Category Archives: Pets
Dogs are full of love! One Dog needs to be carried to get around!
Food Mistakes You Make with Your Dog
Much to my delight, I recently ran across a really great article on raw pet diets at a mainstream pet health site. The point of the article is that while switching to raw food has tremendous benefits for most dogs, it’s not always easy to do, and it’s relatively easy to make mistakes. I couldn’t agree more. The article, written by Diana Bocco for PetMD, discusses five mistakes dog parents often make when switching their pets to a raw diet.
Mistake No. 1: Not Understanding the Basics of Canine Nutrition
Many (and I would say most) homemade and prey-model diets and even some commercially available raw diets are nutritionally unbalanced. This can cause dogs to become deficient in antioxidants, or the correct amounts of trace minerals and vitamins, or the right fatty acid balance for appropriate and balanced skeletal growth, and organ and immune health.
Just because nutritional deficiencies aren’t obvious in your dog doesn’t mean they don’t exist. A considerable amount of research has gone into determining what nutrients dogs need to survive. At a minimum, we do a disservice to dogs by taking a casual approach to ensuring they receive all the nutrients they require for good health.
What’s sad and somewhat interesting to me is the number of lay people arguing about basic nutrient requirements to just sustain a dog’s existence. We have proven (through experiments I hope are never repeated) the bare bone nutrients needed to sustain life in a puppy and kitten. Nutritionists did this decades ago, which is how we came up with “minimum nutrient requirements,” which means we’ve proven the minimums necessary to sustain life.
Research is clear on what happens when you deprive dogs of calcium, iodine, selenium, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, vitamins D and E, potassium and a whole range of critical nutrients necessary for cell growth, repair and maintenance. There’s no reason to run these experiments again from your own kitchen; it will cost you your dog’s health.
There should be four primary components in a raw diet for dogs: meat, including organs; pureed vegetables and fruit; a homemade vitamin and mineral mix (in most cases); and beneficial additions like probiotics, digestive enzymes and super green foods (these aren’t required to balance the diet, but can be beneficial for vitality).
A healthy dog’s diet should contain about 75 to 85 percent meat/organs/bones and 15 to 25 percent veggies/fruits (this mimics the GI contents of prey, providing fiber and antioxidants as well). This “80/10/10” base is an excellent starting point for recipes, but is far from being balanced and is not appropriate to feed long term without addressing the significant micronutrient deficiencies present.
Fresh, whole food provides the majority of nutrients dogs need, and a micronutrient vitamin/mineral mix takes care of deficiencies that may exist, namely iron, copper, manganese, zinc, iodine, vitamins D and E, folic acid and taurine. If you opt not to use supplements, you must add in whole food sources of these nutrients, which requires additional money and creativity.
If you’re preparing a homemade diet for your pet, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of ensuring it’s nutritionally balanced. Making your dog’s food from scratch requires you to make sure you’re meeting macro and micronutrient requirements. Do not guess. Follow nutritionally balanced recipes.
Mistake No. 2: Feeding Only Raw Meat
Many well-meaning pet guardians are confusing balanced, species-appropriate nutrition with feeding hunks of raw muscle meat to their dog. Although fresh meat is a good source of protein and some minerals, it doesn’t represent a balanced diet. Feeding a basic “80/10/10” diet is also nutritionally unbalanced and will cause significant issues over time.
Wild canines eat nearly all the parts of their prey, including small bones, internal organs, blood, brain, glands, hair, skin, teeth, eyes, tongue and other tasty treats. Many of these parts of prey animals provide important nutrients, and in fact, this is how carnivores in the wild nutritionally balance their diets.
An exclusive diet of ground up chicken carcasses, for example, is lacking the minimum requirements for a number of vital nutrients in comparison to a nutritionally complete whole prey item, and falls grossly short of almost all nutrients to meet even AAFCO’s minimum nutrient requirements (which isn’t saying much).
These include potassium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, iodine, selenium and vitamins A, D, E, B12 and choline. The vast majority of prey model diets fall into this category, which is why so many vets are opposed to them; they grossly undernourish animals, despite delivering sufficient calories, which is a recipe for disaster over time.
Some people are shocked to discover higher fat meats (such as ground beef at over 20 percent fat) will fail to meet a dog’s basic amino acid requirements. You may also hear some people say that feeding a meat-based diet can make your dog mean. Research demonstrates that indeed, feeding a tryptophan (amino acid)-deficient diet (which is what happens when fatty, less expensive meats and carcasses are used as the mainstays in homemade diets) can result in behavior changes.
In addition, many homemade raw diet feeders create diets that are predominantly chicken-based, because chicken is cheap. Chicken meat must be balanced with omega 3-rich foods to control inflammation. Ground up whole chicken fryers have an omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 20:1! That’s a lot of inflammation to feed to your dog! I recommend making sure foods don’t cross the 5:1 ratio, and the goal would be to a 2:1 ratio.
Some conditions brought on by nutritional deficiencies can be corrected through diet, others cannot. And don’t make the mistake of thinking all you need to do is throw a few fresh veggies in the bowl or a little bit of liver to make up the difference. Balancing your pet’s food to provide optimal nutrition is a bit more complex.
Mistake No. 3: Forgetting Roughage
Maned wolves have been reported to consume up to 38 percent plant matter during certain times of the year. We know domesticated dogs voluntarily graze on grasses and plant matter for a variety of reasons, including meeting their body’s requirements for enzymes, fiber, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Providing adequate amounts of low-glycemic, fibrous vegetables also provides prebiotic fibers necessary to nourish your dog’s microbiome and contributes to overall gut and colon health.
Some fruits, for example, blueberries, are rich sources of antioxidants, so it’s important not to overlook them when planning your dog’s nutritionally balanced raw diet. You can puree fruits, along with appropriate veggies, and add them into the raw mixture; you can also offer them whole in small pieces as treats or snacks as long as your dog has no problem digesting them. A good rule of thumb is to keep produce content less than 25 percent of the diet.
Mistake No. 4: Ignoring the Potential Need for Supplements
There are only two options for assuring nutritional adequacy in homemade diets: feeding a more expensive, whole food recipe that contains a significant number of diversified ingredients necessary to meet nutrient requirements, or using supplements. I’m not going to list the third and most common choice here (feed an unbalanced diet) because this shouldn’t be an option, in my opinion.
After seeing countless people unintentionally harm their pets by guessing at recipes and telling me, “They look fine to me right now. I wish you’d quit harping about balance,” only to call me three years later to say, “I realize now what you were talking about, and I’m so sad I didn’t believe you.” I cannot ever endorse feeding an unbalanced diet for longer than about three months (for adult animals), because I know the power of nutrition. Our soils are nutritionally depleted, therefore our foods are nutritionally deficient.
I know some people don’t understand or care about supplying the “bare bones” minimum nutrients necessary to sustain life without negative biochemical changes, much less having a burning desire to provide the vast nutritional resources needed to amp up detoxification pathways necessary to upregulate biochemical pathways required to cope with the overwhelming number of chemicals we put into our pet’s bodies (dozens of unnecessary vaccines, topical pesticide applications, toxic cleaning supplies and lawn chemicals, etc.), so they don’t.
And the body becomes nutritionally depleted and can no longer do its job excellently. I believe if we take on the task of preparing homemade meals for our pets we have a responsibility to make sure the food provides the basic nutrients necessary for normal cellular repair and maintenance.
Most homemade diets lack the correct calcium and phosphorus balance as well as essential fatty acid balance. Adequate amounts of whole food sources of zinc, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, vitamin E and D are also hard to come by using whole food sources.
Some “superfood” powders, such as microalgae and spirulina, can provide a very small (inadequate) amount of these critical nutrients to the body, but not enough to call them sufficient “whole food multi-vitamins.” Not even a pound of spirulina added to a pound of fresh meat provides enough trace minerals for dogs.
Likewise, there’s not enough copper in chicken livers to meet a dog’s copper requirements without throwing off the balance of other nutrients. So when I hear someone say, “I’ve added chicken livers to meet trace mineral requirements” I know they haven’t seen the numbers to realize how deficient the diet will be if they do this.
When evaluating a recipe for nutritional adequacy, a good place to start is with these hard-to-come-by nutrients. Are there nuts or seeds added as a whole food source of vitamin E and selenium? Is kelp added as a source of iodine, and if not, is there a supplement added to meet iodine requirements?
Adequate levels of zinc are found in oysters, but not a lot of other foods at the levels required to adequately support a dog’s body, hence the addition of a zinc supplement to healthy recipes. Adequate vitamin D is found in sardines and some pasture-raised livers (but not factory farmed livers).
If the recipe lacks richly colored vegetables, then there should be an alternative source of manganese and potassium included in the recipe as well (unless you want to feed red rodent hair, which is a rich source of manganese in the wild). Here’s an easy recipe I created that shows where the nutrients come from to make the meal nutritionally balanced. And here’s a raw, balanced, chicken recipe. The more variety you feed, the better.
The problem is that most raw feeders get stuck feeding the same blends of meat, bone and organ over and over, which is where the bulk of problems come in and why most vets discourage fresh food in the first place.
If you don’t see ample amounts of a variety of whole foods listed in the recipes (or amounts of these supplements to add) then the diet is probably nutritionally inadequate. Feeding an unbalanced meal now and then is fine. Feeding unbalanced meals day after day is what causes problems over time.
And because “nutrition (deficiency) is never a crisis,” as Dr. Richard Patton says, many well-meaning pet lovers end up unintentionally creating degenerative issues that could be avoided through feeding a balanced diet. Recipes provided by nutritionists or knowledgeable fresh food advocates provide a nutritional breakdown that shows you the amounts of nutrients found in the recipes.
Two months ago, I saw a Wheaton Terrier who had been on an unbalanced raw diet for a year. Six months ago, she visited the dermatologist for a non-healing crack on her footpad that was creating discomfort for her.
After spending hundreds of dollars on biopsies, drugs, creams and bandage changes, the owner visited me for a third opinion. We discussed the micronutrients missing from the dog’s diet needed for normal cell repair and healing and added them in. Two weeks later the dog was able to be liberated from her e-collar for the first time in months because her foot pad was finally healing.
Some dogs benefit from additional supplements to support specific organ systems, such as joint support for seniors. The supplements that may be best for your dog depend on a variety of factors, including breed and disease susceptibility, age, weight, activity level, sterilization status, chronic health conditions and more. It’s important to work with your veterinarian to determine what supplements, in addition to those added to the food to balance the diet, your dog may need, how much to give and how often.
Mistake No. 5: Letting Safety Concerns Scare You
There are a number of organizations, including conventional veterinary groups, government agencies and of course the processed pet food industry, that have taken a public stand against raw pet food diets. Sadly, the fear mongering has had an effect. If you’re worried about raw food pathogens, it’s important to note that there’s a whole class of raw pet foods currently available that are sterile at the time of purchase.
Just as a significant percentage of the human meat supply has been treated with a sterilization technique called high-pressure pasteurization (HPP), many raw commercially available pet foods have also opted for this sterilization technique to reduce potential pathogens.
As for “non-sterile” raQw diets, the meat used in commercially available raw food is USDA-inspected and no different from the steak and chicken purchased for human consumption from a grocery store. It should be handled with the same safety precautions you use when you prepare, say, burgers for your family.
It’s all the same meat. Your counters, bowls, cutting surfaces and utensils should be disinfected whether the raw meat is intended for your pet or human family members. Most adults understand that handling raw meat carries the potential for contact with pathogens, which is why appropriate sanitary measures are important whether you’re handling your pet’s raw food or your own.
Despite the inherent risks associated with handling raw meat, pet parents have been feeding raw diets to their dogs for decades, and to date, to my knowledge not one documented case of raw pet food causing illness in humans has been reported.
If you’re already successfully feeding your pet a balanced raw diet, I hope you’ll disregard misguided warnings and continue to offer your dog or cat real, fresh, living foods. If you’re feeding an unbalanced diet, please take the time to source nutritionally complete recipes and follow them to assure you’re feeding your pet everything they need. Or switch to a commercial raw diet that’s done the balancing for you.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dr Becker DVM
The Common Symptom of Many Pet Disorders
Dogs and cats (especially cats) are wired to sleep somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 hours a day, and require even more shut-eye as they age. This is why it may seem as though every time you lay eyes on your furry companion, he’s sawing logs.
Given his need for lots of sleep, it can be difficult to tell when your pet is actually lethargic and not just drowsy-as-usual. That’s why it’s so important to have a good understanding of what constitutes “normal” for your pet — normal behavior, normal eating patterns, normal sleeping patterns, normal poop, normal pee and so on.
When you know your dog’s or cat’s “normal” like the back of your hand, you’ll recognize immediately when something is off, such as when he’s more sluggish than usual. Lethargy is a symptom of many disorders that affect pets, including behavioral problems. Some of the most common causes are explained below.
5 Common Reasons for Lethargy in Dogs and Cats
- Your pet has an underlying illness
A decrease in your pet’s activity level can indicate an underlying health problem that needs investigation. This is especially true if there’s also a change in her appetite, elimination habits and/or interaction with family members or other pets in the household. A dog or cat who is sick will often be unusually quiet and sluggish, so if your pet is lethargic for 24 hours or so, it’s time to give your veterinarian’s office a call. Depending on your pet’s symptoms, you may be asked to bring her in right away.
For example, lethargy accompanied by persistent vomiting or bloody vomit, stool or urine is cause for immediate concern. A pet’s refusal to eat is another red flag. The sooner you get your pet diagnosed and begin treatment the better her chances for a full recovery.
- Your pet has ingested a poison
This frightening scenario can occur both outdoors, especially during the warmer months of the year, and indoors if your pet happens to eat the wrong people food (e.g., chocolate or anything sweetened with xylitol), gets into a bottle of NSAIDs or samples a toxic houseplant.
If your dog or cat suddenly grows lethargic or has other symptoms of toxicity (e.g., vomiting) and you know or suspect he’s eaten something potentially poisonous, get him to your veterinarian or the nearest emergency animal hospital immediately.
- Your pet is on a new medication
If your veterinarian has put your dog or cat on a new or different medication and she suddenly seems lethargic, the drug is probably the cause. All medications have short- and long-term side effects that can range from mild to life-threatening. If you see any change in your pet’s behavior after starting a new medication, report it to your veterinarian immediately.
I also recommend finding a holistic or integrative vet who may be able to suggest safer, less toxic remedies, especially if your dog or cat is taking a particularly toxic drug (e.g., prednisone) or long-term medication for a chronic condition.
- Your pet is newly adopted
Dogs and (especially) cats who are anxious or frightened can appear lethargic, so if you just brought your pet home, he’ll need some time to adjust to his new environment and family. He could be acting sluggish simply because he’s in unfamiliar territory and a bit overwhelmed.
Give your pet lots of positive TLC and avoid overstimulation in his first few weeks with you. If he’s otherwise healthy, his activity level will naturally increase as he learns to trust you and gets comfortable in his new surroundings.
- Your pet has lost a friend
When two pets are closely bonded and one of them dies, the surviving dog or cat may experience what experts refer to as a “distress reaction” that is similar in many ways to human grief.
In addition to lethargy, some of the signs include changes in sleep patterns; changes in eating habits; lack of interest in normal activities; reluctance to be in a room or home alone, or away from human family members; and wandering the house, searching for their lost friend.
If you suspect your animal companion is mourning the death of another pet, I recommend reading “10 Tips for Helping Your Surviving Pet Deal with a Loss.”
Health and Wellness Associates
Dog flu found in Florida for first time
Veterinarians have uncovered seven cases of dog flu in Florida two years after the potentially fatal disease swept through about 10 states, Florida health officials said.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said the cases of H3N2 canine influenza were found at the University of Florida, which listed another six pending cases of the disease.
The “highly contagious” virus infected about 1,000 dogs in Chicago in 2015, with positive diagnoses occurring in a number of other states. Officials said it’s the first time the disease has been found in Florida.
The dogs are reported in stable condition.
The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine reported there is no evidence the disease can infect humans, but it can spread to cats. It exists in the animal’s respiratory tract, causing coughing, sneezing, fever and life-threatening pneumonia. Most dogs are treated at home, although the disease sometimes requires hospitalization.
The disease can result in death.
Dog flu can spread by direct or indirect contact with humans or places already contaminated by the disease. Dogs most at risk are those around other dogs at dog parks, grooming parlors and veterinary clinics. Most dogs aren’t immune to the disease, although a vaccination exists.
The disease is so easily spreadable that UF advises those who suspect their pet has the disease to not take their dog into a veterinarian waiting room. Instead, the dog should enter through a separate entrance and the entire area should be disinfected before another animal enters.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the disease is an avian flu virus that adapted and spread to dogs. It was first detected in South Korea in 2007 before making its way to the United States in 2015.
Symptoms and Types of Canine Influenza
Dogs that are infected with the canine influenza virus may develop two different syndromes:
Mild – These dogs will have a cough that is typically moist and can have nasal discharge. Occasionally, it will be more of a dry cough. In most cases, the symptoms will last 10 to 30 days and usually will go away on its own.
Severe – Generally, these dogs have a high fever (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and develop signs very quickly. Pneumonia, specifically hemorrhagic pneumonia, can develop. The influenza virus affects the capillaries in the lungs, so the dog may cough up blood and have trouble breathing if there is bleeding into the alveoli (air sacs). Patients may also be infected with bacterial pneumonia, which can further complicate the situation.
General signs of these syndromes include:
Red and/or runny eyes and runny nose may be seen in some dogs. In most cases, there is a history of contact with other dogs that carried the virus.
Diagnosing the Dog Flu
Besides a physical, the veterinarian will want to perform a complete blood count and clinical chemistry on the dog. Usually, increases are seen in the white blood cells, specifically the neutrophils, a white blood cell that is destructive to microorganisms. X-rays (radiographs) can be taken of the dog’s lungs to characterize the type of pneumonia.
Another diagnostic tool called a bronchoscope can be used to see the trachea and larger bronchi. Cell samples can also be collected by conducting a bronchial wash or a bronchoalveolar lavage. These samples will typically have large amounts of neutrophils and may contain bacteria.
Detecting the virus itself is very difficult and is usually not recommended. There is a blood (serological) test that can support a canine influenza diagnosis. In most cases, a blood sample is taken after initial symptoms develop and then again two to three weeks later.
Health and Wellness Associates
Dogs Mimic Their Owners’ Facial Expressions
Are dogs empathetic beings, capable of experiencing others’ emotions? Very likely, yes, according to recent research published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.1 The study involved dozens of dogs, which were observed at a dog park in Italy.
Many of the dogs were found to display rapid mimicry of the other dogs’ body movements, particularly a play bow and facial expression (a relaxed, open mouth).
Within less than one second of seeing another dog play bow or relax their facial expression, many of the dogs responded in suit, copying the other dog’s expression or behavior.
What’s more, the dogs’ level of familiarity with one another affected their level of mimicry. Dogs that already knew each other and were socially bonded were more likely to mimic each other. “The stronger the social bonding, the higher the level of rapid mimicry,” the researchers wrote.2
The findings are incredibly intriguing, because facial mimicry in humans and non-human primates is a form of emotional contagion that is regarded as a basic form of empathy.
Overall, a high level of rapid mimicry was observed in a mean of 77 percent of the dogs, which reacted after perceiving play bows or a relaxed, open mouth facial expression.3
When the dogs mimicked each other, their play sessions lasted longer, which suggests it increased the dogs’ motivation to play and possibly strengthened the dogs’ relationship.
Dogs May Mimic Owners’ Facial Expressions, Too
If you smile at your dog, does he smile back? The researchers believe, given their findings that dogs mimic the emotional states of other dogs, that dogs can mimic their owners’ facial expressions as well, especially if they’re closely bonded. Seeker reported:4
“‘It is an automatic response, similar to that of humans when they see someone crying or smiling,’ [lead author Elisabetta] Palagi [,Ph.D.,]said, adding that domestication probably even enhanced dogs’ natural inclination toward emotional contagion all the more.”
The totality of evidence is showing that dogs have many complex ways of communicating with and understanding not only other dogs but also humans.
The researchers pointed out that dogs follow others’ gaze, head and body orientation, and combine body postures, including head and tail movements, to communicate their emotional states.
They also use their eyes, lips and teeth expressively and “regularly express their positive emotional states via specific signals that are performed through both the face (relaxed open mouth … and the body (play bow).”
Further, dogs can discriminate between emotional expressions on human faces and body postures. For instance, research published in Biology Letters found dogs recognize both dog and human emotions.5
The dogs were presented with either human or dog faces with different expressions (happy and playful versus angry and aggressive). The faces were paired with a vocalization that was positive, negative or neutral.
The dogs looked significantly longer at the faces that matched up to the appropriate vocalization, which is an ability previously thought to be distinct to humans.
Past research has also found dogs automatically imitate their owner’s use of either their head or hand (or paw) when opening a sliding door, closely mimicking their owner’s behavior even if doing so would cost them a reward (a treat).6
Dogs May Grasp the Meaning Behind Your Facial Expressions
It’s quite possible that dogs are not only capable of mimicking their owners’ facial expressions but also of understanding what the expression means, emotionally.
For starters, past research revealed spikes of oxytocin, i.e., the love hormone, are triggered by mutual gazes between a dog and his owner.7 Increased eye contact between dog-owner pairs led to higher levels of oxytocin.
Mimicry, which is based on and facilitated by such mutual gazing, likely has “a direct function in this emotional positive loop by connecting the dogs and fostering their social attachment,” the researchers wrote. They continued:8
” Through experience gained by social interactions with their owners, dogs are able to form a huge variety of memories of human facial expressions that goes beyond the purely perceptual level …
The ability to finely discriminate facial expressions also implies the possibility that dogs are able to catch the emotional meaning underpinning such specific facial expressions.
… All these findings concur in supporting the idea that a possible linkage between rapid mimicry and emotional contagion (a basic form of empathy) exists also in dogs.”
The researchers suggested that studying wolves may yield clues about whether rapid mimicry also exists in non-domesticated species, and therefore if dogs’ close ties with humans have played a role in this phenomenon.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s known that dogs recognize their owners’ faces and pay close attention to their cues in order to gauge their emotions. The next time you sit down with your dog, you can conduct an experiment of your own by acting playful and seeing if your dog acts playful in response.
Most likely, you’ll find that your dog is quite adept at “catching” your emotions, so if you’re not in the mood for playtime, try getting him to imitate a different behavior, like curling up on the couch.
Health and Wellness Associates
- Becker DVM
These Stroke Symptoms Can Come on Like Gangbusters, Even in Pets
It wasn’t until fairly recently that the veterinary community realized that just like humans, dogs and cats also suffer strokes — perhaps more frequently than we thought.
With increased use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans in pets, strokes are being diagnosed more often. Fortunately, they are still a relatively rare occurrence in both dogs and cats.
What Exactly Is a Stroke?
In a nutshell, a stroke is a brain abnormality that occurs as the result of a disruption of the blood supply to the area. Circulating blood feeds oxygen and glucose to the brain. If a blood vessel becomes blocked or ruptures, the brain is deprived of those critical nutrients.
Most strokes are ischemic strokes caused by a blood clot (embolus) that develops in the circulatory system. The clot at some point dislodges and travels to a blood vessel that feeds nutrients to the brain, interrupting blood flow and causing surrounding tissue to die.
Strokes in dogs and cats can also result from bleeding in the brain (called hemorrhagic strokes) caused by the rupture of blood vessels or a clotting disorder. Hemorrhagic strokes are much less common in pets than ischemic strokes, and are usually the result of trauma or disease.
There’s also a non-brain related type of stroke called a fibrocartilaginous embolism (FCE). An FCE is a blockage in a blood vessel in the spinal cord. It’s often referred to as a spinal cord stroke.
There are several disorders that are associated with strokes in pets, including bleeding disorders, diabetes, hypertension, heart, kidney or thyroid disease, Cushing’s syndrome, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (a tick-borne disease) and cancer.
Internal parasites, tumors, ingestion of toxins, head trauma and high doses of steroids such as prednisone can also be contributing factors.
Symptoms to Watch For
The symptoms of stroke in dogs and cats depend on the location and extent of bleeding from cerebral arteries in the case of hemorrhagic stroke, or much more commonly, blockage of cerebral arteries in the event of an ischemic stroke. Symptoms typically come on suddenly and can include:
Abnormal eye movements (nystagmus) or eye positioning
Difficulty walking or inability to walk
Loss of bowel control
Loss of balance
Loss of coordination
Sudden vision impairment
Other sudden behavioral changes
Pet parents often remark that one minute their dog or cat was fine, and the next minute the animal was down and couldn’t get up. These episodes can last for just a few minutes, or for hours or even days.
When a pet recovers from one or more signs of a stroke in less than 24 hours, it’s usually considered a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Fortunately, TIAs typically don’t result in permanent brain damage.
If your pet is exhibiting symptoms of a stroke, it’s important to get him to your veterinarian or an emergency animal hospital right away. Since there are many unrelated disorders with stroke-like symptoms, quick action and a proper diagnosis are critical.
For example, vestibular disease in geriatric dogs is often mistaken for stroke. The vertigo caused by the disease can be particularly intense in older dogs with symptoms of nausea, difficulty or complete inability to stand up, head tilt, nystagmus and circling.
Your veterinarian will need to run a variety of diagnostic tests, including bloodwork and a urinalysis, to rule out other possible causes for your pet’s symptoms.
If the problem isn’t obvious from initial test results, additional diagnostics will be required to look for evidence of a stroke, including an MRI or CT scan of your pet’s brain.
Your pet may be sent to a veterinary specialist (neurologist) for these scans, and may need to be hospitalized for the procedures. CT and MRI scans are the gold standard for diagnosing strokes in pets, including whether the stroke is ischemic or hemorrhagic. Other tests that may be needed include:
Arterial blood gases to assess oxygenation of blood
Coagulation profiles to assess blood clotting
X-rays of the skull to look for evidence of trauma or fractures
Electrocardiogram (ECG) to evaluate heart rhythm
A spinal tap to evaluate cerebrospinal fluid
Treating a Pet Who Has Had a Stroke
If your pet’s symptoms are severe, she may need to be hospitalized to receive oxygen and fluid therapy and other supportive care.
Treatment of stroke patients is focused on minimizing brain swelling and tissue damage, maximizing oxygen flow to the brain, identifying and treating the underlying cause of the stroke if possible and physical therapy.
Initial treatment typically involves intravenous fluids and IV corticosteroids to control brain swelling and support blood circulation to the brain.
This is a situation in which giving corticosteroids immediately can be life-saving and help prevent permanent damage. Seizures must also be controlled with conventional drugs to prevent further brain damage. Anti-seizure herbs usually do not work quickly enough to help during the initial crisis, and are difficult to administer to a vomiting dog.
The neurologic symptoms of a stroke gradually resolve on their own as the animal’s body re-establishes normal blood flow to the brain and swelling resolves. During this period, acupuncture, antioxidants (SOD and astaxanthin), Chinese herbs and homeopathy can be very beneficial.
The most crucial supplement to add for these patients, in my opinion, is nattokinase, which can also help prevent additional strokes from occurring. The brain has the ability to recover given time. As always, early diagnosis and treatment can dramatically improve your pet’s chances for a full recovery.
Pets who survive the first few days following a stroke have a good chance for a full or nearly full long-term recovery when the underlying cause can be identified and either eliminated, or successfully controlled.
Health and Wellness Associates
Do You Buy Pet Food From Any of These 6 Con Artists?
I frequently discuss “prescription” pet diets here in terms of the cheap, biologically inappropriate ingredients they contain, much like most other processed pet foods on the market.
I typically don’t talk as much about the high cost of these diets or the fact that there’s nothing in the majority of them that requires a prescription, because my focus is usually on the low-quality ingredients instead.
But if you’ve ever purchased one of these “special” dry or canned diets for a pet, you know how expensive they are, and you might be interested to learn that a group of pet parents recently filed a class action lawsuit against several pet industry companies, alleging they engaged in price fixing of prescription dog and cat food in the U.S. in violation of anti-trust and consumer protection laws.
Defendants Include 6 of the Biggest Pet Industry Players
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California and lists the defendants as Mars Petcare, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Nestlé Purina Petcare, Banfield Pet Hospital, Blue Pearl Pet Hospital and PetSmart. Read the full complaint.
The plaintiffs, pet owners who purchased prescription diets from one or more of the companies, assert they conspired with each other to falsely promote “prescription” pet food. The specific pet diets mentioned in the complaint include:
Hill’s Prescription Diet
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet
Iams Veterinary Formula
The complaint points out there’s no reason for the foods to require a prescription, since they contain no drug or other ingredient not commonly found in non-prescription pet diets. The lawsuit further alleges:
“Retail consumers, including Plaintiffs, have overpaid and made purchases they otherwise would not have made on account of Defendants’ abuse and manipulation of the ‘prescription’ requirement.”
Lawsuit Accuses Big Pet Food of Abusing Their Dominant Position in the Marketplace
Mars PetCare is the largest supplier of pet food in the world. Nestlé Purina Petcare is in second place, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition is No. 4.
PetSmart is the largest pet supply chain in the U.S., Banfield is the largest veterinary clinic chain and Blue Pearl is the largest veterinary specialty and emergency care chain.
The lawsuit argues that these companies abuse their position as the biggest players in the industry to promote “prescription” diets for dogs and cats.
Veterinarians actually hand pet owners written prescriptions for a certain kind of pet food, and the pet owners go to PetSmart or another location to purchase the prescribed food. These pet guardians, according to the complaint, are typical of people who consistently follow the advice and direction of medical professionals.
Why Is a Pet Product Containing No Drugs or Other Controlled Substances Being Sold by Prescription Only?
However, the “prescription” dog and cat diets manufactured by Mars, Purina and Hill’s are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because they don’t contain drugs or other controlled substances. According to Tim Wall, writing for PetfoodIndustry.com:
“The case document states that the American public reasonably expects a prescription requirement implies that a substance is medically necessary, contains a drug, medicine or controlled ingredient, has been FDA evaluated and legally requires a prescription. The plaintiffs allege that the prescription pet foods do not meet these criteria.”1
The lawsuit asserts that the prescription requirement allows the defendants to “… market and sell Prescription Pet Food at well-above market prices that would not otherwise prevail in the absence of the Prescription Authorization.”
There are legitimate reasons why “prescription” diets for specific medical conditions should not be fed to healthy animals.
For instance, feeding a diet intentionally lower in protein and phosphorus may be warranted for end-stage kidney disease patients, but it would be a poor choice for healthy or growing animals.
The deception about “prescription” ingredients in the foods, for the most part, is legitimate. There is one exception. One human-grade, fresh pet food company producing medical diets that actually do contain therapeutic ingredients, such as Chitosan to bind phosphorus in their kidney formula.
‘Defendants Are Engaged in an Anticompetitive Conspiracy’
The complaint further asserts that the positioning of the pet food as “prescription” is effective in part because all the defendants work together to promote it. The veterinary clinic defendants write the “prescriptions” for the food, which is made by the pet food company defendants, and sold by defendant PetSmart.
Many people are unaware that Mars owns 79 percent of Banfield. Guess who owns the remaining 21 percent? PetSmart (which is why many Banfield clinics are located inside PetSmart stores). Mars also owns 100 percent of Blue Pearl. According to the complaint:
“Defendants are engaged in an anticompetitive conspiracy to market and sell pet food as prescription pet food to consumers at above-market prices that would not otherwise prevail in the absence of their collusive prescription-authorization requirement.”
The lawsuit alleges that selling the pet food as “prescription” is unfair and deceptive under California consumer protection laws. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for activity on this class action lawsuit and update you when there’s progress.
Meanwhile, if your own veterinarian is in the habit of recommending “prescription” pet food for your dog or cat, I encourage you to ask for balanced, homemade recipes instead. Otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of money for poor-quality pet food that will not improve your furry family member’s health in the long run.
Holistic and integrative vets are typically much more knowledgeable about the role nutrition plays in an animal’s healing response than conventional practitioners who haven’t studied the subject beyond what they learned in vet school (which was minimal).
A holistic or integrative veterinarian can work with you to customize a balanced, species-appropriate diet to address the specific health needs of your pet, or you can purchase Darwin’s Intelligent Design™ Veterinary Formulas that actually do contain beneficial nutraceuticals for specific medical conditions.
Judge Sides With Purina in Beneful Class Action Lawsuit
In other pet food legal news, last year I wrote about another class action lawsuit brought against Nestlé Purina PetCare’s Beneful brand dry dog food. The plaintiff in that case alleged that Beneful sickened two of his dogs and caused the death of a third.
Sadly, despite literally thousands of online consumer complaints and two prior lawsuits filed against this particular brand of dog food, a California federal judge recently ruled that the proposed lawsuit failed to prove the product was unsafe. Read the summary judgment here. According to Law360:
“Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. escaped litigation contending that its Beneful dry food killed dogs or made them seriously ill after a California federal judge held Thursday that a proposed class of pet owners didn’t prove that the product was unsafe, explaining that their allegations heavily relied on a veterinarian’s inadmissible opinions.”2
The following statement from Courthouse News Service is a good summary of what the plaintiff’s expert found in his analysis of Beneful samples:
“An analysis of 28 samples [from bags of Beneful suspected of causing illness in several dogs] revealed three types of toxins: propylene glycol; mycotoxins, a fungal mold on grain; and the heavy metals arsenic and lead.
But the level of toxins found in the dog chow did not exceed limits permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA]. Plaintiffs’ expert analyzed 28 of 1,400 dog food samples from incidents of dogs that got ill after eating Beneful. The sampling was limited because not all dog owners had kept the chow.
The expert, animal toxicologist Dr. John Tegzes, claimed the FDA based its dog chow toxin limits only on short-term exposure and did not consider the effects of long-term exposure.
He said studies used to establish FDA tolerance limits were ‘poorly designed’ and tended to look only at the effects on dogs over weeks, rather than years. While Tegzes could not say definitively that the toxins caused the dogs to get sick, he concluded that chronic exposure to mycotoxins, heavy metals and glycols posed a ‘significant health risk’ to dogs and could adversely affect their health.”3
This is a very legitimate argument that many of us who are passionate about pet nutrition have been making for years. It is absolutely true that pet food feeding trials (considered the “gold standard” in the industry) are of very short duration. If a new formula doesn’t immediately kill the dogs or cats in the feeding trial, it goes to market.
No one, least of all pet food manufacturers, is interested in funding studies to evaluate the long-term health effects of a food typically eaten twice a day, every day, often for a lifetime.
Purina ‘Revamps’ Beneful Formula
In a statement so very typical of what we’ve come to expect from the processed pet food industry, Nestlé Purina spokeswoman Wendy Vlieks said of the summary judgment:
“Today’s ruling confirms what millions of pet owners already know — that Beneful is a safe, healthy and nutritious dog food that millions of dogs enjoy every day.” 4
Interestingly, the company recently “revamped” their Beneful formulas. Per PetfoodIndustry.com:
“Meat now is the first ingredient in chicken and beef varieties. Added sugar has been removed from all recipes. According to the company, the Beneful’s recipes now include 22 grams or more of protein per cup. The dog food also includes vegetables and fruits, like spinach, peas, carrots and apples.”5
Since there’s no mention of the toxins found by Dr. Tegyes, it’s reasonable to assume Purina didn’t address the issue in their “revamped” formula. So if you happen to feed this stuff to your dog, keep in mind you’re very likely also feeding him small amounts of propylene glycol, mycotoxins, arsenic and lead on a daily basis.
In addition, looking at the “Beneful Dry Dog Food Originals with real beef” formula as an example, seven of the top 10 ingredients are grains.6 This a grain-based food, not a meat-based, species-appropriate diet for dogs, despite the “with real beef” marketing claim.
And those “22 grams or more of protein per cup” are primarily plant-based proteins, not species-appropriate meat-based proteins. This is junk food for dogs, and based on all the consumer complaints about Beneful and the toxins found by the California plaintiff’s expert, it could be potentially much worse than just junk.
Please share with family and loved ones.
Health and Wellness Associates
Are You Making This Common Pet Food Storage Mistake?
Dry Food or Fresh Food?
If you purchase dry food for your cat or dog, which is not something I recommend unless you can’t afford better food, the way you store it impacts its freshness. An unsealed bag of pet food in a warm pantry or garage can be the recipe for disaster when it comes to avoiding disease and intentionally creating wellness.
The enemies of dry pet food include time, heat, moisture and oxygen. The longer the food sits on a shelf (at the grocer or your house) the more vitamin degradation occurs.
Depending on the quality, source and stabilization of the fats in the product the kibble also has the potential to become rancid, and as pet food formulator Steve Brown says, “feeding rancid fats is worse than feeding no fats at all.”
For this reason he recommends buying dry foods that do not contain additional essential fatty acids (EFAs) and recommends you add the delicate EFAs to your pet’s dry food at the time of feeding.
If pet food is allowed to sit in warmer, humid climates or a warm room of the house the potential for bacterial and fungal growth on and in the food is also a big risk to your pet. Storing dry pet food in an airtight container in the freezer, refrigerator or cool, dark room is your best bet.
Obviously don’t feed a food that’s expired, and in fact Steve recommends you use up kibble within 30 days of cracking the bag to avoid many of the negative things that can happen to dry food over time.
For this reason, I recommend you avoid buying large-sized bags if you only have one pet or small pets; the food will go stale or bad (and at the very least may lose flavor) before you get a chance to use it up within this four-week, optimal timeframe.
When you open a new bag, don’t pour the remnants from the old bag into the next, as you may transfer bacteria as well.
Keep the barcode around if the bag is gone, just in case there’s a recall or a problem with the product. I offer these tips because I recognize many pet owners do purchase dry food for economic reasons.
However, there are many reasons why you may want to reconsider this type of food entirely.
Believe it or not, with some pre-planning, sale shopping and an ounce of resourcefulness on your part, you can create well-balanced, homemade meals for little more than that ultra-premium bag of dry pet food you’re currently buying.
What’s Really in Dry Pet Food?
It goes without saying that feeding an animal kibble every day for its entire life will get boring for your pet. Will it sustain life? Sure, but assuming your pet will derive everything it needs to thrive from a monotonous diet of highly processed, synthetically fortified foods is a stretch.
And while it may meet basic nutritional requirements to keep your pet alive, it certainly does not provide the type of nourishment your pet needs for cellular repair, healthy detoxification and resilient organ function, long term.
What’s my problem with feeding a pet an entirely processed diet their whole lives? Well, I have several issues with dry foods, but we’ll start with the quality control issues with the raw materials going into kibble. Rendering plants create meat and bone meal from a mishmash of sources.
Parts of cows that can’t be sold for human consumption (bones, digestive system, brain, udders, hide and more), carcasses of diseased animals, expired grocery store meat (including the plastic and Styrofoam packaging), road kill and even zoo animals and dogs and cats that have been euthanized. Slate reported:1
“This material is slowly pulverized into one big blend of dead stuff and meat packaging. It is then transferred into a vat where it is heated for hours to between 220 [to] 270 degrees F.
At such high temperatures, the fat and grease float to the top along with any fat-soluble compounds or solids that get mixed up with them.
Most viruses and bacteria are killed. The fat can then be skimmed off, packaged and renamed. Most of this material is called ‘meat and bone meal.’ It can be used in livestock feed, pet food or fertilizer … There is essentially no federal enforcement of standards for the contents of pet food.
… Indeed, the same system that doesn’t know whether its main ingredient is chicken beaks or dachshund really cannot guarantee adequate nutrition to the dogs that eat it.”
There is one dry food company, Carna4, that prides itself on using ethically sourced, humanely raised meats and no synthetic nutrients from China (unlike all the other brands). So if you must feed kibble, I suggest this brand. However, there are still other issues with kibble, in general.
Problems With Dry Food
Aside from the poor-quality meats, byproducts and synthetic vitamins and minerals, most commercial dry pet foods are based on high glycemic, genetically engineered (GE) corn, wheat, rice or potato — grains and starches that have no place in your pet’s diet and create metabolically stressful insulin, glucagon and cortisol spikes throughout the day.
In fact, many of the “grain-free” dry foods have a higher glycemic index than regular pet foods due to the excessive amounts of potatoes, peas, lentils or tapioca included in the formulas.
Carbs also break down into sugar, which fuels degenerative conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cancer. In the last 50 years we’ve learned the hard way that feeding biologically inappropriate diets (low-fat, high-carb diets that permeate the pet food industry) do not create health. If your veterinarian hands you a can of food appropriate to his health, he is probably doing his best, but fresh is better.
In fact, the amount of chronic inflammatory and degenerative diseases is epidemic, all relating to diet and lifestyle, in my opinion. Further, low-quality proteins and fats (not fit for human consumption), when processed at high temperatures, create cancerous byproducts, like heterocyclic amines.
It’s estimated that meat going into pet food undergoes at least four high-temperature cooking processes in an average bag of food, leaving the digestibility, absorbability and overall nutrient value highly questionable.
Most dogs and cats will thrive when given fresh, whole foods, which mimic their ancestral diet, but unfortunately, many must make do with entirely processed, largely inferior alternatives. Your pet may have adapted to this diet, but it’s a recipe for chronic disease.
The low moisture content of dry food is also problematic, especially for cats. Dry cat food provides only about one-tenth the amount of moisture cats receive from prey animals, living foods and even commercial canned diets, which puts significant stress on their kidneys and bladder.
Dogs also tend to become excessively thirsty when fed a dry-food diet. The carb-heavy nature of dry food, along with the propensity for owners to feed more than their pet metabolically needs, is also a significant factor in rising rates of pet obesity. So, in my book, the issue is far less about how to properly store your pet’s dry food as it is about choosing the best food for your pet in the first place.
What Are the Best Choices for Pet Food?
I recommend pet parents ditch dry food entirely and instead feed a balanced, species-appropriate diet to your pet. Regardless of her weight, your pet needs the right nutrition for her species, which means food that is high in high-quality animal protein and moisture, healthy fats and fiber, with low to no starch content.
A nutritionally balanced raw or gently cooked homemade diet is the top choice for pets, but you should only attempt this if you’re committed to doing it right. The one mistake many people make is to feed their pet hamburger, green beans and rice daily. No one can get the right nutrients by eating the same thing everyday. If you don’t want to deal with balancing diets at home, choosing to feed a pre-balanced, commercially available raw food is a great choice.
A freeze-dried/dehydrated diet is second best. Human-grade canned food is a mid-range choice, but hard to find, followed by premium canned food. Avoid semi-moist pouches, as most are made with an unhealthy chemical called propylene glycol.
Remember, too, that you can incorporate fresh foods into your pet’s diet as treats. Blueberries, chia seeds in coconut oil, banana slices, raw pumpkin seeds and even fermented vegetables and kefir make great fresh-food snacks and provide your pet with a variety of nutrition and flavors.
If you’re transitioning your pet over from a dry food diet, do so gradually. It may take your pet time to get used to the new healthier diet, but in many cases you’ll find even your cat grows to love it and you’ll love the health benefits (and smaller vet bills) from feeding a fresh, species-appropriate diet.
Please share with family and loved ones.
Health and Wellness Associats
Just Sniffing This Poisonous Plant Could Be Deadly to Your Pet
Many pets like to nibble on plants. If yours is among them, it’s incredibly important to check your home and yard for the presence of poisonous varieties. Many common ornamental houseplants and backyard plants can cause illness in pets, ranging from mild nausea to death.
In fact, of the approximately 150,000 calls to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal’s (ASPCA) Poison Control hotline, about one-quarter of the poisonings related to non-drug products are due to plants.1
It’s virtually impossible to keep tabs on your pet 24/7, so even if you think he doesn’t chew or nibble on plants, there’s a chance he may do so when you’re not looking. And in some cases, such as lilies and cats, even getting the pollen on their nose or drinking the water in the vase can be deadly.2
It’s best to err on the side of caution when it comes to your pet’s health, so get rid of any potentially poisonous plants before an accident happens.
12 Plants That Are Poisonous to Pets
The examples that follow are not an all-inclusive list, but they do represent some of the most common plants that pose a poisoning risk to pets.3 To see photos and get even more details, see the infographic below.
Symptoms of ingesting a poisonous plant vary but may include vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, loss of appetite, foaming at the mouth, organ failure and more.
- Castor Bean
Also known as castor oil plant, mole bean plant, and African wonder tree, this plant is very toxic to dogs, cats and horses. The beans are especially dangerous because they contain ricin, a toxic compound that inhibits protein synthesis. The entire plant is poisonous, however.
Consuming as little as 1 ounce of seeds can be deadly. Symptoms may develop 12 to 48 hours after ingestion and include loss of appetite, excessive thirst, weakness, loss of coordination, difficulty breathing and central nervous system depression.
As symptoms progress, bloody diarrhea, convulsions, coma and death may also occur.
Also known as malanga, elephant’s ears, stoplight, mother-in-law plant, Texas wonder, angel wings and pink cloud, this plant contain insoluble calcium oxalates that are toxic to dogs and cats.
Symptoms of ingestion include intense burning and irritation of the mouth, excessive drooling, vomiting and difficulty swallowing.
Lilies are highly toxic to cats. This includes many varieties, including day lilies, Easter lilies, tiger lilies, Asiatic lilies and more.
Consuming small amounts of any part of this plant can lead to death from kidney failure in cats. Symptoms include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, depression, kidney failure and death.
- Dumb Cane
Also known as charming dieffenbachia, tropic snow and exotica, this foliage contains insoluble calcium oxalates that are toxic to dogs and cats.
Ingesting this plant leads to intense irritation of the mouth, tongue and lips along with vomiting and difficulty swallowing. Contact with the sap of this plant can also cause irritation and damage to the eyes.
- Rosary Pea
This plant goes by many names, including precatory bean, Buddhist rosary bead, love bean, lucky bean, Indian licorice, prayer bean and weather plant. Toxic compounds called abrin and abric acid in the beans are dangerous to dogs, cats and horses.
Consuming even one rosary pea can be deadly, but fortunately the seed’s hard outer coat must be damaged (crushed or cut open) to cause harm. So in many cases ingesting the seeds may lead to only mild illness.
However, if a broken pea is ingested, it can lead to severe vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes bloody), tremors, high heart rate, shock, fever and death.
Larkspur contains compounds called diterpene alkaloids that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. It’s thought the toxicity of this plant varies depending on the conditions in which it’s grown and becomes less toxic as it matures.
If consumed, larkspur can cause neuromuscular paralysis and symptoms such as muscle tremors, stiffness, weakness, convulsions, heart failure and death from respiratory paralysis.
Foxglove contains cardiac glycosides that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. Consuming this plant can lead to cardiac arrhythmias, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, heart failure and death.
- Autumn Crocus
Also known as meadow saffron, autumn crocus contains colchicine and other alkaloids that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. If your pet consumes it, this may lead to oral irritation, bloody vomiting, diarrhea, shock, organ damage and bone marrow suppression.
- Sago Palm
This popular plant, also known as coontie palm, cardboard palm, cycads and zamias contain toxic cyasin. It’s toxic to dogs, cats and horses and may lead to symptoms including vomiting, jaundice, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, bruising, liver damage, liver failure and death.
- Black Locust
The entire black locust tree, especially the bark and shoots, is toxic to cats and dogs. If consumed, it can cause kidney failure, weakness, nausea, depression and death.
Yew, also known as Japanese yew, English yew and European yew, is toxic to dogs, cats and horses due to the taxine it contains. If consumed, this ornamental tree (including its bark, leaves and seeds) can lead to sudden death from heart failure.
Early signs of ingestion include muscular tremors, labored breathing and seizures in dogs. Even playing with the branches or sticks from the yew tree could be potentially deadly to dogs.
Oleander, or rose bay, contains cardiac glycosides that are toxic to dogs, cats and horses. Consume any part of the plant may lead to colic, diarrhea (possibly bloody), sweating, incoordination, difficulty breathing, muscle tremors and possibly death from heart failure.
Your pet may be poisoned from access to pruned or fallen branches while horses may be poisoned by consuming this ornamental plant new horse show arenas.
Seek Emergency Veterinary Care If Your Pet Eats a Poisonous Plant
If your dog or cat consumes a potentially poisonous plant, get your pet to an emergency veterinary clinic immediately. Prompt treatment may mean the difference between life and death. If you’re not sure whether the plant is poisonous, it’s best to seek medical attention just in case.
You can also consult the ASPCA’s database of toxic and non-toxic plants, which you can search to find out if the plant your pet consumed warrants a trip to the emergency vet. In addition, if your pet consumes a potentially toxic plant or any other poisonous substance, call your local veterinarian, emergency veterinary clinic or ASPCA’s 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435 to find out what next steps to take.
Please Share with Family and Loved Ones.
Health and Wellness Associates
Archived: Karen Becker
Have You Ever Seen a Wild Animal Stop and Cook Their Food
Not long ago I ran across a headline in a pet food industry journal that gave me a chuckle. It read, “More Americans consider raw pet diets amid safety issues: Sales of raw pet food have increased sharply”.1
I’m smiling because it seems the best efforts of the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), many board-certified veterinary nutritionists, and a variety of other pet food industry organizations and individual special interest groups to scare people away from raw pet diets aren’t having the intended effect.
Pet Owner Interest in Fresh Food and Natural Diets Continues to Rise
According to market research company GfK, from mid-2014 to mid-2015, sales of raw freeze-dried pet food rose 64 percent, and raw frozen pet food sales increased by 32 percent.2
Around the same time, a raw pet food company surveyed 1,826 U.S. cat and dog owners about their pet food preferences, and learned that over a third are interested in a fresh raw food diet for their animal companion.3
Additional survey results were also interesting:
13 percent of respondents were already feeding a raw diet to their pets
Pet health is the number 1 factor (94 percent) in selecting a pet food
Freshness and quality (89 percent) are the second motivating factors for purchase; cost is the third consideration (65 percent)
89 percent of pet guardians feed processed pet foods and starchy fillers
23 percent of those who feed processed pet food report that their dog or cat suffers from skin conditions, arthritis, kidney problems, or food allergies; all of those pet owners report their veterinarians have suggested dietary changes to treat those conditions
55 percent would prefer to feed their dog or cat fresh food that can be served raw or cooked
As more and more pet guardians become aware of the link between processed pet food and many of the disorders and diseases occurring in today’s dogs and cats, I expect sales of healthier pet diets to continue to increase.
Pet food industry insiders call rising consumer interest in fresh and raw diets part of the “humanization” of pet food.4 I think they’re missing the point. After all, most humans don’t eat raw meat diets.
I think the explanation is simply that a growing number of pet parents are realizing the benefit of species-appropriate food for their pets, recognizing that dogs and cats are not human and do best when fed unprocessed, meat-based diets with nutrient profiles that closely match the diets of wild dogs and cats (and go far beyond AAFCO nutrient standards).
It shouldn’t be a surprise that our pets thrive on a well-constructed, fresh ancestral diet.
Processed Pet Food is Biologically Inappropriate for Dogs and Cats
Commercially available processed dog and cat food has only been around a little over a hundred years. However, animals have hunted prey or, in the case of dogs, scavenged, for millions of years.
And although recent research suggests domesticated carnivores were able to adapt to some degree to starch in the diet as humans became planters and farmers of grains, this does not mean dogs and cats have evolved into vegetarians.
Over the last hundred years, major pet food companies have produced most of their products using a base of corn (which is now genetically modified), wheat, rice, or potato (with a glycemic index that is off the charts).
These ingredients are blended with rendered, poor quality proteins and a synthetic vitamin/mineral mix. They are extruded, then processed again at very high temperatures. However, our carnivorous pets have not evolved to be able to process these substantially altered, foreign foods
The good news is dogs and cats are adaptable and resilient. But unfortunately, this means they are able to withstand significant nutritional abuse; they can be fed a nutrient deficient, biologically incorrect diet without immediately dying.
Immunologic and physiologic degeneration occurs as the result of an inappropriate diet, but sudden death does not, which is why we’ve convinced ourselves convenient, entirely processed pet foods are acceptable, or “good” for dogs and cats.
As Dr. Richard Patton states, “nutrition only becomes a problem when there’s a crisis.”
Processed Diets Have Created Generations of Sick Pets
For a hundred years, our pets have been fed inappropriate diets that have kept them alive, but far from thriving like their wild relatives. Instead, we’ve created dozens of generations of nutritionally weakened animals that suffer from degenerative diseases linked to longstanding nutritional deficiencies.
The truth is our pet population provides a place for recycling waste from the human food industry.
Grains that fail inspection, human food past its expiration date, uninspected pieces and parts of waste from the seafood industry, leftover restaurant grease, deceased livestock, and even roadkill is collected and disposed of through rendering – a process that converts human food industry waste into raw materials for the pet food industry.
Pet food manufacturers purchase these raw materials and blend the rendered fat and meat with starch fillers.
They add bulk vitamin and mineral supplements (most from China), and then they extrude the mix at high temperatures (the process that makes kibble, or dry food), creating all sorts of toxic reactions including advanced glycation end products and cancer causing heterocyclic amines.
They call these crunchy little pellets and canned goo “pet food,” and sell it to customers at a handsome profit.
The entire system is flawed, 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. But exactly what is “natural”? No GMOs? No factory farmed, nutrient deficient meats? No high-arsenic rice? No synthetic preservatives or vitamins?
The problem is there isn’t a set “natural” standard, everyone’s perception is different and almost all manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon and using the term.
We see more “grain-free” on labels as well, and more peas, lentils, chickpeas and other glycemic and unnecessary starches in the bag as clients become aware that corn, wheat and rice have no place in pet food. But the substitutes have significant nutritional implications as well.
Manufacturers are hearing the rumblings of educated pet owners and are updating their marketing to try to regain lost customers by changing their ingredients to regain market share. But the issues remain the same: using poor quality ingredients, relying on synthetic nutrients (instead of nutrient dense foods), and utilizing extensive processing techniques to extend shelf life means most pet food is dead food.
Feeding a lifetime of processed foods makes it impossible for your pet’s body to be as vibrantly healthy as it should be.
Optimal Nutrition for Dogs and Cats
Dogs and cats need quality protein, fats, and a small amount of vegetables and fruits (roughage). Vegetables and fruits provide antioxidants and fiber to animals that no longer hunt whole prey.
Natural sources of trace minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids must be added, since the soils in which foods are grown are depleted of many of the nutrients pets need. Also, food storage, whether it’s in a freezer or a pantry, decreases critical essential fatty acid levels in foods.
Pets need unadulterated, fresh, whole foods that are moisture dense. They don’t need grains, fillers, artificial preservatives, colors, additives, chemicals, byproducts, or processed foods. Although animals can eat some processed foods, they aren’t designed to consume a lifetime of dry or canned diets.
Nutritional goals for my veterinary patients and my own pets include a diet that is as species-appropriate as possible (low in carbohydrates, high moisture content, and unprocessed), and a variety of fresh, whole foods that are nutritionally complete and optimal for the species.
What if I Can’t Afford a 100% Fresh Food Diet to my Pet?
If you’ve watched my best-to-worst foods video, you know I advocate feeding the best food you can afford to buy for your pet. For many people, this means feeding a dry food diet, but there are still excellent ways you can move towards feeding more fresh foods without breaking the bank.
I have many clients who have creatively made fresh food a reality for their pets, even on a tight budget, the cheapest option being home prepared meals (commercial fresh food diets are expensive).
Shopping sales, utilizing local food co-ops and buying in bulk can often bring the cost of an excellent quality homemade diet to less than the cost of many super premium dry foods on the market today. Make sure to follow a balanced recipe if you do home-prep; homemade nutrient deficient diets aren’t the goal. Yes, homemade diets take time and effort, but the payoff is substantially healthier pets with fewer vet bills.
Many folks can only afford one meal of fresh food a day, or several meals a week. I recommend you feed as many fresh food meals as you can afford. You will see dramatic improvements in your pet’s health by eliminating 25 to 50 percent of the processed food from her diet.
If you can’t afford to make fresh meals for your pet, consider eliminating processed treats and make fresh food treats the way you add some living foods to your pet’s diet.
Every bite of food your pet swallows is ultimately a step towards healing or harming; all foods impact the body in some way. The more fresh, living, whole foods your pet consumes is a step towards health, and one I encourage you to make for the animals in your care.
Health and Wellness Associates
Archived – Mecola
- Becker – Carrothers