The Perfect Diet For All Cats and Dogs!
The Perfect Diet For All Cats and Dogs!
I graduated from Vet school with little knowledge about animal nutrition beyond what a few pet food companies wanted us to know. We learned how to read the label on a bag or can of dog food and to know, roughly, what was in there. Perhaps my first real introduction to dog nutrition was at a holistic vet conference lecture, years after graduation, given by the Australian vet and BARF (bones and raw foods) diet founder Ian Billinghurst. Dr. Billinghurst had based his model of canine nutrition on what he called “the garbage pile model”. He explained that dogs evolved in proximity to human settlements and the dogs that thrived and bred the most, the ones that went on to become closest to humans, survived by eating off human garbage piles. He felt that the natural canine diet was, therefore, a mixture of meat, bones, organs, rotting (you could replicate this by steaming or juicing) vegetables, and whatever other garbage they could find. This diet seems to have taken on various forms, but most commonly, is now found in pet stores as a mixture of ground meat, bone, liver, and juiced veggies.
I mostly recommended this type of raw diet to my patients for many years. I definitely saw some good results. Older patients had more energy. Skin patients were slightly less itchy. Dogs with chronic gut issues were often better. But after about 15 years of mostly recommending this diet, I felt like something was missing. Some patients couldn’t put on weight. Others continued to have their chronic gut/skin/joint problems and were hardly improved at all. Of course, I felt that these dogs could be straightened out with homeopathy, and then the diet would be more effective. This was true in some cases, but not all.
My own animals have taught me to think outside the box.
Abby is a 2-year-old Mexican rescue dog who was with me temporarily before she settled into her forever home on Bowen Island. Abby is a dog that, like some of my patients had been telling me, could not tolerate the raw food diet. Too much meat, too many bones, and her stool would alternate between white and chalky and mostly very soft. She couldn’t put or keep weight on and seemed constantly hungry. Eventually Abby ended up on a diet high in cooked grains, with some cooked turkey and veggies. Although many have been led to believe that grains are not a natural food for dogs, even according to Dr. Billinghurst’s theory, dogs have probably been eating grains for most of their evolution, and we know how pliable dog genes are. Abby went on to put on weight, have normal stools and is a healthy happy dog.
Greyboots is a 21-year-old cat with some kidney issues, but is actually pretty happy and healthy for her age. She has been eating a raw food diet for 9 years. If I gave her even a hint of kibble she would have a urinary problem and would pee blood outside the litterbox. Although she has done well on raw food, I started to feel that it was just too much for her kidneys. She was losing weight and also vomiting regularly. After being at a seminar recently with Dr. Pitcairn and other vets who are advocating feeding animals more plant based diets, I started to cut her meat by about 50% and add in some other foods, foods that a year ago I thought were not what cats were “meant” to eat. Greyboots is happily eating rice and quinoa, tofu and lentils, soy yoghurt, chickpeas and pumpkin in addition to her raw meat. She’s put on a little weight, is vomiting less, and I think she may make it to 22!
So, my journey to find the perfect diet continues, but I know now that there is no one size fits all perfect diet, there is only the perfect diet for each individual patient. Some animals do very well on a good quality dry or canned food. Some patients thrive on being fed the whole prey diet, like they are little wolves. I’ve now seen that some patients will do best on mostly plant based diets, which is a strong appeal for those with ethical and environmental concerns, and those concerned about the toxins in meat. This is also an area that I feel may be promising to provide support in patients with severe disease, like cancer, kidney failure and severe skin allergies.
When it comes to treats, make sure you choose carefully. Don’t ruin careful meal planning with an unhealthy, allergen laden treat. Take your pick from the Granville Island Pet Treatery range, which offers the healthiest all natural, allergen free treats, both in training and health enhancing supplement treats.
Dr Shulamit Krakauer
Dr. Shulamit Krakauer is a senior member of our Veterinarian board, and owner of the Roving Vet.
Dr. Krakauer graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1997. She developed an interest in alternative medicine during that time and a particular interest in homeopathy. After practicing conventional medicine, including a large and small animal rural practice and a busy emergency clinic, she decided to pursue this passion.
Shulamit completed the International Veterinary Acupuncture course and certification program in 1999 and the Animal Natural Health Center Homeopathy program with Dr. David Evans and Dr. Richard Pitcairn in 2001. She completed the Vancouver Academy of Homeopathy 4-year program in 2004.
Dr. Shulamit continues her studies by participating in advanced seminars with internationally renowned homeopaths in order to expand her knowledge of homeopathic remedies and their use in people and animals. Dr. Krakauer took a craniosacral course in 2008 and is also enjoying adding this gentle modality to acupuncture treatments. Shulamit is fortunate to have worked with various holistic and conventional veterinarians both in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island, which has given her a wide range of clinical experience and exposure to various treatment options.
Outside of work and study, Shulamit enjoys being in the great outdoors with her daughter Aliyah and her dog Abby, or cuddling with shira aka Greyboots the Cat, who turns 20 years old this year! She can also be found playing her accordion, doing contact improvisational dance or drinking chai latte and eating a date square. Dr. Krakauer’s volunteer work has included working with Side by Side Homeopathy – a group of homeopaths dedicated to treating addiction in the downtown east side, teaching meditation at Alouette women’s prison, and being a “big sister” to a wonderful 12-year-old girl.