Category: Food

Multiple Brands Dog Food Recall

It has been a little while since we had a recall.

The following came in on the 30th July and I made the decision to wait until today to share it with you all.

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Six Dog Food Brands Recalled Due to Dangerous Mold Toxin

Corn mold producing dangerous aflatoxin

July 29, 2021 — Sunshine Mills is recalling six dog food brands due to dangerouslevels of aflatoxin.

Aflatoxin is a potentially deadly toxin produced by Aspergillus mold (typically found on corn)… and which can be harmful to pets if consumed in significant amounts.

What’s Recalled?

To date, no illnesses have been reported in association with the related products. No other Sunshine Mills pet foods are affected by this announcement.

Sold Nationwide

The affected products were distributed in retail stores nationally. 

Retailers who received the recalled lots have been contacted and asked to pull these lots from their inventory and shelves. 

There are no other Triumph®, Evolve®, Wild Harvest®, Nurture Farms®, Pure Being®, or Elm products or other lot codes of these products affected by this recall.

Message from the Company

“While no adverse health effects related to these products have been reported, Sunshine Mills, Inc. has chosen to issue a voluntary recall of the above-referenced products as a precautionary measure in furtherance of its commitment to the safety and quality of its products.”

What to Do?

Pets that have consumed any of the above recalled products and exhibit symptoms of illness including sluggishness or lethargy combined with a reluctance to eat, vomiting, yellowish tint to the eyes or gums, or diarrhea should be seen by a veterinarian.

Consumers who have purchased the recalled dog food should discontinue use of the product… and may return the unused portion to the place of purchase for a full refund. 

Consumers may contact Sunshine Mills, Inc. customer service at 800-705-2111 from 7 am to 4 pm Central Time, Monday through Friday. 

Or by email at customer.service@sunshinemills.com for additional information.

This is a voluntary recall being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to the FDA’s “Report a Pet Food Complaint” page.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

Get Lifesaving Recall Alerts by Email

Get free dog food recall alerts sent to you by email. Subscribe to The Dog Food Advisor’s emergency recall notification system.

There’s no cost. No spam ever. Cancel any time.

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There you go. Please share this with other pet owners.

And stay safe!

A video on how to make your dog happier!

I am a bit stuck for time so forgive me for just posting this video.

The information that came with this video is posted first:

Are you worried your dog is looking a little down? Or do you just want to do everything you can to make your dog the happiest in the world? Any responsible owner will want their dog to be as happy as can be, so this AnimalWised videos brings you 10 essential tips on how to make your DOG HAPPIER. A happy dog will not only need their basic care needs met, but they will require a considerate and thoughtful human companion to go beyond the basics. We need to pay attention to what it is they are trying to communicate to us through their behavior and body language. We also need to ensure the way we behave towards the dog is making them happy and we do all we can to strengthen our bond together. It is also imperative to know that a healthy dog is a happy dog.

On AnimalWised you’ll discover a high quality channel that’s exclusively devoted to the Animal Kingdom. You’ll find all sorts of content: from training, diet or beauty and everything that can be useful for you as a pet owner or animal lover. Want to become AnimalWised? Take a look and have fun with us!

In fairness it does look like a decent video and website.

Hopefully a longer post tomorrow!

Diet and Exercise

And of the two exercise is the most important.

Now of course the majority of people reading the title to today’s post would think of us humans. And what I am about to republish is for us. But dogs require exercise just as much as we humans. The question is whether dog’s brains are better protected with exercise?

Anyone know the answer?

Here is the post republished courtesy of The Conversation.

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The exercise pill: How exercise keeps your brain healthy and protects it against depression and anxiety.

By Arash Javanbakht, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University, February 25th, 2021

As with many other physicians, recommending physical activity to patients was just a doctor chore for me – until a few years ago. That was because I myself was not very active. Over the years, as I picked up boxing and became more active, I got firsthand experience of positive impacts on my mind. I also started researching the effects of dance and movement therapies on trauma and anxiety in refugee children, and I learned a lot more about the neurobiology of exercise. 

I am a psychiatrist and neuroscientist researching the neurobiology of anxiety and how our interventions change the brain. I have begun to think of prescribing exercise as telling patients to take their “exercise pills.” Now knowing the importance of exercising, almost all my patients commit to some level of exercise, and I have seen how it benefits several areas of their life and livelihood. 

We all have heard details on how exercise improves musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, metabolic and other aspects of health. What you may not know is how this happens within the brain.

Brain biology and growth

Working out regularly really does change the brain biology, and it is not just “go walk and you will just feel better.” Regular exercise, especially cardio, does change the brain. Contrary to what some may think, the brain is a very plastic organ. Not only are new neuronal connections formed every day, but also new cells are generated in important areas of the brain. One key area is the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory and regulating negative emotions.

A molecule called brain-derived neurotrophic factor helps the brain produce neurons, or brain cells. A variety of aerobic and high-intensity interval training exercises significantly increase BDNF levels. There is evidence from animal research that these changes are at epigenetic level, which means these behaviors affect how genes are expressed, leading to changes in the neuronal connections and function.

Moderate exercise also seems to have anti-inflammatory effects, regulating the immune system and excessive inflammation. This is important, given the new insight neuroscience is gaining into the potential role of inflammation in anxiety and depression

Finally, there is evidence for the positive effects of exercise on the neurotransmitters – brain chemicals that send signals between neurons – dopamine and endorphins. Both of these are involved in positive mood and motivation.

Exercise improves clinical symptoms of anxiety and depression

Researchers also have examined the effects of exercise on measurable brain function and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise improves memory function, cognitive performance and academic achievement. Studies also suggest regular exercise has a moderate effect on depressive symptoms even comparable to psychotherapy. For anxiety disorders, this effect is mild to moderate in reducing anxiety symptoms. In a study that I conducted with others among refugee children, we found a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and PTSD among children who attended eight to 12 weeks of dance and movement therapies.

Exercise could even potentially desensitize people to physical symptoms of anxiety. That is because of the similarity between bodily effects of exercise, specifically high-intensity exercise, and those of anxiety, including shortness of breath, heart palpitation and chest tightness. Also, by reducing baseline heart rate, exercise might lead to signaling of a calmer internal physical environment to the brain. 

It is important to note that the majority of studies examined the effects of exercise in isolation and not in combination with other effective treatments of clinical anxiety and depression, such as psychotherapy and medication. For the same reason, I am not suggesting exercise as a replacement for necessary mental health care of depression or anxiety, but as part of it, and for prevention.

Two men using exercise bars outdoors.
Many people have created outdoor gyms during the pandemic. Richard Baker/In Pictures via Getty ImagesCC BY-SA

There are other perks besides the neurobiological impacts of exercise. When going out for a walk, one gets more exposure to sunlight, fresh air and nature. One of my patients befriended a neighbor during her regular walks, leading to regular taco Tuesdays with that new friend. I have made some great friends at my boxing gym, who are not only my motivators, but also a great supporting social network. One might pick a dog as their running mate, and another might meet a new date, or enjoy the high energy at the gym. Exercise can also function as a mindfulness practice and a respite from common daily stressors, and from our electronic devices and TV. 

By increasing energy and fitness level, exercise can also improve self-image and self-esteem .

Practical ways for a busy life

So how can you find time to exercise, especially with all the additional time demands of the pandemic, and the limitations imposed by the pandemic such as limited access to the gyms?

  • Pick something you can love. Not all of us have to run on a treadmill (I actually hate it). What works for one person might not work for another. Try a diverse group of activities and see which one you will like more: running, walking, dancing, biking, kayaking, boxing, weights, swimming. You can even rotate between some or make seasonal changes to avoid boredom. It does not even have to be called an exercise. Whatever ups your heartbeat, even dancing with the TV ads or playing with the kids.
  • Use positive peer pressure to your advantage. I have created a group messaging for the boxing gym because at 5:30 p.m., after a busy day at the clinic, I might have trouble finding the motivation to go to the gym or do an online workout. It is easier when friends send a message they are going and motivate you. And even if you do not feel comfortable going to a gym during the pandemic, you can join an online workout together. 
  • Do not see it as all or none. It does not have to be a one-hour drive to and from the gym or biking trail for a one-hour workout vs. staying on the couch. I always say to my patients: “One more step is better than none, and three squats are better than no squats.” When less motivated, or in the beginning, just be nice to yourself. Do as much as possible. Three minutes of dancing with your favorite music still counts.
  • Merge it with other activities: 15 minutes of walking while on the phone with a friend, even around the house, is still being active.
  • When hesitant or low on motivation, ask yourself: “When was the last time I regretted doing it?”
  • Although it can help, exercise is not the ultimate weight loss strategy; diet is. One large brownie might be more calories than one hour of running. Don’t give up on exercise if you are not losing weight. It is still providing all the benefits we discussed.

Even if you do not feel anxious or depressed, still take the exercise pills. Use them for protecting your brain.

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This is a very good post. Arash Javanbakht is a scientist of the first order and we all should do as she advises. I’m going to close today’s post by republish the first two paragraphs of his bio that is also published by The Conversation:

Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Wayne State University Arash Javanbakht, M.D., is the director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic (STARC; https://www.starclab.org) at Wayne State University. Dr Javanbakht and her work have been featured on the National Geographic, The Atlantic, CNN, Aljazeera, NPR, Washington Post, Smithsonian, PBS, American Psychiatric Association, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and tens of other media.

Her clinical and research work is mainly focused on anxiety and trauma related disorders, and PTSD. She often helps civilians and first responders with PTSD. Her clinic utilizes pharmacotherapy (medication), psychotherapy, exercise, and lifestyle modification to help patients achieve their full capacity for a fulfilling life.

Will it ever be normal again!

These are strange times!

We made a plan for evacuation but just a plan.

We are relying on a Level One call, a Be Ready call, to finish off the packing. Of course we hope that never comes but at least we have done the planning.

The Dodo had a great article the other day and I wanted to share it with you all.

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Dog Refuses To Eat Snow Cone After Mom Orders The Wrong Flavor

By Caitlin Jill Anders

Published on the 11th June, 2021

Lola’s story started when she was taken in by a local shelter, but when she was spayed she experienced rare complications that left her unable to walk. She started to recover very slowly, and after a few months, she was taken in by Big Hearts for Big Dogs. The rescue found her a foster family who could commit to taking her to physical therapy every week, and they fostered her for two years — before deciding they couldn’t pretend anymore and officially adopted her into their family.

ANNIE BELANGER BURLEY

Now Lola lives on a farm with her forever family, where every other animal has a rescue story, too. She’s blossomed into the weirdest, most personality-filled dog her family has ever met, and they wouldn’t have her any other way.

Annie Belanger Burley

“We have had her for six years, but she’s been ‘ours’ for four,” Annie Belanger Burley, Lola’s mom, told The Dodo. “We have no clue how old she is, but she literally doesn’t age. She has the most amazing temperament, but she’s a total weirdo! She requires being tucked in at night. She’s goofy, she snores when she’s awake, other dogs think she’s growling, but she’s really just breathing. She has looks that could kill. Sometimes her happy face looks like her mean mug.” 

Annie Belanger Burley

Lola’s family loves her so much and loves to spoil her whenever they can. One of her favorite activities is going out for snow cones, and she always gets so excited, even if she’s not always sure how to show it. 

“We go to Pelican Snowballs in North Fort Myers a few times a month,” Burley said. “Her favorite flavor is chicken broth served with a Milk-Bone on top … When she gets excited, it’s usually with her eyes. She has a grumpy face the majority of the time.” 

Annie Belanger Burley

Lola and her mom were getting snow cones recently, like they always do, but this time, Burley decided to order Lola a plain snow cone because she’d had an upset stomach the night before and she didn’t want her to overdo it. She figured Lola would still enjoy a treat even if it wasn’t her normal order — but she was wrong. 

Annie Belanger Burley

Lola sniffed the plain snow cone, then stared at her mom and made it very clear that she had absolutely no intention of eating it. It wasn’t the right flavor, and she refused to compromise. 

“She refused to eat it the entire way home and glared at me in her usual side-eye,” Burley said. 

Annie Belanger Burley

Instead, Lola let the snow cone melt right next to her. She decided it was better to stand up for what she believes in rather than eat it. She’s strong in her convictions.

Annie Belanger Burley

Even though Lola didn’t get her snow cone that day, there will be many, many other trips, and hopefully, her mom can redeem herself in Lola’s eyes by ordering her the “correct” thing again next time.

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To be honest if it were not for our dogs (and Jeannie) I don’t think it would ever be normal again.

But one can stroke and cuddle a dog or six and cuddle up to Jeannie and forget about the outside world for a tad!

And it’s a lovely story!

 

Mid-summers day!

Another post from John Brooks

John is becoming a regular contributor to Learning from Dogs. He was last here on March 26th, this year with a guest post Reasons to get a pet portrait.

This is a timely and pertinent post.

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Five Questions you need to ask a Boarding Kennel

If you’re planning a vacation or a work trip, you’ll need to decide what to do with your beloved pooch. This can be a stressful event for both you and your pup, but things will go a lot easier if you pick the right boarding kennel.


How do you know whether you’ve picked a good kennel?

The best way to determine the quality of a kennel is by asking appropriate questions. Not sure what those would be? Never fear! We’ve got you covered!

Read on to learn what questions to ask to help you choose the best available pet hotels or kennels.

Five Questions to Ask a Kennel or Pet Hotel

One – Is Your Kennel or Pet Hotel Certified?


Certification is not mandatory for kennels. However, certified kennels have to comply with 250 standards in 17 areas of pet care facility operation. This certification is known as the Voluntary Facilities Accreditation (VFA) certificate. If they have a certificate, you can assume several things about the facility:

They have put time and money into making sure they have the best facility possible for the animals they care for.
They care about reassuring pet parents that their dogs will be well cared for.
They have all the necessary space and equipment to take excellent care of your pooch.
Your pup will be secure and safe while you’re away.

Two – Can I Tour The Kennel?

You must always ask to tour the facilities. Just like you put in research when you book a hotel, you need to be equally as fastidious when you book a kennel. Therefore, you should look for the following:

Is the kennel odor-free?

A clean kennel will not smell because all urine and feces will have been cleaned up quickly and appropriately.

Is it loud or quiet?

Dog kennels will be noisy, but an extreme amount of noise usually signals that the pups are unhappy.

Are there enough staff?

There should be a 1-to-10 staff to dog ratio. The higher the people to animal ratio, the more individual attention your dog will get.

Are the living and playing areas clean?

Are there feces, urine, and debris? Or are the areas open and clean?

Do all animals have proper bedding and water?

The pooches should look content and stress-free and have both comfortable bedding and ample water.
If a kennel doesn’t let you take an impromptu tour, do not leave your pup there.

Three – What Will the Facility Do if Your Dog Gets Sick?

The kennel must have a procedure in place for dealing with small issues like diarrhea and broken toenails and more significant problems like medical emergencies. Ideally, they will ask you to pre-approve an amount for vet services. They should also know basic pet first-aid.

Four – How Knowledgeable Are the Staff?

Kennel staff, like the facility, are not required to be certified in animal behavior or training. However, what’s more, important than a certificate is the staff’s attitude and attentiveness. Good staff can tell you details about each animal under their care.


When you enter the kennel, staff should welcome your dog and take meticulous notes about your pup’s diet, exercise needs, medications, and any other pertinent information. Take note of whether they are patient, friendly, and seem genuinely interested in your pooch’s welfare.

Five – What Do the Exercise and Play Programs Look Like?


You must look at the package your kennel is offering. Some kennels have one playtime, whereas others don’t include any in their base fee.


Good kennels will have a system for playtime where they divide dogs by style, size, age, etc., to keep the pups safe and happy.


Dogs that need more exercise should get walked by a kennel assistant. So, if you own a dog that needs regular walking, make sure that the kennel offers this service and has enough staff to meet your pup’s needs.

Furthermore, not all kennels offer toys for your pooch to play with. So it’s important to find out ahead of time if you need to provide your own toys.

To Sum Up…


We know you love your dog, so you should plan where they will stay while you’re away as carefully as you planned your vacation. The most essential thing to look for when visiting different kennels or pet hotels is how the environment makes you feel. Listen to your gut. If you feel comfortable and you get along well with the staff, then there’s a high probability that your pup will feel at ease there as well. While no kennel can replace the feeling of home for your dog, it should come close. This way, you’ll be able to go on your trip knowing your pooch is safe, sound, and well cared for.

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This is a very useful list from John. One that will provide guidance to everyone but especially to the new dog owners.

Thank you, John.

Freshpet Dog Food Recall

Another alert from the Dog Food Advisor

It is shared with you all exactly as it came in to me.

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Freshpet Dog Food Recall

June 13, 2021 — Freshpet Inc. of Secaucus, New Jersey, is recalling a single lot of Freshpet Dog Food due to potential contamination with Salmonella bacteria

What’s Recalled?

The following defective dog food is being recalled:

  • Freshpet Select Small Dog Bite Size Beef and Egg Recipe
  • Package size: 1 pound bags
  • Sell by date: 10/30/2021

Sell by date, along with UPC code and lot code, can be found on the bottom and back of each bag. Product images are posted below.

No other Freshpet products or lot codes are impacted by this recall.

What Caused the Recall?

Workers at Freshpet discovered a single lot of dog food that was contaminated with Salmonella bacteria… and had designated it for destruction.

However, the contaminated product was accidentally shipped to retailers in limited geographic markets between June 7 to June 10, 2021.

Where Was the Product Sold?

The recalled products may have been sold at: Publix in Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia. It was also distributed at limited Target locations in Arizona and Southern California.

Most of the product was intercepted at retailer distribution warehouses and not delivered to retail stores.

According to the company, “Freshpet has received no reports of illness, injury, or adverse reaction to date, and has issued this recall because of our deep commitment to the safety of our pet parents and their dogs.”

About Salmonella

Salmonella can affect animals eating the product and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. 

Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. 

Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Dogs with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. 

Some dogs will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. 

Infected but otherwise healthy dogs can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. 

If your dog has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

What to Do?

If pet parents have products matching the description above, they should stop feeding it to their dogs and dispose of it immediately.

Consumers are asked to call the company if you have any of the recalled product in your possession. 

You may also use the following link to request a refund: https://freshpet.co/ssdb21.

Pet parents who have questions or would like to report adverse reactions should call 1-866-789-3737, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 9 pm ET and Saturday through Sunday, 9 am to 1 pm ET… or visit www.freshpet.com.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to the FDA’s “Report a Pet Food Complaint” page.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

Get Lifesaving Recall Alerts by Email

Get free dog food recall alerts sent to you by email. Subscribe to The Dog Food Advisor’s emergency recall notification system.

There’s no cost. No spam ever. Cancel any time.

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Once again, please share this as widely as you can.

Our lovely dogs don’t deserve this!

The food we buy for our pets

A report from BBC Future suggests there is a hidden reason

With six dogs feeding them is quite an exercise. I don’t really take much notice of what Jeannie does although I do know that we feed them kibbles, canned food and Jean cooks up beef for the dogs as well.

Recently BBC Future had a report saying that there is a hidden reason that processed foods are addictive. I am going to share that article with you.

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The hidden reason processed pet foods are so addictive

By Zaria Gorvett 20th May 2021

From potently smelly additives to offal concentrates, pet food companies turn to some surprising ingredients in the quest to make kibble delicious.

The cue might be a hand in a pocket, the opening of a cupboard door, or even a word said carelessly aloud – “dinner”. Before you know it, you’re tripping over a pet excitedly awaiting a portion of… dull-brown dried pellets. What’s in these mysterious morsels, that makes them as delectable as roasted chicken, wild salmon, or bundles of fresh herbs? 

Take my flatmate, a small black rabbit. For a large part of every day, he can be found sitting attentively with his paws on his empty food bowl, awaiting his next portion of kibble – even though it looks like his droppings and smells equally unappetising. He used to have an automatic dispenser with a timer, but he learnt to throw it across the room to access its contents prematurely. No matter what delicacies I place before him – home-grown parsley, soft-cut hay, fresh carrot-tops, organic kale – he would always rather eat processed pet food.

It seems that this is not unusual. Anecdotes abound about pets whose thoughts are largely preoccupied with kibble, such as the cat that has a daily panic attack when it realises it has eaten all its pellets and the pragmatic German shepherd found carrying a bag of dog food around the streets of Houston after Hurricane Harvey.

As it happens, this addictive quality is carefully engineered. Big Pet Food is a multi-billion-dollar industry which invests heavily in research into “palatants” – ingredients that make our pets want to eat their products. And from potently smelly chemicalsusually found in rotting meat to an additive commonly added to potatoes to stop them discolouring, the quest to make the most scrumptious pet food has led to some surprising insights.

“Big [pet food] companies have huge departments that make palatants,” says Darren Logan, head of research at the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, part of the company Mars Petcare. “Just like we make them for humans, we make them for pets as well.” 

Upper-class dogs

The first pet food was invented in 1860 by James Spratt, an enterprising lightning-rod salesman from the US state of Ohio. Legend has it that he had travelled to England for his business, and was looking out over the docks of Liverpool one day when he noticed stray dogs knocking back leftover hardtack biscuits.

This was a revelation for two reasons.

Rabbits eat fresh vegetables in the wild, but many kept as pets feast instead on processed pellets (Credit: Getty Images)
Rabbits eat fresh vegetables in the wild, but many kept as pets feast instead on processed pellets (Credit: Getty Images)

Firstly, hardtack were famously unappealing – loathed by generations of the soldiers and sailors who ate them, these simple slabs of baked flour and water were tougher than wood and sometimes hard enough to break your teeth. Their nicknames included “sheet iron” and “worm castles“, the latter because of the high proportion that were infested with maggots and weevils. The oldest piece of surviving hardtack was baked just nine years before Spratt’s dock visit, and still looks suspiciously well-preserved 170 years later.

Secondly, until that moment it hadn’t occurred to anyone to check what their pets would like to eat – or that this could be monetised. For as long as we had kept domesticated animals, they had been fed more or less the same food as humans, or expected to fend for themselves.

One striking example is the husky. In their native territory of Arctic Greenland, Canada and Alaska, Inuit hunter-gatherers have traditionally fed these dogs on seal meat, which comprises the majority of their own diet. Sled-dogs are so well-adapted to this that when the British Antarctic Survey brought them to Antarctica as a form of transport in 1945, they found that they struggled to digest commercial dog food. In the end, they had to kill a number of local seals each year, just to feed the dogs, before they were largely replaced with skidoos in the 1960s and 70s.

Spratt’s innovation coincided with a cultural revolution in the way people saw their pets

Meanwhile in Victorian London, dogs that were lucky enough to be looked after were either given table scraps or gruel. Even specialist exotic animals were fed everyday human food – the 20,000 or more tortoises imported from Morocco each year were mostly expected to survive on ordinary garden vegetables or bread soaked in water. Cats were considered street animals and rarely fed.

But Spratt had hit upon something entirely new. Over the coming months he developed the “Meat Fibrine Dog Cake”, a biscuit-like concoction of beetroot, vegetables, grains and beef of dubious origins that claimed to meet all the nutritional needs of his customers’ hounds. (While its packaging implied that it was the finest prairie beef, what it was actually made from was a secret he took to his grave.)

Spratt’s innovation coincided with a cultural revolution in the way people saw their pets – dogs and cats went from being viewed as mere utility animals or borderline-vermin to beloved family members to be coddled. Consequently, the Meat Fibrine Dog Cake was marketed as a luxury food for aristocratic pets.

The husky dogs taken on early Antarctic voyages had to be fed with freshly killed seals (Credit: Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The husky dogs taken on early Antarctic voyages had to be fed with freshly killed seals (Credit: Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The adverts labelled them “Dog’s Delight” and included gushing testimonials from wealthy customers. Ironically, Spratt’s also promoted the fact that they were chosen to feed the sled dogs on Captain Scott’s 1901 trip to the Antarctic, though we now know they would much rather have eaten seal.

Eventually the company branched out into cat food – “Spratt’s puts pussy into fine form!”, they said – and the rest is history. However, the science of pet food palatants still had some way to go.

Disgusting smells 

Today it’s possible to buy specialised kibble for almost any kind of pet, from frogs to sugar gliders (a small marsupial). Most follow roughly the same formula – they usually contain some kind of base carbohydrate, assorted proteins and fats, sugars, a source of fibre, antioxidants or other preservatives, emulsifiers (which keep the fat in the food and prevent it from separating), vitamins and minerals, and colouring agents

More sophisticated versions may also contain probiotics or digestibility enhancers – such as chicory, which is often added to dog food – as well as enzymes, anti-parasitic compounds and minerals to prevent the build-up of tartar on teeth.

Oddly, there is very little relationship between how healthy a pet food is and its inherent deliciousness

To turn these ingredients into a dry pet food, it’s formed into a paste and “extruded” via a process that involves heating it up and forcing it through a plate with holes in it, to form an aerated product that matches the shape of the holes. It’s the same process that’s used to make puffed snack foods, with flavourings added in the final step – in the case of pet food, they’re either sprayed on or added as a powder.

Oddly, there is very little relationship between how healthy a pet food is and its inherent deliciousness. That’s because in the US, the EU and many other parts of the world, in order to describe one as “complete” – containing everything the body needs to be healthy – it must meet certain nutritional standards. These set out acceptable ranges for most ingredients, so manufacturers can’t just load up on sugar and fat to make it compelling.

“From my standpoint as a nutritionist, all pet foods are the same,” says Marion Nestle, professor emerita of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University.

The first processed dog foods were luxury products which ushered in the idea of the "pampered pet" (Credit: Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images)
The first processed dog foods were luxury products which ushered in the idea of the “pampered pet” (Credit: Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images)

Instead, companies turn to chemistry.

Many animals rely heavily on smell to navigate the world around them, and this is often the main sense that’s targeted. While human noses contain around 50 million olfactory receptors, cats have 67 million, rabbits have 100 million and dogs have around 220 million. On the other hand, their sense of taste is generally less discriminating than ours – our relatively high density of taste receptors is thought to have evolved to help us cope with our diverse omnivorous diets

The catch is that appealing to animals that find the smell of roadkill, sweaty socks, and vomit utterly enchanting – as carnivorous pets often do – while not making their human companions feel violently ill, is extremly tricky. “There is a slight paradox there, because the smells that cats particularly but also dogs seem to like are often the opposite of what humans like,” says Logan.

Nestle puts it more bluntly – “animals eat faeces”, she says. “They like strong animal odours and pet food manufacturers have a really difficult time, because they have to make it disgusting enough so that the animal will eat it, but not so disgusting that the owners won’t buy it.”

Pet food manufacturers have a really difficult time, because they have to make it disgusting enough so that the animal will eat it, but not so disgusting that the owners won’t buy it – Darren Logan

Examples include putrescine and cadaverine, colourless chemicals produced naturally by the breakdown of proteins. They’re largely responsible for the revolting smell of rotting flesh – and cats love them. While in human food, their levels are sometimes closely monitored as a way of ensuring the freshness and safety of meat, they’re often actively added to cat and dog food, either as offal extracts or lab-made additives.

In the case of naturally vegan animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, irresistible smells such as mint and oregano are sometimes added in the form of concentrates.

Japanese-inspired cuisine 

Other insights are arguably more surprising. A recent study identified nine volatile compounds in common pet food flavourings that are linked to how delicious they are to dogs, including heptanal, nonanal, and octanal, which all have strong, fruity odours.

However, taste is also important – and here the preferences of carnivorous pets are not so different from ours.

One of the most popular additives in human food is the enigmatic “hydrolysed protein”, which is formed by breaking down the long strands of proteins into their constituent amino acids, usually using enzymes or hydrochloric acid. It imparts a flavour similar to that achieved by meat or vegetable stock, and often comes with MSG, which is produced as a by-product of the same reaction and is responsible for the savoury taste of tomatoes, cheese and Iberico ham.

Though hydrolysed proteins are produced artificially, the process is similar to what happens when you cook food for a long period of time – it’s a kind of pre-digestion, and is thought to contribute to the enticing smell of many brands of kibble.

Early processed dog food resembled the tooth-challenging hard-tack biscuits often taken on long sea voyages (Credit: Getty Images)
Early processed dog food resembled the tooth-challenging hard-tack biscuits often taken on long sea voyages (Credit: Getty Images)

“The understanding of cat palatability is very similar to Japanese or Asian cuisine, where there’s a lot of focus on umami and another taste modality called kokumi,” says Logan.

Kokumi was discovered in Japan in 1989, and has been proposed as the sixth taste in humans, after sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, sourness and umami. It’s described as a kind of mouth-feel rather than a flavour per se – a texture that imparts richness and “thickness” to foods. Unlike the others, kokumi hasn’t yet been linked to a specific set of compounds, but foods that conjure this sensory experience include scallops, soy sauce, shrimp paste, yeast and beer.

While cats are particularly drawn to Japanese food, which is rich in meat and seafood, you’re unlikely to find them stealing ice-creams or doughnuts

The sixth taste is thought to be particularly popular with carnivorous animals, which may discern it via receptors in their mouths that evolved to detect calcium. And as you would expect, pet food companies have already begun targeting it with cocktails of flavour-enhancing chemicals.   

But there are some flavours that you will never find in certain pet foods.  

For example, most wild carnivorous animals lack the receptors for tasting sugar or carbohydrates. And unlike dogs, which have been living around humans and feasted off our scraps for up to 40,000 years, domestic cats have only been around for about 4,300. For the majority of that time, they were considered a kind of free pest-control that could fend for themselves.

So, while cats are particularly drawn to Japanese food, which is rich in meat and seafood, you’re unlikely to find them stealing ice-creams or doughnuts – unlike dogs, they simply haven’t been around humans for long enough to have evolved the ability to taste sugar.

Cats are irresistibly drawn to the chemical compounds found in rotting fish (Credit: Getty Images)
Cats are irresistibly drawn to the chemical compounds found in rotting fish (Credit: Getty Images)

On the other hand, because vegan animals eat exclusively vegetable matter, which is often rich in fibre and carbohydrates, they tend to prefer sweeter pet food.

Finally, no list of palatants would be complete without pyrophosphate, described in Popular Science as “cat crack”. This common additive performs a number of roles in human food, such as preventing potato products from going dark after they’re cooked – none of which involve improving its taste. Nevertheless, cats go nuts for it, possibly because it intensifies the flavour of amino acids.

Pet food companies are now so successful at making food delicious that they’re increasingly encountering a dilemma – it’s almost too good. “The danger for cats and dogs today is the same as for people, it’s overconsumption,” says Andrew Knight, a professor of animal welfare and ethics at the University of Winchester.

Pet obesity is a growing problem in the developed world, with one survey of veterinary professionals at a vet show in London suggesting that around 51% of dogs, 44% of cats and 29% of small mammals are now overweight or obese.

Pet foods made from more sustainable ingredients such as insects or soya are generally just as acceptable to carnivorous pets as the real deal

According to Logan, this is not down to the way pet food is formulated, but humans succumbing to their beloved pets’ pleading gazes. “The reason we make pet food palatable is that if they don’t eat all the food that we give them, it won’t meet the nutritional needs that they require,” he says. “The real problem is owners feeding them too much – pets can’t open the packets themselves.”

However, there is an upside. There are mounting concerns about the environmental impact of pet food, too – in 2009, two New Zealand scientists estimated the planetary cost of keeping a dog as roughly twice that of having a medium-sized SUV.

Pets given too much calorific processed food may, just like humans, put on extra weight (Credit: Getty Images)
Pets given too much calorific processed food may, just like humans, put on extra weight (Credit: Getty Images)

This is where palatants come in. Because most pet foods comprise a fairly tasteless base that is spruced up with delicious flavourings and smells, pet foods made from more sustainable ingredients such as insects or soya are generally just as acceptable to carnivorous pets as the real deal. (Though cats cannot be fed a diet that is meat free.)

“According to this really large-scale study that we’ve just finished, the animals on vegan pet foods seem to be just as happy as animals on meat ones,” says Knight, who is hopeful about their future potential.

“There is a broad recognition that the need to be more sustainable will have a big impact on the pet food business,” says Logan, who explains that the pet food company he works for has just released its own brand of insect-based pet food.

So, why do our pets find pet food so addictive? Well, because it’s been made that way. Just like us, our pets find it hard to say no to the food we have designed to be tasty.

* Zaria Gorvett is a senior journalist for BBC Future and tweets at @ZariaGorvett

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That is a really useful article that goes a very long way to explaining how ‘big business’ interferes with the food that our pets eat.

And did you read right at the end of the article: “According to this really large-scale study that we’ve just finished, the animals on vegan pet foods seem to be just as happy as animals on meat ones,” says Knight.

Now there’s a thing!

We are all connected!

Thank you Patrice Ayme for sharing this.

I can’t remember when I first came to know Patrice Ayme; it was quite a few years ago. I followed him for years and then had to take a break simply because there weren’t enough hours in the day! Not because I disliked what he was writing – no siree!

He is a most prolific author. Pop into Patrice Ayme’s Thoughts and have a browse around.

Anyway, Patrice recently forwarded me an article that rightly deserved much attention. Here it is:

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Saving The Animals, Thus Ourselves

Animals die in great numbers trying to cross human transportation systems.

When one provides the animals with crossings, they rush to use them (so are used even before they are finished, by a Noah’s ark of species).

Respecting nature is not just about the beauty and naturalness it provides us with, it is about respecting how we became who we are, at our best. We have to learn to share the planet with animals. Not just because we are smart, but also because they are smart and our smarts evolved from interacting with their smarts. So interacting with wild animals is smart all around… and it has made our species smarter! Wildlife interaction is how we evolved our smarts.

Not book smarts, but the deepest smarts.

Hence by respecting animals, we respect how we became human… and it keeps on being human to do so. Economy means managing the house, in particular, managing earth, which is our common house. As the greenhouse heating proceeds at an accelerating pace, we then have to reserve an increasing part of our economic activity to save the animals by helping them to cope with the changes we have brought.

Morality comes from the mores, the old ways, the ways which perdured, and thus, insure survival. Having a natural environment, full of animals, is the ultimate morality. If we can’t save them, how can we learn to save ourselves?

So it is not just smart and economic to save the animals, but also moral. The money engaged so far is quite small. But the price of an unbalanced environment tottering towards ruin, is incomparably higher. For a nice article with nice videos of animals using their smarts crossing freeways and roads, consider:

As a badger digs, say for ground squirrels whose burrows have many exits, could not it be that the coyote would seize a fleeing squirrel, and share the meal? This is basic economics and strategy, and it turns out that coyotes and badgers have figured out that behavior, and cooperate together.

The next question would be this: do the individuals concerned figure it out by themselves, as cephalopods do, or is the behavior culturally instigated, namely both badgers and coyotes learn elements of interspecific cooperation from teaching by their elders? I believe the latter.

After all, I trained the (wild) nesting birds on my balcony to benignantly ignore my weird and intrusive ways … which thus had to learn to be a bit more respectful than they usually are. But of course these ways tend to incite the red tail hawks to not land on this particular balcony on a determined culinary mission (as they have been seen doing…) And the birds know this [1].

Saving the animals is first of all about saving us… Not just our sense of beauty.

Patrice Ayme

[1] Hummingbirds set their nests below hawks’ nests, as this protects them from gays. Local hawks do attack nests of birds who are big enough (like gays, crows, etc). And I have seen them pass 10 feet from me, eyeing me suspiciously… Their feathers can be two feet long…

See this: https://www.audubon.org/news/why-hawk-hummingbirds-best-friend

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We are all connected as I said in the title to today’s post.

The only way we are going to survive as a species on this planet is for all of us to recognise this fundamental law of nature. Or should I say this fundamental law of Nature!

It is a little over fifty years since the inaugural celebration of the first Earth Day; on the 22nd April, 1970. In other words we are just over halfway through if one imagines the celebration of the one hundredth Earth Day: 22nd April, 2070. In 1970 the planet was home to 3.7 billion people. Today there are nearly 8 billion people. But more than that these 8 billion people are living to an average of 72 years, up from 59 years in 50 years.

Our failure to address climate change is harming the planet and all the species, including us humans, who live on Planet Earth. I shall be dead by 2070 and also a great many of my fellow humans. But for all those born in the year 2000 and later it is increasingly going to become the number one priority: Saving the planet from a total catastrophe!

We don’t have long!

The Elephant in the Room

This is one of the most important posts since I started blogging!

I was born in 1944 and that makes me 76. I am reasonably engaged in the issues facing us but, in a sense, protected from the realities of the modern world because I have a loving wife, two loving young people, as in my son Alex and my daughter Maija, and a special grandson, Morten.

We are also very lucky in that my wife, Jean, and I are both retired and we live on 13 rural acres in a beautiful part of Southern Oregon and enjoy immensely our six dogs, two horses, two parakeets and feeding the wild birds and deer.

But it can’t stay that way because of the encroaching elephant in the room.

I am speaking of climate change that if not dealt with in the near future, say in the next 10 years, will lead to an unimaginable state of affairs.

Now one could argue that you come to Learning from Dogs to get away from climate change and the like. But this is too important and, also, involves all of us including our gorgeous dogs.

First, I want to include an extract from a recent Scientists Warning newsletter (and please read this extract carefully).

Recently, one article on the climate emergency above all others has cut through – with over ONE MILLION views, “Climate scientists: concept of net zero is a dangerous trap”  published in The Conversation is being talked about by many thousands, and led Greta Thunberg to tweet:  “This is one of the most important and informative texts I have ever read on the climate- and ecological crises.” 
So why is this article so very important?

In our latest interview, I talk with two of the authors – Dr.  James Dyke, global systems scientist at the University of Exeter and Dr. Wolfgang Knorr, climate scientist at Lund University. And the conversation does not make for comfortable viewing.  We discuss what led James, Wolfgang and Professor Bob Watson to write an article that they have described as being one of the hardest they have ever written. The article is *not* an attack on net zero, nor does it advocate a fatalistic position. Instead, as you will hear, the interview reveals the heartfelt concerns of two scientists who are profoundly worried about the failure of a climate policy system that suppresses the  voice of science and is fundamentally flawed. A climate policy system that year after year has failed.

But  it is not just the climate policy system that has failed. Academia has failed too, and continues to fail Greta and young people like her. And this *must* stop. Young people have become the adults in the room. We cannot place this burden on their shoulders. They have shown their courage and bravery. Now it’s time for academia to step up to the challenge and to critically examine why we are failing. 

Secondly, I want to share that interview with you. This is a 36-minute interview. Please, please watch it. If it is not a convenient time just now then bookmark the post and watch it when you can sit down and be fully engaged. You will understand then and agree with me that this is one of the most important videos ever!

Lastly, I would like you to read the article published in The Conversation. I have included a link to it but I am also going to republish it on Friday.

Because we have to listen to the scientists without delay and press for change now.

Thank goodness for our younger generation. Because these young people are coming together to fight for change. May they have universal encouragement from those of us who will never see our younger days again!

men's white and blue gingham dress shirt
Photograph by Zach Lucero

This is just beautiful

Just a short post!

One can’t imagine what it was like for this poor dog that was placed in a garbage can. But then along comes a perfect Princess and rescues the poor animal.

And so the dog found in the trash learns how to walk again with the help of her foster family — now she runs on the beach!

Dear, sweet Billie and what a terrific job this lady did. From a family of dogs, of course!