8 BAD HABITS
There’s no doubt about it. Animals love food. And for some of us, feeding our animal companions brings us almost as much joy as it brings them. It is a bonding experience. However, because animals find food so exciting, there is a danger in allowing ourselves to fall into poor feeding habits. Often, caregivers feel compelled to express our love toward animals through food because we know how much they love it. But are our feeding habits unintentionally harming our beloved furry family? Here are eight common feeding habits that almost always create more harm than good. Are you guilty of any of these?
- FREE FEEDING- Allowing our animal companions to eat whenever and however much they want are detrimental to their health and metabolism. When animals eat all day and night they will, more often than not, gain weight. Obesity is an alarmingly common cause of early death in cats and dogs. Animals’ metabolisms are no different than humans in that they will gain weight if they are unable to burn off the calories that they are consuming. Further, many of the foods that are left out on which the animals free-feed are full of unnecessary grains and starches and preservatives that cause inflammation of the joints, yeast overgrowth and obesity. Of course obesity has its own set of sub category ailments such as poor respiratory and cardiovascular health, early stage arthritis and organ failure among a vast array of others. By feeding our animal friends set meals (ideally 3-4 smaller meals per day), we are allowing their metabolisms to function optimally while disallowing them to gain excess weight. Should caregivers of animals be unable to feed 3-4 meals per day due to work schedules, feeding twice per day while leaving a snack for the animal to find during the way such as a kong toy filled with peanut butter or a portion of food hidden for the animal to find throughout the day is an excellent replacement for free feeding. This even food distribution will also help to regulate the animal’s metabolism and avoid obesity and other symptoms of poor metabolic health.
- NOT READING INGREDIENTS- Many consumers blindly purchase food for their cats and dogs. Some consumers blindly accept what their veterinarian recommends without doing their own research. This is dangerous. If you have ever read the first several ingredients of “prescription” diets, you will note that they are composed of “pork by-product”, “corn gluten” and various other non-food items. Animals, akin to humans, thrive on whole, nutritious foods. Though seeking advice of a veterinary professional is often important, it is even more important to research the advice they give us instead of blindly accepting their claims at face value.
Further, there is often an over-saturation of vitamins and minerals in many store bought foods. While a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals is crucial to an animal’s health, the oversaturation of them has been repeatedly linked to hypo and hyperthyroidism. BE SURE to research (or ask your holistic vet) for information on appropriate levels of vitamins and minerals for your particular breed of companion animal.
In addition to prescription diet foods, there are also low quality nutrient poor foods that are often purchased by consumers to avoid breaking the bank. While saving money is definitely important, at what expense are we doing so? Many of the nutrient poor foods on the market leave our animal friends malnourished and suffering from inflammation. Every companion animal deserves to be properly nourished so that she or he has the best possible quality of life. There are many healthier choices available for middle of the road prices. By purchasing foods whose first ingredients read “chicken, turkey, salmon etc” we are providing our animal family members with nourishment that will prolong their lives and give them a better quality of life while they are with us.
- FEEDING DRY FOOD/KIBBLE- KIBBLE IS NOT FOOD. Dry food is not an appropriate diet for any animal. Should any animal regularly feed on dehydrated food, they will easily become dehydrated. This is because when an animal eats kibble, the digestive process requires all of the water in the digestive organs to process the dry food through the digestive tract. After repeated offense of this water draining digestive process, the inner and outer organs of the animal become completely devoid of moisture. In the short term this results in skin rashes, dry eyes, bladder crystals, painful urination, inflammation of the joints and organs, arthritis and excessive thirst. In the longer term this results in early stage kidney failure. In order to avoid all of these severe ailments, feeding our animals a moisture-rich diet will save the day. By adding more foods with omegas 3 & 6, we will be allowing our animals to stay hydrated.
- TOO MUCH GRAIN/STARCH- Primarily, cats cannot digest grains. They lack the digestive enzyme that is responsible for the breakdown of grains. This means that if they eat a high grain diet, they metabolize the grains as sugars. If the sugars do not get burned off (through exercise), their sugar levels become deregulated which affects their insulin levels in the pancreas. This is where feline diabetes comes from. In order to avoid giving your cat diabetes, it is crucial to feed a grain free cat food.
Secondly, in cats and dogs who are sensitive to yeast, feeding a high grain-starch diet is detrimental. This is because grains and starches such as rice, barley, oats, potatoes, sweet potatoes, wheat, etc breed yeast in dogs and cats. Many dogs develop yeast overgrowth as a result of a nutrient-poor diet that is wealthy in grains and starches. If your dog or cat has candida (yeast) overgrowth, research grain-free foods and species appropriate diets.
- TOO MANY TREATS- Most of us likely realise that feeding our animals too many treats can be detrimental to their health. Fatty, sugary foods cause obesity, inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and more. Many cat and dog caregivers often use treats to train their animals to exhibit desired behaviours. While this is proven to be an effective mode of training, the health issues that arise could be costly. To substitute treat training, try training with a piece of dry food or a small piece of ground beef (without seasoning or sauce!) The goal with any training is to entice the animal with a reward that is more enticing than anything s/he receives on a regular basis. If your cat is eating mostly wet food (which she ABSOLUTELY should be), a piece of kibble may be exciting enough to entice her to learn desired behaviour. If your dog east mostly canned and dry food, instead of using a sugary or fatty treat, try enticing him with lean cooked ground beef. This way, he will reap the rewards of a highly delicious and nutritious snack!
- FEEDING HUMAN FOOD- While we all enjoy seeing the expressions of joy and excitement upon feeding our companion animals table food, we must be very conscious of how these food affect their health. This is not to be confused with feeding whole foods such as animal proteins and veggies which have many health benefits for cats and dogs. Contrary to the health benefits of whole foods, many people believe that feeding “a small amount” of fatty, salty and sugary human foods “can’t hurt them”. They would be wrong. For some animals, even a small amount of fatty, salty or sugary foods means many adverse, chronic health reactions such as IBS, Inflammatory bowel disease, yeast overgrowth or even fatal, painful pancreatitis. It is always best to read labels and research species appropriate homemade diets thoroughly in order to keep our animals fully nourished!
- BUYING “WHATEVER’S ON SALE”- Cheaping out on dog and cat food will come back to haunt both your animal and you. Any animal who is malnourished inevitably ends up at the vet clinic too early with a mountain of vet bills. By feeding cheap food to our animals we are causing their bodies to easily break down from malnourishment. This most often results in trips back and forth to the vet which is quite costly, not to mention traumatic for our beloved animal friends. Buying “whatever’s on sale” is hazardous to your animal’s health in many ways. The cheap cat and dog foods brands are full of inflammatory substances, non-food items such as chicken beaks, plastics, carcinogens, food dyes, saw dust, heavy metals, pollutants and dozens of other harmful toxins. These types of harmful ingredients cause may chronic, painful diseases in cats and dogs and are easily avoided by taking the time to research high quality foods that do not break the bank.
- BELIEVING THAT WATER ALONE IS ADEQUATE HYDRATION- Contrary to popular belief, water alone does not hydrate companion cats and dogs. It flushes out the organs well which is beneficial to the animal’s well being, however it often fails to be retained in the animal’s body. In extreme temperatures such as the harshness of winter or the heat of summer, companion animals require a lot more than plain water to stay hydrated. Sometimes, no matter how much water our animal friends consume, they are still dehydrated. It is important to understand why this is and how it can be remedied. Without adequate omega fatty acids, water runs right through the body. Omega fatty acids (EFA’s) are the ‘good’ fats that the body needs in order to optimally function. Hair, skin, nails and fur are composed of EFA’s. In a diet that is absent of them, the animal’s hair, skin, nails and coat become dry. Additionally, Omegas (EFA’s) significantly reduce inflammation of the joints, organs and muscle tissues. Water alone cannot rehydrate hair, skin nails and fur, nor can it reduce bodily inflammation.
Often low-fat store bought foods (and prescription diet foods) contain too little EFA content and contribute to inflammatory diseases and chronic dehydration. The lower fat foods often remove the good fats as well as the bad fats, leaving little room for the moisturizing of major organs.
Additionally, in a dry food-based diet, water is insufficient hydration for animals as the water merely helps the dry food to pass through the gastrointestinal system with very little left over to moisturize the inner organs.
Solution? Add more essential fatty acids to the diet. Common and safe sources of the above are: wild salmon oil, coconut oil, hemp seed oil, CBD oil, whole cooked salmon (without sauces and spices), ground beef, sardines, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. It is unnecessary to add more than one of these sources to the diet at the same time as oversaturation of EFA’s can cause loose stool and weight gain. To find out which source of EFA’s is best for your animal(s), consult your local animal communicator or holistic veterinarian.
These are just eight of many potentially harmful feeding habits many of us make. As always, when making any alterations to our companion animals’ diets, it is important to consult your local animal professional. And, as stated above, be sure to do your research in addition to listening to the advice of your local professional to understand the best options for you and your animal family members.
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