Pet Health: A Natural Approach to Feeding Your Pet

  • Nature's Source

I began to explore natural approaches to my pets’ health over a decade ago when my four-year-old yellow lab Phoenix, was diagnosed with Cancer. Phoenix had five tumors removed and when the oncology and histology report came back there was over a 50% likelihood of cancer returning. The option was more surgery, or the quest for a natural alternative. One of the things that I explored was a natural diet for my pets.

Many veterinarians – notably Dr. Ian Billinghurst, an Australian Veterinary Surgeon --have been researching the link between diet and the overall health of animals. The growing opinion is that: as with humans, fresh foods (unprocessed) seem to provide the healthiest source of nutrition for our pets.

Pet foods were developed for profitability and convenience, but is it always the right choice for your pet?

Protein – or animal material - in much of commercial pet food is taken from a variety of sources and “recycled” into our animal’s diets. This is done through a process called rendering. The process of rendering involves taking of unusable animal remains, heating at very high temperatures “rendering” it inert, skimming off the fat and then using the highly concentrated proteins and adding it to grains, to make kibble. Unfortunately, the introduction of high heat can kill off much of the nutritional value, leaving mostly empty calories. These calories are then added to high carbohydrate grains found in kibble. The proteins found in grains are even less digestible than animal protein for our pets.

Dogs and cats lack the salivary amylase required to digest carbohydrates. The grains found in pet food are composed of insoluble fibre which is beneficial because it cleanses the colon and soluble fibre which is generally made up of starch. Unfortunately, starch, once cooked, has a reaction time in the body similar to feeding an animal pure sugar. The body must then deal with this excess sugar. It can store it as fat (hence the increased incidence in pet obesity in North America), use it as energy (we know the myriad of problems, associated with high sugar intake in humans who possess amylase) or expel it as waste.

Another issue that arises with grains and a processed food diet is the need for “pet dentistry” a new and thriving area of Veterinary Medicine. Plaque buildup has its origin in carbohydrate foods. Your pet’s saliva begins the digestive process; carbs break down into simple sugars which the plaque causing bacteria feed on. As the bacteria increase, plaque production increases. Periodontal disease and tooth decay are a result.

So, what is a “Natural Diet” mean to your pet? Natural should mean “Species Specific”

There is growing belief that your pet, based on their anatomy, should eat a natural, species-specific raw diet. As the concerns about salmonella and e. coli are very real for humans preparing the food, caution should be taken to wash hands regularly and disinfect the food prep area. However, these microbes while potentially dangerous to humans, do not survive in your pets gastro-intestinal tract. The pH and the length of your pets’ digestive tract is designed to pass microbes without incident.

An animal’s digestive tract is much shorter than a human’s, which makes things pass through in hours rather than days. The length of the tract and the strong acid (HCI) is indicative of a carnivore rather than an omnivore.

So your dog will flourish on a 60-65% protein diet consisting of raw meat. Use the meat (ground initially) of your choice to supply the protein but be aware that connective tissue and organ meats supply the vitamins and minerals. Raw bones, including chicken carcasses, can be tolerated but cooked bones can splinter and cause serious intestinal injury.

The vegetable component should be 35-40% and consist of low glycemic fruits and veggies, such as, apples, pears, spinach, broccoli, squash and some sweet potatoes and carrots. Make sure to research all items before feeding to your pet, for example, raw onions should never be fed to your pet.   

Cats are true carnivores and derive their entire nutrition from animal protein. Cats are what is called obligate carnivores and must consume an all-animal protein diet, while dogs are able to tolerate small amounts of non-meat in their diet.

Starting RAW, requires a gradual introduction.

Week 1  25% fresh and 75% canned/kibble

Week 2  50% fresh and 50% canned/kibble

Week 3  75% fresh and 25% canned/kibble

Week 4  100% fresh

If your pet isn’t experiencing problems with the transition, speed up the process.

When determining the quantity of food, the rule of thumb is:

  • Dogs feed 1/4 lb. per 10 lbs. body weight. Dogs will get on average 2 marrow or shank bones a week, for dental health.
  • Cats get 1 oz. per 3 lbs. of body weight.

If your pet sheds excessively add Essential Fatty Acids that are Animal specific. Dogs require Linoleic acids. Cats require Linoleic and Arachidonic acids.

References available in store on request.

This article is provided by Cheryl Williamson who is passionate about natural health remedies for pets. For more information she can be reached at the Mississauga store at 905-502-6789