Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pet Diet Books

Amazon.com is awash in books that advise pet owners on how to feed dogs and cats. Advice varies from apologias for commercial pet foods to home-cookbooks to guides on how to feed a balanced diet of raw meaty bones.

Books that promote commercial kibbles and canned mush are often written by veterinarians who are employed by, or supported by, pet-food companies. The rationale for commercial pet foods depends on mis-classifying dogs as omnivores that can be fed grains and vegetables, instead of meats and meaty bones. Commercial dog food advertise they are "complete and balanced" nutrition for your pet.  Actually, commercial pet foods are cooked grains with manufactured nutrients to try to simulate real food.  Relying on manufactured "food" to keep your pets healthy is the same as relying on processed cereals to supply all the nutrients your children need. 

Cats are acknowledged as "obligate carnivores" (that is, they must have a meat-based diet), but clever pet-food nutritionists have concocted "foods" from grains and isolated nutrients that are sprayed on cooked starches.Dry cat foods have more proteins than dog foods, but they are far from a healthy diet for cats.

Believing in commercial pet foods is the same as believing that Twinkies, sprayed with synthetic vitamins and minerals, would be a good diet for your children. A moments' thought will tell you this can't be true.

Actually, giant, global food companies commit dietary atrocities throughout the food chain -- feed for herbivore cattle contains rendered meat meals to promote rapid weight gain, and pet foods are based on grains that carnivores did not evolve to digest. These inappropriate diets effectively and profitably dispose of global companies' food wastes, at a high health cost to animals that are fed inappropriate diets.

Feeding food animals a wrong-diet has short-term consequences for the animals, because they will be slaughtered in 12 to 18 months. Food animals would be far healthier for people to eat if they had been grass-fed and free-range, but giving food animals their appropriate diet in a natural environment is less profitable than crowding them in disease-ridden feed lots and darkened chicken factories and stuffing them with unnatural foods. 

Feeding pets a wrong-diet has bad health consequences for the 10 to 20 years of pets' lifetimes. Imagine being fed the same wrong-diet daily for 15 years. Make no mistake: Commercial pet foods damage pets' health and are simply atrocious.

Books that advise owners to feed the BARF diet (Biologically Available Raw Food, or Bones and Raw Foods, or vomit, as you wish) promote an omnivore diet for carnivorous pets. Ian Billinghurst, an Australian veterinarian, is founder of the widespread BARF diet.   He promotes raw-feeding, including meaty bones and his own line of pet foods.   BARF meals contain minced meats, cooked grains and vegetables, and ground bone. He recommends feeding raw meats and meaty bones, but in minced forms that do not keep pets mouths free of periodontal disease.

Hundreds of thousands of pet owners -- probably millions -- subscribe to the BARF diet. Feeding pets the same kind of diet people eat "makes sense" to pet owners who do not know their pet companions are not omnivores like themselves. In my opinion, BARF is a step above commercial dog-food junk. Dogs get better nutrition from more digestible ingredients, but BARF falls far short of being the best diet for carnivorous dogs.

I fed a home-made BARF diet of cooked brown rice, minced veggies, and raw eggs and meats to my dogs for several years. The dogs also had raw meaty bones to keep their teeth clean.  When I fed kibble, my dogs had allergies, ear problems and joint issues. The BARF diet removed the grains that caused the dogs' allergies, so it proved to be a better diet for them than commercially fabricated junk.

Cats pose a special problem for BARFers, because cats clearly don't need to eat grains or vegetables and are harmed by their inclusion in a feline diet.   BARFers do not talk much about cats. The Honest Kitchen, which markets dehydrated meat-and-vegetable BARF foods for dogs has a big problem with feline diets. Cats just don't fit the BARF profile.  Dogs don't fit the BARF profile either, but dogs can subsist on a "starvation" diet better than cats can.

Books that promote raw-meaty-bones take a stand on the carnivorous nature of dogs, cats, and ferrets. Pets are carnivores that require a different diet from their owners. Dogs and cats today are most often considered family members. Many pet owners want to feed pets the same, or similar, diet that they eat. How can 4-legged family members require a different diet?

RMB tells pet owners not to feed grains and vegetables except as occasional leftovers. Pets' diets must be based on the whole prey that they evolved to eat, or its convenient form -- raw meats, and raw meaty bones. Feeding rmb is actually quite easy, but it takes a change in mind-set to adopt it.  If owners understand the evolution of wolves/dogs and wild cats, they are more likely to feel comfortable with the rmb diet. 

What do wolves and wild cats eat?  Whole prey is the well-understood reply.  What should domestic wolves and cats eat?  The answer is obvious and easy to implement, once pet-food company and veterinary propaganda is dismissed. 

Pet owners are bombarded with conflicting advice on how to feed their pets.  A survey of books on pet diets indicates that a few offer good advice on feeding pets raw-meaty-bones.   Some present rmb as an option but no better than kibble or BARF foods.  Informed pet owners can see the commercial venality and mis-information behind that advice. 

1 comment:

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