A new paper links copper storage disease in dogs to AAFCO’s change in copper supplements in pet food back in 1997.
A dramatic increase in liver disease in dogs has been linked to Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) dog food nutrient requirements – the very same requirements that classifies dog food as “Complete and Balanced“.
Scientists performed a “retrospective study” utilizing the database at Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Data from 546 dogs were included “which hepatic histopathology had been performed and for which archived liver specimens were still available.” The study investigated 2 populations of dogs in “a historical time period comprising 1982-1988 and a contemporary time period comprising 2009-2015.”
“Five hundred and forty six dogs, including 349 predisposed breed (PB) dogs and 197 non-predisposed breed (NPB) dogs, were included in this study. All Labrador Retrievers, West Highland White Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and Dalmatians, as well as dogs mixed or crossed with these breeds, were classified as the predisposed breed (PB) population given the well‐documented occurrence of CAH (copper‐associated hepatitis) in these breeds.”
The study found “hepatic copper concentrations increased over time” in both the predisposed breeds group of dogs and the non-predisposed breeds group of dogs. In comparing the results of the two time periods:
In the predisposed breeds group – “median copper levels increased from 291.4 mcg/g in the 1982-1988 period to 604.0 mcg/g in the 2009-2015 period.”
In the non-predisposed breeds group – “a median of 177.1 mcg/g in the 1982-1988 period to a median of 278.0 mcg/g in the 2009-2015 period.”
Of concern related to AAFCO regulations is the following graph. Each dot on the graph indicates the liver copper concentrations of a Labrador Retriever (a predisposed breed). Note the increase of data (dots) after the year 2000 and the high concentrations of copper in liver tissues after the year 2000; AAFCO changed regulations in 1997 (more on this below).
The following excerpt speaks volumes. Bold added for emphasis.
“Beginning in the 1970s, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient profiles, which were based on National Research Council recommendations, required a minimum amount of copper in pet dog food. Many of these trace mineral requirements were extrapolated from non-species specific data. The published AAFCO profiles in 1997 required the use of copper sulfates or chelates in these premixes which were far more bioavailable than the previously utilized copper oxide. This was done despite there being no evidence to suggest clinical copper deficiency was a problem at the time. The nutrient profiles published in 2015 have increased copper requirements for growing and lactating dogs, and maximum thresholds have been removed for all dogs. Since the original minimum requirements were established in the 1970s, it has been common practice in the commercial pet food industry to formulate mineral premixes to meet or exceed minimum requirements. These premixes are often added to the food without consideration for the copper already present in the ingredients. Collectively, these practices could have led to increased dietary copper exposure in dogs. It should be noted that the sharp uptick in the proportion of Labrador Retrievers with Copper > 100O mcg/g was near the time of the above noted changes in AAFCO copper requirements in 1997.”
It is my understanding there will be another paper published by scientists from Cornell University soon – with similar results.
This paper was sent to the chairs of AAFCO Pet Food Committee and Ingredient Definitions Committee. The Ingredient Definitions Committee chair promptly responded, stating this issue was specific to the Pet Food Committee. The AAFCO Pet Food Committee has not responded.
To read the full study, Click Here.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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