GREAT QUESTION! And as I find myself answering questions about this topic, all day, by email, Facebook, and our “contact us” form on this site, I find myself not just saying, “there’s and oil for that!” at every turn. And that’s because I will approach each individual pet’s needs from a HOLISTIC approach, because no “one thing” works for every illness, disease, or issue in every single pet. And EVERY part of the pet must be considered. And trust me, our products WILL work immediately, and effectively to relieve your pet! But lets talk about why diet is also SO important…
I have YOU AND YOUR PET’S best interest in mind. Sure, I could just “sell you an oil”, make a sale, and go on my merry way. But if I have not TRULY helped your pet with a longterm resolution (‘root cause’), instead of a temporary band-aid, then I’ve not, conscientiously, done my job to my fellow man or that man’s ‘best friend!’
The Feeding Mistake Linked to the Cause of Most Disease – Are You Making It?
I want to talk about some of the myths and truths surrounding raw food, species-appropriate, paleo diets, but before we get to the good stuff, it’s important to have a foundation of understanding about basic nutrition.
One point that no one argues is that for optimal health to occur, animals must consume the foods they were designed to eat. I call this a species-appropriate diet. So vegetarian animals must eat vegetation for optimal health. And carnivorous animals must eat fresh whole prey for optimal health (or be fed a ‘prey model’ diet–we call it PALEO).
Origins of Dogs and Cats
A good place to start a discussion of our carnivorous pets is to go back to the roots of the canine and the feline, prior to domestication. The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, which is a member of the carnivore group.
Most scientists believe dogs were domesticated from gray wolves about 15,000 years ago.
“Data suggests dogs first diverged from wolves in East Asia, and these domesticated dogs quickly migrated throughout the world. Of course, humans began selectively breeding dogs to create animals that suited their needs and their likes.
A 2008 study revealed that lines of descent for all house cats, of the species Felis catus, probably came from self-domesticating African wild cats up to 10,000 years ago. And as happened with the domesticated dog, humans began breeding cats to suit their fancy. Today, over 80 breeds of cats are recognized by one registry or another.
Its only in the past 50 years that we have decided to start feeding our pets a processed, predominately “dead” and starch laden diet,” according to Holistic veterinarian, Dr. Karen Becker.
Today’s Cats and Dogs are Carnivores Just Like Their Wild Ancestors
Despite humans’ desire to create certain physical characteristics in dogs and cats, their genetic makeup remains the same as their wild cousins, which should tell you something about the foods they should still be eating.
Of course, all animals are biologically equipped to assimilate and digest foods they were designed to eat. For example:
Cows are designed to eat grass, and their GI tracts are set up perfectly for this. They have big, round, flat teeth used to grind grasses and an unbelievable range of motion in their mandibles, allowing them to chew, and chew…. Cows have a lot of range of motion, laterally, in their jaws.
Dogs and cats do not have this range of motion in their jaws. Their jaws move up and down only, like a trap door or a hinge, because dogs and cats are gulpers, not chewers. They don’t have chewing teeth. Dogs and cats have incredibly sharp interlocking teeth that are designed to rip and tear flesh.
They also have very short, highly acidic GI tracts, compared to vegetarian animals that need to ferment foods. Carnivorous animals consume foods with potentially very heavy pathogen loads. The bodies of carnivores are designed to get foods in and back out very quickly.
The lifestyle of a carnivore includes lots of variety and seasonal variability, meaning certain prey was more prevalent at certain times of the year. They thrived consuming fresh, living, whole animals. But carnivorous animals do not eat clean foods. Dogs and cats did not evolve to consume sterile foods. They have digestive tracts that are designed to be resilient and handle the loads of naturally-occurring bacteria that are present in the foods they eat. Their food in the wild was moisture-dense, meaning the prey they consumed was primarily water (Dr. Karen Becker, April 2013).
Our pet’s ancestors food wasn’t ‘served to them.’ They had to go GET it! These animals had very vigorous workouts while catching prey to survive.
An ancestral diet for our dogs and cats also requires 70% moisture. Kibble provides 12% at best!
Most Pet Food is Biologically Inappropriate for Dogs and Cats
Over the last 50+ years, major pet food companies have produced most of their products using a base of corn, wheat, rice, or potato. However, our carnivorous pets have not evolved to be able to process those non-species appropriate foods (possibly loaded with GMO’s and phytoestrogens that can wreck havoc with your pets hormones and thyroid! Avoid any food that includes Corn, soy or lots of Legumes).
“The good news is dogs and cats are adaptable and resilient unlike other species, for example, snakes. If we suddenly forced snakes to eat grains or consume vegetation, they would simply die, demonstrating rather visibly and quickly that they were not provided the correct food source. ” (Dr. Karen Becker, April, 2103)
Dogs and cats are some of the most resilient/adaptable animals on the planet. They are able to withstand really significant nutritional abuse without dying. Degeneration does occur as the result of an inappropriate diet, but sudden death does not. This gives us a false sense that that little dry kibble you drop in the bowl each day is appropriate. Far from that! Although they may be ‘surviving’ on a grain or starch based, processed diet, they are certainly not THRIVING.
So one of the reasons we’ve been able to deceive ourselves into believing convenience pet foods are good for dogs and cats is because they don’t die immediately of acute starvation. Instead, we’ve created dozens of generations of nutritionally weakened animals that suffer from degenerative diseases linked to nutritional deficiencies – a link the traditional veterinary community has not acknowledged and consider “normal”, such as heart disease, joint diseases, organ failure, diabetes, tooth decay, Irritable Bowel Disease, amongst many more. In addition, our pets are plagued with skin allergies, inflammation, and daily irritations that are absolutely treatable from a Holistic perspective, which STARTS with a species-appropriate diet.
The Pottenger cat study is one example of how our current system of nourishing pets creates chronic disease.
The truth is that our pet population provides a place for recycling waste from the human food industry. Grains that fail inspection, un-inspected pieces and parts of waste from the seafood industry, leftover restaurant grease (i.e. “canola oils” on your pet food bag!), deceased livestock, and even roadkill is collected and disposed of through rendering — a process that converts all sorts of human food industry waste into raw materials for the pet food industry.
“These manufacturers blend the rendered fat and meat with a large amount of starch fillers. They add bulk, synthetic vitamins and mineral supplements, and then they extrude the mix at high temperatures, creating all sorts of toxic reactions including advanced glycation end products and heterocyclic amines, as well as cooking out any live enzymes and nutrients in the food.” (According to Dr. Karen Becker, 2013) They call this “pet food” and sell it to customers at an unbelievable profit.
Is the entire system flawed? Yes. But pet food industry giants are realizing that pet owners are becoming more educated about their flawed system, and they are trying to clean up their image. We are beginning to see words like “natural” and “no byproducts” on labels. We’re beginning to see “grain-free” and “naturally preserved” on labels as well. Some even claim they have “human grade” ingredients–which according to AFFCO is illegal to claim because as soon as any ‘food grade’ ingredient hits the floor of a dog food manufacturer, it can no longer be called such. Manufacturers are hearing the grumbles of educated pet owners and are changing their marketing to try to regain lost customers.
We are also seeing pet food companies “jumping on the raw diet bandwagon” and to my disgust, when reading the labels of their freeze-dried, dehydrated and “tube form/soft” so called “raw” foods, I’ve found they are just another form of the same horrible ingredients listed above…just disguised–in a soft form– and marketed as “raw.” Prepare to see more of this as the dog kibble companies are exchanged for high quality raw foods like BARF World’s mult-mix patties. Use the ingredients in BARF World (stands for “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food”) mult-mix patties’ ingredients list as a comparison, as these raw patties were formulated by Holistic Veterinarian, Dr. Ian Billinghurst, after 30 years of research on species-appropriate diet for dogs and cats. His vast amount of research can be found in his three books, the most thorough one being, “Give your dog a Bone,” which has become the “bible” of raw/paleo feeding for the past 20 years. But I recognize that most busy Americans don’t have time to read, study, shop, mix, and store their pets complete and balanced raw food, which is why I always recommend using BARF World patties, since it is safe, completely balanced and complete, veterinarian formulated, and as convenient as feeding kibble! Read more here!
SO DO I JUST THROW A “HUNK” OF RAW MEAT TO MY DOG?
NO! DOG’S ALSO REQUIRE THE PLANT MATERIAL THEIR ANCESTORS WOULD HAVE FOUND IN THE STOMACH OF THEIR PREY. This is why they also need a pulverized version of their plant-based vitamins, minerals and enzymes…this is the only form in which they can assimilate them…and also why BARF World includes it in their multi-mix patties in this form!
Common Pet Food Myths Many People Actually Believe
I find it amazing that pet parents buy into marketing gimmicks that human parents would never fall for. For instance, how often have you heard a pediatrician say, “Never feed your baby anything but X brand of baby food, because feeding a homemade diet could be dangerous to your child’s health?” Never. But you do hear it often in the veterinary world. And understand, Veterinarians get about 2 hours worth of information about pet nutrition in vet school. Otherwise, everything they know comes from the indoctrination of the commercial pet food industry!
And there’s a ton of other myths you’ve probably heard. For example, pets can derive all the nutrients they need for vibrant health from a dry nugget that can be fed day after day, year after year. Or that if you don’t feed crunchy foods to your pet, his or her teeth won’t be clean. Or canned food is too rich, and raw food is just a recent trendy craze that could be risky. (see Dr. Karen Becker’s article on the myths fed to us by the pet food industry and veterinarians regarding raw diet)
Who sees their cats eating fish on a daily basis? Who would feed their kid a protein bar every day of its life, and that’s it? A lot of people also believe their veterinarian wouldn’t recommend X brand of food if wasn’t good for their pet… that all cats should eat fish and drink milk… that veterinarians are the people to trust for the most up-to-date information pertaining to nutrition… or that disease, degeneration, and poor vitality have nothing to do with day to day nourishment. All myths.
So… What are the Facts?
According to Veterinarian, Karen Becker, an outspoken specialist in feeding raw diet for pets, “Number one, carbohydrates are not a necessary component of a carnivore’s diet. Cats have no taste receptors for sweet flavors and have low rates of glucose uptake in the intestine. They should not be fed any type of grain that metabolizes into sugar.
Cats have no salivary amylase to break down starches, either, and dogs have very low amylase secretion.
Also, cats never hunted fish from the ocean – fish is not an evolutionary food source for them.
The intense heat used to process commercial pet foods diminishes or destroys the benefits of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes in food. Processed pet foods require supplementation to replace lost nutrients.
The heating process also significantly reduces the digestibility of amino acids in pet food.
And digestibility of meat-based protein is proven to be superior to plant-based protein – the type used in most inexpensive commercial pet foods — for dogs and cats.
So in a nutshell, for 99.99 percent of their time on earth, dogs and cats have consumed a natural diet. For .01 percent of the time, they have consumed an extruded, processed diet. Dogs and cats evolved to consume a low-carbohydrate diet. But for the last century, the majority of pet owners have fed pets a high-carbohydrate, low-moisture diet. This has created significant metabolic and physiologic stress, and convenience pet foods have become the root cause of most of the inflammatory processes and degenerative disease that plague today’s dogs and cats.”