Wednesday, June 16, 2010

American Kennel Club Diet Advice

Given the outrageous advertising exposure and endorsements the AKC gives its members for commercial junk foods, it seemed interesting to see what "expert" advice they offer dog owners in their less commercial pages.  Here's the essence of AKC's advice on how to feed your dog./

Broadly speaking, the first choice you need to make is whether to feed your dog a homemade diet or a commercially prepared diet.
Homemade Diets
Homemade diets are meals you prepare at home for your dog that usually include meat, grains, vegetables and supplements such as bone meal, minerals and vitamins. With homemade diets, you have more complete control over each of the ingredients that you feed your dog than you would if you were feeding your dog commercially prepared food. In addition, the ingredients in the homemade diet will likely be fresher and have undergone less processing. Many dog owners also feel that preparing food for their dog is a bonding experience that helps them feel closer to their dogs. Advocates of homemade diets claim that homemade diets make dogs more energetic and promote healthier teeth, skin and coats.
There are also some drawbacks to preparing homemade diets. First, and most importantly, creating a healthful and balanced homemade diet is not that simple. You must educate yourself and consult with a veterinarian or nutritionist to make sure that you are giving your dog meals that include all essential nutrients in the proper amounts. Both undersupplying or oversupplying certain key nutrition building blocks can have adverse consequences for your dog. Second, preparing a homemade diet requires a consistent time commitment to prepare meals for your dog. It also makes traveling with your dog more difficult as you will have to prepare many meals in advance and make sure that the meals are kept fresh during the journey.
Commercially Prepared Diets
Commercially prepared diets generally fall into three categories: kibble (dry food), semi-moist food and wet food. The most common method for producing kibble is to grind up and mix the ingredients and then put them through an extrusion process in which the ingredients are mixed with liquid (usually fat or water) and then the moistened ingredients are pushed through a cylinder that self-generates friction and heat to further mix and bake the kibble. At the end of the cylinder is a mold that gives the kibble its shape. Upon completion of the extrusion process, the kibble is cooled and dried and then often coated in flavor enhancers. The flavor enhancers usually include vitamins and minerals that may have been destroyed in the cooking process.....  
Many veterinarians will generally recommend giving your dog kibble as crunching the kibble helps to keep your dog’s teeth clean and in shape (sic; kibbles coat dogs' teeth with gunmmy sludge)....
Reading Commercial Dog Food Labels
On many dog food labels you will find one of the following AAFCO statements: “___ brand dog food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for [specific stage of dog’s life];...
... Manufacturers are required by law to list ingredients by weight. However, watch out for these two little tricks. First, the weight of each ingredient includes the moisture in each ingredient. Second, manufacturers can break up each less “desirable” ingredient such as rice into its component parts (rice, ground rice etc.) so each component part can be positioned further down on the ingredient list even though the ingredient should, by overall weight, be at the top of the list. In general, items that you prefer not to see on the list of ingredients include artificial colors, artificial flavor, artificial preservatives and by-products...
You should also understand what the guaranteed analysis listed on your dog food signifies. The guaranteed analysis is a table with the percentages of important nutrition building blocks such as carbohydrates, fats and protein. Like with the ingredient list, the guaranteed analysis does not take into account the amount of moisture contained. ...In addition, the guaranteed analysis does not differentiate between the different digestibility levels of ingredients. For example, commercial food A could have a higher level of protein than commercial food B, but commercial food B’s protein source may be more readily digestible and thus more useful to your dog.
If your head isn’t spinning already, you should at least be aware of where your dog’s food is manufactured...
 Raw Diets
Finally, it is worth mentioning raw diets. Raw diets, though the ingredients vary, all contain raw meat or raw, meaty bones. Raw diets can be prepared from scratch, or you can now buy commercial raw diets that are fresh frozen and then packaged. Proponents of raw diets claim that raw meat provides the optimum and most easily usable source of important nutrients for dogs, and most closely replicates the ideal diet dogs lived on for generations in the wild.

Critics of the raw diet believe that the raw diet can be potentially harmful to your dog and to you because of various parasites within the muscle meat along with bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that are present in raw meat. There is no doubt that bacteria does exist in raw meat and, although some people claim dogs have the ability to safely ingest the bacteria, especially if your dog is geriatric or weakened by another condition, feeding a raw diet is generally not a good idea.

If you do decide to use a raw food diet for your dog, you must keep the food frozen until it is ready to eat, throw out any food not eaten after each meal and clean your dog’s food and water bowl in hot, soapy water after each meal. You will also need to take precautions to make sure you and other household members do not accidentally come into contact with the bacteria. Washing your hands and any surfaces or objects that come into contact with raw meat with hot, soapy water is essential. Do not allow young children or weakened or sick household members to touch the raw meat or any objects or surfaces that have come into contact with the raw meat prior to cleaning."
At the bottom of the AKC's diet advice is the following commercial message:


Having been a cook all my long, adult life, I am amazed at the hysteria veterinary nutritionists display.over raw meats.   Do they ever grill chicken or steaks in the backyard?  Do they prepare meals for anyone?  Are they all vegetarians or vegans?  

What causes this unreasonable fear of handling raw meat?  Does their fear apply only to meat and meaty bones intended for pets, or do their cautions apply to the human diet and kitchen? 

Of course, one should wash one's hands and surfaces used to prepare raw meats.  My grandmother knew that.  She taught my mother, who taught me, who taught my children, to clean up after handling raw meat, for the reasons cited.  But none of us though it was dangerous to handle raw meat.

I own dozens of cookbooks that tell me how to prepare hundreds of meaty meals. Not one of the recipes begins with dire warnings about the dangers of raw meat or stern commands to clean my hands and surfaces the meat.touches.  I guess cookbooks just assume that people raised in homes where meals are prepared learn how to handle raw meat.  It's part of the culture that does not require endless admonition. 

Handling raw meats for pets is no different from preparing meals for one's family.  Last evening, I fixed a tasty Italian chicken dish for people and handed the dogs other parts of the same birds.  What's the difference?

Yes, pets eat it raw, which is no problem for them, unless, as the AKC says, they are very old or seriously ill.  I don't eat raw chicken myself, because laboratory tests show it is likely to be contaminated with salmonella (from poor growing and processing conditions).  Dogs and cats, however, are well-equipped by Nature with strongly acidic and short guts to eat raw poultry without a problem.

 I wash my hands and clean all surfaces that chicken touches with anti-bacterial soaps and a 10% bleach spray.  I am not casual about handling poultry, whether intended for myself or my pets.

Other meats are not so often contaminated as chickens.  Here in Hawaii we often eat raw fish in the forms of poke and sushi.  This, too, is a cultural pattern.  One learns early in life that raw fish should be fresh and carefully refrigerated from ocean to plate. 

I have often eaten raw beef as  steak tartar and carpaccio, especially in Europe. 40 years ago, I got very ill from eating raw oysters (Hepatitis A) in Paris.  I have eaten raw oysters dozens of times since.  Yes, there are risks to humans from consuming raw meats, but then many other daily activities are also pretty risky.

Feeding raw-meaty-bones to pets is no cause for hysteria about raw meats.  My grandmother knew how to handle raw meats safely, and so do the nation's cooks.  It's easy -- just wash.  I suspect veterinary nutritionists, most of whom are paid consultants to pet-food companies, are merely using another ploy to scare pet owners away form the best diet for carnivorous pets.

I give credit to the AKC for including raw-meat-bones in their list of dog diets and for not damning it as unbalanced or incomplete.  Of course, rmb is the diet Mother Nature intended for carnivorous pets to eat.  And it can be safely done.

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