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A Vet Speaks Out On Clean Eating For Pets

By Arwa Lodhi

You know that the Clean Eating movement has gone far beyond a trend when it extends to your pets – and that’s exactly what’s happening today. People have noticed that pets often die of cancer, far too young, and wonder what they can do to avoid that. They’re tired of spending thousands of dollars at the vet’s to cure illnesses like kitty kidney disease that are most likely caused by pet foods in the first place. They’re cutting animal products from their diets, and are wondering if their pets can go vegan, too.

To get the best advice on how to optimise your pet’s health, we’ve turned to a top vet, Dr Philipp Schledorn, for some advice and a definition of what clean eating for pets really means.      

What’s meant by ‘clean eating’ for pets?

The clean eating trend is extending to the whole household including our pets. Recent reports have demonstrated the huge surge in demand for more natural pet nutrition, and predict this will continue to grow. The Global Pet Food Market report stated this growth is driven by the increasing call for grain-free pet food products, along with the increasing demand for more natural or even organic pet food products.

Why do pets get so many cancers?

Similar cancers occur in dogs and humans. There are some types of cancer that have only been observed in dogs or that occur more frequently in dogs than in humans.  The cancers in dogs can be distinguished either by cell type or by localization – that is, site of occurrence. Certain cell types occur more frequently on certain anatomical structures than other types of tissue.  Like humans, cancer risk increases with increasing age. Since the average life expectancy of a dog has risen steadily due to improved veterinary care in recent years, the number of cancer cases has also increased.

One of the most common cancers we see in cats is lymphoma, which is associated with the feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Even though there’s a vaccine for feline leukemia now, we still see a number of cats that have been exposed to it, and exposure greatly increases a cat’s chance of developing feline lymphoma.

Which vaccinations are the most essential. Which can be avoided?  

As a vet I wouldn’t say that there are any vaccines which are not important. Often I get asked by pet owners why they should vaccinate their pets, but the illness which we vaccinate animals against are important (see cat cancer, above). Fundamentally, you should always take your vet’s advice on vaccines for your pet so they don’t suffer from needless illnesses.

Which foods can never be given to cats?

  • Onions, chives,  grapes
  • Chocolate or cocoa
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage
  • Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils
  • Raw potatoes
  • Plums, peaches and apricots

Which foods can never be given to dogs?

Chocolate is toxic to dogs.  Ensure all chocolate treats are not accessible to your pet. The darker the chocolate the more theobromine it contains, which is what is poisonous to your pet.

Grapes and raisins can lead to serious adverse reactions from your pet. Symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea as well as lethargy could indicate your pet has eaten some fruit that they shouldn’t.

Avoid feeding them nuts,  especially macadamia nuts  which can even cause a dog to collapse if consumed in large amounts as well as posing as a choking hazard.

Both garlic and onion contain compounds that can be toxic to dogs dependant on the dose and form. Garlic powder can be harmful if given in high doses.  Onions are of the same family as garlic and are even more unsafe to dogs than garlic per ounce.

Mints, gum and candy contain xylitol which is a natural, sugar-free sweetener. Consumption of it, even in smaller quantities, can cause life-threatening low blood sugar within 10-15 minutes. If a dog consumes a lot of xylitol it can lead to liver failure. Symptoms of this poisoning include collapse, vomiting, seizures, jaundice, malaise, and can in worse case scenarios prove to be fatal.

What’s the best kind of pet food to give your cat or dog?

A lot of dry pet food, particularly the more common supermarket brands, contain grain, which is actually not necessary for your pet’s nutrition; the grain is just a cheap filler. Our dogs are canine meat eaters and do not need any grain in their diets. Ash in cat food is the most common filler.Moreover grain is often connected to intolerance, intestinal complaints and allergies. It’s best to avoid dry foods for cats with ash, or with grains for dogs.

How can you tell if your pet has a food allergy?

Food allergies for pets can show themselves in a number of ways such as ear infections, itchy skin, or diarrhoea and vomiting, but which foods are triggering the reaction can be hard to work out. If your pet shows these symptoms, it’s best to eliminate one at a time to work out what is causing the reaction then avoid feeding them that from then onwards.

A dog’s digestive tract is developed for protein and fat digestion which makes the starch contained in dry dog food with grain hard to handle. Wet foods that contain a lot of meat can be easier to digest. A high quality food covers the needs of the dog and promotes its health and well-being.

What are some of the best ingredients to look for in pet food?

Omega 3

If a dog’s coat starts to lose its shine and appear dull, it could be a sign that they aren’t receiving sufficient levels of nutrition in their food. Omega 3 is found in flaxseed oil, salmon oil, tuna and sardines, which are all rich in good fatty acids. They promote strong bones, prevent fur loss, boost metabolism and stimulate growth. Salmon oil has also been shown to have a preventative effect against many heart diseases, as it can lower cholesterol and improve blood flow. You can add these to your dog’s existing meals and should not receive any complaints, dogs find them delicious!

Coconut oil

Organic kitchens across the country put coconut oil in everything and this should include the dog’s dinner! AniForte Coconut Oil for cats and dogs has many of the same positive benefits on pets.  It supports soft and smooth skin and adds shine to coats. It also has a repellent effect on insects, ticks and mosquitoes which is about to be more of a problem now the temperatures are starting to rise.

High protein content

One of the main appeals of natural pet foods is they are free from additives, chemicals and artificial flavourings. High protein foods should have  at least 80% meat content. High protein leaves less room for an upset digestion and intolerances to cereals and grains. Bones and raw food (BARF) is great for dogs.

Pure Collagen

Adding some pure collagen supplements to your cat or dog’s food will help them avoid joint pain. Also look for this ingredient on the label of pet foods in the supermarket.

Can pets be vegans?

The domestic dog is, in zoological terms, a predator/carnivore. But this is only half of the picture, as the wolf, for example, is not comparable with a domestic dogs. It’s thought to be necessary for our dogs to eat meat, but unlike wolves, domestic dogs are no longer pure carnivores and can consume and digest a much wider range of nutrition as an adaptation to their human environment. My dog enjoys a mix of meat and some vegetables – but that’s not to say he’s a vegan.

Cats are different. Trying to feed a cat a vegan diet is like feeding  horses meat – you’re taking a whole species of animal and trying to force it to eat something that it isn’t designed to handle. For cats, I would say a vegan diet is really inappropriate. It goes against their physiology and isn’t something I would recommend.

For dogs, certainly vegetarian and vegan diets are possible, but they need to be done very, very carefully. There is a lot of room for error, and these diets probably are not as appropriate as diets that contain at least some animal protein.

What’s the biggest health mistake pet owners generally make?

We are a nation of pet lovers to the extreme. Our pets are like our family, and we want to spoil them! But we could be killing them with kindness. You don’t have to look far to find evidence of obesity amongst the nation’s pets. According to a recent survey by the Pet Food Manufacturing Association 81% of veterinary professionals believe the issue of pet obesity is getting worse.

There are a few easy ways to tell if your pet is carrying too much weight: make sure you can feel your pet’s ribs and see that the curve to their lower body is visible. A pet should experience no difficulty when getting up, or jumping; if they look like they’re struggling to do so, excess weight could be a cause.  

What To Buy

Antiforte Coconut Oil for Cats and Dogs

Great for getting their coats to really shine!

Get it here.

Lily’s Kitchen Dog Food

Allergen free and with zero grains and other fillers.

Get it here.

Canagan Grain Free Cat Food

Made with free range chicken – just like their ancestors ate!

Get it here.

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