|If you have horses you probably also have a dog or cat, or if you're like me several
of each. What do you feed them? Supermarket food? Premium (and costly) food from the
veterinarian or pet store? Do you know what is in these foods? If you care about your pet
you probably should know what some of the ingredients are:
- Meat by-products - Can include head, feet, intestines, heart, lungs, and anything
that is not fit for human consumption.
- Water - Some canned foods list "moisture" as over 80 percent of the
contents (rather expensive water).
- Soybean meal - Consists of the ground up husks after the oil has been removed and
has caused allergic reactions in many breeds of dogs.
- Wheat flour - Can include "the tail of the mill" which is anything that
is swept up off the mill floor.
- Sodium nitrite - Important for that "fresh meat" color, however it has
been shown to cause cancer.
- BHA and BHT - Used to preserve pet food, but also used to produce brain defects
in lab animals.
- Dogs, cats, horses - Some pets that have died or been euthanized (plus their flea
collars and tags) wind up at rendering plants where they become the "meat" in
- Tumors - Cut out of cattle at the processing plant, they are later ground up and
become part of pet food.
- "Road kill" - Also ground up and added to pet food.
- Ethoxyquin - Used as a preservative even though it is a toxic chemical that can
cause liver damage, convulsions, coma, and even death.
- Salt - As much as 1000 times more in processed foods than in the natural foods
and has been linked to hypertension and heart disease in people and pets.
- Phosphoric acid, beef and poultry digest, sugar - All added to increase the
palatability of processed pet food, although they add nothing to the nutritional quality.
After reading that list you probably checked the ingredients in your pet's food and it
didn't seem so bad. But wait a minute, did you know about the pet food labeling act? Pet
food companies only have to tell you what they've added to the base meal that they get
from other companies. They don't have to tell you what is in that base meal. Although
there are some pet foods that claim to be made from natural ingredients, do you want to
take a chance with your pet's health?
If you're like many people today, you've been conditioned by advertising to believe
that pet food is supposed to come out of a bag or can, and that pets shouldn't be given
table scraps. But guess what they lived on for thousands of years before advertising
became so prominent in our lives? Yep, table scraps.
Now I don't like my pets to beg at the table, and I do want to make sure they get good
nutrition so I've listed below some ideas to get you started on feeding your pet a more
What you should feed your pet
The first step in feeding your pet more naturally is to feed a variety of foods. Most
animals in the wild don't eat the same thing day after day and they may not get every
nutrient in every meal. Some days they may dine on rabbit and on other days they eat
birds. Some days they might get something bigger, whether fresh killed or leftovers from a
larger animal's meal. And they ate their food raw.
If you're just starting to transition your pet to a natural diet, it might be better to
cook the first meals. You may also be worried about E. coli and other nasties, but
because of the design of a carnivore's digestive system it's not as big a problem as it is
for people. Real meat, especially organic, is better for your pet, even if it is cooked,
than anything that the pet food companies can produce. Raw food is better, however,
because it contains important enzymes that are lost during cooking.
Earlier we mentioned that pets should have a variety of food. That didn't just mean
feeding chicken and rabbit, but also vegetables and fruits. Wild animals
sometimes eat the stomach contents of their prey. Although dogs and cats are
carnivores, they need more than just meat. Raw vegetables and fruits are fine for your
pet, although you should probably chop them into small pieces to aid digestion. Some pets
may like their veggies better if they're lightly steamed. Also some pets may not like
veggies at first, but it might help if the veggies are cooked in some chicken broth or
meat sauce. And pets may like some fruits and veggies better than others. My chocolate Lab
will practically turn cartwheels for broccoli and carrots, but will turn up his nose at
bananas. His expression the first time he tried a dill pickle was priceless. Another dog
loves fresh avocados. You may have to experiment a bit to find what your pet likes.
By the way, even if you're a vegetarian don't try to make your dog or cat into a
vegetarian too. Unlike us, their bodies were designed to eat meat.
Okay, now some menu suggestions. Dr. Goldstein recommends a free-range chicken with a
little garlic boiled for almost an hour. Then pull the chicken out and cook some organic
brown rice or millet in the chicken-flavored water. And finally add some cut up veggies
(even frozen) to the mix. Refrigerated, that amount may last several days for smaller
pets. Just be sure to remove the meat from the bones. Cooked bones can
be very dangerous for dogs.
Some other meals he's fixed include potatoes simmered in a little olive oil and water,
plus some lamb, broccoli, and cheese. Or scrambled eggs with leftover chicken and rice. Or
pasta with garlic veggies. His suggestion for determining approximately what to feed is
about one-quarter meat, one-quarter vegetables, and one-half grains for a dog,
about one-third to one-half meat with the rest being grains and vegetables for a cat.
For the meat portion you can use chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, or even rabbit or fish.
For the vegetable portion you can use practically any veggie or fruit (or mixture) that
your pet will eat. For the grain portion you can use brown rice, millet, oatmeal, kasha,
cous cous, or even some pasta. However some people believe dogs and cats shouldn't eat
grains because it's not their natural food and may make allergies worse.
Some other ideas include feeding eggs. There can be a problem if you
feed raw egg whites, but if you feed the whole egg (shell included) the
balance of nutrients offsets the slight problem with raw egg whites. Or
you could cook the egg whites first or feed
just the yolk. You can also add yogurt and cheese. Small amounts of
garlic and ground flaxseed can be
healthy choices. Another useful product is salmon oil capsules to help
balance the Omega-3s in the diet. And a good vitamin and mineral supplement, such as Dynamite Showdown, is
yet another good addition. (See http://www.justamere.com/dynamite/dog.asp#Showdown
for more information.)
Not everyone has the time to prepare special food for their pets every day, so they
prepare food in large batches and freeze it in daily portions. A little sacrifice in
freshness is traded for the convenience of bulk preparation. You can make all-in-one
meatballs that include ground meat, chopped or shredded veggies and fruits, plus cooked
grains. Mix it all in a large bowl, then make meatballs and freeze on a cookie sheet. Or
you can puree the veggies and fruits in a food processor or blender then freeze in ice
cube trays. Add meat of your choice, whether ground or chopped into pieces. You can feed
both the fruit/veggies and the meat in the same meal or to take advantage of food
combining you can feed them separately.
One last thing your pet needs is access to fresh, clean water. If you're worried about
your tap water (whether you live in a city or rural area) you can use a filtration system
or buy bottled water. Also use only stainless steel or glass dishes. Plastic, aluminum,
and ceramic dishes can all cause problems, whether chemical reactions or toxicity.
If you'd like to know more, two books that I would recommend are The
Nature of Animal Healing by Martin Goldstein, DVM and Keep
Your Dog Healthy the Natural Way by Pat Lazarus. Ms Lazarus also wrote Keep
Your Cat Healthy the Natural Way. Another book to read (if you're not too squeamish)
is Foods Pets Die For by Ann Martin. She researched the pet food industry
and found that rendering plants used diseased animals, road kill and euthanized pets to
make the base meal sold to pet food companies.
Also an interesting web
site is located at Shirley's
Wellness Cafe. And Dr. Mercola weighs in on Natural
Foods for Pets.
The information given here is to help you learn more about
your pet and not to replace your veterinarian's advice.