Category Archives: dog nutrition and labelling

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

Freshpet goes public

Earlier this month, Freshpet Inc, the first and only fresh, refrigerated pet food brand distributed across North America, commenced trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.  It’s trading abbreviation is FRPT.

Freshpet logo

This listing is yet another indication of the growing pet products market in the USA (and worldwide).  Pet owners have incredible purchasing power and this power grows every year.

Freshpet’s operations began in October 2006.  Their food is delivered to Freshpet Fridges in over 13,000 retail outlets.

Freshpet display cabinet

All products are cooked in small batches and then refrigerated immediately and come with a best before date.

I don’t live in the USA and so haven’t experienced Freshpet firsthand.  If you feed their foods, what do you and your dog think about them?

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

Petco Removing All Dog and Cat Treats Made in China From Store Shelves

Petco is a major pet store chain in the USA.  It has announced that it is removing all Chinese-made treats from its shelves, after many concerns about pets getting sick from jerky treats made in China.  It looks liked Petsmart is due to follow…

Do you know where your dog’s treats are made?  Are they safe?

Petco Removing All Dog and Cat Treats Made in China From Store Shelves.

Colored treats – would you feed these?

Coloured lambs earsHere’s a photo of lambs ears that have been dyed using ‘human grade’ food coloring for Christmas.  I have deep concerns about using coloring agents in dog (and human) foods.

For example, some dogs may be allergic or sensitive to the coloring agents.  We know that the use of these additives can cause excitability since coloring agents have also been linked to hyperactivity in children.

Food colors are chemicals – they are just chemicals that have been tested by the FDA to ensure they are ‘safe’ for human consumption.  Colors are added to make food more appealing and marketable.

Since our dogs have limited color vision and lack photoreceptors in their eyes to ascertain shades of red and green, the color added to dog treats is to appeal to the dog owner and not the dog.  Dogs will decide if something tastes good!

How about some natural alternatives?  Here’s a photo of my Chicken & Cranberry Holiday Crunch (a special for the holiday season).  The red color is totally natural and comes from the whole cranberries that are part of the recipe.

Chicken and Cranberry Holiday Crunch

Chicken and Cranberry Holiday Crunch

I recommend that you feed natural products whenever possible and avoid highly colored dog treats.

And remember that no more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake should come from treats!

Kind regards,

Kathleen Crisley, dog masseuse and nutrition adviser, Canine Catering Ltd

The search for quality (a tale of recalls and safety concerns)

Well, it’s happened again.  Another range of pet treats is the subject of a recall.  This time it’s Dogswell treats by Arthur Dogswell LLC.

Chicken Breast and Duck Breast jerky under the Breathies, Happy Heart, Happy Hips, Mellow Mut, Shape Up, Veggie Life, Vitality and Vitakitty brands with a best before date of Jan 28, 2015 are affected

Chicken Breast and Duck Breast jerky under the Breathies, Happy Heart, Happy Hips, Mellow Mut, Shape Up, Veggie Life, Vitality and Vitakitty brands with a best before date of Jan 28, 2015 are affected

These treats are being recalled because product testing by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets found traces of an antibiotic that is not approved for use in the United States.

The company says that since January of this year, they have new testing procedures in-house to ensure that their chicken and duck ingredients don’t contain antibiotics – so clearly there was a risk identified which motivated them to make a business decision to invest in the new testing!

Because animal feed products are going to ‘just animals’ there’s a real tendency of the markets and businesses involved to buy sub-standard and cheap ingredients.  (Don’t forget the melamine scandal of 2007 and how many brands were involved.)

Supply chain management is so important.  That’s about businesses knowing the source of each and every ingredient in their product – with contractual obligations on those suppliers to meet quality standards.  My advice is if you are considering a food product for your dog, you should enquire with the manufacturer about the source of their ingredients before buying.  If the information isn’t on the label, you need to contact the manufacturer through their website.

If the manufacturer doesn’t have a website or another avenue for customer enquiries – AVOID, AVOID, AVOID their product.  Always get the information on the ingredients of their product in writing (usually via email).

One of the reasons I started Canine Catering was to have greater control over the ingredients in dog treats.  These products tend to remain on shelves for much longer than other foods and their countries of origin often have dubious reputations for supply chain management.  The amount of preservatives is often staggering.

I like to use human grade ingredients in the first instance, as a major step for quality control.   I still read labels even on human grade food.

Accidents happen.  But haven’t we had enough accidents in the pet food industry?  Consumer choice drives change.  Make sure you exercise your power as a consumer by buying quality products for your dog.

NutriScan

Veterinarian Dr Jean Dodds is the inventor of patented NutriScan, a saliva test for food intolerance and sensitivities.

Many people confuse food allergy with intolerance.  Intolerances are the third most common disorder found in dogs and symptoms can include itchy skin or irritable bowel problems.   When people seek out my advice on nutrition, it is often because they know their dog is having a reaction to their food.   Sometimes, picking the culprit is easy (it depends on what the core diet is in the first place), but in others, there appears to be multiple ingredients that are the offenders.

Enter NutriScan, which tests for intolerances to 22 different food ingredients.

Food allergy is an immediate reaction mediated by production of IgE and IgG antibodies. Food sensitivity and intolerance, by contrast, measures a more delayed body response to offending foods by measuring production of IgA and IgM antibodies primarily in mucosal secretions from the bowel.

NutriScan is split into two test panels, so you can order one or both:

Panel 1:                         Panel 2:
Beef                               Chicken Eggs
Corn                               Barley
Wheat                            Millet
Soy                                 Oatmeal
Cow’s Milk                    Salmon
Lamb                             Rabbit
Venison/Deer               Rice
Chicken                         Quinoa
Turkey                            Potato
White Fish                     Peanut/Peanut Butter
Pork                                Sweet Potato

Dr. Dodds recommends that dogs are tested annually because canine food tolerances and intolerances change over time.

I’m pleased to be able to offer this testing to my clients, with NutriScan test kits on hand and ready to be sent to the United States once we take the saliva sample.  Within a week of ordering my test kit supply, my first canine saliva sample is on its way.