English cocker spaniel puppy eating dog food (C) Perfect cocker spaniel / English cocker spaniel blog, book, puppy tips, advice, grooming tips, nutrition, canine nutritionist / Natalia Ashton

Does less poop really mean better health?

Today I wanted to have a quick chat about a study that recently came out from the university of Illinois because I found it, how should I put it… disappointing? Especially when it was reviewed to reach a wider audience – you and me, in other words.

The study that included beagles fed with fresh food was run by a few people with PhDs, which to any layman would most definitely look like a sure sign of quality and confidence. The beagles got some fresh food made with a few ingredients and naturally produced less poop compared to a group fed kibble.

The scientists then concluded that fresh diet is better for dogs, but did it in a way that could easily mislead any normal non-science’y dog parent and, as a result, potentially put their dog’s health at risk.

Granted, I don’t have a PhD, but I do know nutrition. That is why I need to explain a few study statements and my concerns.

First of all, “producing less excrements” isn’t really a new thing. It’s just another trend that was mimicked on countries like Japan where high urban population and clear lack of space meant that dogs foods had to be adjusted to result in less poops. It had nothing to do with dog’s health, but obvious need for yet another space-saving know-how.

Secondly, the diets included “two fresh diets made using only USDA-certified human-grade ingredients” The ingredients were listed yet it wasn’t clear who created the diet, whether or not it was nutritionally balanced or how it would affect the dog long-term (the feeding regime only took 4 weeks, which isn’t enough to see any abnormalities or deficiencies should they happen, especially in healthy dogs previously fed a balanced complete diet)

The researches tested the dogs before the trial and after the trial and noted that blood test results did not change. Which means that the dogs were good to go on their original food.

The worrying part is that I can easily picture a health-conscious pup parent cooking up a feast using the list of ingredients mentioned in the study review thinking that it’s the best thing for his dog because “a guy with PhD said so”. And if one can’t trust google, one can surely trust a guy with PhD, right?

Also “human grade” fresh food doesn’t actually mean that kibble would not be made with “human grade” ingredients. In fact, there are strict rules to ensure that our dogs don’t end up eating road kill or any animal that died of natural causes or old age. The dogs would eat the same cows and chickens as their human family, but different, less palatable (in human view) parts of them (think hearts and organ meats, not hooves or feathers).

Then the study went into a human diet (really?) to say that people would be more satisfied with fresh food than processed food and as a result, would lose weight and be healthier.

The only problem is that processed human food is not the same as a good quality kibble. Ask any board-certified nutritionist – and they will confirm this. Letting people assume that kibble is nothing more than a dog version of a human junk from a famous food chain is not just wrong, it is harmful.

Now… the trendy microbiota…. because they simply had to mention gut bacteria as some of the levels changed. Not for better, not for worse. They just changed. But the study folks assumed it would be better because their previous studies said so. Which is so not PhD…

But if we do talk about microbiome and good bacteria, we need to jump straight to the beginning of this study and the rice and broccoli vs “horrible” kibble and carbs comparison.

Yes, kibble often results in more poop. But is it really a bad thing? Nope. Not. At. All. A good quality complete and balance kibble will contain good quality carbohydrates and fibre that will add bulk to the faeces. But it is vital to remember that besides the bulk, good carbs and fibre can play an important role in keeping your dogs healthy…

How?

Well, the fibre itself will work like a brush to rid the gut from toxins and bacteria.

The soluble fibre will feed the good bacteria.

The good bacteria will take care of your dog’s digestive health, immunity, vitamin levels, reduce risk of allergies and possibly cancers.

The insoluble fibre will also look after the anal glands.

And carbohydrates and fibre will supply vitamins and minerals that your dog may not always get from other foods.

Plus, good carbs will keep the dog fuller for longer and may help him maintain healthy weight or even loose some.

On the other hand, an unbalanced fresh diet may cause deficiencies and affect digestive health due to lack of fibre. The reduction of carbohydrates and fibre also means that they are either replaced with another form of bulking ingredients that dogs may not always be able to digest so well or without side-effects (think bloating). Alternatively, less fibre and carbohydrates often mean higher fat content, which can increase the risk of weight gain, pancreatitis and any disease caused by excess weight.

And upon checking on some foods used in the study as “better alternatives” I noticed ingredients such as garlic (think, Heinz bodies and risk of fatal haemolytic anaemia), potatoes (nightshades and risk of arthritis, plus potential link to DCM), spinach (think oxalates and risk of kidney stones), and pea fibres (potential bloating and increased risk of DCM) to name a few.

It absolutely pains me to say negative things about a study because I really love science and this is a bit like a car crush…

 

Image credit: cocker spaniel puppy by Switlana Synonenko via 123rf.com

ben & jerry doggy desserts ice-cream nutritional review and toxic ingredients that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, gut irritation and diabetes in dogs / Perfect cocker spaniel (C) dog blog, English cocker spaniels tips, advice, grooming, puppy care / canine pet nutritionist, pet nutrition coach, diet advice for pet owners

Ben & Jerry’s very dodgy doggy ice-cream

This is the irony of life… Yesterday I was talking about potentially unsafe ingredients in dog food only to wake up this morning to the news about a  dog ice-cream that’s about to hit supermarket’s shelves.

For a second, I was excited. I really, really was! Then I looked at the ingredients label and felt a wave of fear creeping into my brain like a fog.

This is the fist time I will have to mention the brand with a warning sign attached to it. But I have no choice here because…

Ben & Jerry’s doggy ice-cream can be toxic to your dog! 

They market it as “Fairtrade”, “dietary certified” and “non-GMO” and the packaging is very pretty, but this is where the good stuff ends.

The ingredients in these doggy desserts are not good. At all.

First of all, it’s full of sugar and corn syrup, which make the base of the ice-cream. In no dietary land, human or animal, this would be good. But hey, they also put some annatto extract that may reduce hypoglycaemia in dogs after a meal, so I guess they thought it would be a kind of balancing act (unless the dogs have diabetes and on medication… not that it was mentioned anywhere on the packaging)

Next, it contains “spices”. Which aren’t even identified.

Plus “natural flavour”… Which is also a mystery.

But it is not even the worst part.

First of all, the ice-cream is made with sodium bicarbonate, which can irritate dog’s gut and cause vomiting.

Carrageenan is another ingredient that has been linked to gut inflammation, lesions and ulcers in both animals and humans.

Peanuts that make a huge chunk of Pontch’s Mix are difficult to digest and can contain aflatoxins that pose a serious health risk to both dogs and humans. Just to give you an idea, one study discovered that 10 out of 11 peanut butter samples were heavily contaminated with various types of aflatoxins. And if you think “fair trade” ingredients mean a better choice, here is another study showing that contaminated peanuts can be found all over the world.

However, the worst part of the recipe is the lemon juice concentrate. Even though it sounds innocent enough, it is a known source of psoralens, natural compounds that are toxic to dogs and can lead to vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy if eaten.

Shame that with all the resources and amazing opportunities, the brand managed to create a nutrition disaster… And the most worrying part is that many people will never look past the pretty packaging and happily feed their dog with the most dodgy dessert I’ve ever come across…

What is the alternative? Make your own dog treats! If I can do it, so can you.

 

Photo credit: Free-Photos from Pixabay

hidden toxic ingredients in all natural dog food / Perfect cocker spaniel (C) English cocker spaniel breed and puppy guide, dog blog, canine nutritionist, dog nutrition tips, grooming advice, puppy advice

Natural dog food | Love at first sight that needs a second look

“My dog eats all natural diet because it’s the best”… Pretty common to hear and seems very obvious statement to use too, right? Now stop and think. Cyanide is natural too… But would you eat or feed your dog a diet if it was laced with cyanide? I doubt it. Yet the substance could be a part of an all natural diet by definition. Let the drama unfold…

What does the “natural diet” actually mean? According to AAFCO guidelines, “a feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to psysical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced or subjected to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic, expect in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.”

In other words, any dog food labeled as “all natural” should not contain anything synthetic apart from certain vitamins, minerals, and added amino acids.

Natural dog food is most definitely a better choice than anything made with synthetic colourings, artificial flavourings and E numbers (note – not all E numbers are necessarily bad, but many aren’t good for living beings and those are the ones I mean when saying “E numbers”) and something I would feed my pups. However, I am a person of “buts” and my “but” for the all natural dog food is what it is made of.

It is very easy to assume that choosing a natural dog food will be beneficial for your pooch. Most people would trust the manufacturers for doing all the hard work of prepping, testing and getting “the best of this” and “the best of that” awards. Because most people are normal and don’t manically check every word on a label like I do.

And this is where the problems start. Suddenly a dog on “all natural” diet develops an odd diarrhoea or tummy aches. He may start to itch. Or simply look off colour. The caring parents take him to the vets who struggle to identify the exact cause of the symptoms and do their absolute best to help the dog recover. Sometimes it involves medication, a battalion of tests, and – as one of the last resorts – a change of diet.

Other pet parents skip the vet and seek advice online. Which usually leads to turning to a completely different type of diet because “it totally cured” other dogs’ symptoms, or natural aids to avoid “toxic drugs”

And yes, some dogs do feel better because ultimately their symptoms are either helped with by medicine or, and this is the bit that requires attention, the alternative food is free from an ingredient that caused the chaos and discomfort.

The biggest mistake that can happen at this point is that the pet parent will likely blame the chicken, beef or grains because he’s been told those were the worst offenders. As a result the dog is put on a grain-free diet or veterinary formula (as those are the easiest to digest and absorb), which he seems to be ok with… If he isn’t ok, another diet is introduced.

Any loving pup parent will do their absolute best to stick with “all natural” diet that may or may not send him to the point of bankruptcy because dogs rightly deserve the very best.

And yet very few people will pause during this entire gastronomic adventure to examine the full list of ingredients. It would be a very un-natural thing to do for an all-natural practically perfect formula, right?

But what if I asked you not only read the list in full, but check every single ingredient against the list of poisons and the database of toxic and harmful plants? I do it every time I come across new pet brand, formula or a novel ingredient, or see a dog who suffers from symptoms that came out of nowhere.

To give you a few examples here are a few ingredients that I casually found in some of the most popular dog foods made by reputable pet manufacturers… Are there anything you could find in a formula or treats you feed your spaniel right now?

Angelica plant contains araliin. It is toxic to dogs and causes skin irritation, excessive salivation, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Avocados contain persin that can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and damage to the heart.

Almonds (especially the bitter ones) are a source of cyanogenic glycosides or cyanide compounds that are toxic to dogs. They can also cause diarrhoea, vomiting, discomfort, bloating, gas, lack of appetite and lethargy and if the nuts (rather than low fat skins) are used, the excess fat can increase the risk of pancreatitis.

Saskatoon berries are another source of cyanogenic glycosides and can cause problems, especially when berries are used whole and contain seeds.

Any citrus fruit can irritate the gut and some can also be high in psoralens.

Chamomile contains bisabolol, chamazulene, anthemic and tannic acids that can lead to skin irritation and allergy-like symtpoms, vomiting and diarrhoea. Using chamomile long-term can increase the risk of internal bleeding.

Cinnamon is praised for being really good for dogs, however it can cause mouth irritation, breathing difficulties, digestive issues, vomiting, liver abnormalities and changes in heart rate. If cinnamon is replaced by cassia (fake cinnamon) it can be even more problematic. Cinnamon is not considered toxic because it is not fatal to dogs and an average dog would need to consume quite a bit to become unwell, but I am not convinced and don’t see anything that can give my dog liver issues or skin irritation as particularly safe either.

Garlic can cause formation of Heinz bodies and lead to fatal Haemolytic anaemia.

Glycerine also known as glycerol (which was originally used in the 1800s to make dynamite) can be found in dog treats and some food that are marketed as “natural and junk free”.  However it has been linked to bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, frequent urination and even symptoms of kidney failure. There isn’t enough research to support these claims, so all I can say at this point is that my dogs did react to chews made with glycerine, it is documented that glycerol has laxative effects, available studies say that “the long-term use cannot exclude side-effects” and “clinical correlations in puppies are unknown”, so I am cautious.

Lavender‘s active ingredients linlool and linalyl acetate can cause nausea and vomiting.

Leeks are a part of Allium family (same as garlic and onions) and may cause blood abnormalities and haemolytic anaemia.

Marjoram isn’t fatal to dogs, but it is toxic and leads to gut irritation, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Parsley seems innocent enough. It can be beneficial in small quantities and is a good source of vitamin C. However, the herb is a source of furanocoumarin, can cause problems in dogs with kidney problems and should never be given to pregnant bitches.

Spinach and kale are a source of oxalic acid and can increase the risk of kidney stones in dogs as well as reduce absorption of calcium from the diet.

Yucca is a source of saponins and can cause vomiting and diarrhoea because it irritates the gut. Chia and quinoa are also rich in saponin. Chia can also lead to intestianl blockages.

Now imagine what can happen when a pet food contains not one but several of the above ingredients? Even though some can be used in very small quantities, it does not make them less harmful. Remember that the toxic effects can build up over time and only appear when the problem is already quite serious.

So please, always check the tiny writing on your dog food label. It may take time to go through the whole list (I advocate basic foods, with a limited number of ingredients – it’s simple, it’s less likely to harm), but once you do you will learn, remember and avoid mistakes in the future. For your dog’s sake.

Also remember that all reputable ingredient supplies and pet food companies should be registered with PFMA. Is your dog food brand listed there? Worth a look.

If you want to be thorough it is worth checking any alerts and reports on food recalls too.

If you need more information, there are pages and pages covering dog nutrition and specific ingredients in my books, Perfect cocker spaniel and Beyond the Doughnut.

 

Photo credit: Pexels from Pixabay