Nutrition Matters

Nutrition Matters

Sadly, it has become commonplace for vets in North America to see chronic disease in their clinics. They are reporting higher incidents of serious illnesses in young animals that were once seen only in older animals, more chronic diseases such as cancer and auto-immune diseases, allergies, immune-mediated skin disorders, and behavioral problems including aggression, anxiety, and depression.

Purebreds are suffering but so are mixed breeds. Genetic tailoring renders pets susceptible to disease and dysfunction as well as environmental factors, some of which, we as pet owners, can control.

Factors that influence health include:

1. Low quality, processed, non-species-appropriate pet foods lead to nutritional deficiencies, imbalances, malnutrition, malabsorption. These issues lead to illness, immune dysfunction, and loss of ability to cope with environmental stress.

2. Overvaccination – unnecessary routine injections of powerful, immune-altering substances, preservatives, dyes, and other chemicals.

3. Environmental pollution –The extreme concentration of toxic waste that exists in our air, water, and food is causing animals and humans to have to form resistance to these new threats to survival. An “unintelligent,”  “misinformed” or weakened immune system will most likely succumb to environmental threats.

4. Unrecognized stress – busy lives of humans causing animals to spend long days alone, sometimes in crates or rooms with little sunlight, stimulation, or contact. Other stresses may include an unsettled household where hostility occurs regularly and death or illness in the family. The pet’s emotional well-being may go unnoticed in these situations. Long-term stress can cause disease.


The main way that we can influence good health in our pets is to feed a balanced natural diet of whole foods. Low-quality commercial diets are not suitable if you wish to have an animal that is truly healthy.

Anne Martin, author of “Food Pets Die For Shocking Facts About Pet Food,” discovered that toxic chemicals and animal by-products (including euthanized animals) that are deemed unfit for human consumption are added to pet foods. Hormones, heavy metals, pesticides, mold, and other pathogens can be present in processed pet foods. Sodium pentobarbital is a deadly drug used to euthanize animals that have been known to end up in pet foods. This drug withstands the rendering process as do many other drugs that remain in the tissues of sick animals at the time they are euthanized. This horrifying discovery has motivated many pet owners to feed their pets home-prepared meals. The Animal Protection Institute of America also released a report revealing that some pet food manufacturers will spray their foods with discarded restaurant grease to make the food more palatable. Other chemical additives are also added for palatability, extending shelf life, and improving the appearance of food.

A steady improper diet leads to increased incidence of obesity, skin and organ disease, behavioral disorders, and chronic health disorders. These, in turn, lead to increased veterinary costs for pet owners and, often, unnecessary suffering to the animal.

Just as it is true for humans, animals need fresh, whole foods that are biologically appropriate and digestible. Just because a label on a pet food bag lists all of the “required” ingredients set by AAFCO (the Association of American Feed Control Officials), does not mean the food contains all of the other essential ingredients that we do not scientifically understand as of yet. These nutrients include naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, enzymes, and amino acids. The quality of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates is also important. If they come from sources not fit for human consumption, it means they are low quality and potentially harmful or inappropriate for our pets. Nothing can replace the nutrients found in fresh, whole foods.

Holistic vets are critical of commercial pet foods, doubting that they could ever replace the quality of fresh foods. They also believe that animals cannot tolerate the ingredients, that they cause illness or chronic disease. They are concerned by the fat levels which are far higher than in a natural canine diet. Unfortunately fat is a cheap and tasty source of energy that is welcomed by animals. Some vets believe that this combined with a diet high in processed carbohydrates is the primary cause of the obesity epidemic in today’s pets.

The foundation of good health is, first and foremost, a fresh, balanced, biologically appropriate diet. Changing the diet from low quality, processed diet to a high-quality, fresh diet can make huge changes to an animal’s state of health. Many illnesses can be reversed with high-quality foods.

2500 years ago, the wise Hippocrates said: “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” It has never been more true than today. The cells of the mammalian body undergo countless bio-chemical functions on a daily basis. These processes rely on dietary sources of energy. This energy is fuel for our cells. If poor quality foods are used, poor health will occur. If a pet appears to be healthy and not showing any signs of ill health, it is not a good reason to keep feeding low-quality food. Animals that seemingly show no signs of illness will still see benefits from a high-quality diet. Benefits include increased vitality, healthier coat, gums and teeth, decreased risk of acute and chronic illness.

Switching the diet slowly over a period of 7-10 days is recommended. This gives time for a more gradual adjustment than if you were to just switch from one food to another. Some animals may not agree to a sudden change in food and may not recognize it for what it is: food! Others may experience digestive upset with sudden switching.

Foods that should be avoided are as follows:

1.    Cheap, generic pet food products with plain labels. These may contain ingredients that are not fit for human consumption.

2.    Semi-moist foods. These foods are usually red and look like hamburger meat but they are formulated with chemicals to resemble this consistency. They are also extremely high in sugar. These foods are known to cause pancreatic issues and blood sugar problems.

3.    High protein dry diets. Excess protein in a dry format causes organ and immunological stress. 18% protein is plenty for dogs of all life stages. You will find that a raw diet if balanced correctly is approximately 18% protein.

Dr. Edmund Dorosz, DVM, author of “Let’s Cook for Our Dog,” gives guidelines for how to assess whether your dog is eating a healthy diet or not. He suggests that you be aware of your dog’s appearance. The skin is a good way to evaluate. If your dog’s skin looks dry, red, inflamed, flakey, is prone to fleas, mites, ringworm, or has allergic responses, you need to consider switching the diet. He also suggests you evaluate your dog’s behavior. An energetic and responsive animal is a healthy animal. Negative behaviors that can be attributed to the diet include dullness, irritability, hyperactivity, nervousness, and restlessness. Finally, your dog’s stools are an excellent way to assess health. The amount, color, formation, and smell are all important indicators. Excess gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, bleeding are all signs of digestive distress and are cause for a diet change. Behavior changes may take several weeks to resolve or improve after starting a new diet.

Stool size is an indicator of diet quality. The smaller the stools, the more the animal has been able to utilize the food he was fed. Large stools are a sign that the food is not being well-digested and not much has been obtained, nutritionally speaking. Stool color will vary for different animals but if the stool appears to contain color, mainly red, it could be an indication of food dyes present in the diet, internal bleeding, or internal disease. It is possible that your pet is not properly hydrated if dry, hard stools, and constipation are occurring regularly. Other factors include a poor diet, gut imbalances (flora), and hepatic/pancreatic issues. Parasites can also cause abnormal stools.

Other ways we can help our pets:

1.    Seek out a holistic veterinary practitioner who pays attention to natural nutrition, limited vaccination protocols, and holistic alternatives of medicine. 

2.    Limit the stress within the household and within our everyday life. Our stress affects our pets so we have an obligation to them and to ourselves to be mentally and emotionally at our best. Reduce situations that cause stress for you or your pet and increase activities that enhance your well beings.

3.    Regular exercise and fresh air. A good walk, run, swim or just general playtime outdoors can do wonders for the physical and emotional health of you and your pet. It also allows both of you to bond and have a better relationship. If you have an indoor cat, he/she will benefit from regular access to the outdoors, even if it is on-leash walking.

Categories: dogs cats

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