Friday, May 14, 2010

A Little Knowledge Can Be Dangerous

A recent crusade against Nutro and other commercial pet foods has been undertaken by an "independent" group calling themselves the "Pet Food Product Safety Association". The PFPSA most recent claim is that a specific batch of Nutro cat food contained toxic levels of Vitamin D.

Nutro performed its own independent testing of the food. Here is their response to the issue:

Name: Julie Lawless
Subject: Info for you on recent Nutro story on PFPSA

This is Julie Lawless, corporate communications manager for Mars Petcare US and The Nutro Company. I wanted to make sure you had the latest information from us on the Nutro story posted on PFPSA for your readers. We conducted a thorough investigation and sent a retained sample of the food from the production run for Vitamin D testing. I wanted to share with you what we found (see info below). Thanks again, Julie
As a result of a consumer inquiry regarding possible elevated levels of Vitamin D in one lot of NUTRO® NATURAL CHOICE® Chicken Meal and Rice cat food, we sent a retained sample – taken at our factory from this specific lot – for independent testing. The lab that conducted this test is well-known for its expertise in Vitamin D analysis.

The test results confirm our previous analysis that the Vitamin D levels are well within AAFCO requirements and achieve the target Vitamin D level designed for this food. NUTRO® NATURAL CHOICE® cat food does not contain elevated levels of Vitamin D.

Claims of elevated levels of Vitamin D are being reported on the website of the Pet Food Product Safety Alliance (PFPSA). Our test results clearly indicate that PFPSA’s information is incorrect. In addition to the test results, a number of facts question the validity of the PFPSA claims.

Conversations with the consumer’s own veterinarian did not indicate that food was the cause of the cat’s illness. Furthermore, blood test results presented on the website are not consistent with a diagnosis of a cat that has been consuming elevated levels of Vitamin D.

At Nutro, quality and safety are our most important priorities. We stand by the safety of our food. The consumer’s cat is now in good health and we are gratified that our food did not contribute to its recent illness.

Wondering whether to trust the PFPSA or Nutro on this issue, I visited the PFPSA website. This website is filled with inaccuracies, half-truths and downright dangerous information!

On the page touting recent "news" they is a tirade against Nutro for a presumed problem with their cat food. Here is a direct quote from that page discussing the cat supposedly affected by hypervitaminosis D from tainted Nutro food.

"ANALYSIS: High white blood cells and high lymphocytes generally indicate some kind of immune response. Diseases, allergies, toxins, drugs and foreign bodies can all trigger such a reaction See link. The other high values are consistent with liver problems and possible impairment of the kidneys."
Well we don't have any report of what exactly is meant by "high".... few specific results are mentioned. High results across the board on blood tests most often indicate....dehydration! The main indicator of kidney function, creatinine, is not mentioned, so it is unclear why they believe there is "potential kidney impairment." From a study of basic anatomy, one would know that lymphocytes ARE a variety of white blood cell, and significant elevation of white blood cell count is usually associated with infection. Less likely are the other problems cited here. ALT can rise if the patient is taking medications metabolized by the liver, such as tylenol, aspirin and antibiotics. Viral diseases such as hepatitis, cytomegalovirus and herpes simplex -- can also elevate the ALT, as can gall bladder disease. One must evaluate these finding in conjunction with the clinical presentation and assessment of the patient...lab results alone cannot be relied on in most situations.

The entire "news" page rants on with erroneous logic and unreasonable analysis and conclusions, asserting several times that Vitamin D is rat poison. Well, just about ANYTHING in excess is toxic....including water.

The PFPSA states
"No reasonable person, of average intelligence, could view the research, data, circumstances and symptoms, without reaching the inevitable conclusion this food was the sole cause of this pet's near death experience."
I don't think we are dealing with any "reasonable person of average intelligence" on this PFPSA website.

I also visited their "recepie" page. Setting aside the fact that they can't even manage to spell the word "recipe" correctly, I continued on. There is a grand total of ONE recipe on this page, giving the impression that variety in the diet is inconsequential. There is no mention of the benefits of fish and fish oil, no mention of natural sources of vitamins and minerals such as liver and eggs. The "recepie" includes the use of crushed vitamins and Ca-Mg-Zn tabs with NO MENTION of any sort of dosage. Good lord, isn't this the very problem that they are criticising Nutro for? Again the assertion that Vitamin D is "rat poison"...they fail to mention any natural sources of vitamins A and D that are necessary to good health such as fish, liver in addition to eggs....all of which should be included on a regular basis as part of a healthy, varied diet for pets.

The PFPSA "recepie" further instructs us to add a powdered supplement of the amino acid taurine, because according to this group "there is too little of it in lean muscle meat to meet your pet's needs." This is patently absurd. The richest source of taurine is seafood and meat, so if there is a basis of meat in the diet, lack of taurine will not be a problem. It is high heat and pressure involved with producing kibble and canned food that can destroy taurine. And remember, the sole source of powdered taurine today is China....a risky source as we have seen with importation of tainted supplements in the recent past debacle involving melamine and cyanuric acid. Why would PFPSA suggest that anyone add supplements to their pet food, most likely sourced from China, with no dosing information? This is highly irresponsible.

I believe that commercial pet food is a poor source of nutrition for our pets, and am all for education and information, but overstating the case is not helpful. It is difficult to take a source seriously when they don't do their homework and don't have even a basic, minimal understand the topic at hand.

Having extensively researched dog and cat nutrition personally, I have come across several reliable and useful reference sources. The best overall site for factual, practical and useful information on pet food is Lew Olsen's B-Naturals website.

A visit to this website will provide the reader with a wealth of information about commercial vs home made diets, raw vs cooked foods. Variety in the diet is stressed. Sample recipes are included. Lew also has some fascinating articles on the history of commercial pet foods.

Another excellent site is Mary Straus's website which contains comprehensive information on dog nutrition and health.

Here are links to a series of articles on dog nutrition that summarize and explain important details:
Summary with recipes:

Let's research and present the facts on pet nutrition rationally, basing our decisions on knowledge and research.


  1. Very interested in getting to the bottom of this, especially given the many hundreds of complaints now posted on Consumer Affairs' site.

    Time4dogs, what food have you had tested and what were the results?

    Would be great if you could share your lab reports, and then we'll have something to compare with PFPSA's results.


  2. I don't think Don Earl is trying to set himself up as an expert. He's trying to help people whose animals are sick [or dead] find out why. Since most pfc's won't even admit they have had any complaints let alone give open test results, I have to believe pfpsa over Mars/ Nutro. If Mars wants me to reconsider, they need to publish their test results also. I'm sorry but this reminds me of the attempts to slander any lab that found melamine &/or cyanuric acid in pet food in 2007. I don't use any Mars products, however I do have a dog with chronic health problems from a commercial food. Now I question everything,& my pets all eat mostly homecooked & raw. I do get most of their needed vitamins & minerals from food & vary their diets. I also research any supplements I add. As in anything the answer is to check & double check. Don't rely on any 1 source for info & if a brand of food has hundreds of complaints along with multiple recalls, don't use it !

  3. Thanks Leslie K.... I agree that Mars neeeds to make public their test results and also let us know what lab was used. However, this incident appears to be a case of guilty until proven innocent!! There's such a lynch mob mentality here, it bothers me tremendously.
    By no means do I promote Nutro or indeed any sort of commercial pet food....I believe in feeding our pets wholesome foods, and canned and kibbled foods are sorely lacking.
    It concerns me that this PFPSA website contains so much misinformation though. Particularly that recipe! Yowzer!
    It would be nice if "anonymous" could read my post with a modicum of comprehension. With that immense talent for sarcasm, I'd guess that we have a Pet Disconnection defector in our ranks! Re-read, think about the information, and then maybe you can post a comment that makes sense. Don't forget to read the articles at the end, none of those sources endorse commercial dog food.

  4. There was a recent study done on feeding raw whole rabbit to cats. Several of the cats developed taurine deficiencies.

    I know, I couldn't believe it either. But apparently we don't understand this amino acid the way we think we do. Until we do, supplementation is recommended in all homemade diets.

    Not agreeing/disagreeing with anything else, just pointing this out.

  5. Could I have the link to the data please?

  6. Thanks, "The Dog House"....I did a bit of digging and found the study you referenced. Cats were fed a diet of raw rabbit to see if it would help with their IBD (irritable bowel syndrome) . Although the IBD cleared up, some cats exhibited symptoms of heart failure.

    Even though the cats had been fed meat, the rabbit meat had been frozen which they theorize may have caused the taurine content to deteriorate. Interesting! I had heard about taurine deterioration with cooking and pressure but not freezing.

    Raw feeders rely on frozen foods many times so this is an important factor to consider.

    A study done on healthy cats without diseased bowels should be undertaken as well!! Could be an underlying malabsorption problem.

    Here is a link to the study:

  7. Not a problem. Frankly, I was blown away when I read the study.

    I can't seem to get any information regarding the exact supplier, the storage or preparation of the rabbit. For example, was it ground and then frozen? How was it thawed?

    Also, they used WHOLE ground rabbits... perhaps this contributed.

    I have serious questions about this study, but since I can't come up with enough to simply dismiss it as inaccurate or improperly conducted, there's no other choice than to take it into consideration, I suppose.

  8. The study you cite was a study done on cats with irritable bowel. As such, it can't be viewed as valid information on healthy cats or cats in general. For all we know the cats studied could have had an underlying protein malabsorption issue (most likely) or perhaps (unlikely but possible) a genetic predisposition to cardiomyopathy. Were these cats related? We don't know.

    Analysis of the rabbit meat should have been conducted to determine if the taurine levels were actually low. I doubt that was done because this was not a study about taurine in rabbit meat, it was a study to see if irritable bowel could be improved with a raw diet. So an assumption was made regarding taurine deficiency that may have been incorrect.

    To give us any valid information, a study should be conducted on large groups of healthy cats, utilizing different types of raw meats, with prior analysis of the taurine content of the feed. A control group of healthy cats should be included who are fed a cooked or commercial diet that includes a predetermined level of taurine.

    Not saying there may not be an issue there, but there is not enough data from the study in question to draw any conclusion about taurine deficiency in raw rabbit.

  9. I don't know if I can toss it aside that easily. Assuming that the rabbit meat contained enough taurine, this still has repercussions for animals with intestinal issues.

    I can speak from experience that many, many cats suffer from undiagnosed bowel and intestinal issues that are frequently dismissed as "just the way cats are."

    This study concerns me, and will certainly cause me to recommend a taurine supplement to anyone feeding an animal with any history of absorbtion issues.

  10. "Assuming that the rabbit meat contained enough taurine..."

    That is the basic difficulty involved here, we can't assume anything. It probably did, but did anyone analyze it to know for sure? And what may be an issue for someone with malabsorption problems may be inconsequential for an individual with normal digestive function. That's why I'd like to see further studies done so we can have a better idea of the scope of the problem.

    "This study concerns me, and will certainly cause me to recommend a taurine supplement to anyone feeding an animal with any history of absorbtion issues."

    That is wise advice for any animal with malabsorption. Probably not just for taurine for but other nutrients as well! Particularly fats and fatty acids as those seem especially difficult for individuals with malabsorption issues to digest and absorb.

    I've had many cats in my lifetime....just had one pass away in January at the ripe old age of 23...and have not had one with any sort of malabsorption issue. Thank goodness for that!

    Do you know of a source for taurine that is manufactured in the US? Thanks in advance for any info there!!

  11. This is from

    Pure Encapsulations makes their own supplements and gets their raw materials from Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France, and the U.S. They have Taurine. You can buy it here:

    It does exist, it's just hard to come by and generally involves mail order. :O)