I received this email from a reader, Sharon....
I have a question regarding the ingredient E. Faecium in dry dog food… namely, is it a healthy ingredient? I understand that it is actually not a probiotic but almost an antibiotic. I understand that it is colonized in us and in our pets. However, I have read so many posts about it being dangerous and that it can cause a super bug by over colonizing when it is in dog food or additives like probiotic supplements. I am finding this ingredient listed on everything from Mercola Probiotics to almost every “Natural food”… from Canidae, Taste of the Wild, Blue Buffalo, Holistic Select, Orijen/Acana, Artemis, Evangers, Dr. Tim’s, Life’s Abundance, etc. I am so concerned about it, that I will not even consider a food with it in there. Interesting, it leaves almost only the very well researched and long lived foods.. like Purina, Iams, Royal Canin and Science Diet. There is a discussion thread on the dogfoodadvisor.com website regarding the dangers of e. faecium in dog food. If you google that, there is an entry a little way down (3rd entry or so) where a lady goes through her issues with e. faecium and has all kinds of research articles about how bad it is. The link will not copy or paste in here.. or I would have added it for you. She even has CDC articles.
Also, I really want to feed my dog Royal Canin mini breed. It checks so many boxes for my dog and it is one that he will actually eat. He is a 10 pound, 2 year old morkie. However, I am having trouble with a few things about it. First, the ingredients for all the small breed formulas are heavy in brewers rice and corn. I think those make my dog itch like crazy.. he must have a sensitivity to them. Also, my theory is that he gets super barky and neurotic on food with a lot of corn and brewers rice. Eukanuba is one we cannot use because he gets so crazy on it. Is that common? Then, the Royal Canin foods have Sodium Tripolyphosphate to keep their teeth clean. Of course dirty teeth directly cause all kinds of health issues in a dog, so I would love to have a food with teeth cleaning benefits. But, I have read online that this ingredient is toxic. I know RC puts all kinds of research into its products, but I am concerned about this ingredient. I have also read that it is a neurotoxin.. an am wondering if it is the STPP and not the corn that is making my pooch a bit nutty on the food. Any thoughts? I would love to get my dog to stop itching on this food and feel comfortable with the STPP in it.. then we would finally have a winner! Currently, we are feeding Science Diet Small and Toy Breed Chicken.. but he truly will only eat enough to make it. He does not like it. But, it does like him.. it digests, he has no tear stains, great poops.. so we keep with that. He is a bit lethargic though.. I think from not eating regularly. With the RC Mini, I think he would dive in and eat regularly and feel a spunkier.. but, like I said, he actually gets more than spunky.. he gets just crazy barky and even growls at his friends when playing..which is totally out of character for him. I was wondering, too, if RC has changed its formulas since it got bought out recently.
There is debate about E faecium as a probiotic. Most of the articles that I could find say that it's pretty safe and has been used for 20-30 years without extensive problems. Yes, there are reports of issues, but the benefits seem to outweigh the risks and there are more positive reports than negative ones. However, I don't think probiotics are necessary in dogs that are overall healthy and digesting well. If they have a normal digestive tract then there shouldn't be any need for probiotics. I do prescribe them sometimes, but only in specific GI cases, and typically only short-term. I can't find good evidence justifying adding it to a regular daily maintenance pet food, and am curious as to why some companies decide to do so. I notice from the list in Sharon's email that it seems to be mostly the "niche" and "natural" brands, none of which have strong evidence to support their practices and advertising.
Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP) is included in some products to help prevent dental tartar accumulation and aid with dental disease risks. It is considered very safe in the dosages found in dog treats and dental products. If you look at the studies, the only problems seen were in rats when given 10 times the recommended dosage. I checked several veterinary specialists, and nobody is worried about the small amounts found in pet products. In fact, I'd challenge those who think it's toxic to back up their opinions in real-world dosing, not the extremely high doses in laboratory animals. Now, there is some disagreement on whether or not it is an effective product, and I found even board-certified dental specialists who have different opinions on whether or not it should be used. But their disagreements were only on efficacy and not at all on safety. I wouldn't stop feeding a food that included it, but I also wouldn't use it as the sole form of preventative dental care.
As far as behavioral effects of the other ingredients, I've never heard or seen that. True reactions to corn, brewer's yeast, and similar products are extremely rare, far less common than is typically believed. You could have an individual patient who has a sensitivity, but the reaction is just in that single animal/human and doesn't reflect on the ingredient overall. I've done a lot of advanced training in animal behavior (though I'm not a specialist) and I've never come across any reports of behavioral problems created by food ingredients. If you have a particular individual with such a sensitivity, then you would want to avoid the particular ingredients for that pet. Other pets would likely tolerate the ingredients without any problems.
I hope this helps. Personally I really, really like Royal Canin and it's what I feed to my own pets. I don't know of any board-certified nutritional specialists who don't like Royal Canin or think that it's a bad or dangerous food for any reason.