Archive for June, 2009

27th Jun 2009

Fruit Flies

If you have small pets and feed them fresh raw pet food, you may notice that fruit flies start invading your home. What can you do?

You can buy commercial fruit fly traps or you can make them yourself.

Mix some sugar in vinegar and pour this mixture into an empty bottle and place a small diameter funnel on the bottle. The smell will attract fruit flies which have a hard time escaping from the bottle. Some people like to use hot sauce, wine, or add a piece of ripe banana to the bottle.

You can place these (for you and your pets harmless) traps into the kitchen and/or close to where you serve fresh food to your small animal.

Aside from keeping your pet’s area clean, it is also important to remove all fruits or vegetables that might compete with your trap from the kitchen. You should also keep your counter tops and stove clean and remove all dirty or wet dishes from your sink as soon as possible.

I hope this simple way to control fruit flies will help you as well as it helps us and our pets.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Home Remedies & News Bits Comments Comments Off

21st Jun 2009

What Can a Conure in Captivity Do to Feel Useful?

Unless they can enjoy themselves in an aviary, many birds in captivity keep looking for things to do so they don’t die of boredom… Aside from a safe home, healthy food and water, pets need attention, love, and the opportunity to do what they want to do and what resembles what they’d do in nature. Click here to see a clip of our Peppi chewing an old pair of jeans.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Animal Rescues Comments Comments Off

21st Jun 2009

Pet Food Quality, Pet Food Recalls

Since our company, Onesta Organics, manufactures (certified organic) pet food products, I know what immense responsibility this business bears. I feel with every pet and her guardian who may be negatively affected by any (commercial or homemade) product we humans provide for them.

I have yet to see a study that vouches for the quality of all nutrient premixes that are used to achieve AAFCO recommended nutrient levels. Some sources suggest that such nutrients are not bioactive for a long time after they leave a manufacturing site; and of course, many of these nutrients already have been destroyed during the manufacturing process.

Few consumers are fully aware of the true quality of the pet foods they purchase. The used ingredients alone can cause many of the diseases that so many of our pets nowadays develop (and that despite the fact that most of our pets are fed ‘complete’ diets that contain the AAFCO recommended nutrient levels).

Regulatory loopholes don”t make it easy for the consumer to interpret pet food labels and marketing materials. For example, only certified organic (“USDA organic”) pet food claims are regulated and enforced by US law, while all other (non-certified) organic claims are not. Of course, some manufacturers will abuse this lack of regulation to their marketing advantage.

The organic status of ingredients greatly affects the quality of the pet food ingredient: (certified) organic ingredients are more nutrient-dense, they are free of GMOs (which are implicated in both health problems and of course in environmental problems), and free of clearly toxic residues (from both agriculture and processing).

If pet foods contain ingredients that clearly promote chronic diseases, such as contaminated ingredients, allergens, refined ingredients or sugars (including honey), how can we be surprised that our pets develop diseases, especially when we’re feeding them such foods year after year?

The problem is also that it is not always clearly understood why certain ingredients are chosen in particular pet foods. More often than not, this comes down to cost vs. profit calculations by bean counters at pet food manufacturers. Just some examples: Grains and gluten are cheaper sources of protein than meat. Certified organic ingredients are much more expensive than non-organic ones. US-grown ingredients are more expensive than imported ones. Feed-grade ingredients are cheaper than human-grade (“USDA”) ones. Organic, humanely raised or grass-fed meats are much more expensive than even USDA meats for human consumption. Refined ingredients are cheaper than whole food ingredients. Heat-treated pet food products are cheaper than those treated at low temperatures.

Lack of tight regulations allows deceptive marketing which makes it hard for consumers to judge the quality of the pet food they purchase. If consumers are not aware of quality differences among the choices, they will certainly opt for products that are cheaper, but marketed with similar—or even the same—claims as, pet food products of truly high quality. This often leaves pet food manufacturers which strive to provide optimum foods on the sidelines. In the end, consumer demand determines what is offered on the market; until legislation for pet food claims catches up, consumers have to do their homework to choose what they want to see on the shelves.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Pet Food Recalls Comments Comments Off

19th Jun 2009

Nanopetfoods, Nanofoods for Pets, Nano Pet Foods

… whatever these foods might be called in the end, if they ever have to disclose their new ‘secret’ modern ingredients …

… and just in case you’d need another reason to stick to certified organic pet foods:

Nanofoods are coming to a pet supply store close to you!

The use of nanoparticles in foods, food packaging or contact materials, and agrochemicals is regulated in the US by the FDA and the EPA, respectively. Neither the FDA nor the EPA have recognized nanoparticles as new chemicals; both agencies haven’t yet required appropriate labeling or regulatory oversight over nanoparticle-containing products.

It is almost guaranteed that pet foods will be (or maybe they already are? …there doesn’t seem to exist much transparency in nanotechnology-using industries….) among the first food applications for this novel technology that might change natural foods as we know them and evolved with.

Several big food manufacturing companies that also produce pet foods are apparently already exploring the usefulness of this new technology. It is known that some nanofoods are already on some countries’ markets, and that nanoparticles are already used in some food additives, nutraceuticals, beverage and food packaging, food contact materials, kitchen gadgets, common household products, vitamin and mineral supplements, soil additives (such as moisture retaining compounds), and agricultural chemicals.

Since regulations for pet foods are traditionally much laxer than those for foods for human consumption (with the unique exception of certified organic pet foods!), it is a fair bet that livestock and pets will be (or maybe already are?) among the first recipients of the, most likely very questionable, benefits of these novel food products or food supplements.

Organic certification is the most comprehensive way to assure that pet food isn’t adulterated with synthetics (including GMO). It is therefore a sure bet that nanotechnology applications, when they finally openly and traceably arrive as potential food ingredients or food additives, will be banned from certified organic pet foods (and/or so I hope!).

You can read more about nanotechnology here, here, here, here, here, and at many other places.

What’s the big deal? Nanoparticles are tiny, so how can they hurt us or our beloved pets? Well, due to their size, these particles are easily being taken up into our bodies even if the application would not ask for this effect.

Nanoparticles and Health

Here are some of the toxic effects of nanomaterials as determined in pathological studies as well as experimental cell and animal models: DNA damage in human skin cells; mitochondrial damage; disruption of cell function of skin, immune, or lung cells; liver, heart, spleen, and kidney lesions; a variety of ‘nanopathologies’ including cancer and inflammation due to the accumulation of nanoparticles. However, so far no long-term studies on the effects, toxicity, or safety of nanomaterials seem to be available.

What can you to do?

The best we can do is to educate ourselves to be prepared to recognize, avoid, or hopefully even fight nanofoods, nanopetfoods, or other nanoparticle-containing products from entering our and our pets’ food dishes, skin, water, and bodies. The least we can do is to ask our governments to protect us, our pets, wildlife, resources, and environment, with appropriate regulations, oversight, and transparency (including requiring product labeling) regarding nanotechnology.

The more we know, the better we can protect the health of ourselves, our pets, and our environment.

P.S.: You may very well already have a pet product with nanotechnology at home….

Water- or spill resistant, self-cleaning dog and cat beds, often with antibacterial properties are highly praised as new convenient products (with the word ‘natural’ included in the marketing materials…).

As mentioned before, little is known about how products with nanoparticles affects health, so I personally would refrain from the temptation to expose our pets to any of such materials.

If you have a dog or cat that has ‘accidents,’ or if your dog’s bedding and your dog have excessive odors, wouldn’t it be better to solve the underlying problem, instead of choosing an easy, convenient, but perhaps hazardous product that allows you to continue to conveniently live with the problem?

Considering how much time a pet can spend sleeping,relaxing, and eating on its bed, I am wondering, how much of the surface material will be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested…

Concerning the antibacterial (odor-controlling) properties of such products, I would like to know how many additional preventative antibiotics we really need to share with our pets and our environment. If pets (and your family) inhale some of the nanoparticles plus antibiotics as the material ages, how healthy can it be?

Just one more point about safety: How safe for the environment and workers is the manufacture of these materials, and what will happen to our soil, water, and air, when they eventually enter the landfill?

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic Pet Food Standards Comments Comments Off

05th Jun 2009

What’s so Hot about Raw Pet Foods?

You may have come across several ”raw fooder’ sites describing Edward Howell’s feeding trials of cats with cooked and raw foods. Recently published experimental data show that all nutrients are affected by excessive heat. Due to economic interest, many of these studies investigate the stability of milk proteins.

It has been clearly demonstrated that every high heat process, including pasteurization, decreases antioxidant properties and causes loss of most enzymes and many vitamins (particularly A, E, C, B(1), and folic acid.) Pasteurization is also known to decrease ascorbic acid (vit C), total phenols, and anthocyanins.

High heat causes most prominently starch gelatinization and irreversible protein denaturation (proteins are very unstable at high heat – consider how fast egg white changes its consistency). When exposed to heat, proteins, starches, and non-starch polysaccharides can fragment, creating reactive molecules that may form new linkages not found in nature. Even brief blanching causes leaching of minerals from foods. Furthermore, heat processing causes molecular alterations of the fibers present in food.

The serum protein bovine serum albumin of cows milk is denatured at a temperature of 85 degree C. Heat treatment of proteins (lactablumin, soy protein isolate) at 75 degree C causes formation of unnatural amino acid derivates that may produce adverse and drastic effects on growth, protein digestibility, protein quality, and mineral bioavailability and utilization in rats. At the same time, cysteine, lysine, threonine, and serine are lost in heat processed food.

Excessive heat treatment of infant formulas induces copper deficiency in infant rhesus monkeys. Heat treatment of infant formula and milk causes not only deficient copper plasma levels and reduced bioavailability of amino acids and lysine levels, but also strong protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions. These interactions increase with increasing processing temperature which supports the notion that heat impairs protein digestibility. Damage to food proteins are also explained by complex biochemical reactions between proteins and carbohydrates and oxidation.

Another study confirms that anti-nutritional factors (e.g., oxidized amino acids, D-amino acids, unnatural amino acid derivatives) are formed during heat processing of casein, lactalbumin, soy protein isolate, and wheat proteins. These factors have been shown to be poorly digestible (less than 40%) and their presence significantly reduced protein digestibility in rats and pigs.

Cooking of meat of fish does not only cause denaturing of proteins and formation of anti-nutritional factors, but can also induce formation of potentially carcinogenic compounds.

An in vitro* study shows that pressure cooking, dehulling, germinating, and soaking all improved starch and protein digestibility of beans. However, the most effective improvement in digestibility of starch and protein was brought about by germination, followed by dehulling, and soaking. [* This in vitro study used test tube studies to obtain its data. Test tube results don’t always predict what occurs in vivo.]

The general concept about the effect of heat on proteins might be summarized in a review by Swedish researchers where it is stated that reduced protein digestibility is primarily associated with excessive heat.

This research strongly suggests that heat treatment of pet foods affects almost all nutrients both qualitatively and quantitatively, and also causes impaired protein digestibility. Better options are raw pet foods that contain nutrients in the form with which our pets’ bodies evolved.

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Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Raw Pet Food Comments Comments Off