The beginning of a new year is often ushered in with a desire to make new and healthy changes in our lifestyle and eating habits. We have just made it through a season of Christmas cookies, holiday meals, and party foods and our pets have probably enjoyed extra Christmas treats as well. So, now it’s time to get serious. After all, it’s not what we eat between Thanksgiving and Christmas that determines our health; it’s what we eat between Christmas and Thanksgiving. This is a great time to clean out, clean up, and get back into shape. I hope to share some tips to help you get your pet back on the track of healthy eating and maybe you can take a few more walks together to add some exercise to both of your routines.
What changes can you make to help your pets maintain good health? I have always loved this quote by Hippocrates. “Let Food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. We can keep ourselves and our pets healthy by making right choices in the foods that we eat. For your dog that means to feed a species appropriate diet.
Many households choose to feed a dry kibble to their pets. We have been taught that this is the best way to feed our pets. Is a dry kibble a species appropriate food? Historically, a cooked diet was never a part of the canine and feline diet. These dry cooked foods are relatively new having been introduced within the past 80 years.
Our dogs have been able to survive on commercial dry kibble foods but are they thriving on these foods? I do not believe that a dog or cat can thrive on a commercial dry kibble. The foods are over processed and cooked at very high temperatures of 200-500 degrees F. Cooking at this high temperature destroys nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and enzymes) and reduces the digestibility of amino acids. Synthetic vitamins and minerals have to be added back in to replace the lost nutrients and to make the foods AAFCO compliant. Many of these synthetic vitamins are originally sourced out of China.
My occupation has been working with dogs, cats, and horses for over 38 years. I have seen that chronic degenerative disease, allergies, autoimmune diseases, and cancer appear to be on the rise. We have to ask ourselves why?
Cats are obligate carnivores (they should never eat carbohydrates) and yet there are carbohydrates in many types of cat food. Dogs are also in the order carnivore and are opportunistic and scavengers. They do well on a diet of meat and they seem to have adapted over the years and are able to eat some vegetables, fruits, and starches. Although they can tolerate starches, they do not digest grains well. In fact many dogs are allergic to grains. Several popular dog food brands list their first ingredient as corn. This is hardly acceptable. Here is a list of some ingredients that you should stay away from that are in some popular pet foods and treats.
They are: Wheat flour, wheat bran, Whole Grain Corn, Corn Gluten, Corn Flour, Whole Grain Wheat, Soy, Soybean Mill Run, Powdered Cellulose, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean Oil, poultry by-product meal, synthetic vitamins, preservatives, and food dyes, to name a few.
Dogs and cats should be eating whole foods with a high quality meat protein source. Their main protein source should not be coming from beans, peas, or grains. Their vitamins and minerals should be coming from the whole food as much as is possible. Their food should be alive and rich with nutrients and moisture. Many pets stay dehydrated on a cellular level because they do not eat foods high in moisture. When you think about cats for instance, they eat mice and birds and other little critters that are mostly made up of moisture. When a dog or cat eats kibble, the digestive system must draw water from the rest of the body in order to help digest the dry kibble. I don’t think that I would want to eat cereal every day for every meal. Why would we do that to our pets? While I think that an owner can learn how to prepare a well balanced meal for their pets at home, keep in mind that the absolute worse diet you can feed your pet is a diet that is prepared at home by an owner who lacks knowledge about nutrition and balance.
There are high quality commercially prepared foods available in the form of freeze dried, dehydrated, air dried, raw, frozen, canned, and there are even some high quality kibble available that cook at a lower temperature or even bake their foods. If you decide to feed a dry kibble it would be best to feed it with water or broth or some other liquid added to it.
I do believe that we are what we eat and I know that a lot of disease can be avoided simply by providing the body with the right amount and the right kind of nutrients so that it can function the way it was designed to function. 80% of the immune system is in the gut so taking care of the gut is a giant step to better health.
I will briefly mention one more area that I have been concerned with since the 1980’s. I have done hours of research on this subject and have attended seminars by Veterinarians to better understand this subject of vaccination protocol. Back in the 1980’s I wondered why it was recommended to revaccinate our pets every year. I had a baby and after her baby shots she wasn’t required to go back for yearly boosters so naturally I wondered why my pets had to go back every year. It also didn’t make any sense to me that a 4 lb Chihuahua was given the same dosage as a 100 lb St. Bernard. This is what I was taught in school and this was what I was taught at the Veterinary clinic that I worked at. I did some research and I was surprised at what I learned about the matter. I am not going to go into depth on this subject today. I might save that for another issue. I will tell you that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) set new guidelines several years back. Those guidelines are being taught in several of the Veterinary colleges including University of Tennessee. The guidelines for administering core vaccines DA2PP is to give puppy shots, a booster at 1 year of age, and then a booster every 3 years. The rabies is also a core vaccines and it is recommended to give at 16 weeks, a booster at a year, and then a booster every 3 years except where the county law may be different. Putnam County requires the rabies vaccine to be given yearly while
other counties such as Jackson and Overton County require every 3 years for rabies. If you would like more information on vaccinations and some of the research that has been done, I would recommend reading some of the information published by Dr. Jean Dodds DVM and or Ronald D. Schultz, PhD, DACVM. Remember vaccines should only be given to healthy pets. If you choose to follow the core vaccine protocol as outlined it certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t have to take your pet to the doctor for 3 years. Yearly check ups are very important. It is also important to have regular dental check ups for your pets. Excessive tartar build up will rot the teeth beneath, cause gum disease, can cause sickness in your pet, and can shorten their life. The tartar can produce toxins that are hard on the body and on the kidneys.
I have touched the tip of the iceberg here and now I challenge you to do some research on what it takes to keep your pet in the best of health. Learn how to read labels so that you can better understand what you are feeding your pet. We have numerous articles written by Veterinarians and magazines with articles on pet nutrition and pet health that we are happy to share with you. All you have to do is ask.
The world of health is huge. I hope that I have given you some insight and some direction so that you can do your own research on health and nutrition and make the changes that will add quality and longevity to your pet's life.
Have a Happy and Healthy 2015.
“A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” Proverbs 12:10 NIV
* Resources from various publications, papers, and books written by : Dr. Karen Becker DVM, Dr. Doug Kneuven DVM, Dr Marty Goldstein DVM, Dr. Michael Fox DVM, Dr. Ronald Schultz DVM, Dr. Jean Dodds DVM, Dr. Jeanette Thomason.