Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Local Thoughts on a Global Problem

I often worry about the boatloads of disastous diet advice pet owners receive from misinformed veterinarians, from glossy print advertising, and from adorable television ads.

I worry how anyone can intervene to change the stranglehold the Pet Food Industry (kibbles and cans) has on veterinary education, and therefore on public information about how to feed pets. The stakes are huge: the health of tens of millions of pets and billions of dollars in vet bills, caused by feeding pets sickening diets from bags and cans.

Big Stud Dog, Stormy

I ponder how to right these wrongs, when the wrong side is funded by $50 billion a year in pet food sales. Generous portions of their huge profits (as much as 40%) are spent wooing veterinary students, endowing veterinary schools, supporting selected research, keeping huge numbers of vets on their payrolls, supporting animal welfare and purbred animal groups, and lobbying Congress to keep the de facto unregulated status quo. The PFI puts their money to good use in their own interests, not however in the interests of pets or their owners.

When I get really depressed about the plight of domestic carnivores, I look at my beautiful dogs. I have 10 adult Labrador retrievers, two older puppies who will join the breeding program, and usually a half-dozen puppies, who will go to new homes at 8 to 10 weeks of age.

For exercise, the dogs and I run around the 9-acre coffee farm -- they run, I ride an ATV. Everyday dogs and puppies swim in the dog pool. Labradors love water, but they need experience to become good swimmers

Abigail and her brother Buddy

Labs cool off after a run, Cody

From the adorable puppies to the beautiful adults, with their pearly white teeth and healthy pink gums, everyone at Aloha Labradors is fed exclusively on raw-meaty-bones. It was not always so.

Some of the Family, Leo

When I began raising Labs 8 years ago, I followed veterinary advice and fed permium quality kibble. Fortunately, I knew enough about dogs to supplement kibble with raw meaty bones a few times a week to keep their teeth clean. Very quickly, I found myself consulting vets about itchiness, hot spots, ear infections, and sore joints. And the poor dogs left behind huge piles of semi-solid, malodorous poop. Vets prescribed antihistamines, steroids, and various other toxic medications. Symptoms sometimes disappeared or improved, but other health issues cropped up. It was puzzling that well-bred dogs on a premium diet should have so many problems.

After 8 months of suffering, I found an alternative vet, who said she refuses to treat pets who eat kibble, because it causes so many health problems. With her instruction, the dogs were fed a BARF diet of raw meats, meaty bones, and a conglomeration of cooked grains and raw minced vegetables. All disease symptoms disappeared in a matter of days. It was a miracle. Simply eliminating kibble from their diet made them healthy. Getting rid of the medications probably helped, too.

Life on the BARF diet went along fine, until I had a severe asthma attack and could not prepare the tons of cooked grains and minced vegetables for a BARF diet. Cooking and mincing all that food takes a lot of time and energy. Thus, for a brief period 18 months ago, I returned to using a super-premium kibble to replace the cooked-minced part of the diet, with disastrous results.

Again, I learned the hard way that dogs do not thrive on cooked carbohydrates with lots of preservatives that give them long shelf-life. Itchiness and skin symptoms returned, and the dogs looked unhealthy, even though they liked the taste of the kibble (FYI: kibble is sprayed with rendered fats after manufacture to seduce dogs into eating it).

So, I read more about carnivores, dogs as a subspecies of gray wolves, and the history of commercial pet foods (quite unsavory), and decided to switch the dogs entirely to a diet of raw-meaty-bones -- the honest carnivore diet.

This time I eliminated everything from their diet but a variety of raw meats, raw-meaty-bones, raw eggs, occasional left-overs, and a few fruits and cooked vegetables from time to time. More than 95% of their diet is raw meats and meaty bones -- chicken, beef, pork, and fish. Now the only energy required from an asthmatic owner is to shop for a variety of meats and meaty bones and to hand them out to the dogs.

I don't have to tell you that they thrive! My goodness, their coats are thick and shiny, teeth sparkling, energy and enthusiasm for life at an all-time high. Now here's the clincher -- the dogs excrete less than 1/2 of the poop they had from a BARF diet and less than 1/4 of the kibble-induced poop.

Why is this significant? First, amount and kind of poop is an indicator of the digestibility of their food -- less poop from more digestible food -- and second, having 10 adults and several Lab puppies excreting on my property, makes highly digestible food a true blessing for the person who has to clean it up.

So, when I get discouraged about how to reform the unholy alliance between pet food manufacturers and veterinarians, I try to think of

  • how much I have learned as a dog breeder,

  • how much joy I get from observing and playing with my beautiful Labs,

  • how much I can teach puppy buyers, almost all of who adopt a raw-meaty-bones diet for their dogs, and

  • how much I can help local pet owners through the Kona Raw Pet Food Co-op (KonaRaw.org) to learn how to feed a raw-meaty-bones diet.

Think globally, act locally. It's good advice and it will have to do, until I can come up with a global solution to the junk pet food problem.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Vets Make Pet Diets Seem So Complicated

Vets Make Pet Diets Seem So Complicated.
It’s Really Very Simple – Just Think Whole Prey

Pet food company representatives teach vet students that the profile of essential nutrients that must be included in cat and dog diets is exceedingly complex. Fabricating the right nutrition in kibbles and cans can be done only by scientifically competent pet food companies, which employ vast numbers of vets and other professionals. Pet owners, they are told, are not competent to formulate nutritionally suitable pet foods. Vet students are thoroughly indoctrinated on nutrient analyses but are given little or no information on species-appropriate foods.

A great deal of so-called nutritional research is focused on single ingredients that must be included in manufactured foods to make them “complete”, but these “essential” nutrients were omitted in the earlier list of “essential” nutrients. Adding and subtracting nutrients in “complete and balanced” high-carbohydrate kibbles and cans is an ongoing scam. How can the earlier concoction have been “complete” if it needed the new nutrient to be “complete”?

What is forgotten in this reductionist approach is that dogs and cats evolved to eat whole prey. Their health depends on being fed the diet they evolved to eat.

A complete analysis of nutrients in whole prey would be exceedingly complex – beyond the scientific competence of contemporary nutritionists, and beyond the capability of pet food companies.

BUT, pet owners have no need for complex analyses of nutrients in whole prey. Pet owners have only to feed an equivalent assortment of raw meats and meaty bones to give pets optimal nutrition.

For domestic cats, whole prey is rodents, birds, and other small prey. For dogs/wolves, whole prey is small mammals and larger herbivores. Small prey are consumed entirely – heads, viscera, muscles, bones, feathers and fur. Larger prey are eaten more selectively; consumables include organs, muscle meats, and softer bones. Weight-bearing bones of larger prey are gnawed to remove meat but not eaten, because they are too hard. Thus, an approximate whole prey diet for pet carnivores consists of muscle meats, organ meats, and meaty bones. This diet is called “raw-meaty-bones” or “prey model”.

Cats and dogs get all the nutrients they need from a diet of whole prey, even if no one knows exactly what nutrients are included. Feeding pets an optimal diet is easy. Pet owners have only to shop for suitable meats and meaty bones when they shop for their own groceries. More details on how to feed raw-meaty-bones can be found in other posts in this blog and at www.rawmeatybones.com.

Chewing and gnawing at meaty bones keep pets’ teeth clean and gums healthy, thereby preventing the periodontal disease that afflicts 85% of dogs and 65% of cats by the age of three years. Untreated periodontal disease not only causes extreme pain but drains into the blood stream, infecting pets’ major organs and chronically challenging their immune system. Periodontal disease, caused by diets of kibbles and canned mush, leads to chronic illnesses that cost pets their health and pet owners enormous vet bills to treat. Prevention with a raw-meaty-bones diet is so easy.

Don’t let a veterinarian tell you that pet feeding is too complicated for you to understand or to formulate at home. The vet learned this false information at school. You know that an evolutionarily appropriate diet of raw-meaty-bones will keep your pet’s mouth healthy and provide all the untold thousands of nutrients he needs to stay healthy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Missing the Boat

Advocates of raw pet feeding span a wide spectrum of beliefs about what foods constitute a proper raw diet. The first division can be made between
  • Groups that endorse meats-and-meaty-bones, and
  • Groups that include meats-and-other-foods in dogs' and cats' diets.
Those who endorse meaty bones assert that dogs and cats are carnivores, close relatives of gray wolves and wild desert cats, who evolved to eat whole prey. They do not believe dogs and cats require vegetables and cereals in their diets.
Those who endorse meats-and-other-foods believe dogs are opportunistic carnivores or omnivores, who require vegetable matter in their diets. They believe cats are more purely carnivorous, but they may be fed other foods for a more complete diet.
In the meat-and-meaty-bones group can be found people who call their diets raw-meaty-bones, prey-model, ancestral, archetypal, and more. Within the meats-and-other-foods groups are varied BARF, holistic, alternative, and natural feeding groups.

To meet the nutritional needs of dogs and cats, probably most meaty-bones and meats-and-vegetables diets can do the job. As long as bone in some form is provided for essential minerals, and meats include organs as well as muscles, the diet will probably have sufficient nutrients.

Here's the problem: Many prepared meat-and-other foods diets contain minced meats, ground bone, and other mineral and vitamin supplements. Pets do not have opportunities to chew and gnaw at raw bones. Foods may also be minced, dehydrated, and reconsituted into mush and small chunks that require little or no chewing. That's how BARF and similar diets miss the boat on an essential role that food plays in predators' lives: Keeping their teeth clean and gums healthy.

Unless hunks of raw meat that require chewing and raw bones are provided, dogs' and cats' teeth become coated with bacteria-harboring scum that cause gum infections that drain into major organ systems and chronically challenge the immune system. Like commercial pet foods, minced and ground forms of raw canine and feline diets do not clean the teeth and keep gums healthy.

Looking simply at the nutritional benefits of various diets misses the fact that pets do not brush their teeth. They have no way to rid their mouths of sludge left from eating whatever meat-and-other-foods diet they are fed. Some dog owners brush pets' teeth. Most of those do not brush sufficiently often or effectively to keep Fido's teeth and gums disease-free. Few cat owners dare try. Despite vets' advocacy of home dental hygiene, pets deprived of raw-meaty-bones require annual dental cleanings to repair some of the damage done by failing to feed meaty bones..

Raw-meaty-bones followers feed large enough hunks of raw meats and meaty bones to challenge pets to chew and gnaw meat off bones. Gnawing at bones cleans their teeth and gums as Nature intended. On this point there is little disagreement. RMB clean pets' teeth and keep their gums healthy. No minced, ground-bone foods can make that claim.

Even if you advocate adding vegetables, cereals, and other foods to your pet's meaty diet, your pets' teeth need to be cleaned, and they can be cleaned by adding raw meaty bones to his diet at least three times a week. Otherwise, you will miss the boat, and your pet will begin the steep downward slope toward chronic diseases and early death, even if the nutritional value of his diet is first-rate.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The "Natural" Pet Food Scam

"The fastest growing trend in the pet food industry today is the natural pet food sector. As awareness builds among consumers of potential links between commercial dog food deficiencies and the growing number of serious medical conditions in dogs, demand for super premium, natural dog food, and supplements rises in lock-step with their concerns. Our marketing goal is for All American Pet Brands to emerge as the category leader at retailers with a full line of healthy, natural products."

American Pet Brands became a publicly traded company in 2007 with a marketing plan that capitalizes on pet owners' ignorance of what constitutes a healthy diet for carnivorous pets (e.g., raw meats and meaty bones). The company is hyping kibbles in a variety of shapes and sizes to appeal to myths about good pet care. They capitalize specifically on "The humanization of pets", a trend they say includes veterinarians who recommend feeding dogs twice a day.

"The ingredients and packaging of our products are positioned to maximize the trend towards the humanization of pets with a variety of shapes and flavors. As a result of this trend of the humanization of pets, the Company is focused on an exciting, new and unique concept in pet nutrition. We were the first line of commercial dog food specifically targeted for the morning meal, because “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” - for dogs too."

What? Breakfast cereals for wolves? Wolves are lucky to make two kills a week, and to eat perhaps 4 meals in a week, not 14 meals. Wolf digestion is geared to gorging and fasting on meat and meaty bones. Why on earth would one want to feed them twice a day? To sell breakfast cereal to wolves, of course!

As the humanizaton of pets continues, pet food companies capitalize on the mistaken notion that dogs and cats need starchy cereals, which neither evolved to eat or digest well. The fact that stachy diets make pets sick feeds into the next marketing ploy: pet health care.

"The fastest growing segment of the companion animal market is pet healthcare with annual revenues of $34 billion (bigger than the toy, pasta, and baby food industries combined), and growing at about 15% per year. The domestic pet market which includes 75 million dogs in the U.S. is driven by people who are becoming educated regarding healthcare, at the top of their economic cycle and have a high propensity to purchase health products for their pets. "

Because veterinarians promote and sell commercial pet foods, manufacturers vie for shelf space in vets' clinics. Hills Science Diet, Pedigree, Iams and Eukanuba brands predominate on vets' shelves. Other companies, such as this upstart, want a share of the market. All kibbles are necessarily heavy on sugary carbohydrates, not the advertised meats and vegetables. Once the kibble mixture is cooked at the high temperatures required to produce dry kibbles, any meats they began with are reduced to a tiny portion of the final product. Make no mistake: Kibbles are all cooked carbohydrates, no matter how much you pay for them.

"The Company produces super premium dry dog food, the fastest growing segment of the $10.6. billion dollar dry dog food market. Super premium dry dog food represents $1.1 billion in annual sales with nearly 10% annual growth and higher growth for the morning meal due to Veterinarians’ recommendations for multiple feedings each day. "

If pet owners understood they are victimized by promoters of unhealthy carbohydrates for carnovorous pets, they would be outraged, but no one in authority is telling the truth about pet diets. So, the newest fad of "breakfast for dogs" will be launched and more dogs will be forced to eat cereals that irritate their bowels, coat their teeth with gummy sludge, cause gum infections that spread toxins throughout their bodies, and cause chronic illnesses that result in prolonged suffering and early death.

So, American Pet Brands strives to gain its share of the multi-billion dollar dry pet food market with pretty packages, clever advertising, and to give its share of pets lifetimes of chronic illnesses and early deaths. This company is no different from dozens of others, who see profits in the deliberate deception of pet owners, who spend money in the hope their beloved pets will have long, healthy lives.

Selling pet owners foods that make their pets sick brings big profits to veterinarians, who both sell the bad foods and treat the resulting illnesses. A recent message from a veterinarian who supports feeding raw meats and meaty bones illustrates this point in a conversation she had with a veterinary colleague. She suggested that she could advocate raw-meaty-bones for pets to attract new clients. Vet colleague said that advocating RMB would cause the practise to lose a lot of money because of the loss of all the dentals!

What about all the pets whose owners cannot afford annual $300 dental treatments for their pets with rotting teeth and gums infected by processed foods? They just suffer and die sooner. How needless all this suffering and early death. Feeding a truly Natural diet of raw-meaty-bones easily prevents the foul mouths and chronic illnesses, if pet owners only knew the truth about processed pet foods.