Showing posts with label Diet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Diet. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Choosing the right food for your pet (and holding pet food companies to higher standards)

Frank asking for dinner
Choosing what to feed your dog or cat is a very important decision for pet owners and one that can be overwhelming given the countless choices out on the market today.  Stores are stocked with row after row of different pet food brands containing clever marketing slogans to convince you they are the best for your pet.  As a veterinarian and obsessive pet owner, I am especially interested in nutrition because what you choose to feed has a direct result on the overall health and longevity of your cat or dog. 

For example, the type of food a puppy is given can affect how his bones grow and whether or not he may develop arthritis later in life.  This is even more important with large and giant breed puppies.  For these not-so-tiny guys, it is critical to choose a food that has been specifically formulated for their unique nutritional needs during the growth phase of life.  Feeding large breed puppies something that is too high in protein or has inappropriate calcium to phosphorus ratio may result in abnormal joint development.

Where it gets tricky is that even though a bag might claim it is formulated for large breed puppies, there are no specific regulations on what constitutes a large breed puppy formula.  This is why it is important to find a brand of food that you have researched and determined that they really know how to make a high quality diet.  Anyone can purchase a formulation for pet food, manufacture a product and sell it without ever feeding it to an actual dog or cat.  It is very difficult to tell from looking at the catchy logo on the pet food bag whether or not that diet has any research to back it up.

Pet owners should look to their veterinarians for specific recommendations on what food would be ideal for their particular pet’s lifestyle and life stage.   Both owners and veterinarians alike should call a pet food company and verify that they are following the minimum standards for developing and selling pet food.  What are those minimum quality standards?

What All Pet Food Companies Should Do

I feel that pet food companies should have veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists on staff developing their diets. Companies should perform feeding trials and extensive research on their diets to ensure that it is actually complete and balanced to meet the nutritional needs of the pets it was created for.  There should be safeguards in place to ensure contamination from toxins or pathogenic bacteria are not reaching our pets in the marketplace.  A pet food company should also have its own manufacturing plant to control exactly how a food is made, packaged, stored and shipped.

Finding a brand you trust is the first step, then you need to find a diet that fits your pet’s unique needs.  Again, this is where a consultation with your veterinarian can be so helpful.  You need to make sure that your pet is not overweight or obese. If so, perhaps he would benefit from a diet that is lower in calories.  Or maybe your senior kitty would benefit from some canned food to help increase her moisture intake to better support kidney function. 

Good nutrition is the foundation to a long, healthy and happy life with your pet.  Choosing a high quality food that best supports your pet’s particular lifestyle and life stage is the best way to achieve this.


To better help pet owners find that perfect diet for your beloved pet, Hill’s Pet Nutrition is offering a $10 off promotion on select Hill’s Science Diet products.  They have several foods within their product portfolio to meet your pet’s special needs and help you provide a healthier and happier life.  From weight loss, to oral care, to hairballs or joint health, they have a food to help manage your pet’s special situation or condition.  Check out to download your rebate today!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Weight loss success for Toby!

Losing weight is hard.  It is hard for us and it's really hard for our pets. Given that fact, I am very excited to report a weight loss success story! Toby is a 3-year-old Greater Swiss Mountain dog that I have been seeing since she was a tiny puppy.  Last spring at her annual exam Toby’s owner and I discussed that she had gained quite a bit of weight over the winter.  She was weighing in at 129 pounds and on physical exam she was quite chunky.  She was eating an adult formulation of dry food at the correct amount for her body weight.  We decided to switch her to a light formula and increase her activity.

Toby came back in 6 months for a recheck and had only lost 2 pounds.  At this point we switched to Hill’s Prescription Metabolic food and enrolled her in the Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol.  Hill’s created this online program with University of Tennessee to establish a better system for evaluating body fat in overweight animals.  The Metabolic diet was designed using nutrigenomics to affect gene expression by working with the animal’s metabolism for more effective weight loss.
Click on picture for full image

We started by taking a few measurements and plugging it into the online program which then told me that based on her breed, body measurements and weight Toby’s body fat index was 43% and her ideal weight was 90 pounds. Toby was allowed to eat 1 can and 31/4 cups dry Metabolic prescription food per day.  This was a lot more than the 2 cups daily she was allowed on the adult light food.  Her owner reported that she loved the food and we were off and running.

After eating the Hill’s Metabolic for 6 month I am thrilled to report that Toby is down to 112 pounds.  That is a loss of 15 pounds!  We are going to keep going and try to get down to about 100 pounds, which I think will be ideal for her.  Once she reaches her target weight we can continue feeding Metabolic and Toby get even more food each day to maintain her ideal weight.  I don’t know many dogs or people who would turn down that deal!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lilly Loses Weight Too!

Here is Akanya after 1 week on her new diet of Hill’s new prescription weight loss food Metabolic.  Her owner, Erin reports she is loving the food and doing great.  We will plan on weighing her in one month to see how she is responding.  Based on Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol I expect her to lose about 0.2 pounds per week so she should be under 12 pounds and one paw closer to her ideal weight of 8 pounds.

I was so excited about this new breakthrough in weight loss for our pets that I decided to sign my dog Lilly up for the challenge.  Lilly is an eight-year-old Chihuahua mix and being so tiny she has always struggled with her weight.  Due to her size and love of sitting on the couch she simply can’t consume that many calories without gaining weight. 

About a year ago she topped out at over 13 pounds and I think she felt the extra weight.  She would run around at the dog park but at home she would sit by herself and not really interact much with my other dogs.  I have been feeding her and my 11-year-old rat terrier Hill’s j/d (joint diet) because Sparkle has knee issues.  Lilly was getting a quarter cup of food twice a day, which is really not that much.  I further decreased the amount to an eighth of a cup and she lost about 2 pounds over the next 6 months. 

With this drop in weight her energy level and attitude completely changed.  She became much more interactive with both the people and animals in the house.  Still I thought she was a bit chubby at 11.3 pounds so I decided to measure her using Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol.  After entering her measurements and current weight into the computer program it came out that her body fat index was 48% and she should weigh 7 pounds!

I have to admit I was shocked and immediately re-measured her about three more times, each time getting about the same thing.  I knew she weighed more than I would like but this put her at serious risk for some nasty diseases.  She started eating Metabolic that night!

So far Lilly seems to be happy with her new diet.  She gobbles down her food and gets to eat a whole third of a cup of food, clearly way more than she was eating before.  I also add in a fish oil supplement to make sure she has enough omega-3 fatty acids in her diet.  I am looking forward to seeing how she responds and watch those pounds melt away.  If only they made a food like this for people….

Monday, March 4, 2013

Tackling Obesity One Cat at a Time

Meet Akanya!  She is a two and a half year old kitty owned by Erin who works as one of Friendship’s Client Care Technicians.  Erin has graciously volunteered to let Akayna be my guinea pig in testing out Hill’s new Healthy Weight Protocol and corresponding Metabolic Diet. 

Akayna has come a long way from the streets of Botswana where Erin rescued her while serving the in Peace Corps.  She is now a fat (literally) and very happy housecat who needs to shed a few pounds.  As I’m sure most cat owners know this is no easy task and unfortunately this is the most common recommendation I make to owners during annual exams. Click here to read my post about the obesity epidemic cats.

Hill’s has teamed up with the University of Tennessee to create a better system to estimate body fat in overweight animals.  They found that if we could more accurately determine how much a pet was overweight then we could devise a more precise feeding plan that would results in more effective weight loss.

Erin brought Akayna to Friendship so that I could take a few measurements and get a baseline weight.  We then entered this information into a computer program and found out that at 12.4 pounds she had a body fat index of 47.5% and was in the “serious risk” category.  Her ideal body weight was given as 8.1 pounds.
Click on chart for better visualization

Armed with this information we then calculated she should eat one-quarter cup and one half of a can of Hill’s new Metabolic prescription diet every day.  This is the newest of Hill’s diets that was formulated using nutrigenomics to affect gene expression working with the animal’s metabolism for more effective weight loss.  

I am so excited to track Akayna’s progress!  Obesity is something that so many pet owners struggle with and it is one of the few concrete things we can address to ensure our pets live a long and healthy life.  Let me know if you are interested in joining us on this weight loss endeavor!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The dreaded "by-product"

With the New Year upon us I have once again made a resolution to focus on my heath, specifically my eating habits.  This inspired me to write a few posts about healthy food choices for our pets.  Last summer I had the great opportunity to visit the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center in Kansas, my first post about my time there can be read by clicking here.  As a follow up let us focus on the ingredient list and the misunderstood phrase “by product”.

Many pet food companies will make a big deal of stating on their label, in big letters “No by-products”!  When you look at what a by-product actually is I don’t really mind my pets eating them.  The exact definition of a by-product is “anything produced in the course of making another thing.”  I feel that using by-products actually honors the animal that gave its life to feed us since we make use of the entire animal and not just its skeletal meat.

So in regards to a chicken, the by-products are feet, undeveloped eggs, necks, and organs; feathers and beaks are excluded.  This sounds really gross and I certainly wouldn’t want to eat anything with those ingredients but I am quite sure my dogs would have no problem.  In reality organ meat is a source of high quality protein and actually more nutrient dense than skeletal meat. 

When you see “chicken is the #1 ingredient” this is also a clever ploy by pet food marketing teams.  Chicken is listed first because it is 80% water and the heaviest of all the components that make up the diet.  This doesn’t equate to a diet that is mostly chicken skeletal meat that one would pick up from the grocery store.  If something is listed as “meal” on the label that just means whatever it was has had the water removed.  So “chicken meal” is dehydrated chicken backbone, skin and bits of muscle – basically whatever is left over after the chicken has been processed for human consumption.

That is not to say all by-products are equal, as with any product there are varying degrees of quality.  One must know the other aspects of their pet’s food in order to ensure they are feeding a high quality diet. 

For example:

  • ·      Is there a veterinary nutritionist consulting on the makeup of the food
  • ·      What other safe guards has the company put in place to make sure the diet is safe
  • ·      Have feeding trials been done to see how the food affects actual animals
  • ·      Is the company willing to give out their exact nutrient profile (they should be!)
  • ·      Where are the meat and other ingredients sourced from
  • ·      Where is the product made

There is so much that goes into making a quality pet food, it can be amazingly overwhelming to choose one.  I encourage you to speak with your veterinarian and use the above information to research the available diets out there.  I hope knowing the right questions to ask will help you sift through all of the clever labels and marketing tools pet food companies throw at you.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

AVMA's Raw Food Recommendation

In keeping with my series on what to feed your pet here is a timely story sparked by the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) recent recommendations against feeding raw food.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hill's Pet Nutrition Center

Me and Dr. Moore at the Kansas
Museum of History

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center in Topeka, Kansas.  Dr. Nicola Moore and I spent 3 days touring the facility, listening to lectures and discussing the pet food industry with the Hill’s team and other veterinarians from around the country.  It was an amazing learning experience and I am now an even bigger fan of Hill’s Prescription and Science Diet foods.

There are so many misconceptions about Hill’s food perpetrated by the Internet, pet food stores and other pet foods.  I have to say I always find it amazing (and more than a little disheartening) when I have a client take the advice of their breeder, an 18 year-old store clerk at Pet Smart or some random website over my professional, medically based opinion.  I know that all pet owners just want to feed their dog or cat the very best thing to keep them healthy and as a veterinarian that is my goal too.  

So here are a few nuggets of info I learned last week that convinced me Hill’s produces a superior product.

Hill’s has five manufacturing plants in the US and two in Europe that produce ninety-five percent of their food.  That other five percent consist of treats and a pouch type food sold in Europe.  Most pet food companies outsource the production of their diets to a third party; this opens the door to quality control issues.  An example of why this is problematic can be seen with the Blue Buffalo recall due to toxic levels of vitamin D found in their foods.  The plant that made these affected lots of food had produced a vitamin D supplement, not cleaned the production line and then processed the Blue Buffalo food resulting in vitamin D toxicity.

Hill's Pet Nutrition Center
 If you are concerned about salmonella contamination as we saw in the 2012 Diamond Pet Food recall you may be interested to learn that in 2008 Hill’s decided to voluntarily test all of their products for salmonella and other food borne pathogens.  Each lot of product is tested and is not released for distribution until the test comes back negative. In addition, Hill’s has their plants graded by an independent inspection company that evaluates human food plants as well.  The Hill’s plants routinely score higher than the plants producing human food!

Hill’s performs rigorous testing and inspecting of all the raw materials they use and will reject an ingredient if it doesn’t meet their standards.  They only use meat and poultry sources from USDA inspected plants to ensure that the animal and the meat it produces are handled correctly and disease free.  In 2007 after the widespread melamine recall that affected many brands of food, Hill’s made the voluntary decision to stop sourcing materials from China*.  Again, many human food production companies do not choose to do this.

I hope I have peaked your interested and demonstrated some of the reasons for why I am loving Hill’s.  Not convinced yet?  There is a lot more to come, stay tuned for info on specific nutrient levels, protein content, the vilified by-product, how they test their products and more.

*Currently they do obtain taurine from China.  This is one of two plants in the world producing this raw ingredient.  The other plant, which they had been using, was destroyed by the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kitty Food

Happy New Year!

As I embark on my annual New Year’s resolution to eat better and exercise more I thought I might once again try and tackle the ever looming question asked by owners: what is the best food for my pet? 

Furla, Vegas and Breaker
In truth this is a question without a definitive answer so I will tell you what I feed my pets and why I have chosen these foods.  I will start with my three cats, two of which have medical issues that require them to eat prescription diets.  Vegas has food allergies and if the majority of food he eats is not venison based he will scratch his face creating horrible open sores. 

Because of this Vegas and my other cat Furla eat a combo of dry and canned Hill’s Prescription Diet D/D Venison.  Furla doesn’t particularly need this diet but she likes it and feeding it to both of them is easier for me.  I feed them mostly canned with only a small amount of kibble for them to munch on during the day.  For cats I feel the canned food is better for them as it is higher in protein and moisture that more closely mimics the diet their bodies were designed to process.

Unlike dogs and humans that are omnivores, cats are obligate carnivores meaning all of their required nutrients come from animal tissue.  For example cats have evolved to eat multiple small meals that they spend the day hunting, think mice and birds.  Giving your cat a huge bowl of dry, carbohydrate-based food that he plops down to inhale at one sitting is not compatible with the development of his gastrointestinal tract.  There is a theory that feeding our cats this way has lead to the numerous cases of obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and intestinal lymphoma that we see.

My third cat Breaker has a sensitive stomach and after extensive diagnostics to look for a cause of his frequent vomiting I found that feeding him Hill’s I/D eliminated the issue.  For the reasons listed above I would prefer to feed him only canned food but he refuses to eat it.

In addition to their main diets I also like to add in a few things to keep it interesting for them.  One of my favorite treats for cats and dogs is Hill’s T/D, which is designed to act like a little sponge packed with enzymatic cleaners to wrap around the teeth and break down the tartar.  This is actually a complete diet and can be fed alone but I prefer to use it as treats.  I sprinkle a handful on top of the cat’s dry food, they love it and will pick out the T/D pieces to eat first.  I firmly believe this stuff works, all of my cats are around 7 years old, have never needed a dental cleaning and have lovely teeth with minimal tartar.
Pieces of T/D
I also like to increase their omega-3 fatty acid intake by giving them Evanger’s Whole Mackerel in Gravy canned food once or twice a week.  I have tried squeezing fish oil capsules on their food but it is messy and they refuse to eat it.  As I have states before in previous posts I am a firm believe in the magic of omega-3’s helping every body system.

I hope this gives you an insight into how I choose what to feed my kitties and will help you find a diet that works for your cat.  There is an overwhelming amount of information about pet foods out there so I encourage you to do some research and speak with your veterinarian about what will help your cat live a long and healthy life.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pudgy Pets

The new year has arrived and with it new year's resolutions. If you have committed to eating better and exercising more in 2011 don't forget to include your pets too. Overweight dogs and cats are at risk for diabetes, heart and joint disease – all conditions we see frequently at Friendship. I know from my own life that it isn’t always easy to keep pets from piling on the pounds: My dog Sparkle (pictured right) loves food more than anything and keeping her at a healthy weight is a challenge but essential.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 42% of dogs and 53% of cats in America are overweight. What’s worse is that an additional 10% of dogs and 19% of cats are considered obese. This means that over 50% of dogs and nearly 75% of cats are at increased risk for diseases that may be preventable. And if that’s not enough to get you motivated, consider this: one study found that dogs kept at a healthy weight live on average two years longer than their overweight counterparts!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Weight loss for cats

One of the most challenging tasks for cat owners is trying to get your kitty to drop a few pounds. Unfortunately this is also the most common recommendation I make to owners after an annual exam. Essentially all cats do all day, every day is lay around and occasionally get up to eat. This lifestyle makes it very difficult to encourage weight loss.
Cat’s bodies were designed to eat multiple small, high protein, high fat meals a day. What the average indoor kitty eats is one to two large meals that are very high in carbohydrates. In addition they do not have to move around or hunt to find their food, we dump it all into a bowl right in front if them. They then devour the food as quickly as possible.
This combination of little exercise and high carb diets has led to astounding rates of obesity in cats. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 53% of cats in America are overweight and 19% of these are considered obese. This puts them at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and degenerative joint disease – all of which are potentially preventable.
It may seem the answer is letting your cat head outdoors in an effort to work off some of those calories but I do not recommend this. On average indoor cats live to twelve to fifteen years, the average lifespan of an outdoor cat is two years. There are countless dangers such as cars, chemical toxins, poisonous plants, infectious diseases, and fighting with other cats or wild animals.

So, what can you do to help your indoor cat lose weight? My favorite recommendation is to divide their daily food allowance between multiple small bowls and hide these around the house. Your cat then has to spend the day “hunting” for his food. This is mentally stimulating for them as well as encourages physical activity. Another thing to try would be a food or treat ball. This contraption is filled with dry food and your cat needs to learn how to manipulate it to get the food to fall out.
The other component to weight loss is what you are actually feeding your cat. There are two ways to go with this. The first is a low calorie, high fiber diet that allows you kitty to eat a substantial amount and fill up. The second option is a low carb, high protein and fat diet (Atkins for kitties). In theory these diets should work as they mimic the type of food a cat’s gastrointestinal tract was designed to eat. However, these diets are very high in calories and if you feed your cat too much he can quickly pack on the pounds.
Getting your cat to lose weight is a daunting task and it is not easy. I hope some of these suggestions help because a healthy weight is essential to the overall health of your cat.