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Creature Comforts—Out of the Bag
By Kathy Summers
Most holistic vets agree that raw, fresh foods are best, but if hunting fresh game isn’t on your to-do list, you can cart home the next best thing. Good commercial food does exist, but you have to know what to look for. Ingredients that sound like good sources of meat may actually come from parts from 4D animals—dead, diseased, dying, or disabled. And while most pet food labels carry reassuring advertising messages touting complete and balanced nutrition, they may still contain cheap grains and slaughterhouse rejects, says William Falconer, DVM, a certified veterinary homeopath in Austin, Texas.
To provide an optimum diet, you first need to understand who you’re really feeding, he says. “With dog breeding, all we did was take the wolf and modify the genes to alter appearance, so the little teacup poodle, the German shepherd, and the Great Dane are all really wolves inside, digestively speaking.” Similarly, the house cat has a bit of bobcat inside.
Raw meats most closely match a predator’s natural diet, but feeding a raw-meat diet to house pets isn’t always practical. Instead, health food stores and boutiques like dog bakeries offer a range of healthy alternatives made from fresh chicken, beef, and lamb and organic fruits and vegetables. These foods cost more by volume, but your pet may thrive on smaller quantities. For example, Flint River Ranch, makers of oven-baked kibble for dogs, suggests feeding at least 20 percent less of this high-density food than other dry foods.
High-priced kibble doesn’t always signify high quality, however. “Science Diet is a good example of an expensive junk food,” says Falconer, who describes the product as nutritionally lifeless and toxic to pets. Adult large breed Science Diet kibble for dogs lists corn as its first ingredient, followed by chicken by-product meal, soybean meal, and animal fat, with chicken cartilage (the only identifiable chicken part) listed farther down after iodized salt. But still, it’s prominently displayed in many veterinary clinics. “The manufacturer donates the product to veterinary schools,” he says, “so guess which food veterinarians learn about first?”
All this begs the question: If so many veterinarians don’t even know good nutrition, who sets the standards? Unfortunately, the $15 billion pet food industry is only loosely regulated, and foods do not need FDA approval before coming to market. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides standards, but according to Jean Hofve, DVM, a holistic veterinarian in Jamestown, Colorado, “Some of the standards used for our pets are extrapolated from [rats and pigs], and we don’t really know if [those species] have the same requirements as dogs and cats. In fact, in most cases they probably do not.” Commercial farmers have a financial interest in growing pigs fast to get to market, explains Hofve, and rats generate quickly, making them convenient lab animals. But our health and longevity goals for...
Author: Kathy Summers
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