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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Full Belly for the Holidays
PetParadise coordinates a three-state food drive for needy pets

In March, I wrote about the emergence of pet soup kitchens, whose numbers are growing amid the current economic state. Unfortunately, not all communities have this type of resource available for those in need. 

The multi-state pet boarding and daycare resort, PetParadise, noticed that, across the board, many people were struggling to keep their pets, while donations were down for area rescues. As a result, the company decided to team up with local shelters, food banks, and super markets to coordinate the first annual Food for Paws, a three-state food drive for needy pets during the holiday season. 

The food collected at their Jacksonville, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C., locations was given directly to families in need. The donations at their Houston, Tex., location went to Rescue Bank and helped more than 73 area rescue groups.

To increase participation, PetParadise offered a free night of boarding to people who donated 20 pounds of food. Their efforts resulted in over four tons of pet food for hungry pets, an amazing feat, particularly for their first year.

It’s great to see communities come together to help each other out. Food drives, like Food for Paws, not only collect supplies for those in need, but also bring attention to the economy’s effect on pets. Hopefully more companies will be inspired to use their resources to support events like Food for Paws in the future.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet Food Claims Allowed to Be Deceptive
Normal advertising laws don’t apply.

The Federal Trade Commission requires that advertising can’t be deceptive and that it must be truthful. It’s not clear why this does not apply to pet foods, but apparently it doesn’t. In fact, according to the American Association of Feed Control Officials, the labels on pet foods can have qualified or unqualified claims, and these may be direct or indirect. In other words, pet food labels can say things, such as “balanced nutrition for a long life,” or “natural complete nutrition,” or “helps maintain healthy body weight” whether these statements are true or not.

This seems odd given the regulations on advertising in other areas, including human food. What if candy wrappers had claims, such as “balanced nutrition for healthy body weight” or “it’s just like eating spinach.” Surely this sort of misleading and deceptive advertising should not be allowed on pet food labels either.

Obviously, avoiding commercial pet food in favor of raw food or other diets more closely related to what dogs ate several decades ago is one way to avoid the problem of misleading advertising altogether. Still, for people who use prepared dog or cat food regularly or even occasionally, truth in advertising could help keep pets healthier.

News: Guest Posts
Dog Bowl Bailout
One-time offer aims to get free chow to dogs in need.

The folks at Dogswell, a pet food company in Los Angeles, are reaching out to Americans who’ve been stung by the economic downtown/collapse/crisis (take your pick) by offering a free bag of dry dog food to the first 10,000 eligible people to submit a Bow-Wow Bailout redemption form, through May 15, 2009. It’s about time dogs got a little piece of the recovery action. We love a marketing strategy that puts food in the bowls of dogs who need it.

Individuals and families with long-term challenges feeding their dogs may find food support at their local animal shelter or food bank. According to JoAnna Lou’s story in The Bark (March/April 2009), at least 68 organizations nationwide currently offer pet food assistance to those in need. Visit the Humane Society of the United States for more information about assistance in your area.

News: Guest Posts
Better Than Liverwurst
Is dog food just pâté by another name?

“Tastes like dog food” may not be the insult you think. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, only 3 of 18 human participants in a blind taste test were able to identify dog food from among samples of pâté, liverwurst, Spam and Newman’s Own dog food. While I think this says more about the competition than about dog food, the results highlight something we all suspect about taste—that it’s about much more than taste buds.

 

Personally, I’m happy about the results because I’m always a little freaked out by how much I want to snarf my dogs’ peanut butter and molasses cookies. Still the test leaves one question unanswered: Faced with the same selection, which do dogs prefer?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
FDA Investigates Nutro Dog Food
Illnesses may be linked to food. UPDATED.

[Editor's Note: ConsumerAffairs.com has reported that the FDA is denying reports of an investigation into Nutro, contradicting individuals who say they have been contacted about Nutro by FDA investigators, as well as others in the FDA. We'll keep following this story. Meanwhile, readers have posted some interesting comments including an inside perspective from someone who claims to be a former employee.]

 

There has long been talk that Nutro Dog Food may be responsible for illnesses in many dogs, but the company has denied these claims and maintained that their food is safe. It may be some time before the truth is sorted out, but we do now know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating the company.

Food safety continues to be a huge issue for both people and our pets, and we must be cautious about everything we feed our dogs. It may be a long time before we know whether or not Nutro Dog Food is causing these problems, but the fact that an investigation is underway to determine the truth is a good thing.

News: Guest Posts
Consumer Reports Tackles (Not Really) Pet Food
Maybe a better source for insight on GPS collars and robot dogs

When I turn to Consumer Reports, it’s usually for the skinny on things with plugs and engines. Last time I subscribed online, I was in the market for a refrigerator. So I was surprised to see them shine their high beams  (only sorta) on pet food in the March '09 issue. The basic advice was sound: Ignore fancy packaging and unverified claims, read the labels, don’t assume the most expensive is best.

But some aspects of Q&A: Vets Weigh In on Fido’s Food nagged at me, especially the opening caveat: “All but one [of the veterinarians interviewed] have received some funding from the pet-food industry.” Give me Whole Dog Journal food reviews anytime.

I also felt a twinge when I read this advice: “Be careful when making your own pet food. Most experts said they hadn’t seen a pet get sick from inexpensive food; however, half said they had seen pets become ill from eating homemade pet food, a growing trend since the 2007 recall of some commercial pet food contaminated by melamine.” I’m not a nutrition expert but the suggestion that people can’t home-prepare food better than a giant extruding machine half-way around the world really sticks in my craw.

I was also disappointed by the lack of detailed help in interpreting ingredient lists. For example, there is no advice about avoiding meat by-products, processed grains or artificial preservatives. As much as I love CR, I'm disappointed they squandered this opportunity to reach a wide audience with sorely needed smarts.
 

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Peanut Butter Recall
Stop the spread of salmonella by taking stock of your pantry.

Now is the time to check the ingredients list of your dog's food and treats as the peanut butter recall has spread, so to speak. If you want to look up a particular item, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has created an exhaustive database. Click on the "Pet Food" category for specific brands. If you're like me and treat your dogs to a dollop of peanut butter from time to time, it's worth looking through the list for any other brands that might be on your shelves.

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PetSmart Recalls Treats
Salmonella outbreak traced to a small peanut manufacturing plant could now affect dogs

Time to check your pantry again! The recent salmonella outbreak traced to a small peanut manufacturing plant could now affect dogs and their owners. PetsMart is recalling Grreat Choice dog biscuits because of a link to Peanut Corp. of America in Blakely, Ga. Animals are at less risk than people, especially kids, who handle the treats. However, if your dog acts lethargic or has bloody diarrhea, seek immediate veterinary care. For more info, read "Pet Treats Recalled in Salmonella Outbreak."

News: Guest Posts
Updated Pet Food Warnings
Peanut butter treats and chicken jerky on the list

Citing concerns over a salmonella outbreak associated with peanut butter, PetSmart has removed seven types of Grreat Choice Dog Biscuits from its shelves. According the company, there have been no reports of illness from the biscuits, and the recall is a voluntary precaution. This appears to be the only pet product affected by the recall so far. Read the Food & Drug Administration's most recent information--with a list of affected products.

 

The Washington Post reports that the FDA has issued repeated warnings over chicken jerky products imported from China. There has been no recall. Symptoms from ingesting the unidentified poison include "decreased activity, vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes with blood) and increased water consumption and urination." 

 

Wellness: Food & Nutrition
Himalayan Dog Chew
An All-natural Snack for Serious Chewers

We’ve found a healthy treat to engage even the busiest dogs for hours: Himalayan Dog Chew from Mukilteo, Washington. Slow-heated using a traditional Himalayan recipe, the treat has only three ingredients, all of them 100 percent natural: yak milk, cow milk and lime juice. A treat that has no chemicals or preservatives and lasts for hours? This one’s Lola-approved! And don’t forget to stop back in and let us know what you think.

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