It’s important to know that a “good diet” doesn’t have to be an expensive diet; some of the most expensive foods on the market have terrible ingredients.

Dr. Judy Morgan

CVMO, Naturally Healthy Pets

Holistic medicine covers multiple facets, stressing the importance of looking at an animal’s whole life in treating an ailment or problem. Creating a holistic lifestyle plan for your pet can be a preventative measure to avoid health issues before they happen, and diet is incredibly important in this regard.

Why is food important?

hue and dexterHealth foods, organics and “natural” eating are becoming very popular, and rightfully so. People are recognizing the importance of a balanced diet and avoiding preserved, synthetic, processed and pesticide ridden foods. As humans we check the labels of food we eat to count calories, grams of proteins, carbohydrates and other nutritional facts but often completely ignore ingredients when it comes to our pet’s food.

Basically, our pets are just like us. Spending a lifetime eating garbage will eventually catch up with you. It’s easy to spot our own trouble areas but it can be harder to recognize what is unhealthy for our pets. Minimizing lower quality “filler” products from our pets’ diets can have profound effects in animals with allergies, diabetes, and dry skin, as well as many other ailments.

A healthy diet will save you money in preventative veterinary care, decrease stool volume, and create a high quality of life for your four-legged friend!

Always remember that food is the foundation of life.

What Are You Feeding Your Pet?

When selecting a food for your cat or dog it is important to take into account the order of the ingredients. The ingredients are listed by amount, meaning the first few ingredients are the largest percentage of the food. In premium foods, 3 of the first 5 ingredients will be meat and not grain, fillers, or meat meal.

Pet Food Ingredients by Quality
Poor Quality
(Avoid feeding)
Standard Quality
(But not good)
Premium
(Ideal ingreditents)
Corn / Soybean Meal Corn Deboned Chicken
Bone Meal Rice Bran Deboned Turkey
Ground Wheat Ground Whole Wheat Brown Rice
Chicken By-Product Meal Chicken Meal Chicken Meal
Animal Fat Poultry Fat Oatmeal, Carrots, Peas
BHA as preservative Tocopherol as preservative Tocopherol as preservative

Above are examples of different grades of pet food. It’s never as cut and dry as poor, normal and premium brands; however, many of the expensive or prescription diets have plenty of harmful ingredients in them, so it’s important to investigate the label no matter what brand you’re feeding.

Both cats and dogs are carnivores and have no real need for foods with fillers as their primary ingredients. Feeding foods with excess grain can cause obesity, arthritis, and diabetes in your pet. Many common grocery store brand foods will be packed with corn, soy, meal and gluten. Gluten should not be used in animal food.  Like the root word entails, gluten is a form of glue that has been proven to line your animal’s intestines with a sticky substance that decreases nutrient absorption and leads to vitamin and protein deficiencies.

Another common ingredient to avoid is bone meal. Bone meal is rendered meat product made from any meat source. This commonly includes collected waste of slaughterhouses, restaurants, grocery stores, dead livestock and even euthanized animals. The USDA has conducted two studies that have discovered euthanasia drugs still present in commercial dog food. Many name brand dog foods contain these products, so it’s important to check the ingredients yourself before purchasing from even a “reputable” source.

In premium diets, protein comes from whole, un-rendered meat. This means muscle with or without organ meat. Chicken fat or fish meal (defined as clean, dried, ground tissue of un-decomposed whole fish) with Tocopherol used as a preservative eliminates the need for BHA. BHA is a preservative that has been linked to kidney disease, cancer, pancreatic disease, hair loss, blindness and immunodeficiency; so it goes without saying you should avoid it. Wheat is also a common ingredient that causes many food allergies and intolerances. In premium foods, wheat is substituted for higher quality grains that are not commonly found in standard or grocery brand pet foods. Generally, canned foods have less grain and fillers than dry varieties.

If you are feeding a cat, we advise you to stick with canned, raw, or home-prepared diets. Cats don’t drink much water so the extra moisture that is present in canned foods is very important to a healthy diet. Cats kept exclusively on dry food often encounter kidney and bladder problems, obesity, and arthritis.

Raw and Home Cooking

kale and blueberries

While canned foods may be better than dry, there are even better commercial alternatives. Frozen or freeze dried raw diets, made by various companies, are among the best options. Earlier I mentioned how little carbohydrates are needed, but not all of them are bad; fresh raw vegetables and fruits contain the good kinds of carbohydrates. High quality frozen and freeze dried raw food companies balance meats, bones and organs, with fruits and vegetables. The bones provide the needed calcium and trace minerals in the diets. Organ meats, such as liver, kidney, and heart, add important sources of B vitamins along with vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. Many vitamins and enzymes are degraded by cooking, so feeding raw allows those elements to retain more potency.

By going raw, you may decrease the amount of stool your pet produces, the odor of the stool, anal gland problems, decrease skin, coat, and allergy problems, strengthen the immune system and decrease degenerative joint disease.

If you want the most precise diet for your pet, a balanced home cooked or home prepared raw diet is the best way to go. These diets can be customized and varied to fit the specific needs of your pet.  Even though cats and dogs are carnivores in the wild, it’s important to balance home cooked diets to ensure a complete array of necessary vitamins and minerals.

A home prepared diet is incredibly healthy for your pet, but it’s also a commitment. Food that will be served fresh has to constantly be purchased and prepared. The time spent on that alone may not be suitable for everyone’s lifestyle. Also, dietary choices are not always easy. A critical part of a home cooked diet is formulating a plan with a veterinarian who is knowledgeable in pet nutrition. Your pet’s breed, age, and health problems will all need to be assessed before beginning a home-prepared, raw or cooked diet.

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