Foods that Can Hurt Your Pets

People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets

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Chocolate, Macadamia nuts, avocados…these foods may sound delicious to you, but they’re actually quite dangerous for our animal companions. Our nutrition experts have put together a handy list of the top toxic people foods to avoid feeding your pet. As always, if you suspect your pet has eaten any of the following foods, please note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine

These products all contain substances called methylxanthines, which are found in cacao seeds, the fruit of the plant used to make coffee and in the nuts of an extract used in some sodas. When ingested by pets, methylxanthines can cause vomiting and diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures and even death. Note that darker chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate. White chocolate has the lowest level of methylxanthines, while baking chocolate contains the highest.

Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages and food products containing alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death.

Avocado

The leaves, fruit, seeds and bark of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Birds and rodents are especially sensitive to avocado poisoning, and can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart. Some ingestions may even be fatal.

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts are commonly used in many cookies and candies. However, they can cause problems for your canine companion. These nuts have caused weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. Signs usually appear within 12 hours of ingestion and last approximately 12 to 48 hours.

Grapes & Raisins

Although the toxic substance within grapes and raisins is unknown, these fruits can cause kidney failure. In pets who already have certain health problems, signs may be more dramatic.

Yeast Dough

Yeast dough can rise and cause gas to accumulate in your pet’s digestive system. This can be painful and can cause the stomach or intestines to rupture. Because the risk diminishes after the dough is cooked and the yeast has fully risen, pets can have small bits of bread as treats. However, these treats should not constitute more than 5 percent to 10 percent of your pet’s daily caloric intake.

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones

Raw meat and raw eggs can contain bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that can be harmful to pets. In addition, raw eggs contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin), which can lead to skin and coat problems. Feeding your pet raw bones may seem like a natural and healthy option that might occur if your pet lived in the wild. However, this can be very dangerous for a domestic pet, who might choke on bones, or sustain a grave injury should the bone splinter and become lodged in or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.

Xylitol

Xylitol is used as a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. It can cause insulin release in most species, which can lead to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia (lowered sugar levels). Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination. Signs can progress to recumbancy and seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days.

Onions, Garlic, Chives

These vegetables and herbs can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could lead to red blood cell damage. Although cats are more susceptible, dogs are also at risk if a large enough amount is consumed. Toxicity is normally diagnosed through history, clinical signs and microscopic confirmation of Heinz bodies. An occasional low dose, such as what might be found in pet foods or treats, likely will not cause a problem, but we recommend that you do NOT give your pets large quantities of these foods.

Milk

Because pets do not possess significant amounts of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk), milk and other milk-based products cause them diarrhea or other digestive upset.

Salt

Large amounts of salt can produce excessive thirst and urination, or even sodium ion poisoning in pets. Signs that your pet may have eaten too many salty foods include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures and even death. In other words, keep those salty chips to yourself!

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What’s Really in My Pet’s Food?

What’s Really in My Pet’s Food?

By: Sarah Grace McCandless
pet food

Here’s something to chew on: According to research conducted by Euromonitor and the American Pet Products Association, worldwide sales of dog and cat food have climbed to $52 billion dollars, with nearly $18 billion attributed to the U.S. market alone. It’s a staggering number, but one that makes sense when you consider the fact that, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), there are approximately 77.5 million pups and 93.6 million cats owned as pets in American households.

Those numbers make for a lot of mouths to feed. There are many types of food available — including wet and dry types, as well as newer trends like raw food diets — and also a growing number of manufacturers to choose from — including companies owned by celebrities such as talk show hosts Rachael Ray and Ellen DeGeneres and actor Dick Van Patten. The options can seem endless — and even overwhelming. So how can you tell which kinds are best for your pet?

What’s in a name?

Whether you opt for kibble or canned, one of the first steps to take in assessing the contents of your pet’s diet is to simply review the name of the product you’re purchasing and the terms used to describe it. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides special labeling requirements for pet food produced by U.S. manufacturers. While they do not actually regulate the actual production of pet food, their guidelines are updated annually and at the very least provide a good place to start. Here are some of the most common rules about terminology in labeling:

  • “100 percent” or “all”— Neither of these can be used if the pet food contains more than one ingredient, outside of the water needed for processing or trace amounts of condiments and preservatives.
  • “Dinner”— Food labeled as such must include an ingredient that constitutes at least 25 percent of the overall weight of the product.
  • “With”— This term can be used as long as there’s at least 3 percent of the ingredient it’s referring to included in the overall mix.
  • “Flavor”— As long as the food includes an ingredient that gives the overall product a distinct characteristic, this word is fair play. However, something labeled as “chicken flavor,” for example, might just include extract from poultry parts or artificial flavor, and not necessarily any actual chicken meat at all.

 

Understanding Ingredients

Both dogs and cats tend to do best on diets built primarily on protein, though the presence of healthy carbohydrates plays an important role for pooches as well. Vitamins, minerals, and even limited amounts of fats are also part of the balance for both, but figuring out how to correspond each of these key elements with the ingredients on a label can be tricky.

AAFCO guidelines require ingredients to be listed in descending order according to the weight of each item added to the mix, so that’s a good place to start in terms of determining the quality of the food. Keep in mind though, even when an item such as chicken, cattle, lamb or turkey is listed as the primary ingredient, this can include skeletal muscle, nerves, blood vessels and other parts found within the clean flesh of slaughtered animals. This is where some of the previously mentioned terms such as “100 percent” can be really helpful in terms of clarifying the contents.

What you don’t want to see is the pairing of the term “by-product” with any meat or poultry terms, as this refers to cleaned parts such as internal organs, and there’s still much debate about exactly what elements go into by-product production. According to the Animal Protection Institute (API), certain pet food companies were accused in the past of including carcasses and road kill in their by-products mix, and some industry insiders reportedly admitted to it. Though today pet companies universally deny such practices, there are no regulations or laws preventing them from doing so.

One ingredient most experts seem to agree on as something to avoid is anything that acts as filler, such as oats, flour, wheat, corn and peanut hulls — all of which have little to no nutritional value. Note: Some manufacturers will break out these types of ingredients into a number of different terms to make it seem like there’s less present in the mix, so read carefully. Preservatives — such as BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole, a fat preservative) and Ethoxyquin (a chemical preservative used to prevent spoilage in dog food)— also show up in the pet food manufacturing process, and you should try to steer clear of these as well.

Bottom Line: Best Bets?

In terms of whether wet or dry is better, there’s no general consensus. Trying to directly compare labels between the two is a difficult equation to master as well, since doing so requires a mathematical conversion to dry matter basis. Some argue that wet food is better because it tends to contain more protein and fewer carbohydrates compared to dry food. Others avoid wet food because of the strong smell often associated with it (which is usually a result of the presence of fats, preservatives or other chemicals within the contents), and maintain that dry food is more beneficial because its hard texture can help improve a pet’s dental health.

With all of this in mind, choosing the best type of food for your pet still can be overwhelming, to say the least. Try asking your vet for initial recommendations. Not only does he know your pet’s health history intimately, but he can also determine whether your pet requires a special diet to address issues such as weight management, digestive issues or arthritis. Being armed with this information can help you make the most of your pet’s meals.

More Information

Sources

American Pet Products Association.
http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp

Animal Protection Institute. “What’s Really in Pet Food.” 05/01/2007.
http://www.bornfreeusa.org/facts.php?more=1&p=359

Consumer Search. “Cat Food: Full Report.” 02/01/2009.
http://www.consumersearch.com/cat-food/review

Consumer Search. “Dog Food: Full Report.” 02/01/2009.
http://www.consumersearch.com/dog-food/dog-food-ingredients

Dunn Jr., Dr. TJ. “Basic Nutrition for Dogs.” Dog World Magazine. 09/15/2009.
http://www.thepetcenter.com/article.aspx?id=3406

De La Cruz, Dr. Keith. “Feed Your Dog Right.” Business Mirror. 03/07/2010.
http://businessmirror.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=22644:feed-your-dog-right&catid=32:life&Itemid=68

The Humane Society of the United States. “U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics.” 12/30/2009.
http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/pet_ownership_statistics.html

Nash, Holly. “Dog Food Standards by the AAFCO.”
http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+1659+1661&aid=662

Newman, Lisa. “What’s in Your Pet’s Food?” Purely Pets. 06/24/2009.
http://www.purelypets.com/articles/whatsinfood.htm

Phillips-Donaldson, Debbie. “Something to chew on: Petfood still growing.” Petfood Industry. 12/18/2009.
http://www.petfoodindustry.com/stillgrowing0912.aspx

Pet Health – How Much to Feed Your Pet?

reposted from PetMD

Even Pet Health Care Providers Cannot Get Portion Control Right


July 19, 2012

This is a follow-up to my last post and other posts emphasizing the importance of portion control in the present pet obesity epidemic. Veterinarians and representatives of pet food companies continue to beat-up clients about feeding, or overfeeding, their pets. Owners leave veterinary hospitals feeling guilty for causing a host of future problems to their pets by their feeding practices. But guess what? Health care providers cannot do any better with pet portion control. A 2010 study from the United Kingdom is testimony.

 The Study

Four veterinarians and six employees of a major commercial food manufacturer participated in the study. They fed six different diets — four feline and two dog dry kibble products — from three different manufacturers to cats and dogs using measuring cups provided by the manufacturer. The manufacturer recommendations were followed and each portion was shaken to level the food in the provided measuring cup. The food was weighed before feeding to document the actual food amount and calorie content for the study statistics. The statistics were then analyzed after the completion of the study.

Despite attempts to accurately measure the food amount, these health professionals had ranges of feeding amounts from 18% underestimated or inadequate amounts to 80% overestimation and excessive feeding. When multiple “feeders” were involved the quantities were the worst. Feeding small amounts to small cats and dogs had the greatest degree of overestimation. Precisely the group that every calorie counts! What is even more shocking is that two of the diets were pre-packaged, just as they are sold to the public, and were fed according to instructions; they were not even accurate.

What Does it All Mean?

Actually, I think there are multiple factors in play. First, is the probable inaccuracy of claims about calories per kilogram that commercial food manufacturers declare on food labels. My research suggests the means by which these figures are arrived at are guesstimates at best and probably vary from lot to lot.

Few pet food labels produce their own product. There are three major millers of pet food in the United States that package the hundreds of commercial pet food labels available. Calometric measurements (igniting the food and measuring its energy) is not required for every lot of food or combination of ingredients. It is not even clear if it is required at all, and calorie counts are derived by mathematical formulas. Estimation of calories are only required for the initial application of the formula. AAFCO is very lenient for the nutritional content of “families of foods.”

My point is that calorie claims made by manufacturers only approximate reality because the production process involves so many unsupervised steps.

Secondly, the calorie concentration in commercial food is extremely high. With counts near 400 calories per cup, each kibble piece is a calorie bomb. Simple, unintentional measured variations of leveling a portion measurement may mean the difference of 25-100 calories. For small or inactive dogs this is a significant difference. Pet owner obsession with the economical and convenience qualities of kibbled food means this problem is likely to get worse.

Thirdly is that proper pet nutrition is a dynamic process and not static. Owners cannot just settle on a portion and assume that it never changes. We have discussed many influences that affect diet in this post. Label instructions today may not be appropriate tomorrow.  Most humans don’t even eat correctly. How many families do you know who employ a registered dietician in addition to their house cleaning service, garden care service, car washing service, and pool cleaning service? All seem essential except the nutritional advice. We simply do not spend the necessary time and money to objectively understand nutrition. We are too absorbed with labeling “good” and “bad” foods and calories, which is a meaningless exercise and has little to do with weight control. Weight is about amounts of food, not the kind of food.

Weigh the food. It is still inaccurate, but it is better than measuring in a cup. Also realize that any recommendation is exactly that, a recommendation. Quantities need to be changed based on the body condition score (BCS) of your pet at any given portion. Reduce or increase portions based on their BCS.

Dr. Ken Tudor