WHY IS FOOD SO IMPORTANT?
Holistic medicine covers multiple facets, stressing the importance of looking at an animal’s whole life in treating an ailment or problem. Creating a holistic lifestyle plan for your pet can be a preventative measure to avoid health issues before they happen. Diet is incredibly important in this regard, but commonly overlooked by many dog and cat owners.
Health foods, organics and “natural” eating are becoming very popular; and rightfully so. People are recognizing the importance of a balanced diet and avoiding preserved, synthetic, processed and pesticide ridden foods. We check the labels of food we eat and count calories, grams of proteins, carbohydrates and other nutritional facts but completely ignore it when it comes to our pet’s food.
Basically, our pets are just like us. If you spend a lifetime eating garbage, it’s going to eventually catch up with you. It’s easy to spot your own trouble areas but it can be harder to recognize what is unhealthy for your pet. Our goal at Clayton Veterinary is to help educate all pet owners on how to formulate the healthiest possible diets for their animals. So let’s get started!
It is important to take into account the order of the ingredients. The first few ingredients are the largest percentage of the food. In premium foods, 3 of the first 5 ingredients will be meat and not grain or fillers.
Above are examples of different grades of pet food. It’s not as cut and dry as poor, normal and premium brands. Many of the expensive diets still have plenty of harmful ingredients in them, so it’s important that no matter what you are buying you investigate the label. What you should be looking to avoid first are grain and carbohydrate fillers.
Both cats and dogs are carnivores and have no real need for foods with fillers as their primary ingredients. Feeding foods with excess grain can cause obesity, arthritis, and diabetes in your pet. Many common grocery store brand foods will be packed with corn, soy, meal and gluten. Gluten is the most dangerous of fillers and should not, under any circumstances, be used in animal food. Like the root word entails, gluten is a form of glue that has been proven to line your animal’s intestines with a sticky substance that decreases nutrient absorption and leads to vitamin and protein deficiencies.
Another common ingredient to avoid is bone meal. Bone meal is a rendered product from any type of unspecified animal. These animal parts are commonly collected from the waste of slaughterhouses, dead livestock and even euthanized animals. The USDA has conducted two studies that have discovered euthanasia drugs still present in commercial dog food. Many name brand dog foods contain these products, so it’s important to check the ingredients yourself before purchasing from even a “reputable” source.
In premium diets, protein comes from whole, un-rendered meat. This means muscle with or without organ meat. Chicken fat or fish meal (defined as clean, dried, ground tissue of un-decomposed whole fish) used with Tocopherol as a preservative eliminates the need for BHA. BHA is a preservative that has been linked to kidney disease, cancer, pancreatic disease, hair loss, blindness and immunodeficiency; so it goes without saying you should avoid it. Wheat is also a common ingredient that causes many food allergies and intolerances. In premium foods, wheat is substituted for higher quality grains that are not commonly found in standard or grocery brand pet foods. Generally, canned foods have less grain and fillers than dry varieties.
That brings up another question when choosing pet food; dry or canned? A study done recently on dry dog foods (including prescription allergy diets) found storage mites in 20% of bags at the time of purchase and 90% of bags after being opened and stored at home for five weeks. These mites contribute to allergies and itching. If you are feeding a cat, we advise you to stick with canned. Cats don’t drink much water so the extra moisture that is present in canned foods is very important to a healthy diet. Cats kept exclusively on dry food often encounter kidney and bladder problems that could have been prevented.
Raw and Home Cooking
While canned foods may be better than dry, there are even better commercial alternatives. Frozen raw diets, made by various companies, are among the best options. Earlier we mentioned how little carbohydrates are needed, but not all of them are bad. Fresh raw vegetables and fruits contain the good kinds of carbohydrates. Frozen raw foods balance meats, bones and organs with fruits and vegetables. The bones and marrow are high in essential fatty acids and iron. Organ meats, such as liver, kidney, and heart, add important sources of B vitamins along with vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. Most vitamins and enzymes are killed by cooking, so feeding raw allows those elements to remain. By going raw, you will decrease the amount of stool your pet produces, the odor of the stool, anal gland problems, decrease skin, coat, and allergy problems, strengthen the immune system and decrease degenerative joint disease.
If you want the most precise diet for your pet, a home cooked, or home prepared raw diet is the best way to go. These diets can be customized and varied to fit the needs of your pet. Dr. Judy Morgan has published several books that can help you formulate a diet. You can find more information on them here.
We base all of our home cooked diets on energetics. Energetics is a dietary plan based upon the natural function of the plants and animals your pet eats. Through this system, different foods can be used to affect the temperament and mental health of your animal, which in turn can treat illness and behavioral problems. This kind of therapy is not possible in already prepared diets.
A home prepared diet is incredibly healthy for your pet but it’s also a commitment. Food that will be served fresh has to constantly be purchased and prepared. The time spent on that alone may not be suitable for everyone’s lifestyle. Also, dietary choices are not always easy. A critical part of a home cooked diet is formulating a plan with a veterinarian who is knowledgeable in pet nutrition. Your pet’s breed, age, and health problems will all need to be accessed before beginning the diet.