Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What If The Payoff Were Even Bigger?

(Chapter #1: Homemade vs. Processed Foods)

Advocates of a holistic lifestyle take it even further. In his book, The Natural Vet's Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, Shawn Messionnier, D.V.M. notes that 50% of dogs will develop cancer in their advanced years. In outlining his general strategy for both minimizing the chances of cancer and treating cancer, he lists providing a proper diet among his recommendations. He asserts,
Minimize animal and plant by-products and chemical preservatives in our pet's diet. When possible, a homemade diet using quality ingredients is best; a holistic, organic processed food would be a second option.

Wendy and Jack Volhard are 30-year dog training veterans who developed their own "Motivational Method" and are strong proponents of the holistic approach. On their website, Wendy writes:
We have made our own food for well over 30 years now, and our dogs are living longer and longer each generation. Whereas the normal lifespan of a Newfoundland in 1998 was 6.2 -6.7 years according to a national survey done by the Newfoundland Club of America, our dogs, and other dogs following the Natural Diet, live up until 15 years of age.

Those results are hard to argue or find fault with. The empirical data backing up such claims is limited, to be sure. But it is here where we find ourselves (out of sheer love for our pet, and the desire to do anything we can in his best interest) thinking, "Why not just give it a try?"

While the loose regulations on dog food labeling leaves us somewhat in the dark as to what exactly we are feeding our pet, good home cooking allows for flexibility and purity. It also gives us total control over our dog's nutritional needs. We can be assured that all ingredients are of the highest quality, and add up to a balanced, oxinfree diet. And, let's not diminish the importance of the one ingredient that only we can add, and which most certainly will be acking in any commercial dog food -- love.

Article from: "Dog Food Secrets."
Author: Andrew Lewis.
This is just a small article from the book: "
Dog Food Secrets." If you want to read the full articles, you can buy the book from:
All right reserved to the author.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

And What Are Some Of These Ingredients Anyway?

(Chapter #1: Homemade vs. Processed Foods)

Dogs are meat-lovers, but are not true carnivores and cannot exist on meat alone. In fact, a balanced diet for dogs, unlike cats, can include as much as 50% carbohydrates.

Experts agree, when reading dog food labels, meat should be the first ingredient (per the CVM requirement that all ingredients are to be listed in order of predominance by weight). An absorbable grain, such as rice, should be the next ingredient. "By-product" is an oft-used term in ingredients lists. By-products are generally defined as animal parts that are not used for human consumption, such as bones, organs, blood, fatty tissue and intestines.

ASIDE: Horror Story

After leaving high school but before starting college, I worked the summer in an abattoir. The building was three floors: beef, sheep and d pig. Each floor had conveyor belts which carried the guts, bones, organs and every other nasty by -product to a hole in the floor which dropped into a massive vat below the building.

This giant vat -from-hell churned the ‘by-products’ 24/7.

Being young, stupid and determined to prove myself to my much older colleagues, I accepted the challenge of climbing the greasy staircase to the top of this giant tub -a-guts to admire the view. “Piece of cake”, I thought.

Stepping onto the staircase would have been enough to send a wiser man packing; it was completely covered by a 1/16 inch coating of pure animal fat. A few more steps up the staircase and I understood why… the air itself was a pungent vapor of dissolved fat and bacterial decay.

Upward I continued as my colleagues jeered and shouted from below, well-knowing the sensory -assault awaiting me at the summit.

At the top of the staircase it was too late to turn back, I had no choice but to suck in the life-changing stench and peer into the pink, yellow, red and green (yes, green!) sea of sheer - stomach -churning chaos.

Oh, the horror!

Besieged by the stench and mesmerized by the circular churning of the many thousands of animal innards – I stood there for an eternity…..

The smells and images I beheld that day, have forever been burned onto my memory!

To give you an idea of the spirit -crushing power contained in the smell alone, I’ll add this final anecdote:

The cacophonic blend of putrid odors wafting -up through the hole in the floor to our work area, be came so bad at one stage during my 3-months of employment, that a lady working near me, a veteran of 5 years, ran from our processing room, teary eyed with hand -over mouth, dry -reaching all the way to the porcelain bus!

And we were 2 stories up!

Why would the abattoir bother to cultivate such nastiness?

You guessed it…. Pet food!!

Keep this tale in mind next time you buy dog food off the shelf.

Some say the use of by-products in dog food is perfectly okay. Per reviews, what you don't want is, "unidentifiable by-products," such as the very vague, "meat by-products." The "meat" umbrella encompasses some very shocking members: zoo animals, road kill, so-called, "4-D livestock" (dead, diseased, disabled and dying), and even (yikes!) euthanized dogs and cats. This last was confirmed by the American Veterinary Association and the FDA in 1990. We take some comfort in learning this practice was never widespread, but limited to, "small rural rendering plants and a few other assorted links in the pet food manufacturing chain," per .

Pet owners are thus encouraged to look for specific origin of by products in ingredients lists, such as "chicken by-product." If a label says "chicken by-product," all the parts must come from chicken; the same goes for lamb, beef, and so on.

Others insist that foods that list by-products in their ingredients should be avoided altogether, considering the vagueness of the term itself.

On the plus side, dog food companies appear to be drifting away from the use of artificial preservatives in food. Chemical additives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin have known some controversy over the years. Under scrutiny, many manufacturers moving to the use of natural preservatives, such as Vitamin C (ascorbate) and Vitamin E (tocopherals). These are generally considered to be much safer, but the result is a much shorter shelf life for these products.

BHA is short for Butylated Hydroxyanisole, and BHT is Butylated Hydroxytoluene and these are antioxidants. As such, oxygen reacts preferentially with BHA or BHT, rather than oxidizing fats or oils, thereby protecting them from spoilage. In addition to preserving foods, BHA and BHT are used to preserve fats and oils in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Both have been banned from human use in many countries. In the US, though, they are still permitted in pet foods. While for us, this would be enough said, studies actually have linked BHA and BHT with liver and kidney dysfunction.

Ethoxyquin is a chemical preservative – and suspected carcinogenic – regulated by the FDA as a pesticide. While ethoxyquin cannot be used in human foods, it, too, continues to be used in many pet food brands. Ethoxyquin has been found to promote kidney carcinogenesis and significantly increase the incidence of stomach tumors and enhanced bladder carcinogesis, according to several studies. Carcinogenesis (KAR-sin-oh-JEN-eh-sis) is, quite simply, the process by which normal cells turn into cancer cells. There are also reports linking ethoxyquin with allergic reactions, skin problems, and major organ failure and behavior problems.

In 1997, the CVM made a request to manufacturers of ethoxyquin and the pet food industry to voluntarily lower ethoxyquin residue in pet foods to 75 parts per million (ppm), from the currently allowed amount of 150 ppm. To date, there is still no mandatory requirement to meet the voluntary request.

Article from: "Dog Food Secrets."
Author: Andrew Lewis.
This is just a small article from the book: "
Dog Food Secrets." If you want to read the full articles, you can buy the book from:
All right reserved to the author.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Why Consider Homemade Foods For Your Dog?

(Chapter #1: Homemade vs. Processed Foods)

First, and very simply, so that you know what your dog is eating.

Commercial-brand dog foods are not beholden to the same FDA labeling requirements as people foods. Per specifications, the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) establishes the federal standards, including proper identification of the product, net quantity statement, manufacturer's address, and proper listing of ingredients. Additionally, some states also enforce their own labeling regulations, many adopting model pet food regulations established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which are more specific in nature. These cover aspects of labeling such as product name , the guaranteed analysis , the nutritional adequacy statement , feeding directions , and calorie statements .

The product name is often a key factor in the consumer's decision to buy a product. As such, manufacturers will use names to emphasize a particular aspect. The percentages of named ingredients in the total product are dictated by four AAFCO rules.

The "95% rule" applies to products consisting primarily of meat, poultry or fish. As you might uess, at least 95% of the product must be the named ingredient (discounting the water added for rocessing). Counting the water, the named ingredient must comprise 70% of the product. Additionally, ingredient lists must be declared in the proper order of predominance by weight. If the name includes a combination of ingredients (such as "Chicken 'n Liver Dog Food"), the two together must comprise 95% of the total weight.

The "25%" or "dinner" rule applies to many canned and dry products. If the named ingredients comprise at least 25% of the product (again, discounting the water for processing), but less than 95%, the name must include a, "qualifying descriptive term," such as "Beef Dinner for Dogs." "Platter," "entree," "nuggets," and "formula" are just a few examples of such a descriptive term. Because, in this example, only one-fourth of the product must be beef, it would most likely be found third or fourth on the ingredient list. Since the primary ingredient is not always the named ingredient, and may in fact be an ingredient that is not desired, the ingredient list should always be checked before purchase. Also, unlike the 95% rule, this rule applies to all ingredients, whether of animal origin or not. Hence, a "Lamb & Rice Formula for Dogs" would be an acceptable name as long as the amounts of lamb and rice combined total 25%.

The "3%" or "With" rule requires only a 3% presence of the ingredient where the use of the word "with" is used. This was intended to apply only to ingredients highlighted on the package, but utside the product name to allow manufacturers to point out the presence of minor ingredients (such as "with cheese"). With recent amendments, however, this now applies to using the word "with" in the product name. As a result, "Liver Dog Food" and "Dog Food With Liver" have very distinctive meanings (and very distinctive applicable regulations).

Under the "flavor" rule, a specific percentage is not required, but a product, "must contain an amount sufficient to be able to be detected." In Beef Flavor Dog Food, the corresponding ingredient may well be beef, but is just as likely (if not more so) to be another substance that will give the characterized flavor -- such as beef meal,or beef by-products.

Guaranteed analysis means that, at minimum, a pet food label must state guarantees for the minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, and the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. A can of Iams (Slow cooked with Broth Beef and Rice dinner) for example, reads:
- Protein: No less than 9%
- Fat: No less than 6%
- Fiber: No more than 1%
- Moisture: No more than 78%

The nutritionally adequate statement applies to any claim that a product is "complete," "balanced," "100% nutritious," or similarly suggests a product is suitable for sole nourishment. A product that does not meet the nutritional adequacy must state, "this product is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding."

Feeding directions instruct the consumer on how much product should be offered. Often, this would include such verbiage as "feed x cups per y pounds of body weight daily." The consumer needs to be aware that the directions should be taken only as rough guidelines. Breed, temperament, environment and many other factors can influence food intake. Further, the ranges offered tend to be lessthan-definitive, and may confound as much as instruct. A typical can,for example, reads thusly:
- Up to 10 lbs: 1/3 - 3/4 can per day
- 10 - 20 lbs: 3/4 - 1 2/3 cans per day
- 25 - 50 lbs: 2 3/4 - 3 3/4 cans per day
- 75 - 150 lbs: 3 3/4 - 6 1/3 cans per day

The best way for consumers to compare products and determine how much to feed is to know the calorie content. Dog foods can vary greatly in calorie content, even among foods of the same type. Feeding directions vary among manufacturers, too, so the number of calories delivered in a single meal may be quite different from another. However, until recently, calorie statements were not allowed on pet food labels. (Not allowed ?!?!?) New AAFCO regulations were developed to allow manufacturers to substantiate calorie content and include a voluntary statement. We were unable, as of this writing, to find any dog foods wherein the manufacturers opted to include the voluntary calorie counts on their labels. Some, however, do include calorie count among nutritional information on their websites (Pedigree and Iams, for example) So, while calorie content is the best factor for determining dietary needs, it can also be one of the more difficult to ascertain in commercial dog foods.

Additionally, many pet foods are labeled as "premium," "superpremium" and even, "ultra-premium" or "gourmet." Products labeled as such are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients, nor are they held up to any higher nutritional standards than are any other complete and balanced products.

Further, food labels often boast the term "natural." In terms of labeling-regulations, however, the term "natural" does not have an official definition. It can be construed as equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives in the product. "Natural" is not the same as "organic." The latter term refers to, "the conditions under which the plants were grown or animals were raised." There are no official rules governing the labeling of organic foods, for humans or pets, at this time. However, the USDA is developing regulations dictating what types of pesticides, fertilizers and other substances can be used in organic farming.

Still, it does give one pause to think. The dog food manufacturers seem to be putting plenty of time and money into convincing us their products are natural and nutritionally complete with marketing gimmicks and eye-catching claims. That would indicate,
1) That is what consumers would like the product to be, and
2) That is what the product should be.
Doesn't it make sense, then, that we select food for our dog that we
know to be healthful and nutritionally sound?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

It's Puppy Time!

(Chapter #1: Homemade vs. Processed Foods)

It's an exciting time for any household -- the bringing home of a new puppy. Whether the intent is for this to be your prized show dog, a guard dog, a "working" dog, or simply a companion or family pet, it is most certainly a momentous occasion. So many questions come into play, leading up to this big day. What kind of dog will it be? Will it be a purebred or a mongrel? Would a male or female fit your lifestyle better? Are you looking to pay big bucks for your pet, or will you perhaps instead choose to "save" a dog from your neighborhood kennel?

And then, just when you think all the major decisions have been resolved and you've selected your pet and brought him home, you find a hundred more questions await you. From choosing a name to selecting a vet, and a myriad of options in betwixt, the process can be positively dizzying, especially when Rover's best interests are of the essence.

There is one area, though, that might get overlooked or at the very least, under-considered: dog nutrition and feeding. Your dog's strong bones, muscle tone, shiny coat and overall well-being are evidence of his nutritious, well-balanced diet. While you may have thought this decision a no-brainer, ultimately it is important to realize that it goes beyond choosing between canned or dry, premium or economy blends.

It is likely there are no less than a zillion books out there on dog care and nutrition, most of them written by practicing Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), and the world wide web presents a veritable feast of information about the same. The advice and data offered is overwhelming, to put it mildly, and vigorously contradictory, to put it kindly.

Some vets will tell you that you can provide all the nutrients necessary to satisfy your dog's requirements by choosing from the wide array of prepared foods available from the reputable pet-food manufacturers. Others, most notably holistic-proponents, will go so far as to say that prepared foods cause cancer and other crippling diseases in dogs, and therefore adhering to a scientifically-based anticancer diet is necessary for whole health.

Just as you seek balance in your dog's diet, we sought the balance in the available research, and present it to you here, in the most concise fashion. As a bonus, we have also amassed a collection
of homemade recipes for you to try with your pet. We are not vets, and our areas of expertise include only loving our dogs, and wanting the best for them. Undoubtedly, you desire the same, so you can relate when we opt to err on the side of caution.