*Yes, we know it’s February and we’re a little late…but we were waiting for some important info on Jackson’s book!

In this issue:

1. News Bites

  • February is National Pet Dental Health Month
  • Cats and rats team up
  • Lawsuit claims puppies have souls
  • Social networking for animals?
  • LCTI for treating feline leukemia
  • Ticklish critters
  • Extra pounds put pressure on pet health
  • More bad news about fat
  • Even more bad news about fat
  • Good news about exercise
  • FDA caves to Big Pharma (again)

2. Preservatives in Pet Food and Treats

3. Report from AAFCO 

 1. News Bites

February is National Pet Dental Health Month.  February is a good time to focus on the importance of regular dental care and how good dental care contributes to overall good health. Many veterinarians are offering a discount on dental cleanings during the month. Dental disease is extremely common in pets, and in my experience causes chronic pain (even though pets may be eating and acting normally); and it risks seeding infection in vital organs like kidneys and heart. A recent survey of pet guardians conducted by Greenies found that 40 percent think it is normal for their pets to have stinky breath; but that’s just not true. A bad smell usually means bad things going on in the mouth. Click here to read more about Dental Care for Cats.

Cats and rats team up. Live land-mines from long-ago conflicts continue to injure and kill thousands of children and adults around the world every year. Dogs have been used to sniff them out, but big dogs may end up tripping the mines and exploding them. A lightweight but equally trainable animal was needed: enter the humble rat. Colombia has been training rats since 2006; but in a unique twist, they are also training cats to protect the rats from predators out in the field. Click here to read the article (the accompanying video is in Spanish, but in any language, it’s pretty cute!).

Lawsuit claims that puppies have souls. A New York woman, Elena Zakharova, is suing the posh New York City pet store that sold her a “defective” Brussels Griffon puppy. The dog, Umka, has serious orthopedic problems that prevent her from walking or running normally. Zakharova is also seeking compensation for thousands of dollars in vet bills. While New York State has a “Puppy Lemon Law,” it is only good for 14 days after purchase. Most genetic problems take months or years to become apparent. According to the story, “[The suit] requests humanity for Umka in that she be considered a living soul that feels pain, and that her pain and suffering is recognized by this state and considered as damages to her.” The pet store Umka came from was shown by a 2011 undercover investigation to be buying animals from shady Midwestern puppy mills known for their cruel conditions. Click here to read the full story. 

Social networking for animals? According to David Lusseau, of the University of Aberdeen’s School of Biological Sciences,  “Social networks are the same across all species and, whilst details of their structure may differ, some properties remain the same whether we are looking at killer whales, spider monkeys or, indeed, humans…Our studies into animal populations showed the ‘small world effect’ is prevalent in the animal kingdom.” Click here to read the article in the Rutland & Stamford Mercury.

LCTI for treating feline leukemia. LTCI is a USDA-approved injectable treatment for feline leukemia. Feline leukemia is a retrovirus that causes immune suppression, and predisposes cats to opportunistic infections as well as cancer. It is not a cure, but my colleagues report that it can help stabilize cats who are showing symptoms of disease. Before you jump on this bus, bear in mind that a positive leukemia test does not mean your cat will ever get sick (in most cats, their immune system will clear the virus). But for cats with advanced disease, the high cost of LTCI may be worth a try (although you should keep working on other ways to support and strengthen the cat’s natural immune response through nutrition and other therapies).

Ticklish Critters. Scientists are investigating tickling in the animal kingdom for its clues about the evolution of laughter. Primates, rats, dogs, owls, and even dolphins emit noises when tickled, and they appear to enjoy it. Researcher Dr. Davila-Ross does not describe these sounds as laughter, but rather as “positive vocalisations,” or expressions of joy. She says, “”I believe that positive communication is closely linked to the evolution of laughter: by communicating with one another positively, we are interacting more with individuals – and it is likely that this played an important role for communication to develop.” Click here to read the full story (including cute videos!).

Extra pounds put pressure on pet health. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 54 percent of cats and dogs in the U.S.–about 93 million animals–are considered overweight or obese, according to the association’s 2010 figures. About 21 percent of America’s cats and dogs–36 million pets–have belly flopped into the obese category. And it’s a 100% human-caused problem, unless your cat has learned call out for pizza! “Obesity cuts short many cats’ and dogs’ lives. Their condition costs owners huge vet bills that could be prevented if the pet were a healthy weight,” says Dr. Ernie Ward, a veterinarian and founder of the association. “Cats, being natural carnivores, get exercise by indulging in their predatory instincts during brief bursts of energy. They can stalk and chase toys or laser pointers. Without these kinds of outlets, cats can become frustrated, and anxiety can lead to overeating,” Ward says.”An extra two pounds on a human is no big deal, but on a 10 pound cat, it’s 20% of its body weight.” For both dogs and cats, the key is restricting calories, especially those from carbohydrates, and increasing exercise. Click here to read the full article at PittsburghLive.com.

More bad news about fat. Brain damage might play a role in body weight. When mice were fed a high fat diet, researchers found evidence of inflammation in the hypothalamus within 24 hours. The body quickly responded to protect and heal the sensitive neural cells, but the diet was not changed, and eventually the inflammation returned. Michael Schwartz, of the Diabetes and Obesity Center at the University of Washington in Seattle, said, “Our data would point to a more structural, biological basis for why it is difficult to keep weight off. It has to do with damage to the brain area that is responsible for controlling body weight.” Click here to read the full article. It would be interesting to know whether long-term damage to the hypothalamus can be repaired if the diet is finally improved; and if cats–who are evolutionarily adapted to eat a high-fat diet–suffer the same effects.

Even more bad news about fat. The American Cancer Society ‘s annual report says that fewer Americans are dying of cancer, but doctors are seeing more patients with cancers linked to obesity, including pancreatic and kidney cancers. And while breast cancer patients are living longer, the risks of developing this type of tumor are rising along with the growing rates of obesity. Click here to read the complete article. While these statistics come from the human side, veterinarians are also seeing increased cancer rates in pets, as well as increased obesity. It is logical that the two are related, though whether one causes the other, or they are both caused by something else, remains to be seen. Read more in our updated article on Cancer Prevention and Treatment…

The good news about exercise. A report just published in Nature shows a new reason why exercise is good for you (and your pets!). A cellular housekeeping mechanism could be responsible for many of the beneficial effects of exercise. This mechanism, called “autophagy,” is an internal recycling system that breaks down damaged or unwanted cellular parts and proteins. “Exercise is known to protect against [cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, infections, diabetes, and more],” said Beth Levine, a biologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, “so it made sense to us that exercise might induce autophagy.” The study also found that exercise activated autophagy in tissues other than muscle, such as liver and pancreas. Levine’s team plans to investigate the role of autophagy in other diseases in which exercise has beneficial effects, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Click here to read the complete article. [C. He, et al., “Exercise-induced BCL2-regulated autophagy is required for muscle glucose homeostasis,” Nature, 481:511-5, 2012.]

FDA caves to Big Pharma (again). After 34 years of thinking about limiting the use of antibiotics in food animals, the FDA has decided to throw out the baby and the bathwater. Responding to its own 1977 proposal, as well as petitions filed in 1999 and 2005, the agency basically said “It’s too much trouble” and would cost too much to withdraw approvals for an array of antibiotics used as growth promoters and disease “preventatives” that are fed to billions of poultry and livestock for the sole purpose of increasing profit. Such subclinical antibiotic use is thought to be a major contributor to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MRSA; not to mention the threat it poses to humans who are allergic to penicillin and other drugs being used in food animals; in fact, FDA’s own task force noted this risk–in 1972! Nevertheless, today some 70-80% of all antibiotics in the U.S. are fed to livestock. But don’t worry, because the FDA, together with AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association), have formed a committee to make recommendations! Whoo hoo! That ought to solve the problem, right? (If you want to read more about this topic in a really silly interview with FDA, click here.)

EPA mandates changes in spot-on parasite drug labels. After the Environmental Protection Agency’s extensive review of adverse events from spot-on flea and tick products for pets, the agency has given manufacturers six months to change their labels to help prevent even more problems than the 44,000 illnesses and 600 deaths reported in 2008. One change will be to make “dog” or “cat” more prominent on the label. Many cats have died as a result of having a dog product applied to their skin, as the dog product is highly toxic to cats. However, EPA declined to participate in the FDA’s reporting program, or to study the possible toxicity of “inert  ingredients” found in such products–but manufacturers are not supposed to keep using inert ingredients that are “suspected” to be toxic. Your tax dollars at work.

Man, this economy is tough, and although it’s improving, the going is still slow. To help you get the information you need about feline nutrition, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and more, we’ve reduced prices on our most popular items in our Bookstore as well as on Amazon and other online outlets. Hang in there, we’ll get through this together!

2. Preservatives in Pet Food and Treats

I recently read a great article about dog treats (Where’s the Beef? Why your dog should never eat another Milk-Bone or Beggin Strip, and you should avoid the Slim Jims), and thought, “Hey, what’s up with cat food and treats these days?” It’s been years since the FDA asked pet food makers to voluntarily reduce the amount of ethoxyquin in their foods, and most manufacturers have removed it completely due to negative consumer pressure. But I thought this would be a good time to take a look and see where we are with chemical preservatives in cat food and treats. Here’s what I found:

Not only the treats named in the article, but many other dog (and cat) treats contain ethoxyquin, including Hill’s Science Diet Simple Essentials and Iams Veterinary Formula Restricted Calorie Rewards dog treats, and Whisker Lickin’s Tender Moments cat treats.

There are also quite a few cat foods that contain ethoxyquin; most of them are veterinary diets–does it make any sense to feed toxic chemicals to cats who are already sick? Ack! Here are the prime offenders:

  • Iams Veterinary Formula Multi Stage Renal Dry Cat Food
  • Iams Veterinary Formula Intestinal Low-Residue Dry Cat Food
  • Iams Veterinary Formula Multi-Stage Renal Canned Cat Food
  • Iams Veterinary Diets Urinary Formula Low pH/S Canned Cat Food
  • Iams Veterinary Diets Urinary Formula Moderate pH/O Canned Cat Food
  • Iams Veterinary Formula Maximum Calorie Canned Food For Dogs and Cats
  • Iams Veterinary Formula Weight Loss Restricted Calorie Dry Cat Food
  • Purina Veterinary Diets DH Dental Health Feline Formula Dry Food
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet d/d Venison and Green Pea Formula Dry Cat Food
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d Feline Dry Food
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Low Allergen Feline Dry Food
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d with Chicken Feline Dry Food
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet d/d Venison and Green Pea Formula
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet d/d Rabbit and Green Pea Formula Feline Dry Food
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet d/d Duck and Green Pea Formula Feline Dry Food
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Feline Dry Food
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet r/d Feline Dry Food
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet r/d Feline Dry Food
The list of cat treats that contain BHA and/or BHT is too long to cover here, but suffice it to say that anything that says “Pounce,” “Friskies,” or “Whiskas” is a likely suspect; be sure to read the label! Oh, and just so you know, “dental treats” aren’t actually required to have any documented dental benefit–and 99% of them don’t.  The exceptions: Feline Greenies and CET Chews (though one could still object to the quality of their ingredients; what crazy people put sugar and starch in products intended for dental health?).

If you haven’t been watching Jackson Galaxy’s fabulous TV show, “My Cat From Hell,” you are missing out big-time! Catch it on Saturday evenings on Animal Planet!

3. Report from AAFCO, Part II

If you’ve been following Little Big Cat on Facebook or Twitter, you know that I attended the midyear meeting of the Association of American Feed Control Officials, the folks who set the standards by which pet food is made and labeled. You can see the first part of my report here: https://littlebigcat.com/blog/report-from-aafco-pet-food-committee/
On Wednesday evening, Susan Thixton and I sat down with current AAFCO President Robert Waltz and Board Member Richard Ten Eyck, in a pre-arranged meeting. Susan had sent questions ahead. It was incredibly generous of these gentlemen to give us so much time at the end of a long day. It was a very cordial meeting, and I think the discussion helped them to understand where we are coming from, and why we are so concerned about pet food; as well as to get our questions answered.
On Thursday, we attended the Ingredient Definition Committee (IDC) meeting. Despite the boring-sounding name, the IDC is extremely important to pet food. Any ingredient used in a pet food or treat must either meet an accepted definition, or be on the “GRAS list” (Generally Recognized as Safe). At this meeting, there was a request for new definitions for Rabbit Meal, Venison Meal and Lamb Meal, which currently fall under “Meat Meal.” Due to the differing meat:bone ratios in these species, the Meat Meal definition does not fit the materials that are available. Susan and I were appointed to be advisers to this committee!
The real take-home lesson for all of us from this meeting is something that I knew, but was immensely reinforced in Reno. We know there is a lot wrong with commercial pet food. There have been plenty of fingers pointing blame here and there, but here’s the truth: AAFCO is not the enemy. FDA is not the enemy. The enemy is the Pet Food Institute (PFI) and the big manufacturers it represents.
PFI claims that it represents the makers of 95% of pet food in the U.S. Now read that carefully. It does not represent 95% of pet food manufacturers; but it represents the big guys–the ones who make 95% of the sheer tonnage of pet food. PFI is a lobbying organization intended to help those big manufacturers make more money. It was obvious at this meeting that every time something was proposed that would benefit pets, or give consumers more information, PFI opposed it. Over the years, PFI has stood squarely in the way of updating the NRC guidelines, dragged its feet on updating AAFCO nutrient profiles, delayed implementing federal regulations, fought putting calorie statements on pet food labels, and has stood on the wrong side of just about every other pet- or consumer-friendly idea to come down the pike. They are fundamentally against any restrictions on what pet food companies can put in their products or say on their labels. Now, the people who run PFI are not bad people. But they are politicians with a very definite agenda, and that agenda does not include making sure that pet food is wholesome, nutritious, or safe.
As Susan said in her blog (TruthAboutPetFood.com), we need an organization to represent consumers to AAFCO. We need an organization to fight against PFI–to lobby effectively for positive changes that will benefit consumers and animals. There really isn’t such a thing in existence now. And it’s not going to appear magically on the horizon, either. We are the ones who are going to have to do it. Are you with us?

Jackson Galaxy’s book, CAT DADDY, is being released by Tarcher/Penguin books on May 10, 2012.

CAT DADDY is a combination memoir and cat care manual.  It tells the story of the original cat from hell, Jackson’s very own Benny.  Benny and Jackson went through hell and back, and it set Jackson on the road to becoming the amazing cat behaviorist he is today. You’ll read their whole story and get Jackson’s insightful tips on raising happy, healthy cats when the book is released this May.

But there’s already something very exciting happening right now.

For every copy of CAT DADDY pre-ordered before May 10, Tarcher/Penguin will donate $1.00 to the cause of saving shelter cats.  To make your preorder count, simply e-mail your receipt (or a photo/scan of your receipt) to: CatDaddyBook@gmail.com.

Charities that benefit:
Best Friends Animal Society
Stray Cat Alliance
Neighborhood Cats.

And throughout the month of February…

Tweetpicture of your cat using the hashtag #CatDaddy from February 1-29th, and Tarcher will donate 5¢ for every tweet!

Preorder at:
Barnes & Noble
IndieBound (to order from an independent bookseller)


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