Food recommendations for a healthy life.

Food recommendations for a healthy life.

One of the most common questions I am asked in the exam room is what food I recommend for an individual’s pets.  This week’s post will spell out in detail my thoughts on healthy foods and supplements for our fur companions.

Although I am not Board certified, my opinion is pertinent and well thought; most importantly, my position can be supported with facts and reason. Pet nutrition is a very hot topic now both for professionals and pet owners alike.  Everyone has a recommendation, belief, or personal preference regarding feeding choices, diets, brands, quantity and quality, though most do not have the studies to back up their beliefs.

Originally, our dogs evolved from wolves, but through extreme artificial selection, we’ve created canines that vary from the tiny Chihuahua to the giant Great Dane.  That selection process has most likely affected their gastrointestinal tracts, as well as their conformations.

One study that evaluated the diets of forging wolves was conducted in the winter months, when very few plants were available for consumption, thus showing their proclivity for a diet consisting almost entirely of meat. Repeated studies at different times of year revealed diets much higher in grains, when plants were available for consumption, than had been previously reported, but the average was still only about 10%.

It should be noted also that vitamins in most pet foods are not natural.  These unnatural vitamins are made in chemical plants, some starting with an oil base.  A significant amount of these vitamins are manufactured in China.  Since our suppliers can’t procure them anywhere else, they are allowed to label the product from the U.S.  I will stress again, they are not.  If you have any knowledge of organic chemistry, you understand the difficulty in creating a pure material. An example of the nature of this problem would be in the 1960’s, a morning sickness medication was frequently prescribed that was found later to cause birth defects, because the manufacturing process created two compounds that were chemically alike, but their chemical shape was different.  The result was one was safe…the other caused the aforementioned birth defects.

Cooking at normal temperatures does not significantly damage or destroy a food’s value. In fact, protein is easier to digest when cooked; however, vitamins are significantly more unstable.  The green water at the bottom of a steamer is found to be filled with vitamins and compounds that were removed from the vegetables during the steaming process.  Cooking isn’t bad; over cooking to the point of breaking down vitamins and nutrients essential to you pets’ health is bad.

Always remember that Sources matter.  Protein is not protein.  You can chemically measure it, but digestibility can vary greatly.  When Hills was first creating their commercial diets, they commented on how they could create a diet mainly of shoe leather and oil that would be chemically adequate, though not healthy, for pet consumption. Another example, diets created from Pink Slime with protein from chicken feet are not healthy no matter what a gas chromatography machine shows.

In my opinion, the most important point is the need for variety.  It doesn’t matter if you’re consuming the “healthiest” super food of the moment, it’s not complete or includes everything your body needs. I feel the idea of a pet food that is complete and balanced for all life stages, is a myth.  Nutrition is very complex, and to feel that we have pet nutrition completely figured out is wrong, since we are still making important discoveries on the human side of nutrition and diet.

Having laid the basic foundation for my recommendations, I can begin making real suggestions.  I feel our companions’ diets should be rotated both in form and variety.  Form can vary from kibble, freeze dried, wet, frozen, raw, and even some home cooking.  Variety should be both in brands of food, and the proteins and carbohydrates in those particular foods.  As for brands, I love Honest Kitchen, Primal, and Dr. Harvey for dehydrated raw diets.  I especially like Primal because all the vitamins are sourced from real food, not vitamin mixtures.  For kibble, I like Open Farm and Fromm diets.  I love the humanely raised and responsibly farmed source materials from Open Farm.  For a frozen diet, again I would recommend Primal, because it is balanced and has whole food vitamins.  All these are brands I’m committed to carrying in the clinic, because first and foremost, I feel nutrition is more important than any supplement or medication on my shelves.