It’s that time of year again, where we set our intentions for the new year. Oftentimes, one of our intentions or resolutions include a healthier lifestyle. This can also apply to our pet’s health choices. One of the most common illnesses in our pets these days is obesity. Over 70 percent of pets are overweight, with 30 percent as obese (greater than 1/3 of their body weight being fat cells). Many pet owners have no idea their beagle shouldn’t weight 50 pounds or their cat shouldn’t look like a butterball. Obesity is so common that when we see a dog or cat that is at a healthy weight, we actually think it is too thin!
Obesity in our pets is as dangerous as it is in humans. Obese pets are more likely to have heart problems, diabetes or a dysfunction in their dietary system leading to kidney and liver problems. Overweight dogs are far more likely to suffer from arthritis, even at a young age. Worse yet, the extra weight makes it more likely to have back pain from a herniated disc or experience a torn cruciate ligament in the knee. These conditions or injuries require expensive surgeries to correct and lifelong rehab to maintain the function of the affected areas.
What can we do to make sure our furry friends have a healthier new year?
Cats: Exercise for cats is actually easier than you think. Most cats love to chase a laser toy, requiring very little effort on your part, but gets your cat on the move. Food motivated cats can get their exercise by having you toss a treat down a flight of stairs and making them go run after it. (Of course, this cannot be an unhealthy treat or it would defeat the purpose, right?)
Dogs: Letting your dog wander around your backyard really doesn’t count as exercise. Dogs need stimulation to get them to run around and get their heart rate up. Playing chase with another dog in the yard or taking a few minutes each day to play fetch are great ways to get your dog moving. At least one hour a day of a sustained walk is also important.
Cats : This means a QUALITY grain-free canned cat food or a raw food diet. Consult with your holistic veterinarian for the right diet to meet the personal needs of your cat.
Dogs : This means a QUALITY grain-free diet, dehydrated or raw food diet. Consult with your holistic veterinarian for the right diet to meet the specific needs of your dog.
- QUALITY – what does this mean? Well, this means that we are not choosing the cheapest product out there. Cheap means PET GRADE food supply. This literally means “Food NO LONGER fit for humans to eat.” This translates as meat and veggies so degraded or rotten that grocery stores can’t sell it to you. Therefore, they sell it to pet food companies to put in pet food. Not only is this legal, it is what MOST pet food on the market is made up of. Sad, but true.
- QUALITY – what else does this mean? Well, we certainly don’t want ingredients that aren’t part of our pet’s natural diet. Our cats and dogs would never go into a corn field or a wheat field and look around and think “jackpot!” or “buffet!” – in fact, they would see that grain field as housing for their actual food – the mice/rodents roaming around the grain field. So, no wheat, corn, rice, barley, millet, oats, etc. from the grain family. Not only is this not a natural part of a dog or cat diet, it is also ALWAYS a GMO altered product and therefore toxic to the body. Why do you think grain is getting a bad rap for human health too? The grain that is raised in America is genetically altered and raised with chemicals (pesticides and chemical fertilizers). It’s a double whammy.
- QUALITY – what else does this mean? We certainly don’t want additives in our food. We know better. But what kind of additives are in pet foods? Well, all kinds really. There are “natural flavors” added – and there is nothing “natural” about the so-called natural flavors. There are also dyes to make the food kibble turn yellow, green or red to “look like veggies” when there really isn’t anything healthy in that product. There are preservatives to keep the product from breaking down while it sits on the shelf waiting for you to come along and buy it.
4. QUALITY – what else does this mean? Well, pets need to have the right ratio of protein to carbs to promote health. Just like humans! So, low sugar and high fat/protein is ideal. However, dry kibble products are too high in sugar. They have to be, to make the kibble sticky enough to stick together in kibble form and not just crumble. Also, pet food manufacturers use a lot of sugar in the food instead of protein since its cheaper and they make more money on each bag they sell you.
5. QUALITY – what else does this mean? NO fillers of any kind. A decade ago, the fillers were the grains. The corn and wheat and rice, etc. However, people have started to get educated that commercially raised grains today cause allergies, arthritis, dental disease, chronic ear infections, diabetes, chronic hot spots so on and so on. The market for a grain-free pet food has increased. This is good, in one sense, because it causes more companies to step forward and offer a healthier grain-free product. This gives the consumer more choices. However, the down side, is that there is now such a competitive market for a grain-free product, that we have pet food manufacturers looking to cut corners and get you a cheap grain-free product. SO, they take out the grain, but simply replace the grain with other types of fillers, instead of just putting healthy food in the bag or can and charging a reasonable price for their product. Sadly, this is resulting in heart disease and this gives all grain-free foods a bad rap. The truth is, what we really want for our pets is a food product that has real whole healthy food items in it. Not foodstuffs that just make the pet feel full but doesn’t offer any nutrition. We want the food to be nutritionally complete.
6. QUALITY/NOT PROCESSED – the last part of this puzzle is the processing of the food. Many people toss this term around without really understanding what this means. Processing the food means altering it in ANY way from its original form. This means that if you look at a food item and it doesn’t look the way it looked when it was growing in nature, it has been processed into the current form you are seeing it as. Any human nutritionist is going to tell you to stop eating processed food. However, many of us don’t really know what is processed in our own diet, let alone our pet’s food. But the truth is, most all pet food is processed. Every single bag of food is HIGHLY processed foodstuff. You cannot look at that kibble and have any idea of the ingredients in it, because it is so altered from its original form. Every single can of pet food is processed. It may be less processed than the kibble foods, in that you may be able to identify a piece of meat or a veggie when you open the can. But it still went through the canning process to end up in that can of pet food. It is processed. So, what are the options for feeding our pets an unprocessed diet? Well, there are unprocessed foods out there for both our cats and dogs. Feeding an unprocessed diet requires some education on how to do it the right way. There is a right way and a wrong way. Please call our office for assistance if you are considering feeding an unprocessed raw food product to your pet. It really is the healthiest choice you can make, however, you must feed this food differently than the processed diets you are used to feeding. When you are ready, we are here to help with the transition.
Enjoy formulating a New Year’s resolution with your furry friends and have a healthier new year!