Whether it's weeding through the "prescription" diets offered or just understanding the difference between raw food and dry food, separating the fact from the fiction will go a long way in letting your pet enjoy a happy, healthy life. Here are the top 10 food myths that we hear and the truth behind them:
1. The best foods are those the veterinarian sells, like Royal Canin, Purina Veterinary, and Hill's Science Diet
While these brands and others sold in veterinarian's offices may be marketed as premium, top of the line foods, one look at the ingredients tells a different story. These formulas, made from large conglmorates, derive far more protein from grains or grain by-product sources such as corn gluten meal, brewer's rice, and wheat, than from healthy meat sources.
These brands, and so many like them, also contain poultry by-product, which consists of the leftovers unfit for human consumption, like feet, beaks, undeveloped eggs, and intestines; everything BUT clean meat. It's a cheap, low quality source of protein that is far less digestible than clean chicken meal. These ingredients are a tell-tale sign of poor quality food and are no different than discount brands at the grocery store.
When looking for the best food, meat and a named meat meal, like chicken meal or lamb meal, should be listed before any grains. Our dogs and cats are designed by nature to eat protein from meat sources, not grains. The high grain content of many pet foods is a primary contributor to the growing obesity and allergy problems in pets (this does not mean that all grains are bad for dogs and cats; see myth #7). For more information on selecting a truly premium food for your companion, see our articles, "Quick Guide to Natural Pet Foods," and "What You Need to Know About Your Pet's Food."
2. Dry food cleans your dog's and cat's teeth
This one is very common, even among some veterinarians, but it is most definitely not true. Dogs and cats have very pointed teeth; even their molars are sharp edged, not flat. These teeth are designed to bite, tear, and chew raw meat, so when a dog or cat eats kibble, they either swallow it whole or shatter it. Kibble does not scrape down onto the lower parts of the teeth or near the gums, which is where dental problems start. In fact, kibble can contribute to dental problems when the shattered bits lodge between the teeth, promoting bacterial growth. Just like with your diet, carbohydrate food debris breaks down into sugar, which dental bacteria feeds upon.
"Dental care for dogs and cats is vitally important because poor dental health can lead to chronic disease conditions."
However, kibble isn't going to help. Healthy teeth start with a natural diet, healthy chews, and regular brushing. Please see our article, "Dental Healthcare for Your Companion," for detailed information on caring for your four-legged friend's teeth.
3. Pets need life stage appropriate diets, like puppy, kitten, and senior formulas
Life stage diets were created as a marketing tool:the more formulas manufacturers develop, the more shelf space they command. While it is true that puppies and kittens need more food for their size than adults, they don't need a specially formulated puppy or kitten diet. A high-quality, varied diet is the best option for your young pets. For puppies this can include dry food, canned, freeze-dried, dehydrated, and raw food.
For kittens, kibble is not recommended to be a large portion of the diet as it can contribute to dehydration, urinary tract issues and less than optimal health over time. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they eat mostly meat and very little carbohydrates. High meat, grain-free foods are a good option if you're supplementing with kibble, but canned, freeze-dried,dehydrated and raw are the best choices.
#Feeding younger animals more frequent meals, like 3 times per day, is helpful while they are in their biggest growth phase. After three or four months of age, two meals per day is sufficient for most animals. Puppies and kittens should be kept slim, just like adult animals; keep an eye on your little companion's waistline and don't let them get round.
#Senior animals tend to slow down as they age, so while their calorie requirements may shrink, their need for the healthiest food you can provide is never greater. As animals age, they require excellent nutrition to keep their immune system as strong as possible and their joints in good working order. Continuing to feed a high quality, varied diet is the best thing you can do, just feed a little less of it; older dogs and cats are the most susceptible to the many health issues that obesity can contribute to, including diabetes, arthritis, and urinary tract problems.
4. Table scraps and other "people foods" are bad for your dog and cat
Most holistically trained veterinarians encourage the practice of feeding "people food" to our pets. Healthy leftovers are an excellent supplement to your companion's regular fare."There are only two rules with people food for pets:
1) It must be healthy for them: meat, steamed and finely chopped veggies & fruits, baked sweet potato, rice, oatmeal; no junk food; and
2) If you give them some of what you are eating, remember to feed less of their own food so that they don't put on extra pounds."
It's important to note that not all healthy foods for us are healthy for our pets: onions, grapes and raisins can all be toxic to dogs and cats. If you're not positive it's safe, don't feed it.
"Even beyond leftovers, home-cooking is becoming popular among dog and cat lovers. Homemade food has never been easier to create."
There are a number of homemade pre-mixes available to which all you need to add is meat and an appropriate oil for healthy fat content. Pre-mixes contain vegetables, vitamins and minerals, and sometimes grains to make the meal complete. Sojos has varieties with and without grains. Honest Kitchen offers Honest Kitchen Preference, a grain-free blend. Dr. Harvey's makes pre-mixes for home cooked food that contains organic grains with an amazing blend of herbs, and also a grain-free pre-mix. You don't have to cook every meal for your companion to benefit from fresher food: even the occasional homemade dinner is a wonderful healthy treat!
5. Your dog and cat should only eat food labeled as "complete and balanced."
Pet food companies have a pretty big interest in perpetuating this myth. Is every meal you eat complete and balanced? Even the most health-conscious among us don't worry about meeting the proper balance of nutrients at every meal. We know that over the course of the day or week our diet will be fairly complete, so we don't have to worry about eating exactly what the food pyramid recommends on a daily basis. Many of us take vitamins and supplements to fill in any gaps because even eating a very healthy diet of whole foods may not provide all the vitamins and minerals our body needs to stay healthy.
Variety is the key to a healthy diet for dogs and cats as well. If you're feeding at least 50-60% commercially prepared foods that are designed to be "complete," then you are well on your way to providing a majority of the balance of nutrients. Adding canned, raw or cooked meats, people food, fresh vegetables or other non-formulated foods to your companion's meals will boost the overall nutrition of the diet as long as it is not overdone. Providing a daily multi-vitamin adds extra insurance. One caveat here: meat is higher in phosphorus and lower in calcium, so when adding more than 15 - 20% extra meat to your companion's diet on a regular basis, keep the calcium and phosphorus ratio balanced over time by including raw bones or adding a calcium supplement.
6. Feeding raw food is dangerous due to the risk of Salmonella and E. Coli
The digestive tracts of dogs and cats are very different than those of humans. The human digestive tract is approximately 25 to 28 feet long with a stomach acidity between 1.5 and 2.5, whereas dogs and cats have a much shorter digestive system at an average of 10 to 13 feet for dogs (shorter for cats) with an acidity of less than 1. This means that raw food moves through your pet's system in less than half the time it would through a human's system, and the high acidity kills most bacteria. Even if the food was contaminated, it is likely that the microbes would not enter the animal's bloodstream. Commercially prepared raw food manufacturers take measures to control against the presence of unwanted organisms such as salmonella and e. coli, so if you're concerned about contamination, frozen raw diets are a good option.
If you eat meat, then you are aware of the precautions to take when handling raw meat. The same precautions apply to raw pet food: wash bowls, utensils and your hands after feeding and handling the meat. Keep the meat frozen until two to four days before feeding, and thaw in the refrigerator. Don't leave the food down for your pet for more than 30-40 minutes, and throw any leftovers away after this time. If you use common sense, feeding raw food is no more difficult or dangerous than any other pet food, and the health benefits are unparalleled.
7. High protein diets are hard on your pet's kidneys, especially as they age
This myth is a result of poor quality food manufacturers. The truth is that high plant protein diets are hard on your pet's organs; high animal protein diets aren't only healthy for your aging pets, but essential. Poor quality, mass produced pet foods are packed with protein from soy and corn. Unfortunately, your dog and cat are unable to properly digest and assimilate these sources of protein. It lets the food manufacturer boost the protein content of the food without actually offering your pet any substantial protein they can use. High plant protein diets can put added strain on your pets because their bodies aren't designed to process those ingredients. As they try to assimilate protein from these sources, their organs need to start working overtime.
"Animal protein is hugely important to our pets throughout their entire lives. High quality protein from actual meat sources contains important amino acids that your pets need to thrive."
When choosing a healthy, high protein diet for your pet, avoid any bags that feature corn or soy as a prominent ingredient (or better yet, avoid them all together). You want named meat meals (like chicken meal or lamb meal) or quality meat as the primary protein source. This is a sureproof way to make sure your pets are eating the diet nature intended.
8. Ash Content is an important guideline in choosing your cat's food
Concern about ash content in pet foods came about as veterinarians and cat guardians were looking for the cause of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD - formerly known as FUS). In the 70’'s & 80's, veterinarians thought ash was a factor in causing crystals in urine. There are, however, a variety of causes and ash is no longer considered a factor in causing FLUTD. The main problem was the formulation of commercial pet foods: most pet foods were creating a more alkaline urine (higher pH) which leads to an increase in struvite crystals. Most dry kibble diets are formulated with a high vegetable and grain content which creates a more alkaline urine. An all meat diet such as a cat would eat in nature creates a more acidic urine.
A high protein diet is the best way to maintain a low urinary pH naturally. Cats eating canned dietshave fewer problems with FLUTD than those eating primarily dry kibble diets. This is due both to the higher meat content of canned diets as well as the higher moisture content; increased hydration also prevents crystal formation. A frozen raw food diet is ideal for maintaining a lower urinary pH and providing proper hydration. Focusing on low-ash foods will not solve FLUTD problems, but a healthier diet and proper hydration will.
A more effective means of preventing FLUTD than stressing about the amount of ash in your companion's food is focusing on stress reduction for your pet and you. Stress is an often overlooked contributing factor to FLUTD, along with lack of exercise. When our companions are stressed, their immune system are compromised. Furthermore, when you are stressed, your companion is far more likely to be stressed. Flower Essences are an excellent stress reduction and emotional support tool; cats are especially responsive to flower essences and can benefit greatly from their use. There are flower essences designed for every emotional state, so look through the large selection and choose the one or two remedies that best match your companion's issues. Dosing is as simple as adding a few drops to the water or massaging them onto your pet's ears or paws.
9. Changing formulas or brands of pet foods is hard on your dog's or cat's digestion
A healthy dog or cat can eat a different food at each meal without issue as long asthey are high-quality foods. Holistically minded guardians and veterinarians know that variety is important for several reasons, the most important being to avoid the development of sensitivities to any particular food or protein type. When the same food is fed for many months or years at a time, animals can develop allergies or sensitivities to specific ingredients in the food. Plus, many holistic veterinarians believe that feeding the same food for many years is a contributing factor to inflammatory bowel disease.
Variety provides a wider range of nutrition for your companion as well. Even though a food may be formulated to meet AAFCO standards, that does not mean it meets the standards of every dog or cat. As a matter of fact, many foods that meet AAFCO standards cannot be tolerated by our pets due to the heacy use of grains and grain by-products. A diverse diet will meet the nutritional needs of your companion over time, and, besides that, would you want to eat the same meal everyday? Remember, every meal dosn't need to be perfectly balanced as long as the diet is balanced over the course of a week.
Whenever feeding any diet, it's important to remember to include supplements. Digestive enzymesare hugely important and will help your companion transition from one type of food to another with ease. They help animals maintain a healthy digestive tract and get the most nutrition from their food.Essential fatty acids, especially from fish oil, provide the omega 3 fatty acids missing from most processed pet foods that nourish the skin, coat and digestive tract. Probiotics are important for animals on medication or those experiencing digestive upsets. For animals in need of increased support due to chronic digestive issues, Only Natural Pet GI Support provides herbs and nutrients to soothe and heal the lining of the digestive tract.
10. It's fine for dogs and cats to eat each other's food
While there are a few canned formulas available that meet the needs of both species, most foods are designed specifically for cats or dogs. Cats require a higher percentage of protein and fat than most dogs and they have specific requirements for additional taurine. Dogs that eat too much cat food are at risk of weight gain and even pancreatitis. Cats that eat dog food are at risk of weight gain when the food is high in carbohydrates, as well as more likely to develop deficiencies in important amino acids like Taurine.
When your dog’s daycare, training facility or kennel asks for a kennel cough vaccine, you vaccinate your dog … am I right?
And why wouldn’t you? You want to protect your dog (and other dogs) from illness and you trust your vet or daycare provider to have your dog’s best interests at heart, like any caring dog lover would.
But I’m here to tell you some things that will make you question whether the kennel cough vaccines your dog has been getting are actually in his best interests …
… or all just a lie.
What You Should Know About The Kennel Cough Vaccine
Bordetella, also known as kennel cough, is a vaccine that’s been required by groomers, boarding kennels, training facilities and veterinary hospitals for years. It’s become a routine requirement for any dog that spends time with other dogs (which is nearly all dogs).
The fact that a vaccine exists is surprising in itself. Kennel cough is almost always a self limiting disease that’s about as dangerous to your dog as the common cold is to you. So it’s not really much of a problem for your dog … but it can be a problem for any facility that has a case of kennel cough go through it.
Or at least they think it is. I’ll get to that part in a bit.
When kennel cough hits a daycare or boarding kennel and a lot of dogs are affected, they have to shut down for a few days so other dogs coming to the facility don’t catch it. When our children get colds, we keep them at home and give them some chicken soup – that’s just common sense. But if our dogs catch a cold, we’ve been led to think that they’re carrying a dangerous and highly contagious disease.
So we vaccinate our dogs so they don’t catch kennel cough.
But there are three pretty significant problems with this thinking:
Problem 1: the vaccine doesn’t work all that well
Just like we’ll probably never find a cure for the common cold, we haven’t found a cure for the dog’s common cold. Here’s the reason why the common intranasal kennel cough vaccine isn’t a terribly good idea:
There are at least forty agents that cause bordetella …
This makes the bordetella vaccine a complete shot in the dark. In fact, the odds of the vaccine working are so long, that noted veterinary immunologist Dr Ronald Schultz concludes …
“Kennel Cough is not a vaccinatable disease.”
Hardly a ringing endorsement from the most qualified veterinary immunologist in the world. But despite this, vets still vaccinate a staggering number of dogs for this simple problem every day.
Maybe they do this because they figure that there’s a small chance the vaccine will indeed work – and the vaccine is just an intranasal spray, so it’s pretty safe, right?
Well, that leads us to the next problem …
Problem 2: the vaccine is not safe
Most vaccines these days are something called modified live vaccines. It’s been shown that the “modified” viruses in human vaccines embed themselves in the genes of the host and can shuffle around and reactivate thirty or more years after vaccination.
Here’s an example …
Chicken pox is another common and self limiting disease that we now regularly vaccinate children for. Because of mass vaccination, children and adults no longer receive the natural boost to their immune system they would normally receive from benign childhood diseases like chicken pox. So the result of mass vaccination for chicken pox is a much higher incidence of its evil cousin, shingles, which carries more serious complications than chicken pox.
So when your dog gets the injectable form of the kennel cough vaccine, this happens (and they also get some other stuff injected with the vaccine like MSG, aluminum, formaldehyde and foreign animal proteins). Although the intranasal vaccine has fewer of those dangerous ingredients than the injectable one, there are still dangers with it. According to Patricia Jordan DVM, bacterial vaccines like bordetella are also capable of lurking in the genetic makeup, waiting to replicate and awaken as a disease that could be a hundred times as dangerous as kennel cough.
Vaccination of any sort also elevates histamine, which we all know can promote cancer and chronic inflammation.
But aside from the dangers of the vaccine, here’s another interesting fact …
Problem 3: somebody did some bad math
Here’s a little known fact: vaccinated dogs shed the disease they were vaccinated against into the environment.
Dogs that are vaccinated for kennel cough will shed that disease for up to 7 weeks and parainfluenza for a week (I should probably mention that a lot of the bordetella vaccines also include influenza).
Think about that for a minute …
If the point of bordetella vaccination is to reduce the risk of dogs getting kennel cough, then isn’t it backwards thinking to have your dog walking around, spreading bordetella to all the other dogs he comes in contact with?
Let’s look at two different scenarios.
Scenario 1: Let’s say a daycare has 50 dogs attending daily. They don’t require the kennel cough vaccine but one day a dog walks in with kennel cough. So they’ve got one dog walking around, spreading kennel cough to other dogs. But that one dog is pretty easy to identify – he’s sneezing, he’s hacking and the smart daycare provider will kindly isolate him for the day and ask his owners to keep him home for a few more days.
How many other dogs in the daycare would catch his kennel cough? Probably a few.
So it makes sense to vaccinate so this doesn’t happen, right?
Well, not exactly. Here’s how that scenario would play out.
Scenario 2: The same daycare has 50 dogs attending daily but the difference is they require their dogs to have the kennel cough vaccine. If this vaccine is given yearly (and it’s often given twice a year), that means that 50 times a year – virtually every week – there will be a vaccinated dog in daycare shedding kennel cough … for 7 weeks at a stretch.
So instead of the occasional dog coming in and spreading kennel cough, you’ve now got dogs walking around every single day, shedding kennel cough AND influenza.
And here’s the worst part … now the daycare providers can’t identify the dog who might be spreading kennel cough. The vaccinated dogs spreading kennel cough (and don’t forget influenza) won’t show any symptoms of kennel cough so they’re free to interact with all the dogs in daycare and spread bordetella all over the joint.
And now we’ve got a real hot mess on our hands because the vaccine has a really crappy track record when it comes to actually protecting dogs.
Does kennel cough vaccination still sound like a good idea to you?
If so, then maybe a recap is in order …
We’re led to believe kennel cough is a dangerous disease, but in the vast majority of cases, it’s just a common cold.
We know the vaccines aren’t really effective and the world’s leading vaccine researcher says thatkennel cough isn’t even a vaccinatable disease.
We ignore this and vaccinate for it anyway for some reason … and what we do know with 100% certainty is that vaccines contain dangerous ingredients and can also cause a serious anaphylactoid reaction. Look up anaphylactoid … I guarantee you won’t like it.
And here’s some irony for you that I didn’t mention …
The kennel cough vaccine can cause, well, kennel cough!
According to WSAVA, “Transient (3–10 days) coughing, sneezing, or nasal discharge may occur in a small percentage of vaccinates.”
True, that only happens in a small number of vaccinated dogs. But we already know that only a small number of dogs respond to the vaccine anyway, so what’s the point?
And finally, here’s the really crazy part. Dogs that are vaccinated for kennel cough shed the virus, meaning they will infect other dogs for weeks after vaccination.
Isn’t that why everybody tells us our dogs need the vaccine inn the first place? So they don’t spread kennel cough around?
So the next time your vet, daycare, boarding or training facility demands that your dog is vaccinated for kennel cough before taking your dog there, are you going to do it?
I didn’t think so … you’re too smart and kind to animals to take part in that kind of insanity.
So here are your options.
First, tell the facility that instead of vaccination, you’ll sign a waiver stating that you’re 100% responsible if your dog happens to catch kennel cough while at their facility.
If they don’t allow this, then you could say something smart like “well, if the vaccine actually works and all the other dogs are vaccinated, then why would my unvaccinated dog be a problem for you?”
But you’re probably too nice to say that.
So your next option is my personal favorite …
Support the fine people who don’t make you do something that could harm your dog. There are lots of great facilities who don’t require the kennel cough vaccine. Do your legwork and find them – and most of all reward them for taking extra special care with your dog by giving them your business!
If you can’t find anybody in your area who understands that kennel cough vaccination is a bad idea, then look for a dog trainer, groomer, sitter or walking to come to your home instead.
And be sure to share this information with your doggie friends …
When more dog owners demand better from the people we’re hiring to care for our dogs, then we’ll force them to change their dangerous and ultimately stupid policies on kennel cough.
Don’t make excuses for this one … make the decision to put your dog’s health first right now …
… and not after your dog suffers an adverse reaction from the kennel cough vaccine. And now for my cheesy ending: