“What do I feed my pet?”
Here is a brief post I made on a forum during the pet food recall of 2007 in answer to this important question: “What do I feed?”. It is one of the most commonly asked questions in the exam room and in Emails I receive every day…and rightfully so. Most people are quite confused at this point, with some bags of commercial food having banners proudly stating “No wheat, no corn, no soy and no dairy products” with the bag next to them having one or more of these “controversial” foods in the top four of the ingredient list.
We are in a strange place in veterinary medicine right now, with many manufacturers understanding that wheat is a problem (e.g. the top pet food allergen) but not comprehending why it is so. The answer to this conundrum is simple: They don’t understand the nature of gluten. We and our pets become allergic to wheat because of the damage done to the intestinal villi by an intolerance to gluten. The allergy is the by-product of the damage done by this sticky, inflammatory glycoprotein in individuals who have become sensitized to gluten. The jury is still out on the number of individuals who are gluten sensitive but the numbers are rising every day. Researchers are finally coming to the conclusion that gluten is not good for anyone, only better tolerated by some than others.
So, it makes not sense to use the other gluten grains- barley, rye, triticale, kamut/kawmut, spelt, duram/durham- in pet foods knowing that gluten is the issue, does it? But it also makes no sense to use the other foods that can induce villous damage in pets and their people, namely dairy (casein), soy and corn- none of which would the dog even come across in nature, much less eat the stuff. (For the history of wheat, cow milk use, soy and corn, see the FAQ’s page.)
So, what should we feed our pets? Common sense dictates that they receive a biologically-appropriate, non-damaging diet that meets their nutritional needs. Dogs and cats are carnivores, with canines also being scavengers by nature. Cats would basically consume a pure meat diet, with a little pre-digested vegetation from the intestinal tract of their herbivorous prey. Dogs would eat meat, eggs, fruits, berries, vegetables, and animal scat, the latter seeming quite repulsive to most owners but actually loaded with B complex and other nutrients. (For example, rabbits make a lot of B complex in their colons).
How do we duplicate this? Are we willing to do what it takes to feed our beloved pets what they need? That’s what the article is all about.
“What to feed, what to feed???”- A Forum Post
by Dogtor J
That’s a great question…quite involved, but a good question. We should feed the pet as close to a natural diet as possible. “As possible” means:
1) As close to what we understand “natural” to be; or…
2) As close to natural as we can afford; or…
3) As close to natural as it fits with our own pet philosophy and what we are willing to do.
The vast majority of pet owners are not going to do more than feed something out of a can or a bag. Sad but true. Remember: The vast majority of pet owners are not on a forum like this seeking information about how to best feed their pet. It has been like pulling teeth just to get my hospital clients to go to the pet shop for food rather than the grocery store, the latter having no dry foods that meet my criteria of eliminating all gluten, dairy, soy and corn.
So, you have those owners who will seek out the best commercial food but stop there. Then you have those who will occasionally add some table food while others will do some home-cooking on a regular basis to supplement the base diet of commercial foods. At the other end of the spectrum, you have “the elite” who try to make the diet perfect and natural in every way. That is a very small but growing group.
Where do each of us fit into this spectrum? It has been shown that those pets that get table food in addition to their commercial diet live longer, contrary to what most vets- including me for the first 20 years of my career- have said all of their lives. It should not surprise us to find this to be true when we think about the incredible nutritional value of fresh meats/eggs, veggies and fruits. There is no replacement for fresh ingredients, especially when you read how commercial pet food is made. Dry kibble becomes the definition of “processed food”.
The answer to “What to feed?” then becomes this- Feed a food that is not harmful and as nutritionally complete as possible. My goal since April of 2000 has been to eliminate the harmful ingredients alone and watch what happens. Miracles have happened after the elimination all gluten (wheat, barley, rye), dairy, soy and corn. These are very harmful to large numbers of pets and people. Dogs and cats are clearly gluten intolerant just as large numbers of people are. For those who doubt that, look up “gluten enteropathy” in the Irish setter. I was taught about this over 30 years ago in veterinary school. Oddly enough, even those who taught me this in veterinary school have forgotten this “fun fact”.
I am now focusing on making the diet as nutritionally complete as possible by adding fresh sources of protein (meats, eggs) and fresh sources of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in the form of veggies and fruits. Lastly, we should be using select supplements that may not be provided by the above, such as omega three fatty acids, D3, magnesium, selenium, or things that the individual seems to need specifically such as glucosamine for its joints or kelp for its thyroids. (I will be placing a page on my Website with a list of supplements and their dosage in the near future.)
Again, my site has an ever-changing list of “clean” dog foods (those that contain none of the “big 4”). The bottom line of this pet food recall at this point is that the new wheat gluten additive was the source of problems, so foods without wheat gluten- which should be avoided anyway- are safe to feed. But, stay tuned. This story is not over yet.
I hope this helps,
The Truth about the Ingredients in Pet Food
Is the Pet Food Industry in the Business of Population Control?
Dogtor J’s Recommended Pet Foods