Category Archives: dog nutrition and labelling

Most dog treats exceed recommended daily energy allowance

Most commercially available dog treats contain a range of undefined ingredients, including sugars, and often exceed the recommended daily energy allowance for treats (‘complementary feed’), warn researchers in the Vet Record.

They say treat labels should be more explicit and provide more detailed information on ingredients and energy content to prevent dogs becoming overweight or obese and at increased risk of conditions like diabetes.Chicken jerky treats for dogs

Dog treats represent the fastest growing segment of the pet food industry. European regulation states that dog treats should be labelled as ‘complementary feed’ and sets out rules for labelling to provide adequate information for consumers.

World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines also state that daily treat intake should not exceed 10% of a dog’s energy needs (known as maintenance energy requirement or MER).

But little is known about the nutritional value of treats and their impact on the dog’s diet, health and wellness, despite the popularity of such products.

So researchers led by Giada Morelli at the University of Padua in Italy, set out to compare the nutrient composition of different categories of treats and to verify whether daily intake recommendations on the label were in accordance with WSAVA guidelines.

They identified 32 popular dog treats available in pet shops and supermarkets (five biscuits, ten tender treats, three meat-based strips, five rawhides [dry bovine skin], twelve chewable sticks and six dental care sticks).

Products were analysed for levels of minerals, starch, simple sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and the amino acid hydroxyproline (a component of collagen).

They found that three out of four (76%) of treats contained between four to nine ingredients, and that ingredients were not precisely described on the label. For example, biscuits and dental sticks had ‘cereals’ listed as the first ingredient, while tenders, meat strips, rawhides and chewable sticks had ‘meat and animal derivatives’ listed first.

Almost half of products mentioned ‘sugars’ on the label’s ingredient list and all contained varying amounts of minerals.

The most calorically dense treats were biscuits, whereas the least calorically dense were dental sticks. When caloric density was expressed as kcal/treat, rawhides were the most energy-dense products, followed by chewable sticks and dental sticks.

When manufacturers’ feeding instructions (number of treats/day) were followed, on average, biscuits accounted for 16% of MER for dogs of any size; rawhides exceeded 25% MER for small-sized dogs and 18% MER for medium-sized dogs. Chewable sticks surpassed 10% MER for all size dogs, reaching 16.9% MER in small-sized dogs. Only feeding instructions for dental sticks remained below 10% MER for every dog size.

This is the first investigation to categorise dog treats and determine their nutrient profile,” write the authors.

They point to some study limitations, such as the small number of treats that were analysed in each category. Also, these results may not be representative of all products worldwide given the wide number of dog treats available on the market.

Nevertheless, they say their results suggest that treat labelling should include more information on the ingredients used, and that producers should reconsider the feeding instructions they provide on labels, especially for small dogs.

Caution should also be adopted when considering treats for dogs with specific ingredient sensitivities or in dogs with conditions such as heart failure and kidney disease due to their potential high mineral content, they add. Finally, they say future studies should sample a greater number of products to provide more precise data.

Source:  Science Daily media release

Journal reference: Giada Morelli, Eleonora Fusi, Sandro Tenti, Lorenzo Serva, Giorgio Marchesini, Marianne Diez, Rebecca Ricci. Study of ingredients and nutrient composition of commercially available treats for dogs. Veterinary Record, 2017; vetrec-2017-104489 DOI: 10.1136/vr.104489

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Fish oil supplements – beware!

I regularly see posts on Facebook about supplementing dogs with fish oils.  I meet new clients fairly regularly who feel they are doing the right thing by feeding fish oil supplements to their dogs as a source of Omega 3 and for anti-inflammatory support.

However, most owners seem unaware of the studies that most commercial fish oil supplements in New Zealand are oxidised – meaning that the levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids is dramatically lower than claimed on the label.  I’m not in favour of ingesting rancid oils!

In fact, this 2015 study found that only 8% of the supplements tested in the New Zealand market met the levels expected by international recommendations.  And higher-priced supplements and those with brand name labels were no indicators of better quality.

Another study based on supplements available in Canada showed that 50% of the supplements tested were oxidised.

In keeping with my philosophy of food as a source of wellness, I’ve moved away from the concept of fish oil supplementation using commercial supplements and instead choose real-life salmon and sardines as a source of fish oils.

If I was a dog, I’d choose a few sardines over a fish oil capsule any day!

tinned sardines

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

A tale of 2 dog foods

Clients of my practice know that I feed a hybrid diet, that is a diet that is part commercial dog food (dry food – ‘kibble’ as well as dehydrated raw food), raw (real meat) and homemade food using both real meat, vegetables, eggs and fruit.

We are preparing for our third annual fundraiser and I received a small bag of a dry food – readily available in supermarkets – as a donation for the rescue.  I set it aside in my office and, one evening, I heard the rustling of paper…

Izzy had helped herself to the donated food.  It seemed she found it quite tasty.

So, I decided the donated food could be hers and I would replace the bag with another one.  In the meantime, I let her have one small handful with one of her meals over the next few days.

And she did something she had never done before… during the night she was chewing on her feet.  Really chewing.  For the first night, I dismissed it as a one-off irritation.  By the fourth night, I knew something was up.

It was the dog food, of course!

The supermarket dog food has gone into the organics bin to be recycled.  I’ll make a donation to the fundraiser in lieu of another bag of that food!

Thought you might like to compare labels…

This is Izzy’s current ‘normal’ food:

Salmon Meal, Potatoes, Tapioca, Fish Meal, Chicken Fat, Peas, Blueberries, Cranberries, Papayas, Mangos, Apples, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Sunflower Seeds, Chamomile, Peppermint, Camelia, Natural Flavor, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Sodium Chloride, Taurine, Choline Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Cobalt Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Green Tea Extract, Rosemary Extract and Spearmint Extract

and this was the supermarket food:

Lamb (source of glucosamine), brewers rice, whole grain corn, whole grain wheat, poultry by-product meal (source of glucosamine), corn gluten meal, soybean meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, calcium phosphate, glycerine, animal digest, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, salt, caramel color, Vitamin E supplement, choline chloride, zinc sulfate, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, ferrous sulfate, sulfur, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, garlic oil, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity, sodium selenite.

Notice the differences?

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

High meat diets – a NZ study

An independent study from New Zealand has found that a high meat diet is easier for dogs to digest, meaning more nutrients are able to be absorbed, resulting in higher levels of bacteria associated with protein and fat digestion.

The study found:

  • High meat diets are more digestible for dogs
  • More nutrients from a high meat diet are able to be absorbed
  • Dogs on a high meat diet had higher levels of the bacteria associated with protein and fat digestion
  • Dogs on a high meat diet had smaller poo and better fecal health

The research paper ‘Key bacterial families (Clostridiaceae, Erysipelotrichaceae and Bacteroidaceae) are related to the digestion of protein and energy in the dog’ is accessible here.

With Government funding and funding from the NZ Premium Petfood Alliance, which is a collaboration between Bombay Petfoods, K9 Natural and ZiwiPeak, the research is being undertaken at AgResearch and Massey University.

“To date there has been hardly any published research, so this study is a significant contribution to the international animal nutrition field. A lot of diets on the market have been designed to ensure a dog survives, but this research shows that high meat diet is the best to help a dog thrive,” said New Zealand Premium Petfood Alliance spokesperson Neil Hinton.

Another study, about cat diets, is underway.

Source:  Beehive.govt.nz media release and AgResearch media release

Breed-specific dog foods

Back in January, I posted a blog about Prescription diets – what’s the truth?

In this post, I’m again going into the controversial world of commercial dog food and sharing some information on breed-specific dog foods.

The two labels most associated with breed-specific foods are Eukanuba and Royal Canin, although there are others.

 

In the November 2016 issue of Your Dog (published by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University), veterinary nutritionist Cailin Heinze provided opinion about such foods.

Dr Heinze re-iterated the common theme about the lack of rules for marketing.  “It’s a free for all.”

Although these pet foods must meet the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) standard, ‘tweaking’ recipes to make them slightly more suitable for a particular breed isn’t a big change to make.

The article points out that there are no feeding trials to support the claims made for breed-specific dog foods and that the breed-specific formulations are not therapeutic diets.

You will need to buy access to read the article in its entirety (follow the link above), and I won’t break copyright by printing too much of the article in this blog.

It is heartening to see a veterinary nutritionist making these comments.  Too often, criticism of commercial dog foods is discounted because the writers are not veterinarians.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Prescription diets – what’s the truth?

Prescription diet foods, both canned and dry, are often recommended to match a specific health condition in an animal.  Most owners know how expensive these foods can be, and yet they want to feed something that will help their pet’s health.

There is lots of information written by holistic veterinarians about the quality of ingredients in these foods and whether they are truly biologically appropriate for animals.  In my massage workshops for owners, we go through a module on label reading as an introduction to understanding what is in commercially-made pet foods and what makes one food ‘better’ than another…

Recently, a class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California listing these companies as defendants:

  • Mars PetCare
  • Hill’s Pet Nutrition
  • Nestlé Purina Petcare
  • Banfield Pet Hospital
  • Blue Pearl Pet Hospital
  • PetSmart
The plaintiffs are pet owners who had purchased prescription diets from one or more of the above companies and they argue that the companies conspired with each other to falsely promote prescription pet foods and, more importantly, that none of the ingredients in the foods are drugs or medications that would be subject to a prescription under the food and drug regulations.  The plaintiffs argue that this is false marketing; some of the plaintiffs appear to say that veterinarians in some of the pet hospitals ‘prescribed’ the foods without even examining their animal.

The main brands involved in the case are:
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet hills-prescription-diets
  • Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets
  • Royal Canin Veterinary Diet
  • Iams Veterinary Formula
pro-plan-veterinary-dietsAs pet parents are a large group of consumers, it’s important that we understand nutrition and ask questions of professionals that recommend diets.  This is everyone who tries to sell you pet food – not just vets, may I add.  In our local market in New Zealand, there are dog trainers and pet shops that sell food and have a vested interest in recommending certain products to owners.
royal-canin-veterinary-dietiams-veterinary-formula

For me, the question to ask is how any food or supplement may help to nutritionally support your pet’s health condition.  It’s also worth asking what feeding or clinical trials were done on foods professing to be specifically for treatment of a health condition.

The grounds for the lawsuit make very interesting reading You can read a copy of the lawsuit filed in the court here.

And if you are based in the USA, have purchased prescription diet foods within the last four years,  and may wish to consider joining the class action, this is the website of the law firm representing the plaintiffs.

There will be more to come on this case; the plaintiffs are seeking a trial by jury.  I can’t even say at this point that the jury is out…
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Label reading

There is a lot of information on the web about reading the food ingredient label on your dog’s food.  Some of the advice I agree with, some of it is purely marketing.

But I have a much simpler test for you.  If you feed a commercially prepared food (whether raw, cooked or processed), take a look at the label.

What is the country of origin?

Here’s the label on the commercial kibble that I am currently feeding Izzy (she is on a diet of home-cooked mixed with this food).  It is made in New Zealand (where we live).

pet food label

Where is yours made?

Country of origin labeling can offer an insight into quality, particularly in terms of things like food safety, security of the supply chain, and length of time the product has been on the shelf.

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