Posted at 02:33PM - Comments: (32)
By Nancy Kerns
I’ve been getting calls, emails, social media messages, and countless forwarded articles from other websites and publications – perhaps even from you! And the first thing I want to tell you is to take a breath!
The FDA recently issued a warning (linked here) that it is investigating a possible link between diet and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs.
The warning spread like wildfire through social media channels, but unfortunately, it also rapidly got dumbed down to a ridiculous level; it quickly evolved into something like “grain-free foods cause canine heart disease,” or worse yet, “boutique foods might kill your dog. The FDA characterizes the issue as a “potential association” between diets with very specific attributes (and certainly not ALL grain-free diets) and canine DCM – not a cause.
Please note that the FDA’s headline did not say anything about “grain-free diets” causing heart problems – though almost all the blog posts and articles in other publications have been saying exactly that. If you read the FDA’s statement, you will see that they said there may be a link between some grain-free diets and canine DCM, but there are also many other things going on that may be responsible for an observed rise in cases of canine DCM.
Linda Case, long-time animal nutrition expert and author of Dog Food Logic, has written an in-depth article for WDJ’s September issue that goes into lots of detail about what is known about the dietary causes of DCM, including several issues regarding taurine and the amino acids (cysteine and methionine) that dogs use to produce taurine. Please revisit wholedogjournal.com in a couple of weeks to see her article about the connections between diet and DCM in dogs. Hint: It’s not as simple as the possibility that the diets are lacking the amino acid precursors to taurine.
[Whole Dog Journal has covered taurine deficiency in the past, regarding vegetarian diets for dogs, low-fat dog foods, and canine congestive heart failure.]
But for now, hopefully to put your mind at ease, I’m going to briefly discuss some of the pertinent facts that make the story a little more complicated than the “grain-free diets cause heart disease” headlines.
What We Know About Dilated Cardiomyopathy in DogsThe FDA received a report from Cardiac Care for Pets, a practice that employs 19 veterinary cardiologists in Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia, and Texas, that they had seen a spike in canine DCM cases – and not just in the breeds that have a genetic predisposition to developing DCM, but also in breeds that are not known for an inherited propensity for the condition. Their report also included the fact that all of the cases had something in common: all the dogs had been eating diets heavy in peas, lentils, chickpeas, and potatoes.
Other veterinary cardiologists were noticing the same thing. The FDA received reports recently of about two dozen additional cases, including three dogs that died of the condition. After reviewing the medical records of these dogs, the FDA felt it was prudent to issue a measured warning, in part to alert dog owners and veterinarians to be aware of signs of the condition in potentially affected dogs (which, it is hoped, will elicit more data). Its warning, specifically, stated that vets and dog owners should be alert for signs of DCM in dogs eating foods “containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients.”
That’s our emphasis, but it is repeated in the FDA’s warning:
“Diets in cases reported to the FDA frequently list potatoes or multiple legumes [our emphasis again] such as peas, lentils, other ‘pulses’ (seeds of legumes), and their protein, starch, and fiber derivatives early in the ingredient list, indicating that they are main ingredients.” [Again, our emphasis.]
What is a “main ingredient”? There isn’t a legal definition, but in our book, it’s anything in about the first five ingredients on the list. As you probably know, food ingredients are listed on labels (by law) in order of their weight in the formula before the food is cooked. The first four to six ingredients generally represent the majority of what is in the food.
That said, the FDA’s warning also addressed “multiple legumes.” Our readers should be alert to the fact that food manufacturers sometimes list smaller amounts of several similar ingredients, or several constituent parts or “fractions” of the same ingredient. This not only visually minimizes the seeming presence of those ingredients in the food, but also makes the total of the ingredients ahead of these fractions seem to be present in more significant amounts than they actually are.
For example, it would appear that a food that lists its ingredients as “Chicken, peas, pea protein, pea fiber…” contains more chicken than any other single ingredient. But if you added up the total amount of pea-based ingredients, they would surely outweigh the chicken. This is what the FDA is getting to with its warning about “multiple legumes” – foods in which the legumes, taken together, might outweigh the animal protein sources.
If You Feel Your Dog's Food is Connected to DCM:Based on the FDA’s report, here are our first take-away points:
"Now what should we buy?"
- Are you feeding your dog this food because it’s the only diet you have been able to find that does not trigger other health problems in that dog? If so, continue feeding the diet, but carefully monitor your dog for any hint of signs of DCM. Also, discuss possible alternative diets and/or a blood test for taurine levels, with your veterinarian.
- Are you feeding your dog this food because you like the company, or it was recommended to you, or for no particular reason? Then consider switching to a diet that either contains fewer or none of these ingredients, and read on for more recommendations.
Not All Grain-Free Foods Are Under SuspicionWithin a matter of days of the FDA’s press release, we watched in dismay as the issue was reduced to, in the majority of cases, “grain-free diets cause heart canine heart disease. ”
Please understand that there are grain-free diets that do not contain potatoes, peas, lentils, or other seeds of legumes as main ingredients. For example, there are many raw diets, fresh-cooked/frozen diets, canned diets, and even some dry/kibble diets that are grain-free that do not contain potatoes, peas, lentils or other seeds of legumes. Not all grain-free diets have been implicated as concerning as regards canine DCM.
But, as we have been saying for some time (most recently here), grain-free diets have gotten inordinately popular for no particular reason. Many dog owners buy these products because they have heard some vague argument that “grains are bad for dogs” – an ill-informed blanket generalization we have fought against for ages. There is no particular advantage – and actually, several disadvantages – to feeding a grain-free diet (of any kind) to a dog who doesn’t have any problems with eating and digesting grain.
Points to Consider About Grain-Free Dog Food
However, we would not want to be on the record as saying “all grain-free foods are bad.” That’s another ridiculous overstatement. There are some terrific grain-free foods on the market – and some dogs do far better on these products than any grain-containing foods they have been fed. Owners have to look for products that work well for their individual dogs – and be willing to change as their dogs’ needs change.
Overreaching by Those With an Axe to GrindIt was bad enough to see the FDA’s warning reduced by a combination of poor reporting, poor reader comprehension, and social media hysteria to “grain-free foods cause canine heart disease.” But some media outlets also included statements from an animal nutrition expert whose opinions on diets are consistent with those of the pet food industry corporate giants; she has repeatedly been quoted as implicating “boutique” pet foods in the current rash of reported cases of DCM. What’s a boutique food? She doesn’t define this, but we suspect it’s anything made by any company whose annual sales are less than umpteen million…
This same expert has also implicated foods that contain “exotic ingredients,” which she provided a partial list for in one article: “kangaroo, lentils, duck, pea, fava bean, buffalo, tapioca, salmon, lamb, barley, bison, venison, and chickpeas.” Hmm.
All in all, we have lost track of the number of times she has been quoted as saying that pet owners should avoid “boutique, grain-free, or exotic ingredient diets” – and, unfortunately, this over-broad and ill-defined description is finding its way into more and more discussions of this concerning issue.
We have one more bone to pick with this expert; one of her articles on this topic suggests that dog owners do themselves a favor and “stop reading the ingredient list!” This makes us absolutely see red, as it harkens back to the “bad old days” of pet food. Twenty years ago, the making of pet food was a black box. “You guys, we are the experts here, trust us!” was the message of Big Pet Food. Consumers could no more find out where a food was made or where its ingredients were sourced than find out where the company CEOs ate breakfast. A suggestion that consumers shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about what is actually in the food they buy for their dogs, and which is listed on the label by law for the protection of consumers and their dogs, is downright insulting.
We’d like to suggest that concerned owners keep reading labels and educating themselves about canine nutrition, and, for now, limit themselves to the facts that are currently known by the FDA about this spate of canine DCM cases. Also, Linda Case’s excellent article in the September issue of WDJ will also help shed much-needed light on this complex and concerning issue.
New Guarantee on all West Paw Products
Posted July 05, 2017
Love It Guarantee™West Paw Introduces NEW Guarantee on all productsWe’re happy to announce even more ways to keep your customers—and their dogs—happy. West Paw now guarantees every product we manufacture here in Montana – that’s all of them. If customers are unhappy with the performance of a West Paw product they purchase from you, we’ll replace or refund their purchase. Best of all, we do the legwork for you. Direct customers to our Customer Experience team (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we'll take care of them. It really is that simple, easy, and hassle-free.
"Because we make everything ourselves in our own Bozeman, Montana-based facility, we have complete control over every step of our manufacturing process. This means we are 100% confident in the durability and safety of everything we make. So, it's only natural that West Paw now guarantees every single one of our products." - Spencer Williams, Owner, and CEO
How is this guarantee different from our old guarantee?
West Paw truly believes in the quality and craftsmanship of our products. From our Zogoflex dog toys to our handcrafted beds and plush toys, West Paw confidently stands behind our American made products.
Previously our guarantee only applied to our Zogoflex toys and pet beds. Now we are happy to announce we offer a guarantee on 100% of our products.
Simply Put: If your customer(s) is unhappy with the performance of our products, we will make it right by either replacing or refunding the customer’s purchase(s).
(Gail, New Earth Animals owner/blogger)**I like to provide to our clients the most current Holistic,
as well as, Conventional Veterinary data that is available, please talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your dogs health.
The Surprising Cause Of Lyme Disease In Dogs
Dr Patricia Jordan forwarded an interesting email to me and I’d like to share it with you.
But first, I want to take a look at what conventional veterinarians think is the cause of Lyme disease in dogs. So I went to PetMD, one of the largest and most used veterinary sites in the world to find out what vets are telling pet owners.
And I got what I was looking for nearly instantly. I say nearly instantly because I had to watch a commercial for pet insurance first.
Vets Are Ignoring Important ResearchSo once the commercial was over, I found a video and article by veterinarian Dorothy Jackson from The Veterinary Cancer Center.
In the video and accompanying article, Dr Jackson has this to say about the cause of Lyme disease:
Lyme disease “is one of the most commonly transmitted tick transmitted diseases in dogs but isn’t caused by the tick itself.” And human research would agree with her on this point.
Lyme disease isn’t as simple as a bite from a tick.
Lyme disease researchers and specialists have found that the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria we used to think were the cause of Lyme disease aren’t the real cause.
In most cases, Lyme disease only occurs when there is an existing health issue in the patient … called coinfection.
Tick Bites Are Not The Primary Cause Of Lyme DiseaseSwiss researcher Dr Thomas Rau studied groups of farmers who lived in areas where Lyme was common and were most likely to be exposed to Lyme and he found something interesting.
80% of the farmers were diagnosed with Lyme disease.
But of that 80%, only 2% showed any symptoms.
That means the vast majority of the farmers with Lyme disease were able to fight it off on their own. So Dr Rau set out to discover why some people were more susceptible than others.
And this is where it gets really interesting …
Dr Rau discovered that 100% of the people who developed full blown Lyme symptoms had other viruses, which stressed the immune system.
This is inline with current research that revealed the link between existing health issues and Lyme disease symptoms back in the 90s.
The Real Risk Of Lyme DiseaseThe Borrelia bacteria found in ticks typically causes flu-like symptoms. Dr Rau’s research shows that about a third of ticks carry Borrelia.
So if your dog is bitten by a tick, it’s only 33% likely to carry the potentially harmful Borreliabacteria.
If the tick is infected, then you or your dog will typically develop flu-like symptoms and possibly a rash at the site of infection. This is the first stage of Lyme disease.
Dr Rau and other researchers estimate that only 10 to 20 percent of tick bites will lead to stage 1 Lyme disease.
If untreated however, 30% of stage 1 cases will lead to stage 2 (where bacteria can infect the skin, joints, kidneys and sometimes the heart).
So your dog has about a 1% to 2% chance of stage 2 Lyme disease … the kind of Lyme disease that can really make him sick.
Stage 3 Lyme is the chronic stage, which can appear months or even years after infection. The most common symptoms are joint and muscle pain.
Only 1% of stage 2 cases of Lyme progress to stage 3.
This mirrors research done in dogs.
Most Dogs Never Get SickIn a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, beagles were experimentally infected with Lyme disease. Yet none of the adult dogs showed any symptoms of the disease.
Beagle puppies, who would have weaker immune systems than adult dogs, showed about four days of transient symptoms of infection such as fever and lameness in the same study.
After four days of on-and-off symptoms, the pups became asymptomatic; which means their bodies cleared the infection without any treatment.
According to Meryl P Littman (University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine), exposure to Lyme disease is common, but the disease isn’t:
“Ninety-five percent of exposed dogs don’t get sick, but they become Lyme antibody-positive on tests, which may scare people into thinking they need to be treated,” she says. “In some areas in New England, 70 to 90 percent of healthy dogs are Lyme-positive. At PennVet, we found about 40 percent of healthy dogs are Lyme-positive in our area.”
So it seems that Lyme disease isn’t all that common and dogs aren’t that likely to get it, even when infected.
So why are we so worried about Lyme disease?
More Than Just A BiteThis is where it gets weird …
… Dr Rau discovered that certain vaccines were cofactors for Lyme disease.
Including the tick-borne meningoencephalitis vaccine.
We don’t know if the Lyme vaccine is considered a cofactor because this research was done on the human population … and the LYMERix human Lyme disease vaccine was only used for 18 months between 1998 and 2000, before it was pulled off the market amidst reports of serious adverse events and the vaccine potentially causing Lyme-like arthritis. (Did you catch that? The human Lyme vaccine was pulled from the market because of safety concerns, yet we still vaccinate our dogs with the same vaccine).
Evidence is mounting that it could be this very vaccine that acts as a cofactor, allowing Lyme to progress from transient flu-like symptoms into debilitating disease.
Dr Rau explains the relationship in this short video:
Other important confections for Lyme disease include:
What Vets Need To KnowGetting back to the Lyme information from PetMD, here’s what Dr Jackson concludes as the cause of Lyme disease:
Lyme disease “is actually caused by bacteria that’s transported through the tick.”
We now know this isn’t exactly the case. And here’s where conventional veterinary medicine really lets us down.
The WebMD article discusses how to prevent Lyme disease by using toxic sprays and chemicals, as well as vaccines. And most conventional vets also advocate this approach.
But if Lyme disease is likely to progress into more than flu-like symptoms only when the recipient has cofactors present, then isn’t stressing the immune system backwards – and ultimately dangerous – thinking?
We know that Lyme disease only progresses to a harmful stage if dogs aren’t healthy, right? So how do vaccines and chemicals make dogs healthier?
Let’s look at the list of cofactors again …
We know vaccines increase the risk.
We know chronic inflammation increases the risk … and vaccines are well known to cause chronic inflammation and auto-immune disease.
Immune suppression – vaccines are known to suppress the immune system after administration.
Coinfections of other viruses – well, that’s what vaccines are designed to do … deliver a small amount of virus into the body.
Heavy metals and toxins – vaccines contain aluminum, thimerosal (a form of mercury), MSG, formaldehyde and other dangerous toxins.
Moreover, the commercial foods we feed our dogs are often deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, as a result of the heating and processing. And once the bag of food is opened, any fats that are left in the food start to oxidize and go rancid, leading to even more inflammation.
How Do We Really Prevent Lyme Disease?It’s not rocket science … the more toxic your dog is, the more likely he is to suffer an exaggerated response to an otherwise benign stress.
Research shows it … 95% of dogs (and people) who are bitten by a tick, are likely to have either no symptoms or mild flu-like symptoms.
For the 5% of dogs who get really sick, how can we blame the tick when the other 95% do just fine?
We can’t! The problem was already there before the tick came along … the bacteria in the tick was just the final small blow to an already weakened immune system.
While conventional veterinarians would have you “protect” your dog with sprays and vaccines, holistic vets know the secret is a healthy immune system.
They know that bacteria and parasites only prey on weak animals … and that a healthy immune system is what separates the 5% of dogs with Lyme disease from the healthier 95% of the population.
Here are some tips to help bolster your dog’s immune system:
So why not worry about your dog’s immune health instead?
If you focus on immune health, research shows you’ll probably never face the challenge of Lyme disease in your dog.