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· Owned by a Havallon
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Copper is an essential nutrient for dogs but too much can be toxic to the liver. Unfortunately, the AAFCO has not established a safe upper limit for copper. Therefore, pet foods are all over the place with regard to copper content. Too much copper over time can accumulate in the liver and cause liver problems. Some dog breeds are genetically predisposed to not being able to process excessive levels of copper in the diet. However, from what I have read more and more dogs of all breeds are starting to have some liver problems due to excessive copper levels in their diet. Below are two articles that discuss this. If a dog is having any liver issues, it may be worth looking at the copper content of the food being fed. I understand that the first sign can be an elevation of the ALT liver enzyme. However, many things affect ALT level so it could be something else. However, I believe looking at the copper content of the food may be helpful.

To summarize why copper levels are rising in dog food.
  1. Change from using copper oxide to copper sulfate in pet food vitamin/mineral premixes (1997)
  2. Increased use of organ meats in high protein dog foods (and increased popularity of these foods)
  3. Increased use of non-grain vegetables that are enriched sources of copper (sweet potatoes).
One commercial food I recently looked at had beef heart and beef liver as the two main ingredients. This is very concerning as these are both very high in copper. Beef liver is probably one of the most nutritional foods on the planet, however it is very concentrated and is meant to be fed in small amounts.

https://thesciencedog.com/2021/02/24/considering-copper/

Another Paper Questioning The Safety Of Copper Levels in Dog Food
 

· Metrowest, MA
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Really interesting post, MPM, and a really good example of the problem of unintended consequences, when we push things too far out of whack. Actually similar to the problem with replacing grains with pea protein. I doubt that adding a few peas, WAY down the ingredient list, for some veggie content, is harmful. But the “grain free craze” (and not all grains are created equal) led pet food manufacturers to introduce an ingredient that SEEMED harmless and a great idea… until it started interfering with fertility and litter sizes…
 
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· Owned by a Havallon
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Really interesting post, MPM, and a really good example of the problem of unintended consequences, when we push things too far out of whack. Actually similar to the problem with replacing grains with pea protein. I doubt that adding a few peas, WAY down the ingredient list, for some veggie content, is harmful. But the “grain free craze” (and not all grains are created equal) led pet food manufacturers to introduce an ingredient that SEEMED harmless and a great idea… until it started interfering with fertility and litter sizes…
I think they are continually learning more about dog nutrition and unfortunately sometimes it takes awhile for unintended consequences to show up. And the amount matters! Beef liver is great but too much is bad! Peas at top of the list is not the same as those at the bottom. As a homemade raw feeder if I fed my dogs primarily beef heart and beef liver, I would be severely criticized for feeding an imbalanced diet, however a major pet food company is doing this very thing!
 

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· Metrowest, MA
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This is a friendly reminder. Please be aware of the "terms of use" on the Havanese Forum. Posts made on this site are opinions only of the poster and do not necessarily represent the official opinions of Havanese Forum. Please be very carful about slandering or defaming individuals and/or companies. Thank you.

From the Terms of Use
All messages that are posted here represent the opinions of the individuals or organizations posting those messages, and do not express the ideas or opinions of Havaneseforum.com or VerticalScope. You may copy the posted messages for personal use, but redistribution in any way requires the written permission of Havaneseforum.com. In consideration of this authorization, you agree that any copy you make of any message(s) located on this web site shall retain all copyright and other proprietary notices contained therein.
Huh? I don't see ANY individuals or companies mentioned...
 
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· Owned by a Havallon
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I just wanted to provide an update on the issue of excessive dietary copper in commercial dog foods. In my previous post I explained how excessive dietary copper has become an issue in dog food and how the AAFCO has not established a maximum copper level. Excessive copper can accumulate in the liver over time and become a very serious problem. Some breeds are more susceptible to copper storage disease, however this is becoming more common in many normal healthy dogs of all breeds. The main reason for this is that in 1993 1) they changed the copper supplement in dog food to a more bioavailable form and 2) they started adding the copper supplement to the dog food without consideration of the copper levels of the other ingredients already contained in the dog food.

Note that one of the early warning signs is a fluctuating ALT level. If this shows up on blood work, excessive copper could be the problem and it may be worth looking at the dog’s food.

At the recent AAFCO meeting, this issue was discussed and it appears that they may actually do something about it. Here is a excerpt from The Truth About Pet Food website on the discussion of copper levels at the AAFCO meeting. There is also a link to a good presentation about this.

“At the last AAFCO meeting (August 2021), the FDA stated during the Pet Food Committee meeting that copper levels in pet food would remain as is (with no maximum level established) even though multiple scientists were finding a link to copper storage disease in dogs with copper levels in pet food. However, at this meeting the FDA has (somewhat) changed their minds. Dr. Burkholder of FDA stated that after Dr. Sharon Center of Cornell University’s presentation to the agency during the September 2021 Listening Session (
– her presentation starts at 1:10 in the video), the FDA met again with Dr. Center (at her request, not FDA’s) and her persistence has somewhat paid off. Dr. Burkholder stated that the Pet Food Committee will need to address the copper issues. Another big change suggested by FDA (Dr. Burkholder) was that AAFCO workgroups formed to determine a maximum copper level in pet food should be “expanded to include veterinarians”. This is great news for pet owners, IF we can get more veterinarians like Dr. Center (unbiased/not employed by Big Pet Feed) to be included in AAFCO decisions.

Dr. Burkholder also stated that he told AAFCO in 2015 the organization should “get out of the nutrient profile business” and he shared he still believes that today. I couldn’t agree more. AAFCO – which is an organization of state feed control officials – most are not veterinarians, nutritionists, or scientists – should not be the decision maker to the copper minimum or maximum in cat and dog food, or calcium or any other nutrient in pet food. In my opinion – those decisions should be made by an independent panel of scientists that are not employed by the industry.”

Full article -
 

· Owned by a Havallon
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I just wanted to add that even foods that have no copper supplement added could be problematic. For example, liver, especially beef liver, is very high in copper. The copper content in liver varies widely between species. For example, beef liver is extremely high, poultry has less and pork actually has no bioavailable copper. For people who raw feed, it is good to find the percentage of liver they use in their formulas. More than five percent could be problematic especially when feeding beef which many raw feeders now only feed at two to three percent. It may also be safer to rotate proteins to risk getting too much copper.
 

· Metrowest, MA
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I just wanted to add that even foods that have no copper supplement added could be problematic. For example, liver, especially beef liver, is very high in copper. The copper content in liver varies widely between species. For example, beef liver is extremely high, poultry has less and pork actually has no bioavailable copper. For people who raw feed, it is good to find the percentage of liver they use in their formulas. More than five percent could be problematic especially when feeding beef which many raw feeders now only feed at two to three percent. It may also be safer to rotate proteins to risk getting too much copper.
Huh! Interesting. I have avoided the beef formula Nom Nom, because that is the formula made with peas, but maybe it’s just as well that I’m avoiding it anyway. I’ve been rotating between turkey, chicken and pork. I DO like that, of the fresh/frozen products, as far as I know, Nom Nom is the only one that has two on-staff board certified veterinary nutritionists.
 
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· Owned by a Havallon
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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
Huh! Interesting. I have avoided the beef formula Nom Nom, because that is the formula made with peas, but maybe it’s just as well that I’m avoiding it anyway. I’ve been rotating between turkey, chicken and pork. I DO like that, of the fresh/frozen products, as far as I know, Nom Nom is the only one that has two on-staff board certified veterinary nutritionists.
Per my understanding the only real concern with beef is consuming excessive amounts of the liver because beef liver has very high levels of copper. The regular body parts are not a concern but I understand the other organs can be high in copper also. Some foods specify which body parts are used and others don’t, so I guess if a food just says beef it could include liver. It is probably safest to rotate the proteins. I know some of the raw foods specifically list body parts like liver but they typically do not give percentages so it leaves me wondering. I know some companies use lots of heart meat as part of the muscle meat content.

Nom Noms sounds like a good company. However, Mars just bought them out recently which is a bit concerning. I hope they remain a good quality product.
 

· Metrowest, MA
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Nom Noms sounds like a good company. However, Mars just bought them out recently which is a bit concerning. I hope they remain a good quality product
So far, I haven’t seen any change. If I do, I’ll beat feet. There are a lot of other choices out there. I do rotate proteins. (And with this company, rotating proteins, means the entire recipe changes, which is a problem if you have a sensitive boy like Kodi… it isn’t a problem for any of my others)
 
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· Owned by a Havallon
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I just wanted to provide another update on the issue of excessive copper in dog food that has been causing a rise in liver disease.

Background:
As I stated previously, AAFCO has established a minimum requirement for copper in dog food but no maximum. This means that the copper content in dog foods is pretty much all over the place. Copper is stored in the liver. Excessive consumption of copper over time can lead to liver disease. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms appear, copper toxicity is very advanced. Certain breeds are more at risk but vets are seeing this problem across all dog breeds. The only early warning sign I have seen in the literature is a mildly elevated ALT liver enzyme which can be detected with a blood test. Note than many vets are seeing a trend in copper storage disease and are very concerned.

The looming concern about copper in dog food: Copper overload is quietly killing our dogs

AAFCO action:
A working group was put together to look into this issue and provide advice to AAFCO as to whether or not a maximum copper level should be established. They met on this and basically decided they do not recommend setting a maximum value for copper since they have no idea what it should be and they do not want to pick a value until studies on done to determine the correct maximum. They also said that if they pick a value, this will imply that some foods are not up to par and essentially cause havoc. Some of the group members disagreed and felt that at least some maximum should be set. As an alternative to setting a maximum copper level for all complete and balanced foods, they discussed setting a low copper level so that foods meeting this criteria could be labeled as “low copper”. It is interesting that they do have a maximum copper value in Europe for dog food.

https://truthaboutpetfood.com/wp-co..._Panel_Report_to_the_PFCkv2136684-2136685.pdf

AAFCO response:
At the January 2023 AAFCO meeting, the issue of setting maximum copper levels was discussed. However, they decided to do nothing at this point.

AAFCO Meeting January 2023 Report

Now what?

Looks like dog owners are on their own here. Here are some thoughts on what we can do:

  • Contact dog food companies to find out what the copper level is and how much it exceeds the minimum
  • Check if the dog food contains high copper foods in addition to copper supplements.
  • Check drinking water for copper levels.
  • Avoid high copper treats such as beef liver.
  • Rotate food formulas and brands
  • Look for the early warning sign of elevated liver enzymes.
  • Make your own dog food.
 
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