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Dog Food Myths chapter excerpt from Scared Poopless: The
Straight Scoop on Dog Care
Brands advertised on
television do not deliver top nutrition. They deliver top
sales. In fact, the cuter and more heartwarming the
commercial, the less likely the food is to provide healthful
nutrition. Ask yourself, why are they promoting emotion instead
Advertised brands, when they
promote ingredients, more often than not promote ingredients
that are not good for dogs or cats, like corn and wheat and
meats of questionable origin.
You can't buy 50 pounds of
food that will build health for $9.95. Or $12.95. Period.
Leaving kibble down all day
is one of the easiest ways to cause obesity in animals.
Obesity is one of the easiest ways to shorten life and
According to Purina's 14-year study of 48 Labrador
Retrievers, lean-fed dogs (fed 25% less food than their
littermates) lived a median of 1.8 years longer than the
control group:13.0 years vs 11.2 years for the control
Treatment for health conditions as they aged was begun at
12.0 years among lean-fed dogs and 9.9 years for the control
group. The lean-fed dogs had fewer visible signs of "aging"
like graying muzzles.
Top Rules for Choosing Commercial Foods
for Dogs and Cats
By Jan Rasmusen and Jean Hofve, DVM
Read labels. Call the manufacturer's toll-free
number posted on the label with any questions. Check out
ingredients with this cool wizard developed by a pet food
to get definitions for ingredients. Find the exact legal
definitions at the
2. Buy food that’s closest to fresh. Frozen,
freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are better than canned
foods which are in turn better for your pet than dry kibble.
3. The first ingredient should be one or more “named”
animal proteins (like lamb, beef, chicken or venison). “Meat” can mean anything. Important: manufacturers trick us
by putting, say, lamb first followed by corn gluten, corn
meal and brewer’s rice; the three carbs added together outweigh
4. Accept no by-products (like meat by-products).
the non rendered, clean parts, other than
meat, derived from slaughtered mammals, including but is not
limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood,
bone, partially defatted low-temperature fatty tissue and
stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. Icky
sounding, but not completely horrible if a meat source is
named (chicken by-products are far better than
poultry by-products) and are better if canned (where
they are canned fresh, not rendered or processed) than in
dry food. However, this is a cheap product with inconsistent
Accept no meat-and-bone-meal and beef-and-bone-meal. Because of “mad
cow disease” scares, meat meals are banned in countries like Japan and France.
These are the worst ingredients imaginable.
6. Accept no "animal" products, such as "animal
digest." Digest is a flavor enhancer which can contain varying parts from animals of
unknown origin. Yum. 7. Reject all corn products and gluten meals.
Corn and gluten are common allergens. Wheat gluten was
contaminated in the 2006 major pet food recall in a attempt
to boost protein content with melamine.
Avoid "light" or "senior" or "special needs" or
"breed-specific" foods. These variations on regular pet
food are mostly marketing gimmicks, sold at a premium, with
little or no real benefit to your pet. "Natural" or "human grade" foods
are terms generally seen on better-quality foods but
have no legal definition.
10. Feed several brands and flavors with different
protein sources your dog or cat tolerates well, and rotate
The term "super premium kibble" may be an oxymoron,
with few exceptions. Kibble, because of the way it is
made, is overcooked. Vitamins and enzymes are destroyed and
cheap vitamins are added back. This can lead to dehydration
and bloat. It is too often
polluted with toxins and can become contaminated. My
preferences, established by extensive research are, in
order of best to worst, fresh, frozen, freeze dried or
dehydrated, canned, kibble.
4-D meats (from dead, dying, diseased and disabled) are a
mainstay of the pet industry. And, of course, antibiotics,
steroids and hormones pollute even our own food. Clearly the
worst go into kibble where they can be well-cooked and the
taste can be disguised with extruded fat. Yum!
Calling the manufacturer in question can give you some sort
of answer to the quality issue. I go organic for my dogs
There is no upper limit for pesticide contamination levels for corn
used in pet food.
Pet food marked "human quality" has quite different
standards than food marked as "for pets only" or not marked
at all. The USDA, which inspects food for human use, has
strict standards about animal health. Unfortunately, the
standards don't apply to antibiotic, steroid and hormone
use. Only a label marked "organic" addresses those issues.
Still, USDA inspected does mean something.
If you purchase food in a bag
and transfer it to a canister, make certain that you keep
information on the brand, product name, lot number and
expiration date so you'll have all the information you need
if the food is recalled.
Some label terms,
meant to inform consumers, can mislead them.
According to the
a minor change in the wording of the name
has a dramatic impact on the minimum amount
of the named ingredient required..."
And here I thought they were protecting us,
not colluding to confuse us.
Okay, the "95% rule" is pretty logical.
to call a product, say, "Beef for Dogs" or
"Lamb for Dogs," at least 95% of the
product, less water for processing, must
contain the named ingredient. Fine.
Here's where it starts to get confusing: "Dinner,"
as in "Beef Dinner for Dogs," means that the
named ingredients comprise as little as 25%
of the product, but not as much as 95%. (You
can bet it's closer to the low end than the
high. Read the label to get an idea about
how much of the named product is in there.)
Just to keep you on your toes, there are other words that mean the
same as "dinner": "platter," "entree,"
"nuggets" and "formula" are just a few
Now it really gets crazy. "With," as
in "Brand X with Beef," means as little
as 3%, but less than 25%, of the named
ingredient is in the product.
"flavor" rule means that to call a product,
say, "Beef Flavor Dinner," it "must contain
an amount sufficient to be able to be
detected." The term "digest," as
in "meat digest," basically means flavor.
Lies and Misconceptions that make
feeding dogs and cats so difficult. Click
the links to hear excerpts from the
recordings from our
How Not to Kill Your Dog or Cat audio
Lie #1: Vets are nutrition experts.
Most veterinarians are general practitioners
with only minimal nutrition education. Much
of what they know comes directly or
indirectly from the pet food industry. The
majority sell processed food products and
have little or no experience with homemade
#2: Kibble is safer than canned.
75% of past pet food recalls involved
kibble. Dr. Hofve says: "Dry food is
associated with many serious chronic health
conditions and is not recommended as a
regular diet." Furthermore, contrary to
kibble does NOT clean a pet's teeth.
Canned beats dry, frozen and dehydrated beat
canned, and fresh beats everything.
"People food" is bad for dogs and cats.
If you eat a reasonably healthy diet
yourself, with a little education you can
feed a healthy diet to your cat or dog. In
fact, just as is true for humans, fresh
foods can provide much better nutrition for
pets than highly processed "fast foods."
Make no mistake: commericial pet foods are
#4: Natural = safe, and Human Grade =
Many people mistakenly believe that
"natural" foods are "safe." Not true.
Arsenic is natural, but nobody argues that
it's safe to consume. And whereas food fit
for human consumption is preferable to the
leftovers and waste products in most pet
food (especially grocery store foods), there
is no legal or even practical definition for
the term "human grade." This is strictly a
marketing term and is often abused.
Foods not on any recall list are good for
pets. Brands show up on recall
lists from time to time, often after
problems have been known for some time. As
long as there is little regulation of
overseas suppliers, foods will always be
suspect. Also, just because a food isn't
contaminated, it isn't necessary good for
#6: "Complete and balanced" foods are
complete and balanced.
Commercial foods lack many essential
elements, often contain condemned
ingredients, and most lack some or all of
the four essentials that will keep your pet
healthy: probiotics, digestive enzymes,
green foods and essential fatty acids.
#7: Raw food diets are dangerous.
So-called BARF diets (Biologically
Appropriate Raw Food) resemble a dog or
cat's natural diet and can be superior to
all other diets for many animals when fed by
an educated "chef." Raw foods, of course,
must be fresh and properly handled. Also
remember that "raw" is no guarantee of
quality and any raw food may challenge an
The above is
excerpted from material written by Jan
Dr. Jean Hofve, veterinarian
former Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the
American Holistic Veterinary Medical
Association. A practicing veterinarian and
four-term President of the Rocky Mountain
Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, Dr.
two years as a full-time animal advocate for
the Animal Protection Institute where she
was a liaison to AAFCO, the organization
setting standards for the pet food industry.
Toxins and Other
Fertilizer and pesticide
contamination: Products condemned for
human use because of fertilizer or pesticide contamination
can be used in pet food.
Genetically modified foods:
The majority of soy and corn grown in the US are genetically
modified and may be used in pet food.
Endotoxins: When an
animal dies on a farm/ranch, it may take a while to get it
to the rendering plant. It may become contaminated with
bacteria like Salmonella
and E. Coli
which are theoretically killed during
processing. However, endotoxins produced by bacteria can
survive processing, causing sickness and disease. Pet food
manufacturers do not test for bacterial endotoxins, nor do
they test for drugs that were used to treat or euthanize the
animal which linger in the carcass.
Mycotoxins: These are
toxins produced by mold or fungi growing on wheat, corn and
Aflatoxin and vomitoxin have
caused several large pet food recalls and sickness and death
Foods to avoid:
onions, grapes and raisins,
(especially dark chocolate, but also white chocolate),
sprouted or green potatoes, artificial sweeteners
(especially Xylitol), cooked bones, too much dark meat
turkey, cooked fat, and highly spiced foods.
kibble, in general, and particularly grocery store kibble
loaded with corn.
never buy a product containing corn, wheat or soy: common
When Organic is Important
Fish Oil is
famous for its anti-infammatory properties. It is a great
source of omega 3 fatty acids and can help keep skin and
coats healthy. If you can, use use organic fish oil.
Much oil is now produced from farmed fish,
particularly farmed salmon. Farmed fish can contain far high
levels of chemical contaminants, particularly PCBs. Nordic
Naturals and Carlson are both good brands. I used
lemon-flavored Cod Liver Oil for both myself and my dogs.
Happily, it tastes nothing like cod liver oil.
Two other foods that should
be organic are liver
(which filters toxins in animal bodies) and
(which is often contaminated with pesticides).
Abruptly switching from one pet food to another often causes
diarrhea. Ironically, the diarrhea is a sign that the diet
is deficient and needs changing.
Good bacteria in a mammal's
intestines process food. Healthy intestines populated with
good beneficial flora easily process all types of foods.
Intestines of animals existing on a limited or poor diet
have limited flora growth. Your dog should be able
to have a different food every meal just as you do.
To help your dog
switch to a new food, do it slowly over a period
of 10 days to 2 weeks, adding a bit of the new food while
holding back a bit of the old. Add digestive enzymes and
probiotics (beneficial bacteria) to the food. Find these
products at a small natural-food oriented pet store or your
health food store. Most products made for humans base the
dose on a 150 lb. person. Reduce the dose proportionately
for your dog. (That is, a 50 lb. dog gets 1/3 the human
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Scared Poopless has two
info-packed chapters on how to feed your dog, but people
wanting to prevent or cure disease often want to learn even
more. To fill this need, I teamed with Dr. Jean Hofve, one
of the top pet food and pet nutrition experts in the
We produced three recordings:
#1: Truth, Lies & Pet Food
(about selecting the safest commercial foods)
#2: Diet, Disease and Longevity (how to feed dogs and cats
with health problems)
#3: From Mere Survival to Glowing Health (how to feed for
you want to switch to more holistic health care methods for
your animals, but your vet is resistant, here's the DVD for
you! Listen as
countless nationally renowned vets discuss how and why
they added integrative techniques and methods (like
nutrition, reduced vaccination, acupuncture, energy medicine
and more) to their practices. This poignant 35 minute film
makes a terrific gift for animal lovers and veterinarians
here. All proceeds benefit the Center for Integrative
Veterinary Health, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation working
to educate the public and vets.
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have any concerns
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