Pug Eats paper

Feed Pumpkin (Not Paper) To Pets on a Diet

Does your dog or cat eat a weight loss or weight management pet food? For people, we assume that a diet formula food has less fat and less sugar, and most of us believe that this is also how our pet’s special diet food is made lower in calories. That’s not the case, however.  Read the ingredients list on a bag of diet kibble, and you’ll probably find an ingredient called ‘cellulose’ fairly high up on the list.

Have you ever  wondered what cellulose is?

‘There are various forms of powdered cellulose available from trees like pine and beech to bamboo and cotton. By and large, the cellulose used in petfood applications is derived from pine trees. The ingredient starts its journey in the pulping mills, the same mills used to produce paper. The pulp is made into long continuous sheets and rolled just like paper stock going to the local newspaper. However, cellulose intended for food and feed is ground through specially-designed hammer mills, then sized to certain particle lengths in giant “ball-mills.”

From here it is packaged in bags and bulk sacks for distribution to the respective markets.’

– From Petfood Industry Magazine

Cellulose is quite simply powdered and shredded paper fibre. Bulking up the fibre in food allows us to feed our pet’s the same volume of food, while also giving them less calories.  In Hairball Formula cat food, cellulose fibre binds with hair, making it move more effectively through the gut.

We can achieve the same results as cellulose when feeding cats and dogs by adding pureed pumpkin to their food. Pumpkin adds fibre to the diet in the same way that cellulose does, but instead of a nutritionally void filler, we’re also providing Vitamin E, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium, along with omega-6 oils.  Pumpkin also is also rich in antioxidants, and is a potent anti inflammatory. Dogs  (and even some cats) enjoy pumpkin’s rich taste and texture. When feeding pumpkin to pets, you can make your own puree from fresh pumpkins, or else use a pet specific canned supplement or pure, unsweetened puree from the grocery store (not canned pie filling).

The only downside of using pumpkin instead of cellulose is that your dog will no longer smell woodsy, like a pine tree air freshener.

Here ‘s a recipe for making your own pet friendly pumpkin puree at home. It freezes easily, and costs pennies per portion, and you can also use it in recipes for the two legged people in your life. As a general rule, 3 pounds of fresh pumpkin will yield about 3 cups of mashed and cooked pumpkin.

Microwave Pumpkin Puree:

1. Rinse the pumpkin under cool water to rid the skin of any residual dirt and dry well with a clean towel.
2. Cut the pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds and stringy fibers with a metal spoon or ice cream scoop. Save the seeds for toasting, if you like, and discard the innards.
3. Cut halved pieces into three or four smaller pieces.
4. Fill glass microwave safe bowl 1/3 of the way full of water. Arrange pieces in bowl, skin side up. Cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high until paring knife glides easily through flesh, 14 to 18 minutes, turning pieces over halfway through.
5. When tender, remove the pumpkin halves from the microwave and place on a flat surface to cool.
6. Once cool enough to handle, but not cold, scoop out the pumpkin flesh.
7. Puree the pumpkin in a food processor, in a food mill, with a hand held blender or by hand.
8. Pumpkin flesh holds a lot of moisture. Line a sieve or fine mesh colander with paper towel or a coffee filter and set over a deep bowl. Let drain for about 2 hours and stir occasionally.

To Freeze:

Once the puree has cooled entirely and drained for two hours, place in freezer containers or ice cube trays. Leave room at the top (headspace) of the containers or individual ice cube compartments. Label, date and freeze the puree for future use.


Image of unrepentent paper eating Pug from DogShaming.com


dog eating leftover vegetables

In Praise of Leftovers – the Original Dog Food

Every year, no matter what the holiday season is, we can expect to get bombarded with advice about being super careful to not feed our dogs any leftovers or table scraps. “No people food for dogs!”, trumpet the vets. “Dogs can’t eat table scraps – it will KILL them!”. Oh, the horror of contemplating a world where dogs eat leftover macaroni salad – how shall we all live through it?

I’m here today to sing the praises of lowly leftover table scraps for dogs, in spite of what authorities might have told you.

This weekend, we ate barbecued steak and chicken, caesar salad, tossed salad, grilled zucchini and peppers, steamed asparagus, sauteed mushrooms, fresh bread spread with roasted garlic. Anything that didn’t get finished or eaten – bits of steak, gristle from the chicken, left over veggies and salad, that last bite of garlic bread – got dumped into one big bowl in the fridge, that we fondly refer to as the ‘dog food bowl’. In fact, any ‘healthy’ leftovers are fair game for the ‘dog food bowl’ – plate scrapings of stew, the last bit of pasta, the turkey that’s worn out its welcome, the dessicated piece of cheese rind. Nothing too spicy (no jambalaya or chili) or too greasy (no cooked chicken skin or  pork fat), and of course, no bad for dogs ingredients like raw onions or grapes. Everything else goes in the bowl, chopped if needed but usually just left as is.

Come dinner time for the dogs, each one gets ladled out a portion of the leftovers as a topper for their regular food – and believe me, you have never seen dog food bowls get emptied as quickly as they do when there’s bits of steak and garlic bread in there. For kibble feeders, think of this as a canned topper, minus the canned. For raw feeders, it’s a nice way to give your dogs a different taste and texture, and you’re not giving them enough cooked food to throw their diet off track.

Sure, you need to use some common sense – don’t dump an entire bowl of gravy out for your dogs. Don’t give them cooked bones of any kind. Don’t give them a ton of cooked fat (raw fat or trim, on the other hand, is usually just fine). No raw onions, grapes or chocolate. Exercise moderation, for the obese dog or the dog with a dodgy tummy. But you know all of this already, right?

Up until fifty or so years ago, leftovers pretty much defined ‘dog food’ for most dogs in North America and Great Britain, and leftovers still account for the daily meal of many dogs in developing nations. Feeding your dog isn’t rocket science. Got a kid? Managed to raise them to adulthood without giving them rickets or anemia? Congratulations – you’re probably smart enough to create a balanced meal for your dog – or at least an occasional topper for their regular diet.

Raw Green Tripe for Dogs – Stinky Magic!

Raw Green Tripe for Dogs

Raw Green Tripe, Whole & Ground. Image from Bold Raw – Available at Pet Outfitters

Of all the raw food diet ingredients I can suggest for dogs, few things compare to raw green tripe. Tripe is so beneficial, and for so many different conditions, that I usually refer to it simply as “stinky magic”.

Tripe is the stomach of any ruminant animal – sheep, cattle, bison, deer, camels, alpacas, llamas, etcetera. Tripe for human consumption has been washed, cleaned, trimmed, boiled and bleached. It is devoid of the nutritional benefits contained by green tripe, but safe for human consumption. For dogs, we’re looking for “green” tripe – that is, tripe that has not been boiled or bleached, although it usually has received a rudimentary hosing down. It generally retains at least some of the stomach contents, which in grass fed animals will naturally be green, hence the term “green tripe”.

Tripe from corn finished beef is sometimes substituted, especially when used in commercially prepared tripe products. The stomach’s digestive actions will generally have broken down the corn’s amino acids to the point that they will not cause issues for most dogs, but for dogs with confirmed corn or gluten sensitivity owners would do better to stay with tripe taken exclusively from grass fed animals. Doing so is increasingly difficult, however, since more farmers are finishing even lamb on grain mixtures. It’s best to inquire if the raw green tripe you are purchasing comes from exclusively grass fed animals.

Laboratory analysis of green tripe shows that it has an almost perfect ratio of calcium to phosphorus, at 1:1. Balancing calcium and phosphorus levels at an approximate ratio of 1.5:1 is essential for a balanced raw dog food diet  (although tripe alone does not provide sufficient quantities of calcium or phosphorus for complete canine nutrition). Tripe also contains linoleic and linolenic acids, the essential fatty acids beneficial to skin, coat and cellular function and regeneration. Sufficient quantities of EFAs have been shown aid in blocking tumor formation in animals, and to regenerate damaged tissue. For dogs with leaky gut syndrome, tissue regeneration is crucial.

Since tripe essentially the stomach of animal that digest fibrous matter, it makes complete sense that tripe is loaded with beneficial digestive enzymes and lactic acid bacteria. Lactobacillus Acidophilus, as it is also known, is the beneficial bacteria found in most probiotics. Tripe is also slightly acidic, which is beneficial for animals who have digestive difficulties.

Raw green tripe from grass fed animals comes with an added bonus – some of the partially digested stomach contents from its last meal. It’s not uncommon to see bits of grassy matter in your raw tripe, and it this grass is what gives us the “Green” in raw green tripe. The semi digested stomach contents are a source of natural prebiotics, defined as:

“a selectively fermented ingredient that allows specific changes, both in the composition and/or activity in the gastrointestinal microflora that confers benefits upon host well-being and health”

Grazing animals such as sheep routinely tear plants up by the roots, digesting the rich plant based inulin essential to prebiotic function. The grassy stomach contents in raw green tripe are then partially fermented by the actions of the stomach, and bathed in a rich gastric soup of digestive enzymes and Lactobacillus Acidophilus. Few commercial probiotics can emulate the effectiveness of a serving of fresh, grass fed raw green tripe.

Raw green tripe is beneficial to dogs suffering from digestive problems, sensitive stomachs, food intolerance and even leaky gut syndrome. In non clinical trials, a regimen of six days of using raw green tripe as 25% of a raw fed dog’s diet have shown marked decreases in acid reflux and irritable bowel symptoms.

Another raw green tripe convert has been feeding her Great Dane a 25% raw green tripe diet for six months. Her dog, initially diagnosed with leaky gut syndrome, has shown an improvement in food tolerance, a decrease in vomiting and regurgitation, and a cessation of flare ups of periodic diarrhea. Additionally, she reports her dog no longer eats grass – or poop!

Lessened poop eating is one of the most interesting anecdotally reported benefits of feeding raw green tripe. Raw green tripe, when fed on a regular basis, seems to lessen the insatiable craving for poop eating (or coprophagia) that even the most ardent pet lovers find difficult to forgive . Groundbreaking research suggests that dogs who eat their own feces do so because their bodies lack the necessary amounts of digestive enzymes required to fully digest their food. Raw green tripe, with its abundance of natural digestive enzymes and lactic acid bacteria, allows dogs to utilize all of the food they eat, taking away their biological imperative to eat feces.

The rich taste and even richer smell of raw green tripe makes it a potent topper for picky dogs who turn down most foods, and it’s a concentrated source of nutrition for pregnant and nursing dogs, and dogs recovering from illness. Some cats enjoy the taste of green tripe, and tripe rich in stomach contents can satisfy the craving of both dogs and cats to eat grass.

These nutritious stomach contents are also the cause of one of green tripe’s most noticeable features – its smell. It’s an odor that can only be compared to the reek of an overflowing sewer on a hot summer day (only perhaps not quite as pleasant). Feeding raw green tripe is what separates the hardcore raw feeder from the dilettante, giving you added ‘street cred’ on any discussion groups you belong to. It’s one thing to say, “Oh, last night I ground up some turkey necks”, and another altogether to say, “Last night I hauled home six buckets of sheep stomachs, and chopped them up by hand in the driveway using a block and tackle and a sushi knife”.

Luckily for most of us, there are commercial sources of ground raw green tripe available in many areas. Stinky and slimy it may be, but raw green tripe can pay off with added health and vitality for your dogs.



Feathers being processed into feather meal for the pet food industry

Trash to Cash – Feather Meal and Pet Food Ingredients

The poultry industry in the USA is a high volume business. Annually, an estimated 8 billion broiler chickens are produced, resulting in almost 3 billion pounds of feathers. The resulting feathers could only be disposed of in two ways – sold cheaply to the large animal food industry or to fertilizer companies, or by paid disposal to landfills. A decrease in demand for animal by products as a large animal feed additive, and a rise in the cost of landfill usage fees combined to make lightweight feathers a heavy expense for the poultry industry. Lucky for them, there seems to be almost nothing that the pet food industry isn’t game to try as an ingredient.

Feather Meal, or “FM” as it is referred to in the industry, has long been used as a fertilizer. It has a high nitrogen content, and is also high in protein, but it is indigestible unless it is highly processed. There have been numerous attempts to use feather meal as a food additive for animals, but  published studies as long ago as the 1980’s determined Feather Meal to be of “Low Nutritional Value” as a feed ingredient.

Beginning as early as 2000, there were rumblings within the pet food industry about a great new ingredient that was lowering costs for pet food manufacturers who used chicken and poultry meals as the basis for their foods. A German manufacturer, Goldmehl, had patented a revolutionary new method of Feather Meal processing for the pet food industry. They promised that it increase “feces scoring” in feeding trials. Feces scoring refers to the stool quality of dogs fed a diet based on a specific feed ingredient. In the case of feather meal, inclusion of more than 9% FM by dry weight resulted in dogs with a feces score of “1” – industry shorthand for explosive, watery diarrhea. Goldmehl’s patented Feather Meal would allow manufacturers to include up to 14% Feather Meal, with ‘acceptable’ feces scores.

The use of feathers as a pet food ingredient remained an underground rumbling until 2013, when Keith Levy, the President of Royal Canin USA, admitted in an interview with Forbes Magazine that Royal Canin had spent ten years developing a food that used feather meal as its primary protein source.

We have a team in France that is traveling the world to find ingredients. In this case it’s feather meal. It’s not only nutritious but can also be made very palatable to dogs. Feathers are broken down to an amino acid level and don’t have much of a taste. Then we add palatizers for taste. In this case, we have to be very careful not to provoke an allergic reaction.

Levy later in the interview mentioned that Royal Canin also uses hydrolized soy protein as a pet food ingredient, and that Royal Canin is “currently researching worm meal as a potential protein source for some of our foods in China”. Levy illustrated the best example of the Pet Food industry’s theory of ‘garbage in, pet food out’ when he said –

By using alternative sources of protein, we’re using something that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

Some ingredients, however, end up in landfills (or in your garden, as fertilizer) because they simply shouldn’t be used as a food ingredient, no matter how ‘cost effective’ they are. Feather Meal is primarily composed of  insoluble keratin with high cystine content. Dogs suffering from a genetic condition called Cystinuria lack the ability to process cystine via the kidneys. Over time, cystine becomes concentrated in the urine, which leads to the formation of crystals – commonly referred to as kidney stones.

Owners of dogs afflicted with cystinuria, or of breeds prone to this condition or any other kidney related diseases, are advised to avoid foods containing feather meal. This means you’ll need to watch the labels for ingredients such as feather meal, poultry or chicken digest, and perhaps even poultry or chicken by products (I’m still awaiting confirmation from AAFCO on whether or not FM is now an allowable component in these last two ingredients).

FDA Report on Conditions at Diamond Pet Foods

Some rather unsettling details in the initial FDA inspection report on the inner workings of the Diamond Pet Food manufacturing facility in Gaston, South Carolina. For those who haven’t been keeping abreast on news, the recent pet food recalls for salmonella contamination have all be traced back to a single manufacturing plant, operated by Diamond Pet Foods, and producing a wide variety of private label, co packed dry dog, cat and small animal foods.

The Food and Drug Administration Report  detailed four key findings:


All reasonable precautions are not taken to ensure that production procedures do not contribute contamination from any source.
Specifically, no microbiological analysis is conducted or there is no assurance that incoming animal fat will not introduce pathogens into their production and cause contamination of finished product. Also, the firm’s current sampling procedure for animal digest does (sic) preclude potential for adulteration after sampling and during storage in warehouse. On 4/13/12, an employee was observed touching in-line fat filter and oil with bare hands.
Failure to provide hand washing and hand sanitizing facilities at each location in the plant where needed.
Specifically, there are no facilities for hand washing or hand sanitizing in the production areas where there is direct contact with exposed finished feed/food.
Failure to maintain equipment, containers and utensils used to convey, hold, and store food in a manner that protects against contamination.
Specifically, paddles in conveyor (South or Middle conveyor leading to the screeners going to packaging) were observed to have gouges and cuts, which exhibited feed residues. The damage to the paddles may allow for harborage areas for microorganisms and are difficult to clean and sanitize.
Failure to maintain equipment so as to facilitate cleaning of the equipment.
Specifically, firm utilizes cardboard, duct tape, and other non cleanable surfaces on equipment. These materials were observed to have residues adhering. The foam gaskets around access doors to the bucket elevators were observed in deteriorating condition and exhibited an accumulation of feed residues and dust.

All of this is disturbing enough (duct tape? really? At a plant making ‘gourmet’ holistic food, some of which retails at close to $90 per bag?), but the conclusions that TheTruthAboutPetFood.com blog noticed about this report are even more worrisome, namely that  “animal fat” and “animal digest”, per observation one of the FDA report above, are a rather worrisome note, considering that:

A) none of the foods made by Diamond list them on their ingredient labels


B) Animal Fat and Animal Digest are the two key ingredients linked to the inclusion of rendered, euthanized animals into pet food

Read the rest on the Truth About Pet Food blog.

If you weren’t worried before about whether or not your pet’s food was being co packed, this might give you the impetus to start worrying now.