MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Not all Pet Foods Are Created Equal

When my black labrador, Maggie, was 8 years old, she developed a mast cell tumor. Maggie's surgery for this tiny skin tumor was much more extensive than I was prepared for, and it took a greater toll on her energy level and well-being than I could have imagined. Her vet informed me of the potential for a high rate of recurrence of mast cell tumors. Determined that another mast cell tumor would not be Maggie's fate, I set out to educate myself about how to keep my girl healthy. Of course the first place I looked was into the world of pet nutrition. I was nothing short of appalled at what I learned about what was and wasn't in dog (pet) food. Like so many others who feed their animals veterinarian recommended brands, I had fallen into the category of feeding Maggie a very reputable food recommended by a veterinarian that I trusted. After eight years of feeding her this vet recommended brand with corn as the first ingredient, meat byproducts and the preservatives BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin, I discovered, much to my dismay, what poor quality food I was giving to my best friend and companion.

Without going into detail here, I changed Maggie to a raw food diet, with the help of a competent veterinarian to determine the proper balance of nutrients that Maggie needed. Maggie thrived on her new diet. Her shedding of eight years simply stopped. Her coat developed a shine that made people stop and ask us what we were feeding her. She developed more energy than she had prior to her surgery. (To learn more detail about my discoveries about the frightening truths adout the pet food industry and the benefits of a raw food diet for your pet, see Chapter 9, "What's Really Best for Your Pet" in MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life).

Although a raw diet is probably the best way to feed a dog or cat, as long as it is nutritionally balanced, most people just don't have the time it takes to both prepare the food and to learn about the proper balance of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients needed for their pets. Fortunately there are now many higher quality pet foods available, both online and at specialty food stores, for people who want to feed a high quality pet food to their dog or cat. These foods will contain a specific meat or a specific meat meal, such as chicken or chicken meal as the first ingredient. It will not contain any meat byproducts, corn, wheat, gluten or Brewers rice.

I'd like to share with you today one such high quality pet food called Life's Abundance. According to Janet Roberts "it is so nutrient-rich, you don't need to feed as much as most pet foods." The formulator of Life's Abundance pet food is Dr. Jane Bicks, who "has devoted her entire life to helping animals live longer, healthier lives ... She keeps up with the latest nutritional research and uses this information to provide the best formulations she can to provide excellent nutrition and a safe product. She is the author of 3 books on nutrition and responsible care for animals, has received 3 presidential citations, the Outstanding Service to Veterinary Medicine Award, and sat on the advisory board for the Cornell University Feline Health Center, among her many other outstanding achievements. She was a pharmacist, then practiced veterinary care for 10 years before entering the field of formulation. It was her desire to truly help animals and she became aware of a distinct need for high quality nutrition. She decided she could help far more animals in the long run by providing a food that supplied 100% nutrition without all the harmful ingredients normally used in the industry, so she developed Life's Abundance. Dr. Jane (also) has a non-profit foundation (The Dr. Jane HealthyPetNet Foundation) that donates to rescue groups. A portion of all sales goes to the foundation."

This seems to me a very noble mission on the part of Dr. Jane Bicks. Janet Roberts has been feeding her labs Life's Abundance for 5 years now, and says they have never been healthier or had more energy. I asked her what makes Life's Abundance pet food different/better than other natural, holistic dog foods, and she believes that Dr. Bicks and her formulation is the key. Janet also shared the following about Life's Abundance pet food that she thinks makes it a notch above the others:

"Quick Cooking time: 15 seconds maximum. We have a special extruded process that allows one of the quickest cooking times in the industry. We know that the longer a food is cooked, the more nutrients that are lost.

Low Cooking Temperature: 250 degrees Maximum- usually at about 218 degrees. We also know that cooking temperatures are important for nutrient retention in the final product.

Excellent Quality Control: Quality of ingredients are of the utmost importance. We start out with the freshest ingredients possible. Brought in the day of manufacture, inspected for freshness and contaminants. Dr. Jane Bicks oversees the manufacturing process and refuses to hold any ingredients over if one does not meet her criteria. The batch simply will not be made that day, all ingredients are removed from the premises and new fresh ingredients are brought in again for the next batch.

No Steroids or Hormones: We use fresh hormone and steroid free meat sources. Our supply of farm raised catfish for the food undergoes testing for contaminants. They are raised under controlled conditions to ensure that high levels of mercury are not present in the flesh of the harvested catfish. We use chicken meal because the water has been removed and this concentrates the protein and allows her to produce a food with a higher protein content per serving. Our source comes from only high quality USDA range free chicken meat with no bone or other by products.. We do not use organic chicken at this time. The supply for organic meats to the pet industry is very limited. The supply of high quality organic prime meat in a large enough amounts and consistent supply is just not available to allow for the quantity we need to keep up with demand. What is available to date is what is scraped off the equipment and contains too many organic by products and Dr. Jane will never compromise her protein source. Protein is the building block of all the repairs and growth of the animals body. She would prefer to use organic meat sources, but not at the expense of the animals nutritional requirements. We do use organic fruits and vegetables in our products ...

No Chemical Preservatives, additives, by products, or artificial coloring agents. No Corn or Wheat Powerful Antioxidants

AAFCO & APHIS: We strictly follow AAFCO regulations. Our food exceeds the requirements to be 100 % nutritious. Our food is certified by APHIS for the European market. This means that we cannot mislead the consumer with the labeling of our ingredients. To be able to be sold to the European market a food must meet higher standards of excellence.

Absolutely Fresh: Life's Abundance is shipped directly to the consumer & is never more than 6 weeks old when shipped. Compare this to 12-18 months that some other brands are kept in warehouses or storage trailers without any climate control.

Micro Encapsulated Probiotics: This is very important as it guarantees the friendly bacterial cultures to be alive in the food after manufacture. Our food supplies 5 different strains. It is not known in the industry exactly which strain is the best or necessary. By providing 5 different strains we are covering all the bases. Our food also supplies the digestible fiber to feed the probiotics in the digestive tract. The digestible fiber is in the form of beet pulp. It comes from a small grey beet, not sugar beets. Not only does it feed the bacteria but it provides a medium to produce a nicely segmented stool. Most other foods supply no probiotics in their food. Probiotics and the fiber to feed them is imperative for the overall health of the animal. Proper immune function begins in the digestive tract. A healthy digestive tract allows for greater absorption of nutrients. It should always be present in a high quality food. No exception.

The cost for the dry food for a 12 lb. cat is about $.30/day, and for a 60 lb. dog about $1.04/day, plus tax & shipping. The products are shipped directly to your door by UPS."

To order or learn more you can go to Janet's website at:

Posted By:

Dawn Kairns
Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life


Ingrid King said...

Great article! I think more and more pet owner are becoming aware of the importance of good nutrition, and are gaining a better understanding of what constitutes a quality diet for pets, but there's still a great need for education on this topic. I'm still shocked at how little education there is in veterinary schools about nutrition (although that is starting to change). Unfortunately, that is one area where a veterinarian's advice is not always the best advice, espeically if all they recommend are the Hill's Pet Nutrition or Purina or Waltham diets of the world - while they are balanced and well-researched diets, sadly, many of these diets still contain too many unhealthy ingredients such as corn, by-products, and sometimes even artificial preservatives.

While I like the idea of raw feeding, I don't trust my food-handling practices, nor do I trust that I can source meat that is truly free from parasites, so it's not for me. That's not to say that it's not ultimately the best way to go. As for home-cooking, I don't even cook for myself, so it's unlikely that I'd start cooking for my cat (although if it was the only thing available that was good for her, I would!) I'm also semi-vegetarian and the idea of handling raw meat grosses me out a bit!

Thankfully, there are now a lot of excellent premium brands on the market. I personally like the grain-free EVO and Wellness brands. The Life's Abundance you're introducing looks like a great diet, I wish it was a bit more widely available.

What do other readers feed their pets? I'd love to hear about it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing Maggie's story, and for continuing your work to help other pets. And thanks for blogging about Life's Abundance pet food. You're right, although many people are more aware how important quality food is now, many just don't have the time these days to study all the ingredients and nutrients that our pets need. I am so glad I found Dr Jane Bicks & Life's Abundance when I did and I know my dogs and cats are much healthier now!
Janet Roberts

Dawn Kairns, Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life said...

Thank you, Ingrid! I, too, think many pet owners are beginning to understand what constitutes a quality diet for pets and how important good nutrition is. I think we have a long way to go given the number of sub-quality brands that are still thriving in supermarkets.

Yes, the minimal education in veterinary schools about nutrition is shocking, especially when you learn how much through the years came from a vet nutrition faculty funded my Hill's! Thanks for chipping in with this: "that is one area where a veterinarian's advice is not always the best advice, especially if all they recommend are the Hill's Pet Nutrition or Purina or Waltham diets of the world - while they are balanced and well-researched diets, sadly, many of these diets still contain too many unhealthy ingredients such as corn, by-products, and sometimes even artificial preservatives." I so agree!

I was also unsure of bacteria/parasite issue with raw feeding with current food-handling practices, but after speaking with several tried and true raw feeders, and recognizing how very different a dog's digestive tract is from ours and how much more they can handle, I feel ok about it. I think nothing is without risk, however. The first raw chicken drumstick I gave Maddie, I held my breath with the old fears of chicken bone splinters! But my learning had taught me that the raw chicken bones are soft -- it's the cooked that tend to splinter. That's not to say that choking is not impossible, but it's a rare to almost never occurrence with the raw feeders I've spoken too.

Of course if home-cooking isn't for you, these high quality pet foods are right up your alley! I like Evo, too, among many others.(By the way, all of this I've said about raw food relates to dogs. My cat will have nothing to do with home-cooked chicken or turkey, so raw is out of the question for her!

It does appear that The Life's Abundance is only available online or via phone order, which I think may be a downside for many people who can easily walk into a natural food pet shop and buy Wellness, Taste of the Wild, and other good brands.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Dawn Kairns, Author of MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life said...

Thanks, Betty, for leaving your first comment on my blog. I'm really glad you have enjoyed reading my blog and will keep visiting it often. It's always nice to know when people read it & to touch base!