By Dr Bruce Syme BVSc (Hons)
Canines and felines have been evolving on this planet for millions of years. During all of that time they have been eating raw food, and it is common sense to see that they are not yet adequately designed to fully digest, process and absorb cooked foods which are purported to supply ALL their nutritional requirements.
In the wild dogs and cats eat the stomach content of the prey animal (vegetable matter), raw organs and muscle meat and then chew on the remaining meaty bones. This forms the basis of the perfect diet, formulated by Mother Nature herself over millions of years of evolution. Our domesticated canines and felines have the same genetic make-up, and the same digestive functions as their wild counter-parts, so this diet is logically also ideal for them.
Their mouths, teeth, stomach, intestines, organs and pancreatic enzymes have all evolved to masticate, digest and absorb the breakdown products of raw food. There is a growing stockpile of scientific evidence that links the long term consumption of cooked and highly processed pet foods, to the development of a vast array of common illnesses and degenerative diseases.
Skin disease and allergic dermatitis, teeth and gum disease, arthritis, renal failure and urinary tract disease, recurrent ear infections, obesity, reproductive failure, anal gland blockage can all be linked to improper nutrition, and can all lead to a poorer quality of life and often a reduced longevity.
Conversely, when an animal’s body gets what it needs, in the correct ratios and in the correct form, it thrives – improved health, longevity, fertility, energy, resistance to parasites and diseases and the distinct lack of degenerative diseases that we often just accept as part of our pets growing old.
Some dry foods and canned foods have greatly improved in quality over more recent years; however they are all still cooked at very high temperatures, include higher levels of poorly digestible vegetable proteins, and high levels of carbohydrates, and are topped up with synthetic vitamins and mineral to compensate for what’s damaged during processing, and to meet AAFCO standards.
For those of you committed to promoting high quality dry foods, I encourage you to at least recommend including a reasonable portion of balanced raw meat to assist overall health and longevity. As vets we place too much confidence in the fact that dogs and cats can live to their optimal health and longevity on a diet of total dry food, and I challenge this concept completely. I remain committed to the fact that a total raw diet is the best way to achieve optimal nutrition.
A vast and comprehensive study of cats by Dr Francis M Pottenger and my own observations over many years for both cats and dogs have shown that a variety of health improvements can be expected when they are fed a natural, balanced raw food diet.
Here is a summary of some observations :
Skin and Coat. Reduced skin disease, allergies, itchiness. Dogs and cats have a softer coat, more natural shine with no dandruff. I have also found that it reduces odour and reduces the need to bathe.
Oral Cavity. Vastly improved teeth and gums with reduced halitosis and significantly reduced need for veterinary teeth cleaning. The natural acids formed when eating raw food combined with appropriately sized raw meaty bones is natures tooth brush.
Gastrointestinal Tract. Reduced flatulence and solidly formed faeces. A balanced raw diet with appropriate indigestible roughage reduces anal gland blockage and can correct inflammatory / irritable bowel disease
Reproductive. Increased fertility and litter sizes. Reduced obstetrical problems and caesareans and healthier puppies with fewer litter mortalities
Urinary. Reduces chronic urinary tract infections and crystal formation, naturally acidifies the urine in dogs and cats. A raw diet reduces the incidence of renal failure by maintaining correct dietary fluid levels
Parasites. Reduced gastrointestinal worms and fewer fleas.
Growth and Development. Steady growth and maturation in all breeds and vastly reduced incidence of growth disorders like hip dysplasia and elbow OCD
Immune System. Improved immune function and disease fighting capabilities with a lower incidence of auto-immune diseases. I’ve also observed lower incidence of degenerative diseases and cancer and increased longevity
The cooking process has numerous negative aspects which contribute to reducing the quality and digestibility of food.
Denatures Protein. This means it changes the molecular structure of proteins. Sometimes this change is so small that the digestive system doesn’t recognise the change and absorbs the denatured protein across the gut wall, and these molecules can then trigger adverse reactions in the immune system and result in diseases like allergies. Seriously denatured meat proteins can be carcinogenic, and super heat-treated carbohydrates also form carcinogenic acrylamide.
Destroys Vitamins and Enzymes. Vitamins, needed for normal growth and metabolism, are proteins and are susceptible to the same denaturing as other protein. The relationship exists that the higher the cooking temperature, the worse the damage and loss of function of the vitamin or protein. This is especially important with regard to imported pet foods, that must super-heat treat products to meet AQIS import standards for Australia. It is also important to recognize that intracellular enzymes that are capable of digesting cell contents (eg capthesin), are destroyed by cooking. These enzymes must then be replaced by the animals own body exogenous supplies (pancreatic enzymes), at the animals own energy expense. This can lead to a higher incidence of pancreatitis and sub-clinical pancreatic insufficiency.
Decreases Digestibility and Bioavailability. By creating these changes some available nutrients are rendered useless and are not recognised by the intestinal villi to be absorbed as normal food molecules. This means that although an animal may be ingesting foods that are known to contain certain nutritional elements, the animal’s body may not be able to utilise them in the cooked form.
Dr Richard Malik, a highly respected specialist veterinarian with over 25 years experience, published an article in the Australian Veterinary Journal August 2007 about the association between poor diet and disease. The article titled “Feeding cats for health and longevity” noted several important points.
Referring to Premium pet foods and Prescription diets Dr Malik said, “I think it is time more common sense was brought to bear on this issue. Many experts believe that there is an association between the feeding of these diets and the sporadic development of hepatic lipidosis (and diabetes). The increasing prevalence in Australia seems to parallel the penetration of the Australian cat food market with these US style diets”
Dr Malik also said, “There is a re-emergence of the view that ‘natural’ foods are necessary for cats in Australia”. This is also true for dogs.
For more information talk to our friendly staff at Healthypets
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