Monthly Archives: September 2014

Three Reasons Pet Food Makes Pets Fat

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Conventional, veterinary nutrition is based on modern-day research. This sounds well and fine except for the fact that the vast majority of the research is sponsored by pet food companies. Many studies have shown that industry-sponsored research often results in biased findings. Let’s face it; if every pet food company has research indicating that their food is the best, then there must be something wrong with at least some of the research.

The modern approach veterinary nutrition embraces the arrogant assumption that we know enough about nutrition to formulate a balanced diet with ingredients that the particular species has never been exposed to throughout millions of years of evolution. You will commonly hear those in the conventional pet food industry say, “It’s the nutrients, not the ingredients, which are important when formulating pet food.” The problem with this view is that diets formulated with an incomplete understanding of the required nutrients, are themselves incomplete. Mother Nature is smarter than the smartest veterinary nutritionist.

One corollary to the simplistic notion that pet food ingredients are irrelevant is that all calories are equal. In other words, it does not matter whether a dog gets his calories from proteins, fats, or carbohydrates. All that matters is the number of calories he eats. This is a misguided idea for many reasons.

  1. Most studies indicate that calories from fat and protein are better at satisfying hunger than those from carbs. A pet on a high protein diet is less hungry and will eat less food. Thus, he is more likely to maintain a healthy body weight.
  2. We also need to consider the epigenetic effects of foods. Certain nutrients turn off or on particular genes. For example, carbs in the diet turn on genes that increase the production and release of insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF). Both of these are known to directly stimulate cancer cell growth and cancer’s ability to invade neighboring tissue.
  3. A final problem with the idea that all calories are equal is the thermogenic effect of food. This is a measure of the amount of energy it takes to digest a particular food. For instance, protein and carbs are equally calorie dense – they both provide 4 calories per gram. But it takes on average 2-3 times more calories to digest protein than it does the same amount of carbs. So the net gain in calories from protein is less than that from carbs.

The bottom line is that different food ingredients have different effects on the body and pets benefit from diets low in carbs. And yet, when I directly asked a nutritionist from a major pet food company what the ideal level of carbohydrate is for pet food he told me that dog food should consist of 40-50% carbohydrate and cat food should contain 30-40% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis. This is a much higher level of carbohydrate than our carnivorous companions were designed to handle.

Fifty-three percent of dogs and fifty-eight percent of cats are over weight to obese. I am sure that the sedentary lifestyle  of pet owners is part of the problem but I am also confident that inappropriate pet food ingredients (too much carbohydrate) is the more important factor.

Have you had trouble getting your pet to lose weight?

 

I’m Dropping the “F” Bomb

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This cat is FAT! Is your pet FAT? That’s right; I said the “F” word. So, is your pet fat? Are you sure she’s not?

Most pets are overweight and most pet caregivers are happily unaware of their pet’s body condition or what their pet’s ideal weight should be. In fact, in my experience, most pet caregivers have a bloated concept of what a dog or cat should look like.

Here are 3 ways to tell if your pet is the right weight.

  1. Feel the ribs – Feel the sides of your pet just behind the shoulder blades. Can you easily feel the ribs? If you have to press through a layer of soft, gushy stuff to feel your pet’s ribs then your per is overweight. If you can’t feel the ribs no matter how hard you press then your pet is obese.
  2. Waist – Now, look straight down on your pet’s body while he’s standing. There is an area right behind the rib cage called a waist. (That means the body is supposed to indent there). Does your pet have one? If not, your pet is fat. (There, I said it again).
  3. Tummy tuck – Look at your pet from the side. The tummy should tuck up, not sag down.

Being overweight predisposes pets to many health conditions. Fat adds weight to the body stressing all the joints and causing the pet to have to work harder to get around. It also stresses the heart by making it pump blood to all that excess tissue.

We used to think that fat just sat there and stored energy. Now we know that fat is an organ that is metabolically active.

Fat cells secrete pro-inflammatory compounds into the bloodstream. This predisposes the body to all kinds of inflammation such as dermatitis (inflammation of the skin) and arthritis (inflammation of the joints).

Your pet’s processed food predisposes him to gain weight due to the excessive carbohydrates it contains. It is best for your pet to eat a species appropriate, raw diet. If you can’t do that, then at least feed less food and treats to help your pet stay fit and healthy.

How fit is your pet? Come on, fess up.

Is Your Pet a Victim of Google Garbage?

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The internet is a treasure trove of information. I know that when I’m confronted with a term or idea that I’m not familiar with, I often start by “Googling” it. Some of the materials you find with such a search are real gems but much of it is worthless. As with any treasure hunt, a map is very helpful.

The first thing to remember is that anyone can put up a web site. Step one on our way to reliable internet information is to ask such questions as; Who runs the site? Why have they created the site? Can you contact them? Who is paying for the site? You should be able to find this information on the “about us” page or by scrutinizing the site map.

As you look at the information provided try to answer the following questions; Are there advertisements? Are they labeled as such? What do they want from you? Does the information favor the sponsor? Is the information reviewed by experts? Where did the information come from? Is it up-to-date? Does the site make unbelievable or emotional claims?

Any mention of research should be backed up by citations (a reference to the scientific journal and author of the research). Anyone can bandy around phrases like “Research proves…” or “Studies show…” but if information that verifies the claim is not given, you really can’t trust it.

Be wary if the site asks for your email address and/or personal information. The question arises; What do they intend to do with it? You need to be confident of the answer to that one!

A few months ago a pet owner came to me with several supplements she had gotten from a web site. She was confident that these supplements would fix her dog’s thyroid condition because the person who runs the web site breeds dogs of the same breed as hers. Furthermore, the web site operator is a doctor. I was not convinced.

When I went to the web site, the information was quite appealing. The bio of the creator of the supplements mentioned that she is a not only a doctor but that she is a professor at a college. I thought it was strange that there was no mention of what college she graduated from or where she taught. Isn’t that something she’s be proud of?

As I dug deeper into the sight I found the answers to my questions. This “pet expert” is indeed a doctor; she has a Ph.D. in art history and that is what she teaches. In fact, the same web site that sells the supplement also sells her artwork.

While I have respect for anyone who has earned a Ph.D., I do not think her area of expertise qualifies her as an expert in animal nutrition. As a dog breeder, she no doubt does have a lot of experience with raising dogs. But, once again, it does not impart on her the knowledge needed to formulate animal supplements. It is apparent to me that this web site is deliberately misleading people into buying her supplements.

The bottom line is that if you are looking at a web site designed to sell a product, everything there is suspect. Maybe this is the best supplement ever. Maybe all those endorsements are truly from satisfied pet owners with cured pets. Then again, it may all be bunk.

If you want to find reliable information on the internet about a specific problem, enter “veterinary college” after the name of the disease or symptom in your Google search. If you are interested in a specific supplement and you want to dig deeper than the web site selling it, enter “problems” after the supplement name in your Google search.

When faced with a serious medical condition we often reach for every source available. Nevertheless, when consulting Dr. Google I encourage you to be a savvy treasure hunter.

What’s your experience with Google info? Treasure or Trash?