Those that have worked with us know that we are whole food proponents. Meaning that we prefer to get nutrients from real, whole foods that haven’t been heavily processed. Our belief in how dogs and cats should be fed isn’t just an ideology, but is rooted in real facts.
Kibble (dry) pet foods have concerns that can affect the health of your canine or feline, and you should be aware of these when you make the decision on how to feed your animal. Several of these health concerns with processed, kibble pet food are listed below.
Stomach Acidity - Gastric cells lining the stomach are stimulated to secrete hydrochloric acid that helps convert the precursor enzyme pepsinogen into the protease enzyme pepsin that begins the breakdown of proteins. The issue with processed foods like kibble is that they can reduce the acidity of the gut interfering with the break down of proteins. This can lead to digestive issues, lean muscle loss and inflammation in the digestive tract over time and related conditions such as food sensitivities, acid reflux, allergies, and inflammatory bowel disorders.
Poor Quality Nutrients - Processed pet foods are generally formulated with shelf life and profit in mind. The cooking and drying of these foods allows them to be stored on shelves for long periods that leads to the loss of important nutrients. Poor quality ingredients can be hidden behind flashy, misleading advertising. Flavor enhancers are added to get dogs and cats to eat pet food that they would not otherwise consider to be food.
High Carb / Glycemic - Most commercial dry pet foods are based on high-glycemic, genetically modified grains and starches that have no place in your pet's diet. Surprisingly, many grain-free dry foods have a higher glycemic index than regular pet foods due to excessive amounts of potatoes, peas, lentils or tapioca included in the formulas. Carbs break down into sugar that fuels conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cancer.
Bad for Teeth - Kibble pet food sticks to your dog or cat’s teeth like potato chips to your teeth. Raw diets help control tartar because meat contains natural enzymes and raw food doesn’t stick to teeth like starchy kibble. Even cooked, whole food diets are much preferred to kibble for oral health.
History of Recalls - Processed kibble pet foods have a long history of recalls. Kibble pet foods have sickened numerous dogs and cats over the years due to contaminated glutens, vitamin D toxicity, and other causes that far exceed those for prepared raw or cooked pet foods.
As we enter the holiday season, now is a good time to give you a few tips about food safety for your pets. During this time of year as we enjoy special treats we often feel compelled to share some with our pets. There are a few reasons to proceed with caution. For instance, many of us will feed the skin from the turkey to our dogs, we often did. However, the skin is extremely fatty and this surprise load of fat can cause an episode of pancreatitis. This occurs because the unusual load of fat requires a discharge of pancreatic enzymes that can inflame the pancreas. This can be quite serious and is a cause for many emergency room visits during this time of year.
However, problems can also be caused by the use of certain seasonings. For instance, was your turkey seasoned using onions or herbs like sage that can make pets sick? The same can be said for the stuffing or green bean casserole that may contain a fried onion topping. Cooked bones are of course a big no as they can splinter and damage the digestive tract. Mash potatoes seem innocent until you think of the sudden load of the milk sugar lactose from the added milk or butter. Pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole can contain spices like nutmeg and cinnamon that to smaller pets can be in doses high enough to make them sick.
What should I do?
Make sure to keep the turkey and other side dishes safe so they can not be pulled off a counter or table. Pay special attention to more dangerous things such as chocolate cake, onion dishes, cooked bones and of course dark turkey meat and skin. If you are going to feed some turkey focus on leaner white meat. Keep portion size in proportion to your animal’s size/weight. Put aside whole foods like pumpkin, sweet potato or green beans before seasoning. Put aside safe fruits like bananas, apples, cranberries or blueberries before they are mixed in a salad with raisins or grapes that should be avoided. When spoiling our pets during the holidays we may forget that they are much smaller than us so we have to keep track of what, and how much, people food they are getting. Lastly, don’t forget about dangerous plants that are popular this time of year such as poinsettia, holly, mistletoe and amaryllis.
During the course of your animal’s lifetime chances are you have used a medication. However, have you ever given thought to the possible consequences of giving that particular drug to your animal? Being concerned with drug side-effects is a fairly recent phenomenon. This could have to do with all the information available on the internet; the television commercials that list fairly horrific potential side-effects in a light, entertaining manner; the exploding use of pharmaceutical drugs or side-effects you may have experienced yourself.
Medications can be lifesaving under certain circumstances. However, their use is becoming more of a threat to the long-term health of animals when used in a manner that replaces relatively easy diet and lifestyle choices with taking a drug. The increased pressure for pet owners to use flea, tick and heart worm products, to get repeated “booster” vaccinations, to use medications or to feed prescription diets may be related to an alarming trend in veterinary medicine which is the purchasing of independent veterinary hospitals by large corporations. These types of corporate structures often set policies that may be better for the bottom line than the health of your pet.
What should I do?
Educate yourself! Are those booster vaccinations a good idea or does your animal already have immunity? Should you titer test instead? What happens if your animals does get kennel cough? Will they die or just get symptoms similar to the common cold for a few days? In that case are the potential serious side-effects of the Bordetella vaccine worth it? Do you really need to use heart worm medication every month? Probably not! Does your animal need that NSAID along with all the potential side-effects or should you try natural joint support first? What about a drug like gabapentin prescribed even though it is not approved by the FDA for use in animals and can cause unsteady gate, nausea and vomiting? Is it necessary? Is there a safer alternative? Once you start to research you become better educated, and of course you are lucky to have a great resource here with us when you need it!
Due to a recent FDA report, grain-free pet foods have become a concern for many consumers. This is due to the connection being drawn between ingredients used in grain-free diets, like potatoes and legumes such as peas and lentils, being low in taurine and the increase in cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) which is a disease of the cardiac muscle that can lead to heart failure. However, this concern should not be associated with grain-fee diets alone. Any processed pet food that is low in high-quality meat protein and organ meat, and this includes diets that include grains, will be low in natural taurine.
What are The PHNC’s feelings on this issue?
We always tell our clients that they are compromising when they use processed pet foods. Not all grain-free diets are alike, some have more meat and some less. The lower cost varieties can have lower levels of taurine and also create the risk of insufficient levels of essential amino acids like methionine and cystine that the body uses to create taurine naturally. The FDA and the pet food industry acknowledge the problem with commercial diets by saying: “And that points to the true, underlying problem: we just don’t know enough about dog and cat nutrition, due to an ongoing lack of published research and data available.” Do consumers understand this?
What should I do?
Feed your dog or cat whole foods! Meat and organs are rich, natural sources of taurine. The highest levels of taurine can be found in raw diets with some taurine being lost when meat is cooked. If you feed whole foods with included meat and/or organs as we recommend, your animal will be fine. Alternatively, if you must feed your dog a kibble pet food then our recommendation is Orijen or Acana by Champion Pet Foods. These are grain-free diets but have the highest levels of real meat. For cats moisture is critical so if you can’t feed a raw diet select the highest meat content (low fish) canned cat food that you can find. When feeding a processed pet food diet it is essential to add a natural source of taurine and our Heart Glandular is the perfect choice because it is a great natural source of this important nutrient. Read our articles on how to feed your dog/cat in our Education Section.
For people constipation is generally the result of a diet high in processed foods that are usually dry and low in fiber. Does this diet sound familiar? It is very similar to the diet many people feed their animals. It should come as no surprise then that constipation is a major problem for many dogs and cats.
Cats come from desert felines that have evolved to obtain the majority of their fluid intake from the meat they ingest and fiber from the hair of their prey. But while in our care they often eat a kibble cat food that is very dry and low in fiber. Pet food manufacturers try to remedy this by adding tons of salt to processed cat food to encourage cats to drink more, which is not natural behavior for cats. Dogs are inherently more adaptable than cats having evolved more as scavengers. They will drink more as many of us know, and the effects of processed foods often don’t show up until they are older. This is because the body can adapt up until a certain point then the effects of a poor diet begin to show up. Constipation in an aging animal is often the result of weakening of the muscular contractions (peristalsis) that move food along the digestive tract and is usually associated with an inappropriate diet especially when it occurs in younger pets.
What should I do?
The answer is very simple - feed as close to a species appropriate diet as possible. This means for cats a raw food diet is extremely important to their long term health. Canines are more adaptable, but they will be much healthier when fed a locally-available raw pet food or a properly home-prepared diet. Dry kibble diets will never be optimal for either species and you will notice that both dogs and cats will begin to have health issues associated with these diets as they age. If your animal begins to experience constipation there are some things you can do: switch to a high meat content wet food (raw or cooked) and add some high fiber foods to their diet like chia seeds or psyllium seed husks. You can also try our Constipation Relief that has a blend of herbs, soluble fibers and probiotic organisms that is a healthy addition to any diet.
Antibiotics work by affecting bacteria cells in several ways. Beta-lactam antibiotics (penicillin) kill bacteria by interfering with the process they use to build cell walls. Macrolide antibiotics (erythromycin) block bacterial specific ribosomes and prevent them from building proteins. Since proteins do all the cell’s work, a bacterium that cannot build proteins cannot survive. Quinolone antibiotics (ciprofloxacin/levofloxacin) work by causing bacteria DNA strands to break and then prevents the breaks from being repaired.
The good news is that antibiotics don’t affect human cells because although there are similarities between human and bacterial cells there are also differences. The bad news is that antibiotics will harm your dog or cat’s beneficial bacteria. These friendly bacteria play a role in digestion by producing enzymes and some vitamins, and also immune activity by preventing opportunistic pathogenic bacteria from multiplying. For instance, clostridium bacteria are part of the internal environment and do not normally harm healthy animals. However, when antibiotics kill too many friendly bacteria in the intestine, this bacteria multiplies and produces toxins that can make your dog or cat sick with symptoms like fever, nausea and diarrhea.
What should I do?
Use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary! Taking antibiotics “just in case” or ineffectively against a virus can hurt your dog or cat by damaging colonies of beneficial microbes. Damaging these important “resident” bacteria can lead to their replacement with opportunistic bacteria that can lead to underlying health issues in your dog or cat that last their lifetime. So, instead of “killing” think “building” by strengthening your animal’s immune system (Astragalus, 14 Mushroom Blend, Colostrum etc) and replenishing probiotics on a daily basis (Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics or Daily Multi Plus. If necessary, we also provide a safer, less damaging alternative to antibiotics called Antimicrobial Formula.
Water comprises approximately 60% of an animal’s body weight, so providing fresh, filtered water should be a priority for pet parents. This is because water can be contaminated with a huge variety of unhealthy chemicals. These include benzene, nitrates, arsenic, lead, chemicals from pesticides etc. However, one of the most dangerous chemicals is actually added to municipal water as part of the treatment process - chlorine! This chemical has long been associated with an increased risk of bladder and rectal cancers and recently even breast cancer. In fact, the U.S. Council of Environmental Quality recently released a report stating that the risk of cancer is 93% higher among those drinking chlorinated water than among those not drinking chlorinated water! Unfortunately, well water can be just as bad so be sure to have yours tested.
What should I do?
Don’t rely on distilled water, this is a common mistake. Distilled water should only be used for a week or two at a time as part of a cleansing regimen. Because it is virtually mineral-free it can act very aggressively in the body and quickly deplete minerals and electrolytes.
After researching and comparing filters, our preference is an activated charcoal filter that provides slightly alkaline water associated with longevity in studies. We use the 2-Stage Under Counter filter from Aquasana for our family that can be found here: https://www.aquasana.com/. It filters out 10 times more contaminates than pitcher or faucet type filters according to Aquasana and has a much more economical cost per gallon as well. One thing about bottled water, not only do all these plastic bottles present a real challenge to the environment, a recent study turned up plastic contaminants in the majority of bottled water! So, get a water filter to provide your dog or cat with healthy drinking water and a reusable water bottle that you can fill for yourself!
A majority of more health conscious consumers, like our clients, place a priority on the quality of their animal’s diet. This is a good idea since a nutritious diet can make a real difference in your dog or cat’s health. However, something that should be considered is how completely that food is digested. This is where the role of digestive enzymes becomes very important. If the expensive, premium food you are providing to your companion is not being properly digested then your animal is not going to derive all the benefits from their diet that they should. This can be harmful to their health and a waste of money as well.
Any food cooked at temperatures higher than 105 degrees or so have their enzymes destroyed during the cooking stages, so processed foods like kibble and canned diets are essentially dead foods. This means that the body, especially the pancreas, has to work much harder to digest the food that is eaten. Studies have shown that animals that eat processed food diets can have a pancreas that is four times larger than normal! The increase in diseases such as pancreatitis have, in our experience, a direct correlation to a lifetime of eating processed foods and the stress that places on the body. In addition, as an animal ages the amount of enzymes secreted decreases and research is drawing a correlation between the symptoms we experience as we age and a decline in enzyme production.
What should I do?
We recommend you provide either the Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics or the Daily Multi Plus with every meal. For animals that eat processed foods this is a must to avoid the consequences of a lifetime of eating enzyme deficient foods, but those fed whole food or raw diets also benefit. These supplements will ensure your dog or cat is digesting their food quickly and thoroughly and deriving all the nutrition possible from their diet. We and our animals take digestive enzymes with every meal everyday and we credit this habit with our family’s level of health and lack of the digestive disorders with which many others suffer.
The weather is finally warming, but that good news brings out one of a dog owners most disliked pests - ticks! Tick related illnesses are a major concern for pet owners, however, the truth is dogs actually do quite well with tick related illnesses. We understand though, that this is an emotionally charged issue and many people are afraid. Whether you decide to use tick pesticide products in the end is up to you. Let us share a couple of thoughts.
Should I use chemical tick applications, collars or oral drugs?
At least 1,600 pet deaths related to tick treatments were reported to the EPA over a five year period. Common chemicals found in these products are "likely to be carcinogenic to humans." Using our experience, in our small business, we feel there are probably tens of thousands more animals affected every year, and this is probably being conservative. Did they count the dog that died from autoimmune hemolytic anemia after an application? What about the one that died from heat failure?
Our Tick Protection contains herbs that boost the immune system, which in our experience is the best course of action to prevent illnesses associated with ticks, and also offers the protection of antimicrobial herbs to help eliminate organisms that may be circulating in the blood. A successful five year track record protecting dogs.
Should I use antibiotics if my dog tests positive for exposure?
The immune system of healthy dogs deals quite effectively with exposure to tick related organisms. Antibodies picked up on blood tests are actually proof of that. The conventional veterinary approach says yes; we, and more holistic minded vets, say not always. Doxycycline is a powerful, wide-spectrum antibiotic that can be very hard on an animal and damage microflora throughout the body leading to health issues down the rode. If no symptoms are being seen we would hold off on the antibiotic because it appears the body is currently handling the situation.
Use our Antimicrobial Formula for two weeks or so to boost your dog’s immune system and provide antimicrobial activity as a safe and natural alternative to antibiotics in many cases.
Freeze-dried diets for dogs and cats have become more popular. However, we have a valid concern with this type of diet, and that is moisture content. Freeze-dried diets have a moisture content as low as just 2%. Compare this to dehydrated diets at 5%, kibble pet foods at 5-10%, canned foods at 75-85% and raw pet foods at 70-75%.
Since freeze-drying reduces the moisture content of foods so dramatically, they can become very difficult to rehydrate especially when not cooking or using boiling water. We believe this is where the potential problem with freeze-dried foods resides. If you feed your dog or cat this type of diet you will notice that the food and water stay separate for the most part. Your animal is basically ingesting a very dry food along with water instead of a moisture rich food. What happens now is the water will dilute digestive juices interfering with digestion in the stomach and then quickly pass through your animal in the form of urine, while the dry food will absorb water from the digestive tract as it is digested. This process can be very dehydrating to an animal, especially cats that require the bulk of their moisture to come from the food they ingest.
What should I do?
We suggest you select a raw food diet that has a naturally sufficient moisture content. As an alternative to raw, we would suggest a cooked home-prepared diet that is also higher in moisture. However, if you still wish to feed a freeze-dried diet we suggest that you place the food with warm water (just warm to the touch so enzymes are not destroyed) in a blender, mix and then let sit for 5 - 10 minutes. This will help to better rehydrate the food so it slowly releases its moisture content in the digestive tract and does not contribute to a dehydrated state in your animal that could possibly lead to constipation or kidney disease in the future. And don’t forget to use those freeze-dried treats in moderation (or not at all) especially for your feline companions or those with constipation or kidney issues!