Category Archives: dog nutrition and labelling

Dog Owners Often Inaccurately Measure Out Kibble, Study Finds

A cup might seem like the most obvious way to measure out dry dog food, but new University of Guelph research finds that when it comes to getting portions right, dog owners often get it wrong.

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(Pixabay)

The study, designed to test dog owners’ measuring skills, found owners were often inaccurate, ranging from a 48 percent underestimation to a 152 percent overestimation, depending on the device they used and the amount they tried to portion out.

The occasional measurement mistake may not seem like much, but errors made day after day could lead to under-nourishment, weight gain or obesity, said lead author Prof. Jason Coe from U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College.

“We found it particularly concerning to see how often participants over-measured the assigned portions, particularly given that there is an ongoing problem with pet obesity. Dog owners can easily overfeed their animals if they don’t measure out portions correctly, putting their animals at risk of several obesity-related diseases,” he said.

The solution, Coe said, is for dog owners to change their approach to measuring their dog’s dry food. The gold standard would be to use a kitchen scale to weigh out portions. Scales are precise and leave little room for error to ensure that dogs are neither over- nor underfed.

The study, published in the BMJ journal Veterinary Record and funded by Royal Canin, recruited 100 dog owners and asked them to use one of three common measuring devices to measure out kibble: a standard 2-cup scoop with gradated markings, sold at a local pet store; a 2-cup liquid measuring cup typically used for baking; and a 1-cup plastic dry-food measuring cup.

Each participant was asked to take their assigned measuring device and measure out three volumes of dry dog food: ¼ cup, ½ cup and 1 cup. The volume of dog food measured by participants was then compared to the correct weights respectively.

The participants’ portions varied considerably, particularly when they were asked to portion out the smallest volume which participants often got significantly wrong.

“That finding has important implications for small dogs, since they typically receive smaller volumes of food. Even a small amount of over measuring for a small dog can be a considerable increase in their daily caloric intake putting them at risk of weight gain from too much food,” said Coe, who is a researcher with the Department of Population Medicine.

Those using the 2-cup liquid measuring cup were most likely to inaccurately measure all three portions.

“The problem with trying to eyeball 1 cup or ½ cup in a 2-cup device is that there is lots of room for error in deciding where the measurement line is, depending on how you’re holding the cup,” said Coe.

Study participants were most accurate when they used a 1-cup dry-food measuring device to portion out 1 cup of kibble. Another option for improving accuracy is to use a dry-food measuring device matched to the amount needed, said Coe.

“The closer the measuring cup is to the portion you want to measure, the more accurate you’ll be,” said Coe.

But the best method of all, say the researchers, is the kitchen scale, which ensures each portion size is precise.

When the participants in this study were shown how off their usual measurement methods were, most indicated a high likelihood that they would start using a kitchen scale for measuring their dog’s kibble.

“I now use a scale in my own home for accurately measuring my own dog’s kibble. I first found it strange to use. But now that I’m in the routine of using it, it seems weird not to use a scale,” Coe said.

Coe says even dog owners who have pets that are at a healthy weight, ensuring correct food portions now is key to preventing weight gain and weight-related problems down the road.

“Most people want their pets to be happy and healthy and this is a way to keep their pets’ weights in control from Day 1, improving their chances of living long and full lives.”

Source:  University of Guelph

The diet-microbiome connection in inflammatory bowel disease

Much remains mysterious about the factors influencing human inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but one aspect that has emerged as a key contributor is the gut microbiome, the collection of microorganisms dwelling in the intestines.

Diet is known to profoundly affect this microbial community, and special diets have been used as therapies for intestinal disorders including Crohn’s disease in people. They’re also commonly used in dogs, which can develop a chronic intestinal disease that mirrors many features of Crohn’s.

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Tracking dogs on a prescription diet for an intestinal disease, researchers found that those that responded well shared a suite of changes to their microbiome. (Image: Penn Vet)

In a new study published in the journal Microbiome, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania investigated the connection between a prescription diet, the gut microbiome, and a successful entry into disease remission in pet dogs receiving treatment at Penn Vet’s Ryan Veterinary Hospital. They discovered key features of the microbiome and associated metabolic products that appeared only in dogs that entered disease remission. A type of bacteria that produces these compounds, known as secondary bile acids, alleviated disease in a mouse model. And comparing the impact of diet on the dog’s microbiome with that seen during diet therapy in children with Crohn’s, the study team found notable similarities.

“The bacteria in the gut are known to be a really important factor in tipping the scales toward disease,” says Daniel Beiting, senior author on the work and an assistant professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine. “And the environmental factor that seems to contribute the most to rapid changes in the microbiome is what you eat. Given that dogs’ microbiomes are extremely similar to those of humans, we thought this was an intriguing model to ask, ‘Could diet be impacting this disease through an impact on the microbiome?’”

To begin pursuing this question required treating a population of pet dogs with canine chronic enteropathy (CE), a chronic condition involving weight loss and gut inflammation, diarrhea, occasional vomiting, loss of appetite, and a chronic relapsing and remitting, just as seen in Crohn’s disease. The study involved 53 dogs, 29 with CE being treated at Penn Vet’s Ryan Veterinary Hospital, and 24 healthy controls.

Researchers collected stool samples at the outset of the study and at different times as the sick dogs began a prescription diet to treat their disease. Using advanced genetic sequencing techniques, the team developed a catalog of the microbes present in the stool, a stand-in for the animals’ gut microbiome. They also collected information about the metabolic products present in the stool.

“That gives us a functional read-out of the microbiome,” says Beiting. “It doesn’t just tell us who is there but also what they’re doing.”

Twenty of the 29 sick dogs quickly entered remission. Together, the genomic and metabolite analyses revealed characteristic changes in these dogs. In particular, those that responded well to the diet tended to have an increase in metabolites known as secondary bile acids. These are produced when certain microbes in the gut consume the bile that is released by the liver.

One of these “good” microbes that can give rise to secondary bile acids was the bacterium Clostridium hiranonis, which the researchers found in greater numbers in dogs that went into remission. Dogs that responded well to the diet also had fewer harmful bacteria, such as Escherichia coli and Clostridium perfringens after starting treatment.

To learn more about what these apparent markers of remission were doing, the team took bacteria from the dogs—both when they were sick and after they had entered remission—and grew them in the lab.

“Having these organisms gave us the opportunity to test our hypothesis about what actually causes remission,” says Shuai Wang, a postdoc at Penn Vet and the study’s lead author.

Taking the secondary bile acids found to be associated with remission, the researchers applied them to the E. coli and C. perfringens grown from the sick dogs and found the bile acids inhibited their growth. They also gave C. hiranonis from the dogs to mice with a form of inflammatory bowel disorder to see if the bacteria could reduce disease in a different animal model.

“We observed a stabilization of secondary bile acid levels and reduced inflammation,” Wang says.

“This allowed us to show that secondary bile acids and C. hiranonis aren’t just biomarkers of remission,” says Beiting, “they can actually effect change. Bile acids can block the growth of pathogens, and C. hiranonis can improve gut health in mice.”

As a final step, the researchers looked to a dataset taken from children with Crohn’s disease who were treated with a specialized liquid diet known as exclusive enteral nutrition. Youngsters who responded to the therapy had an increase in numbers of the bacteria species Clostridium scindens, which, like C. hiranonis, is a potent producer of secondary bile acids.

The authors say the findings offer hope for better dietary therapies for IBD, perhaps ones that deliver “good” bacteria such as C. scindens or C. hiranonis while suppressing disease-associated species.

“Similar environmental exposures of dogs and children make the canine IBD model an excellent model of pediatric inflammatory bowel disease,” says Robert N. Baldassano, a study coauthor and pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “This study has greatly improved our knowledge of pediatric IBD and will lead to new therapies for children suffering with this disease.”

Source:  Penn Today

House­holds feed­ing their dogs and cats with raw food do not con­sider the diet a sig­ni­fic­ant source of in­fec­tions

Raw food research

Raw food denotes any meat, internal organs, bones and cartilage fed to pets uncooked Photo credit: Johanna Anturaniemi

An extensive international survey conducted at the University of Helsinki indicates that pet owners do not consider raw food to considerably increase infection risk in their household. In the survey, targeted at pet owners, raw food was reliably determined to be a contaminant only in three households.

The safety of feeding raw food to pets has become a topic of debate on a range of forums, but so far, no outbreaks of contamination among humans caused by raw pet food have been reported. Raw food denotes any meat, internal organs, bones and cartilage fed to pets uncooked.

Now, a survey conducted at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine investigated perceptions on food-transmitted pathogens among pet owners who feed their pets raw food.

A total of 16,475 households from 81 countries responded to the survey. Out of these, only 39 households (0.24%) reported having been contaminated by pet food, and were also able to name the pathogen. The most common pathogens reported were Campylobacteria followed by Salmonella, in addition to which there were occurrences of Escherichia coliClostridiumToxoplasmaand a single Yersinia infection.

However, the meat fed to pets had been analysed in only three households (0.02%), identifying the same pathogen as found in the samples taken from the infected individuals. As well as the 39 households above, 24 households (0.15%) reported a contamination from pet food without being able to name the pathogen causing the symptoms.

In total, 99.6% of households feeding their pets raw food did not report any pathogens being transmitted from the raw food to humans. The time the responding households had been feeding raw food to their pets ranged from several weeks to 65 years, with 5.5 years as the mean value. The reported cases of illness covered whole time frame that raw food was consumed in the household.

The median age among the infected individuals was 40.1 years. From among the 39 households with infections, in four the infected individuals were children between two and six years of age, while in two households the infected were immunocompromised individuals (cancer and Crohn’s disease). However, a quarter of these households had children between two and six years of age, while 15% had immunocompromised individuals.

“It was surprising to find that statistical analyses identified fewer infections in the households with more than 50% of the pet diet consisting of raw food. Furthermore, feeding pets raw salmon or turkey was associated with a smaller number of infections,” says researcher Johanna Anturaniemi from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

A positive correlation with infection was only found in relation to children between two and six years of age living in the household, even though most of the infected individuals (90%) were adults.

“This raises the question of whether the pathogens could have been transmitted by children from outdoors, daycare centres or other public spaces, even if pet food had been assumed to be the source of infection,” Anturaniemi says.

According to the researchers, the role of other factors in infections cannot be assessed in more detail within the confines of this study; rather, further research is needed. In contrast, reports of outbreaks of pathogens linked to pet treats and dry food can be found from around the world. In fact, the Dogrisk research group is planning to conduct a comparative follow-up study where infections transmitted from pet food are to be investigated in households that use both raw food and dry food.

The survey was translated into five languages and made available to all dog and cat owners across the globe feeding their cats and dogs raw food.

Ori­ginal art­icle:

Anturaniemi J, Barrouin-Melo SM, Zaldivar-López S, Sinkko H, Hielm-Björkman A. Owners’ perception of acquiring infections through raw pet food: a comprehensive internet-based survey. Vet Rec. 2019 Aug 19. pii: vetrec-2018-105122. doi: 10.1111/vr.105122.

Source:  University of Helsinki Life Science News

Cooking for my dog

For many of us, cooking for those we love is a way of expressing our affection.  I have always enjoyed cooking for my dogs – using fresh ingredients and creating tasty treats.  In fact, before I even decided to train in canine massage and rehab, I was already making treats for dogs as a business (Canine Catering).

Five years ago, I started my Cooking for Dogs class to teach other owners how easy it is to make yummy additions for dog food using simple and fresh ingredients.

Over the last 3 months, here are some of the things I’ve made:

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Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for July

“Like humans, dogs should be eating a variety of nutritious foods, and not living on just one specific formula.”

– Dr Jean Dodds, DVM

Izzy the greyhound eats a varied diet

Kibbles and Kale? Many Pet Owners Keen to Have Vegan Pets

A surprising number of pet owners, particularly those who are vegan, are interested in feeding their pets a plant-based diet, according to new University of Guelph research.

Researchers with U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College along with colleagues in New Zealand conducted an online survey of 3,673 dog and cat owners from around the world to learn about what kinds of foods they fed their pets and themselves.

Vegan diet photo

Photo by: Rarnie McCudden from Pexels

Published in the journal PLoS ONE, the survey found that 35 per cent of owners whose pets ate conventional diets were interested in switching their animals to a vegan diet.

More than half of them (55 per cent) added, though, that certain stipulations needed to be met before they would make the switch. Those stipulations included needing further evidence that a plant-based diet would meet their pets’ nutritional needs, wanting approval from their veterinarians and wanting plant-based pet foods to be easily available.

Just under six per cent of the survey respondents were vegan — meaning they ate no meat, dairy or fish – and more than a quarter (27 per cent) of them reported they already fed their pets plant-based diets.

Among the rest of the vegans, a full 78 per cent were interested in helping their pets to switch to a plant-based diet if one were available that met their needs.

Lead author Sarah Dodd, currently a PhD candidate at the OVC’s Department of Population Medicine, said even she was surprised by how many vegans had already chosen to eliminate meat from their pets’ diets.

“That percentage, 27 per cent, might sound like a small number, but when you think of the actual numbers of pets involved, that’s huge, and much higher than we expected.”

In total, 1.6 per cent of the 2,940 dogs in the survey and 0.7 per cent of the 1,545 cats were being fed a strictly plant-based diet; only vegans and one vegetarian chose to exclusively feed plant-based diets.

Another 10.4 per cent of the dogs and 3.3 per cent of cats were intermittently fed vegetarian diets or plant-based foods.

Of the 3,673 pet owners surveyed, 6 per cent were vegetarian (meaning they ate no meat but did eat dairy, eggs or honey), 4 per cent were pescatarian (meaning they ate no meat but fish, and may eat dairy, eggs or honey), and nearly 6 per cent were vegan (meaning they ate no animal products).

Dodd performed this study for her M.Sc. degree with Prof. Adronie Verbrugghe in OVC’s Department of Clinical Studies

Dodd said while her team’s research was not designed to assess whether vegan pet diets are a growing trend, she expects interest in the diets to increase.

“People have been hearing about how vegan diets are linked to lowered risks of cancer and other health benefits in humans. There is also growing concern about the environmental impact of animal agriculture.”

Previous studies have also shown that pet owners tend to offer the same kind of diets to their dogs and cats that they adopt for themselves.

“So, while only a small proportion of pet owners are currently feeding plant-based diets to their pets, it is safe to say that interest in the diets is likely to grow.”

However, there has not been much research on the nutritional suitability of vegan diets for dogs and cats, nor on the health benefits and risks of plant-based diets in these animals, said Dodd.

“This study shows there is a clear need for further research in this area.”

Source:  University of Guelph media statement

Feeding eggs to dogs

I feed eggs to Izzy, my greyhound.

If you read the internet for advice on dog nutrition, you’ll probably find references about not feeding raw eggs because this could lead to biotin deficiency.  Egg whites contain avidin, an enzyme that interferes with biotin.  

Biotin is one of the complex B vitamins group and it’s linked to a number of key health benefits, including:

  • Healthy skin and coat
  • Proper muscle formation
  • Healthy digestion
  • Normal growth
  • Improved energy
  • Thyroid and adrenal gland function

What these references rarely say, however, is that the egg yolk is very high in biotin.  So if you are feeding the entire egg – not just the egg white – there really shouldn’t be a major risk.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you feed your dog eggs as a steady diet – let’s remember that old adage about “everything in moderation.”  Rather consider eggs to be a pretty nifty package of nutrition.  They are a great source of bio-available protein and, for most dogs, they are highly digestible.

An egg or 3 a week (small dogs require less) for dogs that are at their ideal weight, is a nutritious and easy source of fresh food and nutrition.

I like to feed Izzy her eggs cooked – with a little dried tripe as an omelette:

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand