Translate This Blog

Friday, January 16, 2015

Nutrition Week, #3: By-Products, Limited Ingredients, Lamb

Our last bit on nutrition topics for now......
Myth #7:  By-products are bad ingredients and  must be avoided
Some food companies will try to convince you that by-products are nothing but junk, undesireable leftovers that have no nutritional value and may include things such as hooves and horns.  This is blatantly false.  By-products are cleaned and processed organ meat that by law and definition must specifically exclude hair, horns, hooves, skin, feathers, and gastrointestinal contents.  Ingredients defined as by-products can include lungs, spleen, kidneys, liver, blood, stomach, intestines, and other organs.  While we may not typically eat these parts of animals, these other organs contain important nutrients, some of which are not found in muscle tissue.  By-products are included in pet foods because they are lower cost sources of good nutrients, not as "filler".
Myth #8:  Over-the-counter "restricted ingredient" diets are sufficient for food allergies
Food allergies are triggered by exposure to a protein and/or carbohydrate source to which a pet has a sensitivity.  The treatment in these cases is to eliminate exposure of these ingredients in a pet's diet.  Typical commercial diets may not include these components on a label or in the recipe, but that doesn't mean that the allergens are not present.  Several studies have shown trace ingredients in pet foods that were not listed on the label.  This is not a problem for an average dog or cat, but for one with confirmed food allergies it could be enough to trigger a reaction. Just because "chicken" isn't listed on the label doesn't mean that there can't be trace amounts in the diet.  This finding is why veterinary dermatologists always recommend more strictly controlled "prescription" diets when diagnosing and treating food sensitivities.
Myth #9:  Lamb and rice diets are better for a pet's skin
This myth derives from a misconception about food ingredients and allergies.  When a pet has a reaction to food you will typically see symptoms related to the skin: hair loss, itching, skin infections, etc.  The way to resolve the problem is to feed a diet that eliminates the allergens and replaces them with ingredients to which the pet has never been exposed.  Many years ago we would use diets that had lamb as the protein source and rice for carbohydrates, as dogs and cats rarely ate these ingredients.  Because the allergens were eliminated the pet's skin would improve, but this only happened because the pet was allergic to other foods and not due to inherent qualities of the ingredients.  Currently lamb and rice are common in pet foods and are no longer considered good "hypoallergenic" diets because many pets have been exposed to them.  These components are no better or worse for an average pet than any other protein or carbohydrate, and for most pets won't give any benefit compared to other ingredients.


  1. Myth #7 - I HATE this myth!! LOL Some of the BEST parts of the animal are considered "by-products". Us raw feeders pay a premium for those parts that are discarded by some as being just "filler"! Would I want to see that as the only protein source on a bag of kibble, no. But same as with corn, if it appears on the label of an otherwise good quality food, that works for my dogs, then I am ok with that.

    Myth #8 - First - only about 5% of allergens have anything to do with food, the vast majority are environmental allergens. Second, people throw around the word allergy like smarties at a kids party - more often than not, it is a sensitivity to the food.

    I am hesitant to recommend ANY kibble to someone who may be experiencing issues with their dogs food. Because usually, they have no clue what actually triggered the issue and usually they have fed about 10 different dog foods, usually making the dog worse, before they even seek help!

    Usually I recommend a raw diet, one novel protein ONLY until symptoms subside, or 4 weeks, whichever comes first. Then we add one new item to the diet at a time until we A) Find a sufficient diet that does not affect the dog negatively, or B) Have pinpointed what the dog is reacting to.

    There is just no way, IMO, to truly limit a diet when you are feeding a "mixed" food. And no matter what kibble you feed, there is no such thing as a single ingredient kibble.

    There is also a couple wonderful supplements I recommend, Sunday Sundae or Nzymes.

    Myth#9 - Yeah that is hogwash too LOL With today's kibbles getting even more innovative in their ingredient lists, gone are the days when just chicken, beef or horse was used. Now we see Bison, Venison, Salmon etc. And like you said, the animals skin got better because they were on a novel protein and rice is easily digested as it is, not because lamb is inherently better for the skin. And yes, since lamb is now found in several dog foods, it is hard to refer to it as "novel" anymore as a generalization.

    I have noticed kibbles using this recently as a marketing technique, so ridiculous.

  2. Once again, Niomi, I'm almost astonished by your knowledge in this area. I wish more clients thought like you and had your knowledge base! I don't disagree with anything at all that you said above, and you're 100% right. In fact, stubborn food allergies are just about the only time that I might recommend using a home-made diet over a commercially prepared one, for the specific reasons you mentioned. It's far easier to control the proteins and carbohydrates to which the pet is exposed if you're making it yourself. In fact, this is sometimes recommended by nutritionists and dermatologists if we suspect that there is a food sensitivity or allergy and want to try and isolate the ingredient. The method is exactly as you describe.

    That being said, there are prescription-only diets available through veterinarians which are indeed novel protein diets and are strictly limited in their ingredients. Another option is hydrolyzing the proteins, breaking them into smaller particles that won't trigger an allergy. But that's a whole 'nother topic!

  3. I have a question... Are brains included in the by-products category, and is that safe?

  4. Yes, in some cases brains can be included, though it is not one of the more common ingredients. Basically it's allowed, but not sought after. Generally that is considered safe, except in areas where bovine spongioform encephalopathy ("mad cow disease") is prevalent, or similar diseases. That's why it is important to monitor for these diseases in livestock that become food sources for other animals and humans.

  5. Great post-what's so funny to me is that people will pay big bucks for a bag of lung or liver treats and then not want to feed a food with byproducts.

  6. how much protein is ok in a dry kibble for a fairly active rat terrier that is not overweight. Fed Bid.
    can a dry cat food kibble rated at 34% crude protein & 13% crude fat with taurine at 0.15% and Omega 6 Fatty acid at 2% among the analysis be used/sharing with the cats.

    Will a biotin capsule be useful for coat and skin?

    Was Started on 25mg bid of Benadryl then tittered down to current dosing of 12.5mg q hs for pink skin and itchiness which has subsided since RXing.

    1. Thank you. Yes saw vet regard pink skin itchiness and loosing of hair. vet suspected some type of allergy possibly mold as it has been EXTREMLY wet in central Illinois this year. vet RXd the Benadryl. I added the biotin, one for him one for me. Coat is soft & shinny. Tried the Lamb&Rice dog food but he quit eating therefore mixed in the cat food,(he ate, at first picking out and leaving the dog food) reduced overall amount a bit based on the higher level of protein and how much he left in bowl. Weight has stayed the same; now eating all the mix. I will try to find a dog food he likes.
      Why is it a dog will eat all kinds of nasty stuff like cow poo and turn his nose up at expensive dog food. (-sigh-)

  7. I wouldn't recommend feeding cat food to a dog at all. Besides the higher protein content cat food has a different balance of nutrients than dog food, and is not designed to be nutritionally balanced for dogs.

    As far as the rest, I recommend talking to your vet, who is more familiar with your dog's specific needs.


Thank you for making a comment on my blog! Please be aware that due to spammers putting links in their comments I moderate every comment. ANY COMMENTS WITH AN EXTERNAL LINK NOT RELATED TO THE TOPIC WILL LIKELY BE DELETED AND MARKED AS SPAM. If you are someone who is posting links to increase the traffic to another website, save me and you the time and hassle and simply don't comment. To everyone else.....comment away! I really do enjoy hearing from readers!