Starbarks Cafes serving MCT oil dog treats…what you need to know

I think we can all agree Starbucks has cornered the coffee market. There are many of us who enjoy a $5 caramel frappucino with 64 grams of sugar every now and then…even if we are a little embarrassed to admit it.

Now it seems Starbucks is entering the canine market too.

This is good news for those of us who love to bring our doggies to Starbucks, but wished they had some special treats for them too. Well, I guess enough dog owners spoke and Starbucks listened.

Five Starbarks Cafes are opening as a test on May 1, 2016 in Manhattan, San Francisco, Hollywood, Bellevue (Washington), and Boca Raton (Florida).

These test locations will have the traditional human fare like macchiatos and cappuccinos. But they’ll also be featuring food for your pet—things like chicken soup and grain free treats with MCT oil.

MCT oil…what is that?

I hadn’t heard of MCT oil until I read The Dogington Post’s press release about the opening of these new cafes. They touted MCT oil as brain oil.

This made me suspicious. I’m a devoted and pretty educated dog owner, and I never heard of it. But I suspect we’ll all be hearing a lot more about it if these Starbarks Cafés take off.

Then everyone will want MCT oil-fortified treats for their dogs. And pet food manufacturers will be happy to meet the need.

So I set out to get the MCT oil lowdown and here’s what I’ve learned. It’s another one of those things you really need to understand in order to not be misled.

What is MCT oil?

Before you can understand what MCT oil is, you have to understand what MCT oil is not.

MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides. Triglycerides are fatty acids.

Fatty acids are made up of carbon atoms. It’s the way those atoms are arranged in chains that give MCT its name. There are short, medium and long chain triglycerides.

MCTs are medium chains. They are more easily absorbed by the body than long chain triglycerides.

The carbon chains that make up MCTs have lots of health benefits. The most notable chains are caproic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid and lauric acid.

These 4 carbon chains are found in coconut oil…another trendy product that packs a healthful punch.

The predominant MCT found in coconut oil, and the one that offers the greatest health value, is lauric acid. In fact coconut oil is 50% lauric acid, making it a very rich source of this beneficial MCT.

Lauric acid is an antimicrobial that’s used in a lot of drugs and nutraceuticals. It kills bacteria, viruses and fungus.

But coconut oil doesn’t only have medium chain triglycerides. It also has long chain triglycerides. They’re not so healthy. Because of this, someone decided they’d make MCT oil to get the benefits of coconut oil without the negative effects of long chains.

MCT oil is not natural like coconut oil is. It’s made by processing coconut and palm kernel oils in a lab. It’s manufactured to consist only of the medium chain triglycerides found in these oils.

On the surface, this seems like a good thing because it leaves out the long chains that aren’t absorbed so well.

The bad news is that MCT oil doesn’t only leave out the long chains—it also leaves out the lauric acid, the ingredient that gives coconut oil most of its healthful punch.

Does MCT oil offer any health benefits?

In the research that I’ve done, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information about the benefits of MCT oil.

There are lots of websites, however, promoting the benefits of coconut oil for you and your pet; increased energy, weight loss, healthy skin (and coat in dogs), improved digestion, and fewer allergies.

There was one small mention on a website that it may improve brain function. I wouldn’t be hanging my hat on that.

I was surprised to find that there is so little information about the benefits of MCT oil itself. Could that be because there aren’t too many benefits?

I couldn’t find even one well-regarded source online that expressed the opinion that it had value for dogs. No veterinarians—no pet food manufacturers.

Maybe it’s just too soon.

So if you happen to live near a Starbarks and you’re wondering if your dog should try a grain-free treat laced with MCT oil, it probably won’t hurt them. But I wouldn’t count on the brain oil promise they’ll be pushing to justify the price.

And with the price I’m certain they’ll be charging, maybe it should come with the promise of immortality too.

Do you give your pet MCT oil? Share your experience in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 signs your dog or cat has an L-carnitine deficiency

If you have any fitness-obsessed friends, you might’ve heard of L-carnitine. It’s touted as a fat burner and performance enhancer for people looking to, well…burn more fat and enhance their performance.

But for your dog or cat, it can be a game changer.

What is L-carnitine and why would my pet need it?

L-carnitine is an amino acid that turns fat into energy. And it can be found in almost every cell in the body. It helps the body to be efficient by using fat for energy while maintaining lean muscle…the reason why gym rats love it.

Here’s how it works for your pet.

The body produces L-carnitine. But it’s also found in the meat your pets eat. Because L-carnitine is found in almost all your pet’s cells, a shortage can wreak havoc on their entire system.

Fortunately, it’s rare that your pet will suddenly have a deficiency, unless they are suffering from starvation or not getting enough protein.

But there seems to be a genetic defect that prevents L-carnitine from entering the cells in some animals.

Some dog breeds are genetically predisposed to a deficiency. Boxers, Doberman Pinchers, Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds and other giant breeds are at greater risk.

How do I know if my pet has an L-carnitine deficiency?

It’s a tough diagnosis.

It’s difficult to know for sure if a pet lacks this amino acid. The only real diagnostic tool is a biopsy of the heart tissue to measure carnitine levels. And that’s not something your vet’s going to rush to do.

If your pet shows signs that go hand in hand with an L-carnitine deficiency, your vet may just treat your pet as if they’re deficient.

Some of the signs, like disease of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), will not be evident without some tests being done by your vet.

Besides cardiomyopathy, a shortage of L-carnitine can cause a lot of other problems like fatty liver syndrome, obesity, diabetic ketoacidosis (cells don’t get the sugar they need), and hyperlipidemia (a high concentration of fat in the blood).

So it’s a good idea to be aware of the symptoms. Here are 6 signs your dog or cat may have a deficiency:

Rapid and excessive breathing

Shortness of breath

Muscle pain

Weakness

Lethargy

Exercise intolerance

These signs are pretty nonspecific. They can be associated with a laundry list of health issues. You’ll need to see your vet to be sure what’s going on.

Some times a dog or cat may even have a mild deficiency that goes unnoticed because the signs are so subtle.

How is an L-carnitine deficiency treated?

If your pet is truly deficient, your vet will recommend a supplement. With a true deficiency, supplements work.

But because most vets won’t biopsy the heart muscle, there is no assurance that L-carnitine is causing the cardiomyopathy your pet is suffering from…or the diabetic ketoacidosis…or the obesity…or any of the other problems that could be connected to a deficiency.

And that makes supplements less effective for treating those conditions.

If your pet is suffering from one of these conditions, and the vet isn’t sure a deficiency in L-carnitine is causing it, a supplement should only be used as part of an integrated treatment plan. It shouldn’t be the sole treatment.

L-carnitine supplementation has been very effective in some instances.

If you happen to have an American Cocker Spaniel or Boxer that suffers from dilated cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart), L-carnitine supplementation really works. Talk to your vet to learn more about how it might help your dog.

Be aware if your pet is on an L-carnitine supplement to treat cardiomyopathy, your vet will likely want to do an EKG every 3 to 6 months once they’ve started taking it to be sure it’s working.

Using an L-carnitine supplement is also works well to manage obesity and fatty liver syndrome in cats.

Are there any risks associated with L-carnitine?

There are two forms of carnitine: levocarnitine (L-carnitine) and dextrocarnitine (D-carnitine). The body uses L for fat metabolism. But D decreases the amount of L the body absorbs.

That’s bad. Be sure to use only pure L-carnitine supplements for maximum absorption.

L-carnitine is not a supplement your pet can overdose on. If they get more than they need, their body will excrete it. It’s safe. That’s why a vet will treat with L-carnitine if they suspect a deficiency…even without doing a biopsy.

It is not, however, recommended for dog’s that have hypothyroidism. It will mess with their medication. If you think your dog may benefit from L-carnitine and they have an underactive thyroid, talk to your vet before giving them any supplement.

The one downside of too much L-carnitine is diarrhea, which can sometimes happen if your pet is on a high therapeutic dose.

Is there any benefit to giving my healthy dog an L-carnitine supplement? 

If your pet is generally healthy, there is probably no reason to give them a separate supplement.

However, the FDA allows pet food companies to add low doses of L-carnitine to their recipes, and some do.

Husse adds L-carnitine to their Lax & Ris and Light Optimal formulas. These foods are specifically formulated for the dog that could benefit from more L-carnitine in their diet— one on a weight management program, one with higher energy needs (working dog, competitive athletic dog), or one with heart disease.

Has your pet been diagnosed with an L-carnitine deficiency? Are you supplementing with L-carnitine or a pet food with added L-carnitine? Tell us about it in the comment section above.

 

 

 

Noses turning pink, fur turning red…what’s going on with your dog?

Just like people have hair, skin and eyes of different colors, dogs, as we know, come in lots of different colors too. And it’s melanin that causes the pigmentation in a dog’s coat and skin just like it is in humans.

Whether your dog is light coated or dark coated, melanin is at work. It affects the color of their fur, their noses, their lips, their gums and even their skin.

There’s an enzyme in your dog’s body called tyrosinase. Tyrosinase transforms the amino acid tyrosine into the black pigment in melanin.

And there are some funny things that can happen to your dog’s skin and fur if the amount of this enzyme in their body is off.

A pink nose

If you have a Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Bernese Mountain Dog, Siberian Husky or German Shepherd, you may have already experienced “snow nose” or “winter nose” as it’s sometimes called. These breeds are most likely to get it.

Here’s what happens. If you have a light-coated dog with a normally black nose and it turns pink or light brown in the winter, your dog has snow nose. No one really knows for sure exactly what causes it.

It’s seems either colder temperatures or fewer daylight hours lower the production of tyrosinase. This reduces the melanin in the skin of your dog’s nose causing a pinkish stripe down the center.

Snow nose

When the temps warm and the days get longer, your dog’s nose will usually return to its darker color.

But as dogs age, the production of tyrosinase gets weaker. You may find that your dog’s nose stays pink.

There are some other things that can cause your dog’s nose to turn pink like an injury (scrape), a bacterial infection, allergies, and some autoimmune disorders. If one of these conditions is the culprit, you’ll notice some other things going on with your dog. Not just a pink nose.

Dogs can be sensitive to plastic. If you feed your dog from a plastic bowl and you notice his nose and lips turning pink, switch to stainless steel.

As with anything else that concerns you about your dog’s health, call your vet if you think something more serious is going on. Any crustiness, swelling or discharge from the nose requires a visit to the vet.

Fortunately, snow nose is not dangerous but it does leave your dog susceptible to sunburn. You should apply a vet-approved sunscreen to your dog’s pink nose when they’re out in the sun.

If you show your dog, a pink nose may disqualify them—depending on the breed and whether their nose is permanently pink. Foods like Husse’s Lamm & Ris and Husse’s Lax & Ris have high levels of the amino acid tyrosine, which can improve pigmentation.

What if your dog was born with a pink nose? That’s different. That’s not snow nose…that’s called a Dudley Nose. Afghan Hounds, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, Pointers, Poodles, Samoyeds, and White Shepherds are the most likely breeds to have Dudley Noses.

A red coat

Melanin plays a roll not only in skin color but also hair color. If you have a black dog, they need high levels of tyrosine to produce the black pigment in melanin and maintain that deep black fur color.

If your black dog doesn’t have enough tyrosine in its body and doesn’t get enough from it’s diet, their black fur can take on a reddish color. This is called Red Coat Syndrome or Rubra-pilaris Syndrome.

If you find that your black dog is looking a little reddish, you may need to give them a food with higher amounts of tyrosine.

As you’ll see in the photos below, feeding a dog with Red Coat Syndrome a high tyrosine diet like Husse’s Lamm & Ris or Lax & Ris will improve their coat. If it doesn’t, talk to your vet about adding a tyrosine supplement.

Bouvier Red

Bouvier Black

Does your dog have a snow nose or a Dudley nose? Has your dog’s black coat ever turned red? Share your experience in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pet food manufacturing process

I write a lot on this blog about the nutritional aspects of pet food. After all, Husse is a pet food company.

But how your pet’s food is manufactured can have an impact on its nutritional value. The process is not complex and it doesn’t vary too much from company to company. But there are some little nuances that can have an effect on taste, shelf life and overall quality.

The process obviously differs depending on whether the food is dry, semi-moist or canned.

Let’s talk about dry food first.

Dry food production process

There are many ways to make kibble but the most common method is extrusion. It’s a process that was created to manufacture breakfast cereal in the 1950s.

There are several steps in the process that are the same from one company to the next. But some of the steps in Husse’s process differ.

And that starts with government guidelines and oversight.

Regardless of the food you choose, every brand of pet food sold in the US has to meet the guidelines of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), in addition to the requirements of the USDA and the FDA. AAFCO guidelines require that the ingredients meet all of a pet’s nutritional needs.

Husse also has to meet the requirements of l’Agence Federale pour la Securite de la Chaine Alimentaire (AFSCA – the Federal Agency for Food Chain Security in Sweden), in addition to the requirements of the USDA, FDA and AAFCO.

Raw Materials

Regardless of the company it all starts with the raw materials. There are dry ingredients (chicken meal, beef meal, wheat, corn, rice, etc.) and wet ingredients (fat).

The raw materials are delivered to Husse by truckload and stored in large bins (dry) and tanks (liquid). Special ingredients like vitamins and minerals are delivered in bags.

The ingredients in Husse products come from animals that are considered suitable for human consumption. Only the best quality meat meal and protein with high biological value are used in Husse’s food.

When the raw materials get to Husse a sample is taken and tested to be sure quality meets their standard.

Mixing and grinding the ingredients

At this point, Husse will use a computerized system to determine the correct amounts of each ingredient based on the food they’re making at that time. The right ingredients in the correct proportions are combined. Then that mixture will go to a hammer mill where it will be ground.

All manufacturers grind their ingredients and most will use a commercial hammer mill. The consistency, usually like course flour, is really important. It ensures a smooth kibble surface and good kibble shape. It’s also important in the cooking process and for water absorption.

After grinding, Husse will mix the meal again to ensure that all ingredients are equally distributed and every bag of the end product will be of the same quality.

Preconditioning and extrusion

The dry ingredients and the wet ingredients come together in a mixer and they become a moist dough. Then the dough moves into the preconditioner (illustration below) where the dough is heated to more than 200 degrees.

This causes the starch in the dough to gelatinize. It becomes more soluble so that it can absorb more water and be more easily digested.

Starch is the ingredient in most dry foods that binds the final product together and forms kibble. But starch can be hard to digest so preconditioning is crucial.

Then the cooking phase begins in the extruder. The dough is cooked under high pressure and intense heat as it moves towards the open end of the extruder.

During this step in the process, any potentially difficult to digest ingredients expand under high temperature and pressure, and become easier for your pet to absorb.

At the end of the extruder, the hot dough passes through a shaping die and is cut into kibbles.

Preconditioner:extruder

At Husse, the goal is to sell a consistent high quality pet food. So the operators of the equipment take a sample every hour to test the density, moisture content, and size of the kibbles to be sure it meets their high standards.

Drying

Since steam is added during the preconditioning phase, the kibbles contain a high percentage of moisture.

Kibbles travel through different levels of the batch dryer until they reach a moisture level of 10%. Mold and bacteria can’t grow at this level, which makes the food shelf stable.

Vacuum Coater and Cooling

At this point, most manufacturers will let the kibble cool and then pass it through a machine that sprays a flavor coating on the kibble. This makes it taste better and adds fat, which is very important in your pet’s diet.

Husse uses a different process. Instead of spraying the kibble, they use a vacuum coater (illustration below). It gives their food a higher percentage of fat and greater palatability than pet foods that use a sprayer.

After the kibbles cool, they go into the vacuum coater where an air pump creates a vacuum. This vacuum opens up the fine pores of the kibble, while the kibble is kept in constant motion. When the fat is sprayed, it’s evenly distributed over all the kibble.

Then the pressure is increased in the coater, which pushes the fat into the fine pores of the kibble. The fat is not only on the outside of the kibble, as it would be if it was just sprayed on, but it’s evenly distributed throughout the kibble.

Vacuum Coater

 

The next step in the Husse process is to coat the kibbles with a smell and taste enhancer, giving it a natural animal smell.

And then the food is packaged.

Semi-moist food production process

Semi-moist food has a moisture content somewhere between canned food and dry.

Believe it or not the manufacturing process is very similar to dry food. The difference being the temperature and pressure in the extruder, which is not as high as dry food.

And instead of the food going through the drying process when it leaves the extruder, it goes into coating drums that add water and chemicals to help maintain moisture. Then it’s refrigerated to lock in the moisture content and keep its spongy texture.

Because semi-moist food has a higher moisture content than dry food, it’s more likely to spoil from mold and bacteria. It’s also more likely to dry out and fall apart. So manufacturers add mold and bacteria inhibitors to their recipes, and package the food in moisture-proof bags.

Canned food production process

As you’d expect, there’s a high level of meat product in canned food. The meat product is ground into small pieces. Vitamins, minerals, and any grains in the formula get added. And all ingredients go into a mixer where they’re blended.

In the mixer, the temperature is increased to gelatinize the starch.

While the food is still hot, it is moved into the filler/seamer machine. As the lid goes on the can, steam is blown over the top of the food so that it will be vacuum-sealed when it cools. This prevents the food from spoiling.

The cans are then sterilized, which kills all the dangerous bacteria that could enter the can like botulism. When the cans are cool, they’re ready to be labeled and sold.

Whether you choose to feed your pet a dry, semi-moist or canned food is a decision based on your pet’s nutritional needs, and in many instances convenience.

There are so many factors beyond the manufacturing process that make one food better for your pet than another. And I’ve written about many of them in this blog.

All food is not created equal…but at least now you have a pretty good idea of how it’s all made.

Do you have any thoughts about how your pet’s food is manufactured? Let us know in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

Feline uveitis…a common cause of glaucoma in cats

In last week’s post, I wrote about glaucoma in dogs. And in dogs, glaucoma can be genetic or brought on by an underlying health condition. But in cats, it’s rarely genetic. It’s almost always brought on by an eye disorder called chronic uveitis.

And unlike dogs, cats don’t get a lot of eye diseases. But uveitis is one of the most common ones they do get and it’s extremely painful—not to mention dangerous.

Uveitis is an inflammation of one or all of the layers of the uveal tract, which is a hollow ball that sits within the eyeball itself. Besides being very painful, it can lead to blindness.

The uveal tract is made up of three layers; 1) the iris, which is the colored part of the eye, 2) the ciliary body which produces aqueous humor, the fluid that nourishes and removes waste from the cornea and lens, and 3) the choroid which is the main source of blood and nutrition for the retina.

Uveitis can be caused by trauma to the eye, an infection, or cancer. In 60% of the cases of uveitis, the underlying cause is never determined.

But it’s important that your vet try to figure out the source of the problem because the infections and cancers associated with uveitis are often life threatening.

What are the signs of uveitis?

Feline uveitis can happen in both eyes simultaneously if the underlying cause is a systemic problem. If it’s due to a disorder specific to the eye, it’s likely going to affect just one eye.

It can come on slowly and progress slowly until you start to notice a problem. Or it can come on suddenly and progress quickly.

The most common symptom is a color change. The colored part of the eye becomes cloudy or red.

But here are some other signs to look out for:

Squinting

Sensitivity to light

Third eyelid protrudes

Tearing or a watery discharge

Change in shape or size of pupil

Iris becomes muddy or red

Cataract forms

Enlarged eye (if uveitis progresses to glaucoma)

Uveitis can lead to glaucoma in cats. If you read last weeks post, you know how serious glaucoma is. If pressure is allowed to build up in your cat’s eye, they may go blind and lose that eye.

Not only can it result in glaucoma, but uveitis can also cause cataracts, a detached retina, and dislocation of the lens. These conditions can all lead to blindness.

And uveitis is a clue that something bigger is going on. The underlying disease that’s causing the inflammation can be deadly so early diagnosis is a must.

What is the treatment for feline uveitis?

When you notice a problem, get your cat to the vet immediately. Your vet will do a full examination to try to diagnose what’s causing the problem. They’ll test the pressure in your cat’s eye to see if glaucoma has set in. But they may send you to a veterinary ophthalmologist to have this done.

Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the inflammation and pain, and to treat the underlying condition.

If the hidden problem is cancer and it’s only in the eye and nowhere else, the vet will likely suggest removing the eye.

If cancer’s not the problem, the vet will prescribe topical anti-inflammatory meds for your kitty’s eye and possibly oral anti-inflammatories also. And if they’ve determined the root cause, they’ll treat that too, which could mean antibiotics, anti-virals, or anti-fungals.

If your cat already has glaucoma, they’ll have to treat it immediately. You can read about treatments for glaucoma in last week’s post. But if the pressure caused by glaucoma isn’t controlled, your cat will go blind and possibly lose their eye—and glaucoma is painful!

Don’t let it get that far!

If your vet isn’t equipped to measure eye pressure, or you think your cat is showing signs of glaucoma, seek out a veterinary ophthalmologist. Don’t assume your vet is experienced in treating glaucoma…and it’s a condition that can’t be left to chance. Your cat’s eye is at stake.

Know that once your cat has feline uveitis it can be a chronic lifelong problem that requires regular visits to the vet for monitoring and potentially lifetime treatment. But effective treatments exist. So if caught quickly, your cat should be able to maintain a great quality of life.

Does your cat suffer from feline uveitis? What has your experience been? Share your thoughts in the comment section above.