Optimal Nutrition = Optimal Health & Well-being
We all want our pets to be fit and healthy, to perform to their optimal potential and to have an excellent quality of life. Good nutrition is fundamentally important to help your animal to stay healthy as it provides the basic building blocks that their body needs to function at its best.
When a diet is poor and then changed to include wholesome, well balanced foods, animals (and humans!) show a remarkable improvement in their condition, their working performance is enhanced and often, chronic ongoing health problems begin to resolve.
Many years ago, our modern processed diets began to replace the healthy meals that we used to eat. Because our pets used to eat our table scraps, their diets became imbalanced and vets used to see frequent cases of nutritional deficiency diseases such as rickets.
Commercial foods were created and balanced these components helping to make up for these severe deficiencies. Subsequently nutritional deficiency diseases are no longer common place.
However, many commercial foods do not have optimal amounts of valuable essential fats, vitamins and anti-oxidants that are tremendously important for a healthy skin and coat, flexible and smooth joints and a fully functional immune system. In addition to this, some of these foods contain poor quality ingredients and often high amounts of chemical preservatives which may be detrimental to the long-term health and performance of your pet.
As is the trend in human medicine, presently our pets are faced more frequently with a set of dis-eases called degenerative diseases. These include conditions such as allergies, arthritis, heart disease, cancers and auto-immune dis-ease. What we feed our pets plays a great role in the development and management of these conditions.
Like us, animals benefit greatly from food that is wholesome, natural and unprocessed. These foods are easily digested and used by their bodies and have high amounts of important vitamins, antioxidants as well as essential fatty acids. They are also easy to prepare.
What to feed
When choosing a commercial diet for your pet it is important to make sure that the product is of high quality with wholesome ingredients, it isn’t bulked up with processed carbohydrates and fillers (not natural components of a carnivore’s diet), is ideally free of chemicals and preservatives and is well balanced.
If you choose to feed your dog or cat a raw food diet, there are tremendous benefits but there are also several pitfalls and it is very important to feed correctly.
An ideal diet for dogs and cats includes raw meat, ideally from animals which have been well nourished and raised in a wholesome environment. Meat should be fresh, pre-frozen or air dried to minimize the risk of disease from pathogens (bugs like bacteria) and hydatid cysts. Cats and dogs however, have a greater tolerance for organisms such as salmonella and E.Coli than humans, especially if they have healthy immune system (which of course is supported by the quality of nutrients which they consume).
Organ meats such as liver, kidney and heart should be fed as about 1/5 of the meat component. Heart mince is very important, especially for cats as it contains high amounts of taurine (essential for cats) as well as other valuable nutrients.
Appropriately sized RAW bones are a very important part of a balanced raw food diet as they provide important minerals (especially calcium) and vitamins as well as help to keep animals’ teeth clean.
Additional components include plant matter to simulate the gut content of prey consumed in the wild which contains phytonutrients, vitamins and other nutritive substances important for vitality. Avoid the following that are potentially toxic: raisins, grapes, onions, macadamia nuts and chocolate.
Some issues concerning the feeding of raw food are:
• The safety of feeding bones – these are usually OK as long as the bones are raw (cooked bones splinter) but for those animals who tend to gulp down their food it is recommended that the bones be either too big for them to swallow (only chewed) or that they be crushed up in the food. Occasionally some dogs don’t seem to tolerate bones (they can vomit or get a sore tummy), in these cases bones may need to be crushed up and introduced to the diet gradually to help them build up the ability to digest them.
• Bugs like E.coli and Salmonella generally are not a problem if the meat is fresh or frozen. Cats and dogs also have a greater tolerance for these organisms than us humans but for animals that are immunosuppressed eg. Dogs that are on immunosuppressants like steroids or cats that have FIV (Feline Aids) it is important to be extra careful.
• Parasites such as hydatids are killed after freezing raw meat for 3 days at –20 degrees Celsius or -10°C for 7 days. It is illegal to feed raw offal to dogs otherwise. Hydatids can be avoided altogether by feeding chicken, which don’t harbor hydatids.
Broths have become popular for humans and animals as a way to provide a concentrated source of nutrients that help to nourish the body, especially for those who are unwell. A broth can be made by boiling up left over bones. This soup will have collagen and minerals that help to support healing.
Certain herbs with therapeutic properties may also be added for example ginger and turmeric which help to improve circulation, provide anti-oxidant support as well as immune support and turmeric has been shown to have some anti-cancer properties. Dogs can be given 50 – 250 mg of the dried turmeric herb 1 – 3 times a day and cats 50 – 100 mg daily.
The Bigger Picture
Encouraging the use of safe, unprocessed food, farmed as naturally as possible assists in embracing a culture of environmental sustainability and also reduces our impact on the planet.
Nature knows best and by respecting natural principles, feeding our animals with food that their bodies have evolved to eat over thousands of years, we will not only help to ensure that we are rewarded by our loyal friends living long and happy lives but we will also have peace of mind knowing that we are contributing to the well-being of our environment and helping to sustain a healthier planet.