In this video Dr. Karen Becker discusses her best-to-worst recommendations for diets for dogs and cats and explains how to improve the quality of the food you feed your own pet.
Dr. Becker's Comments:
A subject readers here at HealthyPets and clients at my animal clinic are very interested in is the kind of food they should be feeding their dog or cat for good health.
So by popular demand, today's video is a discussion of my recommendations for the best-to-worst diets you can feed your pet.
There are 13 categories on my list, and what you're feeding will fall into one of them.
Now, if the diet you're serving your dog or cat happens to fall into one of the lower quality categories, I don't want you to beat yourself up about it.
As a general rule, people who are feeding their pets a lesser quality diet are doing so either because they can't afford a better food – or they simply don't know what constitutes good nutrition for their pet.
If you discover your furry buddy is eating from the lower half of the list, set a goal to feed a better quality food now that you know the difference, or when you can afford a more nutritious brand.
Again, everyone's pet food of choice can be found in one of these categories. I encourage you to figure out where the diet you're serving right now falls in the list, and then strive for improvement by feeding more nourishing, species-appropriate food.
Food Can Either Heal or Harm
As a proactive veterinarian interested in sustaining the natural good health of my pet patients, I always encourage pet owners to evaluate their animal's diet, because food is the foundation upon which good or ill health is built.
It's important to understand that food has the ability to heal or harm your pet, depending on the type and quality of nutrition you provide.
The first factor you should evaluate is the species-appropriateness of what your dog or cat is eating.
A species-appropriate diet contains lots of good quality protein as well as moisture. The protein is necessary because both dogs and cats are carnivores.
High moisture content is required in order to prevent organ dysfunction, including kidney failure. Dogs and cats are designed to eat food that is about 70 percent moisture, which is what a diet of mice and rabbits would provide if your pet hunted his own food.
If you feed your pet dry food only, he's getting only about 12 percent moisture instead of the 70 percent his body demands. This is especially unhealthy for cats, because they don't supplement their moisture intake by drinking large amounts of water like dogs do.
Pets on dry food diets (kibble or pelleted) live in a state of chronic, mild dehydration that over time can cause significant stress to their organs.
Species-appropriate nutrition does not contain much starch, also known as grains or carbohydrates. Corn, wheat, rice and soy are found in most commercial processed pet foods, but your dog or cat has no biological need for them.
I recommend you follow the laws of nature when it comes to your pet's diet, which is to feed everything his body needs and eliminate ingredients that provide no nourishment.
In addition to the species-appropriateness of your pet's diet, it also needs to be balanced. By balanced I mean food that contains all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your dog or cat needs.
This isn't something you can guess at – it should be guaranteed through testing.
Nutritional balance is vitally important because deficiencies will develop much faster in your dog or cat than they will in you. A poorly nourished puppy or kitten can end up with obvious signs of skeletal problems and organ degeneration before she's six months old.
An older animal can develop life-threatening organ degeneration, among many other not-so-obvious symptoms, over a one to three year period of eating an unbalanced, nutrient-deficient diet.
The List of Best-to-Worst Foods
A balanced, raw, homemade diet is the best food you can feed your dog or cat. It will be nutritionally balanced because you're following recipes like those found in the cookbook I co-authored, Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats.
Raw means the food is unadulterated and still contains all the enzymes and nutrients that are typically destroyed during cooking or other types of processing.
Homemade is the best option because you are in complete control of the quality of ingredients in your pet's diet.
I recommend pets get plenty of nutritional variety, and another great thing about serving homemade is you can buy seasonal fruits and veggies on sale, as well as protein sources (meats), and use them in rotation.
The next best thing you can feed your pet is a commercially available raw diet. This is a raw food diet that someone else has done the heavy lifting to prepare.
It's important that the diet is balanced, and you should be aware that there are raw food pet diets entering the market that are not yet proven to be nutritionally complete. These foods often say "For supplementation or intermittent feeding" on the label.
You'll know if the raw food you've selected is balanced because it will say it right on the packaging: "This food has been proven to be nutritionally complete or adequate for all life stages."
At the present time, these diets are found only in the freezer section of small/privately owned or upscale pet boutiques – not in the big box pet stores. You can also find a selection online.
Cooked, balanced homemade diet. It's the same diet found in number 1, above, except that it's cooked. This means some of the nutrient composition has been diminished through processing.
Human-grade canned food. If the label doesn't say the ingredients are human grade, they're not. Pet food made with human-grade ingredients is also a great deal more expensive, so that's another way to tell what you're getting.
This type of diet is the most expensive you can feed your pet. What I tell my clients is, "If you have more money than time, you can purchase human-grade canned food for your dog or cat. But if you have more time than money, I recommend you make a balanced, homemade diet right in your own kitchen for a fraction of the cost."
Human-grade dry food. As I discussed earlier, dry food is not as species-appropriate as a moisture-dense diet. Human grade is very important because the food is approved, in theory, for human consumption, which means it doesn't contain low quality rendered by-products.
Super premium canned food which can be found at big box pet supply stores like Petco and PetSmart.
Super premium dry food.
Veterinary-recommended canned food. Vet recommended canned foods are purchased at your vet's office or clinic. Typical brands are Science Diet, the Purina veterinary lines, Royal Canin and Waltham.
Veterinary-recommended dry food.
Grocery store brand canned food.
Grocery store brand dry food.
Semi-moist pouched food.
The reason this type of pet food is so far down the list is because in order for the food to remain "semi-moist," an ingredient called propylene glycol is added. This is a scary preservative that is a second cousin to ethylene glycol, which is antifreeze. And while propylene glycol is approved for use in pet foods, it is unhealthy for dogs and cats. I do not recommend feeding any food that contains this additive.
Dead last on the list and the worst thing you can feed your pet is an unbalanced, homemade diet – raw or cooked. I'm seeing an increasing number of misguided pet owners in my practice who think they're doing the right thing by serving their pet, say, a chicken breast and some veggies and calling it a day.
Yes, the food is homemade, but it's nutritionally unbalanced. Pets being fed this way are showing up at my clinic with endocrine abnormalities, skeletal issues and organ degeneration as a result of deficiencies in calcium, trace minerals and omega fatty acids.
From Worst to Best in a Heartbeat
For those of you who now know you're feeding your pet an unbalanced, homemade diet, there's an extremely quick and easy way to soar to the top of the list.
All you need to do is add ingredients to balance out the nutrition in the diet you're already serving your dog or cat. This is a fast, simple fix you can apply to turn an unbalanced homemade diet into a balanced one.
So there you have it – the entire list of my recommendations for best-to-worst pet diets.
If you've discovered your pet's food is on the lower half of the list, set a goal to work your way up the list.
If you're already at the top end of the list, congratulations! You're doing the best thing possible by providing species-appropriate nutrition for the animals in your care
After 15,000 years of humans domesticating dogs, a new study shows the bond formed between a canine and its owner may be close to the one shared between a baby and his or her parent.
Called the "secure base effect," the phenomenon occurs when infants use their caregivers as a steady, reliable home base when interacting with things around them. This security has a profound impact on a child's daily life and how they score on cognitive tests, the study's authors pointed out.
Scientists hypothesize that a similar effect occurs between dogs and their owners. Previous studies have shown that dogs get distressed and look for their owners when they are put in an unfamiliar situation, the authors noted.
To test whether the "secure base effect" exists between dogs and people, researchers examined how the behavior of 20 adult dogs changed depending on their owner's presence.
In the first experiment, dogs were allowed to manipulate (play with) different interactive toys to get a treat inside. The owner was either not there at all (absent owner), did not encourage the dog to complete the task and wore a blindfold (silent owner) or was enthusiastic and supportive of the dog while he or she was trying to complete the task (encouraging owner).
The dogs were less motivated to get the treat and spent less time with the toys when their owners were not present. Also, whether or not the owner encouraged the dog to work on the toy did not play a role on how motivated they were to play with the toy. Further tests revealed the dog's existing level of separation anxiety, as measured by a separate test, also did not play a role.
"In this case, dogs that experienced strong separation distress would have been expected to manipulate shorter than dogs that were not distressed by the owners absence," the authors wrote. "However, since the dogs' duration of manipulation was not negatively correlated with their individual separation-related behavior score, we showed that the owners absence did not affect the dogs differently."
Then, the researchers introduced a stranger into the experiment. The dogs did not interact with the stranger on average, and were more likely to play with the stranger only if its owner was in the room. If the stranger was alone with the dog, the pet spent a small amount of time with the toys -- similar to when its owner was not there."The fact that the presence of an unfamiliar human did not significantly increase the duration of [play] in the dogs compared to when they were alone with the experimenter provides evidence for a secure base effect in dogs that's specific for the owner, and therefore, comparable to the one found in infant-caregiver relationships," the authors concluded.
In addition, when the owners entered the room alone, the dogs were more likely to be enthusiastic and greet them for a longer period of time compared to a stranger. If the dogs were left alone and presented with the two chairs and two pieces of clothing (one belonging to the owner and the other to the stranger), the dog would touch the owners clothing and sit closer to their owner's chair.
The researchers concluded that dogs were only motivated to play because they were more secure when their owner was present, similar to how children act when their caregiver is around.
"One of the things that really surprised us is, that adult dogs behave towards their caregivers like human children do. It will be really interesting to try to find out how this behavior evolved in the dogs," Lisa Horn, a postdoctoral fellow at the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, said in a press release.
Yes, you heard that correctly – Americans love to spoil their pets, and Halloween is no exception. This year, 22 million people will play dress-up with their pets, spending an estimated $330 million on costumes for their furry friends.
I am a professional dog walker, and I hate flexi leashes. This is one piece of equipment you will never find in my doggie toolbox.
Everyday, I see these hapless saps walking their completely untrained dogs on retractable leashes at full extension with the dog running willy nilly all over the place.
I stand and watch as the dog gets tangled up with lamp-posts and trees, runs in between cars, runs up to other dogs uninvited, etc. Meanwhile, the clueless owner stands there doing an intricate dance routine, desperately trying not to get tangled up in the 15-20 feet of cord that at any moment could leave them with severe burns or maybe cut off a finger. Yes, fingers have been cut off - I'm not making that up.(Click here to read)
I've seen people dropping them, allowing Fluffy to take off. Now she is being chased by this noisy rattling plastic thing, exacerbating the situation and scaring her into running even further.
Then there are people who are just stupid and have no business owning a dog, never mind a retractable leash. Prime examples - the videos below. We can't all be Einstein I guess.
These leashes are dangerous. For the safety of you, your dog, and the people around you, stop using them.
I saw my canine patient Caleb again this week, a few weeks after I’d given him one dose of a homeopathic remedy for vaccinosis. His story is typical, so very worth sharing. (If you missed his great smiling face, just back up a post).
Caleb had come to me then because he was exhibiting tumor growth on his body, most notably a small-orange-sized lump right on the center of his sternum. He’d had several past ones removed and checked, but luckily none were malignant.
He had also been on Rimadyl since he was hit by a car at 2 years old, and Caleb is now 11 years old, and a pretty big guy, a mix of probably Pit Bull and Queensland Healer, running about 68 pounds. His owner, Catherine, recognizing the risks associated with this drug, had taken him off it about a week before I saw him. Interestingly, his liver checked out fine in blood tests done prior to my seeing him. (Deaths due to liver failure have been caused by this drug. Search it out.)
So, after a lengthy questioning of his owner and a physical exam, here’s my list of what struck me about Caleb, things I asked Catherine to follow as we headed into homeopathy to help him heal himself:
Large fatty tumor at the front of his chest, lemon sized.
A bald spot on his tail that had been bare for many years, maybe since Caleb was two years old and hit by the car.
Stiffness getting up and, even worse, on lying down, with difficulty getting into the car on the way here.
Spookiness with certain things, like a laundry basket, or something he’s seeing that’s new to him. A broom leaning on a wall could do it, or a shadow.
Slow to get up in the morning, and when he does, he has 3 big sneezes daily.
He’s chilly, even to the point of liking the Austin sun in the Summer (!)
He humps a pillow (and he’s a neutered male!) about once a week.
So, in comes Caleb on Wednesday, looking like a happy camper, and Catherine tells me the great news:
The tumor has shrunk to the size of a small walnut!
He’s got peach fuzz hair growing on his bald spot of 9 years!
He doesn’t seem to be so stiff.
He’s less spooky.
His morning sneezes stopped. None.
He’s humping the pillow even more!
And, coolest of all, he’s initiating play now, not just waiting for his owner to do this. Like not since he’s been a puppy!! (Did I mention Caleb is 11? Oh, good).
So, we’ve still got some work to do, but my goodness, what a neat turn around for an old guy, right?
What did he get treated for? Vaccinosis (click here for more info). The illness of being vaccinated, and he got plenty of vaccinations, as do most pets and horses today. When the postcards came saying he was “due for his shots,” his owner dutifully complied. Yearly, until she stopped in the past year, thinking (rightly so!) he’d had enough.
So, think along with me:
Caleb came in with a laundry list of complaints.
Caleb got a vaccinosis remedy, known to help illness that came from being vaccinated.
Caleb got wayyyyy better.
What caused a whole lot of his illness? Vaccinations, you bet!
We’re going for a more constitutional remedy now, to see if we can take him further, which I’m confident we can. But Caleb’s story is worth spreading around, I think. So here’s Caleb, smiling at the world, and telling it like it is.
In my previous post,My Dog Fainted Today, I wrote about Xander having a fainting spell. I was hoping that it was going to be a one time thing, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.
On Saturday, September 14th, we had plans to hang out with my family for the day. We packed all the dogs in the car and headed to my brother's house in Bolton, MA. Upon arrival, we let the dogs into the back yard to have a pee after the long drive. Our dogs love this yard (and so do we) - it's over 1/2 an acre and completely fenced in, so that even the tiny dogs can't get out.
As always, Xander and the others took off running. After a few minutes, my brother and his wife came out to the yard to meet us, adding their 2 dogs to the mix. All the dogs were running like crazy, stopping occasionally just to have a roll on a worm or in the wet grass. It was at this point that Xander rolled over and simply went limp.
Unlike the last time that this happened, he didn't just pop right back up. Instead, he just lay there completely out of it. His breathing was very shallow and his eyes appeared to be bulging out of his head.
My sister-in-law Cara is a pet first aid instructor. She examined him and noticed that he had a very weak pulse and that his gums and tongue were extremely pale. He had great difficulty trying to get up, and when he tried to walk, he seemed like he was drunk. We decided to take him to the emergency room.
As soon as we walked through the door, we were greeted by a receptionist. She called the veterinarian, who promptly took Xander from us straight into the clinic. Unlike the emergency room here in Boston, they did not ask us to pay first. They seemed really interested in getting care for the animal, instead of payment up front - a very reassuring feeling.
They did an EKG, ran basic blood work, and took a chest x-ray to look for heart enlargement. All results came back normal and did not reveal a cause for the collapse. In the hopes of getting some answers, we have made an appointment with the Tufts cardiologist, who will do a more thorough cardio exam.
Needless to say, this is very disturbing to me, and I don't know what I would do if I were to lose Xander. He means the world to me. Let's hope we can figure this out.
The folks at the Primal Pet Food Company recently sent me a sample of their Freeze-Dried Canine Chicken Formula. Thanks, Guys! Let me just state upfront that I'm going to be a little biased in this review. I can't help it - I've been feeding my 4 dogs Primal Frozen Nuggets for years. The first thing I thought of when I saw the Freeze-Dried Formula was how much easier it will make traveling with the dogs. No more half frozen bags of dog food floating about in a water-filled cooler taking up precious cargo room while traveling. And being dehydrated, the Freeze-Dried Formula is super light - much lighter than a bag of their frozen product (or a bag of standard kibble, for that matter). When it's time for dinner, all you need to do is add water and give it a mix. Simple as that - you have a meal ready to go! This handy video shows you how:
There are currently five different varieties of Canine Freeze-Dried Formula to choose from - Chicken, Beef, Duck, Lamb, and Turkey & Sardine - allowing you to alternate protein sources. They also make three varieties of Freeze-Dried Formula for our feline friends, as well - Beef & Salmon, Chicken & Salmon, and Turkey. And since it's Primal, it's made from good stuff. From their website: "Primal Freeze-Dried Formulas are produced using only the freshest, human-grade ingredients. Our poultry, meat and game are antibiotic and steroid free without added hormones. We incorporate certified organic produce, certified organic minerals and unrefined vitamins to fortify our complete and balanced diets."
Most importantly, my dogs love the stuff. I'm going to stick with their frozen nuggets for home-feeding, but I will definitely keep a few bags of the Freeze-Dried Formula on hand for meals on the go.