A Balanced Diet

Have you ever wondered why pet food is kept separate from human food at points of purchase? Because it is not fit for human consumption! Why is this?

The major source of animal protein for pet food is “the four Ds “… Dead, Dying, Diseased or Disabled animals. So what exactly would an animal found dead, suffering or dying in a paddock have wrong with it? A disease, cancer, torn kidney, lung, blood or liver infection? Perhaps an overdose of pesticide? No one knows for certain but such animals are put down or carted away dead and used for pet food.

Also of concern is the possibility of veterinary drugs still present in the animal. These animals are then cut up and used as ‘choice cuts of beef or lamb, or plump whole chicken’, as the pet food labels claim. Being thrifty institutions, slaughterhouses take all that is left over, including the head, legs, intestines, liver and lungs, (not to mention whatever it was that the beast died of) and render it down in a big vat. The hair is skimmed from the top and whatever remains is dried and powdered, leaving beef or chicken meal or meat and poultry by-products or digests. These products are found in every dog and cat food available to day. I think this is a questionable source of nourishment for our animals.

With the above in mind, are we being so cruel by feeding nutritionally balanced vegan food to our pets? I think not. We now have the possibility to make a more humane choice by not feeding our pets the products of other slaughtered animals.

Taurine And Little Tyke

Little Tyke was a 352 lb African lioness that was rejected from birth by her imprisoned mother. The kind people who rescued poor little Tyke took her back to their ranch in Seattle to raise. From the beginning, Tyke disliked any kind of meat or blood, preferring milk and rice. Tyke grew up a total vegetarian, becoming famous by appearing on television shows with her friends which were kittens, chickens and a pet lamb. Tyke would chew on an old gumboot as a bone, but never showed her huge teeth to any other living thing. Tyke died at 4 years of age, probably from viral pneumonia, but some say from taurine deficiency.

Although taurine is found in small amounts in milk and eggs, it was insufficient for her. Taurine is vital for cats’ well-being. While other species can manufacture it in their bodies, cats cannot. Taurine is vital for a healthy retina (that part of the eye where images are formed). Deficiency will ultimately cause blindness. Cardiomyopathy (a disease where the heart muscle turns flabby, losing its ability to pump), reproductive problems, immune system dysfunction and many more problems arise from Taurine deficiency. If acted upon quickly, some of these conditions can be reversed.

Unwittingly, many caring cat owners who feed vegetarian diets to their pet cats actually run the risk of causing them chronic malnutrition. Taurine is mainly available from animal sources with only trace amounts found in plants. All pet food manufacturers use synthetic taurine, being both easier to use and more economical. I use synthetic taurine in my vegan cat food.

Arginine

Arginine is an essential amino acid. A cat fed on an arginine-free diet will not only fail to grow, but also lose body mass at a very fast rate. Other signs are vocalisation (moaning), tetanic spasms, extended limbs with exposed claws, apnea (absence of breath) and, finally, death.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A, or beta carotene, is converted to retinol in the Intestine of dogs but because of the cat’s short intestine, it is unable to do this. Cats must be provided with a preformed source of Vitamin A. Natural preformed vitamin A is found only in animal products in which the animal has metabolised the carotene into vitamin A, storing concentrates in certain tissues, mainly the liver. Cats obtained their vitamin A in the wild by killing and eating the whole catch, including the liver. Synthetic Vitamin A is freely available and is used in all cat foods, wet or dry. I use this vitamin A in a preformed state (alowing quick absorbsion in the intestine) in my vegan cat food. Vitamin A toxicity in cats is possible (though rare) as absorption of preformed Vitamin A is not regulated in the intestine. Therefore organ meats such as liver and kidney, and some fish oils, should be given sparingly.

Niacin

Niacin is a B vitamin. The inability of cats, and the very poor ability of dogs, to convert tryptophan (an essential amino acid) to niacin is not a major concern as it can be found in grains, yeast, and oil meals. A vegetarian source of niacin can easily be supplied. Tryptophan, an essential amino-acid is also added to Veganpet.

Vitamin C

Unlike humans, both cats and dogs make their own vitamin C. According to animal naturopaths, if a dog or cat is unwell or old, added vitamin C is recommended. I have put some in my vegan food as I believe it can only be beneficial. You cannot overdose on vitamin C as the body simply excretes it.

Fatty Acids

Most animal and human species have the ability to convert linolenic acid into a balance of Omega 3, Omega 6 and other essential long-chain fatty acids (EFAs) such as DHA (docosahexaenoic Acid) Aa(Arachidonic acid) and EPA (elcosapentaenolc acid). Cats cannot do this. This is very recent knowledge and it has been extremely difficult for me to find a vegan source.

Linolenic acid is very easy to find, being abundant in seafood, flaxseed (linseed), soy and sunflower oil. However this is of no use to cats because they cannot synthesise it. Aa is essential for healthy skin and coat as well as for lipid transport in the blood.

DHA is essential for healthy eyes and brain function.

EPA is important in balancing the prostaglandins that affect chronic degenerative diseases. Cats get Aa, DHA and EPA from animal flesh, liver, brain or from fish. The fish get it from micro algae, so this is where I looked. I found the different micro algae that provide vegan sources for all the long chain fatty acids but they are extremely unstable and great care has to be taken in preserving them.

What I have learnt from making my food is that all nutrients need to be in balance in order to be utilised properly. Where possible I use whole food as a source of nutrients (eg., spirulina, flaxseed meal, etc.), only using synthetic replacements when absolutely essential. I believe this is the safest way to make a quality balanced food.

Volunteers from Animal Welfare Groups offered their dogs and cats to do palatability and digestibility feeding trials. Following a strict set of guidelines, these animals are involved in the final testing of my food. The dogs undertook these tests in their own homes whilst being closely monitored by their owners. If an animal showed any sign of distress it was to be immediately removed from the trial. Not one animal dropped out.

By conducting the tests in this way I believe that I have tested my food in a loving, caring way and avoided supporting any animal testing company.

With my dry pet food there is a guide on how much food your pet should eat to receive all requisite nutrients in one day. If you give this food as a base and then add whatever else your pet would like to eat with it, you can be safe in the knowledge that they are getting all the nutrients they need.

By now those feeding vegetarian food to their cat or dog are probably feeling very worried. Please do not fear. If you want to feed your pet on a vegan diet, or you have any worries or concerns about how to go about this, please feel free to contact me. If you want to continue to feed your pet on meat, fish and chicken, without getting into details comparing commercial pet foods with home made pet foods, it is important to understand a few things about commercial foods.

The best standard by which to judge the quality of currently available pet foods is the cost. Generally speaking, the more expensive the food, the better quality are the ingredients. So, if you wish to continue feeding your pet on commercial pet food, always choose above-average priced food and the best known brands (these are the companies that are serious about image and quality and have the funds to spend on analysis, quality ingredients, etc.). Read labels very carefully, ring the enquiry line and ask questions if you don’t understand.

Most dry pet foods are a “Complete and Balanced” diet, please look for this statement on the label. Very few tinned foods are “Complete and Balanced” so you should not feed your pet only tinned food. A mix of both is best, always supplementing with an uncooked bone.

Read the label. What is feather meal? Yes, it is ground up feathers Very high in protein, but totally indigestible. The same goes for blood meal. Have you ever wondered why our pets become ill or allergic, develop chronic digestive problems or sometimes die very young? Could it be the food they are eating?

I would like to add a few points on feeding your dog and cat. The old way of thinking was to feed your dog once a day. This has now been proved incorrect. My dogs showed me years ago….they love their breakfast! Dogs should be fed at least twice a day. This stops them from gorging their food and bloating while also reducing digestive problems. Feeding one meal a day can also irritate the oesophagus with stomach acid.

Cats will eat and drink randomly throughout the day and night. Their meals are always small, about 25 gr and they eat between 8 to 16 meals in a 24 hour period. Adult cats can adapt to being fed twice a day. Kittens and pregnant cats need feeding at more frequent intervals. This is due to their short gastro-intestinal tract. Always make sure your pet has clean pure water available. If you change from tank water to town water take into account the chlorine and fluoride content of the water as this can taste dreadful to the delicate taste buds of a cat. To make the transition, give bottled water at first, slowly introducing tap water.

If your pet enjoys chook eggs, please limit them to two per week. Excessive eggs can result in high colesterol and egg white can prevent Biotin absorbsion.

Click to enlargeCats can be poisoned by onions. Do not feed onions to your cat, either cooked or raw. Cocoa-based products are also risky, especially in dogs. The toxic material is the methyixanthine derivative, theotiromine, and the signs of poisoning are vomiting diarrhea, collapse and death. Chocolate has a much lower theobromine content of around 0.2% but is still best avoided.

Some foodstuffs and products considered good for dogs and humans can be harmful or fatal to cats. Do not give any herbal or medicinal product to your cat without consulting the advice of a qualified person, you can cause great harm to your pet. For example, the preservative used in Aloe Vera Juice, Benzoic Acid, can kill a cat, as can a relatively small dose of Aspirin.

One of the best things I have done for my cats was to purchase a “Drinkwell” pet fountain. It continually recirculates and filters the water and encourages cats to drink more water, with obvious health benefits. Visit the website here, ask your local pet shop or contact me for further details.