Letters: 06/06

is clearly suffering

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Dear readers: The response to our article on Dog Gone Pain, featured in “Safe Pain Relief” (May 2006), has been heavy and swift. Quite a few of the letters we received resembled the following:

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I ordered DGP for my seven-year-old Labrador, who has had a shoulder problem for two years, and noticed improvement quickly. She sees a chiropractor and receives acupuncture, but this really seems to help her pain.

Diana Pintel, Mistypoint Labradors
Lake Almanor, CA

But then, we also received letters like this:

As the owner of a senior Golden Retriever suffering from bilateral hip dysplasia and spinal arthritis, it was with great interest that I read your article on DGP. Our guy, Teddy, is clearly suffering, so we decided to ask our veterinarian about it. Our vet practices conventional, holistic, and Eastern medicine, and is very open-minded.

His answer was surprising. He said the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) strongly advises against recommending any product with undisclosed ingredients. He further stated that because of the undisclosed ingredients, he can’t guarantee there will not be negative interactions with the two medications Teddy must take, soloxine for thyroid and Enalapril for his kidneys.

As Teddy’s options are limited, we will try anything to make him comfortable. Conventional medications are no longer effective, so we will cautiously try DGP, but we expected a more positive response. Perhaps it could be suggested to the manufacturer that they be more forthcoming with the ingredients so American veterinarians can be comfortable talking about and recommending this product.

Donna Zeiser
Levittown, NY

Thanks, Donna, for your thoughtful and caring letter. I was unaware of the veterinary community’s anxiety or wariness about undisclosed ingredients until my recent correspondence with Dr. Susan Wynn (our interview appears in this issue). Dr. Wynn expressed her concern with DGP this way:

“As long as they keep secret their ingredients, no veterinarian will ever be able to ethically recommend the product. And while I think the stuff works, who is to say that it’s not working because they added a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, the way some unscrupulous Chinese herb producers do?”

I’ll be contacting the makers and distributors of DGP and asking them for a response to these very valid criticisms. I absolutely agree that any legitimate supplement maker should be happy to disclose all of its ingredients, especially to interested veterinarians.

I must say that I have only rarely heard vets express concern over the undisclosed ingredients in things like spot-on pesticides and so-called inert ingredients in the conventional drugs and topical medicines they sell and prescribe. On the other hand, though, at least those things have been tested and approved by the FDA. I could debate both sides of the issue all day; let’s move on to more critiques!

I was very taken aback by “Safe Pain Relief.” I am a clinical psychologist (and dog fanatic, of course) and have extensive training in experimental design. The fact that the “experiment” designed by Jan Skadberg did not include a control group of any sort, nor utilized a double-blind design, renders the results useless, in my opinion.

The entire body of results could easily be explained by the placebo effect (in other words, the owners knew they were giving something potentially helpful to their dogs, which may have altered the owner’s behavior toward their dogs, which in turn may have affected the dogs’ behavior, resulting in the findings reported). It would have been so easy to make this a double-blind study. In this way, the placebo effect, which has been proven over and over again to be very powerful, would be removed as a variable.

Beth Fishman, PhD
El Prado, NM

I proudly own two wonderful Tibetan Terriers and am an interventional cardiologist. I have always tried to practice “evidence-based medicine.” I support the NIH initiative to scientifically evaluate nontraditional medicine and have a completely open mind to the conclusions.

That said, your article on DGP was naive and ill-advised. DGP may be a wonderful remedy, but the “study” you reported was amateurish and would be laughed at by any respected scientific journal.

Alan S. Brenner, MD, FACC, FSCAI
Elkins, NH

For what it’s worth, the article’s author didn’t misrepresent her methodology; it was admittedly homegrown. And she did state that her goal was simply to test the product on enough dogs to see for herself whether her own dog’s experience was a fluke. If it performed well, she wanted to publicize this in hopes of inspiring more appropriate and experienced researchers to initiate a large-scale, conventionally structured study.

Ah, well, if you didn’t like the DGP article, you’re going to hate the one in this issue on Willard Water. I’m skeptical about Willard Water myself, but I can’t count the number of readers who have been begging us to publish an article about it after they tried it with wondrous results.

As penance, Dr. Susan “Evidence-Based Medicine” Wynn has assigned me the task of writing an article for WDJ about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the various types of scientific evidence: case studies, meta analysis, in vitro testing, clinical trials, and more. I’ll be in my room.

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Visit to a Pet Food Factory
Thank you for accepting our invitation to tour Natura Pet Products’ California baking facility and our state-of-the-art dry food manufacturing plant in Fremont, Nebraska. I’m pleased that you had the interest to learn about the different programs and certifications it takes to provide the best and most healthful foods for companion animals.

As you accurately pointed out in your dry foods review (“The Right Stuff,” February 2006), using high quality ingredients isn’t enough. A total – almost fanatical – commitment and focus to quality manufacturing processes and quality assurance programs is the only way to give pet owners the confidence they deserve when choosing a product to feed their pet. This has become magnified in light of the unfortunate recent event in our industry. [Editor’s note: Atkins is referring to the death of a number of dogs in December 2005 due to poisoning from aflatoxin in some foods made by Diamond Pet Foods.]

Natura is committed to the highest standards for safety, reliability, and consistency by achieving and maintaining all of the third-party certifications that you listed: the American Institute of Baking (AIB) Superior Rating Certification, Organic Production Certification, USDA APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) Registration and the ISO 9001:2000 Compliance Certification. By pointing out the importance of these processes and certifications, WDJ helps pet caretakers make an informed choice when choosing foods to feed their companions.

Peter Atkins
Vice President, Natura Pet Products
San Jose, CA

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More “Completely Convenient” Frozen Raw Diets
We missed the opportunity to include at least two (and surely more) manufacturers of frozen, raw diets in our April 2006 article about these products.

Oma’s Pride is a division of a meat-packing company that has produced meat and poultry for restaurants for more than 50 years. The company states that the Oma’s Pride products are made out of the same USDA-inspected and -approved ingredients as its parent company uses. Products include a chicken- and a turkey-based mix (each consisting of 70 percent meat/ground bones, 10 percent organ meats, and 20 percent vegetables); a beef mix (also 70 percent meat/ground bones, 10 percent organ meats, and 20 percent vegetables); and a lamb mix (80 percent meat/ground bones and 20 percent vegetables). The company also sells raw, recreational chew bones, tripe, organ mixes, and other meat products. Available via direct shipping, in some retail outlets, and from the manufacturing plant itself.

Oma’s Pride – Avon, CT; (800) 678-6627; www.omaspride.com.

Pepperdogz presents its frozen raw diets in 8-ounce “chubs,” kind of like a little frozen log. This form and size, the company claims, best resists freezer burn and “snow,” yet is easy to thaw. Three varieties are offered: “Perky Turkey,” described as a low-fat alternative to chicken, contains turkey, ground turkey bones, and turkey liver and heart (all from cage-free, antibiotic-free poultry); “Kick’n Chicken” is similar, only with chicken; and “Go Go Buffalo,” which utilizes range-fed buffalo as a beef alternative. All three contain vegetables, fruit, natural oils (flax seed, oil, evening primrose, and safflower), and a variety of supplements. Available from select locations in Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington, and online from Only Natural Pet Store (www.onlynaturalpet.com).

Pepperdogz – Petforia, LLC; Bellevue, WA; (866) 866-DOGZ; www.pepperdogz.com.

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Corrections
“Completely Convenient,” in the April 2006 issue, contained some errors.

The home office of BARFWorld, Inc., is now located in Danville, CA. Also, we stated that Dr. Ian Billinghurst is no longer connected to BARFWorld, Inc. In fact, Dr. Billinghurst is still a shareholder in the company. However, since April 2003, he is not on the Board of Directors of the company and has not been involved in its day-to-day operations.

We incorrectly reported that the vitamin/mineral component of the raw, frozen diets made and sold by Nature’s Menu, of Lake Geneva, WI, is sold separately. This is incorrect. Nature’s Menu’s diets do contain a vitamin/mineral supplement and are formulated to be “complete and balanced.” We regret the errors.

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Giardia Addendum
We have some additional information about “A Water-Lover’s Worry” (May 2006). First, regarding when to recheck a dog’s stool after treating her for a Giardia infection: We reported that parasitologists advocate retesting the dog three to four weeks after treatment ends, and the practicing veterinarians we consulted observed that guideline. But we’ve since learned that researchers are now urging veterinarians to follow treatment with another Giardia test no more than 7 days later. Dr. Andrew Peregrine, Associate Professor of Clinical Parasitology at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, explains that, if results are positive, waiting longer than this makes it difficult to know whether the drug failed or the dog got reinfected.

Also, we’ve learned of another method of testing that deserves mention. The SNAP Giardia® Test is similar to an ELISA test, but has the advantage of being done in your veterinarian’s clinic. It appears to be more reliable than a float test or fecal smear; however, the jury’s still out on whether it’s as effective as an in-lab ELISA. It’s been available in the U.S. since 2004, and just became available in Canada.

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