Pet Food Lawsuits, Recalls, and Where Your Pet Food Comes From February 27, 2015 16:34
We have spent a lot of time this week answering questions about pet food safety, and our opinion on lawsuits and recent recalls, or lack thereof. In this week's blog we are going to compile the most pertinent information on this topic. I want to start by saying that our answer to the first wide spread pet food recall came several years before it drew national attention in 2007. Our answer came in the form of the development of our parent company in 2004, and the launch of our nutritional feeding trails for what would become Nature's Foundation Pet Foods.
Commercial pet food manufacturers have drawn heavy criticism from professionals vested in the wellness of companion and working canines since the mid 70s.Concurrent with the shift from family to factory farming, there were corresponding changes in the formulations of commercial pet food. Below I am going to share some of the ins and outs of the commercial pet food industry, and what you need to know to make safe choices for your pets. We at Buddy Gourmet adhere to the same regulations, hold the same licenses, and undergo the same inspection processes as all the biggest name pet food manufacturers. Let us explore where things may have gone wrong...
A surplus of food product not fit for human consumption....They really didn't want to feed it to livestock either...
Once upon a time canned pet food and human food were made in the same processing plants; both with nutritious ingredients . We have enjoyed working with some of the chemists who got their career starts formulating pet foods in the 60s. I remember specifically, one of them saying, "you know what the difference used to be between a tin of cat food and a can of tuna? The label." We have come a long way in understanding the nutritional requirements of companions, but it is a journey that is far from over, and we have taken some detours, by-products being one.
It is important to understand that not all by-products are created equal. You have to take into consideration the preparation and source of ingredients. For example, "chicken meal" could be an acceptable ingredient (by a lot of people standards) as a high protein powder-form food additive and it might even contain a fair amount of muscle tissue. However, in the same factory there may be a generically labeled "meat and bone meal or animal by-product meal" containing diseased animals that have been transported without refrigeration and it may be mixed with euthanized zoo animals. By-products also don't come only in the form of animal, bone, and blood product (the questions during our inspection about our use of blood products can always be skipped and we are happy about that. Our inspector also appreciates not having to change his clothes before he drives back home.)
More commonly referred to as "fillers" there is a variety of agricultural waste being outlet-ted to pet food in the forms of corn or wheat as, corn gluten, corn meal, and wheat middlings. Even whole ground corn makes the list at times, but I assure you, this is not the delicious golden cobs you would be snapping up at the farmers market. Contaminated grain tops the list of culprits for many holistic veterinarians. Unacceptable levels of fungus and the toxins released by them as well as bacterial growth are some of the main reasons grain is sent for use in pet food instead of being processed for human consumption.
Our commercial pet food industry provides the perfect answer to the question of what to do with Agricultural waste. In order for farmers to do well, their livestock must thrive and avoid illness. Live stock feed producers also have to contend with regulation that impacts animals being raised for consumption. To limit the spread of disease you cannot feed cows to cows, pigs to pigs, or chickens to chickens. Sadly, there is nothing that says you cannot feed dogs and cats to dogs and cats, but that is a topic for another day, preferably not after lunch.
There is little consequence when companion animals fail to thrive and sadly there are even benefits. Veterinarians make money, there is very little industry accountability, and people generally go on to purchase another animal. A small animal practice vet whom we work with in steady frequency fully admits that if pet owners got to the root of their dogs allergy issues instead of seeking constant treatment for symptoms, she would lose 30% of her annual income. Not many people would be willing to put that chunk of change on the chopping block. The lesson to take away here is to skip the by-products and understand that from bag to bag an ingredient with the same name does not mean they are equal.
Wait... It sits there for how long?
So, after the your pet's food became an outlet for our country's unsavory agricultural by-products they had to keep it from rotting before it could be sold. Just how long does it have to stay fresh? On average, 24 months, and that is in unstable conditions such as temperature extremes and humidity variances. Keeping product fresh is no small feat, considering not much of it was any good before it went in to the bag. Kibble producers use a host of synthetic preservatives and as the industry calls them; anti-rancification additives. Over the past 4 decades we have seen many of the most common preservatives make their way on and off the FDA "Generally Recognized As Safe" list, either as they had been reformulated, or had new guidelines with revised parts per ml adjustments (meaning, they generally lower the quantity that is safe to consume). Several of these have been permanently removed and banned from use, even after a lengthy lifespan of use in the market place. We would be naive to think this couldn't happen again in the future.
So who's in charge here?
The bulk of oversight in agricultural feed production (this includes pet food- from seeds for your hamsters and birds, to canned products used for omnivores in zoos, and everything in between) is handled at the state level. Each individual state's department of agriculture has their own guidelines for sanitation, production, ingredient procurement, inspections, and labeling. Most states require you to register products for distribution, even if they aren't made there.
In light of a need for wide scale recalls, and the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, the FDA has created a food producers database to help log complaints. All food facilities that produce pre-packaged products for the market place must register and maintain reporting. Outside of that, what is the FDA doing to protect your pet? - some experts say, not much. If you ask us, we will probably just blink and sit quietly, then let you make up your own mind.
So who are the key players that set our nutritional standards? The FDA has a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the AAFCO. Who are they? In their own words "The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies charged by law to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies." (Taken from their website: www.aafco.org) They offer all of the VOLUNTARY guidelines for animal feed production. We do meet their guidelines, and proudly exceed them, but their standards were not our starting point for quality and safety.
Recalls, accidental or otherwise...
Part of our philosophy is "if it never goes bad, it wasn't any good to begin with". We have seen the plight of human food producers trying to balance health, safety, and consumer wishes. For example, a juice box company who did away with synthetic preservatives, but got a bad rap when a handful of juice containers developed mold in them. The battle between humans and bacteria/mold is age old. So we understand that even reputable companies may have a recall. After all, this is why we have the systems mentioned above in place to take swift action if a food contamination occurs. What happens though when chronic offense and complaints are ignored? The investigation of the 2007 pet food recall didn't just result in sniffing out moldy products, it uncovered something much greater; a deliberate contamination of food with melamine to increase protein content in laboratory testing.
Globally we have heard about dangerous substances making their way into baby formula as well. It wasn't until 2009 that much of the punishment was handed down to the bad actors behind so many pet illnesses and deaths. A handful of people were charged with various types of fraud, including money laundering and money wire fraud. The aftermath however, was not highly publicized and the public had moved on to concern about contaminated dog chicken jerky. The vast majority of the fault in the contamination didn't lie with the manufacturing companies, but the bulk by-product brokers. However, we think it is reasonable that periodic laboratory testing of incoming ingredients would have caught the problem.
It is estimated that for any product category that requires government oversight less than 1% of consumers who have a complaint, illness, or even death (of a pet,or even loved one due to pharmaceuticals) file a report through the FDA. So when a lawsuit brings forward evidence impacting several thousand animals, we have to question the true expanse of the problem.
The True Cost of Pet Food
We have to raise an eyebrow when people tell us how healthy their pet is; yet they are seeing the vet every other month for vomiting/diarrhea or their dog is having seizures; or they have been treating chronic skin and ear issues for 18 months. Those are not healthy dogs. We also cringe when people say, "oh, I'm shopping for a friend, I don't have a dog any more, mine died, he was old, he was 9". Sadly, they are generally talking about a Shi Tzu, and not a Great Dane. When you consider the quality per pound of dog food you are purchasing, you have to remember what else goes into that bag's bottom dollar. It covers the cost of ingredients, labor, licensing, packaging, advertising, transport and most importantly profit. Then you need to research how many of the issues you are visiting the vet for could be cleared up with diet. If you consider the cost difference between treating ongoing pet health issues with switching to a higher quality safe food, you would probably save enough money to purchase quality treats as well.
Now that we turned your world upside down, would you like to know what IS safe to feed?
There are some steps you can take to help ensure you are serving up a food that is nourishing your pal and not causing them health crisis. Your very first step is to read the label. If you don't know what something is, do a little research (that also means researching ingredients from more than one source) Use a critical eye when you are looking for the truth. Gather your information from trusted sources. From there, consider a company's track record. Do they have complaints? Do they import ingredients from other countries? Some pet food brands are so large that they don't even manufacture all their products themselves. Find out where the food is made, what is their track record. Did they let a box of hard hats go into a vat of puppy food and have it make it all the way to the big box pet store? (No, we didn't make that one up.) We like to use this as a comparison: if your local deli serves sandwiches on fresh bread and the bread started making people ill or even killed them, would you still go there to buy a muffin? We didn't think so.
Additional Points of Interest
Some pet food manufacturers have been able to impede investigations into complaints about their products by claiming that detailed investigations threaten their right to protect their trade secrets.
Not all foods are meant to be used long term. Many veterinarians are quick to place dogs on an unbalanced diet for the remainder of their life to treat a singular issue, like bladder stones for instance. These foods are often labeled "for interment use only". Pet parents owe their pups some additional research. There are often much more healthful alternatives.
Do your own research - not just into what you should be feeding but also who some of the industry stakeholders are. Find out what role rendering plants, chemical producers, and other key player involvements are in your pet food company.
Pet Dental Health Month February 20, 2015 12:46
We have been celebrating Pet Dental Health all month long. This is one of my favorite times of the year because pet owners often have little understanding of the important role oral care plays in their pet's over all health. I have always been a bit of a dental care fanatic, this was very apparent when we rescued Buddy. When he was turned into the shelter, they assumed he had been attacked on the muzzle by another dog. He had open wounds down the sides of his snout that looked an awful lot like puncture wounds from teeth. The truth was, his mouth had been neglected for so long that his own teeth has abscessed through his skin. He ended up having a great number of teeth extracted and underwent treatment for the severe infection that had been festering. An additional complication that occured was oronasal fistulas. Buddy needed three skin graphs to close these openings between his mouth and nasal cavities. All of these problems could have been prevented with routine dental cleaning, and a home care regimen. We are happy to say with regular care, he no longer suffers from dental problems. None of our dogs do. Our 9 year old standard poodle Iris has yet to need a veterinary dental cleaning, her yorkie/Chinese crested sister, Sissy, needed her first dental at 4 years old. Our dogs are individuals, so are their health care needs. Take the time to see your vet this month about your dogs specific dental care needs. If you are local, stop by our free dental screening event tomorrow (02/21/15). Now, let's explore the validity of some common thoughts about our dogs teeth.
Dogs need kibble to keep their teeth clean FALSE
The notion that crunchy bones or kibble will keep your dogs teeth clean is false. Studies have shown that even kibble with patented textures provide very little "scrubbing" power. It is also best not to sacrifice your pets over all well being for one generalized clam about oral health. We couldn't find a single commercial food formula designed for oral health that didn't contain by-products and an excessive amount of filler, like corn. Choosing a food free of abrasive preservatives, and sugar will go a lot further in maintaining pearly whites. Wet food often gets a bad wrap with oral care, this is only true is the food has a high acid content.
You can use human tooth paste to brush your dogs teeth FALSE
Yes, many people brush their dogs teeth at home. It would be great if everyone did, we know, we can picture you trying it right now. This is a routine you need to ease into. You aren't going to get top, bottom, front, and back on your first try, or even your 10th, but with lots of practice and praise (for both of you, Good Human!) this is something you can achieve. Just remember to skip the human paste. These products are not formulated to be used by pets, and can be dangerous if swallowed. Flouride is a no-no for our companions. Choose a paste and brush created for your pet's needs.
Natural bones are good for for your dogs oral health TRUE
There is frequent debate about giving dogs antlers and bones. A great number of vets see dogs who have fractured teeth while chewing on these tasty treats, but they also agree that the benefit out weighs the risk. If your dog is suffering from dental issues or weakened teeth, it might be best to skip hard bones and chews, but natural bones not only provide some effect scaling of teeth, they are also great to strengthening jaw muscles.
A dog will stop eating when they have a dental problem FALSE
We often field calls from new customers who are looking to switch to natural food because their dog has stopped eating their previous brand. We are happy to help them with a healthy change, but we also recommend their see the vet for a dental check up, more often than not, the dog has significant dental disease. It is great that these dogs go on to get the treatment they need, but what about the dogs who don't give up on eating? The majority of dogs don't lose their appetite when tooth or gum disease begins to present. Don't wait for your dogs pain level to reach a point that they give up on eating. Prevention and early detection is the best course of action with all aspects of your dogs health.
Anesthesia free dental procedures are safest FALSE
Every now and then, we see advertising for anesthesia free dental care. We can see how avoiding having your dog put under might seem like a safer option. In reality, the best work is done under anesthesia. Much of the cleaning is done below the gum line. A thorough cleaning would be painful without anesthetic. Very elderly dogs, or dogs with extenuating medical conditions who cannot be knock out safely should find an alternative method, like safer forms/levels of sedation. While no one wants to see their furry love poked and prodded, the pre-anesthesia blood work is also another screening tool to get a snap shot of your dog's complete health.
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Dental Care Vocabulary:
Rescue Love February 2, 2015 12:22
It's February, and love is in the air! Love is even right in our slogan, "Love Your Dog". Needless to say, this is one of our favorite times of year. We love our friends, our families, our sweethearts, and of course, our pets! So we are bringing you a great selection of Valentine's Day goodies to help celebrate with your furry loved ones. You can shop our Valentine's treats HERE.
We also know it is a busy time of year, so we simplified things for you, AND we did it for the greater good! We can't help, but think of all those pooches who not only won't receive any Valentine's, but they don't even have someone to call their own. So, we created the Rescue Love Package. This is a combination of our best selling Valentine's treats and a toy that ships for free! With just one click you have the perfect way to say I love you in the mail. The dog at the door when the post man knocks is going to LOVE it! The truth is, so will the human who has to turn the door knob. The best way to anyone's heart, is through their dog! This has you feeling good right? How about we make you feel great?
When you purchase our Rescue Love Package. You make a selection from four great animal charities to receive $4 dollars from your order. That really adds up! Free shipping, an awesome donation to charity, and the finest doggie Valentine's box around! We know, everyone is winning with this! Here is the cherry on top: The organization with the most support is going to receive our $100 Biscuit Bonus, there check will be tucked into a box of our Remedy Bones, both our Belly Rubs and Lavender Chamomile Calming Bones. These are two treats that every rescue needs to have in the pantry.
Who are you helping?
Clinton Humane Society This humane shelter has made great strides to increase adoptions through beautiful volunteer photography, and stream lining their adoption process. They have also cultivated a relationship with their city's oldest low cost spay and neuter organization (Animal Birth Control, you will be hearing all about them next month). Check out the CHS website.
Illinois Alaskan Malamute Rescue Association IAMRA is a breed specific rescue who works to save wonderful Malamutes who are in need. They are run solely by volunteers and operate from foster homes for their rescued dogs. Not only do they help the Mals who are down on their luck, they provide vital resources to owners who need assistance with behavior and training. Who can resist a Malamute face? Not us! Take a peek at their dogs HERE.
K-9 Kindness Rescue K-9 kindness is an all breed rescue. We adopted our first blind poodle from them years ago, little Emma. They work with a lot of hard luck cases and have a great team of volunteers who work for the dogs! Since they accept dogs in need of medical treatment (strays with MegaE, heart worm positive dogs from pounds) they always have a need for a successful fundraiser! Visit there website HERE.
Pet Fix Alliance Charities like Pet Fix Alliance go straight to the root of the problem, affordable spay and neuter options! Based in Fulton Co. Illinois, they serve 5 surrounding counties. You won't find them on the internet, but you will find them doing good things for animals in need. When you select them as your charity, you know your donation will have a lasting impact. Information about there services and contact info is available HERE.
Feeling generous? Can't decide? We bet your can think of 4 dogs who love biscuits!
Humane Lobby Day in Iowa January 27, 2015 14:28
It is hard to speak up for yourself when your vocabulary is generally limited to a handful of words, especially when most of them sound the same...yip, yap, woof, arf, grrrrr. That's where animal advocates come into play. We are proud to be participating in this year's Humane Lobby day in the great agricultural state of Iowa. Our goal is to improve the systems, and standards used to over see large commercial dog breeder in our state. Here dogs are considered livestock and the industry has changed much more quickly that its regulations. Iowa currently ranks #2 in the USA for number or facilities, as well as the number of serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
I spent last Saturday with the Quad Cities chapter of Iowa Voter's for Companion Animals at the St. Ambrose University Rogalski Center to meet with or area legislators and remind them of importance attached to the Puppy Mill Bill this year. You can read a bit about it here: Quad City Times
February 9th we will head to our state capital to share our experiences as both mill dog rescuers, but also as agricultural feed producers with a humane model business. I look forward to a presentation from Dr. Frank McMillan. As a founder of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah he has given considerable research to the physical and psychological toll neglectful breeding facilities have on dogs. We contributed behavioral date on two of our own rescues. Just writing this reminds me how far they have come after years of rehabilitation.
Think you would like to get involved? There are still a few days left to register! For information about Humane Lobby Day and more information about Iowa's puppy mill problem. Visit: Iowa Voter's for Companion Animals
Check back in with us soon! February will have a lot to offer, including a great Valentine's package that will help raise money for charity, and free dental screenings in store for Pet Dental Health month.
Opening our doors to the world: December 2, 2014 22:42
When a new year rolls around, it generally comes with a new set of goals. Our business is no different. We are thrilled to be taking a step forward into a new phase of our growth. We are opening our doors to the world! After years of filling phone orders and having visitors from 43 states in our boutique, we are finally online! The thought of adding more awesome dogs and exceptional owners into our "circle" is so exciting.
Our brick and mortar patrons know we are sticklers for perfection, but we are giving ourselves a little wiggle room with the new site. We are launching with a foundation, but have our eye on a bigger goal. To bring our online customers the same superior experience our current customers receive. This means you can expect to see some changes as we get acquainted with our new online store, new products, better options, more information. Our Valentine's selections and gifts will be up for you this week. Together we will grow into something magnificent! So tell your friends, invite your neighbors, and enjoy being part of the Buddy Gourmet family!
In the shop:
In addition to bring you health news and information about new products, our blog offers a glimpse into the happenings at the boutique, including special visitors, our test kitchen, and events, like these special guests who paid us a visit right before Christmas:
Some great volunteers from the Clinton Humane Society brought Kane and Star to meet some potential adopters. We made sure this pair of seniors had a Best Day Ever! The lounged on plush beds in between visitors, their crystal biscuit goblets brimming with fresh baked goodness. When they needed a potty break, they strolled down to Four Square park to take a sniff around. We were happy that we could provide these pups a bit of a break from the shelter life. Kane's favorite part? Probably that spoon full of yogurt icing!