Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Summer 2009
Smart Eats For Pets
|As more and more people change their own diets and the foods they serve their families to be more healthy, natural and fresh, they want to do the same for their pets. “Petfood Industry magazine published an article recently that suggested that 8 to 27 percent of pet owners are switching from traditional pet foods to alternative pet foods,” says Susan Wynn, D.V.M., past president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. “They’re looking for natural, organic, raw/frozen, refrigerated, homemade, 100 percent U.S.-sourced, locally grown or other small-batch pet foods.”|
But it’s important for concerned pet owners to keep in mind that dogs and cats are anatomically and physiologically different from humans. They have shorter GI tracts and varying populations of intestinal bacteria that aid in food digestion. In addition, Wynn notes, cats have specific needs for nutrients like taurine, arachidonic acid and preformed vitamin A, which other species can make on their own.
To Cook Or Not To Cook?
Many owners prefer to make some of their own fresh homemade pet foods from scratch because it gives them control over the ingredients in their pet’s diet. “We can’t say that animals eating homemade or fresh foods live longer, but I do believe that fresh foods—especially vegetables, fruits and quality meats—do provide a missing something that animals cannot get from kibble,” Wynn says. “Some simply bond with their pets by cooking for them.”
Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., author of Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats (Rodale; Third Edition, 2005), encourages more natural, do-it-yourself diets for pets. But he points out that striving for variety is key to achieving the optimum balance of nutrients. One recipe served day in and day out won’t fill the bill, and Pitcairn devotes several chapters in his book to explaining the nutritional needs of dogs and cats, plus providing a number of recipes. He also stresses that any homemade diet also requires the addition of certain essential supplements.
Pets can, however, benefit from some of the nutritional strategies that contribute to human health. Wynn suggests, for example, that supplementing commercial food with vegetables and some fruits is a good idea because they seem to be part of the equation for health. (Granted, with cats, this is easier said than done.) Pitcairn suggests finely mincing small amounts of bland veggies like zucchini in with your cat’s regular food; otherwise, they’ll pick around it.
You need to know which foods to avoid as well. Most pet owners know that chocolate is harmful to animals, but there may be other potential dangers in your kitchen. Wynn cautions that grapes and raisins can cause dogs and cats to develop kidney failure and that onions and garlic may lead to anemia.
If you want to cook healthfully for your pet, you’ll need to do your homework or consult with a professional to customize a plan. Wynn says that many general veterinary practitioners are not comfortable offering advice on home cooking for pets and may not have the resources to help, but they should be able to refer you to veterinary nutritionists.
|Fat Cats, Poochy Pooches|
One way in which pets are remarkably like their owners is their tendency to be overweight. The figures are eye-opening: According to the 2008 National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Study, 44 percent of dogs and 57 percent of cats were found to be overweight or obese.
As with people, excess pounds in pets—even just a few—can lead to chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and hypertension. “We have become not only a nation of couch potatoes, but we’ve now raised a nation of lap potatoes,” says Ernie Ward, D.V.M., the study’s lead investigator and founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP).
“Anyone can tell if their pet is overweight with a few simple tests,” Ward says. Essentially you should be able to lightly push in on the ribs and feel them. “If you’re feeling a half an inch or an inch of fat, they’re overweight. Period.” Correcting the problem requires a threefold approach:
1. Control pet portions. Consult with your vet to determine the optimal total daily calories that will let your pet safely lose weight and then measure food to stick to that number. For cats, smaller, more frequent meals can help rev up the metabolism. “It is not uncommon for me to have people feed their cats four to six times a day,” Ward says. Some automatic feeders can be programmed for up to eight daily feedings.
2. Shake four legs. Walking your dog for 30 minutes a day is essential. “You’re not going to get a dog to lose weight without increasing exercise,” Ward says. Cats aren’t aerobic creatures, so try increasing active play with laser pointers, feather dancers and remote- controlled toys.
3. Take a treat time-out. Instead of doling out biscuits, lavish praise instead. “Replace the confection with your affection,” says Ward. If you must give your dog a between-meal treat, make it a crunchy raw vegetable such as baby carrots, celery, asparagus or snow peas. Dogs enjoy apples and bananas, but feed them in moderation since they’re more calorie-dense. Carnivores that they are, cats will usually walk away from a carrot stick. Treat felines to an occasional teaspoon of canned or foil-pouch tuna or salmon.
The ultimate reward for these simple steps? More time with your pet companions. Ward notes that animals may live up to 25 percent longer when they’re at a normal weight. “I enjoy my daily walks and runs with my dog and sleeping in the bed at night with our cats, and if I can do anything to preserve and perhaps elongate that period of time, I think that’s well worth any little effort I have to take.”
Naturally, Publix Can Help
It’s easy to feed your pet with the same concern about natural ingredients that you have for your own diet. You’ll find both dog and cat foods from The Goodlife Recipe and Iams Health Naturals, along with Naturals from Purina Cat Chow, on the shelves at your neighborhood Publix. What sets these commercial pet foods apart is their reliance on high-quality natural ingredients such as real beef or salmon, as well as nutrient-dense vegetables, whole grains and, in some formulas, fruits, eggs and leafy greens. Absent are things like added flavors or preservatives, fillers and additives. Look for natural goodness for your pet on your next shopping trip.