Pet Nutrition

PET NURITION: We Sell DOG FOOD!

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Nutrition…The Raw Truth

by Dr. Russell Swift, DVM, HMC

When I graduated from veterinary school, I thought I knew a lot about health and disease. I was half right.
I learned a great deal about disease. I was taught pitifully little about health. Removing symptoms and restoring health are not the same. Drugs and surgery eliminate symptoms yet they weaken the body further, resulting in chronic conditions. As a result of such medical practices, the health of our pets is getting worse. More chronic diseases ranging from allergies to cancer afflict our beloved companions than ever. The use of processed pet foods plays a major role in this trend. By nature, dogs and cats are designed to eat other animals such as birds, rabbits and squirrels. This means that their natural diet consists primarily of animal tissues namely, meat, organs, glands, bones and a small amount of vegetable matter found in the intestinal tract of prey. In addition, all of these ingredients are only eaten in the raw state. Raw foods contain enzymes that assist in digestion and absorption of nutrients. It is only in the past few decades that dogs and cats have been given cooked foods. When raw foods are processed into pet foods, the molecular structure is altered and enzymes are destroyed. These changes make them difficult to digest. The result is stress on the digestive system, especially the pancreas. Stress on the immune system occurs as a result of absorbing incompletely digested foods which stimulate the body’s defenses. Canned and dry foods produce these detrimental effects. The best quality nutrition for dogs and cats is all raw foods. The risks associated with feeding raw meat e.g. salmonella are easily outweighed by the benefits. Healthy carnivores are naturally able to deal with germs and parasites. Currently, there are thousands of dogs and cats on raw foods around the world, yet I have not heard of one case of salmonella as a result. The long term risk of chronic disease does not make the use of processed foods worthwhile.

There are three strongly suggested supplements even with most raw foods:

• A high potency digestive supplement containing digestive enzymes and digestive bacteria
• A supplement containing a variety of gland and organ concentrates.
• A liquid, ionic trace mineral supplement
If your pet has a dry coat with fine flour like dander, add 1 tsp. of high quality fish oil per 50 lbs.
Always have fresh purified water available. If using distilled or reverse osmosis water, add liquid ionic trace minerals.

Holistic veterinarians seek to strengthen pets, enabling them to heal themselves. The first step is almost too obvious: FEED PROPERLY! Pets need a natural feeding program rich in raw foods and enzymes. NO pet food is 100% complete. (Most aren’t even close!) Your pet deserves better! Your pet will look and feel better and your vet bills will decrease significantly.

Raw Diets – Frequently Asked Questions

Feeding dogs and cats raw diets is still a relatively new concept; so, many pet owners will inevitably have a few questions about this practice. To help retailers better answer some of these questions, we’ve put together a list of common pet owner concerns and the appropriate responses.

A raw diet is a natural form of nutrition. Dogs and cats are carnivores. Left to their own devices, their typical daily diet, like that of their wild cousins (wolves and big cats), would involve catching (or finding) and eating another animal. A high quality raw diet provides pets with the finest and freshest natural nutrition, as if they had hunted and caught their “perfect” dinner.
They include ingredients from four main groups: fresh raw meat; uncooked bone; raw organ meats and green vegetation.
Raw-feeding pet owners and pet professionals around the world have noticed the following:
• Reduction of allergy symptoms
• Improved digestion
• Shinier, healthier skin and coats
• More energy and stamina
• Cleaner teeth and fresher breath
• Decrease in abnormal hyperactivity
• Reduced or eliminated need or veterinary dental work
• Increased mobility in older animals
• Better weight control
• Harder, smaller less smelly stools
Yes. As with any food, they should be properly stored and handled. Be sure to read and follow the handling instructions on the package.
Yes. Feeding better quality food (versus inexpensive grains and fillers) costs somewhat more. However, over the life of your pet, feeding raw will lead to fewer vet visits, problems with allergies and dental issues.
Prepared raw food blends contain the exact right proportion of meat, bones, organ meats, vegetables.
In addition, they offer convenience, easy storage and safe handling.
Days 1-3…… 25% raw/75% current food.
Days 4-6…… 50% raw/50% current food.
Days 7-9…… 75% raw/25% current food.
Day 10+……. 100% raw.

Vegetarian Feeding of Dogs and Cats

by Dr. Russell Swift, DVM, HMC

Many of the clients in my practice are strict vegetarians. Their reasons range from an interest in natural health care to concern for cruelty to animals. This lifestyle has proven beneficial for them and the natural assumption is that a similar nutritional approach would benefit their dogs and cats as well. Personally, I am against feeding vegetarian foods to dogs and cats. My reason is clear and simple – dogs and cats are carnivores! I know that many purveyors of pet products like to paint dogs as omnivores, but their teeth and digestive system are clearly those of a carnivore. If that isn’t enough, an hour or two watching nature programs will convince all but the most brainwashed individuals that canines eat an animal based diet.

The reason many people claim that dogs are not strict carnivores is that there is no KNOWN nutrient that a canine cannot obtain or synthesize from plant ingredients. This is a tenuous argument at best. It is only arrogance that leads anyone to believe that he or she knows every nutrient that is needed by any species. It was just a few years ago that the necessity of taurine in the feline diet was discovered. In addition, the fact that the body can manufacture a nutrient does not indicate that a dietary source of that nutrient is not necessary. Perhaps the body’s daily need is greater than it can produce. Recent studies bear this out. It has been found that while dogs can manufacture the amino acid carnitine from dietary ingredients, they also urinate out a larger quantity of carnitine than was previously thought. Without a dietary source of carnitine, it is very difficult for a dog to have adequate levels available for healthy muscle function. Carnitine is only found in animal tissues! In felines, the amino acid taurine is a necessary dietary component; it, too, is only found in animal tissue. While both of these amino acids are available as synthetic supplements, I don’t believe that is anywhere near the same quality as obtained in a natural diet. There a number of other nutrients known to be necessary for felines such as active vitamin A (which they cannot synthesize at all), which are only found in animal tissues. Perhaps in the future, such nutrients will be discovered for dogs, as well.

Another problem with using vegetarian diets is not what is lacking but what they actually contain. Vegetarian recipes consist mostly of vegetables, grains and soy products. By nature, carnivores eat virtually no grains or soy products. These foods are very high in carbohydrates which are almost unheard of in the wild carnivore’s diet. Metabolically, carnivores are not designed to use carbohydrates in such a large quantity. The result is a weakening of the health of the animal and an increased tendency to obesity. I also believe the high carbohydrate content of pet foods (vegetarian or not) leads to dental problems.

So why do a growing number of people recommend vegetarian diets for dogs and cats? There are several reasons:

1. Ignorance of their true nature and needs
2. Having an agenda to convert all people and animals to vegetarianism for animals rights reasons
3. Capitalizing monetarily on people following #2
4. Knowing an animal that has done well on a vegetarian diet

Numbers one, two and three above are self explanatory. Number four may seem contradictory to what I have been saying. Let me try to clarify why a pet’s symptoms may improve on a vegetarian diet. When animal protein is cooked as it is in pet food production, they become far more difficult to digest and are more irritating to the immune system. This can result in symptoms such as digestive problems, skin eruptions and a variety of others that may be labeled as a food allergy or a myriad of other diagnoses. When the offending protein is removed from the diet, the symptoms improve. I believe it is the absence of the offending protein not the presence of the vegetarian ingredients that results in the reduction of symptoms. Unfortunately, the lack of proper protein is likely to rear its head later in terms of other health problems. I have yet to see a vegetarian dog or cat that looked as good as a healthy, meat fed one. I know that there are many people out there who have a story to tell about a vegetarian pet who lived to be very old. There are exceptions to every rule, but I wouldn’t risk my pet’s life on it.
Please take note that I am not insensitive to the problem of animal suffering in the factory farm environment. As a veterinarian, I have seen it personally. The problem is that if a dog or cat is being fed a vegetarian diet, then that animal is likely to suffer as a result of malnutrition. With either a meat based or vegetable based diet, animal suffering will occur. Do we have the moral right to force our carnivores to suffer on a vegetarian diet because we have made a personal choice for our own lifestyle? For many people, this is a very difficult decision and there is no perfect answer.

Is Your Pet Ready for Bikini Season?

by Dr. Russell Swift, DVM, HMC

Or is your beloved dog or cat suffering with a weight problem? Despite the explosion of “reducing” diets into the marketplace a large percentage of dogs and cats in America today are still suffering (and I do mean suffering) with excess body weight. Just a few of the dangers an overweight pet will experience are: increased stress on bones and joints (especially the spine and discs), increased risk of diabetes, pancreatitis, fatty liver and respiratory problems. They are also more prone to heat stress and exhaustion as well as increased pain in pets with arthritis. Need I say more? I am sure that many of you have tried such diets and found that a small amount of weight loss occurred at the onset. In my experience, after a few months, the pet’s weight stabilizes. If the pet is unfortunate enough to be continued on such foods, there is usually a loss of coat and skin condition within two years.

Why don’t these foods work? As with the pet food industry in general, there is more attention paid to marketing than nutritional common sense. The manufacturer’s have attempted to apply to carnivores (dogs and cats) the strategies popular among people for weight loss . For example, reducing diets are very high in insoluble fiber and low in fat. The idea is to fill the pet with low calorie bulk. However, by nature, carnivores eat high calories with little bulk. How can anyone expect a diet that is so out of synch with the biology of the animal to move that animal in a direction of health? The first point to ponder is that wild carnivores don’t have weight problems. It seems sensible to contrast and compare the lifestyles of our pets and their undomesticated counterparts.

One of the glaring differences between the nutrient content of domestic pets versus wild carnivores is carbohydrate content. Pet foods supply a large percentage of their calories in the form of complex carbohydrates from ingredients such as corn, wheat, barley, rice and soybeans. Wild carnivores ingest virtually no complex carbohydrates. If we look at the livestock industry, we see that cattle are intentionally fed grain to fatten them and cows are vegetarians. If a vegetarian animal gains weight on starches, why wouldn’t carnivores? The primary reason carbohydrates are used in pet foods is because they are an inexpensive source of calories.
There is NO nutritional reason of which I am aware for carnivores to eat carbohydrates. The calories from carbohydrates are used to replace those that would normally come from the higher protein content of the wild diet. Corn is cheaper than chicken.

The next obvious difference between “domestic” and “wild” foods is processing. The multitude of steps involved in converting the ingredients of a pet food into the final product rob the diet of many vital substances and create a food in which the protein is more difficult to digest and utilize. Raw meat is far more easily digested and metabolized. The result of high carbohydrate, lower protein and processing is a diet from which the typical pet can readily absorb calories but not much else. This drives the pet to continuously seek food to meet his/her nutritional requirements. He/she gets fat but is still malnourished and the cycle continues.

Another difference is frequency of feeding. A wild carnivore tends to live a gorge and fast lifestyle versus free choice feeding. Having food available all the time can stimulate the digestive tract and encourage an animal to eat when he/she wouldn’t otherwise.

There are many other differences between the diets of domestic and wild carnivores but these three should be enough to get any thinking person’s attention. If my theory is correct, than one would expect that an overweight pet to lose weight by switching to a diet that simulates a wild carnivore diet. Can you imagine putting a fat dog or cat on a high protein, low fiber, low carbohydrate diet? Most vets would expect the pet to gain even more weight. As the saying goes, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
After years of using natural feeding, I can say that most chronically overweight pets will return to beautiful condition on a natural feeding program. It takes time to occur but it is worth it. Not only do most overweight pets lose inches, but they gain muscle tone and skin and coat condition. Believe it or not, most underweight pets will fill out on the same program. Why? When you give the body what it needs to function optimally, it will if it can.

I don’t want to leave everyone thinking that diet is the only reason pets can be overweight. Lack of exercise, chronic diseases and emotional problems are other factors. My recommendations are as follows:

– For a pet that is mildly overweight, try a natural feeding program. There are many books and recipes available. Unfortunately, many of the “natural” recipes also include the use of cereals and other starchy foods. Look for a program that does not contain these items.

– For pets that are significantly overweight, try a natural feeding program under the guidance of a knowledgeable practitioner.

Dr. Russell Swift has a holistic house call practice in South Florida. He is available to clients outside his travel area for phone consultations. He can be reached at 561.391.5615 or visit his website: www.therightremedy.com