Back To The Basics

Feeding Your Pet

I did a phone consultation with a lady the other day who has a dog with cancer.  Following her vet’s recommendation, she took her dog to the veterinary college to work with their oncologist.  The oncologist told her that if she were to have any hope of extending her dog’s life expectancy beyond a couple of months, she would need to have chemotherapy given to her dog.  The client agreed to the treatment and the drugs were started.  After just a couple of treatments, due to the dog’s reactions to the drugs, it became obvious to the lady that it was not in her dog’s best interest to continue the treatments.  That is why she called me.

I was not surprised when I asked her if the oncologist had discussed the importance of nutrition in treating cancer, and she surprisingly said, “No.”  I was not surprised because in over 17 years treating pet’s with cancer, not once, has a client been instructed as to the importance of nutrition for pets with cancer.

Isn’t it amazing that a cancer specialist would give a harsh treatment to a pet in order to kill the cancer, yet allow the client to feed a diet that actually promotes the cancer’s growth.  Seems ironical doesn’t it?  But, that is actually the case.

Cancer cells require sugar to live.  Dogs and cats are carnivores, so they convert starch to sugar.  If the food that they are eating has starch in it, the food feeds the cancer and promotes its growth.  This is not rocket science.  How do we know if the pet food has starch in it?  ALL kibble, no matter what the brand, has starch in it.  Why?  Because starch is the glue that holds the kibble together.  Without the starch, the bag would be full of powder.

This is just one example of why the pet food that is being fed to our pets is likely causing them more harm than good.  Believe me, I am pointing the finger at myself because I fed my pets this type of food and recommended it to my clients for many years.  I did not know any better.

I like to use this analogy.  If you take your child to the pediatrician and ask the doctor what you need to do to keep your child healthy, the doctor will likely tell you to feed a healthy, wholesome diet and avoid highly processed food that is nothing more than empty carbohydrates and causes health problems.  That sounds reasonable.  But, if you take your new puppy or kitten to the vet and ask the same thing, he will likely tell you to avoid feeding a healthy, wholesome diet and encourage you to feed a highly processed pet food.  What?

If we were to look at these two situations objectively, we would have to surmise that the pet’s gastrointestinal function is completely the opposite of ours, and this is absolutely not the case.  We better run out in the wild and tell all the wolves, coyotes and other carnivores that the fresh kill that eat is not healthy for them.  You might think, “Well, dogs and cats are not wolves or lions.”  Actually, their gastrointestinal function is exactly the same.

If we look a little closer and ask ourselves where is the information coming from that is being passed along to us from our vets.  We assume that the vet learned it at vet school.  Not the case.  Most vets, like myself, had very little animal nutrition in vet school and certainly nothing that instructed us what is the best diet for dogs and cats.  Then, where does this information come from?  The pet food industry.  The pet food industry has vets and other representatives that come into the vet school and show up at meetings and seminars to instruct vets how to instruct their clients what to feed their pets.  Maybe, we might be getting some biased information here.

Let’s look at some objective reasoning.

  1. Why should we be feeding our pets kibble or canned pet food (per the pet food industry)?
  2. Easy to store, easy to feed.
  3. Nutritionally balanced.
  4. Reasonably priced.
  5. Kibble keeps the teeth clean.


  1. Why shouldn’t we feed our pets fresh, wholesome food (per the pet food industry)?
  2. It is not any better, nutritionally, than heat-processed pet food.
  3. It will lead to dental disease if you don’t feed kibble.
  4. If you feed raw food, you will expose your pet and yourself to harmful bacteria such as salmonella.

So, let’s look at these objectively and find out the truth.

  1. Yes, it is easy to store and easy to feed.
  2. No, it is not nutritionally balanced. It is formulated as a diet for omnivores, not carnivores and the byproducts of the utilization of this food by the pet, creates health problems such as inflammation, immune imbalance, dysbiosis (abnormal gut microbes).  Kibble has about 8% water in it, leading to dehydration in the pet, which potentiates kidney disease, especially in the cat.  It also contains additives that have been linked to cancer and other diseases and most cans are lined with BPA, a petroleum byproduct that is also linked to cancer.
  3. Reasonably priced is relative but feeding fresh food is not any more expensive than feeding a high-end kibble.
  4. Kibble does not keep the dog or cat’s teeth clean. This is a myth created by the pet food industry.  Dogs and cats are not chewers.  They break the food down and swallow it.  It will not mechanically clean the teeth.  It will, however, provide sugar for the bacteria in the mouth to proliferate, suppress the immune system so that the bacteria in the mouth can grow without immune interference and cause dental disease.
  5. Is it risky to feed raw? Actually, there are more cases of Salmonella reported each year found in kibble diets than in pets fed raw food.  Almost all recals in the pet food industry are due to Salmonella.  Both dogs and cats have very high levels of acid in their stomach in order to process the meat they require for energy.  The high level of acids will kill unhealthy bacteria.  This is why the wild carnivores can eat dead carcasses and why your dog or cat can do the same as well as drink from a muddy puddle, etc.  The only real potential is the person handling the raw meat.  But, how many people handle raw meat for themselves?  Most people do.  So, I tell my clients to do the same thing when preparing their pet food as they do when preparing their own food; clean up afterwards and wash your hands.  Pretty simple.

The truth is, all heat-processed pet food, whether it is kibble or canned, grain-free or not, is unhealthy for your pet.  Heat-processed pet food has been linked to every chronic disease we find in dogs and cats, including allergies, arthritis, organ disease, inflammatory bowel disease, behavioral issues, brain disease and cancer.  It really comes down to one question.  Do you want to feed your pet to thrive or do you want to feed your pet to survive?  It is your choice.

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