Monthly Archives: December 2015

Carrageenan: A Nasty Pet Food Toxin

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Carrageenan is an ingredient of canned pet diets used to thicken, stabilize, and emulsify the food. It is used in many canned pet foods basically to improve the appearance and texture. There is absolutely no nutritional value to this ingredient.

Carrageenan is actually a group of compounds extracted from various species of red seaweed. As such, it is considered a “natural” ingredient. Now, the consumption seaweed itself has many health benefits. However, when you isolate this one family of constituents, problems arise.

While many types of carrageenan are harmless, there are forms that cause inflammation and predispose to cancer. Food-grade carrageenan is supposed to be free of the dangerous forms. Unfortunately, studies show that the carrageenan used in foods contain small amounts (up to 5%) of the nasty stuff. Food-grade carrageenan has been shown to increase free radicals and decrease insulin sensitivity as well as cause inflammation.

Seventy percent of canned pet foods contain carrageenan. Pets that are fed mostly canned food may consume enough of this toxin to cause inflammation and cancer. While dry pet foods have many negative health effects, canned foods with this ingredient may be even worse.

The sad thing is that carrageenan can easily be replaced by safer foods such as tomato paste, guar gum, potato starch, pea starch, tapioca, and garbanzo bean flour. Of course, none of these are appropriate foods for dogs and cats either – just less toxic.

By the way, many “natural” human foods such as certain dairy products, sandwich meats, infant formulas, dairy substitutes (e.g. almond and soy milk), frozen pizza dough, and others also contain carrageenan. Check your food labels carefully. Here is more info on carragenan in human foods.

It is impossible to list foods that do not contain carrageenan because pet food manufacturers frequently change formulations. The packaging and name may be the same but what’s in the can may change. The bottom line is to read labels and buyer beware.

Of course the way to avoid the many toxins found in processed pet foods is to feed a balance raw diet instead. That’s the kind of diet that Mother Nature intended pets to eat. In other words, pets have evolved eating unprocessed foods and their genetics have not changed significantly since they were hunters/scavengers.

If you feed canned pet food, check the label and let us know whether or not it contains carrageenan.

Vaccine Warning for Small Dogs (and Some Big Ones Too)

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Vaccine research from the November 15th Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association confirms what I wrote about here. Small dogs are more likely to suffer adverse reactions to vaccines than larger dogs.  The current study gives more specifics. It turns out dogs who weigh less than 10 lbs are 7 times more likely to have an adverse reaction to a vaccine than dogs who weigh more than 100 lbs.

This finding should not surprise anyone since the dose of vaccine is the same for every dog. How can the same dose be appropriate for a ½ lb Chihuahua as for a 150 lb Great Dane? In fact this study calls for the vaccine industry to develop lower dose vaccines for small dogs. But don’t hold your breath.

I vaccinated my own dog, Katy, with half the dose of the Distemper/Parvo vaccine when she was 12 weeks old. I’ve been doing yearly blood titers ever since. Twelve years later she still has protective immunity. I’m not saying it works that way for every dog but there is that potential.

This study also found that certain larger breeds of dog are also more likely to have a vaccine reaction. These include the German Shorthaired Pointer, Mastiff, and Pit Bull Terrier. Apparently there is a genetic predisposition to vaccine reactions in these breeds.

A new finding from this study is that the Leptospira vaccine (AKA Lepto) doubles the chances for an adverse reaction. Whether the Lepto vaccine is given alone or as part of the Distemper/Parvo vaccine, dogs receiving it are 2 times more likely to have a problem.

Although the chances of any dog having an adverse reaction to a vaccine is very low (less than 1 in 100), it does not make sense to give more vaccines than are needed. Every vaccine you give your pet increases the chance of a reaction.  I recommend having yearly blood titers done after the initial series of puppy vaccines. I have written more about vaccines and titers here and here.

Have any of your pets ever had an adverse reaction to a vaccine?