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animal talk

Pet Food Panic SEPARATING THE FACTS FROM THE RHETORIC

Continued / By Kristina Dow taurine and its precursors are available to dogs and cats fed extruded plant-based kibble!

How Legumes Got Into Pet Food Travel back perhaps 10 to 15 years ago and we find the indie pet food sector having finally succeeded in eliminating corn and wheat as carbohydrate-fiber sources in extruded kibbles. For far too long, those high-gluten grains had been pet food staples that clogged pets’ intestinal villi, damaging them beyond repair, and leaving in their wake leaky gut syndrome, with symptoms including systemic food sensitivities. Gut-damaging soy had also disappeared. But, unfortunately, it was not all good news. In place of the corn, wheat, and soy was white potato, a nightshade family vegetable known to be high in solanine, a plant toxin produced as a defense against insects and herbivores, and decidedly not good for digestion. But white potato was not to be long in pet food . . . Fast forward a few years, and we find bags of kibble touting their contents to be both grain-free and white potato-free. It seems that the surge in inflammatory bowel disease, symptomatic of solanine poisoning, caused a rethink of the use of white potato, and a new trend emerged with legumes (primarily peas, chickpeas, lentils, and beans) as a white potato substitute. Those legumes supplied the starch and fiber necessary to make extruded kibble, and came with an added bonus of a cheaper protein boost than meat would afford. They, however, did not come problem-free. At the outset, there were predictably two problems with feeding pets a diet high in legumes. The first was legume phytates, and the second was legume lectins. Both are classified as antinutrients as a result of their action as binders that inhibit the complete digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. As such, and not unlike soy and white potato, both of those legume binders were known to cause intestinal inflammation. In addition, the legume lectin binders, not unlike corn and wheat glutens, were known to cause the breakdown of the lining of the intestine and lead to leaky gut. As the use of legumes in pet food gained popularity, yet a third issue with legumes began to manifest as veterinarians became heavily invested into the notion that poultry, meat, and fish proteins were responsible for an epidemic of yeasty, itchy dogs. While poultry, meat, and fish proteins manifested as the problem, legumes were actually responsible for it. Just as with white potato, legumes brought with them naturally occurring plant toxins that protected the legume pulses from insects, herbivores, and scavenging carnivores. In a more natural setting, those legume plant toxins would either heave out of the body with violent vomiting, or trigger the gut to empty prematurely, causing the herbivore or scavenging carnivore to spew diarrhea. 22

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Either way, the herbivores and scavenging carnivores would teach their young to avoid legume pulses, just as nature intended. For pet owners, however, the effects of legume plant toxins were not always so clear. While vomiting might occur, diarrhea was often masked by the large volume of fiber added to extruded kibble in an effort to ensure the production of firm stools. Although the premature emptying of the stomach would occur, there would likely be no sign of diarrhea. But the effects of the digestive disruption would manifest in other ways. In the case of poultry, meat, and fish proteins, when those complex, long-chain amino acids would enter the intestines and bloodstream completely digested, they would be seen by the body as the same amino acid units that would naturally occur in the body itself, and they would not prompt an immune response. If, however, the breakdown of those complex, longchain proteins was disrupted so as to leave protein chains sufficiently intact to be recognizable to a dog’s or cat’s immune system as something other than the dog or cat itself, then an immune response would be prompted and the undigested proteins would register as an allergen. But the poultry, meat, or fish proteins themselves would not be the problem; rather they would be a manifestation of a problem with digestive disruption caused by natural legume toxins. And now, in the midst of this DCM crisis, it begins to become clear why legumes might well be a factor in the crisis, both as antinutrients inhibiting the complete digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, and as digestive disruptors interfering with the breakdown of complex, long-chain proteins into amino acid precursors. Recommended Feeding Options With so many questions remaining unanswered regarding plantbased diets and the associated risk factors for canine heart disease, prudent alternate feeding options for dogs specify diets that demonstrate the inclusion of high amounts of quality meat, poultry, or fish proteins, along with the elimination of any reliance on plant-based proteins, and a limited use of nonnutritional dietary fibers. Avoid corn, wheat, soy, white potato, and legumes, even as starch and fiber alternatives (corn, wheat, soy, white potato, and legumes all interfere with healthy digestion). Instead consider white rice or brown rice, barley, millet, or oatmeal as viable starch and fiber alternatives in dry, kibbled foods. And now might be a good time to consider feeding your pet a traditional complete and balanced raw food diet, naturally high in quality animal proteins, naturally devoid of plant-based proteins, and naturally low in dietary fiber. Beware, however, of some of the newer raw food diets that contain pea or other

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Our BerkshireTimes Magazine, Spring/Summer 2019  

Our BerkshireTimes Magazine is your resource for local events, community news, and vibrant living in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts....

Our BerkshireTimes Magazine, Spring/Summer 2019  

Our BerkshireTimes Magazine is your resource for local events, community news, and vibrant living in the Berkshire region of Massachusetts....

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