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Pet Points

July 2019

As many of you have now heard the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration) is investigating a link between canine heart disease (dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM) and grain free pet food. At the end of June, the FDA released a report naming dog food brands that had come up more than 10 times in their investigation. Most or all of these brands have now released press releases defending their food.  While these reports are informative, we know that they will have an inherent bias, and therefore we have done our research through independent sources.

The good news is that it appears that our sources feel the FDA released this report to the public far too early as there is just not enough scientific evidence to reach any conclusions yet. The phrase we keep seeing is "Correlation does not prove causation." The brands that the FDA listed are grain-free, many with peas and legumes in their ingredients.

Monica Segal who specializes in Nutritional Solutions for Dogs™ writes "Of the many, many millions of dogs eating grain-free diets there are 560 complaints. All have been labeled as DCM rather than differentiating between NM (nutritionally mediated) and non- NM. There are several breeds that are genetically predisposed to DCM. Golden Retrievers are predisposed to taurine deficiency which can be linked to DCM. Goldens have been a focus of the studies." However, Ms Segal does  believe that ALL dog diets (raw, homemade, kibble) should be supplemented with some taurine.

Taurine is an amino acid that’s necessary for the development and function of the heart and muscle cells. It also plays an important role in eye, brain and immune function. So what might be happening in these DCM cases is that the dogs are not getting enough taurine. The pet food manufacturers may decide to start adding more taurine to their recipes, or you the consumer can start supplementing with taurine in your dog's diet.

Dana Scott, the founder of Dogs Naturally Magazine states this opinion "Grain-free diets don’t contain the cereal grains we like to avoid (like corn, rice and barley) … but they contain large amounts of pears, potatoes, lentils and legumes. This is because an alternate form of starch is needed for kibbles to be extruded.
But unlike cereal grains, peas, lentils and legumes are all high in protein
This means that grain-free pet foods can skimp on expensive animal proteins and use larger amounts of cheap plant proteins in their place.
And because plant proteins are devoid of taurine, dog foods might be deficient in taurine, just like cat foods were 40 years ago." 

Another source pointed out that Acana (#1 on the FDA list) has one of the biggest market shares in North America, so it is not surprising that among the 560 cases reported to the FDA (out of millions of household pets eating kibble) that Acana might appear more than 10 times.

We at Pet Pointe feel that in today's social media environment this story has been blown out of proportion. We know that low taurine levels may be a factor in the reported DCM cases, and consumers need to understand the labels on their pet food. Our opinion is a lower processed diet, such a freeze dried or raw food where it may not be necessary to add in synthetic additives such as taurine is a better choice for your pet.

In this issue we will go over how to read a pet food label. We will also go over some of the advantages of a raw diet for those of you who are now considering a diet change.
How to Read a Pet Food Label
Reading a pet food label just takes a bit of knowledge to understand the basics which should be good enough for those who want to be sure they are feeding a healthy diet. In the US most pet food manufacturers follow the "rules" of AAFC0 (The Association of American Feed Control Officials). Although there are no regulations governing pet food made in Canada, you will find that manufacturers in Canada follow these rules as well.

While it might seem like a lot, these rules do not even tell the whole story.  As stated above understanding this labeling is usually good enough to get a sense of what is in the food.  However, if you want to dig deeper you would have to research what each term actually means according the AAFCO. For example you might see terms like "hydrolyzed chicken protein", or "animal digest". If you are not sure what many products listed actually are, it is best to do some research, as some definitions might surprise you.

Pet food is actually classified as "feed" not food. Feed grade ingredients can come from dead, dying, diseased, disabled, and drugged animals. The animals may have been purposely slaughtered or not, roadkill, euthanized pets and zoo animals, grocery store waste, or meat condemned as unsuitable for human consumption by adulteration. Feed grade ingredients often contain chemicals with known risks, such as the preservatives Ethoxyquin, BHA, and BHT.  The best manufacturers commit to use only human grade meat sources.

Knowing the rules does help, so here is a shortened version of some of the rules broken down into categories:

95 Percent Rule: At least 95 percent of the product must be the named ingredient, for example, “Chicken for Dogs,” or “Salmon Dog Food,” must include at least 95 percent of chicken or salmon (by weight, not counting the water for processing), respectively.
25 Percent Rule: If the named ingredients comprise at least 25 percent of the product (by weight, not counting the water for processing), but less than 95 percent, the product name must include a qualifying term, such as dinner, entrée, or platter.
The "With" Rule: When you see a dog food label, such as “Doggie Dinner With Beef,” the “With . . .” ingredient need only be at least 3 percent of the product. 
The Flavour Rule: If the label says “Beef Flavor Dog Food,” then a specific percentage (of the beef) is not required, but a product must contain an amount sufficient to be able to be detected.
Ingredient Rule: All ingredients are required to be listed in order of predominance by weight (this refers to weight before processing).

For a more detailed list of these "rules" and what you should be aware of, click here

Here is an example of how a consumer can be fooled by product labeling. Click this link Purina Beneful The web page indicates that chicken is the #1 ingredient, and in fact it is the first ingredient listed. Remember, it is listed by weight before processing, but a smart consumer will realize that since the product is called Beneful with Farm Raised Chicken, chicken may actually only make up 3% of the finished product.

Kibble will also contain ingredients such as  synthetic vitamins and amino acids since these are burned off during processing.  You can usually Google the definitions of these additives to have a complete understanding of what is in the pet food.

You will also see "Guaranteed Analysis" on pet food labels. This can be a bit confusing. The Honest Kitchen website does a good job of explaining it. WARNING - - - math is involved  :-)

Hopefully this helps you understand a bit more about what to look for when reading a pet food label.
We will always continue to sell and research the best kibble on the market. We research recall history, including the recall history of the manufacturing facility. We find out who owns the pet food company and where they source their ingredients. Since we are an independent pet supply store, we can make our own decisions about what to sell, and we do not have to worry about making quotas on a particular food for the month. We are able to rely on our own research and not some printout from a head office.

As we are doing all this research we feel confident in the choices we make for our own dogs. Our opinion is that raw is the most species appropriate diet for both dogs and cats. A good raw food does not have to add synthetic ingredients, although adding supplements to your pet's food can have some benefit. Raw food usually has ground bone in it which is a good source of calcium, and the fresh fruits and vegetables are cut or ground very small for easy digestion. Here is a list of ingredients in one of the foods we feed our dogs: Turkey muscle meat (including turkey heart), ground turkey bone, secreting organ (turkey liver), kale, green beans, broccoli, cranberry, papaya, organic alfalfa pellets, shelled sunflower seeds, almonds. No Googling these ingredients! Some of the benefits of feeding a raw food diet is that your dog or cat will have better teeth and gums, better coat, smaller stools, more energy, improved digestion.

While feeding raw is not for everyone, we know many people are now considering changing their pet food, and we feel this is something you should give some thought to. If  you are interested in a more in depth look at raw feeding, we suggest checking out this video

Now that you know a bit more about what to look for in a healthy pet food diet, how about a fun treat for your dog?  Barker & Snouts "ice cream" for dogs is made locally in small batches and contains only organic 0% yogurt, peanut butter, bananas, honey and skim milk powder. Stop by our freezer section and pick one up!
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