PROLONGING YOUR ANIMAL COMPANION’S LIFE IS EASIER THAN YOU THOUGHT!
As many would agree, knowledge is power. Most consumers and animal lovers are unaware of how they may be presently harming their best friends; their animal companions. Below are five very common causes of early stage illness that can easily be avoided in companion animals.
1) Obesity- By far, one of the leading reasons for early stage animal illness is obesity. Sadly, many North Americans are unaware of how obesity affects themselves and their animal companions. Obesity in animals can cause; early stage heart failure, early stage kidney failure, early stage lethargy, constipation, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses associated with having to carry heavy weight around, among many, many others. The math is simple. Calories in, calories out. If you are feeding your animal friend more calories than he can burn in one day, he will gain weight. If you are feeding your animal adequate numbers of calories for how much exercise he gets, your animal should be a healthy weight. Selecting a food for your animal that has a list of primarily whole foods will aid her digestive system and contribute to overall optimal functionality of the body. This will help your animals maintain a healthy weight. And the strangest part is that most feel that good quality cat and dog food is expensive! Did you know that the highest quality food brands for cats and dogs are only middle of the road prices?
2) Feed nutritious food- Believe it or not, healthy cat and dog food need not break your bank. The healthiest (most nutritious) brands of food in North America are middle of the road in price. The high priced foods are reserved for “vet recommended foods” that are geared towards a specific outcome for you animal friend. Some of these “prescription diets” include; weight loss, hairball control, dental hygiene or urinary bladder health to name a few. There is a law suit filed against the “big six” American dog and cat food companies for falsely using the word “prescription” as there is no such ingredient I the food that requires a prescription. To make matters far worse, in reading the ingredients listed on the labels of most of these foods (I have yet to read the others so cannot comment), consumers will not find even one whole food in the product. For example, one of these companies lists the following two as FIRST INGREDIENTS: Pork by –product, wheat gluten… and it goes on from there. These are not whole foods (to say the least) and can contribute to extremely poor health down the road. Because of the lack of nutrients in these foods, animals have been known to develop dandruff (excessively dry skin and coat), early stage kidney failure ( of course there is a “prescription diet” for that.. how convenient), certain types of cancers (from non- food items such as preservatives and GMO products), poor bowel health, and the list goes on. The lesson here is to research food labels! Animals alike to people require whole foods for optimal wellness.
3) Keep hydrated- Most dog and cat parents are completely unaware of how easily dogs and cats can become dehydrated. For one, most often water alone will not adequately hydrate a companion animal. Humans will constantly argue that “my dog/cat drinks so much water, how can s/he possibly be dehydrated?” Though water can adequately hydrate a human, the same is not necessarily true for an animal. This is particularly true for those animals who consume processed foods. Though the animal is aware that water can quench his thirst, the animal is likely not aware that the water is not being retained in the body. This water will often go right through the body and be outputted in the urine. This means that there is no moisture retention occurring in the body whatsoever. Ideally here, our goal is to have the animal’s body retain some moisture to promote healthy skin and coat, healthy eyeballs ( no red-eye) and in the longer run, urinary bladder and kidney health. On the subject of kibble (dry food) and kidney failure- I always pose the following question to clients- “what would happen to your body if you only consumed dehydrated food every day?” When considered, they often give the correct response: my organs would become dehydrated. Exactly. When a cat or dog eats mostly dry food every day it can be quite taxing on the organs, especially the kidneys. This is because in order for the body’s gastrointestinal system to process the dehydrated food, the GI system must draw moisture from all of the body’s organs. The kidneys take the brunt of this. As you may have guessed, after prolonged periods of time in this state, the kidneys will in fact shut down. And depending on other factors in the animals’ life such as genetics stress, a poor immune system etc, this kidney failure can happen at a very early age. Instead of buying into the “early stage kidney failure prescription diet” garbage, there are several ways to prevent any of this organ failure from happening. a) Add consistent supplementary Omega’s 3 & 6. Akin to the human body, the companion animal body requires a healthy amount of Omega fatty acids to retain moisture in the skin, coat, eyes and other vital organs. Healthy sources of Omega fatty acids for animals include; coconut oil, Wild Salmon oil, other fish oils, flax seed oil with DHA (DHA makes the flax seed into a complete protein. Without the DHA, the flax oil is considered an incomplete protein and will be of lesser value to the animal’s system) among others. It is important that before you add any new supplement to your animal’s dietary regimen, that you consult your holistic veterinarian or other holistic animal care professional. b) Ensure that your animal is consuming whole foods- For those who live with cats, domesticated cats should be living on a mostly wet food diet. This wet food should be of high quality (not high price!), and should be bought at your local cat/dog food store- NOT at a human grocery store. Cats in particular are genetically linked to their desert-dwelling ancestors. These wild cats did not drink water as they lived in the desert. Their digestive systems developed to retain moisture through the meats and blood found in the prey animals they consumed. This is why it is especially important for felines to eat mainly wet food. Their bodies only retain a very limited amount of water. Cats and dogs alike will derive a healthy amount of moisture from wet food. Be sure that this wet food is composed of whole food ingredients such as “deboned chicken or chicken, turkey, salmon, duck, etc.” and NOT “protein source by-product”.
4) Adequate exercise- Just like humans, companion animals require adequate exercise. Benefits of exercise include; healthy weight, healthy musculature, proper circulation of blood and other fluids, arthritis prevention, self-confidence, self-worth/purpose, cardiovascular health among others. I have seen FAR too many clients who do not understand the significance of exercising their animals. Some are too lazy to walk their dogs, thinking that it’s not of primary importance. Some feel that because their dog has a big yard to play in, they get enough exercise. Did you know that walking your dog is not just about the physical exercise but also about mental exercise? The smells and sights to a dog on a walk can be educational and inspirational. When dog people do not regularly walk their dogs, without a doubt, the dogs will develop depression. They will also often develop a lack of purpose feeling. Dogs are highly intelligent creatures. If they are not being consistently mentally and physically stimulated through varied outdoor exercise, they suffer greatly. Their mental health will suffer which will contribute to a rapid decline of physical health. Please walk your dogs. If you are unable to do so, hire someone who can.
5) Age/species appropriate diets- Few people are aware of the fact that there are different formulas of food for different age groups of animals. For example, there is a major difference between kitten food, adult cat food and senior cat food. The main difference is the volume of protein and fat in the food. Because kittens are growing, they need extra proteins and fats to healthily build muscle, skin and organ tissues. Adult cats need about 10%-12% protein content in a can of food to maintain a healthy metabolism, body and brain. However, once a cat reaches approx. 11 years of age, the level of protein that his body needs decreases. As the organs age, they are unable to process as much protein. If the aging cat consumes the volume of protein of an adult (2-10 yrs) for a prolonged period of time, it will take its toll on the kidneys. This often induces early stage kidney failure. Feeding species appropriate diets encourages optimal wellness. These diets are full of whole foods, often inclusive of raw food diets. Please be mindful that the raw food diet is not ideal for all animals. It is important not only to read ingredient lists but also to understand that the word “natural” on a food label does not mean that it is natural at all. In fact many processed foods claim that they are natural. This, by definition is untrue. Anything that is processed cannot be natural. This includes all brands of canned and dry food. This is not to say that all brands of canned and dry food are unhealthy for animals. It is up to you, the caregivers of your animals to thoroughly research proper nutrition for your cat and dog friends.
These are just five of the main causes of early stage illness in companion animals that can be easily avoided. Through careful observation of your own habits, avid research and a little bit of common sense, we may be able to prolong our animal’s good quality of life, our animal’s life overall- and our time with our beloved family member.