In my last blog, “Basic Tips for Creating a Healthier Life for You and Your Pet”, I briefly touched upon the importance of food in creating and maintaining health and vitality in your beloved pet. This topic, of what to feed your pet, is quite a controversial one. Nutrition isn’t something that is taught much in veterinary school, or it least it wasn’t when I attended 20 years ago. Rather, we were regularly given free bags of pet food by one of the leading largest pet food companies. I would assume this was to encourage students to promote their products to our future patients. And while I’m certainly not here to create conflict, impose judgement, or condemn, I do want to encourage you to open your eyes, to dig a bit deeper, and empower yourself to make healthier choices for you and your pet. That is, if this is something near and dear to your heart as it is mine.
Believe me, I realize this can be an overwhelming process, sorting through the slew of available information. And while I’m not a nutritionist capable of giving you balanced homemade recipes, I certainly can provide guidance and support so that you may have the confidence, resources, and tools to explore all your options.
As I mentioned in my last blog, there are definitely ingredients you want to steer clear of when choosing a diet for your animal. These include, but are not limited to, natural or artificial flavors, coloring/dyes, Carageenan, Propylene glycol, Ethoxyquin, Butylated Hyydroxytolulene (BHT), Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), meat by-products, and high GMO containing foods such as corn, wheat, or soy. However, these ingredients aren’t the only things to be mindful of. It’s important to note whether the food your feeding your animal is “feed grade” or “human grade”. I highly encourage you to read this article by pet food advocate, Susan Thixton, and watch the short You Tube video at the end of the article. She describes, in detail, why this matters, the difference between the two, and how to know if you are feeding your dog human grade food and supplements or feed grade. https://truthaboutpetfood.com/the-difference-between-human-grade-and-feed-grade/ . Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib, authors of “The Forever Dog” also provide tips on how to make informed brand decisions. Their website, https://foreverdog.com/, has a plethora of resources for diving in deep to the science behind fresh food versus kibble.
If you’re feeling utterly inundated at this point and don’t know where to turn, here’s another great resource to check out. Click on the link, https://truthaboutpetfood.com/the-list/ , and scroll down to “Click here” to order Susan Thixton’s 2023 recommended list of pet foods. It’s a small price to pay for the quality of information provided. Just to clarify, I am not affiliated with the Truth About Pet Food. I, too, was overwhelmed in my search for finding quality food to feed and recommend and was thrilled when I came across this valuable information!
Another option, if you’d rather avoid commercially prepared food all together, is to consider homemade diets. However, it’s important to make sure you follow a balanced meal plan. While you may not see the immediate damaging affects of a poorly balanced diet, over the long haul your pet could exhibit health issues associated with a diet lacking important vitamins and minerals. Here are some resources for creating wholesome balanced meals for your pets.
I personally like to make this change from kibble to fresh food gradually, although this is not the only way. My thought is that if you ate a mostly “fast-food” poor quality diet your entire life and then suddenly switched to an organic plant based diet and non-GMO or organic humanely raised animal products, your body would likely have a difficult time with the abrupt change and experience moderate to marked symptoms associated with detoxification. To avoid, or at least reduce those symptoms with your pet, my general rule of thumb is to transition slowly: 25% new/75% old for 3-5 days, 50/50 for 3-5 days, 75/25 for 3-5 days, then 100% new food. However, some animals may need a longer transition time to avoid gastrointestinal upset and other symptoms, especially if they are older or immune compromised. Adding in a probiotic, such as Proviable DC, the week before and during the transition may aid in reducing gastrointestinal upset.
If this all still seems like too much, start with baby steps by adding fresh food into your dog’s daily kibble. Veterinarian and co-author of “The Forever Dog”, Dr. Karen Becker, states that “Replacing as little as 10 percent of your dog’s daily processed food (kibble) with fresh food creates positive changes in a dog’s body, so it’s not an all or nothing mentality when it comes to improving your dog’s health. You can simply change the kinds of treats you give your fur ball to meet the 10 percent shift: Swap out the commercial dog treats you wouldn’t dare try yourself for something you’d actually eat, like a handful of blueberries or raw, bite-size carrots.”
As I mentioned previously, this is not meant to make anyone feel bad or create conflict. I understand there are many factors that go into what we choose to feed our pets, including financial limitations, lifestyle, convenience, or beliefs. I am not here to try and change your mind or claim that my approach is the only and right way. My hope and intention is that I can be a beacon of light for those looking for it. Many pet parents are afraid to tell their vet what they feed for fear they will be judged. While I certainly don’t claim to know it all, I am constantly learning and passionate about taking an integrative approach to medicine, creating a blend of both Eastern and Western philosophies to support you and your pet. If you are interested in learning about how to support your pet holistically (* Merrium-Webster definition of holistic: relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts), please reach out to WholePet Health & Wellness to schedule an appointment.