When we first opened, over twenty years ago, our primary goal was to find species appropriate foods so pet guardians would have healthy choices for their companion animals. With your support we have seen some amazing changes in our industry. There are now many choices for species appropriate food and supplements that exist today because you demanded better for your animals. Let’s face it, none of this would be happening without consumer support.
There are two other areas where I think we need another paradigm shift and it will not happen without you, so I wanted to start the conversation and see what we can do together.
There have been a lot of discussions lately regarding dogs’ diets and what they should be eating. I have seen people recommending that the diet must be grain-based, avoiding exotic meats and grain free foods. They are also recommending the avoidance of “boutique” foods and that the food should be a diet that meets The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines, which would only include Royal Canin, Purina, Hill’s Science Diet, Eukanuba, Iams, and all veterinary prescriptions diets. They are saying companies should have full-time veterinarian nutritionists on staff and that the diets should be complete and balanced.
Tail Blazers was founded on sourcing and offering the most species appropriate diets available in the market. We have always heavily promoted raw (meat/bone/organ-based) diets as the most species appropriate – what do wild canines and felines eat if not raw animal prey-based diets? These are the most species appropriate for our domesticated dogs and cats as well.
One of the most common arguments against raw food diets is, you guessed it, BACTERIA and the dangers that those bugs can potentially pose to our pets and ourselves. But, how harmful is bacteria in raw pet food, and food in general? Is raw more dangerous? Are humans really at risk? Continue reading
At Tail Blazers we do not approve or carry any food or treats that have been irradiated, also called “ionizing radiation.” To irradiate something means to expose food to a high dose of energy ionizing radiation using Gamma rays, X-rays or electron beam radiation in the attempt to prevent food poisoning by reducing the level of parasites and harmful bacteria; to prevent spoilage by destroying bacteria, moulds and yeast, and to increase shelf life by slowing the ripening of fresh fruits and vegetables. (1) Another goal or irradiation is to kill bugs in product.
The governments of both Canada and the US claim that irradiation is very safe and that it does not change the physical characteristics of food or cause harm. There is A LOT of information out there, and concern, to the contrary, very scary and alarming info!
Are you thinking about switching your pet to a raw diet? We feel that a “raw” or “biologically appropriate raw food diet” is an extremely beneficial way of feeding our pets as the design of their teeth and digestive system will show. Their digestive system is very short and acidic ready to take on any bacteria that may be present in the food and their teeth are designed to tear meat and chew on raw bones. A Swedish study has shown that it takes 4 hours to digest raw food and up to 16 hours to digest kibble. The reason for speedy digestion is the body very easily absorbs the multitude of nutrients present in raw food, and enzymes, which break down food, have not been destroyed in the cooking process.
For the conclusion of our series on pet nutrition I would like to discuss the pros and cons of vet foods (prescription diets) and breed specific diets.
What are Prescription Diets?
In short, a prescription diet is a pet food sold by your veterinarian that is usually based on some medically sound concept, such as – low protein for dogs or cats in the final stages of renal failure.
At one time the quality of these foods were not bad, but unfortunately, since large corporations such as Colgate- Palmolive have purchased these companies the quality has declined significantly. To keep costs down chemical additives, colours and preservatives have been added to the food as well as an over-abundance of species inappropriate ingredients like corn, soy or wheat. Veterinarian Dr. Shawn Messonnier makes note in his article, “What do vets learn about nutrition” that as a vet student many of the course materials they received on animal nutrition were provided by Hills, IAMS, Purina and other well known manufacturers of pet food. He goes on to say that although much of the course materials are based on medically sound ideas and they are unbiased, “the authors were researchers from Hills (the makers of Science Diets and Prescription Diets), so they were quick to promote their own line of pet food”. In addition to this “these pet food companies provide the diets used in veterinary hospitals” and vet students/staff were offered perks by these companies in the form of free products. He also mentions that doctors of veterinary medicine leave school “biased at best” and “antinatural and rabid fans of these national brands”. Doctor Messonnier encourages veterinarians to “strike out on their own to seek a more balanced approach to diet and nutrition.” Luckily, we are starting to see an increase in veterinarians that are doing this – and we have a few really good ones in Calgary.
What should you do if a Vet Diet is recommended to you?
Dr. Messonnier offers a few things to remember: Most vets (and few pet store employees) have any significant training in pet nutrition. Vets often know nothing more about nutrition than the small amount they are taught in school –usually provided by pet food companies that do not make “natural diets”. The majority of pet foods on the market contain animal and plant by-products, chemical preservatives, additives, and many artificial ingredients. Look for healthier foods that contain wholesome meats, veggies, and natural preservatives. RX diets are usually no better than non-RX diets when it comes to the quality of the ingredients. When possible, homemade diets are preferred for animals with various ailments. If necessary, RX diets (plus a lot of supplements) may be given to some patients, but are best for short term use while the animal heals.
What are Breed Specific Diets?
Some pet food companies offer specific diets for a particular breed of dog or cat. In my experience, these companies do a fantastic job of identifying the problems that certain breeds of dogs and cats may experience. For example, one popular breed specific diet for Boxers recognizes that Boxers are prone to heart problems and add supplements to help combat them. However, just like most prescription diets the basis for these diets are often nutritionally inferior to more natural, species appropriate diets. They often contain extremely minimal amounts of the supplements they advertise on the bag.
In Conclusion: The majority of vet and breed specific diets I have seen while they may have some medically sound ideas, the quality of the food may be the nutritional equivalent of adding a vitamin supplement to your macaroni and cheese diet (use the label reading guidelines in part one to see for yourself). See if your vet can offer you home made diets to prepare until your pet is back on track. Or, often times you can find a more natural food option and a supplement that will perform the same function as your veterinary or breed specific diet. That way, you are not trading one medical problem for another. Do your research (because of limited GOOD research on pet diets, I often research human studies and use that info with my pets) and if necessary seek another opinion. I am eagerly waiting for the day when research on pet food nutrition will become more factual and unbiased, and we can have a designation such as “pet food nutritionist” for professionals that is taught based on fact rather than clever marketing. Imagine being able to send your pet to a nutrition specialist for their medical problems, just like we do for ourselves!
Holly Montgomery – Co-owner/operator of Tail Blazers – Health Food Store for Pets (Copperfield location).
The info in this article in no way replaces regular veterinary care and advice given by a qualified veterinarian. Much of the information referenced in this article in regards to prescription diets is cited from the article “What do vets learn about nutrition?” (Animal Wellness Annual 07 Pet Food Report) written by Dr. Shawn Messonnier – the author of several books including “The Natural Health Bible for Dogs and Cats”.
Today I’d like to discuss the reason why dogs and cats can, and should, eat raw meat.
This is one of the most frequent conversations I have with startled visitors to my home who say, ’My gosh! You feed your pets raw meat?’ … as well as clients at my Natural Pet animal clinic who already feed or would like to feed their pets raw, but are getting an argument from their own veterinarians about raw food diets for dogs and cats.
The whole debate about raw food doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Dogs and cats have consumed living, raw meats for thousands of years.
To this day barn cats catch and kill mice, and no one calls poison control. Farmers also don’t call poison control when their dog finds a litter of baby bunnies and pops them in their mouth like little Tootsie Rolls. In these cases, no one thinks to induce vomiting or say, ’Oh my gosh! My pet just ate raw meat!’
The truth is both cats and dogs are designed specifically to consume raw meat. Their bodies are adapted to process raw, living foods.
Fast Food is Bad for Pets, Too
The first bags of commercial pet food entered the market about a hundred years ago. From a historical perspective, processed dog and cat food is a relatively new phenomenon. However, your pet’s GI tract has not evolved in those hundred years to make good use of an entirely kibble-based diet – and it never will.
Fortunately, the bodies of dogs and cats are amazingly resilient and therefore capable of handling foods that aren’t biologically appropriate, like most dry pet foods. Unfortunately, this adaptability has led to a situation of ’dietary abuse’ among the veterinary community. Commercial pet foods – especially dry bagged foods – are so convenient the majority of vets recommend them to all their patients. Processed dog and cat food is convenient, inexpensive, and there’s no preparation or cleanup required. You stash the bag in the pantry, scoop out a portion at meal time, drop it into your pet’s food dish and you’re done. Because commercial pet food has been so successfully marketed (dog and cat food products are a multimillion dollar industry, after all), and because pets’ bodies are resilient and can survive, if not thrive on the stuff, we have been lulled into a sense of complacency about the food we feed our precious four-legged companions. Most veterinary students don’t learn about species-appropriate pet diets in vet school. The only food discussed is processed, commercial pet formulas.
The concept of feeding a living food diet is foreign to many vets. If a client mentions he feeds raw, the vet will ask, ’Why don’t you just feed your cat regular cat food, for crying out loud? Why do you need to make food? Why do you need to feed living foods?’ It doesn’t take much research to uncover the fact that dogs and cats are designed by nature to eat living foods – unprocessed, raw, nourishing foods. Feeding a commercial formula is a bit like deciding your child can be healthy on an exclusive diet of meal replacement bars. No real food, just meal replacement bars. A meal replacement bar is fine now and then, but no sane parent would ever consider raising a child on just those alone. Yet that’s what we’re doing when we feed our pets nothing but commercial, processed foods. Living foods in your pet’s diet are necessary for successful overall immune and organ function.
It seems the biggest problem most people have with a raw meat diet revolves around parasites.
Parasites – roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms – are passed up the food chain and wind up in the guts of animals.
We don’t feed guts to our pets! If you buy a commercially available raw food diet, you will not find guts in the formula because guts contain parasites. If you prepare a homemade raw diet for your dog or cat, you don’t include guts. Do not feed the stomach and small and large intestines. Those are the parts of the prey we get rid of, because those are the parts that harbor parasites.
Muscle meat – the part of the prey used to prepare raw food diets – is sterile except in rare instances when parasites escape the GI tract (guts) and travel there. Certain parasites, like toxoplasmosis, that get into muscle meat can make your pet sick, which is why you should freeze raw meats for three days before feeding them to your dog or cat. By freezing meats three days before serving (a lot like how sushi is handled), and by removing the guts of prey species, you can successfully avoid exposing your raw fed pet to parasites.
Salmonella and Your Pet
The second most frequently asked question I get about raw meat diets is, ’What about salmonella?’ The most important thing to understand about salmonella or any other potentially pathogenic bacteria is that contamination absolutely does occur. It’s a fact of life. Salmonella is the reason for most recalls of dry pet foods (and human foods as well). When a salmonella outbreak occurs, there has been contamination in the food chain. The word Salmonella is used to describe over 1,800 serovars (species) of gram-negative bacteria. This bacteria lives in many species of mammals. The most common bacteria riding around in your dog or cat is Salmonella typhimurium.
I want to quote from an article titled Campylobacter and Salmonella-Associated Diarrhea in Dogs and Cats: When Do I Treat? It was written by Stanley L. Marks, BVSc, PhD, DACVIM (Internal Medicine, Oncology), DACVN, Davis, CA, for the Veterinary Information Network (VIN):
“The clinical significance of bacteria such as clostridium and salmonella causing diarrhea or illness in dogs and cats is clouded by the existence of many of these organisms as normal constituents of the indigenous intestinal flora. The primary enteropathogenic bacteria most commonly incriminating in canine and feline diarrhea is Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium difficile, Campylobacter, and Salmonella. Veterinarians are faced with a quandary when attempting to diagnose small animals with suspected bacterial-associated diarrhea because the isolation rates of these pathogenic bacteria are similar in diarrheic and non-diarrheic animals, and because the incidence of bacterial-associated diarrhea is extremely variable. Salmonella species are commonly isolated from both healthy and hospitalized dogs and cats.”
What this is saying, in a nutshell, is dogs and cats naturally have some Salmonella in their GI tracts much of the time – it’s not some unknown foreign invader but rather one their bodies are familiar with.
If you’re familiar with reptiles, the situations are similar. Reptiles are known to naturally harbor Salmonella in their GI tracts. In an article written by Rhea V. Morgan DVM, DACVIM, DACVO for the VIN, the doctor asserts the following about illness resulting from salmonella:
“Factors that increase the likelihood of clinical disease from Salmonella include the age of the animal, poor nutrition, the presence of cancer or neoplasia, and other concurrent diseases and stress, as well as the administration of antibiotics, chemotherapy or glucocorticoids [which are steroids].” The bottom line is potentially harmful bacteria reside in your pet’s GI tract whether you feed raw foods or the processed stuff. In other words, your pet is already ’contaminated’ with Salmonella.
Dogs and cats are built to handle bacterial loads from food that would cause significant illness in you or me. Your pet’s body is well equipped to deal with heavy doses of familiar and strange bacteria because nature built him to catch, kill and immediately consume his prey. Your dog’s or cat’s stomach is highly acidic, with a pH range of 1-2.5. Nothing much can survive that acidic environment – it exists to keep your pet safe from potentially contaminated raw meat and other consumables. In addition to the acid, dogs and cats also naturally produce a tremendous amount of bile. Bile is both anti-parasitic and anti-pathogenic. So if something potentially harmful isn’t entirely neutralized by stomach acid, the bile is a secondary defense. And your pet’s powerful pancreatic enzymes also help break down and digest food.
Keeping Your Pet’s GI Tract in Good Shape
To help your pet’s digestive system remain strong and resilient enough to handle a heavy bacterial load and to support overall immune function, there are several things you can do.
Number one, minimize stress by feeding a species-appropriate diet, the kind your dog or cat is meant to eat. It’s important to feed vegetarian food to vegetarian animals, and meat-based food to your carnivorous dog or cat.
Minimize the drugs your pet takes, such as antibiotics. Reseed the gut during and after antibiotic therapy with a probiotic. It’s also a good idea to maintain your dog or cat on a daily probiotic to balance the ratio of good to bad bacteria (gut flora).
A good-quality digestive enzyme will help promote your dog’s or cat’s body to get the most out of the food you feed.
Providing your favorite pooch or feline with a balanced, biologically sound diet, a healthy lifestyle, digestive enzymes and probiotics, will nourish your pet, support healthy immunologic function, and bring overall vibrancy to her body. This is in direct contrast to feeding a commercial formula of highly processed rendered byproducts, chemicals and grains – the typical mainstream pet food sold today. The sooner you transition your dog or cat to the kind of diet she was designed to eat, the sooner she will be on her way to vibrant good health.
Why does the quality of food make a difference in our pet’s health? Simply put, food is body fuel, and life does not exist without it. The strength of our pet’s immune system, its resistance to disease, and its quality of life all depend on the type and quality of food that he/she eats.
If our pets are to reach their genetic potential in terms of health, longevity, physical activity and reproduction, their modern day diet must mimic as closely as possible their evolutionary diet. The further an animal’s diet departs from its evolutionary diet, the more health problems that animal is likely to develop.