Category

Weight Loss

Pet Food 101 ~ Part 2

What’s important in pet food

  • Feed a diet as close to the natural diet of that animal as you can – a meat and vegetable diet. Simple food is best.
  • Rotate ingredients and brands frequently.
  • Choose foods made from human edible ingredients – this minimizes poor quality additions + byproducts.
  • Good food is not cheap. Good food = healthy dogs and cats.
  • Keep it safe once you get it home.
  • Exotic meats and ingredients are not needed. Novel proteins are only needed by the truly allergic.
  • Dry food does not clean teeth!

Categories of pet food:

Frozen and Canned foods are the closest thing to the natural diet of dog’s and cat’s bodies.

  • Canned food is COOKED, highly processed, and has a lot of water due to the needs of the canning process.
  • Frozen is minimally processed usually RAW, and usually has higher food value – less water
  • The water content makes a big difference in cost to feed
  • Both are good choices for feeding alone, or for feeding with dry food to improve the carbohydrate level
  • The goal in using these foods is to reduce carbohydrate level — choose foods with no starch or very little starch
  • Nutrient percentages to look for: Protein 9%/Fat 6%.  Frozen: Protein 12%/Fat 6% – look for @ twice as much protein as fat

Dry foods are highly processed, starch-based products, with a very wide range of composition and quality

“Regular” foods usually have about 50% carbohydrate, between 350-400 calories per cup.

Best choices are single protein source foods, with simple starch ingredient lists.

When you rotate, choose foods that have different proteins AND different starches. To do this, you probably will have to use different brands. To rotate brands (proteins/starches) is good, except one side effect is that different brands buy from different sources so possible toxic problems don’t add up so fast.

Meat/protein choices: meat and meat meals – simple is best

NO soy, corn, gluten meal of any kind, better to skip vegetable proteins or at least rotate

Starch choices: NO corn, wheat, NOT MUCH oat, barley, rye all can become problems for digestion and allergy development

Okay Starches: Rice, millet, and various seeds, millet, potato, and often from MANY sources

“Grain Free” dry foods are NOT starch free. They are @ 40% carbohydrate – 400-440 calories per cup. Foods are often higher in calories. This is fine except serving size must be decreased.

Foods that use Peas and Beans as starch:

  • Proteins: Meat and meat meal. Protein is often boosted with protein from legumes or potatoes
  • Starches: Beans and peas of all kinds – these are not complete proteins, not easily digestible
  • If these foods agree with your pet, rotate with other non-bean choices
  • Marketing: low glycemic index. Useful info for humans, not good choice long term for dogs

Foods that use Tapioca as starch:

  • Proteins: Meat and meat meal, mixed or single. Protein boosting sometimes done with potato.
  • Starches: tapioca alone or with other starchy ingredients (jicama).
  • Tapioca has no protein, so it will not cause immune-mediated reactions

Foods that use Sweet Potato, Pumpkin, & Yams as starch:

  • Proteins: Meat and meat meal, mixed or single
  • Starches: Starchy Vegetables

“Dehydrated” and “Freeze-dried” foods are expensive but they are useful for travel or transition.  Some have similar composition to canned or dry foods, some are dry version of raw diets.  They are highly processed and not the same as a fresh or raw food diet.

“Specialty category” foods include special needs and life style foods: these are marketing tools.

Use a food made for all life stages and keep your dog lean.

Many “prescription” foods are made with poor quality ingredients – if you know what dietary needs are, usually they can be met with existing commercial foods that have better quality ingredients.

Many “specific condition” foods (joint formula, better coat, hairball) include low quality ingredients with some supplementation to address the condition.  Usually you can do this much better by using a supplement added to a good quality food.  Often the supplement quantity is not at a therapeutic level, wasted money.

Choose the best food you can afford!

There’s no reason to think that dogs and cats should be cheap to feed, no more than humans.  Pay for good food now, or pay your veterinarian to help you with unnecessary, chronic disease later.

TREATS should promote health and improve the diet –Meat treats are best

  • Use the same standards as you use for dry food.
  • REMEMBER that treats are not a complete diet! IF your pet gets substantial calories from treats he/she will be missing some essential nutrients.
  • Dental treats may be dangerous! Do not buy treats with gluten!

 

KEEP FOOD SAFE

  • Dry food is susceptible to food spoilage that can make your dog very sick or even kill him.
  • Don’t buy more than you can use in a couple of weeks, or store it in the freezer
  • Storage containers harbor molds and bacteria. Scrub yours every time you buy a new bag – or don’t use one
  • Keep food in the bag inside the tightly sealed container,
  • Keep it in a cool, dry place – NOT the garage in the summer!
  • If your dog says there is something wrong with the food – Listen!!
  • Sometimes food problems are invisible, but dogs can tell.
  • Throw it away or return it if you have bought it recently.

 

USE FOOD WISELY

  • KNOW how many calories are in your food: — foods vary, and feeding amounts must be adjusted
  • The feeding chart on the bag may have little relationship to your pet!
  • If your pet is overweight, he needs to take in fewer calories or different calories no matter what the bag says
  • Many dogs on starch based foods put on weight on minuscule amounts of food
  • This may be an indicator that this dog might do better on a meat-based food (and also is an indicator that you might need to check with your vet about thyroid function).

 

ABOUT CATS

For a long and healthy life, cats need to eat almost exclusively wet food.  This is the opposite of what most of us were taught!  And cats don’t necessarily agree!

Contact Us for further information: The Puddle ~ Pet AquaFitness & Nutrition  (630) 883-0700.

Improve Diet, Improve Life – from Beth Taylor

Roadblocks to health

We may promote faster healing, better function, and better overall health if we can encourage clients to address other possible roadblocks to health.

The lifestyle of the client (the owner) and the patient (the pet) often contribute to the presenting problem. I believe we will see the optimal results we wish for only if we integrate extensive education about how exercise, fitness and food affect the function of all systems.

A client who comes to us with an overweight, arthritic dog in a lot of pain may see a dog who feels better with drugs for pain and inflammation and an even happier dog when they begin to use the Assisi Loop – but without lifestyle changes, an anti-inflammatory device or drug competes with an inflammatory diet or sedentary life that promotes inflammation. Accomplishing this educational goal is labor-intensive and ongoing. It’s almost an added counseling segment of the practice – people don’t lose entrenched ideas and points of view in one visit. Ongoing educational support is needed – and many times it’s emotional as well.

One of the biggest roadblocks to health is a dry food diet that is pro-inflammatory and likely to include toxins that are difficult or impossible for the body to process. If we can lighten the load for the body, all systems can work more efficiently.

How best to lighten the dietary load? This is a question worth exploring in order to best serve our clients.

Many clients have no idea what they are feeding their pets. A week of journaling followed by an evaluation consultation is often an eye-opener for clients, and allows us to really show the client how what they do adds up. Do their Milk Bones add up to 300 kcal more per day than their dog needs? Do those table scraps (not all bad) add up to more than half the diet – which means that some nutrients will be deficient? To be effective, we need to develop the knowledge to be able to evaluate. It’s mostly arithmetic and internet research, but analysis  and deep label reading skills are required. It’s not enough to look at the front panel – staff need to be able to evaluate what they read and translate for the client.

For example, if a food contains glucosamine, how much does each serving contain? Probably not a therapeutic dose. If the front panel says “bison and sweet potato” but sweet potato is 14th on the ingredient list, and bison is first but beef meal is second, we need to be able to interpret this for the client. (One clue: it’s not a bison and sweet potato food.) Ongoing education sessions with clients result in clients who are willing to take charge of learning, and pets that feel better.

A short look at the various aspects of commercial and home feeding may provide a place to start in developing effective education tools for clients. At our facility (which specializes in swimming, massage, rehab, and food), clients usually come in confused. For example, they’re feeding a high-carbohydrate, plant-based prescription diet that contributes to inflammation, or they’ve read that grain-free is best, or they believe that a raw diet is the only way to go but their dog isn’t doing well on it, or they listened to the salesperson at the pet store and they’re on food advertised as  “low-glycemic index,” heavy on the beans, and their dog’s gut is rumbling. We need to simplify the issues in pet food, and this is no easy task.

pet storeSimplify!

The giant “pet food” category can be divided into dry foods, canned foods, and frozen foods. In addition, there are smaller categories, freeze-dried or dehydrated versions of frozen foods, and dehydrated diets that fall into one of the other categories.

Meat-Based Fresh Food Diets

For dogs or cats, a species-appropriate diet can be a radical step toward better health. The ancestral diet is a meat-based diet, with moderate fat and protein levels, and very low levels of carbohydrate. An appropriate meat-based diet avoids many of the toxic pitfalls of dry food because it simply doesn’t include the ingredients most likely to be toxic: corn, soy, wheat, rice, barley, oats, or any other carbohydrate sources beyond relatively small amounts of vegetables and fruits. The much lower carbohydrate level promotes normal hormonal function in many ways, interrupting the pro-inflammatory cycle.

A species-appropriate diet is a raw diet. It may be homemade or commercially produced. There are challenges in both approaches.

Homemade diets require careful monitoring. Most programs and recipe “cook” books have not been analyzed and do not meet AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) and/or NRC (National Research Council) standards. A “balance over time” philosophy is popular among raw feeders. Basically, the idea is that meals don’t need to be complete or the same every day as long as a correct balance is achieved over time. This is true, but unfortunately it only works if the basic components are correct. This is seldom the case, in my experience. Common flaws in homemade diets include too much fat, too much bone, and missing mineral components that can’t be addressed without supplementation. Supplements designed to be used for homemade raw diets often do not take into account the adjustments that must be made for lower and high fat content in the diet. To try to make homemade diets safer and easier for clients, Karen Becker and I wrote Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats, which includes a framework for rotation, fatty acid guidelines, and two mineral supplement recipes.Real food book

Homemade food is a large time commitment. Commercial fresh food diets offer instant success – almost as easily as pouring kibble from a bag.

Commercial frozen foods abound. Products may or may not meet nutrition standards. Food that claims to be AAFCO-compliant may be a relatively safe choice, but knowledge about requirements and labeling is necessary to determine this. Just because the label makes that statement doesn’t mean that it’s true. Within AAFCO-compliant foods, caloric density may range from 300 to 600 kcal per cup. For those concerned about bacteria, High pressure pasteurized foods (which are sterile) and cooked versions are available. Some frozen products are ground fine enough to be cooked for those animals who need cooked food.

Freeze-dried and dehydrated versions of these foods may be useful for switching dogs with GI problems where adding water to the diet may set off an digestive issues. For switching cats away from dry food, these intensely flavorful foods are a good tool.  They’re are great for travel, they make excellent treats, and  they are an acceptable transition for those (owners or pets) who can’t quite make the leap to fresh food in its more natural, with-water state. However, they also cost much more than the frozen versions.

A raw meat-based diet may not work for all animals. Compromised systems may need diets tweaked for their specific needs, and some animals need their meat-based diet cooked.

Frozen foods vary considerably in macronutrient content, and variation concerns me. If a label says that the food is 12% protein and 6% fat, and the calorie content is listed at 600 kcal per cup, something is not right! Fat content is listed as a minimum, and if this food has 600 kcal per cup, there’s a lot more fat than 6%.

Dry Food

Should dogs and cats eat dry food? In my opinion, dry food is at best a compromise. However, issues of cost and convenience make it necessary to help clients find a balance of products that is affordable and workable for their lives.

Dry foods are mostly either “with grain” or “without grain.” This is a confusing distinction, but one that can assume that “grain” is bad and “grain-free” is better.

Foods that include “grains” include a range of starches from wheat and corn through rice, oats, barley, sorghum and so on. They usually have a combination, and they provide about 50% or more of their calories as carbohydrate. Most of these starch ingredients are prone by their nature to contaminants including pesticide residues, GMOs, and mold byproducts like aflatoxins and vomitoxins. Bacterial contamination is common. These contaminants may be present at low levels in purchased food – but some, like aflatoxins and salmonella, can increase post-production, as in the common “pet food storage” container or garbage-can-in-the-garage storage. The home storage dangers exist no matter how good the dry food is.

Digestive issues with grain include the difficulty for dogs and cats in digesting and making use of glutens and other plant proteins in bodies designed to get protein mostly from meat.

Many clients think that “grain-free” means carbohydrate-free, but “grain-free” foods actually contain roughly 40% carbohydrate – something has to hold dry food together.  Pet foods frequently contain vegetable protein isolates that boost the protein content of the food, which reduces the protein coming from meat – and makes the food cheaper to produce.

grainsA common “non-grain” category of carbohydrate in upscale foods is the relatively recent inclusion and promotion of legumes as good food for dogs. From peas and lentils through garbanzos, these “low-glycemic index” ingredients are high-profile persuaders. The inclusion of high-protein legumes always means that there is less meat protein in the food. Long term, I don’t think legumes, which are incomplete proteins, are going to contribute to the health of dogs, though these foods may be acceptable as part of a rotation program.

Rotation of proteins is a practice that many are aware of. What isn’t considered as often is that vegetables have proteins too, so we need to find products that provide actual rotation. Because the products in each brand are closely related, the same starch ingredients are often seen in every product (though the order might be switched around) while the meat changes.  It is probably necessary to go outside a chosen brand to get actual rotation. This is an excellent idea, but few know how to read a label well enough to do this. A frequently updated list/handout is needed to help people make these choices.

Canned Food

Canned foods are usually a better nutrition choice than dry foods. It’s not necessary to add starches to hold them together, so the nutrition profile is often more appropriate. The same evaluation process can be used as is used for frozen foods. In the past, I often recommended that clients begin to improve their pet’s diets with canned food, especially for those people and/or animals who find change difficult. However, it’s very difficult for clients to discern which of the countless canned foods are really better. Now, I often recommend that they use a freeze-dried meat-based food, or a frozen food. High Pressure Pasteurized products provide a sterile food if needed, and many frozen foods can be cooked lightly if necessary. Good canned foods are more expensive than frozen ones, but if it’s difficult for clients to make the conceptual leap to fresh or dehydrated diets, canned food is still a good choice.

We need to provide tools for client that they can understand

Helping clients along as fast as they can go – it’s a tricky endeavor. It would be lovely if we could just hand over written materials and know that people would read, understand, and apply. We all experience the frustration of giving people good information that they immediately forget. It’s my experience that we need to get better at how we present the information. We need to provide simplified presentations that catch the interest of clients. We need to entice them to want to understand more, and we need to spend time with them. If we’re really good, a lot of our clients will be empowered to take charge of the health of their pets in a much more proactive way, and we all win.