Oops! Big Error Found in University Pet Food Study
You might recall a study released by UC Davis last year claiming most home prepared diets fail to provide all the nutrients a dog needs. Warnings were all over the news advising consumers to ONLY feed their pet a meal balanced by a board certified nutritionist (otherwise known as commercial pet food) – based on this ‘study’. Well…as it turns out, the study appears to have a significant error (…I believe more than one).
The UC Davis press release on the study that bashed home cooking for pets stated:
“Some owners prefer to prepare their dogs’ food at home because they feel they have better control over the animals’ diet, want to provide a more natural food or simply don’t trust pet food companies,” said Jennifer Larsen, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis and lead author on the study.
“The results of this study, however, indicate that most available recipes for healthy dogs, even those published in books by veterinarians, do not provide essential nutrients in the quantities required by the dog,” Larsen said. “It is extremely difficult for the average pet owner – or even veterinarians – to come up with balanced recipes to create appropriate meals that are safe for long-term use,” she said.”
The UC Davis study analyzed 200 recipes from 34 different sources including veterinary textbooks, pet care books and web sites. They evaluated the recipes using a computer-based program to “quantify the nutritional content” of each recipe. And found only nine recipes of the 200 met “the minimum standards established for adult dogs by the Association of American Feed Control Officials” (AAFCO).
Sounds concerning doesn’t it? And the results from the UC Davis study almost seems like it’s impossible to properly feed our pets from home.
The computer based program used to analyze the nutritional content of pet food recipes was from a company co-owned by none other than Dr. Larsen (of UC Davis – one of the authors of the study).
Further, it needs to be noted that the UC Davis/Dr. Larsen study was comparing apples to oranges…times ten. As was stated in the press release, the UC Davis study was comparing the nutritional standards for dogs to the nutrition dogs consume when eating real food (from home prepared recipes). The problem (and a significant problem it is) is that the nutritional standards for dogs (and cats) are based on the nutrition provided by common commercial pet food ingredients such as chicken meal, or by-product meal or added supplements. Nutritional standards are not based on the nutrition provided by whole foods – actual human grade chicken and vegetables purchased from your local grocery store. So this study tried to compare apples (real food) to oranges (commercial pet food ingredients like powdered chicken meal with added supplements). It can’t be done. There is no comparison to a roasted chicken you cook in your oven to the powdered chicken meal used in many pet foods. They are both ‘chicken’ but the comparison stops there. The scientists that performed this study should have known better than to try to compare the two.
However, to explain the biggest ‘but’ to this UC Davis study, we need one more quote from the press release (bold added):
“Some of the deficiencies, particularly those related to choline, vitamin D, zinc and vitamin E, could result in significant health problems such as immune dysfunction, accumulation of fat in the liver and musculoskeletal abnormalities,” Larsen said.”
The UC Davis study stated the National Research Council recommends “339 IU” of Vitamin D (per 1,000 kcal) for adult dogs. This is incorrect. The 2006 National Research Council publication actually recommends “136 IU” of Vitamin D (per 1,000 kcal) for adult dogs.
UC Davis study: 339.0 IU of Vitamin D per 1,000 kcal
NRC recommendation: 136.0 IU of Vitamin D per 1,000 kcal
The UC Davis study bashed home prepared meals for pets…compared recipes to a hugely escalated nutrient (vitamin D)…and they made it sound like these recipes were so deficient, harm could be caused to the pets that ate these foods. The study intentionally swayed consumers away from home prepared pet foods. When actually, should any of the recipes examined in the study have met the escalated, falsely quoted NRC recommendation of 339 IU of Vitamin D…that’s when the pet could have actually been harmed. The real “significant health problem” is that a university published, peer reviewed study made a 250% error in nutrient comparison.
(The UC Davis study was published in the June 2013 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Copies of that study can be acquired here: http://avmajournals.avma.org/doi/full/10.2460/javma.242.11.1500. The 2006 National Research Council nutrient requirements of Cats and Dogs can be acquired here: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=10668).
Now why would a major university disparage home prepared pet food? Why would a major university disparage the work of over 120 other veterinarians (formulators of the recipes the study bashed)?
This is a picture taken from the UC Davis website – of Dr. Larsen.
Those cans of pet food in the dispenser next to Dr. Larsen…they are Science Diet. In the video of this Fox News story about the UC Davis/Dr. Larsen study you also notice canisters of kibble. If you look quickly you’ll see the names Purina and Royal Canin on the canisters.
Three guesses – first two don’t count – as to why a study published by veterinary nutritionists from a major university told consumers NOT to feed their pets real food. We all know why don’t we?
The following questions were sent to Dr. Larsen (a response email stated she would be out of the office until June 30, 2014)…
Hi Dr. Larsen,
I’m writing asking for a statement from you regarding the peer reviewed study you published last year finding home prepared diets provided insufficient nutrition to dogs.
I understand your study was published using incorrect variables for Vitamin D; significantly incorrect. I am publishing a story on this significant error in your study – that was not caught by the peer review. If you would like to provide a statement regarding the error, please provide this right away.
Also, if you would like to address a few other questions that I will mention in my story, I will be glad to provide your side of the story. Those questions are…
Will you/UC Davis be issuing an apology to all pet food consumers and veterinarians regarding this error?
Will you/UC Davis be providing the names of those that reviewed the study (those that also missed the significant Vitamin D error)?
Will you/UC Davis be releasing your raw data to this study to verify that other variables used to compare nutrient information of home prepared recipes were as insufficient as your study claimed? (You must realize that this significant error with Vitamin D does bring doubt to everything else in the study and all involved.)
Was funding for this now flawed study provided by any of Big Pet Food or their trade associations? Will you be providing full disclosure of who funded this study?
Because you compared whole food recipes – recipes using meats and vegetables sourced from USDA inspected and approved for human consumption foods – to the nutritional requirements of dogs eating mostly kibble (highly processed) made from meats and vegetables sourced from ‘feed grade’ ingredients (including 4D meats, pesticide or chemical laden rejected for use in human food vegetables) – wasn’t your study trying to compare organic apples to 3rd generation genetically engineered oranges? The 2006 NRC Nutrient requirements of cats and dogs was funded in part by The Pet Food Institute (PFI) – the trade organization for Big Pet Food. This funding provided the PFI significant perks to influence the outcome of the NRC research (source: http://www.nationalacademies.org/xpedio/groups/nasite/documents/webpage/na_069619.pdf). As well, the 2006 NRC research was determined based on “utilization of nutrients in ingredients commonly produced and commercially available”.
Common ingredients such as genetically modified grains and rendered meat meals including those sourced from 4D animals (dead, diseased, dying, and disabled). Again – and your response to this question is requested – wasn’t your study trying to compare whole food nutrition using certified human grade ingredients in lightly processed recipes to nutrients from ingredients that are commonly produced and commercially available found in highly processed foods such as kibble? Comparing organic apples to 3rd generation genetically modified oranges?
Your timely response to these questions will be appreciated.
Should Dr. Larsen or UC Davis respond to these questions, they will be published.
For decades, commercial pet food came only in two forms – kibble and canned – and was sourced from feed grade (waste) ingredients. As pet food has changed – mostly due to consumer demand – regulatory authorities and mainstream academia has held onto the past. Most stubbornly refusing to accept the fact that real food is healthier for our pets than feed grade waste processed into kibble or can pet food.
What a shame.
I’m not going back to feeding my pets waste ingredient pet food…are any of you?
UC Davis, Dr. Larsen, and all involved in this study (including the peers who reviewed the study) owe pet food consumers an apology. While we wait for that apology, I hope all that were involved in this study (and all those that were behind this study) open your minds to the fact that pet food has changed. Not all pet food comes from waste ingredients and in the form of a kibble or can. While there might always be some that feel waste ingredient pet foods are sufficient to feed their pets, a growing majority of pet food consumers have witnessed first hand the health benefits real food has been to our pets. They will never go back to waste ‘feed’ pet food.
Addition (added 6/29/14): The following message was received from Dr. Michael Fox (holistic veterinarian known probably all over the world from his syndicated newspaper column and books) – Honor Roll Member of the AVMA…
Hi Susan, FYI: I immediately wrote to Dr. Larsen at UVC Davis after I read the JAVMA article bashing home-prepared recipes for dogs & cats, since she referenced mine from my website www.drfoxvet.com. I said that I would very much appreciate a copy of her analyses of my formulations and if there were any deficiencies or imbalances from her perspective.
I never received a reply.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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