Choosing A Healthy Food For Your Dog

Choosing a healthy food for your dog

After the 2007 and 2008 pet food recalls, many dog owners jumped onto the “natural” dog food bandwagon because they realized that holistic dog food brands were the ones most notably absent from the recalled brand lists. Lots of them never went back to their old brands.

Many others, though, are still innocently trusting that dog food manufactures have “learned a lesson” from the pet food recall. You can be sure that they have learned something, but it’s not what you might think!

Most pet food makers (usually mega-large agri-businesses) still follow the “least cost production” methods of making pet food. So although their foods may no longer be tainted, they’re still made mostly from the cheapest ingredients the manufacturer can find – which means they’re NOT good for your canine’s long-term health. Dog food safety and nutrition go hand in hand, because the quality of the ingredients in your companion’s diet is an excellent predictor of how safe it really is for your companion.

That’s NOT Natural!

What some conventional pet food makers learned from the pet food recall is that by introducing new food lines labeled as “natural” they could get people buying again. A trip through the grocery store pet food aisle or the local chain pet store reveals a lot more conventional food brands with pretty green and tan bags of new “natural” lines of food.

Often when I suggest to a client that they switch to a natural diet, I hear, “But my dog’s food IS natural!” Natural to who? Firstly, when I have them check the label , we find that their food (with the word “natural” in the name) isn’t so natural after all! A look at the ingredients might show that the brand’s “natural” food is still of pretty poor quality – maybe they’ve changed the #1 ingredient from poultry by-products to chicken, but ingredients #2 – 4 are corn gluten meal, soy meal, and wheat gluten meal – three of the most allergy-provoking, hard-to-digest ingredients in dog food.

Grains can actually be termed “natural”, they are not synthetic after all but are they good nutrition for your dog?

* Read more about grains in pet food

Dogs (and cats) being carnivores, lack the enzymes necessary to digest and break down grains. (read more HERE

Prescription & Veterinary Lines

Another recent trend since the 2007 recall is the large increase in the number of veterinary food lines – even Purina has gotten into the game. Another common misconception we hear often from dog parents about these foods is that because their vet recommended them, they must be high quality, healthy foods. Who do you trust with your dog’s health more than your vet, right? Well…

Unfortunately, veterinarians are not really trained in nutrition – the focus of Western medicine, after all, is on treating disease, not preventing it! Most veterinary degree programs still offer only 2-6 weeks at the very most of training on nutrition, with the instruction provided by… you guessed it – the makers of those fine veterinary prescription foods! As you’ve heard me say often, good nutrition is the foundation of health, and the holistic approach is all about a quality, species appropriate diet as the basis of any animal’s wellness.

Many dog owners are still unsure about what makes a food natural, healthy or holistic, let alone species appropriate. Many still want to trust that the pet food industry cares for their dogs as much as they do. But that’s just not very realistic. Your dog’s health and safety are in your hands, and it’s up to you to evaluate your dog’s food with care and a critical eye.

I personally recommend that you: Disregard the descriptive tags like “natural,” “vet-approved,” “chosen by top breeders,” and the like. Ignore the pictures of cute doggies and wholesome-looking (human/omnivore) food ingredients on the label, and forget the claims made in the manufacturer’s TV ads. Look only at the ingredients listing – it will tell you just about everything you need to know!

Kibble is kibble is still kibble

We have been somehow lead to believe that our dogs have somehow evolved into omnivores and that they need to eat cooked food. These are all lies produced by the multi-billion dollar pet food industry to scare us into thinking that we must buy thier product or our dogs will never really be healthy.
If you were to look inside of a wolf and a little Japanese Chin side by side you would see the exact same teeth, saliva, stomach, digestive acids, intestines, kidneys, liver etc. only they would be smaller in size relative to the small toy dog’s body. Identical in every way to the wolf. What does a wolf eat? Kibble? Fire roasted carrots and rabbit stew? For more about our dogs still being carnivores, please read HERE

Processed pet food, by the time it ends up in a bag and on the shelf, no matter what wonderful ingredients it may have started out with is still DEAD and void of true nutrition. (this is why a synthetic vitamin and fat mixture is then sprayed on to the food just before packaging.)

The raw product ingredients used to make the pet food is first blended in order to maintain a certain ratio between the contents e.g. animal carcasses and supermarket rejects. The carcasses are loaded into a stainless-steel pit or hopper and an auger-grinder at the bottom grinds up the ingredients into small pieces. It is a larger version of the old table-clamped meat grinder used in the days before food processors. The pieces are taken to another grinder for fine shredding. The shredded material is cooked at 280 Fahrenheit for 60 minutes (the amount of time the U.S. figures, those in Britain and Europe may differ slightly but, remember this temp and time). Meat melts off of bones to produce a soup or slurry. Yellow greasy fat or tallow rises to the top and is skimmed off. Most pet food manufacturers use this slurry to add cooked grains and vegetables. Then the mixture is put into an expander or extruder. It is then pressure cooked (steam, pressure, very high temperatures again) into a paste which is extruded through pipes which shapes blobs of paste into small biscuits or uniform shapes. These are then puffed like popcorn and baked or dried, then sprayed with fat, digests, vitamins and flavor enhancers. In cases, the cooked meat and bone go to a press, which squeezes out the remaining moisture and pulverises the product into a gritty powder. The grit is then sifted to remove excess hair and large bone chips and added to cereal fines (processed grains) and any vegetables they will be using; which may then be made into paste, baked and broken into pieces and
then sprayed with fat, digests, vitamins and flavor enhancers.

The term “meal” on a pet food label means that the materials in the meal have been rendered. The quality and content of the meal may be variable across batches. In the USA, this means that some some question the nutritional value of the by-products. James Morris and Quinton Rogers, two professors with the Department of Molecular Biosciences, University of California at Davis Veterinary School of Medicine, felt there was a lack of information on the bioavailability of nutrients of pet food ingredients. The pet food labels give the supposed nutritional adequacy, but the nutrients are no good if they are in a form indigestible by the pet.

Okay, now to the effects of heat

At 110 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 43 degrees Centigrade), two of the 8 essential amino acids, tryptophan and lysine, are destroyed.

When food is cooked above 117 degrees F for only three minutes or longer,the following deleterious changes begin and progressively cause increased nutritional damage as higher temperatures are applied over prolonged periods of time:

*proteins coagulate
*high temperatures denature protein molecular structure, leading to deficiency of some essential amino acids
*carbohydrates caramelize
*overly heated fats generate numerous carcinogens including acrolein, nitrosamines, hydrocarbons, and benzopyrene (one of the most potent cancer-causing agents known)
*natural fibers break down, cellulose is completely changed from its natural condition: it loses its ability to sweep the alimentary canal clean
*30% to 50% of vitamins and minerals are destroyed
*100% of enzymes are damaged, the body’s enzyme potential is depleted which drains energy needed to maintain and repair tissue and organ systems, thereby shortening the life span.

When proteins are subjected to high heat during cooking, enzyme resistant linkages are formed between the amino acid chains. The body cannot separate these amino acids. What the body cannot use, it must eliminate. Cooked proteins become a source of toxicity: dead organic waste material acted upon and elaborated by bacterial flora.

According to the textbook Nutritional Value of Food Processing, 3rd Edition, (by Karmas, Harris, published by Van Nostrand Reinhold) which is written for food chemists in the industrial processed food industry: changes that occur during processing either result in nutrient loss or destruction. Heat processing has a detrimental effect on nutrients since thermal degradation of nutrients can and does occur. Reduction in nutrient content depends on the severity of the thermal processing.

Is there NO nutritious pet food then?

As you can see, cooking, rendering, drying, canning and baking all destroy vitamins, amino acids and enzymes. The by-products used as raw ingredients are poorer quality and contain less nutritional value than the prime cuts of meat depicted on the label. Pet food manufacturers therefore fortify the product with vitamins and minerals after the cooking process.

In my opinion, it is no coincidence that since 1950, as processed food proliferated for both humans and pets, that not only have cancer rates steadily increased to the highest point in history but, we are seeing an increase in liver disease, diabeties, chronic skin ailments in our pets today. The effect from consuming overly cooked food is minimal nutrition. The body is forced to raid its dwindling supply of nutrient reserves and remains hungry for quality nutrients after a typical meal This leads to further hunger even though the stomach is full. The result can be chronic overeating and rampant obesity now seen in our dogs as well as ourselves nationwide

I am often berated for recommending a raw diet as being best for our pets however, after all my education, research and feeding my own pets this way for many years now, I can not help but believe with every part of my being that our pets would be much healthier and live longer lives in the long run if fed fresh, raw meat and bones.

Note: Before switching your pet to a raw meat and bone diet, especially if if your pet is not in good health or is a senior animal, please set up a consultation with me or seek the advice of a veterinary naturopath, holistic veterinarian or a qualified natural pet health care consultant.

The Whole Dog does offer ONE food that is grain and potato free, organic and actually layered with freeze dried RAW food instead of being sprayed with a synthetic mixture after processing. You can learn more about it HERE

We also carry two freezed dried/dehydrated raw diets as well. We only only offer truly natural pet foods that we can recommend with confidence, so check out our quality foods and supplements when you’re ready to upgrade your dog’s diet (and their health!).

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