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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Fresh, Raw and Whole Food For Your Dog's Health - What to Select, Preparation, Mistakes to Avoid





In this article understand what whole, fresh, raw foods are good for your dog;
How to prepare and feed these foods to your dog;
Mistakes to avoid making.

Fresh whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, dairy and meat, healthy oils, herbs and spices offer our dogs digestible, nutrient rich food without the dangerous ingredients, additives, toxins and carcinogens found in many pet store food products.

My dogs get homemade cooked dog food in the morning and early evening and then, later in the evening they get their bowl of fresh food. It is best not to mix fresh fruit and fresh vegetables with your dog;s main protein meal - I will discuss the reason for that further below.


Feeding your dog fresh whole foods as part of a balanced diet can have a profoundly positive affect on a dog's overall health and can be a great aid in avoiding, treating and remedying many health issues - for example periodontal problems and GI tract problems.

Protein

Meat is a rich source of protein, amino acids and contains many nutrients necessary for the health of dogs. Protein is the primary and species appropriate food for a dog. Dogs can survive without carbohydrates but they cannot survive without protein and fat in their diet. Organically raised, pasture fed chemical free (no antibiotics, no growth hormones, none GMO grain feed, etc) raised is always a better choice than meat coming from farms that use antibiotics, steroids, pesticide and herbicide, GMO feed. Some people like to feed their dog raw meat, while others prefer to provide their dog with cooked meat. I feed my dogs cooked meat rather than raw meat. My dogs also eat hard cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt and fish on a daily basis.

Appropriate and Safe Protein Sources for Dogs

Lean red muscle and organ meat such as:
Beef

Bison
Lamb

Venison, etc.
- grass fed, pasture raised preferred

Poultry such as:
Chicken
Duck

Emu
Turkey, etc.

- free range, antibiotic-free, hormone-free

Fish (wild or wild-caught) in particular fatty fish such as:
Anchovies
Salmon
Sardines
Shad
Smelt
Mackerel
For more information on appropriate fish, and how to select the best options you can go here.

You can also add other forms of protein such as:

Eggs - free-range, organic
Raw - make sure you wash the eggshell before cracking open
Cooked

Dairy - organic
Cottage Cheese or Quark
Hard Cheese such as cheddar cheese, mozzarella for example
Goats milk
Kefir   
Yogurt

Seeds - organic
Chia or saba chia seeds - whole or ground
Flax Seeds (brown or golden, use ground flax seed as opposed to whole flax seed)
Hemp seed
Sesame seed
Pumpkin Seeds (best if pulverized or ground)

Tree Nuts - organic, only, fresh not stale in small amounts.
Coconut
For information on seeds and nuts that pose serious danger to a dog's health read here.

There are some facts that you need to be aware of when it comes to whole food protein...

Dairy products…Just like with people, some dogs are lactose intolerant. None of my dogs have any adverse reaction to cheese or yogurt. Yogurt is a good source of protein and also a source of acidophilus which helps to prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the digestive track. Plain yogurt or yogurt with natural fruit sweetened with honey is best. Yogurt sweetened with sugar is alright but your dog does not require sugar. Yogurt sweetened with artificial sweeteners should be avoided. Xylitol is especially dangerous for dogs and can result in liver damage.

Raw eggs…My dog's get raw organic eggs - the entire egg (shell, egg white and egg yolk). Some people advise that dogs should not be given raw eggs due to the chance of salmonella poisoning. A dog’s stomach acids are stronger than a human’s and a dog produces more bile than a human does. While dogs are better at fighting salmonella than humans, dogs still get salmonella poisoning, but they can tolerate higher levels of salmonella than we can. Wash egg shell's thoroughly prior to use. Also, it is important to note that eggs contain avidin, an enzyme that decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin). Bioten deficiency can lead to hair and coat problems. Avoiding bioten deficiency is simple - make sure you always  give your dog the egg white, and egg yolk.

Peanuts and other nuts Aflatoxins grow mainly on grains but they also grow on legumes - like peanuts, walnuts and pecans. Aflatoxins cause liver cancer. This is one reason why you will hear some people say do not give your dogs nuts. While there are some nuts that you should never give your dogs (like walnuts and macadamia nuts). If you want to give your dog peanuts or almonds make sure you use organic, human food-grade fresh nuts, never give your dog stale nuts. I have treated dogs for aflatoxicosis - it is a very serious condition.

Too much protein? Yes, the ongoing debate about how much protein is too much for a dog’s diet. While I think it is best to provide a variety of foods to dogs, I think we need to fixate less on worrying about too much protein and be more concerned about the quality of the protein. In particular the protein source in kibble! Ingesting and processing high quality protein does not strain and damage a dog’s organs the way poor quality protein does. This is one reason why you need to be mindful of the protein source in the kibble you feed your dog. If you would like to learn a little more about this subject you can click here

Fruits and Vegetables
Many people think that giving a dog fruit and/or vegetables will give the dog diarrhea. In actual fact high quality soluble fiber helps prevent diarrhea and constipation. 
 
Soluble fibers attract water and form a gel, which slows down digestion thereby delaying the emptying of the stomach and makes a dog feel full, which helps control hunger and weight. Slower stomach emptying can also have a beneficial affect on controlling blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, which helps control diabetes. Apples, oranges, pears, berries, cucumbers, celery, and carrots are examples of fruits and vegetables that provide soluble fibers.

Insoluble fibers are gastrointestinal tract (GI Tract) friendly as they have a laxative effect, add bulk to the diet and help prevent constipation. Insoluble fibers do not dissolve in water, so they pass through the GI tract primarily intact speeding up the passage of food and waste. Insoluble fibers are mainly found in whole grains and vegetables zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, fruit, and root vegetable skins are examples of fruits and vegetables that provide unsoluble fibers. 

As noted above, fruit and veggies contain a lot of good soluble and unsoluble fibre, but they are also rich in vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and are naturally low in fat while being filling.  

Eating fresh fruit and vegetables also plays an important role in:
  • Helping to boost the immune system;
  • Helping the body eliminate toxins;
  • Keeping organs, eyes, teeth etc. healthy;
  • Preventing colon cancer;
  • Reducing the risk of developing heart and vascular problems, stroke and cancer;
  • Reducing the risk of inflamed anal glands (which result in ‘scudding’, burst glands and discharge);
  • Aiding in good oral health;
If your dog is overweight one of the best ways to help it to lose weight is to add veggies to the dog’s diet. The herb turmeric can also help as can coconut oil. While delivering great quality nutrients they also help:
  • Keep weight under control - thereby reducing risk of:
  • Diabetes, and:
  • Stress on joints. 
  • Inflammation of joints is another contributing factor to the onset of cancer. 
These are just a few of the many benefits that fruits and veggies offer to our dog’s health.

In the wild, dogs eat pre-digested fruits and vegetables when the consume the digestive organs of herbaceous prey, as well they also consume some plants, fruits, vegetables to self-heal and boost their immune systems. Grass is one such example.
  
The fruits and vegetables that I give to me dogs on a daily basis vary a little depending on the season, for instance watermelon in the summer and oranges in the winter. The following provides a partial list of fruits and vegetables that are good for dogs. You can use fresh, canned or frozen fruit. If you are going to give your dog canned fruit, make sure it is packed in juice not syrup - sugar is not good for dogs. You can use fresh, canned, frozen and/or cooked veggies.

Fruit that is Safe & Beneficial for Dog's to Consume
The following is a partial list...

Apples (remove the seeds)
Apricots
Avocado - in small amounts daily is fine for most dogs. Avocados contain persin - a fungicidal toxin. When a dog is fed large amounts of the fruit vomiting and diarrhea can result from overdose of persin.  The pit of the avocado is toxic to dogs and should never be consumed by dogs. My dogs get avocado every day.

Bananas
Blackberries
Blueberries
Cantaloupe
Canary Melon
Cherries (remove the pit)
Clementines
Cranberries
Coconut (fresh or dry non sweetened, shredded)
Grapefruit
Goji Berries (if your dog is on medications check for drug interactions)

Honeydew Melon
Kiwi
Mangos (remove the pit)
Nectarines (remove the pit)
Oranges
Papaya
Peaches (remove the pit)
Pears (remove the seeds)

Persimmons
Pineapple
Plums

Pomegranate
Raspberries
Strawberries
Thimbleberries
Tomatoes
Watermelon

Yuzu fruit

Vegetables that are Safe & Beneficial for Dog's to Consume
 

Asparagus
Anise
Broccoli 

Broccoli Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celery

Clover sprouts
Chicory
Cucumber
Kelp, Chlorella, Marine Phytoplankton, Spirulina

Leafy greens - beet greens, green or red leaf lettuce, frizzy lettuce, kale, radicchio, romaine, spinach, cilantro, dandelion, parsley
Tomatoes
Squash - various types, summer and winter squash
Sweet Peppers - green, yellow, orange and red, purple, etc.
Mushrooms - Chaga, Maitake, Shiitake, Reishi and several others. Please note many other types of mushrooms are toxic to dogs, just as they are to people.

Pumpkin
Okra

Zucchini

Roots Vegetables
Beets 
Carrots
Parsnips
Potatoes 

Rutabaga
Turnip
Sweet Potatoes
Yams

How To Feed Your Dog Fruits and Veggies…
Preparation to Ensure Maximum Absorption of Nutrients from Fresh Fruit and 
Vegetables

In order to make sure your dog gets the full benefit of nutrients from fresh fruit and vegetables you need to understand a little about the difference between a dog's and a human's GI Tract...

Optimizing The Absorption of Nutrients...
  • Dogs have a shorter intestine than humans, this means that food moves through the dogs GI  tract faster than it moves through a humans GI Tract; To ensure that your dog's digestive system has the opportunity to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients from vegetables and fruit it is important (especially with vegetables which have a tougher cell wall structure) to help the dog's GI tract by breaking down the vegetable's (or fruit's) cell-walls before you feed it to your dog;
    • You can breakdown the cell walls by choosing one of the following method's...
      1. Finely chop fruit and vegetables - either by hand or with a food processor;

      2. Lightly steam vegetables, or
      3. Freeze the vegetables or fruit first, thaw and then give them to your dog;
    • Make a smoothie as per the example just below.
    • By choosing one of these four methods to breakdown the food's cell-wall you:
      • Perform the first stage of digestion, so your dog's GI tract has the opportunity to absorb nutrients properly, and; 
      • You greatly reduce the chance of your dog choking on a hard piece of vegetable.


The photo above is a freshly pureed batch of fruits and vegetables for my own dogs. I make a large batch to last about 20 days. I package and freeze the puree into daily portions

Most fruit has a softer cell wall than vegetables;
  • You don't have to chop berries such as blackberries and raspberries;
    • But you should cut most other fruit up in smaller pieces, and:
    • Harder fruits like apples and pineapples are best if chopped finely; 
  •  If you are giving your dog frozen fruit:
    •  You should chop the fruit up to avoid a choking hazard;  
    • I add fresh finely minced ginger and ground cinnamon, and sometimes mint, fresh apples, pears - toss the mixture into the food processor and blend the 3 or 4 items together.
Make a Smoothie for Your Dog
  
Green Leafy Smoothie
If you want to give your dog fresh leafy greens - such as romaine, kale, spinach, beet greens, etc. you can...
  • Chop the greens either by hand or in a food processor and mix a little into your dog's food, or;
  • You can toss the greens into a blender with some homemade chicken stock and make a smoothie - store in the refrigerator for up to three days and just add to your dog's food once a day...
    • X-Small Dogs and Cats - 1 tbs;
    • Small Dogs and Cats – 1/8 cup;
    • Medium size dogs – ¼ cup;
    • Large dogs – 1/3 to ½ cup.
Fruit Smoothie 
If you want to give your dog fresh or frozen fruit in a nutrient rich smoothie...
  • Toss the fruit into a blender with some kefir or yogurt or use homemade chicken stock to make a smoothie - store in the refrigerator for up to three days and just add to your dog's food once a day...
    • X-Small Dogs and Cats - 1 tbs;
    • Small Dogs and Cats – 1/8 cup;
    • Medium size dogs – ¼ cup;
    • Large dogs – 1/3 to ½ cup.
Do's and Don't s:
 

Don't...
  1. Don’t give your dog produce that is going bad - moldy, rotting, slimy, you can make your dog very ill.
  2. Don't mix fresh whole or coarsely cut fruit and veggies with a main protein meal.
    1. You CAN add fruit and vegetables to a main protein meal if you do one or a combination of the following -
      1. Finely chop, mince the fruit or veggies before adding to the meal;
      2. Steam the fruit or veggies before adding to the meal;
      3. Use thawed frozen fruit or veggies.
Do...
  1. Wash the food item to remove dirt, contaminates, and as much pesticide/herbicide as can be removed if the produce is not organic.
  2. As mentioned above do cut/chop/shred fresh vegetables into small pieces - a food processor is great for finely chopping fruits and veggies.
  3. Finely chopped or minced fruit and vegetables::
    1.  Can be properly digested. 
      1.  As explained further above a dog cannot properly digest uncut, whole fruit and vegetables .
    2. Larger pieces of vegetables and hard fruit pose a choking hazard.
      1. An example -
        1.  Zoey my 12 lb Pomeranian once got a piece of cauliflower caught in his airway - completely blocked;
        2. Zoey quickly became unconscious and if I had not known how to and did not administer the Heimlich manoeuvre and mouth to mouth resuscitation he would have died in front of my eyes.
  4. When you introduce new fruits and veggies to your dog's diet it is best to introduce each new food one at a time. If there is any kind of negative reaction, such as stomach upset or allergies you will be able to pinpoint the culprit. None of my dogs have any allergies to fruits and veggies.
Herbs
People have used herbs and spices to add flavour to food and to treat ailments for thousands of years. So it should not be surprising that there are many herbs and spices that are good for our dog's health. Herbs and spices can boost the  immune system and are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants to name just a few benefits. If you would like to find out more about herbs and spices you can add to your dog's diet click here. Herbs such as Turmeric and/or Curcumin can also help your dog loss weight and maintain a healthy weight.


Grains

Grains are not part of a dog's natural diet, here are some important points to note...
  • I recommend removing all grains from your dog's diet (including any pre-prepared processed products that contains grains - i.e. grain-in dry dog food or grain-in treats);
  • There are some dog's that after being on one or more dry dog foods - acquire an auto-immune response  which creates a food sensitivity to many foods that should not normally adversely effect a dog;
    • In some such cases one of the only food items the dog can still tolerate are grains such as rice.
    • If you must keep grain in your dog's diet:
      • Make sure that you only provide your dog with human quality grains.
      • If the grains are not human grade they can contain aflatoxins
      • Aflatoxins cause liver cancer. 
      • Grain that is sold for bird and livestock feed, grain that is used in most commercially manufactured dry and wet dog food is animal feed grade and is not screened for aflatoxins. Always cook the grains. 
  • Grains absorb liquid, so ingesting uncooked or grains that have not been pre-soaked can lead to swelling and bursting of the stomach…dangerous at the least, lethal at worst.
If you have to use grains in your dog's diet try using quinoa - its not actually a grain, and it is nutritionally dense. If you must use grains use organic grains such as …
  • Barley
  • Brown Rice
  • Bulgur
  • Millet
  • Oatmeal - steel cut
  • Pot Barley
Grains can be completely replaced by (for example) substituting a combination of sweet potato, squash etc. as demonstrated in this recipe for homemade dog food.

Fats
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are very important for the overall health of a dog. However the intake of Omega-3 and Omega-6 must be balanced correctly. The ratio should be in the range of 2:1 for Omega-3 to Omega-6. An out-of-balance ratio can disrupt the balance of pro and anti-inflammatory agents in the body and brain resulting in chronic inflammation and elevation of the risk of health issues such allergies, arthritis and diabetes and can adversely effect behaviour.  To read more about the importance of Omega Fatty Acids, what is a balanced intake and what are good as opposed to poor or dangerous sources of these vital nutrients you can read this article.

Removing Commercially Manufactured Kibble From Your Dog’s Diet

If you are thinking of completely removing commercially manufactured kibble from your dog’s diet you need to now a few things first. To make sure your dog gets a well balanced diet (without kibble) you need to include the following food stuffs in the right amounts:
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates (from starchy roots such as sweat potatoes or from grains)
  • Fruits and veggies…you can also include herbs
  • Fats
  • Minerals such as calcium, you may also need to add vitamins such as A, B complex and E and enzymes depending on the type of food you make.
If you would like to learn more about making your own dog food you can try these simple to make recipes for nutritious homemade dog food.  


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How to Choose a Good Quality Dry Food (Kibble) for Dogs, Cats

In this article:
  1. General Issues and Your Dog's, Cat's Health
  2. Specific ingredients to Avoid - What, Why and How to Select a Better Quality Product
  3. How To Safely Transition Your Dog or Cat to Better Food 
  4. A Better Alternative to Dry and Wet Processed Commercial Food
  5. To Learn more
  6. Help Feed a Shelter Dog or Cat for Free

1.0 General Issues and Your Dog's, Cat's Health

I have to start out by saying that 'good dog or cat kibble' is a relative term. The point of this article is to assist you in choosing the best of what is available in dog and cat kibble, but...
  • I have to be 100% honest with you, I have yet to find a dog or cat kibble that is truly: 
    • Nutritionally complete;
    • Truly species appropriate; 
    • Truly free-of toxins and carcinogens. 
  • In addition it is important to note that no matter what dog kibble you purchase, in order to ensure your dog's or cat's overall health you will have to supplement his/her diet with other items such as:
    • Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and; 
    • Probiotics;
    • You will see why further below.  
    • But yes, there is a vast difference between the majority of dry dog food (dog kibble) and the truly better dry dog foods.
The number of obese dogs and cats has increased in recent years. As well, so many dogs and cats are getting cancer and other diseases. 

The proof is in the numbers;  
  • Statistics recorded by veterinary organizations from the 1950's up to present day are very telling;
  • The life-span of a companion dog in North America is now half of what it was in the 1950's;   
  •  In the 1950's the average life-span of a golden retriever was 15 to 16 years, today the average is in the range of 8 to12 years; 
  • In 2005, 50% of older dogs dies from cancer, and the number is on the rise.
 There are three main reasons for this downturn in the health of dogs and cats;
  • Inappropriate diet (the wrong type of food and food that contains toxins and carcinogens);
  • Lack of exercise,and; 
  • Environmental contaminants. 
Your dog’s and cat's best defense against cancer and other diseases is a strong immune system:
  • Diet plays a big role in a dog’s and cat's ability to maintain a healthy immune system. 
  • If you are feeding commercial dry or wet food (kibble), knowing how to choose a quality product is essential for your dog’s and cat's physical and mental health and well being;
  • And please don't make the mistake of assuming that the price of a  product is reflective of that products quality and safety - it is not. 
  • Of the many thousands of types dry and wet dog and cat foods and treats available there are very few that I recommend to my clients. 


2.0 Specific Ingredients to Avoid - What, Why and How
      To Choose a Better Product


Many commercial dog and cat kibbles are comprised of ingredients that are seriously bad for our companion animals. A kibble that provides poor nutritional value, contains cancer causing and otherwise toxic ingredients provides little hope of attaining and maintaining day-to-day energy and health. In addition toxins will build-up in a dog’s body overtime. This puts great strain on the organs - such as the liver and will eventually cause organ damage and failure. Poor quality nutrition can also lead to either being underweight or overweight / obese - either of which can also trigger the onset of disease. 

Just because a product is for sale in a pet supply store or on-line through a pet supply dealer don’t ever assume that the product is actually good for your dog or cat. Also, just because the manufacture labels the food as ‘natural’ or ‘holistic’, does not mean that the product is made up of good ingredients. 

'Natural' or 'holistic' are not regulated terms in the pet food industry - the product may simply mean the ingredients were derived from a plant or animal. In North America 'USDA  Certified Organic' is the only term that can actually be taken as a gurantee that the food does not contain:
  • Carcinogenic Fumigants;
  • Genetically Modified (GM) Ingredients, Genetically Engineered (GE) Ingredients;
  • Chemical Solvents;
  • Toxic Pesticides.
In addition, although the product may contain 1) fruit and vegetables, 2) probiotics...
1) The fruit and vegetables used:
  • May have been rotting - not fit for human consumption so they were used for pet food (there is no law currently in place that prevents a company from saying that the ingredients they are using in their kibble is first quality - they do not have to prove that this statement is true);
  • May be full of pesticides and herbicides.
2) The  'probiotics'  (i.e. Lb. acidophilus) used are rendered useless:
  • By the time the kibble is fully processed and ready the benefits that would normally be derived from fruit, vegetables and probiotics have been decimated by the processing process. 
To be effective, probiotics must be live. The beneficial micro-organisms and probiotics required by the GI tract are susceptible to heat damage. Most commercially made dry pet food is sterilised or pasteurized - canned food is prepared using dry heat. The only way in which the manufacturers can add probiotics to these foods is by coating the products with a liquid or powder after processing is complete. This presents two fundamental problems: the coating is inconsistent, and preservation of the probiotic is not possible with current technologies.

While I believe that fresh whole foods have much to offer your dog in the way of diverse nutrition to support overall health, boost the immune system, promote good oral health etc., once these foods have been commercially and highly processed overall value can be completely minimized.

Unknowingly you may be paying a manufacturer to seriously compromise the health and shorten the life of your dog and cat. On the other hand you may be feeding your dog and cat a very good  product. Unless you know a little more detail about how to discern true quality in a kibble product it is very difficult to identify good from bad. The same principles discussed in this article are also applicable to dog treats. I don't mince my words here becasue your dog's and cat's health and life depend upon someone speaking the truth.

Before we get into the detailed facts regarding what makes a food a good product or bad product , I just want to briefly address the issue of cost to the consumer - you!

Let’s Define ‘Quality’ In Broad Terms

In broad terms what is meant by ‘quality’ as pertains to this discussion? Well…

Just because the ingredients in a dog and cat food are said to be inspected by authorities having jurisdiction, i.e. CFIA (for Canada) or USDA (for USA) it is no reassurance that the product is truly a safe and nutritional food product for your dog. CFIA and the USDA allow great leeway in the inclusion of poor quality and toxic ingredients in pet foods.
    Also very important to note  -  just because a dog or cat food product  is AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)approved, does not mean that the food is a good or even safe to consume product. 
    • Although AAFCO promotes themselves as a 'governing' body of the pet food industry - they are self-proclaimed. 
    • While AAFCO does include some US state and federal representatives, AAFCO it is NOT a federal or state government organization. 
    • AAFCO is a partisan organization that includes people directly involved in the pet food manufacturing industry. 
    • AAFCO's true reason for existing is not to support the health of your dog, it exists to promote the pet food industry in its drive to produce the biggest possible margin of profit.  
    • AAFCO is directly responsible for the unclear labeling on pet food products including dry and wet dog food and treats;
    • AAFCO allows toxins and carcinogens into the food that they 'approve';
    • AAFCO is responsible for the confusion around poor vs. good quality.

    In my opinion a good 'Quality' dog or cat food:
    • Does NOT contain any non-species appropriate food stuffs;
    • Does not contain toxins and carcinogens;
    • Derives its protein, fat and carbs from truly good quality food stuffs;
    More on that further below...

    Does a Good Quality Kibble Really Cost you More than Poor Quality Kibble?

    I have seen many pet supply stores and large retailers selling a poor quality kibble for the same or more than they are selling a better quality kibble. And yes, better and really good quality kibbles may be more expensive to purchase at the cash register (than inexpensive kibbles) but the actual cost of these products is not necessarily higher once you get home and open that bag of food. 

    What do I mean by this statement? Well, a dog kibble that is comprised of poor quality ingredients offers less digestible high quality nutrition so you have to feed your dog  or cat considerably more kibble to at least part way met his/her nutritional needs than you would if the kibble was comprised of quality ingredients. You will go through a 40lb bag of poor quality kibble much faster than you will go through a 30lb bag of good quality kibble.

    Now Let’s Look at Good vs. Bad in Detail

    What we really want to make sure of is that we don’t purchase product a) comprised of  poor quality nutrition, b) minimize the carcinogens and other toxic components.

    Synthetic Additives, Preservatives & Colouring Agents
    Many off-the-shelf dog foods and treats contain synthetic additives, preservatives and colouring - many are proven carcinogens. These substances are added to the kibble to help stabilize the product and enhance its appearance. The most common of these preservatives are BHA, BHT, EQ (ethoxyquin), propyl gallate. You can read more about preservatives to avoid here. Then there are artificial colouring agents and additives such as glycerol monostearate, phosphoric acid and propylene glycol (this is used in antifreeze - antifreeze kills dogs!). Read product labels - if the product you are looking at contains these ingredients put it back on the shelf! Instead look for products that contain ‘natural preservatives’ and antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and mixed tocopherols.
     
    Minimize the Poor Nutrition and the ‘Unknown’ in Your Dog’s Diet
    Once again, many off-the-shelf dog and cat foods contain food stuffs from unknown sources. These food stuffs are cheap source fillers that provide poor quality nutrition and can be full of unknown chemicals, steroids and antibiotics, petroleum derivatives, aflatoxins, etc. 

    Grains and Poor Quality Legumes
    In the 1950's the percentage of grain products used in kibble increased dramatically and has since continued to reign as the most common ingredient in commercially manufactured dog kibble. Many of these grain products are added primarily as fillers. 

    Two of the most commonly used grains /legumes are corn and soy - both GMO in North America and both seriously damaging to your dog's and cat's health.

    These products are included:
    • For the benefit of the manufacture’s cost margin and profit, not for the benefit of your dog or cat;
    • To help bind the ingredients in kibble together.
    Not only are grains not a species appropriate food for a dog or cat, the digestibility and nutrition available from many grain products is negligible. Your dog and cat ends up consuming a lot of filler with very little nutrient value. This is very deceptive as you think you are feeding your dog and cat enough and his stools are sizable (due to the high filler indigestible fibre content), but his nutrient intake is low. Here is a list of some of these low nutrient, cheap fillers…brewers rice, cereal food fines (leftovers from human grade cereal production -  junk), feeding oat meal, grain fermentation soluble, maltodextrins, fermentation solubles, potato product (leftovers from human grade potato product production - nutritional value, nil), soy flour, corn bran, corn cellulose, oat hulls, peanut hulls, rice hulls, soybean and wheat mill run (wheat middlings), corn germ meal, corn gluten meal, soybean meal (these last three ingredients are often included as a source of protein - very poor quality protein!).

    While some of these fillers are derived from the leftovers of human food processing - as the product at the end of the line, they can be full of chemicals. They can also be from non-human grade sources. If the grains/grain derivatives are not from human grade sources they will contain aflatoxins. Aflatoxins cause liver cancer. Aflatoxins grow mainly on grains but they also grow on legumes - like peanuts, walnuts and pecans. This is one reason why you will hear some people say do not give your dogs nuts! Actually it is fine to give your dog peanuts or peanut butter - they are a good source of nutrition - just make sure you are giving them human grade. 

    Aflatoxins can also be found in cottonseed oil, fish meal and peanut oil. Human grade foods are monitored closely for aflatoxins, if they are present the raw product (such as grain) is not allowed to be sold as human grade. There are no such regulations for animal grade foods so aflatoxins so most commercial grade dog, cat and bird food will have some aflatoxins...the body can usually detoxify small amounts. 

    Rye is another grain that can cause problems for your dog. Rye contains polysaccharides (classified as a type of carbohydrate and biological polymer, starch and cellulose). The problem is not that rye contains this substance but the fact that it contains a high content of polysaccharides (i.e. in comparison with other grains such as wheat and corn). Why is that bad? Well polysaccharides interfere with the body's ability to utilize nutrients. Additionally, rye contains alkylresorcinol in high levels - this substance is a known to irritate intestinal and mucous membranes and can also retard growth.
     
    Another thing to consider…
    • Corn and soybeans in the USA and Canada are almost all grown from Genetically Modified (GM) seeds - the long term affect of ingesting GM food is not known. 
    • Further to this, large factory farms use a method to process soy that leaves it very high in photoestrogens. 
      • Photoestrogens have been proven to interfere with reproduction and thyroid function. Factory farming processing methods for soy also result in a product that is very high in phytates. 
      • Phytates prevent mineral absorption as well as substances that prevent the normal function of enzymes required to digest protein.  
      • Traditional methods of processing soy by fermentation (as employed in Japan and China) greatly reduces photoestrogens, and phytates, thus making consumption of the resulting soy, safe and nutritional. 
    • And one last thumbs down for large factory farm produced soy - it has one of the highest concentrations of pesticides found in North American crops. 
      • For example, large factory farm soybean crops receive heavy applications of the potent herbicide glyphosate -  a powerful toxin and carcinogen. 
      • The vast majority of soy derivatives (i.e. soybean oil, soy meal, soy milk, tofu and everything in-between) found in both feedstock and human food is contaminated with high amounts of glyphosate. 
    Look for off-the-shelf dog food that specifies that the ingredients are from first grade or human grade sources.  

    Grains are not part of a dog's natural diet! This includes whole corn kernels and corn derivatives (i.e. corn bran, corn cellulose, corn meal are just fillers offering little nutritional value if any). While rice offer better nutritional digestibility than many of the grain products noted above…rice is also not species appropriate food. Sweet potatoes, legumes such as chickpeas and lentils and squash are a better and nutrient dense source of carbohydrates. 

    Fiber
    High quality fiber such as the fiber from fresh fruits and vegetables is very different from the low quality fiber found in many off-the-shelf dog food products. Again, low grade fiber is added as cheap filler for the benefit of the manufacture’s cost margin and profit, not for the benefit of your dog. Cellulose derived from dried, processed wood is the most common form of cellulose (hard to believe but true!), corn bran (GM product), oat hulls, peanut hulls, rice hulls, soybean middlings (GM product) and wheat middlings. These ingredients may also contain aflatoxins. If the product has a lot of these ingredients put it back on the shelf. Veterinarian prescribed dog and cat food is notorious for containing these fillers. A perfect example of when cost is NOT a reflection of quality, and in-fact you can be paying a lot of money to seriously endanger the health of your dog. Another example of just how badly many prescription foods can be - you can take a look at section 7.0 of this article - what you see will shock you.

    Protein
    Protein should be the first ingredient in your dogs kibble…but there are issues to be aware of with protein sources too. Protein may come from poultry (chicken, duck, etc.), cattle, swine, lamb…the problem is often what goes into the kibble is not the quality cuts of meat - lean muscle tissue. Instead the animal parts that are added to a lot of kibble is the by-products - the bones, blood, intestines, ligaments, and many other parts not sold for human consumption. Here is a list of protein sources that you should avoid - again, if these are listed in the product, put it back on the shelf…beef and bone meal, blood meal, chicken by-product meal, corn distillers dried grains with solubles, corn germ meal, corn gluten meal, fish meal, liver meal, meat and bone meal, meat meal, pork and bone meal, poultry by-product meal, poultry meal and soybean meal. As these ingredients are loosely regulated they may be from 4-D animals (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), road-kill, animals euthanized at ‘shelters’ (euthanization includes the use of harmful chemicals, also the animals may have been diseased), the ingredients may also include pus, cancerous tissue, decomposing tissue, etc.

    Fish Meal
    If the kibble you are feeding your dog or cat contains fish meal - I would advise you to do some serious research to make sure that the manufacturer states that their products ARE ethoxyquin-free.  You will not see ethoxyquin listed under ingredients on dog and cat food labels as ethoxyquin is an ingredient in an ingredient - meaning it is added to fish meal and the fish meal is then added to the food. You will have to either call the manufacture or do a search on their website or on the internet to see if you can find a disclaimer where the manufacturer gurantees that their product is ethoxyquin-free.

    Many pet food manufacturers purchase their fish meal from processing plants that put ethoxyquin into the fish meal. Ethoxyquin - is a pesticide that is also used in animal feed to stop fats from going rancid. Ethoxyquin is a very dangerous substance - it IS a known carcinogen, allergen and more. Due to its extreme health hazard, ethoxyquin has been banned from use in human food. To understand more about this dangerous substance and why you do NOT want it in your dog's or cat's food you can read more here.

    The Diamond Pet Foods is a perfect example of a manufacturer that continues to use fish meal with ethoxyquin. Some of the products manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods are - Taste of the Wild, Costco's Kirkland Lake Dog and Cat food, Diamond, Diamond Naturals. Diamond has also had a lot of pet food product recalls.

    Fats
    Animal and poultry fat is added to a lot of kibble. Again these are the rancid fats and oil by products that are not sold for human consumption. Waste from restaurants and food manufacturing is saved and then refined by rendering companies, who then turn around and sell it to pet food manufactures. The manufactures add them to their poor quality kibble to give it taste and to help the ingredients bind together. The following are the ingredients you should avoid…animal fat, beef tallow, lard, poultry fat, vegetable oil. Again the source of these fats can also be from 4-D animals and the vegetable oil is likely to be poor quality and/or GM.

    Sweeteners
    Sweeteners are not required in your dog’s or cat's diet! In fact they are not good for your dog or cat. They are added to many pet foods to make the food more attractive - think about it, some of these products have a lot of fillers - no taste…so the sweeteners give the food some taste. If the product you are going to buy has these ingredients you know want to do - re-shelve it: cane molasses, corn syrup, fructose, sorbitol, sugar, di-alpha tocopherol acetate. Remember daily intake of sweeteners is just as bad for dogs as it is for humans. Sugar suppresses the immune system - making it easier for cancer to take hold. Sweeteners also cause allergies, arthritis, cataracts, hypoglycaemia, heart ailments, nervous energy, tooth decay, obesity and so on. The more your dog’s and cat's health is compromised the harder it is for your dog’s and cat's body to fight diseases including cancer, to fight off insects and parasites and so on.  If you would like to see a more comprehensive list of ingredients to avoid you can click here.

    Sugar, syrup and molasses are all health threats to your companion animal - these sugars are a double health threat...
    • Due to their inflammatory properties;
    • Typically the sweeteners used in dog and cat food are not quality products;
      • Sugar beets in North America are a genetically modified (GMO) genetically engineered food;
      • So, much like the Round-up Ready Corn and soy, GMO sugar beets are high in pesticide residue and may cause acquired cell mutation in dogs and cats.
      • Although sugar from sugar cane is not GMO, it is an inflammatory;
      • Sugar from corn is a GMO, GE product, high in pesticide residue, and has been proven to cause the growth of tumors;
        • Syrup and molasses are both made from sugar;
      • Raw Unpasturized Honey is the only sweetener that provides health benefits for dogs and cats BUT the beneficial properties of honey are destroyed by pasteurization, by heating and cooking. 
        • If a dog or cat food or treat contains honey - the honey becomes a health threatening sweetener if it was:
          • a pasturized honey;
          • if the food or treat has been heat processed.

    3.0 How to Safely Transition Your Dog, Cat to New Food

    If you are going to switch your dog’s kibble don’t switch his food overnight.
    Add a little of the new food to the old food. Gradually increase the amount of new food and decrease the amount of old food until the old is completely replaced by new. This process should be carried out over several days to several weeks depending on the hardiness of your dog’s and cat's digestive system. Some dogs and cats are very sensitive to changes in their diet while others dogs are not.

    If you have switched your dog’s or cat's food before with no deleterious affects and you know your dog’s system is hardy you can shorten the phasing in of the new food. 

    If you want to see some examples of bad, better and good dry dog food you can read this article.The strictures noted on the article also pertain to cat food.


    4.0 A Better Alternative to Dry and Wet Commercial Food

    You Can Also Make Your Own Dog and Cat Food and Treats
    If you would like to try making healthy, nutritious home-made dog and cat food to either supplement or completely phase-out dog or cat kibble you can try these home made recipes I developed for the health of my dogs and cats...
    Homemade Cooked Food Recipe
    Homemade Chicken or Meat Broth
      
     
    5.0 To Learn More

    To Learn More About Enriching Your Dog's Diet
    You can explore ma wealth of information in my many articles on dog and cat diet, nutrition, health and care here.

    To Learn More About Discerning Good vs. Bad Kibble
    If you would like to look at the subject (of what makes a kibble good or bad) in further depth I recommend that you take a look at the Dog Food Project’s website section on Commercial Dry Foods.

    An Independent Review of 100's of Brands and Types of Kibble
    If you would like to see an extensive listing of Dry Dog Food reviewed by an independent group I you can take a look at the Dog Food Advisor’s website page on Dry Dog Food. I don't really like the site myself as it does not educate people regarding the real issues at hand - what makes a good food for a dog or cat. Why do I say that? The site does not address the most basic of elements that can make a food good or bad - for example:
    • Grain-in foods are not rated as inappropriate for the species canine, feline;
    • The many toxic, carcinogenic, short and long term threats posed by grains are not explained;
    • Yes a dry food may have a high meat-porotein content but if the animal from which that meat was obtained (i.e. chicken, cow, etc) was feed GMO corn, was injected with growth hormones, steroids, antibiotics - your dog or cat is ingesting the hormones, steroids, antibiotics, etc. This is one of the reasons for the explosion of thyroid problems, antibiotic resistance and high rates of cancer in our companion animals.
    • There is no mention of omega insufficiency in these foods or of the poor source of the fats - i.e. from a GMO plant crop;
    • Non-viable ingredients such as probiotics are not addressed - good bacteria) micro-organisms) cannot survive the processing required to create dry dog food.
    • Etc.  


    6.0 Holistic Support

    Additional Assistance - Holistic Health and Wellness Service
    If you require additional support, and guidance - contact me to discuss your requirements. I will determine the appropriate course of action for your situation and I will let you know the applicable fees. I offer consultative services to clients around the world...
    Diet, Nutrition Wellness Services
    • Unbiased Diet, Nutrition, Product Advice - information and payment here >>. 
    • Holistic Diet, Nutrition Wellness Plans - information and payment here >>.
    Dog Obedience Training and Behavior Modification Services
    • In-Person sessions - information and payment here >>.
    • On-Line consultation and sessions - information and payment here >>.
    7.0 Help Feed a Shelter Dog or Cat for Free
    You can do so by clicking on the following links…when you go to these sites and click on the button corporate sponsors donate kibble to homeless pets on your behalf. I click on all three sites every day.



    The Animal Rescue Site