The Tao of Chow: Rethinking Your Pet’s Food
A good diet is the key to a long and healthy life for any pet. It’s vitally important for pet owners to understand that quality nutrition is as beneficial for their animal charges as it is for us humans. Sound nutrition goes a long way toward preventing diseases, and, of course, prevention is the best cure.
Most people trust that their animals will remain healthy with commercially prepared meals. They believe these foods are scientifically proven to provide complete and balanced nutrition and that one brand is all an animal will ever need to remain healthy. In reality, most of these foods lack sufficient minerals, enzymes, and vitamins for good health. In addition, they consist of unhealthy ingredients such as processed grains and harmful additives. Could this have something to do with the fact that dogs and cats in the United States are living shorter lives today than they did in the not-too-distant past? Read on and decide for yourself.
THE MANY PROBLEMS OF COMMERCIAL PET FOODS
Up until the 1940s cats and dogs ate meat and vegetable scraps with some limestone or bone meal thrown in for nutritional balance. On the farm, companion animals would mostly hunt food themselves and be fed whatever leftovers were available. After World War II, when household pets became increasingly popular and life increasingly complex, average people started to rely on industry to free them from cooking and other routine chores. At the same time, the kennel industry developed and was looking for a way to feed animals consistently and conveniently. In response to these demands, the pet food industry emerged and rapidly grew. Americans had a lot of faith in this industry’s ability to simplify life, but little understanding of its motives.
In its infancy, the fast-growing pet food industry was in need of large amounts of raw ingredients. The void was filled by the human food processing industry, which had a great many wastes it wished to dispose of. At the time, organic materials were was being converted to fertilizer or farm animal feed, but very little profit was being made from these businesses. The opportunity to supply pet food makers appeared far more lucrative, and indeed it was. Today, most pet food companies are divisions of major agricultural and human food production companies (e.g., Nestle owns Alpo, Fancy Feast, Friskies, and Mighty Dog) and the industry earns billions of dollars each year.
Most commercially produced pet foods are full of cheap, inedible ingredients that are bad for your pets, and, unfortunately—though predictably—the cheaper the food, the more likely this is to be the case. Just think about it. What are the odds of spending only a few dollars on a bag full of quality protein and grain? They’re not good, when you consider that the cost of purchasing such ingredients would be higher than the selling price of the typical bag. This is not to say that more expensive pet foods are better in every case. Some are, but others are just as undesirable as any bargain brand. Compare the labels of a cheap grocery store dog food and a premier pet store product, and you may see many of the same basic ingredients. These might include corn as one of the top ingredients, meat and poultry byproducts, meat meals, animal fat preserved in BHA, ethoxyquin, and various vitamins.
What you are likely to find in pet foods are the contaminated or condemned remains of “4D” animals—that means dead, dying, diseased, or disabled livestock. Foods are made from all body segments—intestines, udders, esophagi, nails, ground feathers, claws, chicken beaks, cartilage, tendons, and bones. Ingredients may also include lungs with pneumonia and even cancerous parts, as well as blood and fecal wastes. These slaughterhouse throwaways, often listed on pet food labels as byproducts, are considered unfit for human consumption. Capitalizing on the whole animal creates an additional source of income for food processors and farmers, but does little in providing healthy sustenance for companion animals, as the ingredients are toxic. Also, the nutritional consistency of protein byproducts is questionable and may vary from batch to batch.
Byproducts are primary components of moist pet food, and they’re in semi-moist and dry foods as well. Dry foods also contain equally revolting material from rendering plants. Rendering is a process that melts animal carcasses in a large vat to produce meat, bone meal, and animal fats for use in the manufacture of pet food. The stew is once again composed of materials considered unfit for human consumption—roadkill, zoo animals, and euthanized companion animals, flea collars and all. Animals are cooked in high heat for up to an hour. Fat, called tallow, rises to the top, and the raw material sinks to the bottom. The raw material is then put into a spin-type dryer where it is forced through small holes and dried. This creates a product called meat meal, which is the protein component of pet food and livestock feed.
By the way, shelter companion animals are not the only candidates for rendering. Pet owners should be aware that their beloved pets, once deceased, could become another animal’s food as well. To prevent this from happening an animal owner should not automatically sign authorization papers at a veterinary clinic (papers that state that a pet is no longer yours and anything can be done with it). First, an owner should find out exactly how the pet is going to be disposed of, as some animals are buried in mass grave sites, some are cremated, and others are sent to rendering plants.
High-heat cooking is supposed to make rendered foods safe, but there is no guarantee of protection. While the rendering process destroys bacteria, the processed material may come in contact with raw product—dead and diseased animals—and become recontaminated. Pet food companies should be testing for bacterial recontamination from salmonella and Escherichia coli, but they seldom do. Nor do they test for endotoxins, pathogens produced during a bacterium’s growth that are released when the bacterium dies. These toxins can cause sickness and disease.1
Rendering destroys many germs, but it does not destroy the chemicals and heavy metals that were in livestock before their demise, such as hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. Additionally, insecticides used in flea collars and topical ointments will remain, as will sodium pentobarbital, a barbiturate used to euthanize animals. Many poisons not only withstand the rendering process, they become more toxic. Most companies do not test for the presence of chemicals but assume the material they buy from rendering companies to be drug-free.
What makes such awful ingredients appeal to animal taste buds are added fats, and these are often produced from another sickening source—rancid restaurant grease. Restaurants collect grease in huge drums that are stored outside, where they may be exposed to extreme temperatures. Rendering companies eventually pick up the used grease, blend it with other fats, including the tallow from rendered products, and then stabilize the mix with antioxidants to prevent further spoilage before selling it to pet food companies. These fats are then sprayed onto dried kibble, extruded pellets, and other bland foods to entice animals to eat food they would normally walk away from in disgust.
Grains are used in large volume as cheap filler. Top carbohydrate ingredients are corn and wheat; the problem is that nutrients from these are not completely absorbed by dogs and cats. You might see a grain deceptively listed as if it were two products (such as ground wheat and wheat flour) since components are listed in the order of quantity, and splitting the ingredient makes it appear as if less grain and more protein is being offered. Carnivorous animals need a diet high in protein, so feeding them a mostly grain-based diet is not in their best interest; however, it does serves a purpose—that of saving money for the manufacturer. This is especially true when the parent company manufactures cereal; note that the largest producer of pet foods is Ralston-Purina.
Moldy grains are potentially deadly and a reason pet foods are sometimes recalled. Wheat, corn, cottonseed meal, peanut meal, and fish meal are particularly susceptible to mycotoxins—toxic substances produced by mold. In 1995, Nature’s Recipe pulled $20 million worth of dog food from its shelves after many dogs became ill with vomitoxin, a mycotoxin that causes vomiting, diarrhea, and an inability to eat. In 1999, an even more harmful mycotoxin prompted the recall of Ol’Roy, a Wal-Mart’s brand of dry dog food, but not before 25 dogs had already died.
Processing practices—heating, cooking, rendering, freezing, dehydrating, canning, extruding, pelleting, and baking—greatly diminish the nutritive value of pet foods. For this reason pet food manufacturers add vitamins and minerals to the final product. Vitamin fortification, however, does not compensate for what has been lost in the food. Mineral deficiencies or imbalances may result from inferior food products and cause a host of ailments, notes Howard Peiper, coauthor of Supernutrition for Animals. Peiper explains that a lack of zinc, for instance, could cause vomiting, conjunctivitis, debility, or retarded growth, especially in cats. Another example: Calcium deficiency could result in osteoporosis, hip dysplasia, gum erosion, tooth loss, bones that break easily, and reproductive failure.
Finally, chemical additives and preservatives are added to improve appearance and shelf life. Synthetic preservatives commonly include butylated hydroxy anisole (BHA), butylated hydroxy toluene (BHT), and ethoxyquin, a synthetic antioxidant developed to keep rubber in tires from oxidizing. Although only small amounts of these substances are added to foods, animals tend to rely on a single food for their nourishment. These potentially cancer-causing toxins build up in the system and over time may take a toll on the animal’s health. Also, no studies have been performed to ascertain the synergistic effects of various additives. In other words, your pet may be ingesting coloring agents, emulsifiers, flavor enhancers, and stabilizers at the same time without anyone knowing whether or not dangerous interactions could occur.
It’s no wonder that today’s pet foods are correlated with chronic sickness in young animals and shorter lifespans. Cancer among young animals is rampant. In the past, veterinarians sometimes saw cancer in older pets; today, they are witness to many cancer-ridden animals that are only two or three years of age. Other diseases being seen in increasing or epidemic proportions include infections, skin diseases, liver problems, irritable bowel disease, bone and joint diseases, urinary tract disorders, and thyroid problems. Some specific conditions have been directly linked to commercial food ingredients, such as ethoxyquin, which has been related to skin problems and infertility in dogs. Other diseases stem from a lack of nutrients. Heart disease and blindness, for instance, are known to result from taurine deficiency. Additionally, there may be a connection between the eating of diseased animals and mad cow disease, according to Ann Martin, author of the book Foods Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food. Martin states that over 100 cases of mad cow disease have been discovered in England, although Canada has reported only one and the U.S. none. Nevertheless, Martin says that the disease could be more widespread than believed, as it can easily be misdiagnosed as a neurological illness.2
Many other illnesses are not traceable to a single cause but are simply the result of a worn-out immune system that can no longer keep up with the influx of so many toxins. “There are millions of dogs and cats fed garbage every day, and nobody has ever questioned it,” says Martin. This is because, for the most part, pet food companies are accountable to no one. It’s an industry that grew very quickly, Martin points out, and fell through the cracks without ever being regulated.3
The problem with chemical analysis is that it does not address the biological value of foods. Dr. Morris, the founder of the Hills Pet Food Company, once published a chart mocking regulatory standards with an inedible list of ingredients that would pass as pet food. His concoction contained:
2 old shoes (protein)
1 quart of crankcase oil (fat)
1 bucket of coal (carbohydrates)4
This is an exaggeration, perhaps, but one well worth considering when planning your pet’s diet.
One should also be wary of products marked USDA-inspected. While this appears to indicate that the food is good for human consumption, it actually means that the product was rejected for this purpose.
One advocate for change is the Animal Protection Institute (API). As a liaison to AAFCO’s Pet Food and Ingredient Definitions Committees, the API voices consumer concerns about pet foods and lobbies for federal regulation and the development of more stringent standards for ingredients. They are faced with a difficult challenge because the multibillion-dollar industry has no desire to regulate itself and makes million-dollar contributions to government agencies in order to preserve its interests.
Still, the API is an important resource for consumers who wish to know more about the pet food industry. For more information, contact the API at P.O. Box 22505, Sacramento, CA 95822, or call (916) 731-5521 and ask for the organization’s pet food report. Be sure to share the literature with friends, family, and veterinarians. Another source is author Ann Martin, who can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] for information on the pet food industry and resources for consumer action. Additionally, pet food issues are discussed in the Love of Animals newsletters. Subscriptions can be obtained by calling (800) 211-6365 or (800) 711-2292.
Education is the first step toward action. Become involved by writing or calling pet food companies and the Pet Food Institute (whose numbers are listed in the appendix) to express concerns about commercial pet foods. And, of course, boycott undesirable products. When enough people start spending their dollars elsewhere, real change can happen.
THREE LEVELS OF HEALTHFUL PET NUTRITION
Fortunately, you can promote good health, and help reverse illness, once you start feeding your animal human-grade or real foods. That’s how Rotweiller breeder Kim Thomson cured her animals of eye and ear infections, skin diseases, and liver problems. Thomson’s own success inspired her to help others, and so she began to market her own product,6 but of course there are a variety of other options for people seeking to improve the diet of their pets. In addition to buying healthier commercial brands, they can cook foods themselves, or feed their animal charges some combination of home-cooked and commercial foods.
Most holistic veterinarians advocate homemade meals for animals, and some animal owners have the time and interest to prepare foods themselves. But not everyone is willing or able to do this. Many people lead busy lives and, while they may love their pets, they just don’t have the time or energy to follow pet recipes. Others don’t like to cook or feel the extra costs are not within their budget. Dr. Robert Goldstein, a holistic veterinarian with more than 20 years of experience, and his wife, Susan J. Goldstein, an expert in animal nutrition, have responded to the widespread need for better pet nutrition with a quality dietary program that’s simple for anyone to follow. Their three-level plan invites people to engage either minimally (level I), with a bit more involvement (level II), or with optimal input (level III). At level I, all an owner need do is switch to a natural brand of commercial dog or cat food, because yes, there are some good brands. A level II degree of participation has owners adding nutritious chopped vegetables to the commercial food, and level III adds healthy table scraps and other wholesome foods to levels I and II. Whatever your degree of involvement, expect to see such positive results as a shinier, more lustrous coat and an enhanced resistance to infections and chronic diseases.
The consumer should still be cautious, however, as many foods touted as natural are not always as wholesome as they appear to be. Fats may be preserved in rosemary oil and vitamin C, for instance, while other ingredients in the product are chemically preserved. Since it is not mandatory to list all preservatives on a label, one can be easily duped. The only way to know for sure is to call or write individual pet food companies asking for a full list of the exact ingredients. According to Dr. and Mrs. Goldstein, who have researched commercial products, the best ones, as listed in their Love of Animals newsletter, are:
California Natural—(800) 532-7261
Flint River Ranch—(909) 682-5048
Halo, Purely for Pets (Spot’s Stew)—(813) 854-2214
Nature’s Recipe—(800) 237-3856
Nutro Natural Choice—(800) 833-5330
Old Mother Hubbard (Wellness)—(800) 225-0904
One Earth (Eight in One)—(516) 232-1200
Sirius—(800) 890-7767 or (800) 395-7134
Solid Gold—(800) 364-4863
Wysong—(517) 631-0009 or www.wysong.net7
They also recommend Alive, an organic, three-module food plan for dogs and cats that features active enzymes and is available from Earth Animal at (800) 622-0260. However, any of these products could be used in level I of Dr. Goldstein’s program. Remember, though, that as animals have sensitive digestive tracts, new foods should be introduced gradually.
Implementing level II is simple in that all you have to do is add some fresh, organic, chopped or grated fruits or vegetables. Be sure to keep pieces small because your dog and cat’s ancestors that lived in the wild got their vegetables in a digested form out of the intestines of their herbivorous prey. Good choices are carrots, cabbage, celery, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, watercress, broccoli, and green beans. Cats are especially fond of zucchini. To make fruits and vegetables more appetizing, try mixing the chopped produce with a spoonful of organic plain yogurt and a capful of flaxseed oil before blending into the food.
Raw fruits and vegetables will boost your animal’s immune system with the live enzymes needed to help digest carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and to generate new tissue. You can also take your animal’s health and healing to a higher level by juicing organic raw fruits and vegetables.
Each fruit and vegetable has healing properties. Apple contains pectin for the removal of toxins, and the fruit’s alkalinity makes it a digestive aid. Carrot juice, rich in fiber, beta carotene, chelated minerals, and antioxidants, is good for the eyes and the immune system, and helpful in reducing oxidative stress in the bloodstream.
Combination juices can nourish the system even more completely. Use carrot or apple juice as a base because their sweetness pleases an animal’s taste buds. Then add a little green juice for its potent healing effect. Greens are bitter, and bitters help detoxify the liver. Be careful to use only small amounts of green juices, as just a little is needed, and too much could make your animal sick. An example of a combination juice would be a sprig of parsley blended into apple or carrot juice. The apple will aid digestion while the parsley will cleanse the blood, fight viruses and bacteria, and even sweeten the breath. For special challenges, try some of the following juice combinations:8
|Allergies, asthma||carrot, apple, kale, parsley|
|Arthritis, dysplasia||carrot, celery, lettuce|
|Constipation||carrot, lettuce, cabbage|
|Cancer||carrot, apple, watercress|
|Skin disorders, itching||carrot, apple, cucumber|
|Cataracts, vision||carrot, apple, endive|
|Epilepsy||peas, carrot, beet greens, spinach|
|Diabetes||carrot, Brussels sprouts, string beans|
|Heart problems||carrot, red pepper, asparagus|
|Digestive disorders||lettuce, papaya, carrot, apple|
|Kidney, bladder||carrot, watermelon, cranberry|
|Toxic liver||carrot, garlic, dandelion|
|Congested lungs||carrot, ginger, garlic, radish|
|Tooth decay||carrot, celery, spinach|
|Stomach upset||apple, kale, collard greens|
Just a little juice can be a powerhouse of healing. For small dogs and cats start with 1 teaspoon and work up to 2 tablespoons. For medium dogs, those between 15 and 34 pounds, begin with 1 to 2 tablespoons and build up to _ cup. And for large dogs, initially give 3-4 tablespoons and work up to 1 cup.
If you are wondering how to get your pet to drink fresh juice, try waiting until mealtime and then mixing a small amount of juice in with the food. Or add a few drops to your pet’s water. You could also put some juice in an eye dropper and place it in his mouth. Before long your pet may develop a liking for the juice and look forward to a little each day.
On level III of the Goldstein food program, healthful table scraps and other wholesome ingredients are added to commercial fare by reducing the natural base of dry food by about 25 percent and replacing it with equal amounts of protein, whole grains, and finely chopped or grated vegetables. Recommended portions are 1/4 cup per meal for a cat or small dog, _ cup per meal for a medium-sized dog, 1 cup for a large dog, and 1 to 1_ cups for a giant dog. The great thing about this plan is that it needn’t be costly.
SHARE THE HEALTH—AND SAVE THE WEALTH!
Do you think you should never give your dog or cat table scraps? That’s probably something you’ve learned from pet food companies, or from conventional veterinary medicine. But think about the kind of nutrition your animal gets from commercially produced pet foods, and then think about the kind of nutrition you want your pet to receive in order to stay healthy and happy. If you yourself are eating healthfully, there are lots of ways you can extend the benefits of your own good nutritional habits to your furry loved ones, and save money in the process.
Say you’re having salad for dinner. Save some without dressing for your dog or cat, leaving out the onions and avoiding tomatoes—they’re too acidic. Then grate your salad with a food processor or hand grater, and add it to your pet’s regular food. You’ll be reducing the amount of money you spend on pet food, and improving your pet’s diet at the same time. Cats, in particular, love salad and greens.
You can do the same thing with oatmeal. If you’re making yourself some for breakfast, make an extra cup, let it cool, and add it to your dog’s reduced morning helping of dry food. Oats are as good for animals as they are for people. Other good grains to use are brown rice and millet. The rich roughage and fiber content from these complex carbohydrates will ensure fewer hairballs in cats. Refined grains, however, should be avoided.
Almost any fruit, except citrus, can be shared with pets. Apples make a great snack for everybody in your household, two-legged or four-. Cats are often fond of melons. And remember to save some of your baked potato (without the butter or sour cream, of course) as cats and dogs love spuds and their skins. Buy organic potatoes if you can; otherwise, scrub the skin well before cooking.
Many people shy away from feeding table scraps to their pet for fear of upsetting their delicate digestive systems. But this should not happen if you introduce the food slowly and increase leftover portions gradually. One more caveat: Raw vegetables should also be eaten as fresh as possible; after purchase, refrigerate and use them within three to five days; otherwise, they will spoil as a result of naturally occurring enzymes and bacteria.
HOMEMADE FOODS—A GREAT OPTION
The best way to feed your dog or cat is to prepare the food yourself. Obviously, in this hectic day and age, not everyone’s going to be able to devote kitchen time to creating meals for their animals; many people can’t even do so for their children! But to extent, however limited, that you can cook for your pet, you’ll both benefit. You’ll feel good about doing something life-promoting. And your animal will become healthier for the change because high-quality protein supplies the full spectrum of amino acids needed to grow and replace muscles, blood cells, and many other body tissues, while good sources of carbohydrates ensure greater energy and vitality.
If you plan on making a real dietary shift to homemade, begin the transition slowly, especially if your pet is older or used to commercial foods. Because animals have sensitive digestive systems, they sometimes have adverse reactions to changes in their customary diet, even when the transition is from poor food to excellent. So start by mixing a very small amount of the new food into the previous brand and continue to convert with the gradual addition of new food every week. If the stool is loose or your pet rejects the food it probably means that you were trying to make the switch too quickly and that you should slow down a bit.
If you are planning to prepare food on a long-term basis, you will need to supply the correct constituents—particularly amino acids, vitamins, and minerals—in the correct ratio. Before you start to make homemade foods, consult with your holistic veterinarian about a dog’s, cat’s, or other animal’s overall nutritional needs, and to see if your animal has any special requirements. In general, a cat’s diet should consist of approximately two-thirds protein and one-third grains and vegetables, while dogs can eat equal amounts of protein and a veggie/grain-or-potato mix. Puppies and kittens will need slightly more protein and geriatric animals somewhat less. Also, if your animal is ill you will need to adjust the diet accordingly. An animal with kidney disease or inflammatory bowel disease, for example, should be eating less protein, and an animal with a hyperthyroid condition would need to minimize iodine-rich foods, such as sardines, turnips, and mustard greens. You may therefore need to customize your pet’s diet.
Begin as simply as possible. You might try supplementing your dog’s or cat’s regular diet with small amounts of lightly cooked chicken (no skin or spices) and rice. If this is agreeable to your pet, you can now add some vegetables and the correct amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fat. Raw vegetables should be put through a food processor and finely chopped or, if the animal has a weak digestive system, pureed, until his or her digestive tone has improved. Gradually expand healthy choices by alternating your base of chicken and rice with other sources of protein—beef, lamb, venison, fish, and even tofu—and complex carbohydrates—brown rice, millet, potatoes, oatmeal, and barley. Pork should be avoided because it is very rich and may cause diarrhea and digestive upsets. Also liver or kidney, unless certified organic, should not be eaten because they contain many toxins including heavy metals. Fish should be frozen, and only then thawed and served, as freezing will kill parasites. Ocean fish is preferable to freshwater fish. Egg yolks can be eaten raw, although egg whites, if you’re using them, should be cooked, as they contain an enzyme that destroys the B vitamin biotin. In addition, you will want to add two of the following items: Most often you will want to give some cold-pressed olive oil, organic flaxseed oil, or brewer’s yeast; occasionally, try cod liver oil, garlic, wheat germ oil, or kelp. Your cat needs between a half and a whole teaspoon, while dogs need between one and four teaspoons, depending on their size. Food should never be microwaved, and should always be served at room temperature.
Whole grains are a rich source of the fiber needed to maintain a healthy colon and intestines and ensure proper weight. To prepare, cook millet and barley for an hour and half, brown rice for about an hour, and oatmeal for only five minutes. Brown rice is high in tick- and flea-repellant vitamin B1 and can be combined with millet for animals in need of a hypoallergenic diet. Your pets may find these less appealing to their tastes than commercial food, but you can dress them up with a drizzle of flaxseed oil or a tiny amount of Parmesan cheese. They’re even better when combined with protein and veggies.
Once you are sure that your pet has gotten used to a change in diet, he or she is certain to thrive on a variety of home-prepared meals. To help you get started, try some of these healthful recipes designed by the Goldsteins for their healing and rejuvenating effects:9
Wild Rice Trio
This is a hearty meal that is great for the skin and coat and high in energizing complex carbohydrates.
1 cup wild and brown rice (perhaps left over from Sunday dinner) steamed with fresh garlic
1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped
2 cups natural commercial pet food
2 flaxseed oil capsules
For cats and small dogs (up to 25 lb)—1/2 cup
For dogs 50 lb and over—2 cups
Watercress Delight (Mock Grass)
Green foods are rejuvenating, and watercress is one of the best green foods to cleanse the intestinal tract. This meal will help fulfill your animal’s wild side.
1 handful watercress
3 cups natural commercial food
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Internal Powder or unprocessed brewer’s yeast
For dogs 50 lb and over—2 cups
This mixture is high in minerals that sooth the stomach. It’s good for weight loss and an excellent prelude to a fast and for pre- and post-surgical patients. It also has five-star taste.
3 Brussels sprouts, chopped
2 potatoes, cut into chunks with skin
1/2 cup brown rice, cooked
For dogs 50 lb and over—1-1/2 cups
This meal is far superior to commercially prepared foods.
1 cup oatmeal, cooked
1 tsp raw honey
For dogs 50 lb and over—1 to 2 cups
Delicious and nutritious. A favorite any time of the year.
1 egg, soft-boiled
1 tbsp grated cheese
1 tbsp virgin olive oil
For dogs 50 lb and over—2 cups
This makes a good pick-me-up for your pet, especially during winter months when your animal may feel stiff and achy. It’s loaded with antioxidants and fiber, and the fish oil provides a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids, which act as an anti-inflammatory and promote healthy skin and coat.
1/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
2 tbsp feta cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp plain low-fat yogurt
1 cup natural commercial food
2 fish oil capsules
For dogs 50 lb and over—1 cup
Loaded with complex carbohydrates, this dish serves up steady energy for long walks.
2 potatoes, cooked
1 tbsp fish oil (about 4 capsules)
strips Swiss cheese
For dogs 50 lb and over—1 cup
Upset Tummy Topper
If your pet is prone to digestive disorders, such as gastritis, burping, hiccups, or excessive swallowing, this topper can help. Finely chopped cabbage is a great therapeutic agent when mixed with other food. It is high in silica, water, and minerals, and makes great roughage.
This vegetable stew contains sodium and potassium, two minerals essential for the healing of inflamed joints, stomach disorders, and inflamed skin. It’s also rich in beta carotene, an essential vitamin for cancer patients.
6 celery stalks
4 broccoli stalks and tops
3 cloves garlic, cut in half
For dogs 50 lb and over—1-1/2 cups, as topper
Sweets for My Sweet
This energizing meal picks up sluggish animals that have been eating highly processed foods and are starved for key nutrients. The complex carbohydrates are easy to digest, and maintain blood sugar and energy levels for long periods. Raisins are high in iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium, which are used for the body’s metabolic processes and in the creation of healthy new tissue. Apples are loaded with fiber and pectin and soothe the stomach and intestinal tract. You may substitute carrots for the apples; you’ll still retain the high vitamin and mineral content. Cat people: You may be worried about giving your cat extra magnesium for fear of causing a urinary tract infection or bladder stones. But rest assured that magnesium derived from food is used and metabolized, not excreted in the urine or stored needlessly in the body.
2 tbsp low-fat or fat-free plain yogurt, organic
1 tsp raw honey (omit this for diabetic animals)
tbsp wheat germ extract
1 handful sulfur-free raisins
3 cups oatmeal, cooked
For dogs 50 lb and over—1-1/2 cups
In addition to being a treat for all pets, this is a healthful source of nutrients for an animal that has lost its teeth and cannot tolerate solid foods.
2 raw egg yolks
2 tbsp low-fat plain yogurt
1 tsp bee pollen
For dogs 50 lb and over—2 cups, as meal
Animals that have just come home from a shelter or breeder should not be fed a meal immediately. Instead, try a few chunks of apple, raw carrots, or rice cakes as a welcome-home treat. The first celebration meal is actually a transitional one that will ward off loose stools or diarrhea, which are often caused by a change in environment or diet. Wait two hours before feeding the new arrival the following meal and feed about half the normal quantity for the first day. Adding a bit of yogurt is fine. You can feed this meal again the following morning. By the evening meal, you can mix any leftovers with the usual ration of pet food.
1 lb lean ground beef
For dogs 50 lb and over—1 cup
This is just like grandma’s chicken soup! Carrots, parsley, and beets promote tissue repair and provide a great source of iron to help replenish the blood.
2 cloves garlic
1/4 inch ginger root
4 carrots, with tops (cut into 2-inch pieces)
2 leaves kale
4 sprigs parsley
1/2 beet, quartered
The key to eliminating hairballs is supplementing your cat’s diet with quality oils, raw veggies, and an occasional helping of whole grains. For extra support, add psyllium husks, rice polish, or rice bran to your cat’s food.
2 tbsp psyllium, rice polish, or rice bran
2 tsp yogurt (for dry commercial food)
Urinary Tract Health
Animals with urinary tract disease need demineralized (distilled) water and quality minerals—junk minerals found in most commercial foods are useless, even harmful to pets with chronic urinary tract disease. Provide this meal for five to seven days during a flare-up. For animals with chronic conditions, mix this recipe with a natural commercial base food in a 50/50 ratio.
3-1/4 cups steam-distilled water
2 stalks asparagus or 1 medium cucumber
1 small yellow squash
3 sprigs parsley
8 oz fresh chicken meat, boiled (no skin)
1 tsp tamari (reduced-sodium soy sauce)
1 raw egg
For dogs 50 lb and over—1 cup, as meal
THE MEAT CONTROVERSY: IS RAW RIGHT?
Many animal experts would agree that an appropriate diet for any pet, from dogs to horses to reptiles, is one that is matched as closely as possible to what that animal would eat in the wild. The biggest mistake pet owners make is not respecting their animals’ nature as carnivores, omnivores, or vegetarians. People may try to give their cats a vegetarian diet, for example, thinking this is healthier for the cat than eating meat products. But cats are carnivores through and through, and so their species-specific nutritional needs will best be met with a carnivorous diet. Dogs, too, have sharp, tearing teeth, jaw-crushing bones, and highly acidic digestive systems that thrive on meat.
Since carnivorous animals in the wild survive on freshly killed prey, some experts recommend raw meat, fish, and eggs for dogs and cats. But that’s not an idea that is universally accepted. Our dogs and cats are domesticated, not the wolves or wild cats of ages long past that would spend a great deal of time roaming to hunt for prey and fasting when food was unavailable. While researching a book on animal health, author Ann Martin spoke to leading experts in the animal field at over 60 universities across the U.S. to discover that many were adamantly opposed to raw meat in the diet. Martin points out that while the proponents of a raw diet think this is the diet of wolves, our pet dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, and have changed during that time.10 She adds that animals in the wild have shorter lifespans because of raw meat diets.
On the other side of the question is Francis Pottenger, M.D., a scientist who says he accidentally discovered the value of raw meat in the feline diet while using cats to research hormones. He fed his cats what he thought at the time was the best possible diet—market-grade raw milk, cod liver oil, and cooked meat scraps. To his surprise, they became sickly, were poor surgical risks, and would give birth to weak and deformed offspring. To lower his overhead, Dr. Pottenger switched their diet to raw meat scraps, muscle organs, and bone, and within months noted a remarkable improvement in the health of his cats and their newborns.
So dramatic was the contrast that Dr. Pottenger began a formal study of raw versus cooked diets for cats between 1932 and 1942. What he discovered confirmed his hypothesis. Cats on raw foods diets were seldom sick, had a better appearance, and produced more robust offspring. By contrast, cats fed cooked foods were in poor health, lived shorter lives, and gave birth to weak and deformed kittens. After three generations on a cooked foods diet, the cats could no longer reproduce. Then, according to Pottenger, their health and reproductive ability returned with the reinstatement of a raw foods diet.
The benefit from raw meats is largely attributable to their enzyme-rich content. Advocates of raw meat diets suggest buying free-range products only and ensuring their freshness by keeping the food no longer than three days refrigerated or six months frozen. Frozen packages should be dated and small portions thawed in the refrigerator the night before serving. The meat should be kept out of the refrigerator just long enough to prepare it, and if it smells bad, it should be thrown out. Other safety precautions include discarding food left over in your dog’s or cat’s bowl, washing your hands in hot water after preparing the food, and cleaning the animal’s food bowl, countertops, and other surfaces that come in contact with raw meat with a mild bleach solution or other disinfectant.
Those in favor of a cooked diet argue that today’s meat products are polluted and could be dangerous if eaten raw. No matter how trustworthy the butcher, he is purchasing meat from a slaughterhouse, and these are notoriously underinspected. It’s possible that the cut of meat you purchase has come in contact with fecal matter and is tainted with a potentially deadly dose of E. coli. Dr. Goldstein sees many animals put on a raw foods diet begin to degenerate from some disease. “This is because they’re weak to begin with and they’re eating contaminated food,” he explains. A good compromise, Goldstein has found, is to lightly steam the outside of meat from an animal raised without hormones and antibiotics. Light cooking will destroy any surface bacteria. That way the animal will get most of the benefit of the raw food, but none of the bacterial contamination.
AVOID THE TREATS TRAP
Beware of the between-meal snack; it may be as detrimental as most commercially prepared foods. The rawhide bones sold in pet food stores, for example, can be bleached, and preserved with formaldehyde or arsenic. Recently, some of these toxic products were recalled, though they may be on the market once again. Pig’s ears are likely to contain salmonella, which is probably why the bins that hold them advise consumers to wash their hands after handling. Similarly, store-bought dog biscuits and cat treats are often nutritionally void and filled with such undesirable ingredients as salt, sugar, byproducts, alcohol, MSG, and dyes. Such snacks contain empty calories that add pounds and are full of tainted ingredients.
No matter how busy you are you can always provide nutritious pick-me-ups with such snacks as chopped apples or pears, melon balls, or organically grown grapes or bananas. Brown rice cakes or Oatios can be found in health food stores, or try whole wheat matzo. Vegetable snacks can include Brussels sprouts, zucchini sticks, or whole carrots. Another favorite is homemade popcorn. (Hold the butter and salt!)
If you like to bake, you dog or cat will appreciate the following recipes:
3 cups oatmeal, uncooked
1 cup cold-filtered water
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or rye flour)
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp raw honey (omit for diabetic animals)
1 cup raisins
1 tsp baking soda
2 cloves garlic, chopped (optional)
Mix all ingredients and spoon onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees F. Place on cooling rack and store in refrigerator for up to two months.
“Good Dog” Biscuits
1-3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup liver powder (available at health food stores)
2 tbsp brewer’s yeast powder
1/4 cup bone meal powder
3 tbsp powdered milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tbsp wheat germ oil (vegetable oil or bacon drippings may be used instead)
1/2 cup water
Dog Mini Cakes
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup soybean flour
1 cup skimmed milk or water
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
1 tsp sea salt
Cat Mini Cakes
Follow directions, above, for making dog mini cakes, only roll the dough until it is 1/4 inch thick, and bake on a sheet scored into small sections, 1/4 inch square or smaller.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup soy flour
1 teaspoon catnip
2 tbsp wheat germ
1 tbsp unsulfured molasses
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
“HEY … WHEN DO WE EAT?”
A common mistake is giving companion animals free access to their food. This makes it easy for Fido or Puff to eat for reasons other than hunger—to alleviate boredom, for instance, or to create a feeling of emotional security. Since an animal’s sense of smell is hundreds of times more sensitive than ours, smelling food all day will keep its digestive juices flowing continuously, which can lead to gluttony. “It’s the same as strapping a hamburger under your chin and walking around with it 24/7,” observes Phil Klein, certified Delta Society animal evaluator and owner of “Whiskers,” a holistic pet care store in New York City.12 As with humans, overweight and obese animals are more disease-prone and tend to live shorter lives.
If you are just beginning to put your animal on a feeding schedule, he or she may whine and beg at first, but be consistent and your pet will soon adjust to the change. Know that you are acting in the animal’s best interests, since cats and dogs are designed to thrive as hungry predators. Make a gradual conversion with the following ideal pattern in mind: Feed kittens and puppies three times a day and adolescent and adult cats and dogs twice.
You will want to leave the food out for just half an hour. Dogs and cats will get used to eating in that half-hour period. As much as possible, refrain from offering snacks. You can give bones to chew on, toys to play with, teething items, and water, but you don’t want your pet to have food all day.