One of the most important things I usually recommend when it comes to a basic cat or dog diet is to avoid corn, soy, wheat, egg, and dairy.
The most important "Foundation Block" is diet. As mentioned before, there is no perfect diet. Although, there are plenty of opinions of which diets ARE perfect. I will reassure you, the diet your animal does the best on, is the best diet for THEM! I have to be realistic in my veterinary practice. Not every person will feed the diet I select for them, not every animal will ingest the diet we select for them, and not every lifestyle can support a raw or homemade diet! Budgets have to be considered also - and so, we are often left with doing the best for the situation at hand. And that is OKAY!
Birds probably got one of the shortest ends of the sticks! Bird Seed! One of the most inappropriate diets for most birds, it was sold as "Bird Food" and hundreds of thousands of companion birds are fed seeds, inappropriate legumes (peanuts), and nuts as a sole diet. And when I would educate my clients on why this diet was not adequate for health, almost every single person will ask, "HOW can they sell it as bird food then?" Answer, because there are no regulations!
So for generations and generations of animals, poor diet has been promoted and fed.
What is important to recognize, is that the diet YOUR animal is being fed currently, is not the only diet having an effect on their health! The diet their mother and father ate, and even the diets their grandparents ate have set up the building blocks for health or non-health, even before you grabbed a bag of dog food off the shelf!
How many people today have a "rescue" animal? This is almost the buzz word of the decade. "My cat was a rescue." "My dog was from a puppy mill." "My bird was adopted from a rescue." "I rescued my horse from going to slaughter." Heck, some animals were even purposely bred and raised by "breeders" and then when they couldn't find homes, they were "rescued"!
One of the first questions I will ask you if you inquire about a health concern for any sort of animal - human or otherwise - is "What is the diet being fed?" We have been sold a "bill of goods" for far too long, that processed and packaged foods are adequate for our animal companions. When packaged diets came onto the market, we were taught: "No table scraps..." "People food is bad for animals..." "Wet food is bad for teeth..."
What exactly is the Foundation of Health? And, why should it be important to you?
The most fundamental thing I see with chronic conditions and with health problems in general - is that there are often "holes" within the nutrition and support of the entire body.
Today's diets are basically void of natural enzymes - unlike "real" foods that would rot and decay with time...most of our convenience diets can sit on a shelf for many, many months before "expiring". That is why real grass pasture, and raw diets can be very beneficial - they still contain nutrients and enzymes as they should be provided through Mother Nature. However, not many people "do" raw correctly. There are just as many pets (possibly more) who are usually set back by a poor attempt to feed raw (unintentional), than there are who are helped by it (when you are a veterinarian seeing these cases!). That is why many vets will hem and haw at the concept of raw. We rarely see it done well - and we are the ones who DO see it done wrong. I have two resources that I recommend if home-prepped or raw diets are on your to-do list. First - Dr. Karen Becker's book - Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats - CLICK HERE. And for raw food - I have really found that Raw Bistro - CLICK HERE - is one of the best companies who is really "doing it right". Raw Bistro does not have their cat products out yet - but if you contact the company, they can give you more information on feeding Raw Bistro to your cat - we add this to our cat's regime, and they do really well with it. Another book I highly recommend is Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet by Steve Brown. He has worked with Dr. Becker and Raw Bistro - and I consider him one of the foremost experts on natural dietary needs. During a conversation with Steve, I was happy that he was in support of my favorite Standard Process supplements as well - as I do feel that these are incredibly important to add to any diet along with Digestive Enzymes. Even if you are feeding THE MOST perfect diet in the world, it is important to recognize that your animal likely did not start out that way. Most of the time, we are changing and improving diets because there is a health concern. So - with these facts in mind - it is unlikely that just an ideal diet alone will attend to the fact that the animal has been vitamin, mineral, and enzyme deficient for a big part of its life. In order to get that "cup overflowing" - supplementation with Digestive Enzymes and Whole Food Supplements are mandatory in my eyes - even if on a raw diet.
In our animal hospital Prozyme Digestive Enzymes served us very well. Almost all dogs and cats accepted it easily, and it worked. They are generally readily available through your veterinarian. Another enzyme that I would recommend would be Mercola Healthy Pets Digestive Enzyme. For a while it was unavailable (probably when I keep recommending it!) - so it is nice to have a back-up with the Prozyme powder. I truly believe that enzymes are not just about digestion and digestive concerns. Every function in your body needs enzymes to work. From proper fat and sugar handling in your body (when an animal forms a Lipoma or fatty tumor - they do not handle or "digest" fat properly...) to even neurotransmitter actions in your brain...enzymes are EVERYWHERE. And without them - it isn't just your poop that will be abnormal! Digestive Enzymes have been seen to help anxiety, lipoma formation, seizures, tumor resolution, behavioral concerns, skin conditions, allergies, autoimmune concerns...basically everything you can think of. The reason for this may have multiple layers - including the ability to digest and assimilate nutrition as well as replacing enzymes that are being depleted from the ever present "draw" upon the body.
Whole food supplements are another incredibly important item in healing and health. Again - even if an ideal diet is in your ability - your animal was deficient prior to that. Overflowing the cup is not going to happen without additional concentrated supplementation. And if we are striving for the most natural and "from nature" sources of nutrients we can have (a la raw diet) - then Standard Process Supplements are the only way to go in my opinion. Their supplements are derived from raw, whole foods and processed in such a way that they are not heated beyond room temperature. Remembering my tour of their facility and my physics class - water can "boil" at room temperature in a vacuum. And so - that is how Standard Process can extract and condense nutrients into a supplement form without damaging them. An incredibly simplified view - but my bottom line is that I see every animal benefit from Standard Process supplements being added into their regimen! I really have not met an animal who didn't benefit in "some way". Even if it was just shedding less or maintaining higher health longer. It is important when considering a nutritional supplement - to determine if the nutrients are provided in a synthetic or processed form, or if they are truly food derived. The body will never do as well on lab created or extracted nutrients, as it will do on concentrated "whole food" nutrition - and it always amazes me when someone will go through the expense and work of feeding a homemade or raw diet to an animal - but then throw in a synthetic vitamin mix or tablet to complete it!
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What the word rescue means to me, is that I can expect that this animal came from less than ideal conditions, likely fed less than ideal diets, and that their parents were also likely housed in less than ideal conditions, and fed less than ideal diets. It really means - I have a lot more work to do to get them back to health.
We often see dramatic improvements in conditions, immune systems, illnesses, and skin problems when rescue animals are placed under new care and often start on a new and "better" diet. It can be quite amazing really. But what I can guarantee, is that usually the puppy mill or sometimes even a shelter with financial considerations, are often feeding some of the cheapest diets on the market.
So - feed a better diet, and problem solved. Right? WRONG! I look at health in this way. If you (or an animal) - are healthy - your glass is "full".
It is at this time, that everyone asks me what diet I recommend. I am a "results" oriented vet. When something works well for the majority of my clients - I am one happy camper! I usually have a few diets in my arsenal to choose from, and I will share a few things that I see as high quality, and that have worked well.
I do realize that for many animals, free-range organic eggs can be an excellent protein and nutrition source. However, when a condition is present, especially those of the skin and gastrointestinal tract - I find that the avoidance of egg is very helpful. Even if there is not a "true" allergy to the egg, we see it contribute to a pro-inflammatory state. Many excellent grain-free and raw diet recipes contain egg now days - and I strictly eliminate it when attempting to deal with any chronic condition.
Dairy is another item that some people have a hard time eliminating. Usually this is only due to the fact that they have heard so many benefits to cottage cheese, or to the probiotic actions of kefir or yogurt, that they have a strong belief in it being only beneficial. But, it is still dairy, and most animals are just not meant to consume milk products after a certain age. Regardless of true allergy to dairy, I find it to be pro-inflammatory and helpful to eliminate when attempting to gain control over ear infections, skin issues, allergies, or gastrointestinal concerns.
If you are experiencing some sort of illness or symptoms - your glass is not full. How severe the symptoms are, and how long it will take to repair them, depends on how empty your cup is becoming.
To enable healing... Your glass has to be OVERFLOWING! That's right. You can't just have a full glass anymore, you have to fill it to the top, and then some.
But, can just a good diet change make a glass overflow? In my experience, no. It will help, true. But, it cannot be the only thing done for an animal to truly gain full health. It does not matter if you fed the most ideal, species appropriate diet on this earth. You will not catch up to the body's full needs with a perfect diet alone. And, I can also guarantee you - there is NO perfect diet. Not raw, not homemade, not packaged, nothing...
And sadly, most animals are born in a state of deficiency - experiencing the lack in nutrition that the generations before them suffered from.