Friday, December 21, 2007


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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Winter Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa, Blessed Ramadan, Happy Diwali, Merry Yule.......

Did I miss any?

No matter how you say it or what you believe, may everyone have a blessed holiday season and a wonderful new year. Peace and good wishes to all, man and beast alike.


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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bless the Animals

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I'm not Catholic, but I really like this. St. Francis seems to feel the same way about animals as most of us do. I figure a few extra blessings and prayers, no matter who you pray to, will certainly never hurt.

"A tool in your hands I am, dear God, the sweetest instrument you have shaped my being into. What makes me now complete-
feeling the soul of every creature against my heart. Does every creature have a soul? Surely they do; for everything God has touched will have life forever. And all creatures he has held."

St. Francis of Assisi

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Just what IS in my dog's food, part 7: Flavorings - Yum or Yuck?

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High quality foods do not really need any flavorings, but natural ones are harmless and may even add a little nutritional value. The sole purpose of flavoring agents in pet food is to make the food palatable to the pet.

The food that comes from the manufacturing plant is often so rancid that no dog would touch it. So why does your dog come running when you open a new bag of commercial pet food? Because that overpowering odor wafting from the bag smells like dinner to him. Fat is sprayed directly on the morsels of food, and that is what you and your dog smell. The fat that entices him to eat is gathered from the rendering plant, restaurant grease, and other sources of fats and oils that are too rancid for human consumption. The restaurant grease is gathered from various establishments and stored in huge drums, sometimes outside for weeks at a time in extreme temperatures. Fat is also used as a sort of glue to stick other flavors to pet food morsels. These flavors and the sprayed fat trick pets into eating the food.

While it is true that pet foods must meet certain standards set by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) in order to be labeled as "complete and balanced," there are problems with the quality of the standards themselves. (more....)

In addition to these issues with the standards set by AAFCO, there are further problems with the pet food industry's labeling practices. The labels follow a secret code, and consumers do not have the key to decipher it. In fact, most consumers do not even realize that there is a hidden meaning in the label's wording.

The "Flavor" Rule states that a food may be labeled as "Beef Flavored Dog Food" even if it does not contain any beef, as long as the flavor is "sufficiently detectable." This is achieved by using meals, by-products, or various parts from the animal listed on the label.

It almost seems like a company can call a food "turkey flavored" if a turkey just walks past it!!! Okay, perhaps that's a bit extreme, but you get my point.

The following is taken directly from the FDA website section on interpreting pet food labels:

"Under the "flavor" rule, a specific percentage is not required, but a product must contain an amount sufficient to be able to be detected. There are specific test methods, using animals trained to prefer specific flavors, that can be used to confirm this claim. In the example of "Beef Flavor Dog Food," the word "flavor" must appear on the label in the same size, style and color as the word "beef." The corresponding ingredient may be beef, but more often it is another substance that will give the characterizing flavor, such as beef meal or beef by-products.

With respect to flavors, pet foods often contain "digests," which are materials treated with heat, enzymes and/or acids to form concentrated natural flavors. Only a small amount of a "chicken digest" is needed to produce a "Chicken Flavored Cat Food," even though no actual chicken is added to the food. Stocks or broths are also occasionally added. Whey is often used to add a milk flavor. Often labels will bear a claim of "no artificial flavors." Actually, artificial flavors are rarely used in pet foods. The major exception to that would be artificial smoke or bacon flavors, which are added to some treats."

What exactly are these items they refer to? Here are the gory details:

Animal Digest
AAFCO: A material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind or flavor(s), it must correspond thereto.

A cooked-down broth made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals. The animals used can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: "4-D animals" (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters, restaurant and supermarket refuse and so on.


May also appear as dried, or spray dried. Sometimes the type and part of animals used is specified, such as in "Chicken Digest", "Lamb Digest" or "Poultry Liver Digest"

AAFCO: Material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed. .

A cooked-down broth made from specified, or worse, unspecified parts of specified or unspecified animals (depending on the type of digest used). If the source is unspecified (e.g. "Animal" or "Poultry", the animals used can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: "4-D animals" (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters, restaurant and supermarket refuse and so on.


A substance, such as an extract or spice, that add flavor to a product.

The manufacturer may or may not give more detailed information about what is used for flavoring and whether it is made from a natural or chemical substance.


Glandular Meal
I have not been able to locate an official definition for this product so far.

Since it is used as a "source of liver flavor" in poor quality foods, it is safe to assume that it is a meal obtained from the livers and other glands of various, unspecified animals. As with all generic, unspecified ingredients, it is wise to avoid.

Hmmmm.....sounds more like YUK than YUM to me! So, what do we do with this information now? Study those labels!!

What to look for:

►Specific stocks or broths (e.g. chicken, beef), liver of specified animals

What to avoid:
►Any highly rendered products (e.g. digests of any kind), ingredients of unknown origin ("meat broth"), glandular meal, artificial flavor(ing)
►Onion of any form is toxic to dogs and thus has no place in dog food!

Next time we'll look at colorings and sweeteners.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007, First Step Towards Protecting Pets, and Us, From Tainted Foods

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This is great news! We are pleased to announce that we have the first new law passed that will help with the pet food problems.

H.R. 3580, in conference, was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President.

In particular, it is Title X (the last section), that has bearing on our issues.

This new law mandates the FDA come up with new labeling and production standards for pet food within 24 months. It also requires that the FDA set up a pet food registry and notification process similar to the one the CDC uses for human pathogens.

We still have more work to do, in particular regarding foreign import restrictions, but this is the FIRST MAJOR STEP.

You can view the bill here: H.R. 3580

Specifically, TITLE X - FOOD SAFETY, Sec. 1002 pertains to pet food. The rest of this part of the bill addresses various other aspects of food safety, inspection and reporting standards, communication and reporting requirements, and a Reportable Food Registry that requires the responsible party to register, within 24 hours, any food item that has a reasonable probability of any sort of health concerns.

It isn't perfect, but it's a HUGE step in the right direction. At least now there is a protocol for how these things are handled and reported, so hopefully situations like the recent pet food recalls will not get out of hand as before. Good to see that our government does do some good things now and again.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Now it's toxic TOYS! Where will it end?

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I honestly don't think this is ever going to end. The list of "toxic" items, both food and otherwise, grows exponentially each day it seems. Here is the latest from Itchmo....

Expertox, a Texas lab, claimed that they found elevated levels of lead, chromium, and cadmium in two Wal-Mart pet toys. But Wal-Mart said the lab has “severely misinterpreted” the results. Expertox stands by their findings and said their results are “rock solid.”

Here is a link to the full story:

News for cats and dogs - Pet Industry Responds To Lab Finding Lead, Other Toxins In Wal-Mart Pet Toys

Also, for those of you feeding a RAW diet, here's some recall news that may affect you.
Bravo! Raw Diet has announced a recall of certain varieties of its poultry products for pets. Here is the press release dated September 18 that is on their website:

Bravo! announces a voluntary recall of select tubes of three of its poultry products for cats and dogs. The pet food is being recalled because two of the products have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes, while the other product has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Here is the rest of that story:
News for cats and dogs - NEW RECALL: Bravo! Recalls Select Poultry Products For Cats And Dogs

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

AVMA warns of potential new threat to pets

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American Veterinary Medical Association Announcement

"The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has recently been made aware of several complaints from pet owners and veterinarians that multiple brands of jerky treats manufactured in China have been making pets sick. Symptoms of illness have included vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. To our knowledge, no deaths have been reported.

The AVMA posted an alert on its Web site to inform its members and the public about what was known. Today, the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) issued a statement saying it also has become aware of an unusual number of dogs presenting similar symptoms and abnormal test results associated with consumption of some jerky treats.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently testing several products to see if a contaminant can be found. So far, they have ruled out melamine, one of the chemicals that led to the massive pet food recall this spring, but have yet to identify anything that might be making pets sick. (more.......)

As of this morning, PetSmart has pulled various Smokehouse Brand dog treats off of their shelves. There have been reports of pets becoming ill after eating the treats, and as a precaution, PetSmart has removed the products. There has been no formal recall as of yet.

*Here is the SKU list of the Smokehouse Brand dog treats that have been pulled off of PetSmart shelves:
7856525052 5108696 Chicken Chips 1lb.
7856525053 5108692 Chicken Chips 8oz.
7856525092 5108693 Chicken Poppers 8oz.
7856525093 5108698 Chicken Poppers 1lb.
7856525134 5108691 Chicken Tenders 8oz.
7856525137 5126536 Chicken Breast Tender Snacks 1lb.
7856525138 5126535 Chicken Tenders 2lb.
7856584255 5126702 Duck Breast Tenders 8oz.
7856584256 5126534 Duck Breast Tenders 1lb.
7856584257 5126532 Duck Chips 1lb.
7856584258 5126531 Duck and Sweet Potato 1lb.
7856585808 5108695 Chicken Tenders 1lb.

Here is a link to the Itchmo site with the rest of the article. Itchmo is probably the best source of information on the recall mess that I have found. You can sign up on their site to receive updates on any new findings. I highly recommend it.

Keep updated on recalled pet food!
Click the above link to sign up for recall updates from the National Pet Foundation.

*The National Pet Foundation will update you with any new information about specific jerky products and name brands as soon as it becomes available

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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Just what IS in my dog's food? Part 6: Preservatives

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Quality products are preserved naturally, but sadly there is almost always a possibility of products containing hidden preservatives and additives, since manufacturers only have to declare ingredients on the label that they have added themselves. If they purchase for example fish oil and meal, fats or other prepared ingredients from suppliers with stabilizers and other additives already added, these do not have to be listed.

The higher the ingredient quality, the less effort must be made to delay further degradation of the product, making natural antioxidants like rosemary extract and vitamin E very effective. Any chemical preservative should not be trusted. Some of them are even banned from human consumption in some countries outside of the U.S. due to their questionable side effects.
Here are some of the various preservatives used in pet food:

The Good

mixed tocopherols: Superior source of natural Vitamin E oils.
citric acid and rosemary: Natural preservatives although citric acid (Vitamin C) can be harsh on digestive tract.
rosemary: Natural preservative.
postassium sorbate: Mineral-based mold inhibitor.

The Bad, and the Ugly

ethoxyquin: The most carcinogenic preservative, most in industry have stopped using it except very cheap, poor quality foods.
BHA: Chemical. Highly carcinogenic preservative.
calcium propionate: Chemical. Potentially carcinogenic, antifungal.
propionic acid: Potentially harmful mold inhibitor.
propyl gallate and citric acid: Chemical preservative, can cause digestive upset, stomach irritation, deceptive adding with natural Vitamin C.
sorbic acid: A mold and yeast inhibitor.
DL-alpha tocopherol acetate: Synthetic source, non-nutritive. Used generally as a "natural" preservative.
DL-alpha tocopherol acetate: Synthetic source, non-nutritive.
sodium bisulfate: Used as disinfectant!

Mmmm.....anyone feeling hungry yet? Ugh!

What to look for:
►Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Rosemary-, Sage-, or Clove Extract, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Ascorbic Acid and other forms of Vitamin C

What to avoid:
►BHA (Butylated Hydroxysanisole), BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), Ethoxyquin, TBHQ Tertiary Butylhydroquinone), Sodium Metabisulphite

Next time....flavorings, both natural and artificial
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Friday, August 31, 2007

A Letter from Heaven

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This was sent to me in an email today. I have no idea where it originated, but I love the story and thought I'd share it. There are good folks still out there.

Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month.

The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her.

She dictated and I wrote:

Dear God,

Will you please take special care of our dog, Abbey? She died yesterday and is in heaven. We miss her very much. We are happy that you let us have her as our dog even though she got sick. I hope that you will play with her. She liked to play with balls and swim before she got sick. I am sending some pictures of her so that when you see her in heaven you will know she is our special dog. But I really do miss her.

Meredith Claire

P S: Mommy wrote the words after Meredith told them to her.

We put that in an envelope with two pictures of Abbey, and addressed it to God in Heaven. (more......)We put our return address on it. Then Meredith stuck some stamps on the front (because, as she said, it may take lots of stamps to get a letter all the way to heaven) and that afternoon I let her drop it into the letter box at the post office. For a few days, she would ask if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch.

Curious, I went to look at it. It had a gold star card on the front and said "To Meredith" in an unfamiliar hand.

Meredith took it in and opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers, "When a Pet Dies". Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God, in its opened envelope (which was marked Return to Sender: Insufficient address). On the opposite page, one of the pictures of Abbey was taped under the words "For Meredith" We turned to the back cover, and there was the other picture of Abbey, and this handwritten note on pink paper:

"Dear Meredith,

I know that you will be happy to know that Abbey arrived safely and soundly in Heaven! Having the pictures you sent to me was such a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.

You know, Meredith, she isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me--just like she stays in your heart--young and running and playing. Abbey loved being your dog, you know.

Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets!-- so I can't keep your beautiful letter. I am sending it to you with the pictures so that you will have this book to keep and remember Abbey.

One of my angels is taking care of this for me. I hope the little book helps. Thank you for the beautiful letter. Thank your mother for sending it. What a wonderful mother you have! I picked her especially for you.

I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I am in heaven but wherever there is love, I am there also.

God and the special angel who wrote this after God told her the words."

As a parent and a pet lover, this is one of the kindest things that I've ever experienced. I have no way to know who sent it, but there is some very kind soul working in the dead letter office. Just wanted to share this act of compassion.

What a wonderful thing someone did for this child!

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Riches to Rags.....I love it!

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ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Humane Society said they are receiving donations from across the country -- and you’ll never guess what people are sending.

More than a dozen Michael Vick jerseys have been sent to AHS, and they are putting them to good use.

“When I first saw them, I was kind of shocked. I was like, ‘Why do they have Vick jerseys here,’ said Julie Sentner.

Vick is innocent until proven guilty, but his association when men pleading guilty to federal dog fighting charges makes the number 7 jersey an unexpected find at the Atlanta Humane Society. (more.....)

“At first we were like, ‘I wonder what we’re going to use this for,” said P.J. Smith with AHS.

And the jerseys kept coming. About a dozen or so jerseys were sent from people wanting to make good from a bad situation. In fact, the Humane Society is getting flooded with e-mails about Vick.

So what are volunteers doing with the jerseys?

“We discovered like any donation we get, any shirt or towel, we put it to good use here at Atlanta Humane Society. We’re always using things to clean kennels, use for bedding and stuff like that,” said Smith.

Did she say cleaning kennels?

“We’re not showing any favoritism to these jerseys, they go into our general rotation of towels,” Smith said.

One dog is using his Vick jersey as a pillow.

“As long as they’re being used for good, then that’s great. If they’re using them to make dogs more comfortable or to clean up after them, then that’s fine,” said Sentner.

Of course, the Vick jerseys being donated mean a lot more to the people than to the puppies -- they’re just loving all the attention.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Just what IS in my dog's food? Part 5: Fruits and Vegetables

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Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables add vitamins, minerals and various phytonutrients. They are nice ingredients but by no means necessary and mostly only included in insignificant amounts. If a brand of food contains high quality protein, carbohydrate and fat sources but no fruits or vegetables, it's still a better choice than one with less ideal main ingredients that does have a few pieces of blueberries, peas or carrots added to make the ingredient list look more impressive. Sharing some of the fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables you eat yourself will add much more nutritional value to your dog's diet - just please do not give onions, grapes or raisins. (more.....)

Here are some of the better ones:
Carrots: Natural source of beta carotene (precursor to Vitamin A needed for immune function), excellent fiber.
Alfalfa: Source of chlorophyll, dietary fiber.
Dried Apples/apples: Provides good source of nutritional fiber.
Dried kelp/kelp meal: Good source of iodine for thyroid function and chlorophyll.
Dried Peas/peas: Source of protein/carbohydrates/fiber.
Garlic: Good antioxidant, antibiotic. IS SAFE TO USE in the small amounts present in food!
Sweet potatoes: Good alternative to regular potatoes provides carbohydrates for energy, nutrients, less sugar than beets.

Most fruits are in insufficient quantities to give much nutritional value to the food, but blueberries and cranberries are certainly good for dogs and people, too! Don't buy a food based on their inclusion since the amounts present in the foods are relatively small.

What to look for:
►Fruits and vegetables are a nice touch but should not be a deciding factor in choosing a brand. Unprocessed, fresh items are preferable to already processed ones, and organic is always the best choice. Sweet potatoes and apples are among the better ones to look for.

What to avoid:
►Apple pomace, grape pomace, citrus pulp
Grape pomace, or any form of grape or raisin, can be toxic to dogs!!
Onions are toxic to dogs as well.

Next time we'll take a look at preservatives..

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Monday, August 6, 2007

Take a bite out of Vick!!!!!

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This is priceless! Check out the following:

The Official Vick Dog Chew Toy

Is it different you ask? You bet it is! The Vick Dog Chew Toy is made of state of the art "dog" material. The Vick Toy Doll is so strong and flexible, it will challenge even the most aggressive breeds. Especially Mike's Favorite Breed, The Pit Bull.

Unlike Vick, the manufacturer is so sure of its durability they guarantee it against the most aggressive dog destruction. It Bends. It Bounces. It Flies. It Floats. And best of all, it lasts through the whole season and more!

The most rewarding part of The Vick Dog Chew Toy is that a portion of the proceeds are being donated to the Jacksonville Humane Society to help spread awareness of this terrible phenomenon.

Want one?

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My TV interview about pet food ingredients

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This is a story that was on our local news regarding what is really in pet food. I was interviewed, along with several others. The cute goldens and the hound dog in the video are mine. I hope you find it informative. I think they did a pretty good job.

(click on the link above to watch the video)

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Monday, July 30, 2007

LOVE it!

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Okay, this has nothing to do with dog food, but I can't resist posting this cartoon from Steve Breen that was in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Good dog, Lassie! Good dog!

My sentiments exactly!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Just what IS in my dog's food? Part 4: Fiber

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Fiber is the part of carbohydrates that can not be digested by the dog. Depending on nutritional goals, varying levels of dietary fiber with different properties are necessary to make a highly processed food source like commercial kibble "work", since a dog's digestive tract is not designed to process a diet with such high levels of carbohydrates - most commercial dry foods contain 40-50%, low quality ones even more.

Depending on the inclusion of ingredients that are naturally high in fiber (e.g. brown rice, oats, certain fruits or vegetables), a food may or may not include specific, isolated types of fiber. (more.....)

Beet Pulp, the isolated fibrous material from sugar beets, is another ingredient that has an undeservedly bad reputation. It is a very gentle, beneficial source of fiber that is not only generally very well tolerated, but also has specific properties that make it suitable as a source of nutrition for the beneficial bacteria that reside in the intestinal tract. The sugar is almost completely removed, what is left in the pulp is only about 1/5 the amount of sugar that you would find in a serving of carrots of equal size. It is also colorless and does not turn a dog's coat turn red, like urban legends claim. The argument that beet pulp is an "unnatural" ingredient is often brought up, but people who present this complaint seem to forget that it is also not natural for dogs to eat highly processed commercial products with a carb content of generally 40% and more, and a moisture content of only around 10% as opposed to a more natural 60-70%. Added fiber is required to make such formulations work for the pets who eat a dry diet.
Some surprising fiber sources in commercial pet foods:

Cellulose: Dried wood (a.k.a. saw dust) is the most common source for cellulose (I'm not kidding.). It is cleaned, processed into a fine powder and used to add bulk and consistency to cheap pet foods. I would consider this ingredient appropriate for termites, but certainly not for dogs or cats.

Corn Bran: An inexpensive source of fiber that serves as a filler ingredient to add bulk to poor quality pet food.

Corn Cellulose: Obtained by use of a chemical process, it is used to add bulk and consistency to cheap pet foods and has no nutritional value.

Oat Hulls: I have not been able to locate an official definition for this product so far.
Most likely what is left over from dehulling the whole oat kernels after harvesting, comparable to peanut hulls. It is not the same as oat bran (the hull that protects the grain itself), which is a quality source of dietary fiber and removed prior to rolling and/or flaking. Thumbs down for this filler ingredient.

Peanut Hulls: The outer hull of the peanut shell. No nutritional value whatsoever, and are used exclusively as a cheap filler ingredient. Possibility of pesticide residues being present. I once used a well-known brand of prescription dog food for weight loss. One of it's major ingredients--peanut hulls. The food passed through my dog so quickly that her skin and coat became quite dry.

Rice Hulls: The outer covering of rice. An inexpensive byproduct of human food processing, serving as a source of fiber that is considered a filler ingredient.

Soybean Mill Run: Composed of soybean hulls and such bean meats that adhere to the hulls which results from normal milling operations in the production of dehulled soybean meal.
An inexpensive byproduct of human food processing, commonly referred to as 'floor sweepings'. An inexpensive filler with no real nutritional value.

Wheat Mill Run: May also appear as "Wheat Middlings". Coarse and fine particles of wheat bran and fine particles of wheat shorts, wheat germ, wheat flour and offal from the "tail of the mill". An inexpensive byproduct of human food processing, commonly referred to as 'floor sweepings'. An inexpensive filler with no real nutritional value.

What to look for:

cracked barley, cracked pearl barley: A nutritive, wonderful grain.

ground whole grain sorghum: Cousin to millet, very nutritive grain, alkalizing to the body, easy to digest.

ground whole grain corn: Contains all nutrients/protein of corn.

Oat bran, oatmeal, oat groats: nutritive fiber, good for colon health, balances body's pH, aids colon health.

Ground whole grains (rice, barley, wheat, millet, quinoa): whole grains contain all the beneficial protein, carbohydrates and fiber.

Vegetables and fruits (dried peas, carrots, apples): great sources of nutritional fiber

What to avoid:

Corn bran, peanut hulls, rice hulls, soybean hulls, oat hulls


Mill run or middlings (any grain)

Next time: fruits and vegetables

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Monday, July 23, 2007

A follow-up to my "Heartbreak and Hounds" post

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(this is Enna)

About a week ago I wrote about the difficulties of working to get homeless pets adopted and how heartbreaking it can be at times. I also wrote about a little beagle mix that I fell in love with at our adoption fair that day.

I am happy to report that Enna, the little beagle mix, has found a new home! I volunteered at the Scott County Humane Society booth at the Scott County Fair last week, and this wonderful couple fell in love with Enna just as I did. They filled out their application, and I got to take her home that night and keep her until they picked her up the next day. She is such a sweetie. I gave her a bath and trimmed her nails, and she slept in the bed with me for a while. It was hard to hand her over on Saturday, but I know she is going to be pampered and loved at her new home.

THAT, my friends, is what makes all the hard work and heartbreak worth it. Like it says in the "Starfish" poem in my other post, I may not be able to save them all, but I made a difference to that one. :)

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Just what IS in my dog's food? Part 3: Fats

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Fats and Oils

Dogs need a certain amount of fats and oils in their diet, mostly for skin and coat health, but also for proper brain development and other critical processes in the body. In this regard some are more valuable than others. As food ingredients they should be specifically named and of high nutritional value. Beef tallow and lard make foods highly attractive to dogs, but they are high in saturated fat and low in valuable fatty acids. (more......)

Fats are highly digestible, very palatable, and are an energy dense nutritional ingredient. Unlike humans, dogs don't suffer from various diseases related to high fat intake - they metabolize fat the way humans metabolize carbohydrates. Since fats provide 2 1/4 times the amount of calories per gram compared to proteins or carbohydrates, it is not a good idea to feed excessive amounts to less active animals, but restricting consumption too much (and often for the wrong reasons!) or providing poor quality types of fat will lead to various problems - a coarse, dull coat and dry, itchy skin often being the most obvious ones. The dog's body will always utilize fat to convert into energy before protein or carbohydrates. Fat is also important for reproductive efficiency, kidney function and the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. As a less well known fact, it also serves as a metabolic source of water, so a hard working dog is less likely to get dehydrated when fed a diet higher in fat.

If you see a generic name like "animal fat" on the ingredients list, run the other way! Note that the animal source is not specified and is not required to originate from "slaughtered" animals. The rendered animals can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: "4-D animals" (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters, restaurant and supermarket refuse, rancid cooking grease, and so on.

"Beef tallow" is often used to make low-quality food more palatable. Dogs like the taste of it. Beef tallow is very low in linoleic acid and much cheaper for the pet food industry to use than a good quality vegetable oil or nutritionally rich chicken fat.

"Poultry fat" is from any source and is not defined as "slaughtered poultry". The rendered fowl can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: "4-D animals" (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), turkey, chicken, geese, buzzard, seagulls, misc. roadkill, birds euthanized at shelters and so on.

What to look for:

►Specifically named fats and oils such as chicken fat, herring oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, flax oil etc. (but not one preserved with ethoxyquin or BHA/BHT. We'll tackle those sorts of preservatives in a future post).

►High percentages of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, but a low ratio of the two. For each percent of Omega-6s at least 0.13% Omega-3s should be present, resulting in a minimum ratio of 7:1. Ratios of 5:1 and lower are preferable. Don't discount a food because of low percentages of essential fatty acids though, you can easily make up for this with a good quality fish oil supplement.

What to avoid:

►Non-specific sources such as animal fat, poultry fat, vegetable oil, generic fish oil

►Mineral oil


►Beef tallow

Next time we will talk about the various types of fiber in pet foods. Some may surprise you.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Time out for a soapbox sermon!

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Okay, guys. I'm taking a break from my pet food information postings to write about a current issue that has me both sickened and outraged.

Most of you are probably familiar with Atlanta Falcon's player, Michael Vick, who was indicted on charges of interstate commerce with intent to fight dogs, running an illegal dog fighting ring, and more. He has, of course, lied and denied all of this, blaming his family for taking advantage of him. Oh please. Others involved have talked, and the details listed in the indictment are gruesome. Dogs were cruely mistreated to make them mean and want to fight. Losing dogs, or dogs that didn't show enough "fighting spirit" were executed. Yes, executed. They were shot, hung, thrown from buildings, strangled, electrocuted, or body slammed against the ground until they were dead. (more......)

What kind of monsters are capable of this sort of thing? These men have no conscious, no integrity, and all they care about is the money they make from this horrific "sport".

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he is waiting to see the outcome of the indictment before he makes any decisions. Nike has suspended release of a new shoe bearing Vick's name pending the outcome.

Here is a portion of the letter I sent to Roger Goodell and to the Atlanta Falcons organization:

"Peter Rose, Sr. is a former player and manager in Major League Baseball. Rose played from 1963 to 1986, best known for his many years with the Cincinnati Reds. Rose, a switch hitter, is the all-time major-league leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at bats (14,053), and outs (10,328). He won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one Most Valuable Player Award, two Gold Gloves, the Rookie of the Year Award, and made 17 All-Star appearances at an unequaled five different positions (2B, LF, RF, 3B, and 1B). Rose's nickname, Charlie Hustle, was given to him for his play beyond the "call of duty" while on the field.

Despite an amazing career and outstanding stats, he was permanently banned from baseball in 1989 on allegations of gambling on the game. No one was hurt, no one died (human or animal), but yes, he did break the rules. If he was banned for LIFE for betting on a few ballgames, then it only seems right that Vick be banned for LIFE from football. Any company with endorsement contracts with him should release him from those essence, fire him!

Seems like the punishment should be at least as severe, or worse, for Vick, don't you think?"

We need to send a message to scum like this that they cannot do whatever they want just because they are "celebrities".

If you want to read more about this, here are some links:

This is the indictment in full (including lots of sickening details):

This is a story that was posted on The Sports Network that explains it pretty well:

Consider writing to the NFL commissioner and the Atlanta Falcons organizations as I did:

Roger Goodell
National Football League
280 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017

Phone: 212-450-2000

Atlanta Falcons
4400 Falcon Parkway
Flowery Branch, GA 30542

Phone Number:770-965-3115

Website Address:

Email Address: Contact us with any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns at
AnimalBlawg has a legal analysis of the case, which hinges on conspiracy charges — they explain why.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Just what IS in my dog's food? Part 2: Carbohydrates

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Carbohydrates are useful to dogs for readily burnable fuel for all kinds of muscular and metabolic activities. Cheap and easily produced sources of carbohydrates are such items as rice, corn, wheat, barley and soy. Hmmmmmmm... sounds like what some pet food manufacturers are commonly using as their first choice for a diet’s foundation.

It is common knowledge and generally agreed upon by experts that dogs are meat eaters and have evolved through the ages primarily as meat eaters. Although now "domesticated", our pet dogs have not evolved rumens along their digestive tracts in order to ferment cellulose and other plant material, nor have their pancreases evolved a way to secrete cellulase to split the cellulose into glucose molecules, nor have dogs become efficient at digesting and assimilating and utilizing plant material as a source of high quality protein. Herbivores do those sorts of things. That’s how Nature is set up at this time.On the other hand, some plant material such as rice, soybean meal and corn have some, although limited, usefulness in the meat eater's diet. Corn, wheat, soy, rice and barley are not bad or harmful to dogs. These plant sources are simply not good choices (we do get to choose what we feed our pets, don't we?) for the foundation of a diet to optimally nourish animals what are, have been, and for the foreseeable future will be meat eaters.

Cereal grains are the primary ingredients in most commercial pet foods. Many people select one pet food and feed it to their dogs for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, companion dogs eat a primarily carbohydrate diet with little variety. Today, the diet of dogs is a far cry from the primarily protein diets with a lot of variety that their ancestors ate. The problems associated with a commercial diet are seen every day at veterinary establishments. Chronic digestive problems, such as chronic vomiting, diarrhea, and inflammatory bowel disease are among the most frequent illnesses treated. These are often the result of an allergy or intolerance to pet food ingredients.

Let's pick on corn, for example.... it's cheap, takes up lots of room in the bag of food and in the pet's stomach so it will "fill ‘em up", it's a good carbohydrate source so the pet will have some energy, it has a few amino acids in it so the corn will contribute to the protein totals on the guaranteed analysis list, and there's a cheap and steady supply of corn. So the pet food manufacturer makes a corn diet, adds some "meat and bone meal" (which has been cooked at least twice before it gets in the bag and may contain too much calcium) to "complete the amino acid profile" and adds a few other calculated substances so that COMPLETE AND BALANCED can be stamped prominently on the pet food label.

What to look for:

►Whole ground grains such as rice, oats, barley, millet etc., potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas.
►Corn often gets a bad reputation. While it is NOT acceptable as a main source of protein in a dog food (as it is used in combination with corn gluten), as a source of carbohydrates it is no better and no worse than other grains in terms of nutritional value and digestibility. The starch part of corn is highly digestible but the whole ground product has a higher fiber content than other grains (around 7%). It should NOT, however, be listed as two or more of the top 5 ingredients!

What to avoid:

►Fragments like potato product, middlings/mids or mill run of any kind
►Unspecified grain sources like cereal food fines, (distiller's) grain fermentation solubles
►Any sort of grain hull (peanut hulls, rice hulls, soybean hulls, etc.) These have no nutrional value whatsoever and only add to the bulk of the food.

Dogs are livelier and healthier when meat, poultry, lamb and fish are the foundation of their diets. In other words, we should choose to feed them as the meat eaters they are and stop the senseless practice of feeding as if they were herbivores simply because it's cheaper to do so.

Next time we'll discuss the types of fats used in dog food.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Just what IS in my dog's food? Part 1: Proteins

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  • Dog food labels are very confusing if you don't know how to read and interpret them. Things are not always as they appear. Here are some tips to help you make informed decisions on what to feed your pets. (from an article by Sabine Contreras).

    The Pet food industry is a very competitive multi-billion business, and the manufacturers of most popular brands spend millions on advertising alone every year, trying to convince consumers that they are offering the best, most nutritious product. Of course they all claim that they use only the best quality ingredients, but there is no legal requirement that such statements must be truthful. It's your responsibility as a pet owner to look past the pretty pictures of fresh cuts of meat and juicy vegetables, the cute commercials and the misleading, biased information about "proper nutrition" and to question the statements these companies make.

    Contrary to popular belief, it's not always the "first five" or "first seven" ingredients listed that make up the major portion of a product. The number of main ingredients actually depends on the specific formulation of a food and the degree of variety included, so one brand may have only three or four main ingredients, while another could have eight or ten. (more.....)

    What you need to look for is the first source of fat or oil that appears in the ingredient list. This can either be from an animal or vegetable source, there are good and bad ones of both, but more details on that later. Anything listed before that first source of fat, and including it, are the main ingredients of the food. Any other items are present in much smaller amounts to add flavor, function as preservatives, help with the manufacturing process or provide dietary benefits (e.g. probiotics, vitamins and minerals).

    Ingredient groups: What to look for and what to avoid

    Let's take the protein group today. I'll post information on a different group one at a time (it's too much reading to take in all at once).


    Protein, in the form of quality meat ingredients, is the most important component of a dog's diet. As animals with a carnivorous background, their digestive tract is designed to utilize primarily meat and fat. It is also the most expensive ingredient for a manufacturer to buy and the profit margin on a product is drastically affected by the amount and quality used. Ideally, the first ingredient of a food should be either a specified meat meal, or a specified fresh meat type followed by a meal. If your individual dog's specific needs limit you to using foods that do not include a concentrated source of meat in meal form, I highly recommend supplementing with fresh or canned meats on a daily basis.

    ■ Generically named sources of protein or fat (animal ___, meat ___, poultry ___, etc.) are never present in truly high quality products because they are derived from highly questionable sources. If a manufacturer uses quality ingredients and has nothing to hide, there is no need for generic names. Trust would be shocked and sickened by what is included in a lot of the "generic" meat ingredients. I'll go into more detail at another time.

    ■ Byproducts of any type are less desirable and only acceptable if they do not make up the main source of animal protein and if the name of the species used is also defined in some
    manner (e.g. "chicken byproducts" or "beef byproducts but not "meat byproducts" or "poultry byproducts"). Byproducts consist of anything but the quality cuts of meat and highest quality edible offal used for human consumption. What this means (on a market with high demand for human snacks like "buffalo wings" and cheaper pet foods requiring flavoring agents like beef or chicken liver digest to make otherwise uninteresting food more attractive), I leave to your imagination.
    ■ Contrary to what many people believe, meat sources in "meal" form (as long as they are
    from a specified type of animal, such as chicken meal, lamb meal, salmon meal etc.) are not inferior to whole, fresh meats. Meals consist of meat and skin, with or without the bones, but exclusive of feathers/hair, heads, feet, horns, entrails etc. and have the proper calcium/phosphorus ratio required for a balanced diet. They have had most of the moisture removed, but meats in their original, "wet" form still contain up to 75% water. Once the food reaches its final moisture content of about 9-12%, the meat will have shrunk to as little as 1/4 of the original amount, while the already dehydrated meal form remains the same and you get more concentrated protein per pound of finished product. This means that in the worst case you are left with only 4 ounces of actual meat content per pound of fresh meat included in a dry kibble, many of which contain less than one pound of meat per 2-3 pounds of grain to begin with.

    What to look for:

    ►Specifically named meats and meat meals such as chicken, chicken meal, turkey, turkey
    meal, lamb, lamb meal, duck, duck meal, beef, beef meal, eggs and so on.
    ►The following are lesser quality ingredients and are not found in truly high quality products, but may be present in smaller amounts (not as the main protein ingredients) in "mid range" foods: fresh byproducts indicating a specific species (e.g. beef/chicken/turkey/lamb byproducts), corn gluten, corn gluten meal. Products that include these as main ingredients should be avoided:

    What to avoid:

    ►All generic meat ingredients that do not indicate a species (meat, meat byproducts, meat byproduct meal, meat meal, meat & bone meal, blood meal, fish, fish meal, poultry, poultry byproducts, poultry meal, poultry byproduct meal, liver, liver meal, glandular meal etc.)
    ►Byproduct meals, even if a species is identified (chicken/beef/turkey/lamb byproduct meal etc.), since highly questionable ingredients may be used in these rendered products.
    ►Any food that contains corn (ground or otherwise) as a first ingredient, especially if corn
    gluten meal is also a main ingredient and no concentrated source of identified meat protein (e.g. chicken meal, lamb meal etc.) is present.
    ► Corn gluten or soy(bean) meal as main ingredients. Note: Not all dogs tolerate soy products! Small amounts, especially of organic soy, are okay as long as a dog is not sensitive. There are only very few products on the market that include high quality soy ingredients, none of them sold at grocery stores or mass retailers

That should give you a good idea what to look for as far as the protein content of your dog's food. Wild canids eat meat, not corn, so make sure your pups are getting enough good quality meat protein.

Next time we'll talk about carbs (and yes, for you Atkins fans out there, there ARE several really good low-carb high-protein foods available. I use a couple of them myself for my guys).

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Heartbreak and Hounds

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I feel sick. I feel sad. I feel sort of shell-shocked.

I worked with the local Humane Society tonight at an adoption fair we were having. It was great to see several puppies get new homes, but hardly anyone looked at the adult dogs. They sat in their cages watching people walk by, wagging their tails and hoping for some attention. Most people didn't even look at them. They went to the pen with the fat, playful puppies in it. These are all great dogs that have been cast aside for one reason or another. At the end of our adoption fair, back to the shelter they went. Some may be adopted later. The majority will be euthanized. I fell in love with a little female beagle mix whose eyes were half blue and half brown. She was the sweetest little dog and just wanted to be cuddled. She went back to the shelter, too, but I told them NOT to euthanize her without calling me first. I will find a home for that little girl no matter what. I cried all the way home. (more....)

It makes me sick how our society treats its companion animals. We treat them as disposable property, like they have no feelings. Folks....these are sentient beings capable of feeling fear, joy, sadness, anger, and they are able to feel and give more love than most people I know.
How do we repay that love? We abuse them, starve them, leave them chained in the yard alone and ignored, dumped out onto the street, or we take them to the shelter because we "just don't have time for them anymore." The worst one of all is someone who has had a dog for 8 or 9 years or more who then takes it to the shelter because it's "too old." The poor dog sits in the cage, alone and scared, waiting for his master to come and get him. Only he never does.

It breaks my heart.
If I sound angry, I am. If I sound bitter, I am. If you think I'm still upset and teary-eyed about this, you'd be right.

Why bother, you ask? Why worry about that little beagle mix when there are dozens of other dogs in that shelter who need homes, too? Here's why....

The Parable of the Starfish

One morning an elderly man was walking on a nearly deserted beach. He came upon a boy surrounded by thousands and thousands of starfish. As eagerly as he could, the youngster was picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean.

Puzzled, the older man looked at the young boy and asked, "Little boy, what are you doing?"
The youth responded without looking up, "I'm trying to save these starfish, sir."

The old man chuckled aloud, and queried, "Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?"

Holding a starfish in his hand, the boy turned to the man and, gently tossing the starfish into the water, said, "It will make a difference to that one!"

(source unknown)

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You know you're a dog person when.....

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You know you're a dog person when.....

Signs that you are a dog person:
(and yes.....guilty as charged)

  • All of your clothes have dog hair on them, even when they come back from the laundromat or dry cleaners.
  • Every gift you ever get has something to do with dogs.

  • Dog hair in food is just another condiment.

  • Books and movies are ruined for you if the dog references are incorrect.

  • All kinds of things around the house are in need of repair, but the injured dog you rescued by the side of the road requires immediate surgery and out comes the checkbook.

  • Anyone can look at your (pick all that apply) --- T-shirt - sweatshirt - coffee mug - keychain - beach towel - cooking apron - couch throw - tote bag - computer - screen saver/wallpaper/mousepad/wristpad/monitor frame - gift wrapping paper - photographic displays - calendars - refrigerator magnets - weather vane - door mat - bumper stickers - umbrella - Christmas sweater - socks - embroidery project - child's collection of stuffed animals - sheets and bedspread - checks - checkbook covers - throw pillows - Home Pages --- and know immediately that you are a dog lover, AND probably what particular breed you favor. (more......)

  • Complete strangers call you on the phone to ask questions because they heard you were a" dog person"

  • Lintwheels are on your shopping list every week.

  • More than half your grocery money goes to dog food and treats

  • No matter how large your bed is, it is not large enough for you and your dog(s).

  • On your 1040 form all your charitable donations are to Humane Societies, Shelters and Rescue groups.

  • Nobody's feet are allowed on the furniture, but your dogs are welcome to sleep on any piece they so choose

  • Order 250 Xmas photos of just the dog, no family in photos.

  • The dog's kibble is stored in 45 gallon garbage cans, and the water is kept in a bucket with it's own drip tray under it. (Score extra if you have had a water tap installed over the bucket to save time, or [for longhaired breeds] if you keep a towel lying permanently on the floor to soak up drips and squeegee around with your foot.)

  • The largest display of collectibles in the house is dog stuff -- plates, photos, cards, etc.
    While proudly showing off your family album, your guest asks, "Isn't there anyone else in your family besides the dog?"

  • You and the dog come down with something like flu on the same day. Your dog sees the vet while you settle for an over-the-counter remedy from the drugstore.

  • You become paranoid about keeping ID on your dog at all times (collar, tags, microchip, tattoo), but don't bother to carry any ID yourself.
    You believe every dog is a lap dog.

  • You break down and buy another pillow so you can have one to sleep on

  • You buy premium quality dog kibble for your dog, but live on take-out, frozen pizza, and blue-box macaroni and cheese yourself.

  • You buy vitamin supplements for your dog and administer them daily (wrapped in cheese if necessary), but consider yourself fortunate if you remember to take your own more than twice a week.

  • You carry pictures of your dog in your wallet instead of pictures of your parents, siblings, significant other, or anyone else remotely human. (my husband actually does this!!)
  • You don't think it's the least bit strange to stand in the back yard chirping "Meg, pee!" over and over again, while Meg tends to play and forget what she's out there for (but what your neighbors think of your behavior is yet another story).

  • You hate to go to the grocery store for people food, but when the dog treats are gone, off you go with no hesitation, even at the busiest time.

  • You have 32 different names for your dog. Most make no sense, but the dog understands them all.

  • You have a plastic kiddie wading pool in the back yard, but no kids. (Double points if you have a pool for each dog.)

  • You keep license tags from dogs that have passed away.
    You no longer have to buy extra large garbage bags, because the empty, 40 pound dog food bags work just as well

  • You refer to yourselves as Mommy and Daddy.

  • You snuggle closer to the dog than the person with whom you are sleeping

  • Your dog gets a deep cut on the pad of his foot and gets emergency medical attention at the vet; but you break your toes and settle for taping them together with duct tape and taking some aspirin to kill the pain.

  • Your mom calls and asks how the granddogs are.

  • You've memorized the vet's phone number. (Bonus points if you have his home phone memorized as well.)

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Will you help me???

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There are many lost, abandoned and neglected pets in our world. Far too many of them are killed simply because no one wants them. Please consider working with a rescue group, volunteering at your local animal shelter, fostering dogs in need of homes, or adopting one yourself. There is always a need for money and supplies, too. There are rescue groups for every size, breed and type of pet. Please help them find a loving home like they deserve.

"Rescue Circle"

Once I was a lonely dog just looking for a home.
I had no place to go, no one to call my own.
I wandered up and down the streets, in rain and heat and snow
I ate whatever I could find, I was always on the go.
My skin would itch, my feet were sore, my body ached with pain.
And no one stopped to give a pat or gently say my name.
I never saw a loving glance, I was always on the run.
For people thought that hurting me was really lots of fun.
And then one day I heard a voice, so gentle, kind and sweet
And arms so soft reached down to me, and took me off my feet.
"No one will hurt you" was whispered in my ear.
"You'll have a home to call your own where you will know no fear."
"You will be dry, you will be warm. You'll have enough to eat.
And rest assured that when you sleep your dreams will all be sweet."
I was afraid, I must admit, I'd lived so long in fear.
I can't remember when I let a human come so near.
And as she tended to my wounds, and bathed and brushed my fur
She spoke about the rescue group and what it meant to her.
She said "We are a circle, a line that never ends.
And in the center there is you, protected by new friends.
And all around you are the ones who check the pounds
And those that share their homes after you've been found.
And all the other folks are searching near and far
To find the perfect home for you, where you can be a star."
She said "There is a family that's waiting patiently.
And pretty soon we'll find them, just you wait and see.
And then they'll join our circle, they'll help to make it grow.
So there'll be room for more like you, who have no place to go."
I waited very patiently. The days they came and went.
Today's the day, I would think, my family will be sent.
Then just when I began to think it wasn't meant to be
There were people standing there, just gazing down at me.
I knew them in a heart beat, I could tell they felt it, too.
They said "We have been waiting for a special dog like you."
Now every night I say a prayer to all the Gods that be
"Thank you for the life I live and all you've given me.
But most of all, protect the dogs in pounds and on the streets
And send a rescue person to lift them off their feet."

Author: Arlene Pace

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Warning! Grapes and raisins toxic to dogs!

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I read this on the forum of one of the golden retriever groups I belong to. I checked it out, and it is true. Pass this on to anyone you know.

(Below written by a vet)

This week I had the first case in history of raisin toxicity ever seen at MedVet. My patient was a 56-pound, 5 yr old male neutered lab mix that ate half a canister of raisins sometime between 7:30 AM and 4:30 PM on Tuesday. He started with vomiting, diarrhea and shaking about 1AM on Wednesday but the owner didn't call my emergency service until 7AM. I had heard somewhere about raisins AND grapes causing acute Renal failure but hadn't seen any formal paper on the subject. We had her bring the dog in immediately. In the meantime, I called the ER service at MedVet, and the doctor there was like me - had heard something about it, but....Anyway, we contacted the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center and they said to give IV fluids at 1 ½ times maintenance and watch the kidney values for the next 48-72 hours. The dog's BUN (blood urea nitrogen level) was already at 32 (normal less than 27) and creatinine over 5 (1.9 is the high end of normal). Both are monitors of kidney function in the bloodstream. We placed an IV catheter and started the fluids. Rechecked the renal values at 5 PM and the BUN was over 40 and creatinine over 7 with no urine production after a liter of fluids. At the point I felt the dog was in acute renal failure and sent him on to MedVet for a urinary catheter to monitor urine output overnight as well as overnight care. He started vomiting again overnight at MedVet and his renal values have continued to incr ease daily. He produced urine when given lasix as a diuretic. He was on 3 different anti-vomiting medications and they still couldn't control his vomiting. Today his urine output decreased again, his BUN was over 120, his creatinine was at 10, his phosphorus was very elevated and his blood pressure, which had been staying around 150, skyrocketed to 220.. He continued to vomit and the owners elected to euthanize. This is a very sad case - great dog, great owners who had no idea raisins could be a toxin.

Please alert everyone you know who has a dog of this very serious risk. Poison control said as few as 7 raisins or grapes could be toxic. Many people I know give their dogs grapes or raisins as treats including our ex-handler's. Any exposure should give rise to immediate concern.

Laurinda Morris, DVM Danville Veterinary Clinic Danville , Ohio

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Poisons, Poisons, Everywhere!

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By Deb M. Eldredge, DVM

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center recently released a list of the ten most common poisons that dogs ingest. What is immediately striking about the list is how ordinary each of the poisons is—most of us have these compounds in our homes or garages. The list is a reminder that it is important to keep medications and potentially toxic items locked up or stored safely away from our pets.

Here is a list of the toxins that you need to keep out of your pet’s reach: (more......)

Ibuprofen is a widely used human non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. In dogs, this medication can cause stomach and kidney problems and even impact the nervous system causing symptoms such as depression and seizures. If you drop a pill, be very careful to find it before your dog does. Labs and Beagles are notorious for snarfing up dropped drugs. If this happens in your household, be sure to make your dog vomit, if you can, as soon as you suspect he ate any pills, and then call your veterinarian. Never give your dog ibuprofen for pain or discomfort.

Chocolate has two potent substances – theobromine and caffeine. The amount of these compounds present in chocolate varies greatly depending upon the type and brand of chocolate. The dog who indulges in chocolate with large amounts of theobromine or caffeine may show increased heart rate and excitability leading to possible seizures. If you can make your dog vomit close to the time of ingestion, do so. Then head to your veterinarian. It may take up to three days for the theobromine effects to wear off, and this can be dangerous for your dog’s heart.

Ant and Roach Baits
Ant and roach baits may be found in motels when you travel, as well as in areas around your home. Luckily the toxic substances are generally present in small amounts, but they are often mixed in with tasty treats like peanut butter that your dog may find irresistible. If your dog ingests the bait, he is more likely to have a problem with the parts of the container he eats than with the ingredients, but take him into your veterinarian just the same. Better to be safe than sorry.

People often rely on rodenticides to remove mice and rats when they don’t have a good cat or a skilled terrier to do the dirty work. Most of these products contain anticoagulants that stimulate fatal bleeding in rodents. They can also stimulate bleeding in dogs that eat the treated blocks. Paralysis, seizures, and kidney failure are all possible effects of these potent drugs. Induce vomiting if you can, but then head directly to your veterinarian. Your dog may need fluids, blood tests to follow the progression of treatment, vitamin K injections, and possibly even a blood transfusion. Some versions of rodenticides have cholecalciferol that can cause elevated blood calcium and phosphorus levels, which lead to renal failure. This may require a much different course of action for your pet. If possible, bring the container for the poison into your vet’s office, so they can determine exactly what your dog is up against.

Acetaminophen is an extremely common pain medication for people. Unfortunately, this drug can cause liver failure, swelling of the face and paws, a problem with oxygen transport in the blood, and even a decrease in tear production for dogs. N-acetylcysteine is an antidote to the problem, but it needs to be repeated until all signs of poisoning are cleared. Supportive treatment for the liver and dry eyes is recommended. If your dog ingests acetaminophen, he will probably need to be hospitalized.

Pseudoephedrine Containing Cold Medications
Numerous over the counter cold medications contain pseudoephedrine. In dogs, this drug causes panting, excitement, increased temperature, and increased heart rate. Sedation and even general anesthesia may be required to settle your dog down, while fluid therapy will help to flush this substance from your dog’s system.

Thyroid Hormones
Thyroid hormones are used to treat both people and dogs with low thyroid levels. Luckily, most dogs handle an overdose of these medications quite well. An increased heart rate and a hyperactive dog that is bouncing off the walls are common signs that your dog has eaten something he shouldn’t.

Most bleach products used at home are fairly dilute. Commercial bleaches, however, can be very strong and cause irritation to your dog’s eyes or skin. A quick bath is ideal if bleach is on your dog’s skin or coat. If your dog inhales bleach, especially any bleach mixed with ammonia products, she could develop a deadly chemical pneumonitis. This can affect you too, so don’t breathe deeply yourself. Get your dog out into fresh air as quickly as possible and then to your veterinarian.

Fertilizer, Including Plant “Foods”
Fertilizer can be very attractive to dogs. Additives such as bone meal are enticing. While the basic fertilizer formulas of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus are generally not highly toxic, additives such as fungicides can be. Most dogs that ingest fertilizer show gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting and/or diarrhea, but they do recover on their own. In some cases, however, they need fluids for hydration and medications to settle and soothe the stomach and intestines. Consult with your veterinarian for the best course of treatment when your dog ingests fertilizer.

Hydrocarbons Including Paints, Polishes, and Fuel Oils
Rounding out the list is hydrocarbons. These products can be found in paints, polishes, and fuel oils—including kerosene, acetone, and gasoline. Dogs that swallow these products tend to have gastrointestinal upsets. The skin can also be irritated from contact. If your dog simply breathes in fumes or aspirates these products, he may suffer from depression or hyperexcitability along with secondary pneumonia and liver or kidney damage. Dogs that have breathed or ingested hydrocarbons should not be made to vomit as the risk of aspiration is too high. Instead, they need symptomatic treatment and supportive care such as fluids to flush their systems, baths to remove any residue, and saline flushing of the eyes if any residue splashed into them.

Take Care

All of the products on the ASPCA list can be found in most of our households. To keep your pet safe, be proactive. Store goods safely in locked cupboards, use secure, non-breakable containers, and always keep careful track of all medications in the household. Taking some basic precautions can go a long way toward avoiding a catastrophe for your dog.

If you have questions about the safety of a substance or you suspect your pet may have ingested something he shouldn’t have, don’t wait--call the National Animal Poison Control Center at: 888-426-4435.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The root of all evil (get comfy folks....this is a LONG one)

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Okay kiddies......time for me to get up on my soapbox and preach a little sermon here!

Our sermon today is called "Greed: When the Almighty Dollar matters more than the health of a nation".

Perhaps you've all heard of the pet food recalls that began back in March? Some of you, like myself, have done a lot of reading on it and are pretty well up to date on what is going on. I would bet most others aren't aware of even half of what is going on, thanks to sadly lacking media coverage for most of it. Well, you're about to get the "Reader's Digest condensed version" of the story. To quote one of the characters in Jurassic Park..."Hold on to your butts!" (more......)

When the story first surfaced, it was thought that some rat poison had gotten into a supply of wheat gluten (a protein source) from China that was used in pet foods in the US. It was stated that about 16 animals, mostly cats, had died. It was later determined that the chemical Melamine was the culprit, but no one seemed to know why it was in there. This chemical is banned in the US, but is still commonly used in China. They also found Cyanuric acid in the food, another chemical commonly used in China. The Melamine levels in the gluten didn't seem to be enough to cause kidney failure and death as was showing up in the pets, then they figured out it was the combination of the Melamine and the Cyanuric acid that did it. These two combined to form crystals that caused kidney failure.

Want to know what these chemicals actually are? Melamine is a nitrogen-rich chemical used to make plastics, in pulp and paper manufacturing and a fertilizer. Cyanuric acid is normally used as a stabilizer in outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs. It is also used in pesticides. Yep! You read that right! Google either one of these ingredients. You will be shocked and appalled by what you read.

The FDA, the pet food companies, and the manufacturing plants all swore that they had no knowledge of any of this, and that the recall had gotten all the tainted products off the shelves. They also said it was confined to the lot numbers they published on their sites. The FDA continued to state, with what little media coverage there was, that the tainted food had caused the death of about "16-17 animals". Shortly after that, more foods were added to the recall list. All of them to this point had been wet (canned or pouch) foods. Soon some dry foods were added. Then more brands were added. Some of these were the high-end, super-premium brands that we all thought we could trust. Turns out that Menu Foods, who produces and packages pet foods, processed foods for not only the cheapie Walmart stuff, but also for the premium brands as well. Supposedly the ingredients were different, but....who knows.
The tainted wheat gluten (gluten adds protein to food) was traced to a company in China who exported the product to the US. Very recently, two more companies in China have been found to have Melamine in their gluten products. It seems that this is common practice in that country. You see, both Melamine and Cynuric acid are high in nitrogen. When you add a high amount of nitrogen to wheat gluten, it would give the illusion of a higher protein content. What does this mean? It means the all the foods that contain this product (both pet and human) have far less protein in them than the labels state because those chemicals skew the results. Even if your pet didn't die from this toxic cocktail, they are probably not getting near the protein that they should be getting.

Now we know it's even worse than we thought. The "wheat gluten" that was contaminated wasn't wheat gluten at all!!! Oh yeah. It was actually wheat FLOUR, which has very little protein. Spiking the flour with the toxic cocktail gave the appearance of high protein levels when in fact there were virtually NONE!!!! Interestingly, the companies (plural) in China that produced this stuff don't seem to know anything about that. Uh huh. Want to buy some swamp land?

It gets even better (sarcasm here). The tainted pet food that was pulled ended up being fed to hogs and chickens......what WE eat. I also found out today that the contaminated grain products were used to produce fish feed, which was sent to fish farms in the pacific northwest and Canada. It's basically everywhere. With the FDA expanding its import alert due to the pet food recall and the deaths of more than 4,500 cats and dogs, the alert now includes wheat gluten, rice gluten, rice protein, rice protein concentrate, corn gluten, corn gluten mean, corn by-products, soy protein, proteins and mung bean protein.

And the potential for tainted foods has increased drastically to include baked goods, cereals, pasta and many other products.

The FDA first admitted that more than three million contaminated chickens made their way to dinner tables throughout the country and that there were 6,000 hogs affected by contaminated feed but that there was a minimal health risk to humans. Now we get to add fish to the list, too!
Yes, folks, we're eating it, too. Have been for a while. It is common practice in China to add these chemicals to feed products for both humans and animals.

The FDA expanded its import alert due to the pet food recall and the deaths of more than 4,500 cats and dogs. That's right. NOT the half dozen or so pets that they initially kept trying to sell us. THOUSANDS!!!

Check out these recent press releases:

"We do not believe that there is any significant threat of human illness from consuming poultry." USDA/FDA, 5/1/2007

"We believe the likelihood of illness to humans, including infants, is extremely small." USDA/FDA, 5/3/2007

"There's no tolerance for any of these compounds, either melamine or cyanuric acid. [...] We just don't know when we get these mixtures together. So there is no, really no acceptable level." USDA/FDA, 4/26/2007

Gee.....I find those first two statements comforting, don't you? But does anyone else see a conflict here between those statements, made May 1 and May 3, and the statement the same people made on April 27?????

So.....Here's what we know: Tainted pet food has killed or sickened tens of thousands of cats and dogs, some dropping dead within a meal or two of first ingesting melamine and related compounds such as cyanuric acid. Autopsies have discovered "plasticized" cat kidneys, clogged with crystals comprised of equal parts melamine and cyanuric acid. Laboratory tests have have reproduced the formation of these crystals in a test tube by mixing melamine and cyanuric acid in the presence of urine. Tainted pet food containing melamine and cyanuric acid was "salvaged," and sold as livestock feed, contaminating untold millions of hogs and chickens. About three million chickens and several hundred hogs are known to have been slaughtered, butchered and presumably eaten. At least another 20 million chickens are known to have consumed contaminated feed.

I could keep writing about this for days. There is SO much more information out there, but I think I've thrown enough at you for one day.


There. I feel better now. If you are interested in reading more about this, here are a couple links that are a wealth of information:

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