Foundations of Healthy Pet Nutrition
The foundation for any healthy food plan for your animal companion includes:
A nutritious Whole Food Diet
A quality Vitamin/Mineral Supplement
Healthy Fatty Acids
Whole Food Diet
In our opinion, a whole food diet is the most important part of the foundation for health and longevity. A diet consisting of unprocessed whole foods is rich in vitamins and minerals and associated nutrients, many of which science hasn’t even identified yet, that work synergistically in the manner nature intended and the body is designed to use. How can corporations and food scientists duplicate what nature originally created? The answer is they can’t! The nutrients in commercial diets are often degraded, molecularly changed or completely lost as a result of processing, which usually involves high heat and pressure.
"Ninety per cent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat."
-nutritionist Victor Lindlahr
We focus on “species appropriate” diets. For carnivores that includes a raw diet consisting of muscle meat, organs and bones, preferably from human-grade, antibiotic and hormone-free, humanely-raised sources that have access to the outdoors, along with nutritious vegetables and fruits and minimal, if any, whole grains and deriving all, or the majority of their nutrition, from whole food sources. If you can’t, or do not wish to, feed a raw food diet you should focus on the highest-quality processed food diet you can afford that derives the majority of its nutrition from whole-food sources.
For most birds a species appropriate diet would consist of sprouted seeds and grains, a premium seed mix with human-grade ingredients, a minimally processed, all-natural pellet diet, and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. For rabbits and other small pets the diet should consist primarily of a high-fiber hay (such as timothy), fresh vegetables, minimal fruits, and supplemented with the highest quality, all-natural pellet or seed diet (depending on the species) that you can find.
Even the best quality diet benefits from the addition of a high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement. Because of agricultural practices, soil has become depleted of important minerals and shipping and storage often leave our fruits and vegetables depleted of nutritious vitamins. Research shows that the fruits and vegetables we enjoy today contain a fraction of the nutrition they did only several decades ago! In addition, contaminates and pollutants found everywhere today place an additional heavy burden on the body.
In an attempt to make their foods nutritionally viable and make up for the destruction of nutrients during processing, many commercially prepared diets add synthetic vitamins –often incorporating a third of the ingredient panel or more! Synthetic vitamins do not provide the same benefits as nutrients found in their natural form because they differ molecularly so the body does not recognize them and they are not easily utilized. You may also find these synthetic products in powder, tablet or capsule form to be added to your animal’s diet. They are usually inexpensive, with good reason, and testing has often shown them to be contaminated and/or deficient in what is advertised on the label. Research is beginning to show the negative health consequences of consuming isolated synthetic vitamins and minerals and we are sure you will be hearing more about this in the future.
We focus on whole food vitamin and mineral supplements, which consist primarily of nutritious foods in a natural form that your animal’s body can easily utilize. These supplements are rich in natural forms of vitamins and minerals, enzymes, coenzymes, phytochemicals and other substances, many of which science has yet to discover, that work together synergistically to provide your animal with balanced, easily assimilated nutrition. We recommend you use a variety of products and rotate so your animal companion receives a full range of balanced nutrition over time.
Digestive enzymes are the functional proteins that assist with the digestion of foods and the assimilation of nutrients. Without them the body, particularly the pancreas, must work harder to secrete its own enzymes and often malabsorption issues result.
Raw and fermented foods contain the live enzymes needed for digestion so your animal receives the benefit of all available nutrients. However, once a food is processed at a temperature above 115 degrees, all enzymes are destroyed. This pertains to all kibble and canned dog and cat foods and pellet diets for birds and small pets (except cold-processed pellets). In nature, an animal’s diet is designed to provide a large majority of the enzymes from raw plant matter, sprouted seeds or the contents of an animal’s stomach (raw green tripe) in the case of carnivores. This is very important for the health of an animal, especially as an animal ages and the body produces less enzymes.
We recommend the addition of enzymes with every meal. Doses can be reduced by half when feeding a primarily raw food diet. Fresh sprouted seeds and grains and raw fruits and vegetables can be used to supply birds and small pets with a rich supply of living enzymes.
The more common digestive enzymes include:
Proteases - aid in digestion and utilization of protein & other nutrients
Amylase - digests carbohydrates and starch
Lipase - digests fats
Bromelain - a protease derived from pineapple
Papain - a protease derived from papaya
Cellulase & Hemicellulase - help the body break down and derive nutrients from plant cellulose
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, the “good” or “friendly” bacteria that populate the entire digestive tract, and play an important role in digestion, nutrient assimilation, the production of certain vitamins and immune system function.
These good bacteria can be depleted for a variety of reasons including poor diet, antibiotic and steroid use, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), surgery, medications, acute and chronic diarrhea, chlorinated water, artificial ingredients and preservatives found in poor quality foods, toxins found in food and the environment, and stress.
Examples of beneficial bacteria include various species of Lactobacillus, Acidophilus, Bacillus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Bifidobacterium, and beneficial yeast such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
We recommend providing your animal companion with a probiotic supplement everyday, and doubling the dosage for two weeks following any antibiotic use. This will insure that a steady supply of beneficial bacteria is provided to replace those lost and ensure the colonies of “good” bacteria out-compete any “bad” or pathogenic bacteria. Make sure a supplement containing a variety of beneficial organisms is used, not just acidophilus for instance, or an imbalance will result.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential Fatty Acids (commonly called EFAs) are fat based nutrients that every mammal needs to maintain healthy function and structure of smooth muscle organs and systems (heart/reproductive/digestive), to protect and build liver cells and to maintain healthy skin, coat and joint tissue. Scientifically speaking, when the term “essential fatty acid” is used it is referring to fatty acids that cannot be created by the body and must be obtained through the diet. The only two true essential fatty acids are an omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acid called Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) and an omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acid called Linoleic Acid (LA) from which all other fatty acids can be created within the body.
Many of us focus on two omega 3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) because of their anti-inflammatory health benefits. You may be wondering why we recommend EPA and DHA instead of the essential fatty acids ALA and LA since the body should just synthesize them anyway. Well, in a perfect world that would be true and you could just take the essential fatty acids and the body would produce all the rest. However, everything does not always work perfectly and often an animal’s body does not produce enough enzymes for the efficient conversion of all the other fatty acids. This deficiency can be caused by genetics, age or a liver problem.
EPA, DHA and other anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids take on more importance when taking into account the large amount of pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids obtained through diets rich in grains or from meat sources fed a primarily grain-based diet (as is most of our meat in this country) or free-range meat sources finished on feed lots. You can reduce the need for supplementation by providing your dog or cat with true free-range meat from New Zealand as is found in K-9 Natural and Feline Natural raw pet foods. The ratio of omega 6’s to omega 3’s in a typical processed diet far exceeds the proper ratio range of 1:1 to 4:1 and requires the supplementing of omega 3 fatty acids.
For most mammals we recommend supplementing with fish oil, rich in EPA and DHA, for healthy anti-inflammatory benefits for the skin, lungs, heart and joints. The majority of our products feature non-predatory fish species that contain less dioxin than salmon oils and are sustainably harvested and certified free of heavy metals and other toxins. It is also important that the fish oil contains natural vitamin E as an antioxidant because polyunsaturated oils oxidize quickly and can deplete the body of this important vitamin.
Since fish oils can thin blood and reduce blood clot formation, speak with your veterinarian about reducing or eliminating these from the diet prior to any surgery.
It appears that linoleic acid (omega 6) is the primary essential fatty acid for birds. They can receive plenty of this fatty acid from a diet that contains some seeds and grains (approximately 10% of the diet), preferably soaked or sprouted. In addition, your birds should receive some alpha linolenic acid (omega 3) from flax seeds and nuts, such as walnuts.
A lot to know, but you have us! Please feel free to ask for assistance from The Pet Health and Nutrition Center Staff. We are happy to help you achieve the highest possible level of health and happiness for your animals using a holistic approach to wellness.