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'Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food'~Hippocrates'Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food'~Hippocrates

I think the best summary on the role nutrition plays in health and well being of both humans and their animal companions can be found in this  proverb:

"If diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. If diet is correct, medicine is of no need."

Unfortunately the topic of proper nutrition is often neglected or not highlighted enough in most of the Veterinary schools curriculums.

These days most of the conventionall  nutritional advice is based on the “research” supplied and funded by commercial pet food producers. The pet food industry generates multimillion-dollar revenues each year and it is indeed very unrealistic to expect such research to be unbiased and objective. 

This has gone so far that the industry is now trying to convince us that dogs and cats are not carnivores but omnivores  contrary to all anatomical and physiological evidence.

This is not suprising considering that even the human medicine has for decades been based on wrong scientific nutritional advice. In the last decade we have witnessed many nutritional scams exposed and for further information how the sugar industry controls the World Health Organization please do watch BBC Panorama Documentary - The Truth About Sugar:

The cholesterol myth or so called  The Big Fat Lie  has been exposed only recently, and medical practitioners are slowly changing their nutritional recommendations. Unfortunately veterinary medicine still has a long way to go in this regard.

In our busy lifestyles we often find very little time to prepare proper meals for ourselves let alone for our animals. But if we want health for our companions and ourselves we have to be ready to sacrifice some time and interrupt our hectic daily routines. 
Many people are conditioned to believe that dogs and cats can only be fed with dry and tinned food which are both highly processed.  In reality it is very difficult to find a commercial diet for animals, which would even comet  close to all requirements of healthy natural nutrition.

More people are increasingly becoming health conscious  and  they look down on junk food, yet they don’t think twice about feeding their pets junk food, every meal and every day for the rest of their life.

The whole concept of instant meals for humans is repulsive. Who would want to eat the same food over and over again? It is obvious that “the variations” such as wild game kibble, poultry or rabbit kibble to mention just a few are only marketing pitch. Yet, somehow we have accepted the idea that such diet is right for our pets. In most of the cases proteins in commercial diets come from very dubious sources.
 
Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn DVM, PhD observes:

One of primary sources is slaughterhouse wastes, or game road kill. Prevention magazine once published a letter from a reader who offered an inside glimpse of the pet food industry: “I once worked in a chicken butchering factory in Maine. Our average daily output was 100,000 chickens…Directly ahead of me were USDA inspectors and their trimmers. The trimmers cut the damaged and diseased parts off the chicken and dropped them in garbage cans. These were emptied periodically. They were sent to pet food factory. Similarly the story appeared in our local newspaper revealing that dead animals found on the highway are sent to rendering plants where they are used in pet (and livestock) food.

Raw as nature intendedRaw as nature intendedMany reports like these surface on a regular basis, so this seems to be widely spread phenomenon.

In addition to questionable quality of protein that ends up in pet food, there is a problem of fillers. Most petfood brands cotain cornmeal, soy  and other  grains as fillers.  Feeding grains to carnivourous animals is equally inappropriate as it would be feeding meat to cows or sheep.  There are so many problems with grains in pet food, in addition to the fact that most grains produced in USA are genetically modified, the problem with grains is that they contain antinutrients like gluten and lectins for example, which will have detrimental effect on gut microbiome and permeabilty  precipitating chronic inflamation and degenerative disease.  In addition grains are often contaminated with mycotoxins like Aflatoxin which is today recognised as cancerogenic substance.[1]

So called  "grain free' kibbles are often marketed as superior to grain based  kibble, however they are equaly inappropriate as they seem to contain even higher amounts of carbohydrates  than grain based kibble.

You may ask yourself; don’t animals eat all sorts of stuff of the ground, even digging up dead animals to eat at times?
This statement is generally true for canines but not wild cats that eat only freshly killed prey. Wolves and dogs seem to be able to eat meat that is not fresh, even partly decayed, without becoming ill. But here is the difference - in nature the animals that are chronically ill are not filled with drugs or hormones.

Back to Dr. Pitcairn:

'Having worked with livestock medicine in my early years, I know the significant percent of animals sent to slaughter, but not suitable for human consumption, have first been extensively treated with drugs. Since veterinary treatment failed, they are then processed for whatever monetary value can be captured by turning them into food – mostly pet food. It is the similar situation for animals killed on highways. Yes, it is possible that a deer was healthy when hit by a car and killed. This meat would be considered appropriate for use. But think of many agricultural feeds sprayed with insecticides or herbicides. Animals caught in these fields or enter them after they are sprayed become sick and disoriented, wandering into a road where they are easily killed. The pets recycled from animal hospitals or shelters have high levels of antibiotics and various other drugs. Most of these drugs end up in the food. This is why animals that have had drug therapy are not used for human consumption. It would make people sick.'

P.F. Mc Gargle, DVM, has concluded that feeding slaughterhouse wastes to animals increases their chance of getting cancer and other degenerative diseases.  Those wastes, he reported can include mouldy, rancid, or spoiled processed meats, as well as tissues riddled with cancer. These meat scraps also contain hormone levels comparable to amounts that have produced cancer in laboratory animals.

Recent research suggests that diet can have an impact on epigenetic changes and lead to cancer.[2]

In this video  Dr. Karen Becker explains the concept of species appropriate nutrition:

 


Anything less then species appropriate diet  means that we are shortchanging our pets and creating far-reaching consequences, which even span over several generations. Therefore one of the first things I advise to my clients is a complete change of lifestyle by investing time in preparing  meals for their animals. That way they can regain control over the ingredients in their pets' food and ultimately their health and well being.


IS RAW FEEDING SAFE?

Sourcing raw food  

You do need to know that the raw food you choose is good enough for your dog. In the UK, vets and owners can easily source complete and balanced ready-prepared frozen raw food meals, formulated to the same European standards as the other pet foods we find in our supermarkets and veterinary surgeries.

High-quality prepared raw foods should come from Defra-registered producers. These foods are governed by more stringent bacteriological rules than even human-grade raw meat products, and are supplied in clean, easily understandable packaging.[1]

The issue of bones  

Bones are very contentious in the raw food debate because of the possibility of them damaging the mouth and digestive system. This is a real possibility, however most of such accidents veterinary practitioners deal with invlolve cooked bones. In over 10 years of clinical practice dealing with pet owners who feed raw I have never encopuntered any serious helath problem caused by bones.
When feeding raw bones we have to exercise common sense and distingusih between edible bones and recreational bones. On this page Dr. Becker provides useful advice about nutritional value and safety precautions about feeding bones.

Bacterial contamination

Antibiotic resistance is a growing concern within human and veterinary medicine. Dogs and humans may harbour bacteria with resistance in their gut, if these bacteria cause an infection, or the resistance is passed onto other more pathogenic bacteria which cause an infection, antibiotic treatment may fail. Further evidence on the risk of raw meat feeding from large cohort studies are required, in particular to determine the nutritional benefits and to further examine the pet and human risk from bacterial faecal shedding. However, funding for such studies is difficult to obtain to do such work on scale and derive bigger samples of dogs on a range of diets. Contrary to the beliefs of some, commercial food companies will not fund such work, due to conflict of interest.

Till further studies and data is obtained, thorough hand hygiene is strongly recommended after handling raw meat and thorough disinfection of all in-contact items as per normal handling of raw meat in a domestic kitchen. Furthermore, it is important to restrict the area where raw meat is fed to avoid any bacteria present on the meat being spread around the household environment and acting as a source of infection. In addition, it is recommended that, households which have very young or old members, or those who are immunocompromised and therefore more susceptible to illness should avoid feeding their animals raw meat diets completely. [2]

 SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE FOR RAW FEEDING

One of the most common arguments that opponents of raw diets use to discourage owners from feeding raw is that there isn’t enough research to prove raw diets are safe or effective. While we can all agree there are not nearly enough clinical studies comparing raw diets and kibble, I disagree that there is no evidence to support the idea that raw diets can be more beneficial and safe for dogs, cats, ferrets, and other meat-eating pets in comparison to a commercial dry food diet. [1]

Here are some studies that support raw feeding:
A study published in the Journal of Physiology, shows us that an all-meat diet has been found to improve kidney function in previously dry-fed dogs, with vast improvements in the glomerular filtration rate (GFR is the best test of kidney function, O’Connor and Summerill 1976).
O’Connor, J. and Summerill, R. A. (1976). The effect of a meal of meat on glomular filtration rate in dogs at normal urine flows. Journal of Physiology, 256: 81–91.

A study published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice found aggressive Golden Retrievers changed from commercial to home-prepared food showed dramatic improvements in behaviour (Mugford 1987).
Mugford, R. A. (1987). The influence of nutrition on canine behaviour. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 28: 1046–1055.

Oxidative damage from free radicals plays an important role in several diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease. Dogs fed Alaskan blueberries while exercising are better protected against oxidative damage (Dunlap et al. 2006).
Dunlap, K.L., Reynolds, A.J. and Duffy, L.K. (2006). Total antioxidant power in sled dogs supplemented with blueberries and the comparison of blood parameters associated with exercise. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 143(4): 429-434

A remarkable study in Scottish Terriers revealed that simply adding green leafy vegetables, like broccoli, and yellow – orange vegetables like carrots to their “complete” dry diets three times a week reduced the risk of dogs developing transitional cell carcinoma (bladder cancer) by 90 and 70%, respectively (Knapp et al. 2014).
Knapp, D.W., Ramos-Vara, J.A., Moore, G.E., Dhawan, D., Bonney, P.L., Young, K.E. (2014). Urinary Bladder Cancer in Dogs, a Naturally Occurring Model for Cancer Biology and Drug Development. Institute for Laboratory Animal Research, 55(1): 100–118

A large survey of American and Australian raw-fed dog owners, published in the International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine, reported that 98.7% of dog owners and 98.5% of cat owners deemed their pet healthy on a raw food diet (La Flamme et al. 2008).
Laflamme, D. P., Abood, S. K., Fascetti, A. J., Fleeman, L. M., Freeman, L. M., Michel, K. E. et al. (2008). Pet feeding
practices of dog and cat owners in the United States and Australia. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 232(5): 687–694.

Dogs suffering atopy and allergy do better on raw meat diets (Hielm-Björkman et al. 2015).
Hielm-Björkman, A., Roine, J., Roine, M. and Velagapudi, V. (2015). Metabolomics from a Diet Intervention in Atopic Dogs, a Model for Human Research? Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 67:290–291

In 2017, a New Zealand study (Roberts et al. 2017) found that high-meat diets are more digestible for dogs resulting in greater nutrient absorbtion, less faecal waste and better faecal health, a result of more favourable gut microbiology. "
Roberts, M.T., Bermingham, E.N., Cave, N. J., Young, W., McKenzie, C.M., Thomas, D.G. (2017). Macronutrient intake of dogs, self-selecting diets varying in composition offered ad libitum. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition, 10.1111/jpn.12794

 

 

 

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