Friday, December 31, 2010

Cats: Beneficiaries of the Raw-Meaty-Bones Diet

When the Kona Raw Pet- Food Co-op began, a little more than a year ago, the original members were dog owners.  These dog owners may have fed a cat or two, but our focus was clearly on raw-meaty-bones for dogs.  The balance is changing now, as more cat owners, without dogs, join the co-op.

From research on pet diets, I knew that even veterinarians, who are tragically opposed to raw-feeding, acknowledge that cats are "Obligate Carnivores".  They're taught that phrase in vet school.  What that phrase means to misled vets, however, is that commercial cat foods must contain a higher percentage of proteins than dog foods and that cats can't live without some amino acids in their foods that they don't produce themselves (notably taurine, the absence of which in commercial cat foods killed a lot of cats).

I had a memorable conversation with the vet who examined the Maine Coon kitten I imported from Australia in January 2009.  Her statement began, "Cats are obligate carnivores, so you must feed her...".  I expected the word MEAT to appear in the following phrase, but NO.  "... you must feed her a balanced, 100% complete dry cat food."  I almost laughed out loud, but managed to restrain myself and change the subject.

Dry foods are bad for cats, whose desert origins incline them not to drink enough water to offset the dehydrating effects of dry foods.  Cats need moisture in their food.  Further, pet-food manufacturers skirt the margins of sustainable diets with as little animal proteins and fats as they must include to prolong domestic cats' lives for barely half of their natural lifespans.  According to cat experts, such as Elizabeth Hodgkins, domestic cats can live into their twenties, but practically none get past their mid-teens, because poor diets make them susceptible to all manner of degenerative diseases.  Cats need to eat whole small prey or its best substitute, raw-meaty-bones.

My cat, Daisy, was weaned on raw minced kangaroo meat and Royal Canin Maine Coon Kitten Food (yes, Royal Canin actually produces a food with that name, to their eternal shame).  When Daisy arrived at nearly 5 months of age, she was not prepared to chew her food or to accept strange flavors, such as raw chicken and beef.  In Hawaii, I could not offer kangaroo meat, and I certainly was not going to feed her Royal Canin Maine Coon Cat Food.  Feeding Daisy was a problem from the start, because cats are very attached to the foods on which they are weaned.  Problems with changing cats' diets are discussed on the Raw Meaty Bones web site.

Turned out Daisy loved Wysong's raw-dehydrated meats.  Mixing raw chicken and beef with Dream Treats  or Archetype worked.  She became skillful at chewing up raw chicken legs and wings.  She liked beef heart and kidney.  She didn't starve, but she was underweight for a year.  Instead of weighing 15 or 16 pounds, her weight hovered around 12 pounds -- until Wysong came out with their new Epigen.

Epigen is a starch-free dry food for cats and dogs.  Epigen is more than 60% meat, more than 60% proteins, and the rest is mostly animal fats -- in other words, a convenient but suitable dry food for carnivorous pets.

For reasons unknown at this time, cats LOVE Epigen.  Not just my cat, but all the cats of Kona Raw members.  We collect amusing tales of cats running to eat when the Epigen bag is opened for the first time.  Must be something in the aroma.  Cats gobble up Epigen, fending off the dogs for whom the bowl was intended.  Cats don't seem to know this is a new food they should instinctively avoid, as they do other new foods.

Daisy now weighs 16 pounds, on her way to full maturity -- around 18 pounds at three years-of-age.  Other skinny and sick cats are similarly being helped by the addition of Epigen to their raw diets. 

Several cat owners who recently joined the co-op have sick to very sick cats.  There are cats with chronic renal failure, with wide-spread food allergies, with tumors, and other distressing maladies.  Owners are feeding raw-meaty-bones to make their pets well or to give them happier lives until the end.  So far, owners are reporting good results with cats accepting raw meats and chicken bones.  They also find that Epigen is a helpful addition to their cats' diets.

Whereas dogs will eat almost anything (that doesn't eat them first, as one vet told me years ago), cats are much more selective in what they will consume.  Some cats won't eat beef liver; other thrive on it.  Some cats love green tripe; others sniff and find it as distasteful as most pet owners do.  Some cats crunch up chicken bones as well as dogs do; others won't chew up anything harder than an Epigen pellet.  It's trial-and-error to devise a good raw diet for cats, and repeated trials at that.  By combining raw meats with Epigen, owners feel more secure that their cats are getting nutrients they need to get well and thrive.

I have much to learn from experienced cat owners in the Kona Raw co-op.  The canine-o-centric focus of the co-op has changed.  Felines rule!

Raw-Fed Dogs Just Look and Act Different

A member of our Kona Raw Pet Food Co-op was walking with his German shepherd/Husky mix along the shore, south of the Place of Refuge National Historical Park (Pu'uhonua o Honaunau).  This is a great spot for dogs to cavort off-lead when park rangers are not looking, or passively assenting to well-behaved dogs having a good run.  Dogs love to wade in and explore the tide pools along this stretch of shore.

As Bud ran along the trail with his dog, he encountered a stranger, who said,
"Isn't it great you feed your dog raw!"
Rather stunned by the stranger's accurate assessment, Bud said,
"How do you know I feed him raw?" 
The stranger identified himself as a visitor from Canada and explained,
"I can tell from his coat and his attitude."
Amazing but true.   Raw-fed dogs do have great coats -- no itches or hot spots, no thin, scraggly fur so common to kibble-fed dogs.  But his attitude?  Of course!  Dogs fed raw-meaty-bones are happy, jaunty, and satisfied.  Their behavior brims with satisfaction and self-confidence -- the attitude the Canadian visitor had seen in Bud's dog.

There are profound differences between raw-fed dogs and unfortunate dogs on starchy, pet-food diets.  Some of it shows in their coats and behaviors.  A lot of it is hidden in their long-term health.

This week I heard another series of fatal cancer, tumor,and  kidney-failure stories from prospective puppy buyers, who lost treasured pets to premature deaths.  These deaths are caused by long-time, monotonous feeding of inappropriate diets.  After some discussion, these pet owners are easy to convert to raw-feeding for their next puppies. They feel guilty for not knowing what is obvious to them now, for not having saved their pets misery and early deaths.  They each had spent hundreds and thousands of dollars in veterinary bills to try to save their dogs.

Carnivorous pets require raw meat and meaty bones to maintain health.  You'd think that everyone would see this obvious truth.  It's hard for pet owners to get past veterinarians, however, who stand squarely in opposition to raw-meaty-bones.  How much longer can vets be blind to the health of raw-fed pets and to the many unnecessary illnesses caused by the starchy pet-foods they sell?  Will they ever be held accountable for the untold misery and outlandish expenses they cause?  Surely, a day-of-reckoning is coming.

Meanwhile, we can look at raw-fed dogs in a different light -- you can tell they're different by their healthy coats and happy attitudes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wysong Gets It, But Will They End Their Own Starchy Foods ?

The new Wysong dry food, Epigen, is a breakthrough in dry food manufacture, because it contains no starches.  In a ground-breaking process, Wysong was able to bind little nuggets of dried meats with vegetable and animal proteins, instead of starches.  Epigen offers the convenience of dry food that requires no refrigeration in a healthier, high-protein formulation for carnivorous pets.

What, then, does Dr. Wysong say about pet diets to promote Epigen?  Here's a quote from the Epigen bag:
Wysong Epigen is a truly new (patent pending) pet food innovation.  For the first time, a dry extruded 'kibble' pet food more closely resembles the meat-based, high protein, starchless foods carnivores are genetically designed to eat.
Pets are genetically indistinguishable for their wild carnivorous counterparts.  They are designed to eat as carnivores eat.  Nowhere in nature do canines and felines consume a steady diet high in starches (a poly-sugar).  Yet, contrary to the natural model, pets today eat such foods meal after meal, day after day, year after year.
Not living and eating -- as nature intended  has consequences. Research has shown that a steady high starch (sugar) diet  can lead to a host of chronic degenerative conditions.  These include insulin resistance, diabetes, dental disease, arthritis, immune compromise, cancer, premature aging, and more.
 In fairness, Dr. Wysong has always promoted variety in pets diets and decried veterinary advice to feed the same (usually starchy) food, meal after meal, day after day, year after year.  Wysong's 100 Pet Health Truths Program condemns sole feeding of any food, especially commercial pet foods. Wysong's advice about variety includes fresh raw meats and meaty bones, but not exclusively.  Variety also includes Wysong's own starchy kibbles and cooked canned mush, however.  "Nowhere in nature do canines and felines consume" Wysong's starchy kibbles or cooked canned mush, either.  Again, from the Epigen bag:
Wysong advises against feeding any one pet food exclusively.  Feeding one food fosters the development of ingredient intolerances (allergies) and other health ailments.  You would never eat one food exclusively, and neither should your pet.
Augment your pet's diet with other Wysong Diets, such as our canned foods, raw diets like Archetype Diets, Dream Treats, UnCanny and others.  Whole fresh grocery foods can and should also be a part of any healthy feeding regime,  You need not feed only 'pet' foods.
 One wonders where this is all going.  Will Wysong cease producing its long-established starchy pet foods and cooked meats?  Even granting their Canine Maintenance and Feline Vitality use healthier starches and better supplements than other commercial pet foods, can they really promote these products when they admit how damaging they are for pets' health?  Compared to other pet-food manufacturers, Wysong tells the truth about carnivorous pets, even it their corporate behavior is not consistent with the diet information they provide.

Feeding Epigen is not nearly as good for your carnivorous pet as a full raw-meaty-bones diet, but pet owners are fallible.  They run out of meaty bones, they can't store enough meaty bones to last the week until they can get more meaty bones, and they forget to order meaty bones.  All of the above, and more, compromise pet owners' ability to comply with the best feeding regime.

Kona Raw Pet Fiod Co-op members have eagerly adopted Epigen as part of their raw-meaty-bones diet.  Why?  Convenience is a major reason, but there are other issues.  Some pet owners cannot believe that pets get all the nutrients they need from a simple diet of raw meats and meaty bones.  So ingrained are the spurious notions of "balanced" and "100% compete" pet foods, it is very difficult for some to believe that a simple meats and meaty-bones diet will suffice.  They feel more confident about their feeding regime when they include a dry food that lists all those good minerals and vitamins on the bag.

Still other pet owners are simply more comfortable feeding a few human-type meats and meaty bones and supplementing with Epigen.  These pet owners cannot bring themselves to feed tracheas, lungs, spleens, green tripe and other "Yucky!"meats.that are perfectly suitable for pets.  Feeding only meats and meaty bones that are suitable for human consumption is expensive.  Epigen is included as a less expensive part of the diet.

My 15 dogs like Epigen, but they prefer any raw meats and meaty bones.  Six days a week, I just hand them suitably sized hunks of raw meaty bones.  No bowls required.  About once a week, I give them a bowl of two raw eggs, messy meats like beef liver and kidneys, a chunk of cheese, any leftover vegetables from my kitchen, a tablespoon of Spirulina and Call of the Wild, and a cup or so of Epigen.  This atypical meal of the week gives them some "extras" they may not need, but it makes me feel more confident they are getting "everything" they need..

Now, I have a confession.  My cat adores Epigen.  Daisy is a two-year-old Maine coon cat.  She has been quite skinny on a pure raw-meaty-bones diet.  I worried about her being under-weight.  She eats chicken drumsticks and thighs (including the bone) and giblets, beef skirt meat, ground green tripe, and other assorted raw meats and bones -- but she never ate enough to weigh more than 12 pounds, which is very slim for a large Maine coon cat..  When I opened a bag of Epigen, Daisy came running.  She gobbled it down. Some months later, Daisy eats rmb and Epigen, and her weight has increased to a healthier 16 pounds.

My observation that Daisy loves Epigen is replicated a dozen times among Kona Raw members.  Cats that previously would eat only one food (usually a terribly unhealthy kibble or canned mush) eagerly eat Epigen.  Many cats turn up their noses at raw meaty bones, if they have been raised on Whiskas or Fancy Feast (both dreadful).  Owners may succeed at getting them to accept an rmb diet, but it's a long, slow process.  For unknown reasons, cats accept Epigen eagerly.  My son's cat, a Humane Society kitty raised on Fancy Feast, would not accept ANY other food.  I was present in the kitchen when he opened a bag of Epigen.  The cat came running, leaped onto the counter and mewed.  Skeptically, he put some Epigen in a small bowl.  After Lily gobbled it down, he asked what on earth they put in this food!

Indeed, what do they put in this food?  Chicken meal is the biggest component.  Although organic chicken is listed first on the label and chicken giblets are third,, fresh chicken is 75% water that is removed in processing. Chicken meal is dry to start; thus, the largest component in Epigen.  Chicken meal is cooked, processed left-overs from commercially raised chickens.  It does not include feathers, beaks, and feet, but everything else.  Actually, chicken meal is pretty nourishing, as dry food ingredients go.

After chicken meal, vegetable proteins from potatoes, rice, corn, and/or wheat are listed.  A good guess is this food is about 72% meat proteins and fats and 20% vegetable proteins (rest is 12% moisture and 3.5% fiber).  Although it may not be the ideal carnivore food (it's mostly cooked chicken, after all), it's a huge improvement over other dry pet foods.

Two new versions of Epigen -- Venison and Fish -- are due to be produced at any moment.  In fact, Wysong is behind schedule in producing the new Epigens, because they are overwhelmed with orders for the original Epigen.  The Good News is more pets will be fed a high-protein dry food, and maybe their owners will be nudged to add raw meats and meaty bones to their pets' diets.  The Bad News is that Epigen is no substitute for raw-meaty-bones -- the most appropriate diet for carnivorous pets.