Pet Food Ingredient Breakdown – #3

A premium line of dog foods recently reformulated their products and, call me Suspicious Sally, but I know the country is facing an economic crunch and I wondered how the new ingredients would stand up to scrutiny. Here are the first ingredients listed in one of the new formulas:

Beef, brewers rice, whole grain wheat, corn gluten meal, poultry by-product meal, animal fat, whole grain corn, soy flour, soybean meal, dried beet pulp, fish meal, animal digest, glycerin

Beef – OK. Ideally this would be USDA inspected beef muscle meat, obtained from local, humane, sustainable farming methods – not feedlot misery. But yeah, I know I’m dreaming.

Brewer’s Rice – Alcohol industry waste product which, if not bought by pet food companies, would otherwise end up in the trash bin. AAFCO allows this ingredient to contain “spent hops in an amount not to exceed 3 percent.” Spent hops, when ingested by dogs, can be fatal.

Whole Grain Wheat – OK for some dogs but it is a common allergen

Corn Gluten Meal: Waste product from facilities manufacturing corn syrup, used in the extrusion process to bind kibble. Corn gluten is one of many known contaminated pet food ingredients to have poisoned pets in the past.

Poultry By-Product Meal: The bits that people won’t eat (such as heads, intestines, and feet) but from what kind of poultry – anyone know? Does the manufacturer know? Apparently not.

Animal Fat – AAFCO describes this as fat from mammals and/or poultry. Dang, how would YOU like to have a dinner made from “mammals”. Kinda horror flick like.

Whole Grain Corn – indigestible by dogs, another common allergen

Soy Flour and Soybean Meal – Soy is a common allergen in dogs. The flour is presumably used as a binding agent, while soybean meal is simply waste product of the soybean oil extraction process.

Dried Beet Pulp – Dried residue from sugar beets which is yet another ingredient used in pet foods which would otherwise be sent to the landfill. Pet food companies use it because it binds the stool and apparently as owners, we are so excited to see firm stool that we don’t care if it’s the result of some junk ingredient added to the food as opposed to an accurate reflection of good nutrition and healthy digestion. Gosh, we’re dumb.

Fish Meal – What kind of fish is “Fish”? In order to comply with US Coast Guard regulations, all fish meal must be preserved with ethoxyquin. The pet food manufacturer need not list the ethoxyquin as an ingredient since they didn’t add it themselves.

Animal Digest – Ick.

Glycerin – a waste product of the bio-fuel industry

Overall product ingredients review: *sounds buzzer* It looks like this company has cut corners even further in order to try and maintain profitability during the economic crisis. Too bad for the dogs who rely on this food as their main source of nourishment. To my mind, a diet of healthy table scraps would be far superior.

Saving Fight Dogs – It’s Not Just for Celebrity Cases

Every Dog Deserves a Fair Evaluation. Does this include dogs seized in abuse and dogfighting cases? Most definitely because in those cases, it’s the humans who are the criminals, not the dogs. And what do the humans get – a fair evaluation (trial by jury of their peers) to determine whether they should be rehabilitated (such as in a prison drug program) or just returned to function as a member of our society (if found ‘not guilty’ of the charges brought against them).

The dogs are the crime victims. They have been physically and emotionally abused, forced to fight in order to stay alive. Seized dogs from these cases are at least entitled to a fair evaluation (a behavioral eval performed by a knowledgeable and independent trainer) to determine whether they require rehabilitation (such as carefully conducted socialization exercises) or can just return to function as a member of our society (if the eval determines the dog needs no more than the basic training required by typical rescue dogs in shelters). If the latter, the dog must be appropriately matched to an owner who can develop a successful relationship with the animal just like every other shelter dog.

In following the story of the 187 Pitbulls and mixes seized in the Houston dogfighting case this month, I came across this piece at the Pet Connection. Many of the seized dogs are apparently being held by the Houston SPCA. The group’s PR manager told a Houston newspaper:

…the dogs would be put through rehabilitation tests and the courts will decide what should be done with them.

[ Note:  Due to a formatting problem, the link will not post for the above quote.  It can be found here: ]

But this same spokesman is quoted just a short time later telling a Houston blog:

“These animals are bred from a long line of fighting dogs to be aggressive,” Houston SPCA spokeswoman Meera Nandlal told Hair Balls this morning. “We have made the decision that they will be humanely euthanized.”

Was the spokesman misquoted in one of the stories? Because the two definitely don’t make sense together. Presumably the Texas courts are not run by the Houston SPCA who apparently has a policy against adopting out Pitbulls.

Perhaps the Houston SPCA hasn’t heard but rescue groups like BADRAP and Best Friends have had great success with the dogs seized in the Michael Vick abuse/dogfighting case. Why couldn’t a similar plan be implemented for the Houston dogs? I know it’s not a sexy celeb case but don’t these abused dogs deserve at least the same opportunity as Vick’s abused dogs? Don’t all seized dogs deserve a chance? I’m not advocating for some irresponsible set-them-free-they-are-all-great-and-don’t-need-evaluations hare-brained scheme. All I’m saying is, let’s build upon the success of the experience with the Vick dogs – not go backwards. Let’s dump old-think policies that say all dogs who look like X or who were seized in cases involving Y must be killed. We are a no-kill nation, even if some of the supposed “rescuers” in the dog world haven’t caught up with the times. Let’s walk the walk.

Here is my challenge to my fellow dog bloggers. Let’s shine a light on the Houston case – and keep it there until we hear some definitive answers. Let’s make this case a celebrity case. And readers, there’s work for you too. Let’s contact the Houston SPCA and let them know politely and respectfully that Every Dog Deserves a Fair Evaluation. Remind them of the success of the Vick dogs (including Leo, now a therapy dog) and let them know the dog community and their donors are watching this case. And contact the Houston media (HCNonline here) to ask for continued coverage of the case, specifically what is happening to the 187 rescued dogs.

Let’s be a voice for the Houston dogs. Every Dog Deserves a Fair Evaluation.

Oh Coaty, Your Breeder Must Be So Proud!

Treats on the Internets

The FDA says people are getting scammed by callers identifying themselves as FDA agents. Can you imagine the poor sod who calls my number? Before he got a chance to try the extortion scam, I would have given him such an earful about food safety and the pharmaceutical companies’ stranglehold on health, he’d be admitting he wasn’t with the FDA at all and I’d probably think he was just trying to get off the hook. [Note: FDA officials – call me!]

In the UK, Catherine O’Driscoll calls out the pet food companies for their part in contributing to unhealthy pets. And I just like the title: Own a Fat Dog, Go Straight to Jail

A very cute dog gets some basic training at Life on the Leash

In Clover, South Carolina, the town council is considering a vicious dog ordinance and some are questioning the need to name specific breeds, such as pitbulls:

In a memo to council, Town Administrator Allison Harvey said she couldn’t find any research proving that breed-specific legislation is successful.

Right. So why are we considering it again?

Susan Thixton asks: Is it ethical for Vets to recommend pet food?

Market Watch has a piece on how one pet food company has taken heed of consumers’ desire for COOL on pet foods. Sounds good. Let’s hope it’s the beginning of a trend.

The Usual(ly Ignored) Suspects

Let’s say you wanted to smuggle something rilly illegal – say assault weapons with silencers – into a war zone – say Iraq. You come up with a plan to stash the weapons on pallets, surrounded by something legal, then shrink-wrap the whole deal. You know you’d have to get past US Customs and obviously, if they look at your pallets and suspect anything, all they have to do is slice the shrink-wrap, dig in and you’re toast.

So the thing that you surround the weapons with – it’s got to be some item that US Customs would never in a kajillion years care about inspecting. Hmm, what could that be – cases of bar soap maybe? No what if they think it’s special soap for washing criminal behavior offa ya – they might check. How about crates full of hula girl bobbleheads? No the Customs agents might go catatonic, succumbing to the bobblehead trance and you couldn’t get around their googly-eyed, frozen bodies. Got it: bags of dog food! US Customs will absitively posolutely not be inspecting those. That’s just food for dogs, made from leftovers from the human food industry – no worries there. What possible need could there be to inspect dog food? And you know the US track record on inspecting dog food – as in, FAIL.

From ABC News:

Two other former [Blackwater] employees tell they also witnessed the dog food smuggling operation. They say the weapons were actually hidden inside large sacks of dog food, packaged at company headquarters in North Carolina and sent to Iraq for the company’s 20 bomb-sniffing dogs.

[Note: So did the bomb sniffing dogs actually get anything to eat after all?]

Larger items, including M-4 assault weapons, were secreted on shipping pallets surrounded by stacks of dog food bags, the former employees said. The entire pallet would be wrapped in cellophane shrink wrap, the former employees said, making it less likely US Customs inspectors would look too closely.

Last year, a US Department of Commerce inspector at JFK airport in New York discovered an unlicensed two-way radio hidden in a dog food sack being shipped by Blackwater to Iraq, according to people familiar with the incident.

A federal grand jury in North Carolina is looking into the matter.

Nationwide Recall Of Infants’ Mylicon Drops

I know I keep a supply of this product on hand for litters and other breeders do too. Here is what the FDA says:

Johnson & Johnson • Merck Consumer Pharmaceuticals Company (JJMCP) is voluntarily recalling approximately 12,000 units of Infants’ MYLICON® GAS RELIEF DYE FREE drops (simethicone-antigas) non-staining sold in 1 oz. plastic bottles that were distributed after October 5, 2008 nationwide. The company is taking this action in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although the potential for serious medical events is low, the company is implementing this recall to the consumer level as a precaution after determining that some bottles could include metal fragments that were generated during the manufacturing process.

Kibble Suggestions?

As you might guess, I’m in the market for suggestions on a kibble I can use as a supplement to my home prepared food for the dogs. I would like a food produced by a company who provides specifics on where their food is made, what country they buy their ingredients from and doesn’t try to hide behind the old “proprietary information” excuse. As far as I’m concerned, if they won’t tell, I won’t buy. I would like a food tested in feed trials, not tested by chemical analysis. The proof is in the dog, not in the test tube. Ideally, I’d like the first ingredient to be a specific type of meat (chicken, beef, etc.) and any subsequent meat ingredients to be actual meat (not meal). But I know I may not find this food.

Here’s what I don’t want: garbage ingredients such as unspecified “meat” or “meat meal”, brewer’s rice, corn gluten meal, by-products, animal digest, beet pulp, etc. I also don’t want a food manufactured by Menu Foods. Menu lied while pets died during the 2007 recalls. My memory is long. Also it would be nice to find a food without mystery bits in it.

Again, I know I may not find this food (except possibly in Imagination Land.) But suggestions are welcome and appreciated – and I should say straight off that I’m feeding six dogs and not wealthy, which narrows the possibilities even further, I know.

And now for something completely different: My new neighbors have six Pitbulls (a couple are leftover pups from a recent litter apparently) and now a Chihuahua puppy. The highlight of my dog walk this afternoon was when one of the Pitbull pups came up to the fence for some lovin’ and my dogs did not notice for like 2 minutes. I got in 120 undisturbed seconds of sweet Pitbull love. He was soooooooooooo cute. I want him! You see how I get into trouble? (Photo is just a sample cute Pitbull pup, not actual cute Pitbull pup.) Tomorrow we go to the no-kill shelter to drop off a bin of food so we might get even more Pitbull hugs and kisses – weeeeeeee! O yeah and the Chihuahua hopped right through the hog fencing to our yard and walked around sniffing my bitches like he owned the place with all my big dogs barking up a storm right in his face. Typical!

You Must Be Joking: Chafing at the Chaff

OK, as you might recall, I have been unlucky with my recent kibble purchases – finding thingies in two different brands. And as I said, I don’t buy kibble that often so two bags of kibbles-n-mystery-bits in a row seems odd to me. Yesterday, with some hesitation, I purchased a bag of Natural Balance Sweet Potato and Fish. Have you guessed yet? Bits. Again.

Honestly, I don’t even know if I’m going to bother with contacting the manufacturer this time. The first bag, I contacted the manufacturer, they tested the food and basically said everything was A-OK, it was just grain chaff. Well that may be perfectly fine to them but I was not so excited to learn I was feeding my dogs chaff. Second bag, the manufacturer apparently didn’t care about the info and didn’t even want to see my photos or get a sample of the food. This third bag, I’m thinking if I contact them, I may be at risk of earning a reputation as one of those wacky people who make a living “falling down” in Wal-Marts and on slippery sidewalks in front of large hotels. I’m not planning on bringing any lawsuits. I would just like to know the honest answers to a few simple questions:

1. Is this just some type of coincidence or is this a symptom of a trend among pet food manufacturers? IOW, times are tough, ingredients are expensive and corners must be cut to maintain profits – thus, pet food manufacturers are bulking up their feeds with grain chaff.

2. Are these three manufacturers buying “ingredients” (if you consider grain stalks an ingredient) from the same source and thus the reason for the un-ground bits appearing in all three kibbles? Or is there some other explanation?

3. Since chaff is not specifically listed as an ingredient on any of these bags of food, are there any other ingredients the manufacturers would like to specify which perhaps they feel are covered under some other ingredient listing at present? Perhaps “chicken” is intended to include “feathers” or something like that, I don’t know. But I’d like to know what exactly it is I’m paying for and feeding to my dogs. Is that too much to ask?

The HSUS and Prop. 2 in CA: The Big Picture

The NYT Magazine takes an in-depth look at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and their support for Prop. 2 in California. Prop. 2 would require farmers to house chickens, pigs and veal calves in less restrictive conditions. It’s mainly about chickens though as CA has LOTS of chicken farmers and almost no pig or veal producers. Prop. 2 requires that chickens be able to fully extend their wings without touching the sides of a cage:

That doesn’t mean that California chickens will live like the chickens in the final scene of a Proposition 2 commercial, in which a handful of them peck and strut in the grass of an idyllic farm. “Free-range” chickens have access to outdoors — though that may be only a slab of concrete — while cage-free hens live in henhouses and usually never go outside. And depending on the producer, the henhouse may be a comparatively roomy, modern system with plenty of space and sunlight. Or not. The worst-run operations are dirty, dark barns crammed with thousands of chickens that never see daylight.

The article also looks at the toning down of the shock campaigns of previous animal rights efforts in order to appeal to a larger demographic. And specifically, under Wayne Pacelle’s leadership, how HSUS has shifted much of its focus away from pets and baby seals toward farm animals:

That more-palatable mainstream message, coupled with the Humane Society’s political power, is what the animal rights movement in America has needed for a long time, argues [Peter] Singer, the Princeton bioethicist.

This is a well written and thought provoking article. Read it here.

Kennel Club Unveils Worst Idea Ever

The Kennel Club has taken a lot of flack in the UK due to a backwards system of rewarding show dogs who conform to breed standards based on looks rather than health, temperament and functionality as a pet (whether that be as a lap dog, sheepdog, hunting companion, etc.). Yup, the state of purebred dogs is quite a mess thanks to the Kennel Club (and other similar organizations including the American Kennel Club). So what should be done? The Kennel Club has come up with a solution. How does this idea grab you?: Take the group responsible for the mess and give them legal authority to shut down dog breeders if they find you don’t comply with their rules. Sounds like a reallyterribleawful idea? Well to be fair, the Kennel Club does say that first, it’s going to review its rules. Then they want the power grab. Yeah, it still sounds dreadful to me too. And a dangerous precedent setting case if it goes into effect. Other kennel clubs may try to follow suit. Additional restricting laws may be enacted in future using the Kennel Club’s legal powers as precedent.

For breeders of dogs not recognized by the Kennel Club, breeders of mixed breed dogs, breeders who rely on experience, personal judgment and veterinary consultation to determine their breeding decisions – this would be the end of your breeding programs. For pet owners who want any of the previously mentioned dogs, you’d be out of luck. And for anyone who values personal freedoms at home – so sorry.

We all want healthy, happy dogs. Starting from there, we need to address the real issues – the problems brought about by closed stud books, popular sire syndrome and dog shows just to name a few. We do not need more restrictions and definitely not more restrictions imposed by the people who dragged us into this hole. You know the saying, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” To which I would add: Do not hand out shovels to the Kennel Club!

A better idea: The Norwegian Kennel Club has a plan which advocates “recommendations, education and cooperation with the breeders and breed clubs. It is our true belief that this is far more beneficial to the dogs’ health and welfare than heavy restrictions. The goal in modern dog breeding is that all dogs shall be functionally healthy, with a construction and a mentality typical to the breed, and will live a long, healthy and happy life.” Well that sounds pretty good akshually. Read more here.