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The Role Of Exercise And Nutrition In Pet Health

By, Dr. Marlene Siegel DVM

Since the beginning of recorded time, man and animals have lived actively. They all had to hunt for resources and “catch” their food. They fought to defend their territory. They lived outside, where they were exposed to temperature extremes, and they had adaptive mechanisms to ensure their survival. These adaptive mechanisms, called Hormesis, triggered metabolic pathways to turn on or off, depending on what was needed for the body to maximize function.

Though I doubt our ancestors would describe their lifestyle as “exercise,” they and the animals of that time had to lead an active lifestyle for survival. Many times a day, they experienced the hormetic stressor of “high-intensity exercise,” all-out, full-throttle movement for short bursts of time.

Today, most people lead sedentary lifestyles with little to no high-intensity movement. Indoor pets have virtually no exercise, let alone high-intensity exercise. Walking to and from the food bowl or walking around the neighborhood to potty does not resemble the active lifestyle of their ancestors.

Another hormetic stressor people and animals of the past were exposed to was temperature extremes. They got freezing cold in the winter, and in the summer, they got really hot! In our modern times, most people live in temperature-controlled environments. Thermostats at home, the car, and at work keep the environmental temperature between 68 degrees and 78 degrees year-round. Indoor pets have also lost the hormetic stressor of temperature.

Food consumption is a hormetic stressor. Ancient people and animals experienced many episodes of fasting (though in ancient times, they called it starvation!) In ancient times, people and animals did not eat all day long and snack between meals.

Animals were driven by hunger to eat at dawn and dusk. There was no food bowl left out to graze on while the hunters and gatherers were out collecting food. Wild animals didn’t drag their fresh kill to a kibble processor or canning plant to store reserves for the winter. Carnivores (dogs and cats) ate fresh meat, fat, organ meat, and bones from the animal they killed at the time they killed it. The herbivores they feasted on had been eating nutrient rich, no pesticide and GMO grasses, providing the carnivore with a diet rich in essential nutrients.

Giving the body time to rest and digest is critical to maintaining healthy digestion. In our modern lifestyle, we eat from the time we get up until the time we go to sleep. We have been conditioned to eat three meals a day plus snacks in between. Many pet parents think they are loving their pets by feeding them free-range (the food bowl is filled 24/7) and giving them snacks throughout the day.

As a modern society, we have become gluttonous with the abundance of food available, and sadly, much of that food is devoid of nutrition, leading to the health challenges of our times.

As we take in the global picture, loss of hormetic stressors combined with species’ inappropriate diet and massive amounts of toxins, is there any surprise that we are seeing astronomical rises in cancer, obesity, chronic degenerative diseases, autoimmune conditions, and decreased lifespans for pets as compared to 20 years ago?!?

Optimize your pet's diet

What can you do?

  1. Get your pets moving and make sure they get enough exercise!
  2. Ozone! can be given intravenously by a veterinarian or rectally. Home ozone units are available for a very reasonable cost. Ozone acts as a pro-oxidant, stimulating the production of Nrf2 proteins that turn on hundreds of metabolic pathways that benefit the body. Essentially, ozone acts as a hormetic stressor, creating massive benefits for the body.
  3. Feed pets twice daily, dawn and dusk, without snacking between meals. Exercise or stimulate “hunting” instinct behavior (e.g., chasing a toy) to further enhance digestion to get gastric juices flowing.
  4. Once a week, at various times, skip one meal or feed later than usual, imitating a 17-hour fast.
  5. Feed a species-appropriate, nutrient-rich, grass-fed, and grass-finished diet. Dogs and cats were designed to thrive on a raw food diet.
  6. Provide the essential Vitamins/Minerals, Fatty Acids, and Amino Acids as organic, plant-based, natural, no synthetic additives.
  7. Add fermented foods like sauerkraut juice or home-fermented kefir to boost the microbiome.
    8. The water pets should be highly filtered (the fridge is not even close), structured, and ideally provide molecular hydrogen. Contact me for recommendations.

As individuals, we make personal choices, and we are accountable for our actions. Our pets, however, can not make choices regarding their diet or environment. They rely on their pet parents to provide the essentials for them to thrive. Choosing a holistic lifestyle is not hard, it is just different than the cheap, easy and convenient lifestyle we have grown accustomed to having. But we are paying too high a price for fast, cheap and convenient. I am reminded of this every time I help an animal transition before their time due to preventable diseases.


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Dr. Marlene Siegel

Dr. Marlene Siegel has a long, inspiring history in the medical field. From an early age, she knew she wanted to make a difference. Her medical journey started as an emergency medical technician, but she always knew helping animals was her calling. After graduating from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, she soon opened her own clinic, Pasco Veterinary Medical Clinic. She has a revolutionary approach using a raw diet, holistic, and traditional medicines to achieve the best results for her patients. Dr. Siegel practices in Lutz, Florida, and is available for phone consultations.