Category Archives: research

Pet food mislabeling – it happens!

Researchers in Chapman University’s Food Science Program have recently published a study on pet food mislabeling. The study focused on commercial pet foods marketed for dogs and cats to identify meat species present as well as any instances of mislabeling. Of the 52 products tested, 31 were labeled correctly, 20 were potentially mislabeled, and one contained a non-specific meat ingredient that could not be verified.

“Although regulations exist for pet foods, increases in international trade and globalization of the food supply have amplified the potential for food fraud to occur,” said Rosalee Hellberg, Ph.D., and co-author on the study. “With the recent discovery of horsemeat in ground meat products sold for human consumption in several European countries, finding horsemeat in U.S. consumer food and pet food products is a concern, which is one of the reasons we wanted to do this study.”

Chicken was the most common meat species found in the pet food products. Pork was the second most common meat species detected, and beef, turkey and lamb followed, respectively. Goose was the least common meat species detected. None of the products tested positive for horsemeat.Pet Food Fig. 1 Color

Of the 20 potentially mislabeled products, 13 were dog food and 7 were cat food. Of these 20, 16 contained meat species that were not included on the product label, with pork being the most common undeclared meat species. In three of the cases of potential mislabeling, one or two meat species were substituted for other meat species.

In the study, DNA was extracted from each product and tested for the presence of eight meat species: beef, goat, lamb, chicken, goose, turkey, pork, and horse.

“Pet food safety was another area of concern, particularly with pet foods that are specifically formulated to address food allergies in both cats and dogs,” continued Dr. Hellberg.

The pet food industry is a substantial market in the United States. Nearly 75 percent of U.S. households own pets, totaling about 218 million pets (not including fish). On average, each household spends $500 annually on their pets, equating to about 1 percent of household expenditures. In the past five years, pet industry expenditures have increased by $10 billion, with $21 billion spent on pet food alone in 2012.

The foods developed for pets are regulated by both federal and state entities. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine regulates animal feed and pet foods. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates the interstate transportation and processing of animal products, as well as the inspection of animal product imports and exports.

While a seemingly high percentage of pet foods were found to be potentially mislabeled in this study, the manner in which mislabeling occurred is not clear; nor is it clear as to whether the mislabeling was accidental or intentional and at which points in the production chain it took place.

The study was published in the journal Food Control and was completed with Chapman undergrad student Tara Okuma.

I contacted Dr Hellberg to see if she would disclose the brands of foods that were mislabeled.  She replied “It was not our intention to single out pet food brands, but rather to investigate the issue as a whole. Therefore, we will not be releasing the names of the brands or specific products that were tested in this study.”

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Source of content:  Chapman University media release

Dog waste and waterway contamination

Credit: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Credit: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Americans love their dogs, but they don’t always love to pick up after them. And that’s a problem. Dog feces left on the ground wash into waterways, sometimes carrying bacteria — including antibiotic-resistant strains — that can make people sick. Now scientists have developed a new genetic test to figure out how much dogs are contributing to this health concern, according to a report in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Orin C. Shanks, Hyatt C. Green and colleagues explain that our waterways are susceptible to many sources of fecal contamination, including sewage leaks and droppings from farm animals and wildlife. Contamination from dog feces is a concern because it can harbor antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli and other bacteria and parasites that can infect humans — and there are nearly 70 million domesticated dogs in the U.S. Scientists have had few tools to determine the extent to which waste from dogs is adding to the pathogens in rivers, lakes and beachfront surf. Current methods look for certain genes from gut bacteria that end up in dog feces. However, this is not foolproof — the microbiota of humans and the canine pets they live with often overlap, making the analysis complicated. So Shanks’ team set out to create a more specific test.

The researchers developed a new genetic testing method to specifically detect canine fecal contamination in water. They identified 11 genetic markers that were common among most of the dog samples but missing from the human ones. To determine whether their method would work for real-world monitoring, they sampled storm water from a rain garden where people often walk their dogs. The technique successfully detected some of the same markers they had identified as evidence for canine waste.

Source:  ACS news service

In India, a dog tops the menu for the leopard population

A new study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society reveals that in India’s human dominated agricultural landscapes, where leopards prowl at night, it’s not livestock that’s primarily on the menu – it is man’s best friend.

Photo courtesy of Wildlife Conservation Society

Photo courtesy of Wildlife Conservation Society, India

The study, which looked at scat samples for leopards in India’s Ahmednagar’s district in Maharashtra, found that 87 percent of their diet was made up of domestic animals. Domestic dog dominated as the most common prey item at 39 percent and domestic cats were second at 15 percent.

The authors of the study say that the selection of domestic dogs as prey means that the economic impact of predation by leopards on valuable livestock is lower than expected. Thus, human-leopard “conflict” is more likely to be related to people’s fears of leopards foraging in the proximity of their houses and the sentimental value of dogs as pets.

Study co-author Ullas Karanth, WCS Director for Science-Asia, said: “During the past two-to-three decades, legal regulation of leopard hunting, increased conservation awareness, and the rising numbers of feral dogs as prey have all led to an increase in leopard numbers outside of nature reserves in agricultural landscapes. While this is good news for conservation and a tribute to the social tolerance of Indian people, it also poses major challenges of managing conflict that occasionally breaks out. Only sound science can help us face this challenge.”

Source:  Wildlife Conservation Society media statement

 

Is your dog an optimist or a pessimist?

Dogs can have either an optimistic or a pessimistic view of the world, new research shows.  The approach used in the research will have uses in assessing animal welfare generally, but also in assessing suitability of dogs for various working roles.

“This research is exciting because it measures positive and negative emotional states in dogs objectively and non-invasively (important for those concerned about animal welfare in research),” said Dr Melissa Starling, from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Veterinary Science.

Dr Starling has been working with Assistance Dogs Australia to investigate whether measuring optimism would assist in selecting dogs for training.

Dogs were taught to associate two different sounds (two octaves apart) with whether they would get the preferred reward of milk or instead get the same amount of water. Once the dogs learned the discrimination task, they were presented with ‘ambiguous’ tones.

If dogs responded after ambiguous tones, it showed that they expect good things will happen to them, and they are called ‘optimistic.’ They can show how optimistic they are by which tones they respond to. A very optimistic dog may even respond to tones that sound more like those played before water was offered.

“Of the dogs we tested we found more were optimistic than pessimistic but it is too early to say if that is true of the general dog population,” said Dr Starling.

“This research could help working dog trainers select dogs best suited to working roles. If we knew how optimistic or pessimistic the best candidates for a working role are, we could test dogs’ optimism early and identify good candidates for training for that role. A pessimistic dog that avoids risks would be better as a guide dog while an optimistic, persistent dog would be more suited to detecting drugs or explosives.”

Dr Starling talks more about her research in this video:

Source:  University of Sydney media release

Pet products and the environment – a survey for US and Canadian owners

Scientists have long been aware of the potential environment impacts that stem from the use and disposal of the array of products people use to keep themselves healthy, clean and smelling nice. Now a new concern is emerging – improper disposal of pet care products and pills.

Dog shampoos, heartworm medicine, flea and tick sprays, and prescription and over-the-counter medicines increasingly are finding their way into landfills and waterways, posing a water quality and environmental health risk. Researchers at Oregon State University say that, with an estimated 68 percent of American households owning at least one pet, the scope of the potential problem is large.

Sam Chan, a watershed health expert with the Oregon Sea Grant program at Oregon State University, has launched a survey of veterinary professionals and pet owners to to get a better idea of the scope of the issue. If you live in the United States or Canada, you can contribute to his survey here.

The purpose of the survey is to determine how aware people are about the disposal of “pharmaceutical and personal care products” (PPCPs) for both themselves and their pets plus their general awareness of the environmental issues.

“You can count on one hand the number of studies that have been done on what people actively do with the disposal of these products,” Chan said. “PPCPs are used by almost everyone and most wastewater treatment plants are not able to completely deactivate many of the compounds they include.”

Increasingly, Chan said, a suite of PPCPs used by pets and people are being detected at low levels in surface water and groundwater. Examples include anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, antidepressants, antibiotics, estrogens, the insect repellent DEET, and ultraviolet (UV) sunblock compounds.

For example, coal tar which is used in pet medicines and shampoos for skin treatment is an endocrine disruptor.

When medicines are no longer needed, the research team encourages owners to take the drugs and medications back to their pharmacy or veterinarian for proper disposal in a drug collection program. Placing unwanted medications in the rubbish means that they are an uncontrolled source in landfills, where leaching and runoff are mechanisms to enter the environment.

Source: Phys.org

Diagnosing lymphoma in dogs

Nearly one out of four dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime and 20 per cent of those will be lymphoma cases.

A team of researchers from the University of Leicester has helped Avacta Animal Health Ltd to develop a new user-friendly electronic system for diagnosing lymphoma in dogs in the early stages, and for remission monitoring.

Marketed as cLBT (canine lymphoma blood test), this is the first test of its kind to track the remission monitoring status of a dog after undergoing chemotherapy.

Photo by Avacta Animal Health Ltd

Photo by Avacta Animal Health Ltd

Led by Professor Alexander Gorban from the University’s Department of Mathematics, the University team together with experts from Avacta elaborated technology for differential diagnosis of canine lymphoma and for remission monitoring.

This technology is based on the cLBT, which detects the levels of two biomarkers, the acute phase proteins C-Reactive Protein and Haptoglobin.

The paper ‘Computational diagnosis and risk evaluation for canine Lymphoma’ by E.M. Mirkes, I. Alexandrakis, K. Slater, R. Tuli and A.N. Gorban has been published in the academic journal Computers for Biology and Medicine and is available at the following location: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compbiomed.2014.08.006

Source:  University of Leicester media release

US FDA issues warning about raw pet foods

Feeding raw (or not) has to be one of the most controversial topics in dog ownership today.  Consequently, the US Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) recent warning to owners feeding raw is likely to generate some controversy.

The FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) screened over 1,000 samples of pet food for bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. (The illnesses are called “foodborne” because the bacteria are carried, or “borne,” in or on contaminated food.) The study showed that, compared to other types of pet food tested, raw pet food was more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria.

Raw pet foods were included in the second year of a two-year study and the samples were from commercially available raw pet foods which were purchased online and sent to six different testing laboratories.

The participating laboratories analyzed the raw pet food for harmful bacteria, including Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

Of the 196 raw pet food samples analyzed, 15 were positive for Salmonella and 32 were positive for L. monocytogenes (see Table 1).

Table 1: Number and type of pet food samples that tested positive for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes (Years 1 & 2)
Type of Pet Food Sample No. samples tested No. positive for Salmonella No. positive for L. monocytogenes
 Raw pet food  196  15  32
 Dry exotic pet fooda  190  0  0
 Jerky-type treatsb  190  0  0
 Semi-moist dog foodc  120  0  0
 Semi-moist cat foodc  120  0  0
 Dry dog foodd  120  0  0
 Dry cat foodd  120  1  0
a Non-cat and non-dog food, such as dry pellets for hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, amphibians, and birds.
b Included chicken jerky and pig ear-type products.
c Typically packaged in pouches for retail sale, such as (1) pouched dog and cat food; and
(2) food treats shaped like bacon, fish, pork chops, and burgers.
d Included pellet- or kibble-type food typically packaged in bags for retail sale.Note: CVM did not collect or test canned and wet pet food samples in this study.

The FDA has gone as far as warning owners against raw feeding, but in an acknowledgement that this type of diet is the preference for many owners, they also provided these tips to prevent Salmonella and Listeria infections:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds) after handling raw pet food, and after touching surfaces or objects that have come in contact with the raw food. Potential contaminated surfaces include countertops and the inside of refrigerators and microwaves. Potential contaminated objects include kitchen utensils, feeding bowls, and cutting boards.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect all surfaces and objects that come in contact with raw pet food. First wash with hot soapy water and then follow with a disinfectant. A solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 quart (4 cups) water is an effective disinfectant. For a larger supply of the disinfectant solution, add ¼ cup bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) water. You can also run items through the dishwasher after each use to clean and disinfect them.
  • Freeze raw meat and poultry products until you are ready to use them, and thaw them in your refrigerator or microwave, not on your countertop or in your sink.
  • Carefully handle raw and frozen meat and poultry products. Don’t rinse raw meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. Bacteria in the raw juices can splash and spread to other food and surfaces.
  • Keep raw food separate from other food.
  • Immediately cover and refrigerate what your pet doesn’t eat, or throw the leftovers out safely.
  • If you’re using raw ingredients to make your own cooked pet food, be sure to cook all food to a proper internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer. Thorough cooking kills Salmonella, L. monocytogenes, and other harmful foodborne bacteria.
  • Don’t kiss your pet around its mouth, and don’t let your pet lick your face. This is especially important after your pet has just finished eating raw food.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands after touching or being licked by your pet. If your pet gives you a “kiss,” be sure to also wash your face.

In my practice, I have clients that feed all types of diet (commercial, raw, homemade).  I have seen raw food diets implemented successfully with some dogs, and others who fail to thrive on them for a variety of reasons.  That’s why I am a proponent of the food therapy approach, which can successfully be implemented with all types of diet.

For my clients here in New Zealand, I’d like to emphasize that the food hygiene suggestions by the FDA do make sense.  According to our Ministry of Primary Industries, Salmonella is the second most common bacterial cause of foodborne disease in this country (campylobacter is the first).  Incidents of Listeria are rare, but some people like pregnant woman are particularly vulnerable to the disease.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Source:  US Food & Drug Administration