Lewis is a kitty who came to me after having seen multiple veterinarians for some chronic skin issues including itchiness, allergies, and scabies. He was so uncomfortable that he was literally pulling out tufts of his hair. All of the standard veterinary drugs had been tried and nothing really worked. His owners came to me desperate to get him some relief. One of the first things that we did for Lewis was a diet change. We wanted to get him off of dry and canned cat food and onto a fresh, whole food diet. Now, anybody that has cats knows that they can be a little particular (to say the least) and sometimes, these diet changes can take some time. After a gradual transition over a few months, we were able to get there. Lewis’s skin and fur started to improve, and two to three months down the road, his allergies were nearly completely resolved with almost no other therapy! It’s amazing that a nutritional change alone can make such an enormous difference in a pet’s life.
Whole Food Nutrition for Your Pet
So what’s the real difference between a fresh, whole food diet and processed foods? If you look on the label of most kibble and canned foods, they will lead you to believe that it’s effectively a fresh, whole food diet, conveniently delivered in a bag or can. Truthfully, it’s a little bit more complicated than that; nutrition doesn’t just come down to ingredients. While the chicken, beef, or fish may start as fresh, whole foods, by the time they get down the production line, they are heavily processed and cooked at very high temperatures. Frequently, a lot of nutrients have been lost and a lot of chemical compounds may have been produced. These compounds can actually create medical problems and widespread inflammation.
If you look at a lot of pet food labels, you may see ingredients like chicken meal or beef byproduct. Contrary to popular belief, meal and byproducts are not, by definition, bad food ingredients. The real problem is that they are very non-specific terms. You have probably seen the phrase “product may contain one or more of the following ingredients” on a nutrition label before. Personally? I find that a little…disconcerting. Just like meals and byproducts, we just don’t know exactly what that means. It could be that it was just meat scraps which, nutritionally speaking, are fine. On the other hand, those could be really low-quality ingredients that ultimately lead to low-quality pet food. And because they are so poorly defined, those ingredients can actually change from one batch to the next. So even though you’re buying the same pet food, the nutritional analysis may actually be changing each time you pick up a new bag or can.
Lewis is a great example of a pet whose life improved when he got away from processed foods and into fresh whole food nutrition. Just like with people, a pet’s body is sort of the summation of their life’s experiences. Everything that they’ve eaten, everything they’ve done, and everything that they’ve experienced makes up what their physical being is at the moment. As people, we have choices. We may eat junk foods on occasion but can always choose to eat good, healthy food. Pets eating processed foods are eating the same thing for every meal, every day for their entire life. The cumulative effect of this kind of nutrition is bound to cause problems down the road.