ANIMALS & DIGESTIVE HEALTH PART 2: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
In part 1 of this article we discussed proper feeding information for young, middle aged and aging animals. There are innumerable brands, ingredients, factories and types of cat and dog food. There are innumerable practices, rules and beliefs that many different professionals have about what is considered to be proper nutrition for cats and dogs. With all of these varying beliefs, how is the average consumer to know what is the best choice for her family?
As I have stated in all of my classes, speeches and articles prior, READ INGREDIENTS. It is absolutely astounding what some animal food companies pass off as food”. Further, when questioned, these companies and the professionals who sell these foods will tell you that animals do well on these non-food items and not to be concerned. When told this, I pose the question to consumers: “would YOU eat food that’s first two ingredients (for example) are pork by-product and corn gluten?” We can all guess what their answers are. Cats and dogs require whole foods on a daily basis to ensure a healthy quality of life. Their systems vary from humans, yes, however time and time again studies have shown that animals who eat diets similar to those which their ancestors in a nature ate have healthier minds, bodies and spirits. (For more information on these studies, see any of Dr Karen Becker’s articles).
How do ingredients relate to poop, you ask? The poorer the quality of food the more poop we find. In a nutshell, when cats and dogs regularly eat nutrient poor foods, they will eliminate more. This is because their bodies are not absorbing nutrients simply because there are none. Conversely, when fed nutrient rich foods such as raw food diets or species appropriate semi-processed foods, they will eliminate less because their bodies are being nourished by their food (as it should be!).
Do not be fooled. When I type “nutrient poor food”, most consumers would imagine that I make reference to cheaply priced cat and dog food. And they would be wrong. Believe it or not, most of the expensive brands of cat and dog food are almost completely devoid of nutrients. Do not be fooled by marketing schemes or professional authorities claiming that they know the best option for your dog or cat. Do not believe anything you read or hear. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. Read labels and look up ingredients for yourself. Do not blindly feed your animals what other people tell you to feed.
In addition to the unfortunate variety of nutrient poor foods on the market there are several other aspects of cat and dog food that bear examination. One such aspect is researching where the food was sourced. Be mindful of the fact that every country has its own guidelines of what is appropriate to feed cats and dogs. For example there are several well known brands of cat and dog food that have processing plants overseas. What is the likelihood that these countries in Asia have the same guidelines of adequate nutrition as Canada the UK and the US? Slim to none. Taking this one step further, not only are the feeding guidelines questionable but the duration of transport time of food from Asia to North America calls into question how may additives and preservatives are processed into these foods and food products to give them such a lengthy shelf life. When an animal consumes these products they fall subject to malnutrition.
Lastly with respect to the ingredient lists of foods, we must ask ourselves about a crucially overlooked element. Speaking from personal experience, my animal had a severe allergy to American cat food. Despite the list of healthy looking ingredients, hair was falling off of her ears and she was inexplicably itchy. I was at a loss- the food I had found for her looked to be up to par with her regular Canadian cat food. So why was she so itchy? And then the answer became clear: different countries feed their cattle, chickens and turkeys differently. This is to say that in Canada, we refrain from feeding our farm animals steroids and hormones. However in the US, it is common knowledge that their cattle and chicken feed practices often include the feeding of hormones and steroids. My cat is sensitive to the hormones and steroids in the meat of her American cat food.
On the subject of food intolerances, did you know that cats lack the digestive enzyme responsible for the breakdown of grains in the digestive system? They lack the digestive enzyme amylase. This enzyme is present in dogs, humans, horses and most other mammals. However, it is not present in cats. So why do so many cat food brands contain grains? The obvious answer for most is because its filler. When we see foods that say “brown rice”, “oats” etc… we must run the other way. Of course, it is also important to note the quantity of grain in our cat foods. Some cats can digest a minute amount of grains without issue. What happens when cats eat grains over a prolonged period of time? In any mammal, unprocessed grains metabolize into sugar. Particularly in dry cat food where the grains are contrived from human grade cereal, these white sugar grains will wreak havoc. When a cat (or human) has a higher level of sugar in the bloodstream, the blood sugar spikes and the insulin goes out of whack. Sound familiar? If you connected these bodily functions to diabetes, you’re correct. This is where feline diabetes comes from: the cat’s body’s inability to process excess grains.
In addition to feline diabetes, an excess of grains (especially from dry food or kibble) has been linked to urinary crystals, urinary tract infections and early stage kidney failure. This is because in order for the cat’s gastrointestinal system to pass the dehydrated food through the body, it must draw water from all of the vital organs. The water drawn from the vital organs will help to moisturize the dehydrated food so that it is able to make the journey through the stomach, intestines and colon. After a prolonged period of time, these vital organs will become depleted of water and lead to severe kidney problems. And if that’s not enough, the vet bills for urinary surgeries and dialysis are appalling. (Not to mention the trauma for your animal and your family).
The lesson in all of this is clear: feed your animals whole foods and species appropriate diets. Do your research- ask professionals for their opinions. Whatever their answers are, be sure to read about them on your own to make sure you agree. Do not blindly take advice from just one source. Remember that just like all other companies, cat and dog food companies will manipulate you through targeted advertising. Do not fall prey. Be smart about your choices.
TUNE IN NEXT TIME FOR THE CONCLUSION OF THIS ARTICLE- READING YOUR ANIMAL’S TELL’TAIL’ SIGN OF HEALTH.