3 Puppy Vaccination Mistakes: Too Early, Too Often, Too Much

3 Puppy Vaccination Mistakes: Too Early, Too Often, Too Much

Aussie PuppiesIn January 2010, breeder Cindy Williams was enjoying her litter of four beautiful Newfoundland puppies. The puppies were big and strong and, at 8 1/2 weeks, the puppies were examined by the vet before venturing off to their new homes. They were treated to the usual puppy wellness check including a health exam, microchips and first vaccination. All of the puppies passed with flying colors.

Ten days later, a female puppy, Gracie, began showing less interest in her food, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. Soon afterward, one of her brothers exhibited the same symptoms. Overnight, Cindy noticed a curious twitching around Gracie’s head and mouth. Cindy brought her into the vet clinic first thing the next morning.

At the clinic, Gracie was given IV fluids, steroids and antibiotics – as well as valium to calm the twitching. The treatment didn’t have any effect however. Later that evening, Cindy was horrified to see that Gracie’s brother Doc began twitching as well. In the meantime, Gracie was suffering continuous seizures that were not responding to any drugs.

Later the next afternoon, Doc was seen by a neurological specialist who declared he was suffering the same battle as Gracie. By the end of the day, both puppies were suffering terribly and Cindy chose to let them pass. She requested an autopsy as their litter mates were at home and she was worried about them.

When the autopsy results came in, it was confirmed that the puppies had distemper.

Cindy was surprised by this: the dam was vaccinated, there were no unvaccinated dogs on her property and no outbreaks in her community. The puppy run was also enclosed and Cindy supervised the puppies when outside, so she was certain that racoons did not get in that area. Cindy began speaking with veterinary immunologists, and learned that it was possible that the vaccine she had given her puppies, a modified live combination vaccine (Da2PP – distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus and parainfluenza), could have ‘awakened’ in her puppies and actually caused the very disease she was trying to prevent. She didn’t know how to pursue this any further, apart from reporting it to the vaccine manufacturer and the CIFA, the Canadian department for veterinary biologics.

Cindy kept her two remaining puppies and vaccinated them at 14 weeks with a recombinant vaccine and thankfully, they escaped further harm. Then, nearly two years later, Cindy received a chilling call – it was happening again.

Bastian and Bella were two beautiful Newfoundland puppies who Jeannette Many Horses was delighted to welcome into her home on January 7, 2012. These puppies were bred by a caring breeder of 40 years who, like Cindy, did her research and raised her dogs on raw food and vaccinated them minimally. Bastian and Bella were vaccinated with a recombinant combination vaccine at the breeder’s home and, soon afterward, departed for their new homes.

Bastian and Bella were the picture of health when they jumped into Jeannette’s arms for the first time. As they grew and flourished, Jeannette concluded it was time for their second set of vaccinations. On January 20th, the puppies went to the veterinary clinic for a checkup and for their vaccinations – a combination vaccine from a different manufacturer but with the same components as the vaccine Cindy used. Jeannette’s vet also added a monovalent killed coronavirus vaccine.

On January 25th, five days after their vaccination, both Bastian and Bella became lethargic and had very loose stools. When Jeannette called the veterinary clinic out of concern, she was told that this could not be a reaction to the vaccine as the puppies would have exhibited symptoms sooner. She was advised to do nothing and that the illness would likely pass on its own.

Two days later, Bastian began shaking and pacing and his seizures and pain continued unabated. The following morning, on January 28th, Jeannette received a phone call. Cindy had been informed of Bastian and Bella’s illness by another breeder and immediately contacted Jeannette to warn her of her own terrible experience. Jeannette decided at this point that it would be best to let Bastian cross. On the morning of January 30th, Bella also joined her brother.

One day later, on January 31st, the unthinkable happened. Jeannette learned that Bastian and Bella’s litter sister, Sophie who lived several states away, also succumbed to distemper, just nine days after her second vaccination.

Like Cindy, Jeannette suspected her puppies got distemper from the vaccine. After she received the necropsy results, Jeannette sent the puppies’ DNA to Michigan State University for testing. The results showed a 100% match between the vaccine virus and the distemper virus found in her puppies. In other words, Bastian and Bella died from vaccination – with 100% certainty.

Then Sophie’s DNA also results came in, proving that she too died from the vaccine virus.

Many veterinarians and pet owners have suspected for years that modified live vaccines have the ability to revert to virulence in the host. These five puppies all died from their modified live vaccinations and were relatively unscathed by the recombinant shots. However, simply switching to a recombinant vaccine will not render the vaccine harmless, as you will see below.

Pay now or pay later

Like Cindy and Jeannette, Georgia was aware of the potential damage of vaccinating too often. Georgia however, decided to not vaccinate her Great Dane puppy, Easy, at all. Easy was a vibrant puppy but Georgia later became concerned about recent parvovirus outbreaks in her area. She decided to titer Easy when he was six months to see if he was protected against parvo.

Easy’s titers came back as low for parvo and Georgia felt pressured by veterinary advice to vaccinate him. She took what she envisioned to be the safest route possible and had Easy vaccinated with a monovalent, parvo-only vaccine since his titers showed protection against distemper. The vaccine was delivered to Easy’s scapular area and, three weeks later, Georgia ran a second titer which was now positive. Easy was protected – from parvo at least.

At the age of 18 months, Easy developed osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in his scapula – right where the vaccine was given one year ago. Six weeks later, the pain became too much for Easy and Georgia helped him to cross.

Any vaccine given at any point in a dog’s life has the ability to kill him or cause serious harm. If pet owners want to avoid vaccine-related dangers, then the best option would be to not vaccinate at all. This is a viable option for many who would gladly trade the risk of vaccine related damage for the risk of acute infection from puppy diseases.

Pet owners who don’t vaccinate – and the vets who support this practice – realize that the risk of distemper is very low and that parvovirus in unvaccinated and healthy puppies is treatable in the majority of cases. They also realize that vaccines are ticking bombs that can create immediate and devastating disease in puppies such as Jeannette’s, or that the result might be more insidious, as was the case with Easy.

Here is a list of potential adverse vaccine reactions, according to noted veterinary immunologist, Dr. Ronald Schultz. If you vaccinate, these vaccine risks are not completely unavoidable. There are steps that you can take however, to decrease the risk of disease in your puppy.The first step is to have a fundamental knowledge of the immune system and what vaccines can and can’t do.

Vaccination or Immunization?

It may come as a surprise to some people – and many vets – that vaccination and immunization are not the same thing. Your dog or puppy is perfectly capable of creating immunity all by himself – and once he does, the immunity likely lasts for a lifetime.

Naturally acquired immunity is why, not that long ago, parents used to have ‘chicken pox parties’ for their children; and also why, once children got chicken pox, they never got it again. Natural immunity is how most dogs survived without vaccination when parvovirus first came on the scene over thirty years ago – and how the original strain of parvo is still in the environment but very rarely causes noticeable clinical signs in dogs – even though there is no vaccine for it.The body has a highly functional immune system that works exceedingly well in most cases.

Vaccines do not immunize: they sensitize. Their job is to introduce small amounts of disease to the body, albeit artificially, so the body is able to form immunity on a more convenient and predictable time frame.

Most vets pay a lot of attention to vaccinating but very little attention to immunizing. The result is that most puppy vaccination series are poorly timed and the wrong vaccines are given at inappropriate times and given too often. Simply stated, puppies are vaccinated too early, too often and with too many vaccines at once.

When this happens, the vaccines suppress the immune system instead of supporting it – or in many cases, they can cause an over-stimulation of the immune system and the body can begin to attack its own cells (autoimmune disease). So it is crucial that every vaccine and every puppy is treated with the utmost caution and care and that immunization, not vaccination, is the goal.

Too Early

When puppies are very young, they are protected from disease by ingesting their mother’s first milk, called colostrum. This rich milk contains maternal antibodies against infectious disease, which the mother passes down to her puppies. The puppy’s immune system is not fully mature, or active, until it is around six months of age, so the maternal antibodies provide passive immunity to each puppy.

When a puppy with a reasonable amount of maternal antibodies is vaccinated, the maternal antibodies will essentially inactivate the vaccine, just as they would a real virus. The maternal antibodies for distemper are fairly predictable and are usually low enough for vaccination to be effective at eight or nine weeks of age. In the case of parvovirus however, the maternal antibodies last a lot longer in most puppies so vaccinating at eight or nine weeks wouldn’t be all that effective.

In a study performed by Vanguard, it was found that a combination vaccine (which typically contains parvovirus, distemper and one to five other antigens), given to six week old puppies had only a 52% chance of protecting them against parvo. This means that the puppy has all of the risk of the vaccine but only half the potential benefit. At nine weeks of age, 88% of the puppies in the study showed a response to the vaccine. At 12 weeks, 100% of the puppies were protected. Some vaccines will provide protection earlier or later.

Vaccinating puppies under 12 weeks of age, and certainly under nine weeks of age, for parvovirus is a high risk, low reward approach. Not only is the parvovirus component of the combination vaccine not all that likely to be effective, it can actually work to block the effectiveness of the distemper component. It also makes the vaccine more dangerous, because the more antigens contained in the vaccine, the greater the risk of autoimmune disease (including allergies, joint disease and cancer).

Moreover, most vets haven’t seen a case of distemper in years, which begs the question: what is the big push to start vaccinating puppies at six to eight weeks of age when the parvovirus component is unlikely to work and it is very unlikely the puppy will come into contact with distemper?

Too Often

Pfizer performed an interesting field study in 1996 where they split vaccinated puppies into two groups. Group A received a single vaccination at 12 weeks and Group B received a first vaccine between eight to 10 weeks and a second at 12 weeks. When titers were measured, 100% of the puppies vaccinated once at 12 weeks were protected whereas only 94% of the puppies in Group B were protected – despite receiving two vaccines as opposed to one. It appears that the first vaccine can interfere with the second vaccine. So vaccinating your puppy twice not only doubles his risk for adverse vaccine reactions, it appears to make vaccination less effective overall.

Most people – and many vets – believe that it takes more than one vaccine to create immunity in a puppy. This simply isn’t true. It only takes one vaccine to not only protect a puppy, but to protect him for life.

After more than 40 years of testing immunity in thousands of dogs, Dr. Ronald Schultz has come to the following conclusion: “Only one dose of the modified-live canine ‘core’ vaccine, when administered at 16 weeks or older, will provide long lasting (many years to a lifetime) immunity in a very high percentage of animals.” That very high percentage is nearly 100%.

The only reason vets give puppies more than one vaccine is that they are trying to catch the small window in time when the maternal antibodies are low enough that they will not block the vaccine, but the puppy is young enough that he is not exposed to viruses in the environment. The point in time when the maternal antibodies for parvovirus wane enough for vaccination to work can vary between eight weeks and 26 weeks. So vets dutifully and mindlessly vaccinate every two to four weeks – with a combination vaccine, not just with parvo – trying to get one of them to work.

Most vets also vaccinate once more at a year of age – just to be certain.

Nearly all vets vaccinate every year or three years after that – for some unknown reason because there is no scientific validity to this practice. As Dr. Schultz stated, there is no need for revaccination once a puppy is protected – and if a puppy receives a vaccination at 16 weeks, he is very, very likely to be protected.

Too Much

The result of these errors in judgement is that puppies receive more vaccines than they need – lots more. They receive a parvovirus component in their first combination vaccine when that part of the vaccine has little chance of working. Most puppies are protected against distemper with the first vaccine if not given too early, yet most puppies are given a combination vaccine containing distemper at 12 to 16 weeks and older – when they really only need the parvovirus.

Most combination puppy vaccines also contain an adenovirus component. Adenovirus has been shown to suppress the immune system for ten days following vaccination. This means that puppies that receive needless vaccines not only suffer the risk of adverse events from the vaccine, but they are more at risk of picking up any other virus or bacterium that crosses their path because their immune system has been overloaded by the vaccine itself.

This is not a good proposition for a puppy taken to the vet clinic to receive his vaccines, because it exposes him to the riskiest possible environment, outside of perhaps an animal shelter, and his immune system will be suppressed while his body tries to fight four, five or even seven different diseases, all at the same time. It’s no wonder that puppies can succumb to vaccine-induced disease – their immune system is simply overloaded at a time when they are exposed to a pretty dangerous place for puppies to be.

Adenovirus is an upper respiratory disease that is self limiting – that hardly seems like a good trade off for immune protection when puppies need it most. The same applies to parainfluenza – and coronavirus which commonly occurs only in puppies too young to be vaccinated anyway. And that’s just the core vaccines.

Some puppies will also be vaccinated with other non-core vaccines including the particularly dangerous leptospirosis vaccine. Clearly, vets are very good at vaccination. The problem is, current puppy vaccination programs don’t adequately address immunity. Very few vets take a realistic and scientific look at the best time to vaccinate for distemper, followed by the best time to vaccinate for parvovirus, followed by asking why are we even vaccinating for self limiting diseases such as coronavirus and adenovirus, which are really only dangerous in puppies who are too young to effectively vaccinate anyway?

Taking the Guesswork out of Puppy Shots

Vaccines may seem technologically advanced, but when given randomly and for no good reason, they are at best useless and at worst dangerous. Vaccine manufacturers are constantly trying to improve the safety of vaccines, but there will always be an inherent danger when injecting pharmaceutical products, along with their toxic chemicals, into puppies.

Until the dubious time comes when vaccines are completely safe and completely effective, there are two proven, effective ways to reduce the number of unnecessary vaccines in puppies, thereby reducing the risk of puppies dying or suffering permanent illness from vaccines.


Not that many years ago, vets used something called a nomograph to tell breeders the best time to vaccinate their puppies. The nomograph examines antibody titers of the dam and determines almost exactly when her maternal antibodies will wear off in her puppies. The value in knowing this is that the breeder can provide the right vaccine at the right time, eliminating the need for, and risk of, unnecessary vaccinations.

Nomographs are perfect for breeders who are interested in using only monovalent (single virus), vaccines in place of the more dangerous combination or polyvalent vaccines. For example, the nomograph could predict that the maternal antibodies for distemper will wane at eight weeks, but that parvovirus might be at 14 weeks. The breeder would then vaccinate with the right vaccine at the right time and the vaccination schedule would be based on science instead of guesswork. Yet for some reason, nomographs have fallen out of favor.


For puppy owners without the advantage of a nomograph, titers can save puppies’ lives and protect their well being in the long run. Instead of guessing if vaccination is necessary, running a titer three weeks after a vaccination will indicate with nearly 100% certainty whether the puppy needs another vaccine or not.

Titers also allow vets to use the safer monovalent vaccines. A puppy can be vaccinated at an age when he is likely to respond to the vaccine – and if he comes back with a titer three weeks later, he is protected and very likely for life. If there is no titer for parvo at that time, a monovalent vaccine could be given and a titer run three weeks after that. If the titer is low, then the vaccine can be repeated but if it is high, the puppy is protected against parvovirus, very likely for life. And the good news is that, there is now a new and affordable in-house titer test.

Despite these two easily accessible options, many vets believe – and lead us to believe – that puppies must be subjected to a series of vaccinations. Many vets understand titers but don’t offer them as an option to vaccination. This may be because vaccines are cheap and titers are not. Whether that equates to less profit for the vets or they are assuming that puppy owners don’t want to invest in a safer vaccination program is unknown. Titers can be expensive – but so can the damage that results from vaccines. Unlike vaccines, titers are completely safe for puppies.

Many vets are also unwilling to stock monovalent vaccines because of the higher cost. The most likely scenario however, is that vets are simply vaccinating with the typical puppy schedule out of nothing more than habit and convenience.

In the end, the best way to avoid vaccine damage – and your puppy being the subject of another tragic story – is obviously to not vaccinate. This might increase the risk of acute disease, but domestic and wild animals – and people too – have been exposed to viruses for years and the immune system, when not suppressed with vaccinations, poor diet, toxins and drugs, has a profound ability to fight off exposure to viruses and bacteria. Simply supporting the immune system can go a long ways toward avoiding acute disease such as parvo – and will certainly reduce the severity of the symptoms.

The second option is to choose vaccines wisely and with a constant awareness that every vaccine has the potential to kill the patient. Nomographs and titers are useful tools that really aren’t that expensive in the long run when compared to the thousands of dollars pet owners spend on chronic, vaccine-induced diseases including but certainly not limited to, hypothyroidism, seizures, cancer, arthritis, allergies and gastrointestinal issues. They are very cheap insurance in many regards.

The worst option is to do nothing different and haphazardly vaccinate puppies every two to four weeks with a combination vaccine. Many vets fail to make the connection between chronic, debilitating disease and over-vaccination, so unless a puppy’s head swells to the size of a football immediately after vaccination, they are reluctant to blame vaccines for any of the adverse reactions that Dr. Schultz identified.

It’s important to understand that we pet owners can open vets’ eyes to safer and more effective puppy vaccination programs by paying for titer tests and investing in monovalent vaccines – even if that means having to buy a whole case of vaccine vials for one little puppy. Chances are that case of monovalent vaccines will disappear, one by one, and every one used means one less puppy who will be potentially harmed by needless or thoughtless vaccination.


Raw Diet Bone Percentages

Bone percentages found using http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list

back- 44%
leg quarter- 27%
thigh- 15%
breast- 20%


whole- 31%

brisket bone- 32%

neck- 60%
wing- 33%

To find info on other cuts of meat
1. Go to –> http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list
2. Type in your meat  EX: chicken thigh raw –>
3. See the list, make selection, click- EX: first choice is “Chicken broilers or fryers, thigh, meat and skin, raw” Click on it –>
4. The new page that pulls up has all the info we’ve got on “Raw Chicken thighs w/meat & Skin”
5. ** Click on line “Full Report (All Nutrients)”, this gives you access to the amount of bone in the meat you’re looking at. In this example we see “Refuse: 15% Refuse Description: Bone and cartilage 15%” ** Average chicken thighs have about 15% bone.

Prevent Bloat In Dogs Naturally

By Peter Dobias DVMJuly 2011 Issue

Did you know that dogs that are fed processed foods are about five times as likely to suffer from stomach bloat and torsion than dogs fed raw or cooked food? There are many other factors that can help prevent this serious life threatening emergency naturally.

The general consensus is that GDV (Gastric Dilation Volvulus) affects mainly larger breeds and it is caused by twisting of the stomach and gas formation. Some time ago, I decided to observe the patterns of dogs with a history of stomach problems as well as those who were lucky enough to survive this life threatening condition. After years of observation and clinical practice, I’ve developed these simple steps to help your dog avoid bloat.

  • AVOID GRAIN-BASED PET FOOD AND IDEALLY ANY KIBBLEThe digestive tract of the dog is ideal for digesting protein. Unlike humans, the dog’s gut has a very acidic pH, making it well equipped to resist pathogenic bacteria but not to digest grains. I have never seen wild canines grazing in a field of grain, and it is not a natural food choice for most carnivores.

    If you feed your dog processed food, you may be increasing his risk of bloat. Most commercial foods are highly processed and when your dog eats kibble, it turns into porridge. The stomach doesn’t need to work very hard to digest it, and over time, its wall muscles become weak. A weak stomach is much more prone to dilation and gas build-up which happens especially with carbohydrate rich foods. In my opinion, kibbles, especially grain-based formulas, are one of the main sources of stomach bloat.

  • FEED THE RIGHT RAW BONESFeeding your dog poultry, lamb or other small to medium size raw bones makes the stomach wall and muscles stronger which will prevent distention. Any gas build-up is much easier to burp out or move downwards into the intestinal tract when the stomach wall muscles are strong.

    Feeding bones is, from my point of view, one of the most important steps in preventing GDV.

  • BE CAREFUL ABOUT FEEDING FRUIT WITH PROTEINIf you feed your dog fruit, it should never be fed together with the protein meal, because they digest very differently. Fruit digests in the stomach quickly and it will ferment if it remains too long. To prevent bloat, feed fruit at least one hour or longer before a meal and at least four hours after meals.
  • EXERCISEThe general consensus is that dogs should not exercise after eating. This applies to dogs fed both raw and processed food. When the stomach is full, it is more likely to flip and twist with sudden movement, jumps or turns, creating torsion. Never exercise your dog vigorously within threeto four hours of feeding.
  • PROVIDE THE RIGHT NUTRIENTSVitamin and especially mineral deficits may have a negative effect on muscle function and digestion, which can lead to GDV. It is important to make sure that your dog’s diet is not lacking in essential nutrients.
  • ENSURE GOOD SPINAL ENERGY FLOWI like to compare the body’s energy network to a watering system where the spine provides the main water or energy supply and the branches lead to various garden beds or the organs.

    If you constrict a hose, the water will not flow and the carrots will not grow. The body is not much different – if one of the spinal muscle segments becomes impinged or blocked, it will affect the organs related to that segment. One can recognize these blocks by a spinal exam or a hand scan and energy flow changes will be noticeable.

    Through years of observation, I created a surprisingly reliable body map of relationships of spinal segments and organs. In the process I have found a very close connection between the stomach and spinal point at the thoracic lumbar junction, the transition between the last thoracic and the first lumbar vertebrae.

    I have also noticed that dogs that are prone to stomach problems show congestion, inflammation and sensitivity exactly at the thoracic-lumbarjunction.

    When I discussed this with several emergency vets, they didn’t seem to be aware of the connection between this spinal segment and GDV until I asked if they saw any signs of vertebral degeneration, arthritis or spondylosis in this region of the spine when they took X-rays of bloated dogs.Indeed, they confirmed that those changes are frequently present in dogs with bloat which only confirmed what I thought. Back injuries are likely a predisposing factor to GDV.

    If you want to prevent stomach bloat, you definitely have pay attention to your dog’s spine. A regular monthly assessment and treatment of your large dog’s spine is one of the most important factors in GDV prevention. The modalities I find especially helpful are physiotherapy, chiropractic,massage, intramuscular needle stimulation (IMS) and acupuncture.

  • FITNESSThe spine and the flow of energy in the whole body can be clearly influenced by the level of exercise a dog enjoys. A low fitness level can createenergy stagnation, but this problem is not as frequent as over-exertion and burn out.

    Many people continually throw balls and toys for their dogs and do not know that the dog’s body is designed only for short periods of sprinting and not for 20 or more non-stop minutes which leads to injuries.


Remember that simple panting is not a sign of a bloat. Panting is the canine way of sweating and is considered normal if your dog looks comfortable.

If you see signs of severe distress – the gums are pale, there are signs of hypersalivation and the stomach is distended – rush your dog to thenearest vet or emergency clinic immediately. If safe, light sedation and a stomach tube will be done first, followed by X-rays and very possibly an emergency surgery. On the way to the hospital, I recommend giving a homeopathic Nux vomica 200C or Carbovegetalis 200C.


Gastropexy is a preventive procedure where the stomach wall is attached to the rib cage to prevent the stomach from flipping. I must say that I am not comfortable with attaching the stomach and restricting its natural movement and function. Any surgical intervention affects the body’s energy channels and the unnatural stapling of the stomach to the rib cage decreases its mobility.


On the basis of my practical experience and observation, I believe that the best way to prevent GDV is to feed natural non-processed food, feed raw bones, provide the right nutrients, feed fruit separately from the protein meals and ensure that the spinal energy flow is good.

Original article can be found at this link: http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/prevent-bloat-in-dogs-naturally

Dr. Peter Dobias has been in veterinary practice since 1988. In 2008, he decided to sell his thriving holistic veterinary practice in Vancouver, BC, Canada to dedicate his future years to disease prevention and transforming the face of veterinary care to less invasive and more natural treatment methods. He believes that we can create a healthy and long life, naturally. For more information, questions and articles visit www.peterdobias.com

Sodium Bisulfate: It Might Burn Your Pet’s Mouth, Throat, and Stomach – But They’re Adding It to Food Anyway

By Dr. Becker

Anticipated regulations from the Food Safety Modernization Act will affect pet food production. According to PetfoodIndustry.com, as a result, product safety has jumped to the top of the priority list for pet food manufacturers.

One of the primary concerns, especially with the rash of recalls over the last few years, is that humans are being exposed to salmonella bacteria from processed pet food – in particular, dry food.

Pet food producers are implementing a variety of tactics to control salmonella contamination, including more vendor inspections, hazard analysis and critical control point plans, and hold-and-release programs. As you might expect, additives are also being looked at for their ability to control salmonella. One of those substances is sodium bisulfate.

A producer of sodium bisulfate and scientists at Kansas State University are collaborating to study the ability of this substance to prevent recontamination by salmonella after the pet food extrusion process.

Adding Sodium Bisulfate to Kibble May Help Control Salmonella Contamination

Sodium bisulfate is not to be confused with menadione sodium bisulfate, which is synthetic vitamin K3. It should also not be confused with sodium bisulfite, which is a chemical preservative used in fruits and wines.

Sodium bisulfate, also known as sodium hydrogen sulfate, is an acid salt. Its primary function is acidification. It is currently used in some processed pet foods to acidify urine, reduce pH levels, and control microbes in soft treats and liquid digest. But according to PetfoodIndustry.com, “New research conducted at independent laboratories indicates that sodium bisulfate controls Salmonellacontamination on the surface of extruded dry petfood.”

Dry pet food is heat-treated twice – once during pre-conditioning and again during extrusion. The very high temperatures used in these processing steps should kill the salmonella present in the food. It is therefore suspected recontamination occurs primarily after the food is extruded – possibly inside the conveying system or from airborne dust in air-handling systems.

If either of those sources of contamination is the cause, it’s assumed the salmonella is only on the outside of the kibble. This is where sodium bisulfate comes in. It is a “surface-active” compound that is highly acidic and in a physically dry state. This means it can be turned into a powder and applied to the surface of kibble for purposes of salmonella control.

And Now for the Bad News…

The good news is pet food companies are actively searching for ways to reduce human exposure to salmonella bacteria in their products.

The bad news? Adding a substance like sodium bisulfate to dry pet food is a little like putting lipstick on a pig (no offense to pigs). The pig may look more attractive. It may not even look like a pig from certain angles, but it’s still a pig. Salmonella-free kibble is still kibble – highly processed, double heat-treated pet food that lacks moisture and other nutrients that can only be obtained from fresh, whole, real food.

In addition, you should know that sodium bisulfate isn’t an entirely benign additive. According to MedlinePlus, in humans, symptoms from swallowing more than a tablespoon of this acid can include burning pain in the mouth, diarrhea, vomiting, and severe low blood pressure.

Sodium bisulfate is produced in a “pet grade” as well as a technical grade. I wasn’t able to find a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on the pet grade product, but the MSDS on the technical grade product states that inhalation of the substance damages the mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract. Sodium bisulfate is classified as a corrosive, so swallowing it can cause severe, even fatal burns to the mouth, throat and stomach; touching it can cause severe skin burns. Chronic exposure can result in lung irritation, tracheal bronchitis, persistent coughing, and corrosion of teeth.

My Recommendations

The danger of salmonella poisoning from pet food is a risk to the humans serving the food – not the dogs or cats eating it. Healthy pets are able to handle a much higher bacterial load than their owners. It’s important to understand that distinction.

If you feed your pet kibble (which I don’t recommend), the following simple handling precautions should keep you and your family safe from contamination:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling any pet food or treats.
  • Don’t allow very young children, elderly people or those who are immunocompromised to handle pet food or treats.
  • Keep all pet foods and treats away from your family’s food.
  • Do not prepare pet foods in the same area or with the same equipment/utensils you use to prepare human foods.
  • Do not allow pets on countertops or other areas where human food is prepared.
  • Feeding pets in the kitchen has been identified as a source of infection. If you can arrange to feed your pet in an area other than your kitchen, consider doing so. Alternatively, feed your pet as far away from human food preparation areas as possible.

I don’t recommend feeding your dog or cat a commercial pet food with special additives designed to control salmonella. I’m an advocate of wholesome, natural diets for pets (and people). I’m not in favor of chemicals added to food. And I certainly don’t recommend feeding your pet or any pet a highly processed, preserved kibble dusted with a potentially corrosive substance.

Don’t Let Your Pet Be a By-Product of Creative Marketing

Caveat Emptor ~ (Let the Buyer Beware)

If I could ask you a simple dog-related question such as this one: “Help! What can I add to my pet’s diet for stiffness, achy joints and terrible mobility?” what would be the first thing you think of to add to the diet?

It may be likely that somewhere in your thought process, the word glucosamine popped into your cloud of genius ideas. The antidote to all joint problems.

Like love at first sight at a high school dance, we have just made eye contact across the room, but what do we actually know about glucosamine?

It is a nutritional supplement found on every health store and pet shop’s shelves. Two of the most common forms of glucosamine sold are ground up shellfish shells such as lobster, shrimp, or crab and microbial grain fermentation. Young or old, our pets need glucosamine, and lots of it! According to Dr. Chris Bessent, “When glucosamine is orally administered, about 30% to 40% is actually absorbed into the bloodstream.”

Glucosamine is naturally found in both human and pet bodies alike. Much like the clever combo name Brangelina, the nickname given to celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the name glucosamine comes from the combo names of Glucose and the amino acid Glutamine. Glucosamine produces what is called Glycosaminoglycan and is used to repair the creakiness in your pet’s joints by repairing cartilage and tissues.

We have established glucosamine is definitely a friend we want to introduce to our pet’s diet, so who can help us?

Meet the marketers behind the pet food manufacturers, AKA ‘The Mutual Friend’. The Mutual Friend claims they have a close-knit relationship and all of their pet food contains glucosamine. Perfect right?

“It contains a natural source of glucosamine,” boasts the pet food packaging that promises healthy, strong joints through joint, mobility, or senior support labels.

Leading dry food manufacturers go on to say, “We use by-products because they are a rich natural source of glucosamine, and we use lots of it!” This leads the consumer to believe the package is supplying your pet with the sufficient amount of glucosamine, but is this true? Is it enough?

According to research, on average, your pet needs about 20mg of glucosamine per 1 pound of body weight a day. This means that a 50lb adult dog would need about 1000mg of glucosamine a day.

Okay, so we know how much glucosamine our pet needs. Can we trust our Mutual Friend to supply it in the recommended amounts?

This is where the Planet Paws Nutrition Bloggers come in to perform some private investigation.

We decided to investigate kibble because it’s the most popular format of pet food.

The four most common places to find kibble are big box stores, wholesale clubs, specialty pet shops, and veterinarian’s offices.

We decided to head to the most popular spot first, the Big Box Store/Supermarket. Our blog team selected to analyze the bag that most strongly promoted joint support and glucosamine. After choosing the bag, we needed to look at the guaranteed analysis. All pet food labels require a guaranteed analysis on the package to advise the purchaser of the product’s nutrient content. We looked for where the glucosamine was listed and noted the line stated glucosamine min. – 300mg/kg.

Ok, time for math class!

300mg/kg basically means 300mg of glucosamine per 1 kilogram of kibble. In the pet food industry, it is known that on average 4 cups of kibble equals 1 pound. Therefore 1 kg is equal to 8.8 cups.

So if our average 50lbs dog needs 1000mg, we would have to feed it over 29 cups of big box store pet food each and every day!

The serving size on the bag suggests that a dog of this size would only need 2 cups per day, so 29 cups probably isn’t a good idea.

We jumped back into our car and hoped for better success at our next locations. We headed to the wholesale club, a high-end pet shop, and finally the journey ended at our local vet’s office. We purchased one bag of each of their best selling kibble, all of which claimed promises of joint support.

Here’s what we found:

Whole Sale Club Healthy Joints Aid claims: “Natural sources of glucosamine to help support healthy joints, cartilage and mobility in Large Breed Adult dogs.” The guaranteed analysis read: Glucosamine, minimum – 375 mg/kg. This means our 50lb dog would have to eat over 23 cups per day!

The high-end kibble we bought at the pet shop claimed: “Contains guaranteed levels of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate”. The guaranteed analysis read: Glucosamine, minimum – 500 mg/kg. Again, we would need almost 18 cups in order to reach 1000mg. And this was in an $80 bag of kibble!

Last but not least, we figured our local veterinarian brand would save us. To put this last hope to the test, we purchased a $120 bag of kibble. This had to work, right? The claim states that it will “help alleviate pain and improve joint support”. The guaranteed analysis reads: Glucosamine Hydrochloride minimum – 950mg/kg.

This was by far the highest level in all of the bags we’d tested, but is it enough?

Alas, 950mg per 8.8 cups would mean our 50lbs dog would need over 9 cups a day to receive the 1000mg of glucosamine needed. According to this product’s manufacturer, we should only feed 3 ½ cups a day, meaning our pooch would only receive 377mg of glucosamine a day. This is a far reach from our desired amount.

Unfortunately, not one of the bags of kibble could meet our required supplement needs, no matter where we purchased the food.

Where does that leave us? Is all hope of making friends with our beloved glucosamine lost? Not exactly… if glucosamine is what you need, then you are better off finding a more steady supply by supplementing or even better feeding a species appropriate raw diet to your pet.

For raw diet enthusiasts, an easy source of glucosamine may be found naturally occurring in the cartilage of fresh beef trachea. It contains around 5% glucosamine. After the math, 1 ounce of trachea would hold over 1400mg of glucosamine!

Back to the pivotal question, can we trust our Mutual Friend? This is where marketing can get tricky. Our Mutual Friend did not technically say we could rely on it solely to contain the recommended dosage needed for our pet’s diet. Caveat Emptor, friends! As pet parents, we owe it to our fur kids to read the fine print and not rely on the claims.

“By-products in our kibble are used because they are a high source of natural glucosamine” … if you believe in that statement and rely on it solely to keep your pets healthy and happy, it sounds like you might be the by-product of marketing.

Dogs Naturally Magazine July/August 2013 Article

Written by: Michelle Doucet & Rodney Habib
Edited by: Lise Blinn