Clients now looks for grain free diets. The idea implies that grains cause allergies or gluten issues. This is not the case. Keep in mind that cats and dogs in the will eat grains whenever they catch a rodent or rabbit they eat the GI contents for the extra (green) nutrition.
In the process of reading the pet food bag there is a lot of information that you might skim over. In the case of the recalls you quickly read through the ingredient list and relied on the accuracy of the label. Labels that have the American Feed Control Official (AAFCO) approval means the law has defined what can be used for manufacture. These are the minimum requirements. Some companies go beyond the basics. Better companies use human grade ingredients. Others use human non-edible grades. There are also quality standards regarding packaging, physical integrity of the food, adequacy of sterilization, freedom from toxins and microbes. Canada and Europe have different guidelines.
Remember that more nutrients are NOT always better in pet nutrition — many nutrients are actually toxic in excessive amounts! And every dog and cat has unique nutritional needs based on age, health and activity level.
Ingredients: Ingredients are required to be listed in their proper order of predominance by weight. The weights of ingredients are determined as they are added in the formulation, with their inherent water content. Water content greatly affects the weight of the listed ingredients. If the food is listed on As-is analysis then water is present and the calculations would need to be recalculated on the Dry Matter basis. For example, one pet food may list “chicken” as its first ingredient, and “corn” as its second. The manufacturer doesn’t hesitate to point out that its competitor lists “corn” first (chicken meal is second). However, chicken is very high in moisture (approximately 75% water). On the other hand, water and fat are removed from chicken meal, so it is only 10% moisture. If we compared both products on a dry matter basis, one could see that the second product had more chicken meal than the first product had chicken.
Some categories such as meat, meat by-products, and poultry by-products are confusing.Meat is the clean flesh of slaughtered animals (chicken, cattle, lamb, turkey, etc.). The flesh can include striated skeletal muscle, tongue, diaphragm, heart, esophagus, overlying fat and the skin, sinew, nerves and blood vessels normally found with that flesh.Meat By-products: Meat by-products are clean parts of slaughtered animals, not including meat. These include lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, liver, blood, bone, and stomach and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth, or hooves.Poultry By-products: Poultry by-products are clean parts of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, and internal organs (like heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, abdomen, and intestines). It does not contain feathers.
As you scan the guaranteed analysis you will see the breakdown of categories: Protein, Carbohydrates, Fats, Water, Vitamins and Minerals. Protein is the main element of body tissues like muscles, blood, skin, organs, hair and nails. Carbohydrates provide energy for the body’s tissues. Fats absorb, store and transport vitamins, moisturize skin and coat, make healthy pet food taste great and supply energy. Water is the most critical nutrient for survival. Vitamins assist in maintaining an animal’s metabolism. Minerals are necessary to develop healthy skin and hair, proper skeletal support and development. Minerals are usually abundant in pet food ingredients.
Minimum and maximum levels are in the guaranteed analysis. This may have some advantages when you are concerned about the maximum fat in a diet. However, in a pet with kidney disease the level of protein will be the main item of concern. Low protein is critical for kidney patients. When the level states “minimum’ protein 21% you have know idea what the maximum value may be. Now you are learning how to read “between the label lines’. At minimum, a pet food label must state guarantees for minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, and maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. The “crude” term refers to the specific method of testing the product, not to the quality of the nutrient itself.
Some manufacturers include guarantees for other nutrients as well. Maximum ash is often guaranteed, especially on cat foods. Cat food commonly also bear guarantees for taurine and magnesium as well. For dog foods, minimum levels of calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and linoleic acid are found on some products. If the guarantees don’t include information on a particular nutrient that you are interested in, ask the company, or don’t buy the product.
Comparing the guaranteed analyses of dry and canned products, one will note that the levels of crude protein and most other nutrients are much lower for the canned product. This can be explained by looking at the relative moisture contents. Canned foods typically contain 75-78% moisture, whereas dry foods contain only 10-12% water. To make meaningful comparisons of nutrient levels between a canned and dry product, they should be expressed on a similar moisture basis. To roughly approximate this, the guarantees for the canned product should be multiplied by four.
When buying a canned food, look at the moisture guarantee. The maximum moisture content for a pet food is 78%, except for products labeled as a “stew,” “in sauce,” “in gravy,” or similar terms. The extra water gives the product the qualities needed to have the appropriate texture and fluidity, but you are paying for it.
Nutritional Adequacy Statement will also state for which life stage(s) the product is suitable, such as “for maintenance, or “for growth.” A product intended “for all life stages” meets the more stringent nutritional needs for growth and reproduction A maintenance ration will meet the needs of an adult, non-reproducing dog or cat of normal activity, but may not be sufficient for a growing, reproducing, or hard-working animal. Puppy/kitten, adult maintenance, low activity and senior pets can easily have their needs met with respective diets for each stage.
Feeding guidelines instruct the consumer on how much product should be offered the animal. At minimum, they should include verbage such as “feed ___ cups per ____ pounds of body weight daily.”The feeding directions should be taken as rough guidelines, a place to start. Breed, temperament, environment, and many other factors can influence food intake. The best suggestion is to offer the prescribed amount at first, but don’t be afraid to increase or cut back as your eye guides you.
Trusting the information on the label will be difficult for you with regard to the recent recalls. The Pet Food Institute has just announced the formation of a National Pet Food Commission. The purpose of the Commission is to investigate the cause of the recall and to recommend steps the industry and government should take to further build on safety and quality standards already in place. The Commission is an industry/government partnership composed of government officials, veterinarians, toxicologists and food scientists who are committed to maintaining and enhancing the high standards we have set in this country that protect our pets.
Alert to Dog Owners :
First Case of Canine Influenza in Oregon reported this week.
We have vaccine available– Call for an appointment*
The Portland Veterinary Medical Association, the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, and the State Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Emilio DeBess, are recommending proactively vaccinating of all at-risk dogs for CIV to protect of these patient and prevent an outbreak in our community.
Dogs at increased risk of exposure include but not limited to dogs with lifestyles that include dog parks, dog-daycare, dog shows, grooming, boarding, travel (car, air, etc), rescue animals and dogs with pre-existing heart disease or lung disease, potential senior dogs, and brachycephalic breeds.
Symptoms include sneezing, nasal discharge and frequent coughing that can last for two weeks or more. Some dogs develop more serious disease and pneumonia that requires hospital care.
Most dogs that get canine flu recover, but in the same way the flu affects older humans and those with weakened/new immune systems, young and very old dogs are at a higher risk.
*The canine influenza vaccine is a “lifestyle” vaccine, and is not recommended for every dog.
Timberland Animal Clinic 18110 SE Division St. Portland, OR 92376