My Comments on The Purdue Bloat Study
First, this study is a statistical study not research. That means they gather information and make conclusions based on that information ONLY, and nothing more. That does not mean it is the "truth," it just means that their statistics show that it "appears" that A = B. This latest paper in the AKC Gazette (2004) was also published in the JAVMA in 2004. In that article in the JAVMA, he appears to actually be drawing back from much of what he has published previously.
Glickman collected diet information on Great Danes that came into the original study. They took ingredient information from each brand of food's ingredient list, and they drew their "conclusions" from that information only. And then, they turned around and expressed those conclusions in a newsletter, as if they were actual research, when in fact, they are only Dr. Glickman's opinion. That is NOT research, that is statistical information and it is not at all conclusive.
Anyone that has owned these dogs, knows that every single book written about Great Dane or giants, regardless of how old the book is, states we need to elevate the dishes. That means, the majority of giant breeds in this country are fed from elevated dishes and in fact, it was Vet schools such as Purdue that taught us to elevate the dishes years ago. Even without that information from breeders, books or veterinarians, it is obvious to an owner, the dogs are more comfortable with their dishes elevated so they do not have to strain to eat. This information about elevated dishes is taught by breeders to buyers, by vets to clients, by books on the breed to the new puppy buyer who is trying to educate themselves.
The majority of dogs involved in this study, were
owned by Great Dane breeders or dogs purchased from Dane breeders,
and that is where the owners received the information about the bloat
study. With that information in mind, it is logical that the majority,
if not ALL of the dogs that came in to Dr. Glickman's survey, have
been fed with an elevated dish. This is simply how he came to his
"opinion" that elevated dishes cause bloat. Also you need
to know most of the dogs that were viewed in this study were seen-chest
measured, while they were at a Great Dane Specialty show or at the
Great Dane week long National Specialty which means all the dogs tested
were actually owned by professional breeders. Virtually 99% all the
dogs measured would have been raised with elevated dishes, hence the
high numbers in the study.
(in my opinion, that is the same logic as if you see a pregnant woman with pierced ears, that means every woman with pierced ears is pregnant ).
Now enough time has passed, that some of the dogs that were not supposed to bloat due to chest ratios, HAVE bloated and this has caused some considerable skepticism in the breed. Knowledgeable breeders tend to disregard this study completely anyway. I believe this has probably been somewhat of an embarrassment to those involved in the study and therefore the focus of the study has now shifted to other issues like elevated dishes and diets (citric acid, fats, etc.). Dane breeders are no longer dumping money into this project because they realize the real problem is the enviroment of the gut and with changes in foods and the use of probitoics in the past 15 years the amount of bloat has severly decreased.
Citric Acid/Fats etc.
To comment on the citric acid and fats issue.....the past 15 years have shown us a tremendous decrease in the incidences of bloat in my breed, that is not science, that is anecdotal observations shared from breeder to breeder. This is due, in part to better diets that are now available to breeders/owners. The use of meat based foods, natural preservatives, higher quality fats and probiotic/digestive enzymes have helped to provide a better nutrition which in turn provides a quality live and longevity for these animals.
The Bloat study says -- one should not use a food with fat in the first four ingredients, or a food should not contains citric acid (a natural preservative) and the food should have rendered meat meal containing bone in the first four ingredients. Dr. Glickman's study suggests that these things cause bloat in canines. This conclusion is illogical, is made in the absence of real scientific research, is based in opinion only and severely flawed.
(Of course they ever look at things like pH environment of the gut, or high levels of pathogenic yeast or bacteria in the enviromnent of the gut perhaps due to over use of grain based foods, antiboitics and excessive vaccinations). (See Bloat and Systemic Yeast Article).
The article regarding the Purdue Bloat research, that was publised in the AKC Gazette has done a great disservice to the canine community because by its implications it make people think foods containing these fats, citric acid etc. will cause bloat, and it will steer people into the wrong direction. This implies people should use the foods we had in the 1950-60's when we were actually inundated with bloat cases - the number 1 killer in large and giant breeds at that time.! To go back to this type of nutrition for their animals, is irresponsible and suggesting this is unconscionable in my opinion.
Stress and Bloat
If you ask any well seasoned, knowledgeable breeder who lives with these animals, they will tell you stress is the trigger for bloat. Not the cause, but the trigger. They will also tell you they believe the size and ratio of the chest measurements has absolutely nothing to do with bloat. If this were true, you would not see bloat in other breeds of all sizes; Dalmatian, Cockers, Pugs, Irish Setters, Miniature poodles, Chows, Labs, etc., and it is a problem for many of these breeds and not specifically the large/giants.
This problem crosses into all breeds, but I believe it is more of a problem in the large and giant breeds because they are out of the range of what is considered "normal". Therefore the large/giants are more prone to problems and react strongly to stress shifting the body's pH levels and often resulting in an environment that encourages the growth of pathgenic bacteria, which in turn causes bloat. In the case of giant breeds, they are a freak of nature an exotic pet, and without (wo)man's intervention, they would have fizzled out a long time ago. We have pushed their physiology to the limit for the canine species, making them more prone to all diseases and conditions and less able to handle stress.
In other words, giant breeds are out of the normal size range of a canine, and are prone to stress because of this, and consequently more prone to bloat and ill health. With the advent of the better diets, it has, in my opinion helped to increase the vitality and well being of our giants and decrease the incidences of bloat. But that is my experience and opinion only, based on interacting with thousands of pet owners, and large and giant breed breeders over the past 34 years in dogs.
Feeding Better for Better Health
Nowadays, most owners feed a better quality food to their giants and THAT is why the foods that were reported to the survey contained citric acid a natural preservative, higher quality fats and meat based diets.
These are improvements in manufactured dog foods and most people feed better foods to their Danes, partly because of my efforts to educate the public with my articles, over the years. That is why there was a greater incidence of dogs fed on elevated dishes, and fed meat based diets naturally preserved with citric acid and better fats. Therefore it only makes sense if more people are feeding better diets containing these items, these will be a common denominator in the dog's diet, whether they are in a bloat survey or not. But that does not prove that these items make a dog more prone to bloat. Conversely one could say these items in a food could have prevented nutritional stress and bloat in thousands of other dogs that were not reported to the survey.
Personally, most breeders ignore what has gone at Purdue, because we know nothing more than we did 30 years ago. Ask any old-timer and they will tell you Purdue has missed the mark and it is a colossal waste of time and money. There were vast amounts of money funneled into Glickman's survey, and we know nothing more than we did years ago. I witnessed this discussion just last week at the an AKC breed club meeting, this was their opinion of the Purdue Bloat research..."there was little relevance to the breed, and those involved in the study are just milking this thing for all they can get." From the feedback I receive, experienced breeders ignore it, because it is not relevant information and has no reference to their life experience with these animals.
I still believe, for what it is worth, bloat is triggered by stress. Stress can be interpreted as many different "stimulus" from poor quality diets, over vaccinations , hormonal imbalances, disruption of pH balance of the gut due to over use of antibiotics and numerous other factors.
It is interesting that respected Akita breeders have come to the same conclusion, as well as Dr. Kruger, a very well known veterinarian, GSD breeder and judge. There are other breeds that have come to the same conclusion regarding bloat, that it is a common "body response" triggered by stress factors, of which there are many, and good nutrition (including meat based naturally preserved diets (citric acid) and high quality fats, play an enormous role in the prevention of disease and bloat.
I have an article on Systemic Yeast Infections and their relationship to bloat, and feed program for dogs prone to bloat. This information addresses this issue of bloat and keeping the digestive system in good health, through better nutrition.