GMO in Pet food

Here is more reason to carefully check the ingredients on the food you are feeding your pets:  GMO.  What is GMO?  GMO stands for genetically modified organisms, and they are becoming more and more prevalent in our food supply every day.  Crops are modified to increase profit by increasing resistance to disease, or increasing production.  What is the problem with GMO?  Genetic engineering is done in such a way that the DNA of the plant is permanently altered.  The scary part is that very little testing is done to determine what effects the altered genetics will have on the person or animal ingesting the food.  The modified genes can be unstable and even incorporate into intestinal cells, modifying their DNA!

This can explain increases in diseases such as allergies, food sensitivities, autoimmune syndromes and cancer, even when supposedly ‘healthy’ foods are being consumed.   You can learn more details about the genetic modification of our food supply at:  http://responsibletechnology.org/

What does this mean for your pet and how can you feed foods that are GMO free?  The answer is to read labels and ask questions of food producers.  Anything labelled organic will be GMO free by definition.  Avoid soybeans, canola, cottonseed, corn, and sugar from sugar beets.  These are the crops with the highest prevalence of GMO.  Remember too that there are many byproducts of these crops, especially corn, such as syrup, starch additives.  Many companies are now labeling their products that are GMO free.  You can find a more comprehensive shopping guide at http://nongmoshoppingguide.com/.

In general, fresh organic ingredients will provide the best chance of avoiding genetically engineered foods.  Companies that do not use genetically modified ingredients will typically make that obvious on their packaging.  Remember – pay attention, read labels and ask questions if labels are unclear.  The time you spend will be worth the health benefits to you and your pets.

Beyond canned food – feeding your cat fresh and raw food

In my recent pet on feeding your cat I talked about the important essentials of feeding a diet that is 85% meat and 70% moisture.  You can provide added benefit to your cat by adding in fresh food, either lightly cooked or raw.

Fresh food comes with enzymes, co factors and digestive aids that are often destroyed during the processing of commercial foods.  Eating food in its natural state also provides natural protective and healing mechanisms found in nature.  Vitamins and minerals ingested in their natural state can provide more benefits than those in the chemical form.

You can start by finding out which fresh foods your cat will actually eat.  Cats are carnivores and it is rare that they will relish dining on fresh fruits and vegetables, but you can offer them and see how your cat responds.  Try different types of meat proteins to see which you cat favors.  Animals often know what is best for their constitution, so don’t worry about forcing any particular ingredient – feed your cat what it likes!

Always make diet changes slowly, so start by adding in about 10% fresh meat, either raw or lightly cooked to be sure there is no digestive upset.  If all is good after a few days, increase to 25%, then 50%, up to what ever proportion you will be feeding on a regular basis.  If you go beyond 50% fresh food in the diet, some supplementation will be needed to be sure the diet is not missing any nutrients.

It is not necessary to feed the same thing every day – you can vary the ingredients, the amount, and the number of days per week that you feed fresh food to your cat.  Good nutrition is a balance over time, and any amount of fresh food in the diet will help your cat.  Even a small amount of fresh meat 2-3 times per week will offer tremendous benefits to your cat.

Will a bit of experimenting with this, your cat will soon be enjoying the benefits of a healthy diet.

Prescription diets – how healthy are they?

You have likely heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’.  There is a great deal of truth in this for our dog and cat companions as well.  The options and information about what is best to feed your pet are nothing less than overwhelming these days, and it is very important that you read carefully the actual ingredients that you are feeding your pet.

Prescription diets have been  the mainstay of therapeutic nutrition in veterinary medicine for many years.   These are diets that claim to give you a handy package containing the proper nutrition for whatever ails your pet.  Let’s take a look at a few examples for the sake of comparison:  ( For more information on interpreting pet food labels, see  ingredient list )

1.  Here is the partial ingredient list for a diet claiming to help with canine liver disease:

Brewers Rice, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Dried Egg Product, Soybean Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Flaxseed, Pork Protein Isolate, Chicken Liver Flavor.

2. And another claiming to promote bladder health in cats:

Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal, Pork Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Chicken Liver Flavor, Fish Oil

3. For contrast, here is the label ingredients from a commercial raw food product:

Ground chicken (including ground bone), chicken gizzards, chicken hearts, organic squash, organic apples, chicken livers, organic greens, organic broccoli, organic blueberries, organic apple cider vinegar

4. And another from a grain-free dry dog food:

Bison, lamb meal, chicken meal, egg product, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, canola oil, roasted bison, roasted venison, natural flavor, tomato pomace, ocean fish meal, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus plantarum

Now just use your common sense for a moment – which of these diets do you think provides more benefit for your pet?  Of course the diets with the most whole-food ingredients are best. 

I have not sold a prescription diet food in several years now.  In fact, my basic nutritional recommendations change very little from pet to pet, though I may modify slightly depending on the health condition.  Fresh, whole foods and a diet that is 70% meat and 70% moisture is the best fit for most carnivorous companions.

I still advocate diagnostics such as bloodwork and ultrasound when indicated, and there are other supplements that can help with certain health conditions.  The basic nutrition, however, changes very little from case to case.

 

Is feeding raw food safe for your pets?

Yes, raw food can be fed safely to your pets. When handled properly, there is no danger whatsoever in feeding your pet raw food.  Raw meat that is fresh or has been frozen fresh will not contain harmful bacteria.  There are also commercial raw products that provide guaranteed freshness along with a balanced diet.

Raw is the most natural diet for dogs and cats. As carnivores, dogs and cats are designed to eat a diet that is about 75% meat with a high moisture content – as if they were killing prey in the wild.  Their entire digestive tract, including teeth, saliva, enzymes and intestines are better equipped to digest meat rather than vegetables and grains.

The biggest benefit in feeding raw food is that it is nutritionally superior to feeding any form of processed food. Commercial foods are processed at high temperatures that can destroy important nutrients. There are also inherent benefits in feeding whole, unaltered foods.   Certain nutritional components are only beneficial in the whole food form, not when broken down into their chemical counterparts.  Many pet foods start with good ingredients and then process them into a dry kibble form that requires the vitamins and minerals to be added back in.