September 7, 2018

Mass Confusion, RE: "Grain-Free" diets

In early July, the FDA released an alert about a possible connection with Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs fed "grain-free" diets. The release understandably caused quite a stir among pet parents who for years have believed such diets were preferable. The following post digs a little deeper surrounding this issue. Clarifying the Confusion: Grain Free Recipes and the Recent FDA Report Why is this an issue? On July 12, 2018, the U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert regarding a possible connection with Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs fed “grain free” diets. There has been much confusion and second-guessing among pet owners, retailers and various pet food brands that produce and sell these diets. The issue has affected a small population of dogs (less than 100). There has not been a direct link established regarding the cause, but diet is a suspected component along with animal genetics at this point. What should pet food manufacturers consider doing to address this issue? The balance of bioavailable methionine and cysteine are of critical importance. All nutritionists should be evaluating their diets for these key amino acids. Canine diets should have adequate levels of naturally occurring methionine, cysteine and taurine. The RAWZ Recipes (It’s Not Just About the Taurine) Supplementation with taurine may appear to be the easiest approach. However, this may mask the underlying issue of inadequate key amino acids that may ultimately result in other diseases. It is better to remain focused on the root cause and solve the issues with a sound and prudent approach of an encompassing balanced, superior nutritional profiles. RAWZ has high protein efficiency ratios because it is 100% rendered free. Our protein and amino acid profiles are better retained due to less processing. RAWZ is 100% Rendered Free - Dehydrated proteins and real meats contain higher levels of naturally occurring methionine, cysteine and taurine, compared to some excessively processed meals, such as chicken meal or fish meal. Taurine supplementation has always been added to all RAWZ dry recipes-both canine and feline.

Additional Information

Has there ever been a similar situation with DCM and dogs? Yes. In late 1990’s there were a number of dogs in a few breeds reported with DCM in which diet may have been associated. In these cases, the suspected diet type was based on lamb meal and rice and formulated for maintenance. The dogs were generally large breeds (e.g. Newfoundlands). It was postulated that low circulating taurine may be due to inadequate taurine syntheses in the liver and this may serve as an early indicator of shortcomings in sulfur amino acid supply (methionine and cysteine) for this and other metabolic functions (Backus et al., 2006). Was there something inherent in the lamb meal and rice diets from these studies that would suggest a similar issue for the current FDA alert? It was demonstrated by Johnson et al. (1998) that the cysteine availability in lamb meal can be quite low (<50% bioavailable). This may be attributed to the heat associated with the rendering process or the high concentration of structural proteins (wool and tendons) which are poorly digested. For the rice and rice co-products such as rice bran, it was demonstrated that these ingredients can decrease whole-blood taurine in cats (Stratton-Phelps et al., 2002), and this may be the result of the greater bile acid binding properties of rice bran (Kahlon and Woodruff, 2003) versus the other fibers.

Is there something inherently problematic with grain free diets? First it must be understood that taurine is synthesized from sulfur amino acids methionine and cysteine in the liver. If there is an inadequate supply of these amino acids, then taurine may be depleted. Legume seeds like peas, lentils and chickpeas have low levels of methionine and cysteine and plants do not produce taurine. Thus, these ingredients must be paired with complementary proteins like those from animal sources, or plant sources with offsetting concentrations of these key amino acids or supplemented with synthetic amino acids. There are no reports in the literature evaluating the pulses or tubers on canine or feline taurine levels. However, in a study reported form 1995 (Kim et al.) there was some indication that soybean (a legume seed) protein decreased taurine in feline plasma. This was thought to result from increased fecal excretion of taurine and bile acids and was not considered to work outside the effect of fermentation on deconjugation of taurocholate in the colon. Although soluble/fermentable fibers may have a detrimental effect on taurine levels in the gastrointestinal tract (Ko and Fascetti, 2016). As it turns out, legume seeds can be rich in oligosaccharides which could at higher levels lead to more fermentation and ultimately lower taurine. What should we consider doing to address this issue? First, the diets and dogs identified in these alerts are very few. There may be some common aspects to the previous issues in the 1990’s that have been overlooked in recent times. It is unlikely that all grain free diets are implicated. Possibly only a few and for only dogs predisposed to the condition. Further, the balance of bioavailable methionine and cysteine are of more importance. Nutritionists should be evaluating the diets for these key amino acids.

References: FDA. July 12, 2018. FDA Investigating Potential Connection Between Diet and Cases of Canine Heart Diseasehttps://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/newsevents/cvmupdates/ucm613305.htm acce ssed 27Aug2018 Backus, R.C., Kwang, S.K., Fascetti, A.J., Kittleson, M.D., MacDonald, K.A., Maggs, D.J., Berg, J.R., Rogers, Q.R. Low plasma taurine concentration in newfoundland dogs is associated with low plasma methionine and cyst(e)ine concentrations and low taurine synthesis (2006) Journal of Nutrition, 136 (10), pp. 2525-2533. Johnson, M.L., Parsons, C.M., Fahey, G.C., Jr., Merchen, N.R., and Aldrich, C.G. 1998. Effects of species raw material sources, ash content, and processing temperature on amino acid digestibility of animal by-product meals by cecectomized roosters and ileally cannulated dogs. J. Anim. Sci. 76:1112-1122 Stratton-Phelps, M. Backus, R.C, Rogers, Q.R., and Fascetti, A.J. 2002 Dietary rice bran decreases plasma and whole-blood taurine in cats. J. Nutr 132:1745S-1747S. Kahlon, T.S, Woodruff. C.L. 2003 In vitro binding of bile acids by rice bran, oat bran, barley, and B-glucan enriched barley. Cereal Chem 80:260-263. Kim S.W., Morris, J.G., and Rogers, Q.R. 1995. Dietary soybean protein decreases plasma taurine in cats. J. Nutr 125:2831-2837. Ko, K.S., Fascetti, A.J. 2016. Dietary beet pulp decreases taurine status in dogs fed low protein diet. J. Ainm Sci Technol. 58:29-39.

July 9, 2018

Perfect for Independence Day!

First off, all of us here at RAWZ hope you had a happy and safe 4th of July holiday! This time of year brings not only warm weather, but quite a bit of traffic to Seacoast New England. Believe me when I mention this that I'm not looking for any sympathy, as I certainly recognize how blessed I am to live in a place so many people choose to vacation! In fact, I actually like the energy in town as well as the reminder to count my blessings: Not only for living in this beautiful area, but to be able to travel around quite a bit like many of the summer visitors I see.

Being the NEXT BEST THING TO FEEDING RAW, raises the obvious question of "why not just feed raw?" We primarily refer to the cost as being prohibitive, with RAWZ costing only about a third of a prepared frozen raw diet to feed a 50 lb dog a day. But for some who aren't as price sensitive or have the time, knowledge, and funds to prepare meals for their pet(s) at home, why not raw?

In a recent digital dialogue I had with RAWZ teammate Bill Wilson, he raised a great point! During the Summer months we seem to meet many people traveling with their pets. As any raw feeder knows, road trips present extremely challenging circumstances for feeding routines; shortage of time, lack of space, HEAT. So what are pet's nutritional guardians to do?

For just these loving, nutrition-conscious individuals RAWZ offers a fantastic option: RAWZ 100% Human Grade Freeze Dried Dinners! Consisting of all human grade ingredients and carefully freeze-dried in human kitchens preserving the proteins' maximum efficiency, these dinners allow for the convenience of a ready to eat, safe option! So while traveling you can give your pet the best, and of course, all of the profits will help improve the lives of people living with disability!

June 5, 2018

Way Beyond Disability...

For me and many other competitors, the warm weather of early summer brings not only outdoor activity, but also the sporting event that I'm perhaps most proud of to be a participant: The Robie Pierce One-Design Regatta! The 2018 Robie was graciously hosted by the beautiful Larchmont Yacht Club located on the waters of Long Island Sound. Now in it's 10th annual edition, The Robie was began with the goal of bringing competitive sailing to those living with physical disability. Who is this Robie Pierce you ask?

Robie often joked that it wasn't the Robie Pierce "Memorial" Regatta because "I'm not dead yet!" Unfortunately, the sailing community said goodbye to a great man when on 7/12/17 Robie passed away after having lived with MS and confined to a wheelchair since December of 1985. An accomplished sailor, Robie wasn't one to let his diagnosis keep him on land; becoming a renowned disabled-sailor winning the 1993 World Disabled Sailing Championship and the Japanese Match Racing Championship a year after! Later as an advocate of adaptive sailors, Robie worked with others to see US Disabled sailing receive national recognition with the sport ultimately becoming a Paralympic event in 2000.

I thought I'd take a detour from the usual blog post focused on the nutritional features and benefits of our minimally processed RAWZ products this month. Partly, because I'm still filled with joy from the four races we got in despite uncooperative winds, but mostly to share my appreciation for experiencing genuine fun even after a life-altering injury. First off, a huge thank you to everyone that makes the Robie happen; from sponsors, race committee, volunteers, and the generous American YC/Larchmont YCs and their members: And of course, Robie himself for his vision and commitment to bringing sailing to us all!

In addition to my post-regatta joy, I've also had my motivation to provide pets with the next best thing to feeding raw recharged! With that seemingly unrelated statement you may be asking yourself if my mind has yet returned from Long Island Sound? So how do I make that leap? It's simple, first and foremost RAWZ is committed to providing pets with amazing nutritional products! After that we give 100% of our profits to improve the lives of those living with brain or spinal cord injury. The RAWZ FUND supports rehabilitation services through Spaulding Hospital, Northeast Passage's therapeutic recreation program, and also promotes the use of service dogs through wonderful organizations. At this year's Robie I experienced, and witnessed, just how fortunate all of us are to be a part of this mission!

May 14, 2018

Scary subject

Past recalls among pet food companies and suspicion of business entities in general have led many consumers to wonder about the products they choose to feed to their four-legged family members. This general uneasiness is only intensified by a number of news stories appearing of late that detail traces of the chemicals used for euthanizing animals being found in some pet foods. These test results have alarmed many pet owners and led to some legislative initiatives.

This scary subject highlights something that, we at RAWZ, don't really discuss often. As written, labeling laws allow for quite a bit of variance and ambiguity in listing pet food ingredients. While it is fairly well understood that "animal" meal can contain just about any animal, being a rendered meal allows much more variance; yes, even for named specie meals (i.e.. chicken/turkey/fish meals). So while being named, this species specific meal still allows for large variances when it comes to the ingredient quality. Due to the extreme temperatures and long time duration of the rendering process; animals that are not fit for human consumption, however humanely raised they may be, can be used in meals. Commonly referred to as the 4 D's (Dead, Diseased, Dying, or Disabled) when speaking of rendered meals, these animals often are considered waste in the human food supply and, rather than discarded, rendered.

So while we hope that all pet food companies use only top quality protein sources; although economics and the number of financial investors in the animal nutrition space lead to obvious doubt (not to mention reported past quality/safety issues). For the sake of discussion, let's just go with the supposition that only top-quality, human-grade animals are used in the production of a foods rendered ingredients. Well then, you may ask, doesn't that really lessen the appeal of RAWZ's rendered-free nutritional platform?

If RAWZ were simply stating that it's the wide variance possibility of the less than desirable aforementioned ingredients in rendered meals that made the RAWZ difference, then an altruistic movement in pet food formulation would present a real challenge. However, this would be missing the point of what we believe is the true RAWZ difference and why we're THE NEXT BEST THING TO FEEDING RAW!! While in itself, the questionable quality of meals and sometimes scary possibilities of what is legally allowed provide concern, at least as powerful a reason for our commitment to being rendered-free is the damage done to a protein source by high heat processing. I don't want to get overly technical, but it's all about protein efficiency (PER or protein efficiency ratio).

PER is simply a measure of how effectively an animal uses a protein to build new tissue, or to be even simpler, protein quality. Ranging from 100%, or completely used by the animal, to 0% or useless; the PER values of dehydrated chicken vs. even a high quality chicken meal (derived of healthy, humanely raised chickens), truly illustrates the RAWZ difference: 98% vs. 58%! You read that right, independent testing done by acclaimed animal nutritionist Dr. Greg Aldrich of Kansas State University found this huge discrepancy in the qualities of proteins! I'm no math whiz, but even I can appreciate such a gap in quality. In fact, to reap the same tissue building benefits of eating 100g's of protein from our dehydrated chicken, a pet would need to consume around 169 g's of protein from even a high quality chicken meal, almost 70% more!

In summation, we're not trying to scare you with alarming news stories or the variance in quality allowed in labeling laws of meals: RAWZ simply believes that when it comes to processing, less is more in animal nutrition!