Posts Tagged ‘homemade diet’

Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary

March 4, 2011
Steve and Alayne with Daisy

I first communicated with Steve Smith when he and Alayne Marker enrolled their nonprofit organization in the Speaking for Spot Gives Back Program.  Located in New Hampshire, Steve and Alayne are the proprietors of the Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary. Their mission is to provide a sanctuary focused on caring for animals with disabilities. As stated on their website, “These are the animals who are the least likely to be adopted and among the most likely to be euthanized in traditional shelters.” Visit Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary and you are likely to encounter blind dogs, cats, and horses as well as animals with irreparable neurological and orthopedic issues.  Steve and Alayne report that the animals are incredibly content- none seem to “feel sorry for themselves”.  This is certainly no surprise to me- based on my experience I know that most disabled animals remain happy and energetic.  They are true experts at living in the moment- excellent role models for us, don’t you think?  

What prompted me to write about Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary was a blog post I recently received from Steve describing a wonderfully innovative way he and Alayne are feeding their dogs and cats. Their concern for animals extends well beyond their own facility, so much so that for a period of time they tried feeding a vegetarian diet to their dogs who apparently responded with, “No thanks!”   In the blog, Steve describes that they’ve opted to raise their own beef cattle as a self-sustaining food source for their dogs and kitties.  Looking at the Rolling Dog Ranch website, I get the impression that these cows have a pretty darned perfect bovine life other than on their very last day.  This beef project was started in 2008 and Steve described the process of taking Sebastian, their first steer to slaughter.  As Steve describes it, “I was able to walk through the entire facility with the owner, stood on the kill floor, and examined their entire process for how they do the slaughtering.  It was quiet, clean, and as stress-free as any facility like that could possibly be.” 

 

Steve and Alayne use a website called Balance IT to help them create balanced homemade diets.  They are doing their best to use all local ingredients.  In their blog post (http://blog.rollingdogranch.org), they provide resources for finding and purchasing humanely raised food for you and your pets.  They recommend that people visit farms to see for themselves how the animals are raised. 

I must tell you that I am intrigued by and enamored with the innovative things that are happening at Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary.  Steve and Alayne are two wonderfully forward thinking people who have provided me- and now you- with some fabulous food for thought.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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Pet Nutrition Follow-up

February 10, 2011

If you could see me now dear readers, you would know that I am giving you a standing ovation! I anticipated my recent blog post about what to feed our pets might generate some heated discussion and bullying behavior. I thought I might have to be a cyberspace referee! I needn’t have worried- your comments, which can be viewed at http://www.speakingforspot.com/blog/?p=2048 were all so darned civilized! You reported how you feed your pets and what you’ve learned through your own experiences. No one was even remotely pushy! Better yet everyone agreed, as do I, that there is no single type of diet that is suitable for every dog or every cat. Hats off to you! I’m deeply appreciative.

Now, as promised, I will fill you in on my current philosophy about feeding our pets. I emphasize current philosophy because I am absolutely willing to change what I recommend pending the results of future research. While there is plenty of data telling us which nutrients and how much of them dogs and cats need to grow and maintain good health, there is a paucity of legitimate research comparing how those nutrients are delivered, particularly pertaining to raw versus processed foods.

Keep in mind I am not a primary care doctor (aka, family veterinarian). As a board certified small animal internist, the clients and patients I see are referred to me to address internal medicine issues. Invariably, my clients have already made diet decisions based on discussion with their family vets. My job is to determine if and when I should “rock the boat.” After raising three children and working with gazillions of devoted dog and cat lovers, I’ve learned that it is wise to choose my battles wisely. If a client is clearly devoted to a particular diet for his or her dog or cat, and I am convinced that their choice is causing no harm, I don’t go there. Here are some situations that will prompt me to recommend a diet change.

1. My patient is eating a diet that is not nutritionally balanced. Although this can happen with prepared foods, it most commonly occurs with homemade diets and well-meaning clients who don’t know that diets balanced for human consumption are not balanced for canine or feline consumption. If these clients wish to stick with home preparation, I recommend consultation with a board certified veterinary nutritionist and/or reliable references that provide recipes for balanced homemade diets.
2. My patient is eating a raw or processed food diet of dubious origin. If I am unfamiliar with the brand of food I encourage my client to share the package label with the family vet or me so we can provide a better sense of whether or not the food is of good quality and nutritionally balanced. For example, I am not keen on pet foods produced by the neighborhood health food store. How can such a business possibly have the financial resources and knowhow needed to create a quality pet food product that is nutritionally balanced?
3. My patient is eating a raw diet while receiving medication or fighting a disease that causes immune system dysfunction (i.e., their immune system is on the fritz). In this situation I recommend discontinuation of the raw diet. While there is no data (yet) comparing the incidence of raw diet-induced infections in healthy versus immunocompromised patients, there is data that clearly documents increased numbers of disease-causing types of bacteria in the feces of animals fed raw animal protein. Until proven otherwise, I am concerned that my immunocompromised patients are at higher risk for developing raw protein-induced infections. And this simply isn’t a chance I want to take. Please know that some veterinarians feel differently about this, and in fact, believe ingestion of raw meat will help bolster the immune system.
4. My patient has a medical issue that would best be served by a change in diet. For example, I will encourage diet transition for the patient with kidney failure who is eating a high protein diet, the diabetic kitty who is eating dry food only, or the obese patient with arthritis who is eating a high fat diet.

I firmly believe that most of our dogs and cats can thrive on a variety of different foods/diets as long as they contain high quality ingredients and are nutritionally balanced based on life stage (puppies/kittens, adults, and seniors all have different requirements). Whether you choose to feed a homemade diet or prepared raw or processed food is a personal choice; just as shopping for yourself at Whole Foods versus Safeway (the main grocery store chain in northern California) is a personal choice. Whichever style of diet you choose for your pets, your goal is to ensure you are feeding a high quality, balanced product. Here are some suggestions to help you hone in on some good choices amongst the literally hundreds of products at the pet food grocery store!

• Shop at your local independent pet food store. Yes, the prices may be higher (quality pet food is expensive), but the sales people you encounter are far more likely to be knowledgeable than those working at the big box stores. Additionally, pet store shelf space is limited so the brands of food stocked there will be those the staff truly believes in.
• Learn what to be looking for when you read the food label. The best resource I’ve found for teaching this is The Whole Dog Journal. Your dog and I strongly encourage you to get a subscription as soon as possible (http://www.whole-dog-journal.com) ! Editor, Nancy Kerns provides her readers with plenty of practical wisdom about canine nutrition. In fact the February 2011 issue contains a fabulous article called, “Choices, Choices- On What Criteria Do you Base Your Dog’s Food Selection?” Be forewarned, there is some nepotism going on at WDJ- you will find at least one picture of Nancy’s dog Otto in every single issue! Now, if only Nancy would begin working on The Whole Cat Journal!
• The American Animal Hospital Association Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats can be found at http://www.aahanet.org/resources/NutritionalGuidelines.aspx. There is a lot of valuable information here. By the way, at the top of the page you will see that a major pet food manufacturer provided some funding for these guidelines to be made available in French, Japanese, and Spanish. Please don’t let this deter your learning.
• Talk to your veterinarian, let him or her know what you’ve learned, and discuss your pet food preferences.

As always, I welcome your comments!

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Reasonable Expectations IX: Discussion With Your Vet About What Your Dog or Cat Should Be Eating

January 28, 2011

This is the ninth part of an ongoing series describing how people are developing new expectations when it comes to veterinary care for their pets. Parts one through eight can be found at www.speakingforspot.com/blog.

 

I’ll be straight with you- I’ve been procrastinating writing this blog for a long time. Every time I think about it, I get a queasy feeling in my stomach.  It’s not because I don’t think it’s reasonable for you to discuss your pet’s nutrition with your veterinarian.  It’s super easy for your vet to advise you when to transition from puppy/kitten formulas to adult foods, and if your pet is too fat or too thin and what to do about it. It’s the question of what to feed your beloved four-legged family member that has prevented me from getting excited about sinking my teeth into this blog (pun intended).  For many veterinarians, myself included, this has become a complicated issue and, in some cases, a no-win situation. Consider the following factors and you’ll understand my “dis-ease” with this topic.  When it comes to pet nutrition many people, veterinarians included, hold tenaciously to one or more of the following convictions:

• Processed pet foods (kibble and canned foods) are the best way to ensure balanced nutrition.
• Processed pet foods are the devil incarnate.
• Home-cooked diets are the best way to feed a pet.
• Home-cooked diets are not nutritionally balanced.
• Raw diets promote the best health.
• Raw diets have the potential to transmit serious infectious diseases not only to the pet, but also to the human handling the food and the feces.
• Dogs and cats should eat the same foods every day.
• Dogs and cats should eat a variety of foods.

Now here’s the icing on the cake.  Most veterinarians, myself included, are not nutritionists.  Yes, we understand the benefits of altering diet content to treat disease (a low protein diet is best for kidney failure, novel protein diets may benefit animals with food allergies, avoid salty foods for patients with heart failure), but show us the label from a can of Aunt Hattie’s Healthy Hound Hash (I hope and pray there really is no such product!) that has miraculously enhanced your dog’s vim and vigor, and we won’t be able to tell you with 100% certainty that Aunt Hattie is making a good product. An AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) seal of approval on the label is reassuring, but not all manufacturers of well balanced diets have gone through the AAFCO approval process.  And there are those who believe that AAFCO labeling is meaningless in terms of assuring good quality. We can enlist help from a board certified veterinary nutritionist to review the label, but this can be an expensive and cumbersome process. To make matters more complicated there is a constant and steady stream of new pet food manufacturers all vying for your pet’s grocery money.

Now can you understand why even thinking about this blog gives me a headache?  Truth be told, I believe I’ve seen examples of the good and the bad that can accompany every genre of pet food.  Dogs and cats have been eating processed foods for decades, yet we all recall the 2007 melamine pet food recall. Do you remember how shocked we were to learn that so many different brands of processed foods were manufactured in the same location?  I’ve seen damage caused by raw diets- infectious diseases and gastrointestinal bone foreign bodies.  I’ve also observed profound improvement in patients’ symptoms in response to the introduction of raw food (when I certainly couldn’t figure out how to make the symptoms disappear by other means).  I’ve seen pathologic bone fractures because of unbalanced homemade diets.  Likewise, I’ve met animals who appeared overtly healthy in spite of eating nothing but an unbalanced homemade diet for years.

So, what’s the answer here? What is a veterinarian supposed to say when their clients ask, “What should I be feeding my dog?” and “What should I be feeding my cat?” As tends to be my style, this blog has gone on a bit too long (you supposedly lose your ability to concentrate after 400-500 words).  So let’s do this- let me know how you think a veterinarian should answer the question of what to feed your pet and I will post a follow-up blog letting you know how I work with this complicated question.  I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

Best wishes, 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook  

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.