Meal or Whole Meat?

Like so many simplistic questions in the pet food industry the answer is not simplistic. Let’s start by just telling you more about what “meal” is. Here are some basic facts:
• Meat meals are exceptionally concentrated dry forms of the corresponding whole meat. So, analysis will show that pet foods using this concentrate contain more protein than the whole meats.
• Whole meat, before it is cooked, contains about 70 percent water and around 15 percent protein. After cooking away, the fat and water… the remaining protein weighs very little. Brands that use whole meat will usually have to use a meal (later in the ingredient list) to get to the minimum protein percentage they are stating. They use whole meat because it is heavy from water weight and can look like a small amount of protein is the first ingredient because this is how the order of ingredients is determined. You must investigate this; if you are buying a fish-based food for instance and the first ingredient is a whole meat fish, there could be an alternate protein meal later in the ingredient list. This is to make the higher cost protein appear first in the ingredient list.
Meat meal chart

• The actual “by-weight” nutrient content before cooking? Whole meat, 15% protein… meat meal, 65% protein. Pound-for-pound…that’s more than four times as much protein in meat meal… as in the whole meat itself.

Protein compare chart

Now, these statistics alone will only tell you about the difference between meal and whole meat. As with all ingredients you read on a pet food label it tells you nothing about the quality of the meal or the meat! Choosing a meat over a meal or vice versa alone will not provide higher quality. Meal is more concentrated than its whole meat version but that does not mean higher quality. So, at the end of the day all meal is not created equal just like all whole meat is not created equal. You still must choose a company that only uses the highest-grade meats. Do not be afraid to ask about how much your provider knows about the sourcing and traceability of these ingredients. Another thing to watch out for are by-products; these are an example of a low-quality meat regardless if it is a whole meat or a meal. Low quality whole meats and meals will not be as digestible in the body of your pet; meaning low quality will deliver less overall nutrition.

The last piece of information to provide is that fresh whole meats are more prone to bacteria growth. In this age of a recall every other day it is a consideration. Did you know what meal was before this read?

Do you talk to your pet?

I often chuckle when I am out walking my dogs in the wee hours of morning and I pass someone and realize I am mid-sentence talking to my dogs. I probably speak more words to them daily than anyone! Am I just a crazy dog lady? The science says no, in fact I might just be brilliant! When humans talk to non-human animals it is called anthropomorphism. According to Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago, anthropomorphism is “a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet.” Human beings are programmed to see and perceive minds which is why we anthropomorphize things without even realizing it. While that is a fun fact, it isn’t why we do it. We do it because we feel more connected to our pet.
Every book will tell you that when you are expecting a baby to begin talking to your baby, even before birth, and then continue talking to your infant. There have been many studies about the increased bonding between child and parent when this occurs. Well our pets like their parents to talk to them as well.
Dogs specifically have been studied and proven to respond to “dog speak”. This tends to be a higher pitch voice we use when we talk to our animals…like “baby talk” we use with human children. Scientists say they have not determined if puppies come to this world being responsive to this or if it is a learned behavior, but they know that dogs both young and old respond to this type of speech from humans.
Another thing that is proven is that dogs are responsive to repetitive words. Dogs learn using dog relevant words that they relate behavior or experiences to. My husband rolls his eyes when I spell out T R E A T, he contends it is not the word but rather the tone or “dog speak” voice that they are responding to. Well the studies say he might be right. Dogs do respond more frequently to dog relevant words, but adult dogs are even more likely to interact when the words are spoken in the high-pitched tone.
There are so many benefits to talking to your pets; both for them and for you. Here are the top reasons you should just keep gabbing.

1. We talked about the increased bond that develops between you and your pet when you talk to them. This is emotionally beneficial for both of you. It is proven how animals can help combat loneliness and depression in humans. It goes without saying you are the most important thing in the life of your pet, so the connection they get from you talking to them literally means the world to them.
2. We talked about how dogs learn from dog relevant words. Dogs want to please you, so if you can teach your pet the meaning of the words you speak to them, they are able to respond as they are supposed to when they hear a word or a phrase. Again, you are their whole world so the more often they can show off and please you the better.
3. Take your chatting to another level. If you can couple your words with specific movements of body language your pet is so smart, they will learn these communication ques as well. It is another way that you can communicate your intent or message to your pet without ever speaking a word. Just another strengthening tie to the bond between the two of you.
So next time you leave your house and you tell your pet, “Mom will be home soon”, remember you aren’t crazy.
Do you talk to your pet?

What are Purines?

Purines are a type of chemical compound found in foods and are part of a normal diet. Purines can be found in the nucleus of any plant or animal cell. The name “purines” refers to a specific type of molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen atoms, and these molecules are found in cells’ DNA and RNA.
Why would you care as a pet owner? When purine is eaten by humans and animals as it degrades it forms uric acid. The most common problem in humans this can cause is gout, a sharply painful form of arthritis. In susceptible dogs, purines trigger the formation of urate uroliths because they cannot break down the uric acid into allantonin. These dogs will require low purine foods to prevent the formation of uric acid and thereby reduces the chance of stones forming in their body. These “urate stones” can form in the kidneys, urethra or urinary bladder which can cause irritation to the dog. In rare cases, it might even stop the flow of urine completely, causing a lot of pain and even death.
The most common dog breed that you will see this condition in are Dalmatians. A Dalmatian owner should seek a lower purine diet as standard course of ownership. Ninety seven percent of stones in male Dalmatians and 69% in females are urate which form from purine. Other breeds that can have this abnormality are English Bulldogs, Weimaraners, German Shepherds, Giant Schnauzers and some terrier breeds.
How to prevent urate stones?
The best way to prevent this condition is to tailor a low purine diet. There is sometimes a blanket thought that a low purine diet means a low protein diet. While it is probably a good idea to lean towards a moderate amount of protein if you own an at-risk breed, it is a bit more complicated than that. There are specific animal and plant protein sources that are higher than others in purine. So those specific ingredients must be avoided. The simple rules of thumb you will always want to follow if you are limiting purine.
Avoid these animal proteins:
Duck
Venison
Sardines
Mackerel
Avoid these vegetable sources:
Kidney beans
Cauliflower
Peas
Lentils
Spinach
Ingredients that are lower in purines are the following. It should be noted that organ meat from ANY ANIMAL SOURCE should be avoided. Organ meat is very high in purine.
Chicken
Lamb
Most fish (there are exceptions like mackerel, sardines’ or anchovies)
Pork
Egg
Beef
Rice
Whole grains
Oatmeal
Knowing this; grain free recipes should be avoided or analyzed very closely. Often grain free foods are high in protein and a moderate protein amount is a better choice. Also grain free foods will often use peas or lentils in the recipe.
In addition to diet always make sure your pet has lots of fresh clean water to drink. Some Dalmatian owners will even use mineral free distilled water (there have not been any proven studies that this makes a difference though). The science says the amount of water is the important thing. An at-risk pet owner may want to use urine test strips to monitor the PH level. A change in urinary pH does not indicate the presence or absence of stones but does reveal conditions that are more likely to trigger stone production. A sudden change may signal a bacterial infection, which requires medical attention. It’s important to control urinary tract infections in dogs prone to forming stones.

Are you a Dalmatian parent that manages Purine?

Are you Stressing Your Dog Out?

 

Part of why we love out dogs so much is the way they seem to always comfort our moods.  Nothing says empathy like a big sloppy kiss when you are down.  A few years back I was going through multiple personal crisis’s and then it was compounded by the fact that my dog’s reactive fear behavior seemed to reach a fever pitch.  I reached out to an animal communicator that simply told me-” it’s you”.  They didn’t mean it in a blame sort of way but simply that my dog was feeding off my own state of mind and that it was important for me to take a breath and get myself in a better place if I wanted my dog to make progress.  This is obviously over-simplifying how we reached a solution but the fact that out dogs are impacted by what we are feeling did not surprise me.

We all might have assumed this and there have been studies that reflect the behavior from short periods of acute stress mirroring the behavior in our pets, called emotional contagion.  Emotional contagion, the mirroring of emotional or arousal states between individuals, is commonly seen among group-living species.  But a recent study done by Linkoping University in Sweden provides some additional science that supports this to a greater degree than we probably realize.

One reaction in the body when you are under added stress is for your body to produce more of a hormone called Cortisol. This study looked at 58 dogs and their owners and measured the Hair Cortisol Concentrations (HCC) of both owner and dog.  Measurements were taken at two separate occasions, reflecting levels during previous summer and winter months. The dogs’ activity levels were continuously monitored with a remote cloud-based activity collar for one week because physical activity can affect cortisol levels.  Shetland sheepdogs and border collies, balanced for sex, participated, and both pet dogs and actively competing dogs (agility and obedience) were included to represent different lifestyles. The results showed significant inter-species correlations in long-term stress where human HCC from both summer and winter samplings correlated strongly with dog HCC.  The personality traits of both dogs and their owners were determined through owner-completed surveys about their personalities.  However, although dogs’ personalities had little effects on their HCC, the human personality traits neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness significantly affected dog HCC. Hence, they suggest that dogs, to a great extent, mirror the stress level of their owners.

When I was going through my stressful period someone could have told me (and they did) I needed to take a break and make some time for my own mental health and the suggestion went in one ear and out the other.  When I realized the impact, my issues were having on my dog…. well that is a completely different thing!  The last thing in the world I would do is put my dog under stress that was not necessary.  Be thoughtful about what affect you are having on the loved ones around you.  For me I felt a little like it would be selfish to close my eyes to the bad things going on to get a massage or meditate; but the truth was that I was being selfish by not doing that.

Have you seen your personal stress change your dog’s behavior?

The entire study can be reviewed at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-43851-x

Top Tips for Feline Hygiene

Cats are usually totally into hygiene all by themselves; constantly self-grooming.  In fact, cats spend up to fifty percent of their waking hours grooming themselves. Cats start grooming their kittens right away and it is an instant bond between Mom and kitten.  This can be the case between owner and cat as well.  There are definite reasons that grooming your cat is a good idea.

  • Hair balls are a common issue for cat owners and brushing or grooming your cat is the best way to reduce the hair they will ingest doing their own grooming and will greatly reduce hair balls.
  • Detecting injury or illness.  Grooming is a good chance to pay close attention to any boo-boo’s or other concerns around you cat’s health.
  • Accustoming a cat to regular handling and providing valuable interaction between cat and owner.  If you cat ever does have an injury it will be easier for you to assess if your cat is accustomed to being touched everywhere by you.
  • Long haired cats or cats that spend time outdoors do get dirt that is more difficult to clean away.

For many cat owners the thought of grooming their cat sounds like something they would put on their wish list right after root canal!  If you are going to take on grooming your cat yourself make it as easy on yourself as possible.

The right tools.  Like any important job, there are tools that can make the job easier.

The Basics:

  • Brushes- Slicker brushes are curved or slanted brushes with very thin teeth. They are ideal for medium- to long-coated cats. The Pin Brush helps to remove knots and tangles in fur to prevent matting. The pins easily go through long fur to carefully comb and neaten the coat. And cats with short, sleek hair can often be groomed with a bristle brush.
  • Combs- A Fine toothed comb (sometimes also called a flea comb) can be run through your cat’s coat from head to tail, being sure to always brush in the direction of the fur to avoid any discomfort. Concentrate on one section at a time to remove any dead hair, dirt, and debris, and take extra caution when brushing around the face and belly as the skin is particularly delicate. Steel Toothed combs (sometimes two sided) are popular to reach below your cat’s topcoat to gently remove loose hairs and reduce shedding.  They can also be great to remove mats. Mats can occur anywhere, but main problem areas for long haired cats include behind the ears, on and around the legs, under arms, tail and around the anus.  These areas are also among the most sensitive areas on the body. Exercise great care in brushing and combing through them.
  • Cat Wipes– These are a must have to quickly and frequently wipe away dander, dirt, and saliva residue. Make sure to choose a product that is unscented and free from parabens, chlorine, and other harmful ingredients.
  • Grooming Glove– These are an awesome option especially for cats who distrust traditional brushes and grooming tools. You just slide the glove onto your hand and stroke your cat like you would normally do petting them. The velcro-like surfaces will feel like a cat’s tongue to them; like a massage similar to grooming they got as a kitten.
  • A Toothbrush and Paste- I know this is a lot to ask but…you should try to brush your cat’s teeth daily. At minimum 3 times a week.   If you are very regular about brushing it will be less stressful for your cat.  Plaque begins to harden in less than one day, so it is most effectively removed before it turns to tartar.  Poor dental hygiene can lead to many health risks for felines.

More Advanced:

  • Professional Pet Nail Clippers- The main reason cats’ claw at things is to keep their nails in good shape. You may want to choose a pair with a safety guard to keep you from cutting too much or too close to the nerve.  You should also keep a nail file to smooth out the rough edges right after a cut.
  • Grooming Clippers- A popular option is a “silent” trimmer to safely remove fur without the buzzing and vibration of conventional clippers. This will be less stressful alternative for sensitive cats.  If the mats are to tight be very careful not to cut the cat with the clippers also. It takes just one fast movement of the cat to do this, especially the loose areas.  The mats can be tight and pull on the skin and make it very uncomfortable to the cat.  Make sure to get the correct size blades.

When grooming matted fur do not use scissors because it is very easy to cut the cat.

In closing…remember to always have lots of your cats’ favorite treats around with all the above to make grooming a fun rewarding activity if you can.  Also; there are some cats who just do not tolerate being groomed. If your cat fights the grooming process, and there is some potential that injury could occur to your cat or yourself it is safer for everybody to make an appointment with a professional groomer or a veterinarian to have your cat groomed.

 

The Great Grain Free Debate Continues

If you are a Happy Healthy Husse customer, you know that our pet nutritionist have never taken a “grain free for all” approach.  Feeding only grain free to our pets is yet another fad that took over the pet food marketplace in the United States without any long term science.  By 2015 about 30% of the pet food market in the US had become grain free, this is compared to 1-15% in European countries.  In France for instance only about 1% of the pets eat grain free pet food.

The recent warning from the FDA has grabbed the attention of many pet owners that rode the grain free wave.  The warning is about a higher than normal occurrence of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.

Again, before everybody catches the most recent wave of knee jerk reaction to a trend let’s take a more educated look at the warning.

-The language in the FDA warning reads “pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients”. A high-quality food will not use a carbohydrate as the main ingredient. Carbohydrates should not be used to replace high quality animal protein. Carbohydrates are part of a balanced diet for dogs, regardless of if the carb is a grain or not.

All grains are not created equally. The grain free frenzy has been so popular in the United States because so many animals claim to be sensitive to grains. The fact of the matter is this is not the case in other parts of the world where grains are not genetically modified. I have found case after case after case of dogs that do beautifully eating high-quality GMO-free grains when they have always thought they had a “grain allergy”.  If you are feeding a grain free recipe you should still care about the peas or potatoes being free from GMO’s or carcinogenic pesticides as well. This is true for humans too!

A common misconception about grains are that animals cannot digest them.  Uncooked grains would not be easily digested by animals BUT neither are potatoes or legumes in their raw form.  So, if you are feeding a grain free kibble the carbohydrate; regardless if it is a potato, a bean or a grain it has been cooked at high temperature to make them easily digestible for your pet.

-High quality grain free pet foods are often modeled on the paleo diet. This means that food will contain a high percentage of protein and fat, and a lower carb content. Not all dogs will benefit from this eating plan. The dog that will do well on this type of diet is a very active dog that is of a healthy weight.

-Low quality foods will simply be choosing a cheaper ingredient (carbohydrate) than animal protein.  Just because the carbohydrate is not a grain it still should not be replacing high quality animal protein.   Grain free does not mean healthy…it may be the furthest thing from the truth.

Who should eat grain free? 

-Grain free foods do provide a low glycemic index; meaning the affect on glucose in the blood increases at a slower rate than that of other carbohydrates.  Grain free is often a good recommendation for some pets that are managing diabetes.  Some veterinarians will also prescribe a paleo style grain free formula for cancer survivors for this reason as well.

-Grain free foods that are based on higher portions of high-quality protein and fat will provide energy for very active dogs that are burning that fuel.  Working dogs or dogs with a very active lifestyle may be a good candidate for grain free.

-Obviously if you have a pet that has a diagnosed allergy to a specific grain this would be a reason to choose grain free.  While this is a very low percentage of pets it can happen.

For more detailed info on the warning or about DCM in general check out the following links.

Link to FDA warning: https://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/newsevents/cvmupdates/ucm613305.htm

More about DCM: https://happytailsfromhusse.com/2017/09/20/the-silent-dog-killer-youve-never-heard-of/

Prescription Food….Is It Medicine?

Last month you learned about how common Chronic Kidney Disease is in older dogs.  The first recommendation you will get when you receive a diagnosis like this is to change your pet’s diet to a prescription food. Recent lawsuits against the major producer of prescription pet food bring some questions to light.  Let’s break down some basic factual things that are true and untrue about prescription food.

Prescription Pet Food IS:

-Food formulated with out of the norm ratios of the major components of pet food such as fat, protein, carbohydrates and minerals.

-Food that is formulated to accommodate a specific health condition that hinders their body function in some way.

-Food that is not ideal for a normal healthy pet and should be recommended at the advice of a veterinarian.

-Food that is more expensive than other non-prescription pet food…even premium brands.

-Food that is marketed with the “RX” symbol and often requires a prescription from your veterinarian to purchase.

Prescription Pet Food IS NOT:

-Food that contains a drug or ingredient that requires FDA approval or a prescription under federal or state law.

-Food that is regulated or known to have any ingredients of higher quality than non-prescription food.

The companies that produce prescription foods are limited so it is often something that puts a pet owner in a position with few options.  Responsible pet owners may have done extensive research in choosing a pet food that uses high quality ingredients, avoiding by-products or ingredients grown with pesticides or other known carcinogenic chemicals.  The health of their pet depends on their adhering to a diet that is an odd mix and ratio of proteins or fats that they cannot find in the quality food they have been feeding.  When they look at the 2 options given by their vet, they will often find the ingredient list something they would not normally consider feeding their pet.

Let’s take the Chronic Kidney example we talked about last month.  We outlined the key changes to diet include low protein, low phosphorus and low sodium coupled with being rich in omega fatty acids.  The ideal protein percentage being as low as 14%.  This is lower than you will find in any standard pet food option.  Kidney disease means that the organ of their body that would normally filter out waste products and toxins from the blood has lost functionality.  Yet the food that would be prescribed is neither organic or GMO free.  This seems crazy since pesticides and genetically modified foods are known to be more taxing for the organs to filter!  Another example might be a pet managing pancreatitis.  A prescriptive diet treating this condition is going to be an extremely low-fat recipe, like 4-5% with lower than normal fiber.  Again, this is something that will not normally be found in a traditional recipe even if it is a low-fat recipe.

So what options do you have?

-Feed the prescription food.  If the life of your pet depends on this delicate balance of nutritional elements, then you might have to try and choose the lesser of evils of a prescription diets.

-Modify your pet’s current healthy diet.  If you are feeding a healthy organic or GMO-free diet check and see if they have a recipe closer to what you are trying to achieve.  Then perhaps you can reduce the kibble intake and balance it with other healthy ingredients.  For instance, if you are trying to reduce the percentage of their diet that is fat then reduce the amount of low-fat kibble they are eating and feed other fat free foods that make up their total diet.  Or in the case of the low protein kidney example choose a lower protein recipe food reduce the amount and supplement with organic low phosphorus fruits, vegetables and rice for example.  The additional fatty acids could come from a salmon oil supplement (oil is fat…not protein).

-Customize a home cooked diet to the specifications required for their condition.  Often you can find recipes for home cooked diets for specific conditions.  You must choose high quality ingredients, and this can be very time consuming.  Unfortunately, there is still risk that you will unintentionally throw something off with even a small error.

The two latter options must be pursued with caution.  It is extremely difficult to achieve precise balance necessary for chronic health conditions which is why your vet will probably recommend a RX food.

Have you had to switch to a prescription food that you were unhappy with?

If you wanted to read about the recent litigation related to RX food here is a link to an article.   https://www.kansascity.com/news/business/article226199940.html#storylink=cpy