YOUR PET’S BEST FRIEND – CHRISTINE MALLAR– The invention of processed foods has been both a benefit and a curse for both humans and pets. Convenience is useful in our busy lives, but both humans and pets have seen health issues skyrocket as we eat more processed foods – obesity, diabetes, cancers, and many other chronic illnesses have become commonplace for us and our pets as we get farther and farther away from eating a diet of fresh whole foods. Cancer is now the leading cause of dog deaths in America, the rate of obesity is through the roof, and the number of cats having kidney and urinary tract issues is astounding. Here are a few tips that could help you keep chronic illness at bay for your pets.
  • Dry or wet? Moisture is important for all pets, but critical for the long term health of cats. Both species benefit greatly from moisture in their food. Consider adding water to your dog’s kibble and let it soak a minute to make it more digestible and to support cellular health. Feed cats a moisture rich diet, choosing commercially prepared raw food or at least canned food over dry (dogs of course can benefit from these as well). Cats do not have a strong natural thirst drive, as they evolved to eat animals like mice, which are made of meat, bone, organs and moisture (80% of a mouse is water). Feeding a dry diet can put stress on the kidneys by putting them in a constant state of mild dehydration.
  • Watch out for too many carbs. Dogs and cats were both designed as carnivores, and their physiology reflects that. They have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates in their diet, and lack some of the tools they would need to digest it well. For example, grains contain phytic acid (dogs and cats lack the enzyme that breaks it down) and extra fiber, two things that can interfere with mineral absorption, which could result in tooth problems and bone health, among other things. There are other problems – carbs are easily turned to sugars in the body, spiking insulin production and resulting in easy weight gain. We often see excellent progress with weight loss when owners switch their pets to lower carb diets.  Also, studies have clearly shown that cats that a eat a high carb diet are more likely to have urinary tract problems.
    Though many animals tolerate carbs in their diets, the truth is, high carb diets are not ideal nutrition for our pets. Grains and other carbs are simply less expensive for the manufacturer to use than meat proteins. Some foods rely heavily or entirely on vegetable based proteins like corn and wheat, only flavoring them with meat flavors. This often results in the owner having to feed more scoops at each meal (making a bag less of a value than it seems) and have to clean up a great deal more poop.
    What do you look for? Look at your kibble’s ingredient list and find the fat source (“chicken fat” for example). The ingredients that come before this fat source make up a majority of what’s in the food. Are most of those ingredients a named species of animal protein (“chicken”, “lamb” or “beef”, or “chicken meal”, “lamb meal”, etc)? Or are they grains like “corn”, “wheat”, “rice”, “barley”, and/or meat byproducts and unnamed meat sources like “meat meal”?
Though not many animals are technically “allergic” to grains, we consistently see an enormous improvement in overall health and a reduction of chronic problems like ear infections, itchy skin, chronic urinary tract infections, body odors, litter box odors, and joint pain, just by reducing the amount of vegetable based proteins and increasing the quality and amount of animal based proteins in their diets. You might pay a few dollars more per bag, but chronic health problems can be very much more expensive, and can cause our animals a great deal of discomfort.
Remember – any time you make a change in your pet’s diet, do it gradually. Start with a very small amount, and as your pet shows you they tolerate it digestively, increase the amount of new food and decrease the amount of old food, slowing down the change if you see any signs of digestive trouble
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