..."a vet, a professor and Don Draper walk into a bar"
As our Bone House manifesto suggests, being “Committed to the Health and Happiness of Dogs and our Planet” means we are very passionate about nutrition. So fervent in fact, it’s worth stating for the record that we view nutrition as the foundation of good health. And although we are not veterinarians, nor have we ever claimed to be, we are constantly researching, learning and sharing information on how to raise a happy, healthy pup so we can continue to be one more official and trusted house of knowledge when it comes to canine nutrition!
So let’s talk about nutrition, shall we?
Well yes, but first I would like to ask you one quick question: When it comes to your dogs diet, from whom do you obtain your information? If your answer was “My veterinarian.” Of course! Their love of animals and passion for the sciences inspired such individuals to seek out an education and a career caring for the many needs of all creatures great and small…And we are very fortunate for our neighborhood vets – they devote years to study and practice animal medicine to help us discover when Max has a skin infection, Ruby has heartworm, or when Charlie has dreaded giardia - again…But what about diet? Have you ever wondered about your vet’s knowledge of canine nutrition?
Recent backlash from vets regarding feeding a bioavailable, raw diet prompted me to research how much of a vets course load in university focuses on nutrition. The answer unanimously was, “not much”…. Seriously?? What I discovered is the majority of basic pet nutrition is taught from course material written by researchers at Hills (makers of Science Diet, Prescription Diet, etc). When students graduate, Hills offers them incentives and free food to feed their patients. Unfortunately, one could view such an education and feeding regime as very one-sided – promoting foods that are not the healthiest option. Mainly because such commercial brands are largely made up of corn and grain which, as I will talk about in a bit, do not suit a carnivores diet.
As I mentioned a little earlier, I have no doubt that the majority of vet’s go into this practice because of their love for animals. Then quite naturally, they practice what they were taught. And when looking at veterinary medicine curriculums, it became clear to me that the focus of study is on treatment of disease and not prevention. To some extent this makes sense, there wouldn’t be much need for vets without sick animals. I guess the main thing worth pointing out is maybe it’s time we started to put more of an emphasis on prevention of illness through a greater understanding of that other species we invited into our house and who sleeps on our couch or in our bed. And once we understand the species we quickly learn that nutrition unlocks the key to a dog living a happy, healthy life.
So what, I can’t trust my vet now? Are you saying they know bubcas when it comes to my dogs diet?
Well, no…but maybe a little. But don’t fret, here are four basic questions to help you get started on making informed decisions.
What is a dog?
Canis lupus familiaris, a subspecies of the grey wolf, domesticated over 15,000 years ago. Through selective breeding we have changed the outward appearance and some behaviors of our canine companions but their physiology and anatomy remains the same as their ancestors the wolf.
Are dogs’ carnivores?
YES! Even cute, little Fou Fou has large nasal passageways to pick up scents and track pray, equipped with teeth and a jaw designed to rip and tear meat from bone. Their stomach is highly acidic allowing for the ingestion and break down of bone. This extraordinary acidity also enables a canine to ingest what to us would be harmful bacteria. Their pancreas is small and contains only a fraction of the enzymes that ours are able to produce. This means that the food a dog eats must have active, live enzymes to bind with stomach acid to break down food for absorption. Carnivores do not have the enzymes needed to break down grains and gain very little nutritional value from “dead” or processed food.
Has the health of canines decreased since the introduction of highly processed kibble?
Sadly, yes greatly. Diabetes and obesity are at an all time high and cancer is on the rise. Coincidence..?
If nutrition is the foundation of good health, why isn’t nutrition a priority for vets?
The following quote by a vet, Dr. Ian Billinghurst sums up the answer: “The sad truth is that prepared pet foods help provide patients for vets."
Hungry for more knowledge about your dog – a wolf in pet clothing? Next week be sure to read NUTRITION, THE FOUNDATION OF GOOD HEALTH: Part 2. “A carnivore joins them and pulls up a stool (unintentional pun).”