There is a lot of controversy surrounding which human foods are healthy for dogs and cats and which are not. There is a lot of controversy among the animal care practitioner community over which animal foods are healthy for animals and which are not. Regardless of which beliefs you subscribe to, there are some fads that have overtaken the animal food industry and can cause our cats and dogs more harm than good.

If you are the kind of person who follows your western medical veterinarian’s advice without doing your own fact checking, this is your choice. And if it is your choice, be aware that your cats and dogs may not be receiving an adequate supply of nutrients. Please do your research and look up the ingredients n your vet recommended food. Follow this by looking up other cat/dog food brands from your local animal food store. Once you have a complete understanding of what ingredients are quantified as “food” and which are actual whole foods, you may find that your choice in food changes. You may also be surprised that the most expensive brands on the market are often not the best quality at all, and that the middle-of –the-road brands are the most nutrient-rich foods available for our dogs/cats. That said, there are also many people who believe that every health fad that arises in the media for humans must be safe and healthy for animals. And that would be a result of our human nature to fall for marketing schemes that play to our love for our animal friends.

The reality is that the media will do whatever they can to manipulate our emotions to buy the company’s products. Whether these companies are selling poor quality foods and have heartwarming commercials, or they are inviting us to believe that what’s good for human bodies must be good for animal bodies too, they will do their best to convince us of false beliefs.

First we will examine the work “natural” that appears on packaging of many dog/cat food companies. The word “natural” appearing on any packaging at all implies misrepresentation of the word. By definition, any packaged dog/cat food as been processed and contains preservatives to give it a longer shelf life. This entirely contradicts the word “natural”.

According to Dr. Becker, there are several such examples of food fads that are becoming commonplace within the commercial animal food industry. Here are three of many “trendy” ingredients that Dr. Becker warns to watch out for:

1)      Plant-based proteins- there is much hype in the media about the benefits of plant-based proteins for humans. While they certainly are healthy for people, people should note that plant based proteins are not complete proteins. This means that they do not contain all of the amino acids, minerals and other important nutrients that animal proteins have. This means that if people choose to feed their animal companions plant based proteins only, the animals are extremely likely to suffer from malnutrition. This is extremely dangerous and can often lead to fatality.

2)      Ancient grains- for humans, there is a lot of discussion about the health benefits of ancient grains; they are lesser processed, higher in fibre and not hybridized by genetic modification. All of these qualities are amicable for human health. However when it comes to animals, particularly cats (who cannot digest grains at all), these grains are no better off for an animal’s digestive system. Grains are still grains and can cause diabetes in cats and allergies in some dogs who are grain-sensitive.

3)      Gluten-free- There is no known benefit to feeding animals gluten-free food. This is plainly a marketing scheme of companies to get humans to jump on the gluten free bandwagon and buy their novel products at higher prices.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are several human foods that can be quite beneficial to dog and cat digestion. Especially when it comes to those cats and dogs who are only fed processed food day in and day out. And the truth of the matter is, whether we are feeding our animal friends low quality or high quality store-bought food, at the end of the day it is all processed. And this can have adverse effects on the animal’s digestive health.

It may be unreasonable to ask every person who cares for an animal to make the animal a freshly cooked meal from scratch twice per day. Many people do not have the time or the knowledge to do so. If people choose to feed their animal family members store-bought processed food, there are a variety of readily available human food supplements that can be added to the meal to circumvent any adverse health issues. Dr. Becker outlines several healthy foods that can help our animals have a diet that is richer in whole foods. The following are five of the list. Please consult your holistic veterinarian before adding any new food to your animal’s diet.

1)      Kefir- an excellent probiotic. This means that if your dog/cat has chronic diarrhea, constipation or any bowel issues, kefir helps to maintain intestinal health. Kefir is a fermented milk beverage. It comes from various milk sources, so if your animal has a sensitivity to cow’s milk, there are other options available. Kefir also helps the immune system. When the immune system is out of whack, we see symptoms of allergies, chronic fatigue and other conditions that become chronic until the immune system is brought back to balance.

2)      Chia seed- Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega’s 3 & 6. Omegas are ideal for skin and hair health. Often processed foods are lacking in omegas and the chia is a great supplement. Additionally and perhaps more importantly, cats and dogs get dehydrated very easily. Especially when they are fed a mostly kibble (dry food) diet, their digestive systems use all of the water in the body- to include all major organs- to be able to process the dry food through the GI tract. This leaves the animal’s body very depleted of water. After prolonged exposure to water depletion, we are sure to expect bladder crystals and eventually early age kidney failure. By adding extra omegas to the diet, we are ensuring that moisture gets retained more regularly in the body. The evidence of this is in the lustrous nature of the coat and the moisture of the skin.

3)      Pumpkin- for animals with digestive issues, pumpkin is the way to go! Whether we have diarrhea or constipation, pumpkin is sure to help to regulate digestion and bowel function. Pumpkin is full of soluble fibre unlike many of the fibres found in grains. Insoluble fires are rampant in foods full of preservatives. Insoluble fibres are fibres that do not get broken down in the GI tract and pass right through the body. Soluble fibres are fibres that help to break down foods in the stomach and clean out the intestines on the way out. Often dogs/cats who only eat insoluble fibre will have poor gut health. Symptoms of poor gut health are: diarrhea, constipation, bad breath, gassiness, burping, vomiting and others. Pumpkin is an excellent source of potassium which is great for dogs with low energy!

4)      Blueberries- high in antioxidants (cancer fighting minerals), potassium (usable energy) and vitamins C & E. Replacing your dog’s treats with 2-4 frozen or fresh blueberries once per day is a fun way to add cancer-fighting snacks to the daily routine!

5)      Broccoli- detoxifies the body. Broccoli is also high in antioxidants and fibre. Broccoli is an anti-inflammatory and has many important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and important minerals such a calcium and potassium. Broccoli even has a notable amount of protein. To make digestion of broccoli and other veggies easier on your dog (or cat, but good luck!), you may find that steaming and softening the broccoli will help your dog to digest and absorb all of its wonderful nutrients.

Though there are many, many human foods that can be beneficial to cats & dogs, the above 5 are highly nutritious and have a variety of other benefits. It is important to ask your holistic vet if s/he feels that any of these foods are right for your animals. It is also of extreme importance that all those who care for animals realise that processed (canned or bagged) food of any quality is not fresh. Animals require whole foods for the best quality of life. Do your research. Read labels. You may soon find that what you had been told was a balanced diet is nothing more than the non-food parts of animals that are scooped up from the floors at processing plants, insoluble proteins (proteins that cannot be digested and go right through-leaving much room for malnutrition), salts and preservatives. Do not believe everything you hear from veterinarians, commercials, and anywhere else you obtain information! This is why it’s important to read up for yourself and ascertain what feels right to you. Do not be manipulated by the media!

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