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Optimum Pet Nutrition

"Happy Dogs Are Healthy Dogs #2"

Let's take a fresh look at optimum diets for our pets

What we put into the bodies of our dogs (or cats or any pet for that matter) directly affects their health. Without proper nutrition, even the most genetically sound animals will not reach their full potential and could also have health problems as a result. What you feed your dog or cat or bird is probably one of THE most important decision you'll make for your pet.

Mary L. Wulff-Tilford author of All You Ever Wanted To Know About Herbs For Pets Has this to say:

"The food your animal eats should provide all of the nutritional components which are necessary for all organs and systems of a healthy body to perform in harmonious unison. A properly functioning body does an amazing job at preventing disease and healing itself, and to do this it requires the energies and nutrients of a well-balanced diet. In terms of finding the proper diet for our companions, this means learning to look beyond our own needs, opinions, and agendas to address the natural needs of the animals that we caretake. The business of selling pet food at times seems to be focused more on what appeals to animal guardians than on the dietary needs of pets. The market success of most commercial foods is judged by how convenient it is, and how good it looks, smells, feels, or even tastes to pet owners."

I believe that the importance of proper nutrition cannot be overstated. Without proper nutrition all of the other efforts at achieving and maintaining good health can be only partially successful at best. Without proper nutrition there is much greater need for medical intervention, simply to assist the body in dealing with things the immune system should be capable of dealing with on its own.

Without proper nutrition, every virus, every allergen, every parasite, every bacterium, and every fungus are made exponentially more pervasive, powerful, and dangerous. Not, of course, because they are strengthened in any way, but because the body's ability to fight them off is dramatically decreased. The immune system is the natural armor against all these things, the dog's natural God designed defences are dependent on proper nutrition to maintain adequate protection against any invasion. With proper (species appropriate) nutrition there is a marked decrease in the need for things like antibiotics, vaccines, and parasiticides.

The natural reality is this:

Some how, some where we have been lead to belive that what is good for us to eat is good for pets, that our pets are just humans in fuzzy suits. WRONG This is NOT true, Dogs are carnivores and we are Omnivores. What is good for our animals to eat may not be very appealing to us, but if we really want to provide them with the nutrition they truly need, we must learn to look beyond standards of human acceptance to consider what our pets might eat if we weren't around. What do thier cousins eat in the wild????

Dogs are Carnivores, this is a biological fact. Look into your dog's mouth. Those huge impressive teeth (or tiny needle sharp teeth) are designed for grabbing, ripping, tearing, shredding, and shearing meat (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 258.).

They are not equipped with large flat molars for grinding up plant matter. Their molars are pointed and situated in a scissors bite (along with the rest of their teeth) that powerfully disposes of meat, bone, and hide. Carnivores are equipped with a peculiar set of teeth that includes the presence of carnassial teeth: the fourth upper premolar and first lower molar. Contrast this with your own teeth or the teeth of a black bear. A black bear is a true omnivore, as are we. We have nice, large, flat molars that can grind up veggies. Black bears, while having impressive canine teeth, also have large flat molars in the back of their mouth to assist in grinding up plant matter. Dogs and most canids lack these kinds of molars. Why? Because they don't eat plant matter. Teeth are highly specialized and are structured specifically for the diet the animal eats, and the difference between a bear's teeth and a dog's teeth (both species are in Order Carnivora) demonstrates how this can be (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pgs 260.).

Dogs have a highly elastic stomach designed to hold large quantities of meat, bone, organs, and hide. Their stomachs are simple, with an undeveloped caecum (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 260.). They have a relatively short foregut and a short, smooth, unsacculated colon. This means food passes through quickly. Vegetable and plant matter, however, needs time to sit and ferment. This equates to longer, sacculated colons, larger and longer small intestines, and occasionally the presence of a caecum. Dogs have none of these, but have the shorter foregut and hindgut consistent with carnivorous animals

Dogs do not produce the necessary enzymes (amylase, for example) to deal with the starch, cellulose, and carbohydrates in plant matter since they are carnivorous animals designed to eat meat and bone. Feeding dogs as though they were omnivores taxes the pancreas and places extra strain on it, as it must work harder for the dog to digest the starchy, carbohydrate- filled food. Nor do dogs have the friendly bacteria that break down cellulose and starch for them. As a result, most of the nutrients contained in plant matter--even preprocessed plant matter--are simply unavailable to dogs. This is why dog food manufacturers have to add such high amounts of synthetic vitamins and minerals (the fact that cooking destroys all the vitamins and minerals and thus creates the need for supplementation aside) to their dog foods. If a dog can only digest 30% or less of its grain-based food, then it will only be receiving 30% or less of the vitamins and minerals it needs. To compensate for this, the manufacturer must add a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than the dog actually needs.

So, with this knowledge of our dogs being carnivores, we need to have all dietary decisions for them conform to this knowledge if they are to result in proper, appropriate, nutrition. This is not something we can change to suit our own likes, needs and beliefs if we truly want healthy dogs.

Processed foods, drugs, the chemical cleaners we use in and around our homes, as well as over vaccination have seriously depleted the natural vitality and immune systems of our pets over the years.

A lack of RAW red meat in an carnivorious pet's diet can lead to serious health problems. Our dogs (and cats) require the enzymes,amino acids and other nutrients in the raw meat (bones and organs too) in order to stay healthy. Many skin and coat problems are a direct result of a lack of raw animal fat in the diet - fat which humans often believe is bad for their pet. (Cooked animal fat IS bad, not so with raw fat). Animals need at least 30% raw fat, and their systems are not designed to handle cooked meat or cooked fat.

Were you aware that restaurant grease has become a major component of feed-grade animal fat over the last 25 years. Usually held in 50-gallon drums for weeks or months in extreme temperatures, this grease is usually kept outside with no regard for its safety or further use. The rancid grease is then picked up by fat blenders who mix the animal and vegetable fats together, stabilize them with powerful synthetic antioxidants to prevent further spoilage, and then sell the blended products to pet food companies. Rancid, heavily preserved fats are extremely difficult to digest and can lead to a host of animal health problems, including digestive upsets, diarrhea, gas, and bad breath.

Come on Folks, in the wild, a cougar or wolf does not barbecue, grill or smoke its prey. It definitely does not walk to the local supermarket to buy dry food either. Yet, most of us pet owners recoil at the thought of feeding raw meat to their dog or cat, concerned about bacteria or parasites.

Dog and cat digestive systems have been designed by the Creator, to consume a raw diet, and they can and do well tolerate foods containing a wide range of naturally occurring bacteria that we humans can not.

As carnivores, the digestive systems again are much different then ours, theirs are short, acidic, and handle bacteria well. This is why they are not susceptible to salmonella, parasites, or e-coli from tainted meat as humans are. Humans have very long digestive tracks which allow food to 'linger' for 24 hours or more, thus allowing more time for parasites to get into their bloodstreams.

In nature animals know to seek out those foods that satisfy their nutritional needs. For example; free roaming wolves hunt grazing animals whenever possible. They will eat muscle or bone, the liver, pancreas and intestines - in other words, they are gorging on enzyme- laden tissues.

Wolf pups are weaned and maintained on regurgitated food, also heavily laced with digestive enzymes. Unless we are able to provide a raw meat and bone diet similar to what the wolf enjoys in the wild, adding a digestive enzyme and probiotic supplement to each meal IS essential for optimum digestion and overall good health. Since our pet foods today are heat processed, enzyme concentration is not only significantly reduced but in most all cases is totally destroyed. For this reason, adding digestive enzymes and probiotics to your pet's food will enhance absorption of any nutrients available to them.

William Pollak D.V.M. - "Malnutrition and the toxic condition of the animal fed commercial diets can result in the inability to digest and assimilate basic food components of the fresher, more wholesome type such as raw food. “

I personally, don't get it! Can some one tell me how it is that we have the intelligence and understanding to feed and nourish ourselves and our growing children, but appear to be too stupid to formulate a proper, nourishing diet for our dogs?

The "pet food" industry would have us believe that each meal must be complete and balanced. According to whos diet/idea? This is simply not true! Granted, complete and balanced nutrition is necessary. However, this balance can be and ideally should be achieved over a period of days, even weeks as a wild canid's diet is. Most natural canine nutritionists agree that it is preferable to use the “balance over time” approach.

The "dog food" industry spends millions of dollars convincing us and "brain washing" us that variety is bad for our dogs, and that they should eat the same thing at every meal, every day. They show us pictures of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and meat that look very appitizing to us humans! The reason for telling us this and showing us these pictures is only marketing so that we will keep buying their product. Their products are formulated in such a way as to make changing from one brand to another hard on our dogs' digestive system and contains ingredients our dogs and cats were NEVER designed to be able to digest in the first place. However, the same is not true for changing from one kind of RMBs (Raw Meaty Bone) to another.

We know by now (or at least we should) just how our health would deteriorate if we ate the same thing, particularly a highly processed food like breakfast cereal for example, for every meal every day of our lives. Yet this is what we are doing feeding this processed food to our pets. It is only common sense.

When feeding our dogs a species appropriate diet, variety is desirable, even important to the maintenance of optimum health. Feeding raw meaty chicken bones one day and raw beef or lamb ribs the next with a few organ meats thrown in every other day or so will not cause stomach upset the way switching from one brand of kibble to another will. So obviously it isn’t variety that is bad for our dogs, rather, it is the processed "dog food" that is bad.

There are those who would try to convince you that the dog has evolved, or rather that we have evolved the dog, into some human creation capable of digesting and thriving on, even requiring, a highly processed (cooked) diet consisting primarily of grains. THIS IS ABSURD! Even if it were possible to effect such an evolutionary change it would take hundreds of thousands of years not the very few, 60 to 70, that we've been feeding our dogs a processed dog food kind of diet. Even if one uses the entire period of domestication of the dog it doesn't approach the great period of time required to accomplish that kind of evolutionary change in an organism as complex as the domestic dog. At best we have forced our dogs to ADAPT to this inappropriate, unnatural diet.

The outside of our pet's bodies may not look anything like the wolf we see on the Nature Shows on TV but if you were to lie a wolf and your cute little Yorkie side by side and be able to see inside their bodies you would see the same kind of teeth, the same enzymes (or lack there of) in their saliva, the same small stomach with the same extremely strong stomach acids, the same short intestines, etc. Identical only may different in size. Even an expert has a very difficult time telling apart the DNA from the wolf your little house pet.

For all the changes we've made in the domestic dog they remain relatively unchanged in every way but appearance and temperament.

In spite of the tons of grain, beet pulp, cellulose, animal byproducts, preservatives, and artificial nutrients that we have poured into our dogs in the form of kibble "dog food" over the last 60 or so years, dogs, all dogs, remain carnivores and need (as well as deserve) optimum nutrition!

Copyright © 2003 -2008 This article is the sole property of Dr Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason and The Whole Dog. It cannot be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the expressed written consent of the author.