FDA Expands Jerky Probe to Include Duck and Sweet Potato Treats

After receiving complaints from the public, the Food and Drug Administration has expanded the chicken jerky investigation to include duck and sweet potato treats.  All of the products were either made in or have ingredients from China.  The FDA warns people who use these products to watch their pets for:

Vomiting
Diarrhea
Bloat
Increased thirst
Increased urination
Anorexia
Lethargy

The FDA has published more information on this matter, including how to file a complaint on their website.  The link is provided below.  

http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation/ucm295445.htm

Feeding Dogs and Cats Based on Physiology

Recently, I read an interesting study regarding the evolutionary basis for dog and cat feeding behaviors.  The author, John Bradshaw studied the physical adaptations of dogs and cats relative to their diets.  Here is a summary of what he found:
 
1) Teeth – Cats have highly specialized teeth that are perfect for catching and eating prey.  The teeth are cylindrical in nature which are good for penetration and tearing.  Dogs, on the other hand, have rather generic, unspecialized teeth that can be used for a variety of functions.

2) Taste – Cats cannot taste salt or sugar which is why they tend to eat bitter tasting foods.  Dogs cannot taste salt but can taste sugar which is probably why many dogs enjoy ice cream and other sweet human foods.  Note, I do not recommend ice cream for dogs!

3) Feeding Behavior – In general, dogs have larger stomachs capable of holding large amounts of food.  This is ideal for animals who eat infrequently such as when the pack makes a kill.  Domestic cats have smaller stomachs as they tend to eat smaller, more frequent meals.

4) Nutritional Requirements – Cats need to eat animal protein to fulfill their nutritional requirements.  They cannot metabolize carbohydrates into glucose for energy nor synthesize all their required amino acids from plant based proteins.  Dogs, are more like humans as they can metabolize carbohydrates into glucose and metabolize plant based proteins. 

So based on these results, cats really are strict carnivores who have evolved to eat a low carbohydrate diet.  I now recommend canned pate food for all my feline patients.  Avoid foods that contain chunks of meat with gravy because the gravy is loaded with carbohydrates.   

Reference:

Bradshaw, John W.S., The evolutionary basis for feeding behavior of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and cats (Felis catus). J. Nutri. July 2006; 136(7 Suppl): 1927S-1931S. 

Black Cat Appreciation Day

August 17th is Black Cat Appreciation Day!  This day was started to bring attention to the blight of black colored animals in shelters.  For some reason, black animals are not adopted as quickly as animals of other colors.  Some think it is the association with bad luck that is causing this phenomenon.  I think the dark color causes a lack of contrast which makes it harder for people to read the body language of black animals.  Whatever the reason, I hope your will celebrate black animals, especially cats on August 17th. 

Here is a baby picture of my black cat, Keanu. He has grown into a wonderful cat. 

Grain Free Diets For Cats

Because of the popularity of grain free diets for people, this method of eating is slowly creeping into animals foods.  Is it healthy for cats to eat a grain free diet?  The answer is a cautious yes as long as another carbohydrate such as potato is not substituted for the grain.  Let me explain:

Many studies (and common sense) have demonstrated that cats are strict carnivores meaning they need to consume animal tissue in order to satisfy their unique nutritional requirements.  Mice, a common prey for cats, are primarily protein and fat with very few carbohydrates.  Dry diets fed to domesticated cats are loaded with carbohydrates.  Whether the carbohydrates come from grains or other sources, cats cannot metabolize them into sugar like dogs and humans.  Therefore, carbohydrates from any source should be minimized in cats.  Since all dry food is loaded with carbohydrates, the current recommendation is to feed cats canned food without gravy.  Remember gravy contains a lot of carbohydrates.  

The bottom line is that cats should eat a very low carbohydrate diet to prevent diabetes, pancreatitis and a host of other problems.  When I evaluate a food that is marketed as grain free, I look very closely to see what other carbohydrate source has been used.  Most of the grain free diets I have evaluated substitute potatoes and rice for the grains.  Unfortunately, the glycemic index is even higher for these two starches.  Read all cat food labels carefully and consult with your veterinarian to determine what is the best food for your cat.        

References:
    -Bradshaw, John W.S. “The evolutionary basis for feeding behavior of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and cats (Felis catus). J. Nutr. July 2006; 136(7Suppl): 1927S-1931S.
    -Hewson-Hughes, A.K. “Geometric analysis of macronutrient selection in adult cat, Felis catus.”
J. Exp. Biol. March 2011; 214 (Pt6): 1039-51.
    -Plantinga, E.A., et al. “Estimation of the dietary nutrient profile of free-roaming cats:  possible implications for nutrition of domestic cats.” Br. J. Nutri. October 2011; 106 Suppl. 1(0): S35-48.
    -Verbrugghe, A. et al. “Nutritional modulation of insulin resistance in the true carnivorous cat: a review.  Crit. Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. January 2012; 52(2): 172-82.

How to Compare Cat and Dog Foods

Comparing one brand of pet food to another can be difficult because the information on the label is stated in three different ways; as fed, dry matter and metabolizable energy (ME). 

AS FED:   In my experience, as fed is the most common method used by pet food manufacturers.  I think of as fed as how it comes out of the bag, can, box or foil.  As fed includes water and minerals which makes it impossible to compare dry food to canned food without further calculations to account for the moisture content. 

DRY MATTER:  The next most common method used is dry matter.  This is a little more helpful because it excludes water allowing for comparison between canned and dry.  Unfortunately, it does not account for fiber, ash and other components that cannot be metabolized into usable energy.    

METABOLIZABLE ENERGY:  ME is the nutrient content divided by calories (Kcals).  In my opinion, it is the most accurate because it removes water, fiber, ash and other components that don’t contribute to energy intake.  This is the measurement I use when I want to compare diets.  Unfortunately, most companies do not put this information on the product label.   

Here is example of why I rely on ME to compare diets.  A few weeks ago, I treated a dog for pancreatitis.  The clients wanted to know what caused this condition since they were already feeding what they thought was a low fat diet.  When I reviewed the product information, the percentage of fat based on dry matter was the same as the prescription diet I recommend.  When I called the company for the product information in ME’s, I learned the fat level was actually twice as high as the prescription product.  

When I compare diets, I always get the product information in ME’s.  Since few companies print this on the label, it usually involves a call to the manufacturer.  In my experience, the reputable food producers are happy to provide a detailed analysis of their product.  If they refuse, I would view that as a red flag.  Recently, I called a company to learn more about their product because the label only contained a guaranteed analysis that included minimum values for crude fat and protein, and maximum values for fiber and moisture.  Since my patient needed a low protein diet, I wanted to know the maximum protein their product would contain.  The company refused to provide any further information stating, “Our product varies from batch to batch therefore, we can only provide these maximums and minimums.”  I hung up and crossed this company’s food off my list because of their lack of quality control.