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Raw Food For Pets Growing In Popularity

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Aired 7/21/10

How do you know if your pet is eating a nutritious diet? What should you learn if you are considering a raw food diet for your pet? We speak to a local veterinarian and the owner of a health food store for pets.

For more information on the latest pet food recalls click here.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. You may know enough about your pet to make sure they avoid certain foods. No chocolate for the dog, no bony fish for the cat because both can be very hazardous. But what exactly should your pets be eating? All the pet food in the grocery store says it's nutritious and your pet will love it. How do you choose? And add to that, a growing movement to get pets eating a fresher diet. That effort ranges from new kinds of pet food in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, to specialty pet food stores selling raw meat for dogs and cats. For the rest of this hour, we'll be talking about what you're feeding your pet, and what's the best diet to keep your animal companion healthy and happy for many years to come. I’d like to introduce my guests. Dr. Katy Allen, San Diego veterinarian and owner of Canterbury Tails Veterinary Services. Dr. Allen, Katy, welcome.

DR. KATY ALLEN (Veterinarian): Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And Tori Rosay is owner of Dexter's Deli, which is a health food store for dogs and cats that has three locations in the North County. Tori, welcome.

TORI ROSAY (Owner, Dexter’s Deli): Thank you for having me. Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Now, we’d like to invite our listeners to join the conversation. What are you feeding your pet? Table scraps? Specialty pet food? Have you changed your pet’s diet recently? Tell us why. Call us with your questions and your comments, 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Tori, let me start with you. Tell us, what is a raw pet food diet?

ROSAY: Well, the raw pet food diet is a diet that has quickly caught on in the last probably, umm, the last six to eight years. And it’s – but it’s still a new concept for people that they hear from friends maybe at the dog park or they might know somebody whose pet is on a raw food diet but basically it’s exactly that. It’s raw meat that’s usually the muscle meat, like chicken, and it contains some organ meat and then a percentage of vegetable that’s pureed into the food. And now there’s actually manufacturers that make the food. When I started out with Dexter’s Deli, there was no one making raw food and so we used to have classes—and this was 14 years ago—and teach people how to do it.

CAVANAUGH: Right. So why, though, why would people choose this kind of diet for their pets?

ROSAY: Well, there’s a lot of different reasons. People have seen their pets become sick or they’ve had like pets in the past that have had cancers, allergy problems, skin problems, and they’ve gone the traditional route of going to vets and doing the medications and the specialty diets and aren’t getting the results that they want. Or a lot of people are into health themselves and there’s this disconnect between what people are eating and the whole food movement for people…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

ROSAY: …and then they turn around and they open their cupboard and pull out a bag of dry, processed, denatured kibble and pour it into their dog’s dish and, you know, one day they make that connection of like why am I make – going through so much effort for my own food and then they’re pouring this dry food into…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

ROSAY: …their pet’s dish, so…

CAVANAUGH: It makes them look twice at it, if nothing else.

ROSAY: Exactly.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

ROSAY: So there’s a strange disconnect because of marketing that, you know, people don’t understand like that they can feed their pets themselves or learn how to do it.

CAVANAUGH: I was just going to ask you, Katy, what is your take on the raw food movement for pets?

DR. ALLEN: It’s something that’s sort of on the official line is that veterinarians in general will not be recommending a raw food diet. It doesn’t mean that we won’t help people find the right one if they want to do that. Usually people that are looking for that are people that are very invested in their own pets so they want to do what’s best for them and so we try and guide them. And we can maybe talk later about how we would guide them.

CAVANAUGH: Sure.

DR. ALLEN: But the reason that the veterinary profession in general doesn’t recommend them is the risk of contamination, salmonella, microtoxins from molds growing on them, and then also the question of is it a balanced diet. When you buy these admittedly, you know, the commercial diets have a lot to, you know, they leave a lot to be desired also but they are balanced as far as what the pet needs. Dog foods, particularly, it’s very good. Cats, a little – I’m a little on the fence about, but so to be able to make a diet at home or get a raw food diet that is balanced with all the nutrients that they need, that’s very difficult and so that’s why that’s our official line, is that we don’t recommend raw foods. I do see animals come in that are on raw food diets with a lot of diarrhea problems and, again, that might be more who’s their supplier.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

DR. ALLEN: And also there is – I think they’re called the Delta Association where they’re very involved in animals going to hospitals and nursing homes and people taking their pets for pet therapy and they will not allow any animals who are on raw food to be a part of that problem (sic) because of the fear of passing salmonella…

CAVANAUGH: Ohh…

DR. ALLEN: …for instance, to…

CAVANAUGH: I see.

DR. ALLEN: …the patients because meat can be – I mean, when’s the last time you ate a raw chicken?

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

DR. ALLEN: It’s not going to happen.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

DR. ALLEN: And so certainly just by you handling the meat, you can become contaminated or through your dog eating the meat and then shedding it, then you can become contaminated.

CAVANAUGH: We are taking your calls about pet diets, whether it’s a raw food diet or if you’ve recently changed the diet of your dog or your cat, give us a call, tell us what you think. 1-888-895-5727 is the number to call. And Becky is on the line from Escondido. Good morning, Becky. Welcome to These Days.

BECKY (Caller, Escondido): Thank you and thank you for taking my call. I actually – Well, I’m getting paid back for being high maintenance via my three cats. And I had to put my one, my youngest cat on a raw food diet, which was actually Prowl because she was a carb addict. She gained seven pounds in a year and she was a little butterball. My other cat is diabetic and when I switched her to a raw food diet, she actually is no longer dependent on insulin. The third cat has joint issues and since switching her to Prowl, which I think is also grain-free because that was the other recommendation that was given to me, her pain levels have gone down tremendously. So I’m wondering, I guess, if there’s, in addition to maybe not recommending raw food, is there – is there more of a recommendation to be grain-free for cats?

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that call, Becky.

DR. ALLEN: That’s a great question, and absolutely. Cats are carnivores. That’s what they are. They’re totally carnivores. And so…

CAVANAUGH: And whereas dogs are omnivores, right?

DR. ALLEN: Where dogs are omnivores.

ROSAY: That’s right.

DR. ALLEN: Yes, and so absolutely, our dry commercial cat foods are something I don’t recommend. I would have all my clients have their cats on canned cat food if I possibly could or home cooked meat diets if they could. I don’t do it for my cats because I’m busy.

CAVANAUGH: Right, yeah.

DR. ALLEN: But, yes, the…

ROSAY: I have to say that’s what we recommend at Dexter’s also is – The model has changed about how we feed our cats and dry food, you know, the ones, the vets that are more educated about it, it’s really not recommended. They get a lot more hydration and better quality proteins from canned foods. And the food that Becky has mentioned that her cats are on, it’s called Prowl, which is actually a dehydrated raw food. So, you know, it’s like she uses water to rehydrate that for her cats and it actually is – I don’t think it really has a lot of grain in it, Becky, but it is a low-grain type of food that’s designed for cats so it’s like so people can use that type of product to be able to have the live enzymes that are available that are in raw food and fresh vegetables that are dehydrated so when that’s activated with water, those enzymes become alive again and so you’re getting the benefit without the mess or the inconvenience or having to store it in the refrigerator or worry about it going bad.

CAVANAUGH: Let me put this in a bit of context because back in 2007 we had a huge pet food recall, cat food recall, I think for the most part, and…

ROSAY: And I don’t think that was raw food.

DR. ALLEN: No.

CAVANAUGH: No, no.

DR. ALLEN: No.

CAVANAUGH: No, it was canned food…

ROSAY: Okay, I just have to interject that.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, well, thank you. And I think that got a lot of pet owners thinking about what they were feeding their pets. Remind us about that recall, Katy.

DR. ALLEN: Oh, that – I think that was the one that was the melamine contamination of the dry food, and I saw, I would have to say possibly half a dozen pets with kidney failure from that particular scare. And the reason that I suggested this topic for this, you know, this month’s pet talk…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

DR. ALLEN: …was because the number of recalls recently has gone through the roof on commercially prepared foods and they’ve almost exclusively been salmonella contaminations. So, yes, our commercial foods are not certainly perfect. The food chain, you know, our American industrialized food chain is very scary and so the humans, too, are eating food that if we really knew how it had got to us, we probably wouldn’t. So, absolutely, there’s no one perfect food source, and maybe, you know, home cooked food is probably the best way to go. And so, yes, raw food is likely to be contaminated because if it’s come through those same channels, you know, when’s the last time you saw a cat take down a chicken? You know, doesn’t…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, my…

DR. ALLEN: …doesn’t happen. If you wanted to grind up some, you know, a rat and a mouse and a sparrow, then that would be what the cat’s, you know, natural diet is.

CAVANAUGH: I’m wondering, Tori, what kind of impact did that pet food recall have on your business and others like it?

ROSAY: Well, for a business like mine that specializes in the more natural, healthy foods, only one of the brands that we carry was affected. And so our business rose, I think it was like 20%.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, that’s…

ROSAY: And so for small businesses…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

ROSAY: …that – around the county and especially after 2007, the businesses that have opened up that specialize in doing more natural foods for pets has really grown. And also the larger chain stores now are really starting to focus on that this is what consumers want, and they want to – not only are they questioning, you know, their own food sources with things like the slow food movement and Michael Pollan’s book and the movie “Food 101” and – but now people are starting to question the sources of where their pet food comes from. And so the pet food industry was born out of a way to get rid of waste materials for human food and so back in the fifties, you know, they figured out like, well, that’s actually a commodity to put these waste materials into pet food so you’d have broken grains and by product, chicken by product, beef by product, some meats and some of the really low quality foods that aren’t even really recognizable, they’re just listed as meat, which could be, you know, any source of meat. And now there’s companies out there that are really being conscientious about where the sourcing of the meat comes and using fresh ingredients and making the foods. Now the consumer pays a higher price for those types of products but people are willing to do that now because they feel a certain comfort in knowing that, hopefully, we’re not going to have – those type of companies aren’t going to have recalls like the larger companies have.

CAVANAUGH: Tori Rosay is owner of Dexter’s Deli. Dr. Katy Allen is owner of Canterbury Tails Veterinary Services. And we’re talking about new ideas for diets for dogs and cats. And we’re asking you to join the conversation at 1-888-895-5727. Joe is on the line from Spring Valley. And good morning, Joe.

JOE (Caller, Spring Valley): Good morning. I just wanted to make a little statement. I have a dog that has been on a raw diet since I got him from a breeder over five years ago. I had no knowledge about raw diets, didn’t know anything about them at the time. And the breeder introduced them to me as part of the contract of getting this dog was that he was on a raw diet. So I had a…

ROSAY: And what kind of dog is – what kind of dog is it? Is it a Rhodesian?

JOE: He is a Polish lowland sheepdog.

ROSAY: Oh.

JOE: Yeah, so he has a – there’s a nice Polish name for it that I can’t pronounce. But he’s a great dog and he’s quite healthy. He’s been on this raw diet since we got him as a puppy five years ago. And we give him chicken. We get it right from Costco. And we supplement it with vitamins, with fish oil, and also with the yogurt, vegetable mix, and he’s quite healthy.

CAVANAUGH: He’s doing great, huh?

JOE: Yeah, he’s doing great. Just wanted to, you know, comment on that, that we, you know, do it ourselves. We, you know, take care of the chicken and we store it like we would human food and prepare it for him daily and he loves it.

CAVANAUGH: Thank, Joe. Let’s go to Beth in Escondido. Good morning, Beth, and welcome to These Days.

BETH (Caller, Escondido): Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: Hi.

BETH: Hi, Tori and Katy.

DR. ALLEN: Hi.

BETH: My comment, I have a cat who’s eight years old and has always been healthy. She’s always been fed with commercial dry and moist cat food. But in the past few years, I’ve noticed she’s had a weight problem and she’s got – she’s gotten a little bit heavy. But I started her on a multivitamin about a month or so ago, maybe a little longer, and I’ve noticed since then, even though I’d feeding her the same amount of food, that she’s trimmed down and seems a little bit more energetic and leaner but also seems hungrier. And I wondered if the multivitamin designed especially for cats would make a difference like that.

DR. ALLEN: I – I doubt it. Certainly, cats have a much higher need for vitamins than dogs do. They need B vitamins and A and D more than dogs do. They have a high requirement. And certainly if you’re feeling better on your vitamins, you’re more active and you might lose weight. What concerns me is if she’s hungry and losing weight then actually giving her the vitamin supplement might just be merely a coincidence and there might be something else going on. If she was a chubby kitty, she could be developing diabetes and you’d be getting skinny and still be hungry. If she’s an older kitty, she could be getting an overactive thyroid, the same symptoms. So, like I said, I’ve never known a vitamin supplement per se to cause weight loss, especially with increased hunger, and so I would let your vet take a look, maybe run a couple of blood tests before we decide that it’s just the supplement.

CAVANAUGH: You know, Katy, Tori just told us sort of the history of where our processed cat and dog food came from back in the 1950s as a way to try to channel some human food that wasn’t going to be used for humans into a profitable way. What – Before then, give us a lesson. What did people use to feed their pets before they went to the grocery store and got big bags of kibble and cans of food?

DR. ALLEN: Well, for most people it was whatever was left when you were done with your dinner, so it would be your leftovers would go there. You’d go to the butcher. Remember, you used to just have a little butcher shop.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

DR. ALLEN: And he’d – whatever was out the back there that was left over because usually most butchers would cut up their own meat. So they’d give you bones, they’d give you the leftover meat there. So essentially the same stuff, you know, leftovers, things we don’t want, but fresher. You know, and certainly the meat supply then would’ve been, you know, anything – anything from a cow would have been a cow that was raised on grass as opposed to one that’s force fed corn standing in its own muck all the time.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, yes.

DR. ALLEN: And so, yes, so I would eat steak tartare cut off a cow that was grass fed and was fresh to me. There’s no way I’d eat anything uncooked off a cow that had been raised in a feed lot these days.

CAVANAUGH: I see.

ROSAY: That’s exactly what I find with – when you talk to older customers that I have. It’s not a new concept to them to feed a fresh food diet or a raw food diet because that’s what they grew up with, especially over in Europe. Actually, you know, pet food is a luxury item still in some parts of Europe. It’s very, very expensive and so they do, that’s what they feed is what the family is eating. But you have to remember that the way that we eat now has completely changed. Our food has become, just like Katy’s mentioned, it’s more highly processed now and, you know, a lot of antibiotics are put into the meat. You know, it’s not just quite the same quality but I don’t think that’s to discount that we shouldn’t be feeding a raw food diet to our pets. The benefits of feeding some sort of fresh food to our pets far outweigh the damage that can be done when feeding a food that’s basically void of any live enzymes or nutrients. And when companies put out there that foods are 100% complete, that’s really a falsity. There’s no way that you can package something and put it in a bag and call it 100% complete because nature needs us to have, for our own food and for pets, needs us to have variety. You can walk down the aisles of our supermarket and you can see where marketing has taken us. And as far as like the cereal aisle, I brought in some boxes of cereal which we’re all familiar with, you know, our kids have eaten things like Rice Krispies, which actually I bought this to make Rice Krispy treats for my own kids…

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

ROSAY: …and then I saved the box because I was totally shocked about this is what’s for people food.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

ROSAY: This isn’t even for pet food and for pet food, if you can think about what’s in a hot dog. I don’t know if…

DR. ALLEN: I’d rather not think about it.

ROSAY: Yeah. Exactly. And what’s allowed for that. I mean, it’s the number one, you know, it’s America’s favorite food. Sold in every ball stadium. It’s pretty scary stuff. And that’s acceptable for humans to eat. So if you can imagine that, it’s what the standards are for pet food and what can be allowed to slip into pet food is 100 times worse. So…

CAVANAUGH: I have to take a short break, Tori. When we come back, we will continue our discussion and continue taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. My guests are Dr. Katy Allen and Tori Rosay. And we’re talking about a growing movement to get pets eating a fresher diet, including a raw pet food diet. We’re taking you calls about what you’re feeding your pet at 1-888-895-5727. And just quickly to start out, we have a caller who couldn’t stay on the line and he had a question about feeding his dog food to his cat. Is that okay?

DR. ALLEN: That would be no.

CAVANAUGH: That would be a no.

DR. ALLEN: That would be a no, dog food to his cat because, again, I mean, I can’t stress enough, cats are carnivores and dogs are omnivores so dog food will have a much higher grain content, it won’t have the – it’ll have plant-based proteins more, and cats can’t use those plant-based proteins. It doesn’t have the taurine in it. That’s an amino acid that cats absolutely have to have. So no, no and no.

CAVANAUGH: That would be a no.

DR. ALLEN: That would be a no.

CAVANAUGH: Bruce is calling us from La Jolla. Good morning, Bruce. Welcome to These Days.

BRUCE (Caller, La Jolla): Good morning. I’m calling, I’ve got three cats. I have one of which, maybe two a little bit but one is quite overweight, weighing in at 16 pounds.

DR. ALLEN: Oh-oh.

BRUCE: I recently switched from a mixture of commercial wet food with ordinary commercial bagged dry food to the commercial wet food – sorry, a specialty low calorie wet food and a specialty low calorie dry food for the most overweight cat. And I don’t really think I’m getting much in the way of results.

DR. ALLEN: No.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

BRUCE: I’ve recently tried switching to I think it’s the Blue Cat brand has a product that claims to be much more animal protein and less vegetable and I don’t know if that’s going to help or not. I’ve never heard of the whole raw food idea and whether or not that would help.

CAVANAUGH: Well, let’s get some…

DR. ALLEN: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: …response. Thank you, Bruce.

DR. ALLEN: Certainly, a lot of these lite cat foods are lite because they put more fiber in them, which means it’s more carbohydrates so, again, for a cat that’s no good. What we have found for weight loss in cats is a high protein, low-to-no carbohydrate diet, so you’re going to have to go canned or home cooked or raw to get that. You can’t get a dry no carbohydrate cat food. And it’s these high carbohydrate cat foods that have made the cats all obese.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

DR. ALLEN: And about – it’s some horrible number, like a third of our domestic cats are obese, not just unfashionably plump but obese. I see diabetes all the time, I see hepatic lipidosis all the time. I see inflammatory bowel disease all the time. And these are all related to their nutrition. So to get your kitty skinny, you need to go to – you need to get rid of your dry food, you need to go to a high protein canned or, you know, a home cooked or maybe a raw—Tori can talk about that one…

ROSAY: Yeah.

DR. ALLEN: But I’d rather raw than taking chances with a dry food.

CAVANAUGH: Well, let me ask Tori, when you see – when somebody comes in with the same kind of a question…

ROSAY: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: …you know, like my cat is very overweight, what do you tell them to do?

ROSAY: Well, if they’re open to trying the raw food diet and now there’s some great ones out there that are palatable for cats because that’s a huge issue is how to switch a cat who really eats by smell and texture. They’re not like a dog where dogs are so easy to, you know, switch their food around. So it is – it can be a little bit trying to get a cat to try different foods. But by using – by mixing things in like canned tuna or mackerel or a canned food that you know that they really like, you can slowly switch them to a raw food diet. And now there’s raw food diets, there’s one called Rad Cat, which we’re having a lot of success with, and they actually put in – There’s some that put in a little tiny bit of fish as like – as just like a smell enhancer and – But never – You’d never want to feed your cat just like all tuna. You know, that can cause a deficiency in itself.

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

ROSAY: So you have to be very careful that, you know, because cats can, you know, try to – They get hooked on certain flavors and smells. So, for sure, it’s exactly what Dr. Allen is saying, is that you want to get them off of grain. And so any way that you can do that, you can start off slowly using just a canned food and then, you know, trying to implement other foods into their diet.

CAVANAUGH: That’s interesting. Okay, Will is calling us from San Diego. Good morning, Will. Welcome to These Days.

WILL (Caller, San Diego): Yeah, good morning, Maureen, Dr. Allen and Tori.

DR. ALLEN: Hi.

ROSAY: Good morning.

WILL: It’s a great subject matter that you’re discussing today. I’ve had a few different experiences, one with a dog and now one with a cat that we’ve had that gained a tremendous amount of weight. And she was being fed a dry canned food – or, dry food.

CAVANAUGH: Kibble.

WILL: Yeah, exactly, kibble. And it was specially prescribed for a diabetic cat because he became diabetic and was – had to have two shots a day of insulin and he would become very tired and just have no energy and it just got worse and worse. And so we researched on the internet and found the information about the raw diet and we switched and within a couple weeks you could see the change in his face and then he didn’t need as much insulin. And we were routinely taking him to the vet and she was amazed and said, wow, it’s, you know, his first time he’s losing weight, you know, the blood levels are looking better, you can reduce the insulin, and now he’s completely insulin free, his weight…

CAVANAUGH: Will, that’s fabulous. Let me ask you, though, how easy was it for you to get your cat to eat this new kind of food?

WILL: Oh, as soon as we cut it up and we gave him some meat, he – he pretty much was like he just, you know, went right for it.

CAVANAUGH: Wow.

ROSAY: Yeah, some cats are more adventurous than others. Sometimes when you have a multi-cat family and you have one cat that’s willing to try it, the others will kind of, you know, look and see and they’ll be more apt to sample it. It really depends on the cat. And then we’ve had customers come in and they’ve – try everything and the cats are just – they’re just hooked because those food manufacturers put in things like optimizers and flavor enhancers that they literally become addicted to them and it’s really hard to get them off of it.

CAVANAUGH: We’ve heard that in human food as well.

DR. ALLEN: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: Katy, are there dogs and cats that actually need to be on special diets?

DR. ALLEN: Oh, absolutely there are. There are animals with, say, kidney disease that need to be on low protein diets. Certain liver disease, they need a certain kind of protein in their diet. So there are lots of – and there are lots of prescription diets mostly made by Hills. They have their prescription diets and they have their pluses and minuses with that. But if you have an animal that is – has a particular health condition or a medical condition, you need to talk to your veterinarian and look and see what the processed, you know, prescription diets are available. He’s right. There is a dry one for diabetic cats, and I think that’s ridiculous but they make a canned version. It’s not as good as some of the other things you can do but it’s available so there are these prescription diets available. If I myself had a cat with a severe medical condition, I would want to home cook and I – and the best way to do that would be you can actually call the University of California at Davis, their veterinary school, and you can talk to a board certified nutritionist who’ll make up a diet for your pet and it will be balanced and it will be fresh and it will be the best thing that you can do for your pet. But it needs to be a board certified nutritionist not a self-styled nutritionist. You know, these people are already doctors and then they’ve done a residency and they know what they’re talking about. And if I had a sick pet, a pet with cancer, or something like that, that’s the way I would do that, and I would recommend that to anybody who’s that invested in their pet with a medical problem.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s go to Bob, calling us from Hillcrest. Good morning, Bob. Welcome to These Days.

BOB (Caller, Hillcrest): Oh, good morning. Thank you. My question is regarding the statement that the cats are not omnivores and I’m concerned because I have a 16-year-old male cat who refuses to eat meat. He refuses to eat the canned food and he goes crazy over cantaloupe, strawberries, eats corn off the cob. And I’m concerned if it’s a health issue that I’m allowing him to be a vegetarian, if you will. And I can take my answer off – my answer off the line. Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Well, Bob, first of all, is your cat healthy?

BOB: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: Yes?

BOB: Oh, yes.

CAVANAUGH: Overweight?

BOB: Nope. He’s a big cat.

ROSAY: But what else…

BOB: He’s big-boned but he’s not overweight.

DR. ALLEN/ROSAY: Big-boned…

DR. ALLEN: …yeah, me, too. I’m sitting on a big bone right now, yeah, yeah.

ROSAY: Yeah, don’t believe her. She’s not big-boned.

DR. ALLEN: So – but the cat can’t just be living on corn-on-the-cob so obviously eating other things.

BOB: Oh, yes, there’s a dried supplement and the cat treats for cleaning teeth. He would prefer to eat that – those dried supplements and the fruits over his – any canned food or – He won’t eat lunch meat or tuna, nothing.

DR. ALLEN: Well, that is amazing. And, yes, I’m afraid there will be – there will be long term health consequences of a vegetarian cat. They do have amino acids, that’s these protein building blocks that they cannot manufacture themselves. They have to be fed them and they can – and heart disease can be – is the most well known sort of side effect of not getting enough taurine, for instance. Also, they cannot digest carbohydrates. They have a very, very short intestinal tract so you’ve got all this undigested food going through, it ferments in there and then you start to get other kinds of bowel disease secondary to that.

CAVANAUGH: Is there some kind of vitamin Bob can feed his cat while he’s chomping on corn-on-the-cob?

DR. ALLEN: No, because it’s not going to – he needs the proteins.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

DR. ALLEN: The cat needs the proteins so there’s some – there’s disease lurking in that cat somewhere.

ROSAY: Yeah, there – that is – I mean, I’ve heard of that before. He might have a rabbit with short ears. But, you know, I think it’s really about going out and whatever may be smaller stores around him and just – and buying a bunch of different canned foods, not the type of canned foods that are on the grocery store shelves and maybe experimenting with some higher quality foods because it’s funny, sometimes animals have a sense about like this is not like the healthiest thing for me. Then they pick up on the preservatives or something like that that might be in the canned foods that he’s trying so…

CAVANAUGH: You know, it just occurs to me, though, that not everybody can spend a fortune on cat food, you know, or dog food. So I’m wondering if, indeed, someone wants to, you know, improve their pet’s diet, what are some really low cost alternatives?

DR. ALLEN: Well, you don’t want to go low cost processed food because processed food, by nature, is not going to be the best thing. So, in general, you get what you pay for and if it doesn’t cost very much, it’s probably packed with a bunch of fillers that have no nutritional value and you’re going to get more poop out the other end. And you have to feed more volume for them to get the nutrition they need. So on a per meal basis, you’re probably not going to make a saving. So if you want to save money on your animal’s food, you’re probably making it yourself is your best bet. But then you need…

CAVANAUGH: Exactly.

DR. ALLEN: …a proper recipe from your veterinarian in order to make sure that you’re not shortchanging them.

ROSAY: There’s a lot – there’s also a lot of great books out there that are written by veterinarians. Dr. Pitcairn’s book, you can go onto Amazon and just research the different natural pet books that are out there that teach you how to make a raw food or a fresh food diet for your pet. It’s not something that you have to, you know, call UCS Davis (sic) to like get, you know, a recipe for. There’s people been doing it for a long time and this is the exact issue that we deal with at the store, is that people come in and they’ve been feeding these low quality foods and their pets, you know, have allergy problems. That’s the main thing that we deal with, and – or – and you have to evaluate and that’s what we try to teach them is like – is how much are you spending going to the vet and trying to take care of these issues that are diet related? So if you’re going to spend the money anyway, why don’t you spend it up front slowly over time over your pet’s life than trying to spend it at the end of your pet’s life. You know, and usually you see disease in pets that start around between the ages of five to eight and that’s what we – you know, by that time the having no enzymes in the food, that’s when you really see it taking a toll on the body.

CAVANAUGH: Right, let me just ask because we’re running out of time. Katy, as cats and dogs get older, are there any common things that people might want to take into consideration in terms of diet?

DR. ALLEN: Well, the higher quality ingredient’s much more important as their bowels don’t work so well. Old age disease as kidney disease in cats is very common so not just the protein content needs to be lower but it needs to be absolutely the highest quality because they still need protein. So again, yes, as they get older and they get diseased, you need a lot more specialist help if you’re going to make your own diet whereas if they’re young and healthy, yeah, go find yourself a book. Who’s the author, by the way? You know, what are their qualifications? But for a young, healthy animal, there’s plenty of recipes available. For an older or diseased animal, get some specialized help.

ROSAY: I have to say, though, that’s like saying that you need to come off of McDonald’s slowly. I mean, the body is incredible, its ability to heal itself, if you still have some life left in you.

CAVANAUGH: This is a debate that will continue. I want to thank both of my guests. Dr. Katy Allen, Tori Rosay, thank you so much for being here and telling us about the new stuff. Thanks.

ROSAY: Thanks so much for having us.

DR. ALLEN: It’s been our pleasure, thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And if you’d like to comment, please go online, KPBS.org/thesedays. You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.

Guests

Dr. Katy Allen, local veterinarian, and owner of Canterbury Tails Veterinary Services.

Tori Rosay, owner of Dexter's Deli, which is a health food store for dogs and cats that has three locations in the North County.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Christel'

Christel | July 21, 2010 at 10:38 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Our dog, Layla, is a shepherd mix that eats every fruit from our trees including peaches, nectarines with pits. Of course she throws up the pits.

She is also a piggy, inhales her food. She is very skinny.

What would be the best food for her? Dry, canned, human?

Thanks!
Christel in Escondido

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Avatar for user 'spaystrays'

spaystrays | July 21, 2010 at 10:46 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Would you recommend Dick Van Patten's Nature's Balance? if not what would you recommend. For both Dogs and Cats.

Thanks,

Barbara
San Diego

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Avatar for user 'sd_moody'

sd_moody | July 21, 2010 at 11 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Our cat seems to be bulimic! We have two, a 7 year old femaile and a 5 year old male. The male eats as if he's paniced and vomits afterwards. We tried dry food and soft food. Natural Balance, Natures Variety, Taste of the wild . . . nothing seems to work. We tried "free feeding" him (all day access) and controlling his portions. Our vet things he's gorging because he's food competitive, but even with free feeding, he makes himself sick. Does this seem like a food allergy problem, a food quality issue, or a competitive eating (psychological) issue?

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Avatar for user 'cdemos1'

cdemos1 | July 21, 2010 at 11:20 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Is green tripe as important for maintaining health as I've been led to believe and where can I get it in the San Diego area?

We moved down from Northern California, where I had a good supplier and fed my dog 2 pounds a week, he loves it.

My dog came from a breeder that only feeds raw and many of her dogs live to be 15-17 years old because of it. We saved $800 for dental cleaning after feeding our cat raw chicken drumsticks twice a week. Our veterinarian was impressed.

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Avatar for user 'dextersdeli'

dextersdeli | July 23, 2010 at 7:44 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Christel - it's hard to say what will be best for your dog without knowing more, but it sounds like she's trying to tell you she wants more fresh food. How 'bout starting out with adding some fresh protein to her current diet. You can add about 20% extra to regular food without too much worry. Try eggs, lean meat, cottage cheese. See what she thinks!

Barbara - It's never "one size fits all" when feeding pets, just like with us. Including fresh food in the diet is important no matter which food you choose. There are several dry foods that can be a base for their diet, and you don't have to stick to just one. Read the ingredients, ask the seller about the food, and try some samples, and see what works best with your dog.

sd_moody - you might consider trying flower essences to help balance his nerves and his desire to gorge. Some cats really need to eat alone too. Canned or raw food will be easier on his digestion than dry, but there are some great food dispensing toys for cats available now that you put dry food in that could be just the ticket. They have to roll the toy around to make the dry food fall out, and that would definitely slow down his eating. That could tell you if it's simply due to eating too fast, or whether it's a sensitivity to the food.

cdemos1 - Green tripe is wonderful for dogs. There are a few stores in the San Diego area that carry it, including Dexter's Deli.

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