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Oct 18 2017

Let’s talk about pet food – Blog 1 in the series

Have you heard that Blue Buffalo is involved in yet another lawsuit?  This time the allegations are that unsafe levels of lead in their foods have caused kidney and liver disease in our beloved pets being fed this food.  Do you feed your pets Blue Buffalo (Blue Wilderness is the same company)?  How is your pet doing on these diets?  Any concerns?  We have seen elevated liver enzymes in some pets on these diets and we do not recommend feeding Blue Buffalo here at the Carroll County Veterinary Clinic.

Lead tainted dog foods include Blue Wilderness Chicken Recipe for Small Breed Adult Dogs, Blue Freedom Grain-Free Chicken  Recipe for Small Breed Dogs and Blue Basics Grain-Free Turkey & Potato Recipe for Adult Dogs.  Lead is classified as a carcinogen – which means that at certain levels it can lead to cancer.  Lead is a toxin that builds up over time in your pets body until they become sickened.  Health concerns that can result from chronic lead exposure include cancer, liver disease, kidney failure, reproductive problems, abnormal growth issues, damage to the nervous system and other vital organs.  Symptoms you may observe at home include appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea and/or constipation and neurologic signs including jaw chomping, blindness, seizures, behavioral changes, anxiety, muscle spasms, circling and/or loss of coordination.  Bloodwork may reveal elevations in liver enzymes and/or kidney values.

Nutrition is one of those hot button topics that gets pet owners on both sides fired up.  So how do you know which is the best pet food for your pet?  First of all be wary of fad diets – both in human medicine and veterinary medicine.  These diets come and go and some are more harmful than others.  Recent fads in veterinary medicine include raw diets, grain free diets, holistic/organic/pure diets, etc.  While some dogs do well on these diets they are definitely not a one size fits all approach to nutrition and some dogs do very poorly.  Blue Buffalo has done a great job of advertising and promoting their diets – after all we all want what is best for our beloved pets.  So when they tell us that their diets have real meats and no fillers just like our dogs ancestors the wolves would eat we get warm fuzzies thinking of feeding our pets these diets.  But is this the truth?  Does your Aunts Shitzu have much in common with the wolf anymore?  Do wild dogs eat only the meat of their prey?

Interestingly enough if a dog has the opportunity to hunt it will preferentially eat chicken feet, beaks, even feathers – oftentimes before it eats any of the meat.  All of these body parts offer nutrition – just not in a form that is appealing to us!  These “by-products” are highly sought after foods in other countries.  So Blue Buffalo has done a great job of convincing us that we must not love our pets if we would consider feeding “by-products” but if our pets would choose those parts of the chicken and they provide solid nutrition is it really wrong to have these ingredients part of a well balanced diet?

I hear a lot that we as veterinarians have been “bought” by the commercial pet food industry and that is why we promote certain foods.  So let me tell you my experience with the different industries and you can make the call.  As a veterinary student I was elected to be the Waltham Representative. Waltham is a brand of pet foods owned by the Mars Company – best known for their candy products!  So as a veterinary student I would reward my classmates with icecream socials with a candy bar to top their icecream with after finals.  I also was invited to go to England and tour their research facilities – top notch in case you are wondering!!  Does this make me promote their products over any others?  No – but it does give me piece of mind that their products are quality products and that they care about providing well good nutrition for a variety of needs.  Science Diet gave us pens – does that make me more likely to promote their diets??  Recently a Blue Buffalo Representative came into the clinic and bought lunch for the staff and I.  I asked them the same questions that I asked all the other food manufactors and the reps answer was often – “I don’t know the answer to that.”  Did they buy my loyalty with that lunch?  Nope.  My recommendations are based on facts and on years and years of seeing so many furry family members eating a variety of diets.  If I see a dog with chronic intermittent diarrhea than Blue is always on my list of differentials – even after they bought me lunch.  I want to see solid research, consistent formulas, voluntary recalls if there is even a chance of contamination.  I do not want to see other foods slandered – if you are providing a good quality product than there is no reason to slam your competition.  Let you food stand on its own merits.

So what do I feed my pets?  My dogs currently eat Pro Plan Shredded Chicken Blend.  Did Purina pay me to say that?  Nope – wish they would!  My cats eat a combination of canned Friskies and Science Diet Healthy Advantage.

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