Home Made Diet for Specific Health Issues
The best diets for both dogs and cats are natural ones, coming as close as possible to the diet they would eat in the wild. Cats are naturally carnivorous and have a high protein requirement, while dogs tend to be more scavenging and eat more of a variety of foods, requiring somewhat less protein than cats. It is possible, but not easy, to feed a dog a balanced vegetarian diet, though I do not really recommend it. It is, however, almost impossible to feed cats a purely vegetarian diet. If one looks at the teeth of cats and dogs, and counts the number of grinding teeth, and the number of tearing and shearing teeth a ratio can be worked out of the protein, carbohydrate and fat content that the diet should consist of, for both species.
Pets today are fed highly processed and artificial foods, composed of unnatural ingredients, such as soymeal, artificial colorings and flavorings, as well as harmful preservatives such as BHA and ethoxyquin. The meat content is often composed of by-products, which can be anything from cancerous tissues, to diseased organs and can be anything that is considered not fit for human consumption. If we would not eat these things why should we expect our pets to do so? Even relatively good pet foods, which may not contain harmful additives, with the trend to preservatives such as vitamin E, are still nowhere as good as feeding your pet a natural, preferably organic, balanced diet, similar to what they would eat in the wild. Think of it this way – a fast food hamburger meal may be completely nutritionally balanced as the Medifast diet, but do you think you would be healthy if you ate it every day of your life?
Generally I recommend Grain Free Raw Food Diets and for more information Click Here. The diets below I use for situations where the raw food might not be possible, or for transitioning to a raw food diet where a gentler approach is needed due to health concerns. Please consult with your veterinarian before choosing these diets to determine the best diet for your individual animal.
A good basic transition diet for dogs should be composed of 50% grains, which should ideally be boiled or steamed. This more closely matches semi-digested grains in the stomachs of the animals that dogs consume in the wild, which is an important part of their diet. The staple grain is usually brown rice, but other organic wholegrains such as oatmeal, barley, millet, corn or amaranth can also be added for variety. Vegetables should make up about 25% of the complete cooked diet and I also recommend boiling or steaming these lightly, then chopping them finely depending on the preference of the individual pet. Some larger dogs love their vegetables whole or raw and this is fine, while some smaller breeds may enjoy them made into more of a puree in a food processor. It is also fine to finely grate raw vegetables such as carrots or zucchini. Virtually all vegetables are acceptable, although favorites include carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, yellow squash, zucchini and Brussels sprouts.
The protein content should be also about 25% although some people prefer to feed higher, especially to young, active, working animals, pregnant females, and growing puppies. If the meat is organic and fresh it can be safely fed raw, which is the ideal. A healthy dog should have enough acid in the stomach to safely kill pathogenic bacteria. If the source of the meat is suspect it may be lightly steamed or boiled, and you may do this if you are nervous about feeding your dog raw meat, or if your dog is older or sick and tolerates lightly cooked meat better. I would not recommend feeding raw pork, because of parasites, and anyhow prefer beef, chicken turkey or rabbit as a protein source. Organ meats such as heart, liver or kidney can also be fed once or twice a week. Liver is very nutritious and large quantities are not required, or recommended because of the high levels of vitamin A but a small amount once or twice a week is a good addition to the diet. A large raw organic beef leg bone fed once a week is an excellent dietary addition and keeps your dogs teeth free of plaque and gum disease.
An occasional egg is also acceptable, and these can be fed raw or cooked, although some people prefer to remove the egg white when feeding them raw because this contains an enzyme which can denature biotin, an important B vitamin in the body. Personally I feed my dogs an occasional raw egg, just as they might scavenge in the wild, and have seen no problems from this, and they love it. Fish is also acceptable and this is also something that dogs, and other wild carnivores would eat in the wild if they had the opportunity to do so. The best way to measure the diet is to make mix 2 measures (such as a cup) of grains with one measure of vegetables and one measure of meat. It is also essential to add vitamins and minerals to the diet. Consult with a holistic veterinarian for specifics.
The basic transition cat diet should be composed of 60 % protein, which should consist of organic ground beef, raw or cooked organic chicken, eggs once a week if desired as well as some cooked fish or other meats such as turkey, rabbit or organ meats. The same thing applies about feeding organ meats, as it does for dogs, so once or twice a week a small quantity can be fed such as a couple of teaspoons. Again it is fine to lightly steam or boil the meat and some people use the broth from the meat if it is boiled to flavor the rice and vegetables. Approximately 20% of the cats diet should be composed of vegetables which can be lightly steamed broccoli, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, corn, or any other vegetables that your cat happens to enjoy. Some cats love cucumber for example and others also love fruits such as melon, mango or apple, and if your cat enjoys these healthy treats it is fine to supplement their diet this way.
The grain content of the diet should be about 20% once again, and the staple should also be brown rice, steamed or boiled then it is best to puree it down to a finer consistency for the cats shorter digestive tract, though once again this can depend upon the individuals cats’ preference and digestive tract. Other grains that cats enjoy include amaranth, oatmeal, cous-cous, barley, millet and these should be well cooked and mixed in with the brown rice. You may just have to experiment to find out what your cat likes best, some cats can be incredibly picky and be addicted to their unhealthy junk food diet! Other cats, especially when raised this way love nothing more than their raw food diet and are a joy to look at! Once again a vitamin and mineral supplement is essential and it is important to ensure that cats get enough of the essential amino acid taurine, as a deficiency of this can lead to blindness.
If all this sounds daunting there are several practical options that you can do to improve things a little for your pet, and in our hectic lives at least try to make time to do one little thing to make your pet healthier. Ideally it is of course best to feed a pure natural diet as described above. Some people try and feed this as much as possible and add in a good multi-vitamin and mineral mix as well, which are commercially available. The quantity to feed of the cooked diet is usually slightly less than the dog food you were feeding, but should be digested to the weight, metabolism and appetite of the individual animal. It is often just trial and error at first until you find the correct quantity to feed to maintain your pet at their healthy optimum weight.
If it is just not possible to cook for your pet then try and find a natural pet food, with no artificial preservatives, colorings or flavorings. Try to avoid especially preservatives such as BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin, which may cause an increased incidence of liver cancer. Try and mix in with the dog food some extra vegetables, grains and meats each day, and increase to the amount you can manage to feed every day. Feed the vitamin and mineral supplement supplement as well. This can be an acceptable compromise if you are just too busy to cook but want to do something to improve things for your animals. Good dogs foods to consider include Solid Gold, Wysong, Natures Recipe or other natural pet foods.
Try to give your pet a month trial on a natural diet, and look for the difference. There should be increased vitality and energy. The coat should be shiny and free of grease and dry skin, the stools should be firm and not bulky and smelling of unnatural waste products. Your animal will probably eat and drink less and pass less stool since the food they are eating is nutritionally more complete with much fewer fillers and waste products and this is nothing to be alarmed about. The muscles should begin to tone up and feel firm and your pet should lose fat, and look trim and fit. There should be a definite improvement in the overall level of health of your pet. Animals kept and raised on a natural diet are more disease free, happier and livelier, than when raised on commercial pet foods and should live a longer and healthier life. Remember it is never too late to start and your pet will love you for it!!!
Introduce the diet gradually over a few days, mixing it in gradually over the time period, as a too sudden change in diet can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. After about a week when your pet is eating the diet well, then phase out the pet food entirely. If your animal is reluctant to eat their new diet try not to give up. Try adding enticing foods such as sardine, tamari sauce or a little tunafish or meat flavor baby food. Cats can be especially difficult, but it is worth trying different foods and giving it a fair chance. Have a positive attitude and talk to your pet, telling them how good the food is, how much better they will feel and how you love them and want them to eat the diet. They will understand and pick up on your attitude, and if you are genuinely enthusiastic about the change they will pick up on that. After a month on the new diet there should be a definite change for the better, and by four months your pet should show the maximum benefits of the new lifestyle! Good luck good cooking and remember the importance of fresh air and regular exercise for both you and your pet! Don’t forget to have fun!!
RAW FOOD DIETS
There has been an important shift to raw food diets – for more information visit the links below.
For cat and raw food diet premixes please visit Feline Instincts
I do recommend raw food diets in general, as well as cooked for specific situations, but would recommend changing over to a raw food diet under supervision of a trained nutritionist or a holistic veterinarian, especially if your pet has health issues of any kind.
- Dr. Pitcairn´s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, Rodale Press 1995, updated.
- Anitra Frazier’s The New Natural Cat, Plume Books, 1995.
- The Healthy Dog and Cat Cookbook, Joan Harper, Pet Press 1988.
- The Complete Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, Faber and Faber, 1981.
- Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats, Diane Stein, The Crossing Press, 1993.
- Give Your Dog a Bone by Ian Billinghurst
Dr. Anna Maria Wolf is a holistic veterinarian, based in Washington State, and practices acupuncture and homeopathy, herbology and other holistic modalities. She lives on the Olympic Peninsula with her teenager and a lot of rescue animals including one dog, six cats, four goats, guinea-pigs, two cockatoos, a donkey, a horse, a flock of chickens, geese and a dozen rescue ducks and several reptiles.