Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Is Nutrition the Key to Wellness? Food for Thought

This article was written for The Guardian A health manual brought to you by Pet Planet.

Is Nutrition the Key to Wellness? Food for Thought  

Meg Smart DVM, PhD Nutritionist WCVM Oct  3/2011

Instinctively, we all know about nutrition but do we think about nutrition? Nutrition is often taken for granted. Basically, nutrition is wellness and the essence of life. When something goes wrong like the melamine disaster we suddenly become aware of how little we know about our food and were it comes from. But we soon become complacent as we believe new regulations or some nebulous independent organization will protect us. After forty years of experience and interest in nutrition I have come to the following conclusions:
  •  Nutrition in food animal production is focused on optimal production and economics, not what is necessarily healthy for the animal. The family farms where livestock and crop production supported each other and a strong local rural economy are becoming obsolete. Factory farms and large cooperation are taking control of our food supply.
  • Nutrition in companion animals has shifted as well. We all want what is best for our pets. Disappearance of the small local butcher, the family garden, humanization of our pets and rapid expansion of  the urban population, has left the fully integrated  large multinational companies  dictating to us on  how to feed  our pets. Their research into the use of waste by products from their agricultural operations and human food production and into clever marketing strategies has proven successful.
    Stepping back into the past is often necessary in order to look into the future. When, a strong local rural economy was mainstay of the community, the community had access to fresh wholesome foods.

     What encouraged me to step into the past were the results from a study done in the 1920’s by a dentist, Dr. Winston Price. He studied the diets and health of indigenous people, worldwide, such as L√∂tschental in Switzerland, Native Americans, Polynesians, Pygmies, and Aborigines. His book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” details this series of ethnographic nutritional studies across these diverse cultures. He concluded that Western methods of commercially preparing and storing foods stripped away vitamins and minerals necessary to prevent diseases. His claims extended from physical degradation to moral degradation. Unfortunately, his book and research failed to have an impact on the direction that diets in the Western culture were headed. But can we apply his findings to our companion animals?
 In the past:
·       Before domestication, the dogs’ feral ancestor, the wolf ate “live foods” consisting of wild game, small rodents, insects, berries, and carrion. After domestication, our dogs ate the scraps from our table and vegetables from the garden. Since their environment was not restricted dogs hunted, ate carrion or buried food for later meals. They ate manure from a variety of farm animals, shared grain chop with the pigs, the chickens and the cattle. They ate testicles removed from calves after castration and chewed on hoof trimmings. Their diet was composed of a variety of “live foods” containing large numbers of beneficial microorganisms which through contact populated the dog’s skin, mucous membranes and gastro intestinal tract. These microorganisms are essential in protecting your pet from the external invasion of potentially harmful micro organisms, environmental pollutants and toxins.  Research into the benefits of these microorganisms is revealing the important role they play in normal the digestion, metabolism of nutrients and the immune response of the gut associated lymphoid tissue.
·    Cats were allowed free access to the outdoors and abundant prey. They were allowed to follow their natural patterns of sleeping and hunting. Their diet was composed of a variety of “live foods”. Unlike the dog, cats are true carnivores. Historically cats were desert animals that have adapted metabolically to conserve water and energy. Much of their water is derived from their prey; all other nutrients were derived from the muscles, bones, and organs of their fresh prey. Insects, and small dessert mammals and reptiles were the mainstay of their diet. The feral cat spends much of its day sleeping and night hunting.  Fish, shrimp, grains, vegetable oils, and vegetables are not part of their natural diet. The prey they ate had a protective layer of micro organisms which became part of or replenished the cat’s micro flora.
·    Today, domesticated dogs and cats live in a confined, relatively sterile, potentially polluted and less stimulating environment. The cat is in a much more compromised position than the dog. As carnivores they cannot hunt, but  have available to them an almost sterile processed dry diet  made of corn, soy products, rice, vegetable fats, cellulose, and processed meat and poultry meals or by-product meals, with the minerals and vitamins added. These dry diets upon entering the stomach must first rehydrate to be successfully digested thus water is drawn from the body putting a strain on the kidneys.  For normal digestion too proceed the gastric pH must become acidic. Unfortunately, dry plant based protein diets to not create an optimal acidic environment.  Canned diets are better but being sterile will not contribute microorganisms to maintain a healthy micro flora.  The dog is not a strict carnivore, and is much more engaged with the guardian than the cat. So the impact of environment and diet may not be as critical.
·    We are just beginning to understand of how exposure to dietary and environmental micro organisms protects the cat and dog. But we must question whether we are not compromising our pets’ health if they cannot adapt?

Without the benefit of pet health insurance statistics, I can only speculate based on personal experiences that in the past, the major health problems in pets were accidents and viral diseases such as distemper, hepatitis in dogs and panleukopenia in cats.

With urbanization all this changed, highways and subdivisions are gobbling up prime agricultural land and our pets have become the victims. They no longer have the freedom to roam, but are confined, relying totally on us for their food and exercise. The major health concerns now are obesity, cancer, dental disease, diabetes, allergies, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, internal parasite, and fleas.  Many of these problems are also reflected in the human population. The American Veterinary Medical Association in response to this crisis has formed a partnership for Preventive Pet Health Care with multi-national companies that manufacture vaccines, dewormers, insecticides, antibiotics, pharmaceuticals for weight control and anxiety, and pet food:
·Merck,  http://www.merck-animal  health.com/species/companion-animals/index.aspx,
The goal is to promote annual veterinary visits of pets to obtain preventive care. One has to question if annual visits of pet to a veterinarian is in the interest of wellness. My concept of wellness to advise the pet guardian on what to look for in a healthy pet, on appropriate vaccinations, and deworming, dental hygiene, responsible pet ownership,  and life stage nutrition, with an aim of increasing the quality but reducing the number of visits to  veterinarians.  Veterinarians should work with local pet food stores, such as Pet Planet, with trained staff and well researched diets to better meet the nutritional needs of our pets.

1 comment:

  1. must make a good research about Pet Food. so that you will give a healthy food to your friends.