Canadians love their animal companions: more than half of us are proud pet owners. And our interest in natural nutrition for our best friends is on the rise. Read on for options to help your pet live a long, healthy life with natural foods and supplements.
When it comes to nourishing our prized pets with natural foods, the proof is in the pudding. There are numerous benefits to feeding your pets naturally: you can bid farewell to pet food byproducts, accommodate your animal’s allergies, and may find your animal digests natural foods more easily.
Hearty homestyle cooking
Dr. Yanhui Qi, co-owner and operator of Calgary Holistic Veterinary Clinic, recommends a homemade diet, especially for animals with food allergies or specific health issues such as kidney or liver disease.
For instance, if your pet struggles with food allergies, you could substitute proteins such as beef or chicken with less traditional proteins such as buffalo. If your pet has a disease, Qi suggests high quality and easily digestible proteins like chicken or chicken eggs.
Talk to your veterinarian before you fire up your grill to ensure your pet still gets a balanced diet tailored to their specific health concerns.
For dogs: Peanut Butter Popsicles
Mix 1 cup (250 mL) unsalted and unsweetened peanut butter without xylitol (it’s toxic for dogs); half of a mashed, ripe banana; and/or water as needed for optimal freezing consistency. Drop spoonful of the mixture on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze treats for several hours or overnight. Serve.
Recipe courtesy of Loren Drummond
For cats: Kitty Croutons
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
Mix 5 oz (150 mL) can of drained tuna with 1/2 cup (125 mL) white cornmeal, 1/2 cup (125 mL) rice flour, 1 Tbsp (15 mL) catnip, and 1/2 cup (125 mL) water. Use your hands to roll out kitty-sized croutons onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until browned and crunchy. Allow treats to cool completely and serve. Refrigerate the remainder for up to a week.
Recipe courtesy of the ASPCA
Ruminating over raw
Many pet owners are also introducing their pets to a raw food diet, which includes muscle meat, bones, raw eggs, fruit such as apples, and vegetables such as broccoli and celery.
Bones may be ground or whole, but never feed pets cooked bones, which are too brittle and may cause injury. Also, ensure chewing bones are appropriately sized. Feeding pets bones is viewed by some as risky, so it’s important to check with your vet first before following through with this aspect of the diet.
Adherents to the diet boast of its benefits to their pets, including shinier coats and healthier skin, cleaner teeth, and a boost in energy levels.
When going natural, it’s just as important to be aware of what to feed your beloved buddy. Refer to this list as a starting point to know what to avoid serving your pet.
Dogs and cats
Grapes and raisins may cause kidney failure. Even a tidbit could cause illness.
Chocolate can cause severe symptoms, including seizures and death.
Fat trimmings and bones can cause vomiting and diarrhea in cats and pancreatitis in dogs. For both, gnawing on bones may result in choking or internal injury.
Dairy can cause diarrhea and other digestive issues for dogs, and cats are lactose intolerant.
Other toxic foods (dogs):
- macadamia nuts
Other toxic foods (cats):
If you don’t want to DIY a raw food diet, you can purchase commercially processed raw frozen or freeze-dried diets, or grocery-store produced combination diets that blend grains, vegetables, and vitamins with raw meat.
Chat with your veterinarian before you make the leap to protect your pet (and you!) from bacteria and to ensure a balanced diet for your pet.
Qi, also an experienced traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, prescribes herbal concoctions for various ailments, including arthritis pain control, digestive issues, cardiac problems, and liver and kidney disease. His mixtures include anywhere from six to 20 ingredients. While there are tried-and-true formulas for specific ailments, Qi suggests seeking help from an expert.
“For better results, always see a veterinarian who has training in the herbal medication field,” says Qi.
Thinking outside the (food) box
Dr. Qi uses acupuncture on patients with issues ranging from chronic or acute diarrhea to slipped discs and paralysis. In one 2015 study, cats who had laser acupuncture before their ovariohysterectomy needed less pain medication after surgery than the cats in the control group.
Other alternative treatments to consider for your furry friend include massage and homeopathy. Don’t forget to check in with your vet before you start.
Don’t start kitty on a vegan or vegetarian diet: cats can’t manage without meat. Meat is the only food source that contains the specific vitamins, minerals, and proteins cats need.
Carimé Lane is a London, Ontario-based freelance writer who loves dog sitting and dog walking.