Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Commercial Dog Food Followup

The original question was "Is commercial dog food junk food". The following conversation resulted from that post.

Done lots of research on this since my Shepherd has a pretty sensitive stomach. Lots of commercial food full of corn and wheat, ingredients many dogs are allergic to and can manifest as symptoms such as itching, paw licking, loose stools, etc. A wonderful website I have found is: which rates all of the foods out there.

Is it just me, or do vets not help at all with food selection? I've asked a few, and they recommend the grocery store foods with no hesitation.

I get the feeling vets don't think it's their job to recommend what goes in our dogs. And that's just dumb since a properly fed dog is a healthier dog. Hmmm. Is there a potential conflict of interest here?

I wonder if there is some relationship with the dog food companies, sort of like the relationship between our doctors and the drug companies? Some unspoken agreement not to criticize their products? I'm almost positive I've seen things in vet offices that are produced by dog food companies (informational posters, brochures, etc). Hmmm?

An aside: holistic vets seem to be the exception to the rule. They tend to look at the whole dog, often recommending homemade or raw diets.

Vets used to push "Science Diet" a whole lot, used to be the only place you could buy it was at a vet. This makes me think there was definitely a relationship between the vet and the food. My vet currently has "Canidae" posters up in his exam rooms although he does not push it on me or mention it. I would be interested to know how much they learn about nutrition in school. There are quite a few ailments that could be cured through better food. I cured my Shepherd's itchies by going grainless. Would a vet just have written prescription after prescription for this? I have no idea, but many people don't investigate their dog's food too much. Dee, what are your thoughts about commercial food? Blue Buffalo, from what I have read, is probably the best "commercial" food out there, you can buy at Petsmart. What kills me is the "Beneful" bag with corn and wheat depicted right on the bag!

Murphy is my 4-year-old Lab. Here's a bit of his history: when he was around a year old he had adolescent acne on his chin and developed a rash on his belly. My vet at the time suggested before putting Murph through allergy testing that I change his food. She told me the most common allergies in dogs are food allergies. She didn't recommend a brand but told me to look for a food without corn, beef, and wheat. So I went to PetSmart and read many labels. I decided to try Nature’s Recipe Healthy Skin & Coat Venison Meal & Rice Recipe*. It worked. Murphy's skin issues went away never to return. So I put Cody on the same food. They've been on it for 3-1/2 years, have lustrous coats, and no stomach upsets.

I'm not up on the best foods available at the big box stores because the companies are always changing their formulas. But when I was looking three years ago, the top three were Blue Buffalo, Royal Canan, and Nature's Recipe. I've had innumerable clients ask me what they should do about their dog's itchies. I always tell them to start with changing food, eliminating the obvious junk. In the end, people who love their dogs must become informed consumers. Good nutrition and exercise are as important for our dogs as it is for us.

Ozzy has been doing well on Orijen and Acana (both Canadian foods). $54 for a 30 lb bag. Unfortunately, the better foods can be cost prohibitive for some people. I cry for the dog on "Ol' Roy."

*I contacted Del Monte to ask what is in venison meal. Their response: "Venison meal is ground deer meat, and can include both the muscle tissue and the nutritious (cleaned) organ tissue."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Buckle up, Fido!

I regularly remind clients that keeping their dogs safe when driving is a big part of being a responsible pet parent. Many get that "deer in the headlights" look on their faces when I strongly suggest that the don't let their dogs ride on laps or in the front seat of their vehicle. Why this advice? Air bags can injure or kill a dog riding in the front seat. Safe alternatives: a harness on your dog in the back seat attached to the vehicle's existing seat belt system or a crate secured in the back of an SUV or van. One very big reason for all this caution is that if you are in an accident, your dog can escape from your vehicle. If that happens s/he will be frightened and may run off - possibly into traffic - and be seriously injured or killed. For nonbelievers, read on:

Family seeks help finding dog ejected from overturned vehicle

Published 12/19/09 in the Richmond Times Dispatch

Family members are asking for help in finding a dog that went missing after it was ejected from an overturned vehicle on Interstate 295. Allison Labar of Florida suffered a broken clavicle and a dislocated shoulder when her car overturned yesterday morning in eastern Henrico County, said the woman’s sister, Michelle Felmly. Felmly, who lives in Pennsylvania, was seeking help locating her sister’s dog, a 6-year-old golden retriever mix named Chloe. “The dog is absolutely everything to her,” Felmly said of her sister. “The whole family is just devastated.”

Be a responsible pet parent. Buckle up, Fido!

Is commercial dog food junk food?

My Labs are four and eight years old. They are healthy. As they age, I want to make sure they stay that way. My friend, Terry, started transitioning his dogs to a raw diet a few months ago. We talk about it a lot. My mind isn’t made up yet but I’m seriously considering doing the same. So … here’s what I’m learning. Last week Terry sent me an email with a link to Dr. Andrew Jones: Here’s one of the things I pulled from his website, which rings true to me:

Dr. Jones:

If you are to use a commercial food, here are some tips to check for quality:

  1. Ingredients are listed in descending order. The first ingredient should be an animal based protein.
  2. The entire protein should be listed first. Avoid foods that list by-products. Avoid those that list the food fractions - i.e. wheat middlings or corn gluten instead of the whole grain. These ingredients are leftovers from the human food processing and don't provide the best nutrition.
  3. Look for natural preservatives. These include Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Vitamin E and mixed tocopherols. Avoid ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT and propylene glycol.
  4. Avoid foods with artificial flavor enhancers, such as phosphoric acid.
  5. Avoid artificial colors. These include azo, azo dyes, and sodium nitrite.
  6. [Should have] essential fatty acids must be added - of utmost importance for allergies, arthritis and cancer prevention.
  7. [Should have] additional antioxidants, such as Vit E, Vit C and flavanoids.



Now, with this information in hand I picked a dog food at random. I’ve never fed it but a lot of people do. Why? Because, according to their website, “Del Monte Foods is one of the country's largest and most well-known producers, distributors and marketers of premium quality, branded food and pet products for the U.S. retail market, generating approximately $3.6 billion in net sales in fiscal 2009.” They’re huge … with an enormous marketing budget. That’s why you may very well feed your dog this:

Kibbles n Bits
(made by Del Monte) Ingredients as of 12/20/09

Cost: 17.6 lb. bag online for $17.99


soybean meal

beef and bone meal

ground wheat flour

animal fat (bha used as preservative)

corn syrup

wheat middling’s

water sufficient for processing, animal digest (source of chicken flavor)

propylene glycol


hydrochloric acid

potassium chloride

caramel color

sorbic acid (used as a preservative)

sodium carbonate

minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite)

choline chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement

D-calcium pantothenate

riboflavin supplement

pyridoxine hydrochloride

thiamine mononitrate

vitamin D3 supplement

folic acid


vitamin B12 supplement)

calcium sulfate

titanium dioxide

yellow 5

yellow 6

red 40

BHA (used as a preservative)

dl methionine


Here’s the ingredient list for another Del Monte dog food, Nature’s Recipe. I’ve contacted Del Monte to ask what venison meal is, since I can’t find it defined anywhere.

Nature’s Recipe Healthy Skin & Coat Venison Meal & Rice Recipe

Cost: 20 lb. bag at PetSmart - $28.99

venison meal

ground rice


pearled barley

chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols)

pea protein

animal digest

potassium chloride

minerals (zinc proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, iron proteinate, copper sulfate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite)

yeast culture

vitamins (vitamin E supplement, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C)


niacin supplement

vitamin A supplement

d-calcium pantothenate

thiamine mononitrate


riboflavin supplement

pyridoxine hydrochloride

menadione sodium bisulfite complex

vitamin D3 supplement,

folic acid


vitamin B12 supplement

choline chloride

yucca schidigera

rosemary extract


Somewhere out there in cyberspace I found a consumer’s diatribe that I enjoyed reading. Here’s part of it:

“Dogs love Kibbles 'N Bits Wholesome Medley. It is like crack for dogs. Being made up entirely of fillers, with little or no nutritional value, your dog will consume large amounts of this food...which means large amounts of the whole grain corn...which means more poop piles for you, the responsible pet owner, to pick up! The Kibbles 'N Bits Wholesome Medley even looks like candy for dogs. It is an assortment of different shapes in muted shades of orange and yellow and green, all thanks to the added colors! My foster [dog] was said to chew his tail. Of course he chewed his tail! This food will cause excessive itching from all the fillers. Dogs without a proper diet will chew on their tails and feet, often to the point of drawing blood.”


For more information about raw diets, go to Dr. Tracy Lord's website:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hectic Holiday Season

By Paul Westerfield

December 2: Therapy, Safe Harbor
December 5: Christmas Parade, Williamsburg
December 6: Therapy, Westminster Canterbury
December 6: Training
December 8: Therapy, Safe Harbor
December 10: Therapy, Pediatrics, St. Mary’s Hospital
December 12: Christmas tree pull, Gettysburg, PA
December 13: Training
December 15: Therapy & deliver gifts via cart, Covenant Woods
December 19: Therapy & deliver gifts via cart, St. Mary’s Hospital
December 20: Therapy, Westminster Canterbury
December 20: Christmas Party, St. Mary’s Hospital
December 22: Therapy, Safe Harbor

This doesn’t include having to bake, clean, buy gifts or decorate for the Christmas season because this is the work schedule of a dog. Nana is a three-year-old Newfoundland and a registered therapy dog. Her sister Gina is also a newly registered therapy dog and has her own schedule. There are three more siblings all working toward becoming therapy dogs.

Newfoundland dogs are frequently called gentle giants and make excellent therapy dogs. The AKC website states “Sweetness of temperament is the hallmark of the Newfoundland. This is the most important single characteristic of the breed.” Be it octogenarians in a nursing home or children in a pediatric ward, petting - or in many cases hugging - a Newf can bring a smile to a face.

St. Mary’s Hospital is the newest addition to Nana’s busy schedule. She will be visiting sick children and their families on the pediatric unit and in pediatric ICU. The hospital staff is very excited, especially with Nana’s ability to cart. She will be available to transport children (who are physically able) in her wagon. I can’t think of a better way to take a child’s mind off of an upcoming test or procedure. She will also be delivering toys and books to children’s rooms. Hospital staff has already started coming up with other areas and people to visit.

Gina will be joining Nana in a few weeks at St. Mary’s. The hospital would ideally like two visits from a registered therapy dog per week. Unfortunately Nana’s and Gina’s chauffeurs cannot make that time commitment in addition to other visits. Anyone interested please contact Dee Bogetti to find out how to get more information on St. Mary’s.

Note: Paul is one of the most dedicated volunteers I know. He and his Newfoundlands make an enormous difference in the lives of people they meet. Thanks to the Westerfield family for all they do! Dee