Food Fit for Fido
Over time, people begin to "look like" their pets. Or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, the resemblance is there.But facial similarity isn't the only physical way humans and their pets are alike. More importantly, we share basic nutritional needs and physiological reactions to food. The "garbage in, garbage out" adage is true for cats and dogs, too."I call it 'The Kibble Conundrum,'" says Jeffrey Judkins, a naturopathic veterinarian at the Animalkind holistic veterinary clinic in Jacksonville, explaining that diets high in processed foods are as detrimental to pet health as they are to human health."Nutrition is far and away the most important aspect of all of the veterinary issues I see here — behavior, skin problems, arthritis, diabetes, aggression, anxiety," he says. "It all has a huge dietary component."Human, canine or feline, it doesn't matter, the vet says. "If you're not getting what you need nutritionally, your central nervous system isn't going to be working properly," he adds.According to Judkins, most conventional veterinarians get little to no training in nutrition and often recommend conventional foods that lack the proper amounts of protein and good fats, and have too many carbs, fillers and by-products."Cats should not be eating corn or anything made from corn, yet corn gluten is one of the first ingredients in most store-bought pet foods," he says. "Why in the world would you feed that to a cat? Cats eat mice and birds."One of the only pet-food brands Judkins will recommend is Kristi's All Natural Pet Food in Grant's Pass, which creates grain-free, frozen, raw pet food from "human-grade" ingredients.Kristi's owners/operators Tracy Higgs, Becca Cramer, Cory Alvis-Allen and Craig Allen believe that pet foods need to be as nutritionally sound as human food for the best results. Mass-manufactured foods often have ingredients that can cause allergies and other health problems. They also can be subjected to contaminants in the manufacturing process."Raw, preservative- and filler-free foods are more easily digested by our furry friends," Higgs says. "The cooking process destroys essential enzymes and vitamins, thereby reducing the nutritional quality of the food."So if humans and pets have similar nutritional needs, wouldn't it make sense to just feed Fido table scraps? Not necessarily. Higgs cautions that table scraps can be harmful, even toxic to pets, and can cause obesity, diabetes and unhealthy food behaviors.Judkins adds that just as information about human nutritional needs changes, so does that about pets' needs. Staying informed about dietary recommendations for humans and animals is key to a good foundation, and needs to be accompanied by a keen eye for reading labels to know what exactly is in the food you're providing.The vet cautions that it may take a while to migrate your pets to a new food, especially something as different as a raw diet. Do it gradually, he advises, and be aware that not all pets will be able to make the transition."Even if you can't convert them over completely, try to get them onto a more raw, less processed diet," he says. "The less kibble you give them, the better off they'll be."