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"The Thinking Person's Pet Food"™ – Since 1979

Whole Dog Journal

The Whole Dog Journal (WDJ) is a magazine that puts itself forth as a resource for people seeking information on natural and holistic care for their pets. It states as its purpose: "THE WHOLE DOG JOURNAL makes every effort to provide information on dog health, care, and treatment that is authoritative, reliable and practical… WDJ’s mission is to provide dog guardians with in-depth information on effective holistic healthcare methods…Above all, we wish to contribute information that will enable consumers to make kind, healthy, and informed decisions about caring for their own dogs."

Those are worthy and lofty goals. Unfortunately, WDJ belies those words when evaluating pet foods in its March 2007 issue. WDJ’s dilettante-style (a lightweight treatment of a heavyweight issue) makes them deserving of no catbird seat in advising people on pet nutrition.

Holistic care of humans and animals is deservedly coming of age as science and evidence mounts. Unfortunately there remains resistance because holism, alternative care, and nutrition are still perceived as quackery and flaky by much of the mainstream. The baseless folklore-style information presented in the March issue of WDJ reinforces the skeptic’s criticisms. By perpetuating ignorance and myth, WDJ unwittingly paves the way for immense suffering in animals.

The following is a point-by-point analysis of the WDJ evaluation of pet foods:

  1. In the prefacing editorial page, the editor-in-chief spends almost her entire time mired in a meaningless foofaraw: Wysong’s use of plasma in some of its canned foods. One would think this was a life and death matter, since there are hundreds of brands out there and all kinds of silly and very dangerous claims that one could pick on. But no, WDJ prefers a canard and places practically its entire editorial focus on Wysong because of some "feelings" about plasma. The editor even admits, "… let me be clear: I don’t have a single study to cite to justify my gut instinct to cull products that contain animal plasma from our "top foods" lists. It feels just as wrong to me as feeding beef products to cows." Featuring an unsubstantiated hunch, rather than something backed by logic and science, and black-listing Wysong based upon it certainly doesn’t jibe with the above quoted mission statements of the magazine. The reader is supposed to overlook that feeding cattle to cattle has nothing to do with feeding plasma to pets. There is no parallel whatsoever. Readers are also supposed to disregard that the high meat diets, which WDJ advocates (see below), all contain plasma since it is impossible to eat meat without plasma in it. Also ignored is the scientific evidence of the immunological health benefits of plasma. But based on the editor’s chimerical "feelings"—not logic, science, or evidence—Wysong should be banned, and foods that more closely match her arbitrary design preferences and even potentially mislead the public with nomenclature more suitable to her sensibilities should rise to the top of their list. (See the following) This stance of WDJ would be like Wysong telling all its customers to cancel their subscriptions to WDJ and subscribe to Dog Fancy or the National Enquirer because the tone of one of the Journal’s articles didn’t hit us quite right. The editor ignores that long before WDJ was even conceived, Wysong was leading the way with responsible holistic education and products, that over ninety Wysong foods and supplements contain no plasma, that Wysong is led by DVM/PhD professionals—unlike virtually any other company, has its own manufacturing facilities—unlike all the middleman marketing companies WDJ places on their approved list, produces more health information than all other companies combined, has over a twenty-five year history of proven results, has over 240 veterinary clinical consultants across the country, and has led on virtually every valid natural health innovation that has come into the pet food marketplace. As you will see, rather than recognize Wysong for its tireless and responsible work in advancing health for animals and humans, or even contact Wysong and give the opportunity for clear and scientific explanation, which could easily have been provided, WDJ prefers to denigrate Wysong and perpetuate myths pandered by clever pet food marketers.

  2. WDJ spends considerable time rehashing the unreliability of the common means by which pet foods can be labeled complete and balanced, such as AAFCO feeding trials and meeting NRC nutrient profiles. In the respect that these methods do not prove the true merit of foods, WDJ’s analysis is beneficial. However, they totally miss the most important point of all: no food should be fed exclusively regardless of its ostensible merits. They therefore leave readers with the erroneous and dangerous impression that all they need to do is rely on WDJ’s criteria and they will find a food they can feed meal after meal with confidence. They are thus perpetuating the most dangerous myth that has ever plagued the pet population, specifically that a heat processed manufactured food can be "100% complete and balanced" and thus be fed exclusively. The Myth of 100% Complete Processed Pet Foods. WDJ advice is therefore as irresponsible as a pediatrician telling a parent that they should feed their child a particular cereal or baby food at every meal for the rest of its life.

  3. WDJ does not allow for the fact that if a manufacturer (such as Wysong) does not buy into the complete and balanced myth, they still are required by regulators to place a nutritional adequacy statement on the label such as "intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only." That designation is perceived by the public as a caveat and slight, but for Wysong—of the choices regulators permit—it merely expresses most clearly our correct philosophy that foods should be fed in variety and rotation. All processed foods should be fed intermittently, because we at Wysong believe they all are improper if fed relentlessly and that real wholesome natural foods must be supplemented. Some of our most nutritionally dense foods carry this designation; it does not signify that they are deficient in respect to any other processed foods.

  4. WDJ does advise paying attention to feeding results and gathering information from producers. However, WDJ leaves the impression that the onus is on pet owners to find a brand that they can feed meal after meal. This is not a solution to pet feeding, but rather the surest road to long term failed health. Additionally, if WDJ had followed its own advice and contacted Wysong as to why it used plasma in some of its diets they would have learned that their emotional ("gut") reaction to the ingredient was not justified. This also would have been a far more ethical way to proceed, rather than single out and verbally blackball Wysong in the lead editorial. See: The Truth About Pet Foods, by Dr. Wysong.

  5. WDJ admits that they have done no more than evaluate ingredient listings to determine food merit. But this is like buying a parachute based solely on the kinds of components it contains. No consideration is given to the expertise of the companies, the games that can be played with ingredient names, whether the food has been successfully fed through several generations, the fact that nobody monitors what actually goes into products, the fact that almost all of the companies on the WDJ list do not even manufacture their own foods. In other words, will the parachute really open when the cord is pulled? See: Comparing Pet Foods Based Upon What Matters. The appropriate and important criteria for evaluating pet foods (as detailed in that reference) have been sent to WDJ in the past by Wysong, so that they could give more complete and accurate information to readers. They have ignored it and this is a serious disservice to their readership. Why not put all the information out there, and let the readers decide?

  6. Owners are advised by WDJ to seek foods with meats first on the ingredient list. That is, of course, wise since pets are carnivores. But no consideration is given to the fact that heat processing greatly alters the value of meats. This is evidenced by them advocating meat meals rather than fresh meats. This is nutritionally absurd since rendered meat meals are subjected to heat five different times when used in most dry foods. By WDJ logic, before eating a steak, people should boil it, oven dry it (both of these processes are used to produce meat meal ingredients that are shipped to pet food plants), then steam it (precondition), autoclave and puff it (extrude), then bake dry it again (all processes subsequently performed by pet food manufacturers after meat meal is blended into their formulas).

  7. WDJ advises pet owners to reject any by-products and instead seek "whole meats." This demonstrates their lack of understanding of the nutritional merits of the various parts of food animals. The author seems unaware of the fact that "by-product" is a mere word invention. It creates a negative connotation but has nothing to do with health or nutrition. Health and nutrition are not about superficial impressions created by word labels. Feeding just muscle meats to pets is a serious error since no carnivore in the wild eats such a diet. If they did, they would become diseased from doing so. In fact, carnivores often prefer the non-muscle meat parts of their prey that are labeled "by-products." WDJ evidently feels food animals have no inherent merit and that they should be raised, slaughtered, and everything but "prime meat" should go to a landfill.

  8. WDJ rejects fat or protein not identified by species. Those criteria have nothing to do with the nutritional merit of a food. The implication is that if the species is not identified that "practically anything" could be in the food. That only scares people into believing their pet food might contain crankcase oil and rendered tumors. Health and nutrition is about truthful information, not specious scare tactics. See: Ingredient Game PDF. Knowing if a pet food contains beef, chicken, lamb, or what have you, does nothing to insure nutrition or health—unless there is a proven allergy or sensitivity to a particular protein source. However, such allergies would be practically non-existent in the pet population if people were not feeding particular processed foods meal after meal as WDJ advocates.

  9. Grains and vegetables are considered fine by WDJ if they are not too numerous on the label. No consideration is given to the merits of ingredients known for their nutraceutical effects and of the danger of feeding starches (grains, potatoes, tapioca, etc.) on a continuous basis. Archetype Monograph

  10. They advise natural preservatives such as "rosemary, and vitamins A and C." However, regulators do not permit rosemary as a preservative. Moreover, vitamin C as such will not preserve nutritional fats (it is a water soluble vitamin that will not dissolve in the fats it would need to protect), nor will vitamin A. WDJ does not seem to understand basic food biochemistry or regulatory laws. Such misinformation and lack of scientific awareness should make any of their advice highly suspect.

  11. We most certainly agree with their caution against sweeteners. But they do not understand that whole grains and the other starches in the "no-grain" products they seem to be enthused about are just like sugar once they are metabolized by animals. Again, WDJ does not seem to understand basic physiological and biochemical concepts. Very simply, starches convert to sugars in the body.

  12. They advise organic ingredients but do not seem to understand that even the most pure organic food in the world, fed exclusively, still puts an animal at high risk.

  13. WDJ footnote highlights a "grain free" diet indicating that WDJ has been misled into believing "grain free" means the product is primarily meat, and free of sugars and starches—which is not true by any stretch. Upon examination, the "grain free" diet is found to contain potatoes as its starch (sugar). The relatively low protein and presence of numerous non-meat ingredients in the food does not make it even a meat predominant food. WDJ has unfortunately bypassed a careful look at Wysong’s truly all meat canned and TNT™ (True Non-thermally Processed) all meat dry diets. See: Critiques of Grain Free

  14. Another food, "Raw Instinct" is also highlighted as a "grain free" diet without any consideration of the facts of #13 which demonstrate that "grain free" is a ruse. The "Raw Instinct" name is truly misleading since this product is not raw. Also, this food uses tapioca as its starch (sugar). Tapioca is a potential source of the lethal toxin, hydrogen cyanide. If WDJ was interested in conveying responsible information, this, not plasma, would have been a good ingredient to pick on. And good science, not fuzzy feelings, could have been used. Tapioca

WDJ does not seem to understand that nutrition is all about health, and health is a place for intelligence and sobriety, not emotional reactions to words, e.g., "plasma" and "by-products" sound bad or too icky, while "high protein" and "no-grains" sound good. WDJ’s insufficient taste for logic and evidence and its groupie-like following of pet food marketers is a very real danger to its readership and their beloved pets. The wellbeing of our companion animals, who we have in essence trapped under our care, is far too serious a charge to treat with the lightweight consideration given by Whole Dog Journal this time.

A letter we received after publication of the WDJ article:

"Wysong-bashing" is not new to me but not in a million years would I have thought I'd hear it coming from WDJ.

I have used Wysong products for the past 12 years. Wysong's "philosophy" was my own before I knew they existed so when I happened upon this company I was delighted. I began trying out their products, first on myself, then with my own dogs, and then with my patients. I was so pleased with the results I had experienced and with what I was learning about nutrition from Wysong that I wanted to share this with my veterinary colleagues...but to my surprise, I was ignored, even ostracized by my local veterinary community. Someone even went to the trouble of starting a rumor that I was a major shareholder in the Wysong Corporation. At first I didn't get it, I thought this was so strange. Suddenly, my innocent desire for others to benefit as I and my patients had, was being attacked. I have come to understand that Wysong doesn't cater to nor try to please human personalities, but instead, seeks to represent a level of truth and integrity that makes some people uncomfortable, even causing irrational and disproportionate responses. In this March issue of WDJ you have purposely crafted your editorial note to publicly degrade Wysong. Did the big boys of the food industry make an offer you couldn't refuse or did someone at Wysong just tick you off? 

I have been a staunch supporter of WDJ for the past 4 years, recommending it to every one of my dog clients but your careless and arrogant use of editorial privilege to purposely dismiss this company has indeed disappointed me.