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Healthy food for dogs and cats is gaining popularity as pet owners realize that conventional processed pet food—like processed food for humans—isn’t the best choice. As well as losing nutrients and enzymes in high-heat processing, conventional pet food can contain toxins.
“If a dog or cat is ill from toxins accumulating in its system, a vet may not recognize this,” says Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD, founder of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy and author of Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats. The problem is, vets typically aren’t trained in optimum nutrition or cumulative toxic effects of animal by-products and chemical food additives. However, health food and specialty stores do offer healthy versions of pet foods.
When shopping, Pitcairn recommends:
- Buy organic whenever you can.
- Avoid foods with animal byproducts, antibiotics, hormones, artificial colors or dyes, artificial flavors, and chemical preservatives.
- Look for a combination of animal and plant foods.
- For grain ingredients, stick with whole grains.
- Look for products labeled “contains no preservatives”; anything that says “no preservatives added” may still contain harmful preservatives within the listed ingredients.
- Read manufacturers’ literature or visit their websites to learn the sources of ingredients and processing methods, or contact companies directly for information.
Supplements for pets are also available. And, making some or all of your pet’s food from scratch is another option.
Fresh Food for Dogs
“There are a lot of simple items you can put in a dog dish that add nutrition and antioxidants,” says Rick Woodford, author of Feed Your Best Friend Better. But, he cautions, chocolate, onions, grapes, and raisins are toxic for dogs; salt and pepper are irritants; and foods cooked with oils or other added fats can upset their tummies.
Try slowly introducing some fruits and veggies as treats, says Woodford, starting with teaspoons or tablespoons. These are good choices: carrots, apples, green beans, pears, bananas, melons, plums, apricots, broccoli, snap peas, tomatoes, and plain cooked potatoes.
Eggs, cooked without added fat, salt or pepper, are an easy replacement for some regular dog food. Woodford recommends one-quarter of an egg for each 10 lbs of your dog’s weight, for example: one-half egg for a 20-lb dog or 1 egg for a 40-lb dog.
Cooking for Cats
“Cats are carnivores, but in the wild, they don’t eat only muscle meat,” points out Lisa Shiroff, author of Purr-fect Recipes for a Healthy Cat. Their prey is 75 percent moisture. Canned cat food contains moisture, but dry food can lead to dehydration because cats don’t automatically drink enough water. And, says Shiroff, cats may avoid tap water because their keen senses detect unpleasant chemical additives. Give them clean, filtered water.
Shiroff also dispels some myths: Most cats are lactose intolerant. Fish should be an occasional treat, because it doesn’t provide taurine, an amino acid cats need in plentiful amounts (organ meats are the richest source). And for fiber and antioxidants, about 10 percent of their diet should be vegetables and grains that they can easily digest, such as oats and rice.
Shiroff’s list of foods to avoid includes chocolate and cocoa, coffee and tea, grapes, raisins, green tomatoes and tomato leaves, onions, nuts, persimmons, rhubarb, pork, salt, sugar, and raw forms of fish, eggs, and potatoes.
Supplements for Dogs and Cats
Use supplements formulated for your pet, not for humans, as some ingredients in human products may not be tolerated by animals. Products typically give dosages by weight of the animal. Howard Peiper, ND, co-author of Super-Nutrition for Dogs n’ Cats, identified these as key supplements for dogs and cats:
Omega-3 Fats: Found in fish oil and flax seed oil but typically not included in conventional pet food. Necessary for overall health, immunity, joint health, inflammation control, and a lustrous coat.
Greens: Formulas may include different grasses and kelp, spirulina, or chlorella—natural sources of essential minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that protect against toxins and premature aging.
Digestive Enzymes: Depleted from processed pet food, enzymes enhance pets’ ability to digest food and absorb nutrients.
Probiotics: Healthy gut bacteria, or probiotics, are essential for healthy digestion and defense against infections and inflammatory conditions, including skin problems.
Joint Problems: Glucosamine.
Travel and Other Stressful Situations: Calming herbs such as chamomile and lavender, and ginger to ward off travel sickness.
Dental Care: Chews designed to clean teeth and freshen breath.
Eye Care: Natural eye washes with herbs such as goldenseal and echinacea.
Ear Care: Natural formulas with herbs such as calendula, rosemary, and myrrh.
Salmon Patties for Dogs
1 14.5-ounce can salmon
1 ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
1⁄3 cup minced fresh parsley
2 Tbs. olive oil
1. Empty canned salmon, with juices, into a bowl and flake with a fork to separate and remove any bones.
2. Add eggs, bread crumbs, and parsley and stir until well combined
3. Gently form 6 patties, each about 3½ inches in diameter
4. Heat oil over medium heat and cook patties for 4-5 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Let patties cool slightly, and then break up and serve as treats. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 weeks.
Treat allowance per day:
Weight of Dog Portion of patty
10 lb ¼
20 lb 1⁄3
40 lb 2⁄3
60 lb ¾
80 lb 1 patty
Recipe, reproduced with permission, from Feed Your Best Friend Better: Easy, Nutritious Meals and Treats for Dogs.
Mackerel Treats for Cats
1 Tbs. fish liver oil
1 cup whole oats
1 8-ounce can of mackerel, drained
Preheat oven to 350°. Using a fork, break up the mackerel in a mixing bowl. Add in whole oats, fish liver oil, and egg. Drop by ½ teaspoonful onto a cookie sheet covered with non-stick spray. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Recipe, reproduced with permission, from Purr-fect Recipes for a Healthy Cat: 101 Natural Cat Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Cat Happy.
How to Become Your Pet’s Favorite Chef
These books include tasty, well-balanced recipes to keep your dog or cat happy and in good health.
Purr-fect Recipes for a Healthy Cat by Lisa Shiroff
Feed Your Best Friend Better by Rick Woodford