Written by: Kelley Herring, Healing Gourmet
There is a dietary health crisis in this country that has already taken millions of lives, but it has gone largely unreported. This nutritional epidemic is responsible for widespread cases of diabetes and cancer. Unfortunately these numbers continue to grow.
In fact, you’ve probably been directly touched by this growing crisis. If not, you certainly know someone who has. So, why hasn’t this health catastrophe been widely reported?
Because it’s not happening to humans…it’s happening to our pets.
Health Concerns For Your Furry Friend
The same dietary disasters and lifestyle changes that have led to a rapid increase in degenerative disease in humans have also taken a heavy toll on our pets. For most of the last century, the incidence of cancer and diabetes in companion animals was extremely rare. Just as these diseases have become more prevalent in people, the same is true for our animals.
For instance, one study in the UK suggests that diabetes will strike about one out of every 230 cats.(1) Another study in the US puts the number at one out of a hundred.(2)
The statistics for cancer are even more shocking. According to Dr. Gerald Post, a board-certified veterinary cancer specialist, about one out of every four domesticated dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime. In other words, that equates to about 6 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in dogs each year. Dr. Post says that one out of five domestic cats will develop the disease.(3)
Why the Rapid Growth?
There are some obvious reasons for these rapidly growing numbers…
First, like millions of people, many of our pets lead a sedentary, indoor life. A lack of exercise is certainly a contributing factor in the development of degenerative disease but nutrition and diet play a much larger role. Just as the average person’s diet has changed for the worse over the last several decades, so has our pet’s diet.
Cats are obligate carnivores. They must eat meat. Dogs are carnivores too, although they do have a tendency to be opportunistic omnivores. However, just because they can survive on an omnivorous diet does not mean that it is the diet best suited for them.
Neither of these species has an evolved need for carbohydrates. They are not biologically equipped to consistently consume many of the “people foods” we feed them. Therefore, this leads to pets that are often grossly overweight. As a result, they are prone the same degenerative diseases found in humans.
It’s not just the table scraps that are turning our carnivorous pets into omnivorous, processed-food junkies. The pet food industry has also played a major role.
The Sad Truth
Many commercial pet foods do not even satisfy the basic nutritional requirements of our pets. Not only that, but most also include cheap fillers – particularly grains like corn, rice and wheat – which are decidedly harmful to cats and dogs over the long term.
None of these ingredients belong in your pet’s diet, but corn might be the worst offender. It is highly allergenic to many pets and it also has a high glycemic value (the same is true for rice and wheat). And that might not be the worst of it. Corn is also prone to contamination with two types of mold – Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus.
As I discussed in my last article for US Wellness Meats, these molds produce an extremely nasty by-product, called aflotoxin. In acute concentrations, aflotoxin poisons the liver and can result in lethal illness. It is also one of the most carcinogenic substances on earth. Even in minute quantities, it can lead to cancer. And this is true for humans and animals.
There have already been several recent recalls of dry pet foods (containing corn) that were contaminated with aflotoxin. And random testing of the corn prior to processing does not provide a reliable solution. That’s because one part of a crop might be relatively mold free, while plants in another area are heavily contaminated.
In recalls that occurred late in 2012 and early this year, the corn was randomly tested prior to becoming an ingredient in commercial pet food. The contamination wasn’t discovered until random bags were pulled from a store shelf in Iowa.
What Your Pet’s Diet Should Include
Your pet’s diet is a vital part of their nutrition. If you want your pets to achieve their optimal health, avoid pet food products containing any form of corn. This includes corn gluten, corn flour, etc. Corn products are most commonly used in dry dog foods.
In fact, avoid pet chow that uses grain of any kind. Not only are these ingredients potential allergens, they can lead to blood sugar imbalances, obesity and diabetes. Soy should be avoided as well, as it can disrupt your pet’s hormonal system.
If you are going to feed an animal a commercial pet food look for one that uses whole food sources of meat at the top of the ingredients list. They should be specifically labeled as beef, turkey, lamb or chicken, as opposed to “meat” or “poultry.”
In addition, try to avoid products that contain animal “by-products.” These ingredients can include feathers, hair, beaks, hooves, and other parts of diseased animals.
According to leading veterinarian and animal nutrition expert, Dr. Karen Becker, the optimal food for your pet’s diet (4) is:
• Rich in high-quality protein from muscle meat
• Rich in real animal fat, with high levels of omega-3 EPA and DHA
• Free of grains, soy, potatoes and other starches
The best way to give your pet this kind of nutrition is with a raw, biologically appropriate, homemade diet. U.S. Wellness Meats makes it easy with a variety of products for pets, including ground chicken backs, lamb heart, grass-fed pet burger, knuckle bone cartilage, lamb kidneys, marrow bones, beef hearts and chicken necks.
If the extra expense presents a challenge, consider supplementing a high quality commercial pet food with some of the products listed above. Isn’t it worth it to keep your furry friend happy and healthy?
Kelley Herring is the Founder and Editor of Healing Gourmet – the leading provider of organic, sustainable recipes and meal plans for health and weight loss. Be sure to grab Healing Gourmet’s free books – Eating Clean & Saving Green: Your Guide to Organic Foods on a Budget (includes 100+ foods at the best prices) and Eat Your Way Into Shape: Flip Your Body’s Fat Blasting Switch and Melt 12 Pounds in 2 Weeks (includes a delicious 7 day meal plan!). Claim your free copies here…
2. JAVMA 197:1504, 1990 in the article Epizootic patterns of diabetes mellitus
in cats: 333 cases
J Nutr 2004;134:2072S–2080S, Rand JS, Fleeman LM, Farrow HA, et al.
Canine and feline diabetes mellitus: Nature or nurture?
3. Pet Cancer Awareness Month – Keep Your Furry Friend Healthy
4. Aflatoxin Contaminated Dog Food