Cats need wet food

•November 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

The natural diet of cats is meat

Cats are meat eaters, designed to thrive on a wide variety of small prey animals, eaten fresh and whole. Their natural diet is high in water and protein, with a moderate amount of fat, and a very low percentage of carbohydrate.


Dry cat food is high in grain

A diet of dry food is high in carbohydrate, between 35 and 50%. “Diet” and “Lite” foods have even more. Dry food contains almost no water.


Dry cat food is convenient to feed, and it’s relatively inexpensive, but it’s the opposite of the natural diet of cats. Cats have no dietary need for any carbohydrate.


Cats need to get water from their food

Cats are descended from feline desert dwellers.  These cats did not have the option to stroll over to the water hole for a drink, and cat tongues are not even very well designed for drinking water. Cats are adapted to obtain most of their water from their prey, which contain over 75% water. Cats who eat dry food consume only half the water of those who eat wet food, and live in a state of chronic dehydration.


Common health problems of cats are related to diet

There is increasing evidence, published in peer-reviewed veterinary journals, that many of the health problems seen in cats are the result of diets inappropriate for a feline. Dry, grain-based foods fed to a meat eater, over time, result in both chronic and life threatening diseases.



Since cats are designed for a high-protein, moderate fat, low carbohydrate diet, it is not surprising that obesity is often seen in cats. Diet cat foods have even more carbohydrate than regular ones, and less fat, so they depart even further from the natural diet of cats, making it harder for them to lose weight.



The high level of carbohydrate in dry cat food contributes directly to the development of diabetes in cats. Blood sugar levels rise when cats eat dry food. When this is an ongoing event, insulin producing cells downregulate, which leads to diabetes.


Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is the most common cause of death for cats. The kidneys require an abundant supply of water to do their job. Without water to process the byproducts of the digestion process, the kidneys are overloaded, become unable to do their job, and are damaged over time.


Bladder Problems

Cystitis, bladder irritation, and Bladder/Kidney stone formation are also strongly connected to dehydration. If the body is well hydrated, these problems are minimized.


Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome and Disease

These problems are often characterized by vomiting and diarrhea and are very common in cats. Cats who eat a species- appropriate diet rarely suffer from these issues.


Dental Disease

Dry food has a high sugar (carbohydrate) content, which has been shown to cause dental decay.


In order for any supposed abrasive benefit from dry foods to be seen, cats would have to actually chew their dry food. Since dry food shatters and they then swallow the pieces, there’s no abrasive action from chewing something hard.


Cats who eat dry food often have very severe dental problems. Many factors contribute to dental health, but it is clear that a high carbohydrate diet is not beneficial!


The solution — a diet appropriate for the species

It’s simple: cats need to eat a diet that is high in protein and water, with a moderate amount of fat, and almost no carbohydrate.


Most of the health problems we discussed above are either radically improved or eliminated by eating a diet that meets the needs of a carnivore – one which closely resembles the nutritional balance provided by a mouse.


For example, many veterinarians now treat diabetes with a meat-based canned diet. We’d like to go a step further, and prevent these diseases.


Feed your cat a meat based diet!

We suggest that you buy canned food that is designed to be complete, or complete frozen diets that have very little vegetable content. No grain sources should be listed in the ingredient panel. There are grain free canned cat foods that have some vegetables in them, but the vegetables should  not be a major component of the food (see our article about how to compute) “All meat” diets are just that, all meat, and they will not meet your cat’s nutritional needs alone.


Make the switch successful!

It sounds simple to just switch your cat’s food—after all, meat tastes better than dry food! Your cat may disagree. Dry foods are designed to be tasty, and many cats are addicted to them. Often, cats are not open to the idea of variety, especially if they have only been fed one food (as we have been advised by pet food companies for decades). Creativity and patience may be needed to switch your cat.


Cats will starve themselves, and they are not good candidates for the tough love approach. Some very serious conditions can occur if cats do not eat for an extended period, especially if cats are overweight. A slow switch will prevent problems.


Here are some ideas to help you along –


Establish regular feeding times and put food away in between meals. For many reasons, it’s best for the body not to have food available all the time. If you have dogs, you know what to do with leftovers!


Feed multiple cats separately.


Consider dry food to be a snack only, not left out all the time – a few pieces as a treat. This is the equivalent of “kitty junk food”.


Offer bits of other kinds of fresh food that you are eating. They may be refused, but one day….they won’t. Your goal is to get your cat to consider things as food other than dry, crunchy items.


Cat whiskers are very sensitive. If food is served in a bowl that interferes with whiskers, it could be enough to keep the cat from considering the food. A flat dish works well.


Cats generally prefer their food between room temperature and body temperature. The dry food cats are used to eating is designed to be very smelly. Warming the food releases the flavors and fragrances. Cats choose food by smell, and wet food is a lot less fragrant than a commercial food they have been eating. This is often the reason that the second half of a can of food is refused — the first time it was room temperature!


Trickery has been known to work with cats; put the food on YOUR plate, or hide it in a location cats know to be forbidden…creativity helps!


Additions and considerations


Add sardines for good fats, or use fish oil. A meal of sardines once a week or one small sardine a day adds omega-3 fatty acids in their best form – whole food. Cats can’t use plant sources of omega-3s at all – animal sources are necessary. If sardines don’t appeal to you, you can use a– fresh, well-preserved, omega-3 fish oil supplement with vitamin E.


Digestive enzymes and a glandular supplement are good additions to replace the parts of prey animals we normally don’t feed: the stomach contents and smaller glands.


We think that the optimum diet for cats is a raw meat based diet.


However, if you feed a canned diet that approximates the balance of the natural diet of cats, their diet will be fully hydrated, and you will be much closer to providing your cat with optimum nutrition.


If you choose to feed meat based canned diet, find a way to simulate components lost in cooking or processing.


One way to add live food is with “Cat grass”, very popular with cats.  It’s often available in the produce section at the grocery store, or you can grow your own from a kit. This addition often takes the burden off the house plants! Dry “green stuff” is another choice (“Barley Cat” is one product). It takes a very small quantity of a dry product to do the job. Too much can make urine pH too alkaline, and cause some of the problems you’re trying to get away from! Tiny pinches of dry green stuff go a long way.


For cats, good diet can make the difference between “”Old Age” at 12, and “Old Age” at 23. Cats who eat dry food are often old and ill at 9 or 10 – healthy cats can live a very long time, and that’s what we hope for your feline carnivore!


Brazil nuts can help your dog live longer!

•November 18, 2007 • 1 Comment

Add a Brazil nut to your dog’s diet to help prevent cancer, the leading disease killer of dogs. Read about the critical cancer-fighting difference between the sodium selenite used in most dry dog foods and the selenomethionine found in Brazil nuts and other foods


A variety of fresh food is best for animals and humans

Human nutrition and lifestyle studies prove that we can improve the odds that we will live long, healthy lives.  It’s simple: Eat a variety of fresh, minimally-processed foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Stay lean, exercise often, and avoid toxins.  Good nutrition is critical.  Dietary habits may be instrumental in about 60% of cancers in women and about 40% in men. (1)


Good diets are just as important for dogs. Unfortunately, many of our dogs are eating diets composed exclusively of highly processed, grain-based foods with synthetic vitamins and minerals.  Even the best of the “healthy” dry foods are grain-based. No wonder one in three dogs will die of cancer!  One easy step you can take to help your dog live longer is to add crushed Brazil nuts, a source of natural forms of selenium, to his food. 


Selenium is essential to health, and hard to find

Selenium is an essential trace mineral of fundamental importance to human and canine health.  Adequate selenium is necessary for the normal functioning of the immune system and thyroid gland.   Selenium is receiving considerable attention for its possible role as an effective naturally occurring anti-carcinogenic agent.  Recently, the American Association for Cancer Research reported than high selenium consumption may protect humans from bladder cancer. (2)  Animal studies have shown a beneficial effect of high selenium levels in the prevention of cancer. (3)


The form of the selenium is important: Natural, food-derived forms of selenium may have beneficial effects not shared by human-synthesized selenium compounds. (4)


Dogs evolved consuming two organic forms of selenium: selenomethionine (an essential amino acid found primarily in plants) and selenocysteine (an amino acid found mostly in organ meats).  Most dry and canned dog foods today use an inorganic type of selenium, sodium selenite or sodium selenate. These forms of selenium are considered toxic by the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services. (5)


The body uses the selenium in food differently than food supplemented with sodium selenite.  A 2003 study in The Journal of Nutrition stated that “the absorption, distribution, and excretion of selenium in food were …distinctly different from sodium selenite.” (6)  Natural forms of selenium are superior to human synthesized forms.   Dr. John W Finley, supervisor of the Trace Element Absorption and Bioavailability Laboratory and the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center, and one of the leading researchers on selenium stated:


 “Something in the whole foods must boost selenium’s anticancer property,” and  “These results are further evidence that broccoli may be an especially good source of selenium, and nutrition professionals may be wise to take this info into account when giving nutritional advice.” (7) 


Is selenium deficiency a contributing factor to canine hip dysplasia?

Insufficient selenium intake can cause serious health problems, including Kashin-Beck disease which is characterized by the degeneration of the articular cartilage between joints (8), thyroid disease and a variety of cancers.  We’ve read unpublished, yet well researched, reports linking selenium deficiency with hip dysplasia. (9)


There is a wealth of data about farm animals which shows organic forms of selenium (selenomethionine) outperform sodium selenite.  One of the reasons for this is that natural forms of selenium can be stored in the body for later use, while selenite cannot be stored. (10)


Perhaps some dogs are not able to sufficiently use the inorganic forms of selenium found in most dry dog foods.  Therefore, if a bitch were unable to fully utilize sodium selenite, her puppies would be more likely to have joint problems.  Pottenger’s classic study with cats shows that problems due to nutrient deficiency get worse with each generation. (11)   Is the source of the selenium used in most dry dog foods one of the reasons many dogs, purebred and mixed-breed, have hip problems?  It may be one of the nutritional causes.


It’s easy to correct this situation

Whether you’re feeding dry, canned, or the best frozen raw diets, you can easily ensure that your dog is getting enough selenium by adding Brazil nuts.  The selenium in broccoli and other vegetables will vary according to the amount of selenium in the soils.  Brazil nuts, on the other hand, are a reliable source of selenium.   Of course, the fresher the nut, the better.  In our home tests with our dogs, freshly shelled Brazil nuts won over shelled nuts bought at natural food markets, in both flavor and fragrance.  We recommend that people add one-half of a crushed Brazil nut per day for every 50 pounds your dog weighs. Since natural forms of selenium are stored in the body, you can easily add one crushed nut every other day, or, for toy dogs, ten pounds or less, one crushed nut per week is great! 

And eat two yourself!  

1 Milner, John A.  “Nonnutritive Components in Foods as Modifiers on of the Cancer Process” Preventive Nutrition: The Comprehensive Guide for Health Professionals, 2nd edition, p 131. 2001.

2 Mary E. Reid, Anna J. Duffield-Lillico, Linda Garland, Bruce W. Turnbull, Larry C. Clark, and James R. Marshall, “Selenium Supplementation and Lung Cancer Incidence: An Update of the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial,” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.  November 2002; 11.

3 Patrick, Lyn, Selenium Biochemistry and Cancer; A Review of the Literature,” Alternative Medicine Review, Volume 9, Number 3, 2004.  239 – 258.

Schrauzer, G.N. “Selenomethionine: A Review of its Nutritional Significance, Metabolism and Toxicity,” Journal of Nutrition, 130, 2000. 1653-1656 

5 National Toxicology Program,

6 Hawkes, Alkan, and Oehler “Absorption, Distribution and Excretion of Selenium from Beef and Rice in Healthy North American Men,” Jounral of Nutrition, November 2003.  3434.

7 Finley, J.W., Ip, C., Lisk, D.J., Davis, C.D., Hintze, K.J. and Whanger, “Cancer-protective properties of high-selenium broccoli” J Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol. 49, #5, 2679-2683, 2001.

8 Burk, R.F. & Levander, O.A. “Selenium,” in Shils, M. et al. Eds. Nutrition in Health and Disease, 9th Edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1999.  265-276.

9 Parker, Jay, “Hip Dysplasia in Dogs: Why Seleniuim Deficiency Will Cause It.” Unpublished manuscript.

10 Schrauzer, G.N. “Selenomethionine: A Review of its Nutritional Significance, Metabolism and Toxicity,” Journal of Nutrition, 130, 2000. 1653-1656.

11 Pottenger, Francis. Pottenger’s Cats A Study in Nutrition 1983.  Dr. Pottenger compared four generations of cats fed cooked and four generations of cats fed the same diet, except raw.  With the cooked diet, Dr. Pottenger found that each generation developed health problems at earlier ages than the preceding generation.  The raw fed cats remained healthy.  We now know that the cooked diets were deficient in taurine and thiamin.


copyright Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

See Spot Live Longer

Are your dogs and cats getting enough vitamin E?

•November 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

One of three dogs will die of cancer.  Perhaps one of the contributing factors to the cancer epidemic in dogs and cats is that our pets are not consuming enough vitamin E, and that the vitamin E they do consume is not the complete form of vitamin E.  This is an easy situation to correct; giving our dogs and cats real foods high in all forms of vitamin E may help reduce the incidence of cancer, and debilitating conditions like allergies and arthritis. 


Components of Vitamin E

Vitamin E is comprised of two groups of molecules, tocopherols and tocotrienols, each with four forms (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol, and alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delta-tocotrienol). Each form has its own potency and functional use in the body.


Research is beginning to focus on specific tocopherols and tocotrienols, rather than on just “vitamin E.” New studies suggest that vitamin E should be consumed in the broader family of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols. However, the vitamin E most often used in pet foods is the alpha-tocopherol form. This specific tocopherol has incredible antioxidant benefits, but gamma-tocopherol seems to be the only form of vitamin E that actually inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells.


A few years ago, the USDA nutrient database listed just the amount of alpha tocopherol or alpha tocopherol equivalents in food.  Now, this database lists the four different tocopherols for many foods, but does not yet list the tocotrienols. (1)


Vitamin E in Pet Foods

Unlike people, who get most of their vitamin E from food, most dogs and cats get almost all their vitamin E from the vitamin E added to pet foods.  Pet food regulators consider only alpha tocopherol as a form of vitamin E – you can be sure that with most petfoods, the “vitamin E supplement” is only alpha (although many companies may use mixed tocopherols to preserve the fat in the food.)


Pet food regulators recommend a minimum of 14 IUs of alpha tocopherol for every 1,000 kcals (Calories) of food. (2) — a typical 50 dog requires about 1,000 Calories per day.  The vitamin E is there when the manufacturer produces the dry or frozen foods.


That does not mean that 14 IUS of vitamin E will be in the food when you feed it to your dog or cat.


Vitamin E degrades quickly once you open a bag of dry pet food; the vitamin E in frozen foods also degrades significantly. Studies we’ve seen show that processing and storage of foods can result in substantial tocopherol losses, with 70% of the tocopherols lost after one month storage at room temperature, and 60% after one month storage in the freezer.(3) (See our article about storing pet food for more information)


Add vitamin E in its whole form to your animal’s food.

Add a variety of nuts and seeds, finely chopped vegetables, or raw or lightly cooked eggs to your animal’s diet. 


The requirement of vitamin E is related to the selenium content of the diet. The more selenium in the diet, the less one needs to add vitamin E.  Adding a Brazil nut provides both a good source of vitamin E and selenium.


For gamma tocopherols, add crushed walnuts and pecans, and for the tocotrienols, crushed sunflower seeds. 

One nut or a few seeds per day for a 50 pound dog is sufficient. Buy a small quantity of mixed raw nuts, preferably organic, and crush one per day. 

Rotate the nuts: one day a Brazil, the next day a pecan, then a walnut, then a few sunflower seeds. For smaller dogs, give a nut or a few seeds every other or every third day.


Spinach has one of the highest vitamin E to Calorie ratios, so it is a good source of vitamin E and selenium for overweight dogs and cats. Juice or finely chop a small amount of spinach once per week. Spinach is high in oxalates, so dogs and cats with oxalate crystals should not eat spinach.  You can also add juiced broccoli, romaine lettuce (high in gamma tocopherols) and other vegetables up to 1 cup per day for a 50 pound dog.  A crushed broccoli stalk is ideal.  For 32 Calories you add 3.3 micrograms of selenium, 0.78 mg of alpha tocopherol and .17 mg of gamma tocopherol.


Raw eggs or lightly cooked eggs provide a full range of vitamin E and selenium.  Use feed high omega-3 content eggs. For a 50 pound dog, an egg every three days is ideal. A typical egg provides 1 mg of alpha tocopherol and .5 mg of gamma tocopherol – a great addition to your pet’s diet!


Many people add fish oil to their diets; and many may add fish or fish oil to their dog’s or cat’s food.  We recommend this – but only if the proper fish oil is added (fish oil with vitamin E like Carlson Fish Oil) or if you add other vitamin E sources to your pet’s diet.  The more polyunsaturated fats you feed your dog, the more vitamin E she will need.


If you’re adding vitamin E from a full spectrum supplement, we recommend adding 1-2 mg for every ten pounds the dog weighs (1-2 mg per day for cats). If your dog consumes a lot of polyunsaturated fats (flax or fish oil), 2 mg for every 10 pounds may be best. 



(2) Official Publication, Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)

(3) de Man, John, “Principles of Food Chemistry, 3rd Edition, 365-368.


copyright Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

See Spot Live Longer

this article may be reproduced for educational purposes with the above credits included

Skin problems

•November 18, 2007 • 1 Comment

SKIN PROBLEMS: What’s going on -and what you can do to help that itchy animal


When all systems in the body are humming along in balance, the skin, eyes, ears, and the digestive system are protected by immune substances produced by the body. Your dog and cat feel good. In a healthy animal (dog, cat, or human) normal inhabitants of the skin coexist in harmony, each doing their jobs and living their lives in a symbiotic relationship.


If an animal’s immune system is under more stress than it can manage, this symbiotic relationship is upset. Skin problems – hot spots, rashes, yeast overgrowth, bacterial infections –are often the first symptom seen. Medical interventions include antihistamines, antibiotics, and steroids. All of these medications modify and suppress the immune system. Our goal should be to help the immune system work properly, not to suppress it.


Chemical intervention may be needed. However, with good nutrition, bathing when needed, and proper exercise, many animals regain their health and thrive without medication.


 “Allergic” Skin Problems

Skin infections are usually caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria that normally inhabit the skin. They are one sign that there’s not enough of the immunoglobin IgA protect the skin. The underlying cause of an IgA deficiency on the skin is often over utilization of IgA in the gut. Because things are not well balanced in animal’s gastrointestinal tract, the IgA is needed more there, and there’s not enough to protect the skin. After this has gone on for a while, production of IgA is disrupted.


Yeasts are also natural inhabitants of the skin, but when the proper balance is disturbed, they can multiply rapidly and cause skin and ear problems. You’ll know your dog has yeast by the characteristic corn chip (some think cheese popcorn) smell. Yeast causes intense itching and can grow in localized areas (causing a creamy white accumulation between toes), in the ears, or can affect the whole body. An overgrowth of yeast is a signal that your animal’s immune system is not functioning well.


These conditions cause a variety of symptoms. Fur may feel “sticky”, there may be lots of flakes on the skin, or red spots with little white heads, which often have black areas around them. You may see red, inflamed skin covering large areas of the body, and your animal may be “itchy” Your dog might lick her legs, chew her pads, and there may be inflamed spots between toes, in armpits and inner legs.


“Hot Spots” are an inappropriate immune response, and in some ways a mystery to medicine. They seem to appear in an instant and can spread at an alarming rate. These oozing sores are extremely painful and can easily become infected.


If the immune system is highly reactive, environmental substances (ragweed, grass, pollen, mold) animals pick up just by walking outside can provide enough irritating substances to cause a reaction.


Allergic animals aren’t the only ones with skin problems

Elderly animals and those in poor health often exude an unpleasant fragrance. Their bodies are getting rid of toxins that should be removed to help support the detoxification process in the aging system.


Keep Skin Clean

If we humans have a rash, scab, infection, or injury to our skin, we don’t have much question about what to do – we keep it clean! The same is true for dogs and cats. Our animals will feel better, smell better, and heal faster if their skin is kept clean. However, in the case of cats, they may not be happier: bathing is not usually on their list of favorite activities.


Why don’t we wash our animals more often? Because we have been told not to, or because it’s one more thing to add to our busy lives.  We may have read that we’ll disturb the balance of our animal’s skin if we wash them too much, and their skin will get dried out. Healthy animals may not need frequent bathing: each animal is different. Bathe them when they need it.


Animals with skin problems do well with weekly baths. However, at the height of the “allergy” season, many dogs require baths daily or every other day. 

Between baths, rinsing problem areas that are not infected can be extremely soothing. Localized inflamed areas may be washed without washing the whole animal, and this may help to stretch the interval between baths. For example, if your dog has irritated and inflamed feet, you can devise a simple system to immerse one foot at a time in a bowl of soapy water, and then rinse them the same way – in just a few minutes.


Tips on choosing shampoos. 

From the wide variety of commercial pet shampoos available, choose as you do for yourself, trying to avoid toxic ingredients.


Avoid shampoos that include oatmeal. Oatmeal has a great reputation as a soothing ingredient, but animals that have a problem with grain are likely to have problems with oatmeal shampoos. Grain-based shampoos may also provide a carbohydrate food source for unwanted yeast and bacteria on the skin.


“Health” shampoos including essential oils should be used only with extreme caution. Do not use them on cats. Consult with someone knowledgeable about oils if you’re interested in this approach. Always test shampoo first on a very small area!


Critical points for successful and pleasant bath time

Wash thoroughly! Use comfortably warm water, not too hot. On very hot days, many dogs enjoy cool water, which can also reduce inflammation and irritation. Wet your dog completely and use highly diluted shampoo to help spread it all over the dog, Dogs with water-repellent coats (Labradors, Portuguese Water Dogs….) are hard to get wet at all: diluted shampoo makes the job easier.


Be gentle! Keep soap out of eyes and ears. Irritated skin is delicate and easily injured. Animals will be worried that you are going to cause them pain — do your best to avoid that. Hot spots in particular are exquisitely painful.


Rinse, and rinse, and rinse! Soap left on skin is very irritating.


Dry the skin completely! This might be difficult, depending on your animal’s coat, but it’s extremely important.  Bacteria love to grow in warm, damp setting.   Breeds with heavy coats may develop bacterial problems just from staying wet. “Hot spots” can develop in damp areas very quickly in a dog prone to them. 

Some coats air-dry very nicely, others require work. Human hair dryers are not appropriate unless used with a “NO HEAT” setting! Allow some distance between the dryer and the animal. Trim back her coat around any affected areas to allow air to get to the skin and to help these areas dry faster.  Stay away from “hot spots” with the dryer!


Some animals benefit from a close cut during the summer. This makes keeping an eye on skin much easier!


Prevention: do a body scan

Every day when you’re just sitting together, talking about life, look your animal friend over thoroughly. You can see, feel, and smell when it’s time for a bath. Take the time to do it when it’s needed: skin conditions can flare out of control rapidly.


Look closely for little black specks in your dog’s coat. This may be “flea dirt”, and though you may see no fleas, there might be some. It takes only one flea to trigger a very nasty skin problem in a sensitive dog.


Get veterinary assistance when needed!


Feed Real Food

Good nutrition includes whole food antioxidants and ample fresh, non-oxidized essential fatty acids.  These components are critical for healing. Without the support of good nutrition, acute episodes may become chronic and possibly life-threatening conditions.


Fresh food provides the best nutrients and helps to proved healthy conditions in the digestive tract, so that the immune system is strong. Without good digestion, an animal cannot be healthy. Good food is the foundation for good health


copyright Steve Brown and Beth Taylor

See Spot Live Longer

this article may be reproduced for educational purposes with the above credits included

Add broccoli to your dog’s food to help prevent cancer!

•November 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Eating healthy food is the easiest, most natural way to fight free radicals in your body and to prevent damage from oxidation. Antioxidants are a necessity for every diet – including your dogs and cats!

Broccoli is good for humans and dogs, too! Adding broccoli and other green foods to your dog’s diet will help prevent cancer, the leading disease killer of dogs, and help promote optimum antioxidant activity

Dogs and cats need fresh vegetables too!


Advertising for dry pet foods shouts at us that we will find everything our animals need inside that attractive bag with the beautiful pictures of meats, vegetables, and fruits labeled “natural”.This would be great, but it’s impossible. No matter how good the ingredients are in a bag of dog or cat food, it is still a highly processed, grain-based food, lacking in live, whole nutrients.

If we follow the conventional advice, “never feed people food or table scraps to your animals”, our dogs and cats will never eat any of those whole foods we know to be critical for fighting cancer and promoting a healthy immune system: vegetables and fruits in their original forms. This advice is out of date – and if we follow it we do direct harm to our dogs and cats. Would we feed our children nothing but dry food in a bag? Dogs and cats are mammals just like us, with the same need for fresh food.

Even the best dry pet foods (those made out of basic ingredients that are of human-edible quality) are made with synthetic vitamins and minerals. These incomplete, unnatural forms of vitamins and minerals do not provide the level of nutrition required to support a long, healthy life. In addition, the main ingredient in dry food, some form of grain, is not good food for dogs or cats. Digestion of this highly processed food puts a burden on the body that can be lightened considerably by the addition of some live, whole foods.

Add a little broccoli for almost no cost.

For almost no cost and little effort, you can improve the odds that your dog will live a long life. For the most micronutrients for your dollar, juice or finely chop  broccoli to break the cell wall of the plant and make the nutrients more available. The stalk has just as much nutrition as the broccoli flower and is often thrown away. It contains many important cancer-fighting nutrients that can help your dog live longer, so use the whole thing!

Broccoli, dark green lettuce outer leaves and asparagus spears are good sources of chlorophyll, like all dark green vegetables. Natural chlorophylls exert protective effects against carcinogen exposure in animals and people. Human studies in China show that chlorophyll may help to delay the onset of symptoms of liver cancer caused by mycotoxin-contaminated grains. It is well documented that mycotoxin-contaminated grains have killed many dogs, and even the low levels common in stored grains cause damage over time

Give your animals bright green vegetables like broccoli several times a week. Juiced or chopped very finely, these green vegetables provide cancer-fighting and immune system-enhancing ingredients that can be found only in fresh foods. In order to keep the proper nutrient balance limit the total amount of green foods you add to dry food to about 15% by volume for dogs. For cats, a little goes a long way. “Cat grass,” available at natural food stores, is a good addition, or a teaspoon of juiced veggies for medium sized cats.

Broccoli is just one example.  There are other good possibilities in the refrigerator of anyone feeds their family a healthy diet that consists mostly of a variety of fresh foods. If there is nothing like that in your refrigerator, could be it’s time for you and the dog to improve your diet!

They’re grazing on grass- is it bad for them?


If your dog or cat grazes on grass that has not been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, or other poisons, consider it food (as long as she doesn’t throw up on your carpet!). Foods like grasses contain cellulose, which may not be completely digested (and you may see the grass unchanged in the dog’s feces), but they are of great value in helping to maintain the bacterial balance in the intestines, helping the “good” occupants of the gut to survive. Fresh grass also provides chlorophyll, vitamin C, and hundreds of other antioxidants and enzymes. Do not let your dog  or cat eat grass that has been exposed to chemicals. If the grass is in the woods, it is probably “clean”. If the grass is part of a farm or suburban “perfect lawn,” try to prevent your dog from eating it (or walking on it).

 copyright Beth Taylor  

Are our animals fat?

•November 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Our animals really are fat, but most of us don’t think so!

Six out of every 10 dogs and cats in the US may be overweight, according to a recent study.

That overweight 60% of the pet population will live shorter lives and have much more ill health than the 40% that are lean.

In a study of 1,462 animals, over 60% scored 6 or higher on a 1-9 scale; 4 or 5 is considered ideal. The Purina Body Condition Score System, a tool designed to make it easier see the real condition of animals, was used to evaluate these animals. A body condition score of 6 is the equivalent of being 20-35% over your ideal weight. If your ideal weight is 180, for example, you would weigh 225 with a score of 6.

Veterinarians scored the animals – and so did the owners. The owners of the group of animals considered substantially overweight saw things differently—almost half thought their overweight dogs were at an ideal weight! (1)

This difference in perception costs our animals years of life.

It matters! Here’s why–

A 14-year life span study by Nestle Purina shows us that dogs kept lean live longer and have fewer health problems than those who are overweight. While this study included only dogs, cats show similar problems with obesity, and an even higher incidence of diabetes.  We think the results are also pertinent for cats.


The benefits seen by the lifespan study of dogs include:


  • Lean dogs live longer—up to two years longer

  • Lean dogs develop degenerative bone problems much later in life

  • Overweight dogs begin to lose muscle mass up to two years earlier than those kept lean

  • Immune systems in dogs kept lean had slower age-related declines

  • Dogs kept lean had lower blood pressure and pulse rates


Lean dogs live better, healthier lives, and live up to two years longer than those even somewhat overweight!

It doesn’t take much “overweight” to begin to cause problems. Fat tissues produce inflammatory chemicals which are related to all sorts of health problems, including:

  • Insulin resistance (beginning at body condition score of 6) and diabetes

  • Inflammatory diseases of all kinds

  • Heart disease

  • General aches and pains attributed to “old age”


Is your dog or cat fat?


Consult the Purina Body Condition System to find out—or ask a friend to help! If you evaluate each other’s dogs and cats, you may come up with different (more objective) answers.  If your animal is overweight, get a checkup to make sure that there is nothing medical contributing to the problem. Usually, it’s simple: a combination of lack of exercise with either the wrong balance of food, or just too much food.

Higher protein diets help to maintain muscle mass

There are many choices in “diet food” at pet food and grocery stores, and it’s a strong indicator of how many fat pets there are. Most “senior” or “lite” foods are higher carbohydrate, lower fat, and higher fiber versions of “adult” dry foods. They are far from the natural diet of dogs and cats. We advise you to reject them.

The natural diet of dogs and cats – high in protein and water, and moderate in fat – is perfect for keeping them in top condition. It’s composed of the meat, bone, and organs of prey animals, and some vegetables and fruits.

The muscles in the body are made up of protein. To maintain that muscle, the body needs protein.

  • Muscle burns more calories

  • Protein in the diet makes animals feel full faster

  • Protein helps to preserve lean body mass


Sufficient dietary protein helps the body keep making protein, which helps the immune system to work well, and decreases susceptibility to injury and infection.

In other Nestle Purina weight-loss studies, cats and dogs both lost less muscle mass and more fat on higher protein diets – diets in which the balance is closer to the natural diet we recommend. When we lose weight, we want to lose fat, and not muscle mass. The same is true for our dogs and cats.

You can see the difference in the type of weight loss in the charts below, one for cats and one for dogs. On lower protein diets, animals lost more muscle and less fat; on higher protein diets, animals lost more fat and less muscle (2, 3), which is much healthier.

Effect of Dietary Protein Composition of Weight Loss in Dogs

Composition of weight loss

20% protein diet

30% protein diet

39% protein diet

Muscle (lean)








Effect of Dietary Protein Composition of Weight Loss in Cats

Composition of weight loss

35% protein

45% protein

Muscle (lean)






The results are clear: higher protein foods allow more fat loss and less loss of muscle in animals on reduced calorie diets. These studies were done with grain-based dry foods. We think that the results would be even more striking if the animals were fed high-protein, fresh food diets.

What about dietary fat?

Fat has about twice as many calories per gram as protein and carbohydrate. A very high fat diet may contribute more calories than you want for an overweight animal. The natural – “prey” — diet of dogs and cats has a moderate fat content (20 – 25% on a dry matter basis).  Feeding a very high fat content diet can make the dog or cat gain weight, and may cause health problems. Even feeding natural meat-based diets, it’s easy to feed too much fat.

Bones, for example, may be good entertainment and exercise for your dog—but they are high fat.

Some frozen diets are very high in fat. The ingredient panel tells us the minimum percentage of fat, not the total amount of fat.  For example, a product may have 15% fat by weight, and the manufacturer can list it as 10% (minimum).  Judge the fat content of the food by its look and feel, not by the guaranteed analysis on the label.

Many overweight animals have trouble digesting fat, and are at risk for pancreatitis, so it’s wise to keep the fat level down. If meat is lightly cooked, it’s easy to drain the fat. If you are making your own raw diet, eliminate at least the visible fat.

Good fats, however, should always be included: sardines, fish oil, omega-3 or DHA eggs—all can provide your animals with essential pieces of a sound nutrition program.

Transform your “he’s just a little overweight” dog or cat in simple steps

Your animal should lose weight slowly:  Veterinary experts recommend aiming for 1% of body weight loss per week, with a maximum of 2%.  If the animal loses more than 2% per week, it’s likely that much of that weight loss will be muscle, not the fat loss that’s our goal.

First, evaluate and upgrade the treats you give your animals.

It’s likely that this step alone may help your animals lose weight.

Most treats (“Biscuits” or “Cookies”) are high in grain, a dietary component we want to minimize or eliminate. For example, one medium-sized biscuit may have 25% of a small dog’s calorie ration for the day. Even if they are expensive, organic products, biscuits are almost all grain.

We like to give our animals treats, and we don’t want you to stop. Use small pieces of meat or vegetables and fruit. There are good commercial choices: Charlee Bear Natural Nutrition Snacks provide both meat and vegetables, and freeze-dried or dehydrated meats are available at all pet food store. All these choices are very popular with pets, which don’t care if they aren’t shaped like little hot dogs.

Consider the treats as part of the diet, not extras. Most dogs are much smaller than we are, but we sometimes lose sight of that in handing out goodies: even the best treats still have calories!

Second, feed a fresh food diet appropriate to your animal’s species.


It’s our experience that most dogs and cats lose weight and feel better very quickly on a meat-based, fresh food, diet. However, no matter what you feed your dog or cat, if you feed too much the excess will be stored as fat!

Commercial fresh food diets make feeding a meat-based diet much easier (where they are available). Good canned foods, with no grain, are available in most areas. Canned foods are much closer than dry foods to the natural balance for dogs and cats, since they are higher in protein, fat, and water.

Third, exercise.

For overweight dogs and cats, lifestyle changes may be needed as well as dietary ones. Even a moderate increase in exercise will help improve fitness and energy metabolism.

To learn more about fresh food diets, read See Spot Live Longer.

(1) Purina Nutrition at Work Newsletter, October 2004

(2) Hannah SS, LaFlamme DP. Increased Dietary Protein Spares Lean Body Mass During Weight Loss in Dogs J Vet Int Med. 1998, 12: 224

(3) LaFlamme DP, Hannah SS. Effect of Dietary Protein on Composition of Weight Loss in Cats. Proc. Brit Sm Anim Vet Assoc, April 1998, Birmingham England


copyright Steve Brown and Beth Taylor See Spot Live Longer

this article may be reproduced for educational purposes with the above credits included

Welcome to Natural Paw

•November 15, 2007 • 1 Comment

Welcome to Natural Paw, dedicated to improving the quality and longevity of your pet’s life through safe, holistic, natural methods.