Linda Arndt ~ Canine Nutritional Consultant

Eagle Interview Page 2

Eagle Interview continued... Return to Page 1

Q:Linda: As I had mentioned to you earlier, over the 18 years I fed one of the other well known premium foods on the market. When I switched to Eagle Pack, I found that I have been able to reduce the amount of food consumed per month by one-third.

A:Joe: That is one of the things we found in Alaska. The average sled dog, prior to the introduction of Eagle, consumed between 3-5 pounds of food per day. To be competitive, the sled dog must be able to run between 90 -100 miles per day. Based on the existing caloric tables, it is said to expend that much energy, the dog should consume between 5,000-7,000 calories per day. The dogs running on Eagle Pack used between 1 to 1-1/2 pounds per day and around 3,000 calories per day. What that proves, is it is not the total mass of caloric values, but the quality of the type of calories consumed that is important.

Q:Linda: Many owners supplement their dog food - Vitamin C, yogurt for friendly bacteria, enzymes, kelp, etc. How do you feel about tampering with the diets?

A:Joe: Well, first of all, I can see no sense in someone spending $25 to $35 per bag for dog food and then having to buy those things. Our philosophy is, as the manufacturer, we should be able to buy and incorporate those things into the diets (if they have any value), and we at Eagle have determined those things have value and, therefore, are incorporated into our feeds.

Q:Linda: One of the things that I was excited to see is that you have developed canned foods (chicken, lamb, beef, liver) that are a mixer as well as a prescription diet. At this point it seems one manufacturer monopolizes the market for prescription diets. I have noticed your canned food has an interesting combination of ingredients as well as what is intentionally left out. What are you trying to accomplish with your prescription canned diet?

A:Joe: Let's look at what we have done with the natural canned meat. What we found was the average owner feeds canned meat in combination with dry. So, they buy Eagle dog food, then go out and purchase another brand of canned meats and treats. In doing so, they are combining foods that have been developed under three different philosophical approaches to a commercial food. So we decided to develop a canned food and treat that "fits" our dry food line. When you're feeding the animal, we want continuity of philosophical input, so we can accomplish the same thing with each product.

Q:Linda: Why is there higher protein in the prescription diet?

A:Joe: We looked at other canned prescription diets made and all they provided was a substance level of nutrition. If you have an animal that is on a prescription diet, it means he already has a problem; and if all I am providing him with is subsistence level input, he is probably not going to get any better. So we began evaluating different protein levels in different packages, and developed our four canned foods, because we are not only looking to maintain the dog, but to correct a problem.

Q:Linda: It would seem to me, if an animal is on a prescription diet (unless it is a pancreas or kidney problem) where they would need a low fat diet, they would need something highly digestible with enough protein to build what they are losing in weight and muscle mass.

A:Joe: Yes, because when we put protein into anything we enhance the amino acid structure that gives us more of the corrective ability that you just discussed.

Q:Linda: You also have a dry food that is low fat that can be used as a prescription diet too.

A:Joe: Yes, that is correct. We have a 17% protein, 8% fat dry food that can address those needs. Both the dry and our canned foods have cross-over applications. There are so many specialty products on the market; we felt that we could combine functions of our product line.

We try to broaden the ability of our products to better address the needed applications. From the consumer standpoint, it makes the decision-making process a lot easier - you don't have to have as many products to stock. Because we have incorporated so many essential ingredients into our diets like digestive enzymes, yogurt-like friendly bacteria, kelp, etc. This means the breeder does not have to have such a large inventory of additional additives and the foods have a broader application.

Q:Linda: It has been my personal experience, as well as other breeders, that we have this tendency to want to "cook" and "add" things to the dog's diet …almost as if, "if I don't do this, it means I don't love my dog", or "I am not doing the best for my dog" syndrome. We want to do something extra for the dog. That is why I am so pleased you have developed a whole line of dry, canned and treats that are "compatible companion products", so people have the choice of using quality canned products and treats as opposed to the substandard brands.

A:Joe: We know this. We also know that our dry product is comprehensive; and that we would choose that breeders fed it alone. However, we do know that breeders are going to do what you mentioned … to add canned foods. There is a personal psychological thing that says I have to add something rather than just to feed dry foods. We would prefer that our canned foods were used because supplementing other foods can create some problems.

Q:Linda: Because it throws the balance off?

A:Joe: Absolutely.

Q:Linda: Will you talk about your lamb and rice product - the Natural Pack, lamb and rice product. Well, about two years ago, Eagle introduced the Natural Pack - 23% protein and 12% fat. It has been an answer to a prayer for raising these giant puppies the first year of their life.

A:Joe: Right now we have six products in our line and we have the introduction of the new Eagle Natural Pack, lamb and rice product. Natural Pack has been very successful in feeding all breeds, but especially Great Danes and other larger boned breeds during the first year of excessive growth.

Lamb was included as the third ingredient, however effective October 1991; we revised the formula to make lamb the number one ingredient. We did it strictly from a marketing standpoint; i.e., to provide a product for those pet owners who believe a lamb-based product to be good for their dogs. Eagle's philosophy is that there is no "magic" ingredient, every ingredient makes an important contribution, and not one ingredient by itself can carry the formula. That is why we also include chicken and fish in the formula. By including three "meat" based proteins, a superior amino acid profile is provided for the animal.

Q:Linda: Why do you include rice in your other diets, not just the lamb/rice diet?

A:Joe: One of the reasons we use rice is because it is sort of a universal recommendation by veterinarians for any dietary problems (intestinal upset or allergies). It is highly digestible, 99%. We also found that it works for corrective purposes because it is soothing on the animal and persons system. It is simply easier for the stomach to process and doesn't cause any trauma.

Q:Linda: Since we first spoke, you have since introduced a product called Premium Select. What is it, and why did you introduce it?

A:Joe: Premium Select is a lamb and rice based formula. Unlike our other formulas that have a tri-protein meat base, we limit this formula to just one meat protein for two reasons.

The first is so it can be fed as an isolation or hypoallergenic diet. By limiting the meat protein in a diet to a single source, not commonly fed to the animal, the theory goes, you can begin to isolate just which meat (or vegetable) protein is causing the allergy.

The other reason is, simply, the market demand for a lamb-based product. With a 22% protein level and a 15% fat level, Premium Select is also ideal for developing Dane puppies.

Q:Linda: Why do you include whole dry eggs in your products?

A:Joe: For a couple of reasons. It has protein value, but it is not incorporated into our foods for that purpose. We do not count its protein value when we compute the total protein value of the food - that is an added benefit. In a human diet, it is one of the most easily digested foods we can eat. We use it because it has extremely beneficial skin and coat qualities.

Q:Linda: How about brewers dried yeast?

A:Joe: Brewers dried yeast has a couple of benefits that we consider when incorporated into the diet. It helps build blood, improves appetite, and it is also the source for some important Vitamin B's. Vitamin B is very important in maintaining a balanced nervous system - which is reflected in temperament. It just helps make all those little connections in the system work better.

Q:Linda: Let's talk about the topic of stress as it relates to reproduction, infertility, litter size, bitches not coming into season, etc. How do you address these issues in the formulation of your foods?

A:Joe: We have a couple of opinions on these. One, of course, is genetic. This can predispose an animal to problems in these areas, including the way in which they manage stress. But, what we do is to assume that this is not the case and try to introduce into our formula, ingredients identified as having beneficial characteristics associated with the reproductive process, such as Vitamin E and kelp. Specific ingredients that allow us to maintain the animal in top condition to maximize their fertility. One of the benefits of this is improvement in size and vigor within a litter and easier birth delivery on the bitch.

Q:Linda: So, even though there may be a genetic predisposition for reproduction problems, inability to handle stress or temperament problems, these problems can be directly related to the condition of the animal's overall health. Then, in turn, this would be based on the quality of the diet that the animal is fed. Many animals are under stress if they are in a new environment, traveling to a show or the pressure of showing. It is not unusual to see an animal ringside that may have diarrhea. How do you formulate your foods for those conditions?

A:Joe: Again, this is associated with our adding the probiotics or yogurt-like friendly bacteria to the diet. A stressed condition results when an animal, or human for the matter, is put into an uncomfortable environment. This is generally a problem more common with younger dogs than older dogs, due to their lack of exposure and conditioning.

So what we have to do, is try to prevent the stress induced diarrhea from occurring by introducing a very favorable culture (probiotics/micro-organisms) into the animal's stomach through the diet being fed. When an animal gets into what would be a "stressed condition", it affects his body's pH balance. What that does is it kills off the favorable bacteria count in the intestines. So we re-introduced the yogurt-like (friendly bacteria {probiotics}) in an additional stabilized form that will not be as prone to being killed off due to the change in pH. Our introduction of favorable bacteria through the Eagle Pack diets, increases the colony count of the favorable bacteria to such a level that it probably will not happen.

Q:Linda: Interesting, because I am preparing an article on my thoughts regarding the necessity of using probiotics and enzymes in our diets, in helping to manage stress as it manifests itself in the bloat-torsion in the giant breeds. Although it may not be the only cause, the re-introduction of friendly bacteria and digestive enzymes is closer to what is normally found in the diet when an animal is allowed fresh killed meat. I am really glad to see this is an important part of the Eagle Pack foods - it is just another step in the right direction. What about other forms of stress, such as pregnancy and lactation?

A:Joe: Those issues are addressed through overall formulation of the diet, and the incorporation of adequate levels of a high-quality vitamin and mineral packages; and of course, the favorable bacteria plays an important role in addressing these areas of stress.

Q:Linda: Eagle Pet Products states there is no soy, or artificial color or flavor added to the diet. Can you talk about these topics?

A:Joe: Again, we try to emphasize that through our ingredient selection we can incorporate the important ingredients that the animal needs. We, as a company, are not concerned with cosmetic or aesthetic appeal of the general public. It is important to know, however, that we use the same ingredients from the same suppliers so that we can maintain a continued high quality and consistency from batch to batch.

Q:Linda: Rather than shopping around for the best price on the market? As a breeder, I certainly appreciate the consistency. When you say no added salt, do you mean a no-salt diet, or that you do not add additional salt, only what is natural to the ingredients?

A:Joe: There is natural occurring salt in the meat ingredients, and until recently, we did not add back any salt. What has happened, however, because of the direction that human diets are taking (i.e., less salt), our meat ingredients do not have enough "ingredient born" salt to meet the animal's needs. Both dogs and cats need a certain level of salt for many reasons - among them is that proper salt levels will prevent urinary tract diseases. However, too high a salt content, where a manufacturer adds back more salt than necessary so he can enhance palatability to overcome poor quality ingredients, causes other problems.

Q:Linda: In lesser quality foods (and these can be premium diets) they supplement salt, can you explain this?

A:Joe: In your lesser quality foods, you're talking about a food that has a lower ratio of meat and a higher ratio of vegetable protein. The meat proteins, because they have a more complete and abundant amino acid structure, also have more essential nutrients, particularly minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Therefore, you do not have to rely on introducing a mineral form or a manufactured form of a mineral into the diet. It is what we call "ingredient born". That is why the feed industry assigns more "value" to meat protein than vegetable protein diets.

Q:Linda: It is the same principle as in the vegetarian diet where it is important to combine certain grains and beans in order to get the necessary amino acids normally found in a meat-based diet?

A:Joe: Yes, what you see in a vegetarian's diet is that he/she introduces grains into the diet in a whole form, not fractionated, and the whole form of grains have more protein value and a more complete amino acid structure. But what we are seeing today in the pet food industry, is grain "by-products" as opposed to using the whole grain. By-products, are a preserved form and therefore very incomplete in nutrients and a comprehensive amino acid structure.

Q:Linda: One of my fellow colleagues, from the University, went to Japan on sabbatical. He said the grandparents and the parents were primarily raised on a diet of rice and vegetables, with meat protein being secondary to the diet. He noted that due to the Western influence, the current generation is incorporating more meat protein into their diet. The results being the body structure has developed into taller, heavier and longer limbed form, as compared to that of the previous generations. He also noted that the additional size and height of the next generation is dictating a change in furniture size and architectural scale.

A:Joe: This is due to the more comprehensive amino acids.

Q:Linda: I have long felt that we can actually alter the structure of an animal depending on the way we feed them. I have seen so many Danes and young foals for that matter, that are fed a quality very high protein/calorie dense diet and it seems they shoot straight up and actually gain excessive height, loss of angles and long, lean muscle. I have some interesting photographs from some of my feed trials to support this theory.

John: Certainly, look at your Great Dane standard height requirements where it states males should be no less than 30" at the shoulder, but preferable that he be 32" or more. Females no less than 28", preferably that she be 30" or more. That standard was set when the commercial diets in this country were vegetable protein based and very low in protein.

Q:Linda: Oh my gosh, John you are right - what a great revelation. I never thought about it in that respect. Most of the males are at least 33-35", and bitches, I think, we could safely say are 32-34". Why you'd be laughed out of the ring with a 32" male! I think it is rare to see a 34" male in the ring anymore. Over the years, we have literally built a larger animal because of the higher quality, meat based, more complete amino acid structure. However, I feel we have carried this too far and need to back off on the caloric dense/high protein diets in order to establish a nice mid-range of growth and development - resembling closer to what would be obtained when raised in a natural environment.

John: Yes, we have seen this happen in Brittanys. A lot of breeds are 2-3" taller than they were 40 years ago.

A:Joe: What we like to say about Eagle Pet Pack is, "we make your dog all that he can be". Why? Because we have made available an abundance of essential nutrition by incorporating more ingredients and higher quality in our nutritional package.

Q:Linda: On to another subject: packaging. It is so difficult to get information from some of these companies, and they simply do not give it on the bag. Can you talk about this?

A:Joe: From a manufacturer's standpoint, we feel that it is the quality of protein that is of greatest importance, and the protein and fat content does not even need to be addressed on the bag. What the package should do, is reflect the nutrient profile of a particular product. We do it on our packaging, and we also feel that the bag should have the essential amino acid structure listed on it. If you are very selective in the ingredients you select and maximize the value of your input, you can produce a high quality, lower protein food.

Q:Linda: I encourage breeders to get these giant breeds off puppy food by 8 weeks of age at the latest, and switch to a high quality but lower protein food to slow the growth process. I was so interested to see that you are the only company that actually states something to this effect on the bag.

A:Joe: Yes, we agree with your statement. In fact, if you look at our packaging, it states that you should switch from our puppy food very early to one of our other Eagle Pack products. The reasons being, if you look at the food structure of our products, you will find that all of our products incorporate all of the ingredients that we have in our puppy food … that is generally not the case with other companies.

Our food is formulated for the specific application of feeding a puppy when he is very small, then moving him over to one of our other products. A lot of other products force the breeder to buy a variety of things to supplement a poorer quality food in order to accomplish the same thing that we do with the product alone - it is already in our diets. For us, it is important to have a complete quality vitamin and mineral package in all our products. Here is a good example: let's say a breeder is feeding a maintenance food, then they realize there has been an accidental breeding. This could present some serious problems because the female is not nutritionally ready to support these puppies. So it is our feeling, why not make sure she is ready no matter what the situation.

Q:Linda: I know that if I wanted to raise a litter on your 20% or 23% protein diet I could, because the caloric intake is such that it is suited for growth; plus you use high-quality sequestered vitamins/minerals, digestive enzymes and friendly bacteria. What I mean, is every product in your line has the same important ingredients. The protein and fat levels vary depending on the product and its application.

A:Joe: Yes, sometimes breeders think that a lesser-protein diet is a lesser quality diet, and a higher-protein food means a higher quality diet. This is not necessarily true. We can look at an Eagle product with a 30% protein - 20% fat that is delivering approximately 2,220 calories. Now we can take the protein down to 20% and fat to 12%, and essentially we have reduced the product content by 35%, if we just look at the imperical numbers. But we have only reduced the caloric content by 10%; this shows you what you can do if you carefully select your ingredients. We have taken the high caloric intake value (which is fat) and reduced 40% of the animal fat yet only reduced 10% of the calories.

Q:Linda: In an article I read, it said it was necessary to feed sled dogs 50-60% fat. I questioned this, is this so?

A:Joe: Let's look at this … in people, if they need energy, they consume sugar and that gives them quick energy. However, in a sled dog, if the application is to convey "staying energy", we would not introduce it in the form of fat because the fat calorie is the most quickly absorbed and utilized; so they need a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats. But if you introduce only a high fat/or hot calorie diet, it can lead to dehydration since the fat calorie in an animal burns off at a higher temperature than a carbohydrate calorie.

Q:Linda: Well, that makes more sense. I have a portion of an article from Veterinary Forum Magazine, that states, "There have been studies done that show that house dogs (family pets) undergo the same amount of stress as a sled dog."

A:Joe: Yes, that is true. Same amount, different kinds. With family pets there is constant contact with strangers and abuse from children. The sled dog actually operates in a more stable environment because of his limited exposure to stimulus compared to the family housedog. There's not open visitation at a sled dog kennel. They spend their day in the kennel or tied to a doghouse. Their stress is more physical than a housedog. It is the emotional stress that is the real problem, such as with a show dog. It's the constant changes in the environment, and constant exposure to new situations that are so stressful on these dogs.

Q:Linda: Let's change the subject. Why do commercial dog food manufacturers tell us about the percentage of digestibility or caloric count or gross energy available in the dog foods? Is this an accurate indication of what is really going on in the animal?

A:Joe: What they are trying to do is convince you through a specific marketing approach of certain characteristics of the food. But there is not a consistent approach within the industry in determining these characteristics.

An example would be in determining the percentage of digestibility of a diet - it can't be done without the actual weighing and processing of fecal solids, which is a very expensive process and is not always undertaken. You see, the assumption is by the consumer, that the company wouldn't be selling this product unless it was highly digestible. So they (the companies) rely somewhat on the fact you are as the consumer, pre-sold on a product if it is in a certain distribution system, in a certain type of packaging or in certain marketing procedures.

Q:Linda: I had expressed to you earlier what a difficult time I have had getting any cooperation from dog food companies. I have repeatedly written letters and called asking for specific breakdowns of ingredients and amino acid assay. In fact, one very popular food from the West Coast, put me in touch with one of their veterinarians. Her response to me was, "Why do you want an amino acid assay of the food? I don't even know them, and you probably wouldn't understand the information anyway!" Another extremely well-known company whose food is frequently sold through veterinarians, told me, "We cannot give out amino acid breakdown of our products because there is a lot of industry sabotage going on and giving this information out might help someone to try and duplicate our food formulas!"

This attitude made me very angry because I am a consumer comparison shopper. I am entitled to that information and I certainly did know how to interpret this information. Well, they never responded with any information and only two companies, of everyone in the market, ever responded, with Eagle being one of them.

A:Joe: As a company we are proud to make this information available; although it's true most people would not know what to do with the information or could not assimilate it properly. The other thing is this: if you are making that information available to the general public, there are specific minimum requirements in the AAFCO listing. As to the availability of certain amino acids, you would probably find that companies refusing to supply the information, are only putting in the minimums to meet the AAFCO requirements by law.

Q:Linda: Minimums … that's all?

A:Joe: Yes, that's all. So I would be very reluctant to accept that kind of comment from a company, "Why would you want it, you probably wouldn't understand it anyway!" Because there is a basis of comparison - you can go to AAFCO for that requirement and to a certain extent, the consumer is entitled to that information.

In a lot of applications it would not be beneficial because there are many philosophies regarding what is essential in a diet and what isn't. But we have to look at what is being done outside the pet industry to make an evaluation as to how important that information is. The animal husbandry industry, which is tremendously large in comparison to the pet industry, says that we have re-employed the philosophical approach that was used in animal nutrition 30 years ago. Now, that concept is no longer in vogue, but it is seeing a resurgence of this concept and it is that again of "first limiting" that we talked about earlier. This means if you do not have the essential components in a diet, then it does not matter what else you have. The example I gave: if I do not have the amino acid methionine, then it does not matter what others I have. If I don't have this one thing (or essential components) then the whole thing is a waste of time.

Q:Linda: So this theory of 30 years ago is being re-addressed? This is like the B-vitamins, if they are not all present at once, working in concert, they do not work.

A:Joe: Oh, you bet? It is just one part of a puzzle. People were seeing what they put in a formulation - a linear program extension of that information and what happened was they were not getting the results. The computer said this was going to happen, but it didn't.

The industry placed too much on minimizing inputs to maximize output. What we did (industry) was formulate down to a point where we got the absolute essential minimum to accomplish what we thought was our goal. We did this because it helped generally in the area of cost containing … and now we are saying that it is not valid. It is our opinion at Eagle that you cannot put in minimum levels. You have to put in an abundance, in order to ensure that these animals get that value. This is the other aspect that is so important - you have to put it into the diet so that it is usable by the animal.

Q:Linda: Bio-availability? How much is actually available for usage by the animal or human?

A:Joe: Yes, and this means, in our case, that we get "ingredient born" characteristics. We know genetically, everything that relates to the utilization of that component is better if it appears naturally in a substance, than if it is manufactured in the laboratory.

Q:Linda: That's like natural vitamins - vitamins derived from whole food substances are better utilized than synthetics made in a laboratory.

Let me back up here; in all our lengthy discussions over the past few months and through our discussion today, I get the feeling that the philosophy of this company is to be the best that it can be. If in the process you become the biggest, that is fine. If you become the wealthiest this is fine, but that is certainly not your primary goal.

A:Joe: Well, we don't want to be the biggest because I don't think we can be the biggest and also be the best - there is not enough quality ingredients out there; there is a finite availability of essential components.

Q:Linda: Is it fair to say that is probably what has happened to some of your competitors? That is certainly the feeling most long-time breeders have about a couple of premium foods. I know I have personally seen a change in the results of the feeds over the past 20 years.

One company is so big they even have a line of designer clothes, coffee mugs, and dog toys … who needs it! It "feels" like such a loss of integrity; something isn't right. If the food is good, it will sell. Nothing is more swift than the "breeder's grapevine". I bet you can attest to that fact? If they are making that much money, I'd rather see them donate to research rather than develop a line of clothing containing a logo.

There is always the Morris Animal Foundation or others desperately needing funds for research on the degenerative animal diseases that have cropped up over the past 35 years. Of course, sticking my neck out here, I am convinced most of them are nutritionally-caused and not genetic, as we have been told.

A:Joe: I think that a lot of our competitors have gone through that problem. In some cases, we have compromised our philosophies to accomplish other ends - growth being one, profit, market share - there are so many considerations that are coincidental.

Q:Linda: I am wondering - what do you think about the development of a research center. On one hand it can have positive aspects, but on the other hand it is not real! It has nothing to do with what happens to these dogs in the real world … how they eat, the ways in which we manage their lives. Perhaps that was the downfall (in the eyes of most breeders) of one particular competitor.

A:Joe: In our opinion, we do not want a research facility.

Q:Linda: Wouldn't it be a tremendous financial drain?

A:Joe: That is not the real consideration for us as much as the potential outcome. You know, we all have a "way" in which we approach this business; here at Eagle, conveying this philosophy through training and daily behavior is what we are trying to accomplish. I think you can, somewhat, consider the type of information you generate from a captive evaluation because, whether it is conscious on the part of the evaluator or not, they are going to respond to what they think management wants. Our approach is that we go to the consumers and get an independent evaluation from their standpoint with no predetermined outcome. What we are saying, we'd like to do this, we think we are doing this, but we want you to tell us that. We do not want to go into a laboratory environment controlled by us to make that outcome.

John: There are some benefits to a research facility if all you want to know is how to raise a kennel full of Beagles; but that is not the real world. That does not deal with what happens when these dogs are used for hunting, guarding, going to dog shows and other external situations … none of the day-to-day stress is found in a protected kennel facility environment. Libby Riddles (first woman to win the Iditarod sled race) made a real good comment: "The dogs can look great on a chain in the summer time, but when you hook them up to a sled, things go to hell real fast if you haven't maintained the proper diet."

Joe has been in contact with a lot more people than I have. People like yourself around the country, that are not "fanatic" breeders; the ones that you can listen to. These people have an on-going dialogue regarding these issues, and you know that you're getting some honest feed-back, some valid information and observations. We think that is a better form of "reality basis" research, than a kennel full of Beagles.

Q:Linda: You know, John, that kind of information is really important for breeders to hear (not that I want your phone to be ringing off the hook). There is a definite sense of frustration felt by breeders across the country that no one in research or in the industry is listening to them. I know there have been hundreds of calls regarding one particular food that has caused "browned out/burnt" coat problems the past few years, yet the company refuses to listen.

I have certainly felt a sense of frustration in my years of investigating the pros and cons of commercial dog foods. I wrote a letter to the owner of one of the premium dog food companies, and told him that I had spent at least $26,000 over the years on their particular dog food. I informed them that it was about time they gave me five minutes of time to address some of my questions. It was like trying to get an audience with the Pope!!!

It is my opinion, based on observations, researching and interaction with breeders all over the country and overseas, that we are plagued with more nutritionally-caused diseases in the past 25 years than there has ever been before. Some of which are … hip dysplasia, wobblers, bone diseases, cancer, thyroid, reproduction problems… (and yes, bloat and gastric torsion). Yet, somehow we have come to believe these are genetically caused diseases.

A:Joe: Well, what applies to your breed, applies to others across the board.

John: One other comment on the digestibility issue. About 8 or 10 years ago, there was no way you could get digestibility figures from a company and when you look back, those digestibility figures were from 50% to 75%; they simply did not want you to know.

Where as today, some of the companies are advertising what the digestibility factors are because they are forced by public pressure. One of the ads running right now is advertising their digestibility factor at 83%. Our digestibility runs between 89% - 93%, depending on the product.

Q:Linda: That's funny. In my files, I have a study of two companies comparing each other's product to their own, yet the results printed in their pamphlets are different in each study.

A:Joe: Yes, that is right depending on the technique used. That is why we, as a company, have been trying, since 1980, to get a universal standard set in the industry for the testing of these foods, but the industry will not accept that idea. You have to have a consistent evaluation base. As long as we do not have a defined criterion in the industry, anybody can say anything any way they want to because of the way it is presented and the evaluation technique used.

Q:Linda: Does the pet food industry have a board of regulators?

A:Joe: It has a governing body that is under financed and it will not litigate problems.

Q:Linda: It is rather important then in terms of what it can do?

A:Joe: Yes, the national organization is administered on a state-by-state basis, and it is under funded, and really has no enforcement authority.

Q:Linda: I need to backtrack here a bit … I just noticed, in my notes, when we were talking earlier about research labs and feeding trials, I talked to an orthopedic person at a certain university, involved in research regarding diet and its relationship to bone diseases in large dogs. I had a lengthy conversation with this person regarding the "bone survey" information I have gathered from all the Dane breeders across the country.

At one point, this person said to me, "Well, we don't need to test these foods on Great Danes, I just got in some adult Greyhounds to test these high protein/caloric dense diets" (growth and performance). Well, I said to myself, I'm certainly no Mark Morris, and correct me if I am wrong, but what good is testing growth promoting foods going to do on an already mature animal? So, I asked, "Are you developing a breeding facility so you can test the offspring?" Oddly enough the response to that question was, "No". What kind of information can they determine about growth, using adults?

John: First of all, Greyhounds are a lot different dog, in terms of bone size and growth patterns, than Danes or any other giant breeds. As a breeder myself, I am aware of that.

A:Joe: I guess they think they can extrapolate the information by using adults. I don't know what the thinking is there …

Q:Linda: I really believe most companies and research facilities lump all dogs and breeds together, when in fact, different breeds may need to be fed differently … I see you address that issue, with hounds in particular, in the use of your maintenance diet. Why do you suggest feeding a smaller amount of food, to a given size dog, than other manufacturers recommend? If one over feeds, does that create any problems, such as diarrhea?

A:Joe: Yes, it does. If you over feed an animal, you can run into problems with a looser, moist stool or diarrhea. That is why we ask that you adhere to the specific instructions on the bag. We know they work, and are generally 20-25% less consumption than competitive foods.

Q:Linda: I noticed on your bag of puppy food that you tell people to switch their puppy from the 28% protein back down to the 25%, at around 16 weeks of age. (Note: It is my suggestion based on the bone survey, that you switch off a puppy food at 8 weeks of age and use the Eagle Natural Pack 23% protein instead of a puppy food for that first year of development).

A:Joe: We know from tracking cycles that you can actually raise a puppy from weaning on our Kennel Pack 25%, or our Natural Pack 23%. To come out and say you do not need to feed a puppy food, we'd be answering a million phone calls a day from people saying we're crazy! That would be the consequence of taking that position.

But what we are essentially telling the consumer is, you do not have to spend the money to purchase puppy food. The same nutrient value is also in the adult line. The other thing we are saying is that a puppy food is specifically designed to facilitate the early weaning through the early stages of accelerated development of the digestive system of the animal. We know that process is done by 8 - 10 weeks of age. Therefore, it is not necessary for people to insist you feed a puppy food for a year.

Q:Linda: I thank you Joe for saying that out loud … most company's formulations are not developed with your philosophy in mind. Aren't most foods just a "beefed-up" version of their maintenance foods?

A:Joe: Yes, and in a lot of cases what they have done is to structure the design of those products with different characteristics, so you do not get the essential values needed to feed your puppy. In some cases you might have to feed it for an entire year. Based on our own research, essentially a puppy food has done its job at 8-10 weeks, at which time you can go to an adult food … well, you can with our food anyway.

John: Yes, but remember, that is not the case with other foods.

Q:Linda: So when the giant breeds get into growth problems (H.O.D.) at 12 - 16 weeks of age, is it your feeling, that you should take them off puppy food by 8 - 10 weeks, and place them on a quality premium adult food, like your Natural Pack 23% or the Maintenance Pack 20% protein?

Joe/John: Yes, that is right.

Q:Linda: So barring the giant breeds here, it is harmful for someone to feed your puppy food for a year?

A:Joe: No, but they are incurring an unnecessary expense and they are trying to accomplish something that has already been done way before … of course, I am referring to our product.

Q:Linda: When you recommend a certain food - Power Pack (30% protein, 20% fat) for example, and you expect a dog to gain weight, but on rare occasions he doesn't; instead he firms up and his body becomes harder, what actually happens?

A:Joe: When you introduce more protein (meat based), what you get is a more firm tissue and sleek muscle development. Where as if you introduce a carbohydrate (grain based) diet, you get a more loose and full configuration of those tissues.

Q:Linda: It appears that a protein condition muscle takes longer to develop than a carbohydrate muscle or weight … because some breeders will feed a premium meat based food and then when they want to gain weight quickly, they cut it with the addition of some lesser quality, higher carbohydrate food.

A:Joe: What you get in a lesser quality food is more fat generated from carbohydrates and moisture retention - a loose weight development that is not toned.

Q:Linda: It is a quick fix right, where the dog may plump up quickly but is not muscle developed. Now you have another line of food, other than the Eagle Professional Pack line that we have been discussing. That is the Eagle Hy-Ration line … why is that?

A:Joe: For a couple of reasons. Through our market research we have found that, in many cases, the dog professional is feeding the premium foods for specific application along with also feeding commercial foods. So what we have said that if he/she is feeding another food, we would prefer it be ours so that he/she has a constant philosophical approach to the way the animal is being fed. We feel that our commercial line is very competitive with most of the premium foods out there. "Hy-Ration is a full-line brand."

Q:Linda: One thing with Danes is that you do not have that many people with an excessive number of them, as with some other breeds. I have some friends that have Toys and they have 50 dogs. That is rarely the case in the giants. So, the Hy-Ration line would be used in this application or in boarding kennel situations. In fact, I know of a local kennel that does use the Hy-Ration for boarders and is very pleased with the results.

I want to switch gears here and ask you about your canned line. John and I have talked about the fact that canned foods can affect the dog's temperament with the use of a lot of food coloring, preservatives and sugar ...

A:Joe: We developed our own line of natural canned foods because most canned foods do not carry adequate levels of supplementation of the vitamins and minerals we feel necessary in a food.

Q:Linda: Where the can, can be used alone?

A:Joe: Yes, absolutely. You can feed this canned food straight, It is difficult to understand canned food labels and ingredients. Labels that read Chicken and Rice, for example, must contain 95% chicken. Labels that add qualifying words like "formula", "dinner", etc. may contain as little as 25% meat. Also, a can label that states an 8% protein content, actually contains about 31% protein, on a dry matter basis (so you can make comparisons to dry food).

Q:Linda: Can you explain the difference between digestible calories and gross calories?

A:Joe: Digestible calories mean you might have a product with a gross calorie value of 2,000 calories. Of those calories, the way in which they are delivered to the animal - contingent on the digestive system - the animal might only be able to use 1,200 calories. However, the tendency within the industry, is to list gross calories.

Q:Linda: I have an old flyer in my files from a premium food company in the Midwest and it actually stated that the "use of soybeans have been associated with bloat". Now, that claim wasn't in print for very long, but long enough for breeders and owners to see a red flag and stay away from foods using soybean. Since I lost my first Dane to bloat, it was that flyer that caused me to switch to the use of their premium food. Let's talk about the soybean issue.

A:Joe: O.K. Soybean in itself is not bad as used 10 years ago. More recently it is an ingredient that is abused in its use, and it is not offset through formulation content to address the deficiencies of soybean meal.

Q:Linda: Is it an incomplete amino acid structure?

A:Joe: It is actually deficient in minerals. What happened was people started incorporating higher and higher levels of soybean meal in diets and weren't compensating for the mineral deficiencies, which lead to the manifestation of problems in animals. It got a bad rap, but not necessarily because of the amino acid structure.

Q:Linda: Was this first realized in the agriculture industry?

A:Joe: Yes, it was first noticed in swine. What they found is they had to supplement … that is why they are getting back to the issue of "first-limiting", which we talked about earlier. It not only applies to amino acids, it also applies to mineral deficiencies. We are now seeing more meat proteins incorporated back into swine diets.

They are trying to get the farmer to mix his feed on the farm. They could not do that with meat meal because it lends itself to salmonella contamination if not processed properly. When they started going to a solely-based soy diet, they started seeing serious nutritional deficiencies in the animals. They were selling the farmer what is called a concentrate pre-mix and it incorporated di-calcium phosphate. But what happened was they were incorporating the di-calcium phosphate at the inherent value that it was listed but it wasn't meat appearing calcium and phosphorus; so they actually had a deficiency in the diet. It simply wasn't being utilized to the extent that they thought it was supposed to be available.

Q:Linda: There are several sources of calcium. One being meat and meat by-products, as well as in the form of calcium carbonate or ground limestone. That is not really as usable, correct?

A:Joe: Right, it is not "ingredient born" as in the naturally occurring calcium in meat and meat by products. It is simply not as available to the animal.

Q:Linda: Oh my gosh! I see the tremendous amount of implications now this can have on our animals; and the health problems we may be seeing as genetic, can be in reality due to nutrition … we are indeed what we eat!

When you mean supplementing a diet, you mean it is critical to get it from the real ingredients - not synthetic or crude unavailable forms. But if you have now a way of introducing a particular mineral, then do you go to a manufactured form?

A:Joe: Yes, but we use a refined form because when we use the oxide form, for example, calcium or the crude form of calcium, it is not readily available to the animals.

Q:Linda: That would also account for some of the cost on a premium food because the refined sources and the use of "ingredient born" nutrients make a cost difference?

A:Joe: Also, the cost of a premium product is reflected this way. Once you introduce a product that is all meat-based protein, you compromise production capabilities in your manufacturing facility. If I manufactured a combination of vegetable protein and meat protein, you can generally put through 20% - 35% more product in the same amount of time - thus it affects my manufacturing costs.

Q:Linda: To your knowledge, did some of the companies come about because they knew about nutrition and wanted to develop a quality product, or were they primarily grain companies looking for a way to use products not up to human standards?

A:Joe: I think a lot of things happened. When I first got into the industry in 1971, commercial products were much better than they are today.

Q:Linda: But the ads are better now!

A:Joe: Yes, but we have to look at a couple of things. First it was not nearly the size industry 20 years ago, that it is today. So what happened is the industry found they could advertise and they could effectively increase their distribution - that became the driving force. Then what happened in 1974, we had the Russian wheat deal and then we had wage and price controls. Before that, the standard product was 24% protein and 7% fat. After wage and price controls, products were 21% protein and 8% fat. It costs you a lot of money to get from 21% to 24% protein.

One thing the wage and price controls said to manufacturers was, "you can't raise your prices", even though the material costs went up. So what people did was to re-formulate their feeds. Also, different products within a line came about so that you could vary your prices. That was the start of product proliferation. That's how the industry beat it. New products and new pricing. The consumer didn't know any different, so what the industry did is advertise more and create even more products.

We use to have a protein profile where 8 - 10 items were available to the industry. Then we no longer had protein profile requirements. This meant you could adulterate the meat proteins. Go back and look at the history of the small animal veterinarian. He did not become a major force in the community until the late 70s. Why? Because suddenly there were all these animals that had health problems that weren't apparent before that time.

Q:Linda: I knew it, I knew it. I have felt all along most of the problems we address as genetic are indeed due to nutritional problems!

A:Joe: The biggest impact on the pet food industry is the AAFCO requirements. Those requirements are only sustenance … they are minimal levels, and they are not beneficial! If you look at all the problems in the pet food industry related to food quality and animal physical characteristics, they turned up after 1974.

Q:Linda: This has all been very interesting and an enlightening day. Before we close, I would personally like to thank you on behalf of so many Great Dane breeders, and most importantly for our precious breed. Also, for taking a serious look at the results of the "Bone Survey" and being sensitive to our needs for a quality, lower protein food. Lastly, I want to thank you for actually developing a food, the Eagle Natural Pack, and allowing Great Dane breeders to be involved in the feed trials. We have seen wonderful results and, it is my opinion, a tremendous reduction in nutritionally induced bone diseases because of your genuine interest and concern for large and giant breeds. Keep up the good work.

Joe/John: Thank you … let's go eat lunch.!

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