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

Doggy quote of the month for January

“I don’t believe, despite all the gurus in the pet section of the bookstore and on TV, that there is a single way to train every dog, any more than that there is one way to buy a dog or put one down.  I think this idea causes much grief for dog lovers, as it does for dog choosers.

– Jon Katz, author

The Second Chance Dog – book review

Subtitled ‘A Love Story’ – this book by Jon Katz lives up to its name.

Jon Katz is a prolific writer of books about his dogs and life on his beloved upstate New York farm, Bedlam Farm.  the-second-chance-dog

At this point in Katz’s life, his marriage is all but over and divorce is inevitable.  He meets a kindred spirit in artist Maria who owns Frieda – a German Shepherd/Rottweiler cross whom she adopted from a local shelter.   But Frieda is incredibly protective of Maria and cannot be trusted around Katz’s other dogs or the animals on the farm.  Her ability to hunt and attack is readily evident.

Katz concludes that he must train Frieda and reach a truce with this dog so that all dogs can live peacefully in the house together and, as a consequence, so too can he and Maria.

Perhaps the most touching part of this book is when Katz attempts to learn about Frieda’s life before she ended up in the shelter.  Frieda is a very intelligent dog and she escaped capture by her would-be rescuers for months.  Katz interviews students on the college campus where Frieda was often seen scavenging for food and learns about how she was ‘trained’ to protect the property of her original owners and teased through the fence of her property.   And ultimately how she was abandoned – pregnant.

Katz is determined and his story for love of Maria, Frieda, and all of his animals, is well worth reading.

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

How to Deal with a Crotch Hound

We all know the type…but are probably afraid to classify our own dogs as Crotch Hounds since it sounds so rude.  The dog trainer is this video calls the behavior ‘checking the oil’ when visitors arrive!

Here’s a new video with some advice on how to re-train your dog so your visitors are greeted in a more socially acceptable way.

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

Mutual Rescue™

Mutual Rescue™ is a trademarked initiative of the Humane Society Silicon Valley.  Aimed at changing the way people think of animal welfare and adoption, each year the Society asks for submissions from people to share their story about a special connection they have made with an animal.

These stories of inspiration and transformation have come about because a person walked into an animal shelter and adopted a pet.

Four new videos will be released in early 2017 after over 400 stories were submitted for consideration.

Below is the first Mutual Rescue™ video released last year – the story of Eric & Peety.  I particularly love the way the drawings have been introduced to the film.

Please also note that Eric’s naturopathic doctor recommended a dog as a key part of his treatment for obesity…

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

BPA (Bisphenol A) in Canned Dog Foods

Note from DoggyMom:

When buying plastic containers for temporary food storage, drink bottles, etc, I always look for “BPA free” labeling.  BPA is an endocrine disruptor and many consumers don’t know to look for this – most of the plastic containers being sold in the ‘$2 shops’ in New Zealand are not BPA free, for example.   In this study, the researchers fed dogs only canned (tinned) food and found significant increases in the levels of the BPA in the dogs – even in tins that were supposedly BPA free.

Very concerning if you are feeding only canned food!


Bisphenol A (BPA) is a widely used industrial chemical found in many household items, including resins used to line metal storage containers, such as food cans. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that short-term feeding of canned dog food resulted in a significant increase of BPA in dogs. Scientists believe that because of shared environments, dog exposure to BPA through canned foods could have human health implications.  tinned-dog-food

“Bisphenol A is a prevalent endocrine-disrupting chemical found in canned foods and beverages,” said Cheryl Rosenfeld, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and an investigator in the Bond Life Sciences Center. “We wanted to determine if short-term feeding of widely available commercial canned food could alter BPA concentrations in dogs. Thus, we assessed BPA contained within pet food cans. We also analyzed whether disturbances in bacteria found in the gut and metabolic changes could be associated with exposure to BPA from the canned food.”

Dog owners volunteered their healthy pets for the study. Blood and fecal samples were collected prior to the dogs being placed on one of two commonly used, commercial canned food diets for two weeks; one diet was presumed to be BPA-free. Robert Backus, an associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, and other researchers on the team then analyzed the cans and the food contained in the cans for BPA levels and performed gut microbiome assessments.

“The dogs in the study did have minimal circulating BPA in their blood when it was drawn for the baseline,” Rosenfeld said. “However, BPA increased nearly three-fold after being on the either of the two canned diets for two weeks. We also found that increased serum BPA concentrations were correlated with gut microbiome and metabolic changes in the dogs analyzed. Increased BPA may also reduce one bacterium that has the ability to metabolize BPA and related environmental chemicals.”

Dogs who share internal and external environments with their owners are likely excellent indicators of the effects of BPA and other industrial chemicals on human health.

“We share our homes with our dogs,” Rosenfeld said. “Thus, these findings could have implications and relevance to humans. Indeed, our canine companions may be the best bio-sentinels for human health concerns.”

Source: University of Missouri press statement

Season’s greetings

In 2012, I went to Best Friends in Kanab, Utah for the first time.  I was there to take a workshop and to volunteer my skills.  What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with a dog, Dumpling, in the Old Friends section of the Sanctuary.

Unfortunately, Best Friends has a policy about adopting dogs to overseas locations where quarantine is required (rightfully so, they feel their dogs have been through enough and the USA and Canada offer plenty of re-homing opportunities).  The situation was further complicated because Dumpling had heartworm and would require treatment.

She was my sleepover dog for several nights including my last night and then I returned her with a heavy heart.  I watched her status on the Best Friends website and had mixed feelings when the site confirmed that she had been adopted in December 2012 (and successfully treated for heartworm) – because I was heading back there again in 2013 and she would not be there.

But I did manage to check in with the Adoptions Coordinator when I arrived and asked if they would be willing to pass on my contact details to the adoptive family. And now each year around Christmas (Dumpling’s anniversary), I get an email from Dumpling’s Dad, Stuart, about her.  dumpling-sleeping

This year was my fourth update:

Kathleen, Good morning and Happy Holidays.  It’s time for our annual update on Dumpling.

Hard to believe it has been four years now since this sweet girl joined our family.   Given all her issues, we had no idea how long we would have her, but I am very happy to say she is showing little signs of slowing down.  She does have some minor medical issues but nothing that cause her any problems.

She still dances about when it’s time for her walk or when I get home from work.  Her energy level is still great.

Over the past year she has stopped getting up on most of the furniture.  The exception is the love seat in the bedroom which she claims early in the morning (3:00-4:00 AM) and will stay there until mom calls her for breakfast.  I don’t think it’s that she can’t get on the furniture, I just think she likes to be able to choose the bed she wants to sleep in depending on if she wants to be alone or with us.  There are 8 dog beds in the house & garage for two dogs.  Not like they’re spoiled or anything.

The Lab in her comes out anytime she is near water.  Get her close to any body of water and she walks right in.  Even the rain doesn’t bother her.  Her sister Callie will avoid the rain at all costs but Dumpling will go out and run around like any other day.  One new thing is she does like to be dried off now.  I think she likes the physical contact more than the drying.

I just wanted to check in and let you know she is doing great.  We consider ourselves very lucky to have her.

Please have a very Happy Holiday.

Warmest Regards,

Stuart

I hope Dumpling has another good year and there will be a 5th update in 2017.  Most of all, I am forever grateful that she found such a safe and happy home after many rough years.

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