Dogs Need Grains? Tell That To My (Very Energetic) Old Dogs

A few years ago, Chareva was in a grocery store looking for a decent canned dog food. She pulled one can after another off the shelf, read the ingredients, and put back the ones that contained wheat and other grains.

A representative for one of the dog-food companies happened to be standing nearby. He asked why she put most of the cans back on the shelf. When she explained that we don’t feed our dogs grains, the representative replied, “But dogs need grains for energy.”

Yes, he said that.

As more and more people are giving up grains and finding their health improves as a result, we’re seeing a backlash from what I call The Save The Grains Campaign. Every so often, they manage to place media articles describing all the horrible things that will happen to you if you stop eating grains – see this post for an example.

Yup. They’re worried people are cutting back on grains. Apparently they’re also worried people are shunning grains in pet foods as well. Someone recently sent me an article titled 5 Reasons Why Grain Free Diet May Not Be Right for Your Dog. Let’s take a look:

In my vet practice, the question about grain free diet for dogs is one of the most common I hear from pet owners. In short, grain free dog food is quite controversial with canine experts that follow an evidence-based approach, but it’s a little more complicated than simple “good or bad.” Overall, there are a few reasons why it may not be the best choice for your pooch.

Ahh, a vet wrote the article. Credentials established. On to the reasons.

1. Food Fraud: It may not actually be “grain free”

Well, that’s convincing. You don’t want to choose a grain-free diet for your dog because the grain-free food might actually contain grains. Makes sense. If I found out foods labeled sugar-free actually contain sugar, I’d of course give up and stop attempting to avoid sugar.

The vet goes on to explain that some “grain free” dog foods contain yeast or rice. Okay, fine. I’ll skip those as well, no matter what the label says.

2. It’s Not Necessarily Healthier for Dogs

First, let’s start with a simple fact: there is no scientific evidence suggesting that grain free diet for dogs is a better option for every pet. In fact, the research that has been done on these diets found somewhat opposite results. A 2014 study concludes:

“Labels that read ‘grain-free’ are more harmful to the dog and should not be given unless required for other specific needs.”

Really? Dogs are harmed by grain-free foods? I scanned that “study.” It’s a college thesis, not an actual study with doggie control groups, and the “harm” mentioned is simply speculation that a high-protein diet is bad for canine kidneys – just like the speculation that a high-protein diet will harm human kidneys. The paper proves zip.

3. Dogs are Not Wolves

Many makers of products included in the grain free diet for dogs promote their foods by claiming that your dog’s ancestral DNA is common with the wolf …. This comparison is flawed in that dogs are a different species from wolves and have evolved alongside humans for thousands of years.

Yes, that’s true. Dogs have gotten used to eating people food to a large extent. So, uh … how has eating grains worked out for the health of people? Do you know anyone who used to be fat and sick, then became lean and healthy and attributed the difference to finally adding grains to his diet? I don’t. But I know plenty of people whose health improved after they ditched the grains.

Eating people food hasn’t worked out so well for modern pets, by the way. A recent article from NBC News, in fact, explains that cats and dogs are developing diabetes at previously unheard-of rates:

“There is no question from what I know that is published in the literature that obesity is on the rise, No. 1, and No. 2, diabetes is on the rise right along with it,” says veterinarian Robin Downing, hospital director of Windsor Veterinary Clinic in Windsor, Colo.

And what’s the cure for a fat, diabetic cat?

A change to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet — nicknamed the “Catkins” diet — can promote weight loss and make diabetes more manageable in cats, often sending them into remission so that they no longer require insulin injections. At the Windsor Veterinary Clinic in Colorado, three out of every four diabetic cats have their disease controlled through diet alone, says Downing.

What, you mean a high-protein diet doesn’t destroy a cat’s kidneys?

Anyway, back to the vet’s reasons you might not want your pooch to go grain-free:

4. The Majority of Dogs Can Easily Digest Grains

As dogs have evolved alongside people, their digestive tracts can efficiently digest grain-based calories.

My digestive tract can efficiently digest sugar, too. That doesn’t mean it’s not harmful and certainly doesn’t mean there’s any reason for me to eat the stuff.

5. The High Cost of Grain-Free

If nothing else, the last thing to mention about grain free diet for dogs is their expensive price tag. As you have probably already noted, whether cheap brands or those among the top rated dog foods, the grain free diet for dogs typically commands a higher cost than their grain-containing counterparts.

Uh … uh … yeah, okay. Meat costs more than grains. That doesn’t mean, in any way, shape, or form, that a grain-free diet is bad for your dog. If you can afford to feed your dog meat, feed your dog meat.

That’s what we do.  Chareva sometimes adds half a sweet potato to our dogs’ dinners, but the vast majority of their calories come from raw meat and eggs. As for that line about dogs need grains for energy, let me tell you a little story.

Coco and Misha, our two Rottweilers, are seven years old now. The lifespan for Rottweilers is listed as 8 to 10 years, so they’re old for the breed.

Yet somehow, these old dogs occasionally manage to dig under, or jump over, or push aside the fencing that’s supposed to keep them near the house. Then they go off on a great night-time adventure. More than once, Chareva and I have ended up driving around the area at midnight, hoping to find them. Once we were convinced something bad had happened to them, because they still weren’t home by noon the next day … and then around 2:30 PM, they came trotting back onto the property.

A few weeks ago, it happened again: Chareva went to check on them before bed, and they were nowhere to be found. We drove around the area, shining a flashlight into yards and wooded areas. No luck. We went home. Then a woman called to say our dogs were hanging around by her house – she’d persuaded Misha to sit still long enough to read the phone number on the collar.

So we hopped back in the van and drove to where the woman lived. In the meantime, Coco had run off, so we put Misha in the van and hoped Coco would find her way home. She did. Both dogs smelled like skunk, so they apparently did some critter-chasing during their adventure.

In the photo below, X marks where our house is, and Y marks where the woman who called us lives.

That’s a looong way to go tromping through the woods, chasing skunks and other critters. But that photo doesn’t capture the size of the hill they had to climb to reach the woman’s house. This photo does:

Coco had to make that trip both ways, of course, since she didn’t wait around for us to arrive in the van.

I’d say our two old dogs are pretty energetic, wouldn’t you? Good thing we don’t feed them those energy-enhancing grains … if we did, the next person to call and say she’s got our dogs could be living in Kentucky.

Dogs don’t need grains. Neither do humans.


The Farm Report: Work’s Done, Back To Work

That slow hissing noise that sounds like air escaping is the sound of me decompressing. As I explained in a post two and half weeks ago, I was swamped at my programming job and working crazy hours. My employers aren’t slave-drivers or anything. It was just a case of a big-ass project requiring some serious rewriting of a ton of code that I inherited before I could add my own code. We hadn’t anticipated that, which put me way behind.

The project manager offered to extend the deadline by a couple of weeks, but that would have meant juggling everyone else’s schedule for testing, migrating, etc.  I don’t like being the reason a project is delayed, even if it’s not my fault.  So I chose to go into full-metal-jacket mode instead. I coded from morning until bedtime, including weekends. (I did grant myself permission to relax on Easter.)

The official deadline was Friday. I got ‘er done on Saturday. Close enough. I don’t plan to look at any code whatsoever for a few days. My brain needs a rest.  My body, on the other hand, needs to get back to work.

The coding marathon meant putting our double spring project on hold. We did manage to make a bit of progress before the marathon began, however. For the fencing project (the first spring project), I finished cutting down some annoying trees (more like overgrown weeds) that were either in the fence line or just in front of it. Now we have nice, clear path.

The trunks of a couple trees I cut down will make decent firewood after drying out, so we tossed the chunks on the other side of the fence. Those will go in the barn to join the rest of the firewood supply.

We also finished putting up the tall poles to raise a net nice and high over one of the old chicken yards (the second spring project).

That’s Chareva in the picture below, getting ready to flip up a second layer of fence. After taking the picture, I of course assisted.  Actually, we had Sara come out to assist as well, since we figured it would take three pairs of hands to flip up a 100-foot fence.

Mission accomplished:

That’s as far as we got before I went off on my coding marathon.

We got lucky with the weather this weekend, so as soon as I wrapped up the coding, it was spring project time again.

Spring definitely sprung during the delay. Take a look at the chicken yard in the photos above. Sure, the grass was growing, but not exactly a jungle, right? Now take a look at the photo below:

That stuff was thigh-high. Along with the grass and weeds, much of it was a cover crop Chareva planted months ago, some kind of red winter wheat. (Don’t worry; we’re not planning to eat the stuff.) It’s kind of pretty, but almost certainly home to countless ticks and chiggers. No point in giving them access to our clothes at nearly waist level, so I planned to take The Beast in there for a feeding frenzy.

Unfortunately, The Beast needs a repair job. Before I even steered it to the chicken yard, the wheels stopped moving. The drive belt is intact, so whatever’s wrong, it’s beyond my ability to fix. So, after uttering ancient curses known only to small-time farmers, I ended up knocking down the tick-and-chigger habitat with the blade attachment on my Weed Whacker.

I’m sure the chicken yard is still full of ticks and chiggers, but now they’re at boot level instead of thigh level. When we work outdoors, we tuck our pant legs into knee-high boots, then spray everything from the knees down with Deep Woods Off. Seems to do the trick.

The job on Sunday, which was sunny and a perfect 65 degrees, was to string paracord to hold up the net. As we discovered when we built the current chicken yard (the first one we got right), these tent stakes slide nicely into the top of the poles. Then we can run the paracord through them.

I held the ladder steady (a not-unimportant job on the bumpy, hilly, rocky ground) and Chareva strung the cord. The first time we used this method to raise a net nice and high, we found the key is to string a lot of cord, with plenty of crisscrossed lines to keep the net from drooping.

Weather permitting, we’ll finally be raising that net later this week. When we dismantled the chicken yard last year, we just rolled up the net and tied it to a fence. Weeds have since grown up into it, we’ll have some de-weeding to do. But give us a couple more good workdays, and we can finally move those chickens to a secure yard with a high net and plenty of fresh ground to peck.


Gender Bias Is Preventing Women From Getting ‘Life-Saving’ (And Damaging) Statins

Goodness, this whole gender-bias problem is getting serious. In the Fat Head Report video I posted earlier this week, vegan doctor John McDougall explained that humans developed a reputation for being proficient hunters because of gender bias – the men were the hunters, you see, and were actually lousy at it.  But they bragged and lied and bragged and lied about their hunting abilities, over and over, so anthropologists were fooled into thinking humans were great hunters.  Apparently this was part of a plan to repress future generations of women living in civilized countries.

Well, okay, perhaps gender bias among hunter-gatherer tribes doesn’t bother you. But what about gender bias in being prescribed life-saving statins? It’s a serious issue, according to a recent article in the U.K. Telegraph:

A worrying gender divide in the prescribing of life-saving statins to women with Type 2 diabetes has been uncovered by researchers.

An analysis of prescriptions shows that although women are more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol than men – putting them at greater risk of heart problems – they were less likely to receive protective medication.

I see. Women are more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol than men – putting them at greater risk of heart problems. So obviously women have more heart attacks than men.

A study of 80,000 people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in England between 2006 and 2013 found that 11.6 per cent of women and 12.8 per cent of men went on to develop cardiovascular disease.

Uh … wait a minute. Something doesn’t make sense here. Let’s look at those two quotes again …

Women are more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol than men – putting them at greater risk of heart problems.

11.6 per cent of women and 12.8 per cent of men went on to develop cardiovascular disease.

So the women are at greater risk despite a lower actual rate of cardiovascular disease. Got it. The average age for having a first heart attack among men is 65, by the way. For women, it’s 72. The higher blood pressure and cholesterol is clearly doing a number on women. But back to the gender-bias problem:

Yet women were 16 per cent less likely to receive cholesterol-lowering statins than men, and 26 per cent less likely to be prescribed ACE inhibitors, which helps relax blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.

Tsk-tsk! What the heck is wrong with those doctors, prescribing life-saving statins to a smaller percentage of women than men? Those gender-biased MDs must not care if women die from heart disease.  Maybe they’re afraid the women will eventually reveal that whole men are actually lousy hunters story.  That has to be it. What other reason could there be for not prescribing life-saving statins?

I can think of one. Howzabout we take a peek at data from The NNT, a site maintained by doctors for doctors. Here’s a description of what they do from the home page:

We are a group of physicians that have developed a framework and rating system to evaluate therapies based on their patient-important benefits and harms as well as a system to evaluate diagnostics by patient sign, symptom, lab test or study.

We only use the highest quality, evidence-based studies (frequently, but not always Cochrane Reviews), and we accept no outside funding or advertisements.

And using the highest-quality, evidence-based studies, here’s what they concluded about giving statins to people who don’t already have heart disease:

Benefits in NNT
None were helped (life saved)
1 in 104 were helped (preventing heart attack)
1 in 154 were helped (preventing stroke)

No lives saved. Just one non-fatal heart attack prevented for every 104 people treated with statins. So much for those life-saving statins.

Here’s what the NNT doctors found for harms from statins:

1 in 50 were harmed (develop diabetes*)
1 in 10 were harmed (muscle damage)

If gender bias prevents doctors from doling out as many statins to women, perhaps more men should identify as women, never mind the expanded restroom privileges.

Call it lucky timing or whatever, but just a week before the Telegraph article appeared, a new study on statin side effects was released. Keep in mind, according to the studies conducted by statin-makers, the incidence of adverse drug reactions is very low. Really, really low. Heck-nothing-to-worry-about low. Now check out these figures:

Among 556 patients (418 men; 138 women) taking statins, 237 ADRs were reported (186 men; 51 women). The incidence of ADRs was 40.7%, and more frequent among patients at “high CV disease (CVD) risk” and “moderate CVD risk” than other risk categories.

The incidence of ADRs among statin users was 42.6%, and frequent ADRs (49%) were noted in patients with high CVD risk.

Adverse drug reactions in more than 40% of the population studied, climbing to nearly 50% in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

So of course, the authors wrote this as the final sentence in the abstract:

Early identification of these ADRs should improve patient adherence to life-saving statin treatment.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

How exactly does early identification of side effects improve patient adherence?

Well, Mr. Patient, we’ve detected that the statin you’re taking is inducing diabetes, damaging your liver, screwing up your muscles and causing your cognitive abilities to decline. Good thing we caught it early. Now keep taking your statin.

I have my own bias.  I’m biased against stupidity and bad logic.  It takes a fair bit of both to think not enough women are taking statins.


Big Pharma Is In Your Genes

      20 Comments on Big Pharma Is In Your Genes

Lori Miller, who comments frequently here on the blog, sent me links to a couple of interesting posts she wrote about 23andMe. Here’s a quote from the first one:

GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s largest drug makers, recently bought a $300 million stake in 23 and Me, a genetic testing company. The two also signed an agreement giving GlaxoSmithKline exclusive rights to customer data. The data is de-identified, aggregate customer information.

Yikes. Now why would a pharmaceutical giant want to own a big piece of 23andMe? I’d like to believe them that the data is de-identified, but my paranoid side can’t help but wonder: wouldn’t GlaxoSmithKline just loooove to know whose genes make them potential customers for the company’s drugs?

Moving on to the second post:

23andMe, the genetic testing company, sent me a new report saying I have a 64% chance of developing diabetes based on my genetics. Having at least three diabetic grandparents and hypoglycemia from the time I was a kid, I already figured I was a case of diabetes waiting to happen if I didn’t take precautions.

If I followed 23andMe’s crappy advice, I’d probably become one of those cases. GlaxoSmithKline, maker of the diabetes drug Avandia, owns a $300 million share of 23andMe. Some of 23andMe’s advice for avoiding diabetes is good–avoid added sugars, refined flour and potatoes. Thanks to the work of journalists, bloggers, podcasters, and a few renegade doctors and researchers who attacked the low-fat orthodoxy, they have to throw that in now to avoid losing all credibility. But their advice on what to eat instead isn’t very helpful for filling you up and keeping you from snacking on foods with flour and sugar:

Hmmm. I sent my DNA sample to 23andMe last year because Chareva’s mom bought us the kits for Christmas. The only mild surprise is that I’m 0.4% West African (which means I’m more African than Elizabeth Warren is Cherokee). Other than that, no big surprises. I’m roughly three-quarters Irish, which I already knew.

Now I kind of regret ever sending them my DNA. I don’t think they’ll do anything evil with it, you understand, but I don’t like knowing they’re in bed with GlaxoSmithKline. As Lori mentions, do we really believe a drug-maker is interested in passing out dietary advice that would reduce the market for diabetes drugs?


The Fat Head Report: Things I’ve Learned From Vegans On Twitter

Yup, our vegan pals on Twitter have some interesting theories …

Here’s the transcript of my narration:

Today I want to share some interesting things I’ve learned from vegans on Twitter.

Now, I don’t have anything against vegans. If you choose not to eat animals foods, I really don’t care. If it makes you feel virtuous to eat a highly processed fake hamburger instead of a real one, be my guest. And I suspect most vegans are happy to mind their own business.

But of course, some vegans consider it their mission in life to show up everywhere, including Twitter, and preach to the rest of us about why we shouldn’t eat meat.

And some of them make some very powerful arguments using what we’ll call vegan facts. Which are kind of like real facts. Except they’re not true.

Like this one: Tom Brady is solely on a plant-based diet.

Hmm. If you’re posting on Twitter, I assume you have access to the internet, which means you could very quickly learn that Tom Brady wrote a book describing his diet and training routines.

And there several reviews of the book, including this one from the Boston Globe, which tells us Brady often eats fish for lunch. And it tells us Brady’s book includes recipes for burgers made out of chicken or salmon. And by the way, he drinks bone broth.

There’s another review of Brady’s book in Men’s Health, and it says nothing about him skipping animal foods, but it does tell us he avoids white sugar, white flour and white rice.

And for some reason, he also avoids pineapples, which mean Brady is unaware of this vegan fact: for 60 million years of human development me strictly ate fruit. Our anatomy has not changed. We are still 100 percent frugiverous.

Wow, turns out human beings have been around a lot longer than we thought. Because according to anthropologists, the first humans evolved somewhere around three and a half million years ago.

They were also about three feet tall and looked something like this. Just like the people you see today, since our anatomy hasn’t changed.

And as far humans being 100 percent frugivorous, well of course. Obviously, my northern European ancestors survived the long winters by importing fruit from somewhere near the equator.

And explains why early humans painted all those pictures of fruit on the inside of their caves.

Oh, wait, those appear to animals. Including paintings of humans hunting animals.

Well, we can explain that one away by tossing out this vegan fact: meat was a delicacy for Neanderthals.

And our tweeter knows this because I’m no sprinter. I wouldn’t OF caught any gazelle.

Yeah, I’m going to agree with you there. You probably couldn’t. But why would you believe your ancestors couldn’t? Well, apparently it’s because that’s what vegan doctor John McDougall says. Here’s an example from a recent interview.

But wait a minute. Neanderthals, paleolithic humans, Native Americans who followed the buffalo herds. How did all these humans get a reputation for being such proficient hunters?

Ahhh, that explains it. Humans got their reputation for being great hunters because of gender bias. We were actually very bad at hunting, which is why meat was a delicacy for Neanderthals, and why we only ate meat on special occasions like Christmas and Easter.

So we’ve finally solved the mystery of why humans painted their caves with pictures of themselves hunting fifteen to thirty thousand years ago. They were decorating for Christmas. Or Easter. Or some other special occasion where they ate meat.

But apparently early humans had a lot of those special occasions, because scientists have used something called isotope analysis to determine exactly what the Neanderthals ate. You have to admit, it’s pretty awesome when a delicacy makes up 80 percent of your diet. That’s like me living on lobster in a nice caviar sauce.

So why would anyone believe this nonsense? Well, humans form conclusions in a couple of different ways. People who are more rational tend to be objectivists, and they think like this. If it’s true, I’ll believe it. People who are more emotional tend to be subjectivists, and they think like this. If I believe it, it’s true.

And that’s nothing new. Aristotle wrote about it more 2,000 years ago. And it’s probably been that way for the 60 million years that humans have been around, with the same anatomy we have today, and living 100 percent on fruit.



      14 Comments on Swamped

The title of the post says it all.  I’m reading and replying to comments, but it will be the weekend before I have time to post anything.  We’ve got some tight deadlines at the programming job on a big-ass project with multiple moving parts.  I’ve been working loooooooong hours, weekends included, to make sure my part is done on time.

At least they pay me well for my efforts.

Now back to work …