Homemade Pet Food

From Chapter 25 of "Healthy Garden Healthy You" by Milo Shammas

Commercial pet foods are some of the worst junk on the market. Commercial pet food has been around only about 65 years. Animals did fine without it for much longer. Many of the commercial pet foods available on the market keep veterinarians busy struggling to heal ailments they simply do not know how to treat. The pharmaceutical companies are responsible for many of the illnesses of our pets. All our pets need is a regular, healthy diet.

For centuries, dogs and cats in the wild never received conventional pet food. No one walked around with a bag of food making sure all dogs and cats were fed regularly. By preparing their food today, we can mimic what dogs and cats might have eaten in the wild. Homemade pet food will optimize their health. Veterinary research focuses primarily on the diagnosis and pharmaceutical treatment of disease with little attention paid to nutrition and its role in disease and healing. American pet food companies remind us they have the highest standards in the world, and they probably do, but is it enough?

Bioavailable Food
You can lay down a feast for your pet, but unless the nutrients are bioavailable, they are simply not absorbed. The same holds true with plants and humans. Bioavailability determines the solubility of all nutrients. Holistic veterinarians estimate more than half of pet illnesses can be corrected by some kind of nutritional supplement. If we correct inadequate diets and make vital nutrients available, we drastically improve pet health. With a bioavailable diet and a well-planned nutritional supplement program, we insure digestive enzymes are constantly available.

Before commercially prepared diets became available, pets ate almost anything and everything they could find. Animals ate the majority of their food directly off the ground, which we may think of as less sanitary than a food dish. The ground is loaded with trace nutrients and beneficial soil microbes that inoculate the intestines of animals.

Intestinal inoculation occurs with humans from the moment we are born when we receive our mother's breast milk. Breast milk is loaded with Lactobacillus acidophilus which inoculates our intestines. As kids we crawl around on the ground and touch everything. Then we put our hands in our mouths. This is a part of our biological evolution. By getting into everything in this way, we further inoculate our intestines with a wide variety of microbes.

These probiotic microbes then inoculate our mouth and intestine with enzyme-producing bacteria. These enzymes assist in making the food we eat bioavailable.

Many pet owners who are meat lovers believe that dogs and cats are strict carnivores. They believe pets will not thrive on vegetarian diets. Conversely, many vegetarians believe that a vegetarian diet is far superior to a meat diet for their pet. I believe you should have both meat and vegetables in your pet’s diet. Pets need lean protein and nutrient rich fruits, grains and vegetables. Whole foods are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. You might ask if a pet's digestive system is so far behind on the evolutionary scale, how can it digest vegetables? Digestive enzymes make this possible, and you should incorporate them into all pet foods.

You can buy the same digestive enzymes at the health food store that you buy for yourself. Our dogs and cats inherently have the digestive enzymes to effectively digest protein in food. We want to assist our pets in digesting grains, fruits and vegetables, since these foods are rich in fiber and carbohydrates. Dogs and cats have short digestive systems, so they need our help with digestive enzymes to absorb the maximum level of nutrients from the food we give them. Buy digestive enzymes rich with cellulase and amylase. They will help in the bioavailability of a diet rich in vegetables. Most animals including humans do not produce cellulase in their bodies and cannot use most of the energy in plant material.

Preparing homemade pet food may not be for everybody. It takes much work to constantly make sure your pets get a good variety of appealing foods they enjoy eating. This chapter is primarily for those who cook for themselves and don't mind making a little extra for their pets. For me, this is easy. I show up at the office a little early to take care of my 25 cats with a little something special every morning. (Yes, 25. I already had one when the 24 came with my relative's property.) I enjoy it and find it therapeutic. I love to experiment with different pet foods weekly to better understand their nutritional needs. I believe nutritional education should be ongoing, as new things are discovered every day. You can get help and support with this by subscribing to a pet magazine or joining a pet club.

I have always known that food can make a huge difference in my health. It is logical that food will have an equal impact on pet health. In addition to working with Dr. Sue Chan and learning much about her work on her rescue farm, I have traveled throughout the United States to meet farmers, gardeners and medical doctors. I have had extended talks with many people who have raised every kind of animal, from indoor kittens to herds of cattle grazing naturally on hillsides. One message was always consistent in these encounters: You are what you eat. Therefore, I conclude pets are also what they eat.

My message here is simple. Stop eating junk food and start eating good food if you want to be healthy. Medical doctors encourage us to consume less processed food and more natural raw green foods to maximize our health. If we have pets that we love like family, we should definitely do the same for them.

Good Food is Clean Energy
How does the quality of food make such a difference in a pet's health? Food is fuel and energy. Life does not exist without it. Nearly every living organism is nothing but energy. To feed all their living cells on the microscopic level, we must give our pets foods that will provide good, clean energy. Energy keeps all living things moving.

Although commercial pet food is convenient and contains some energy burning fuels, they are often lacking in enzymes and provide only basic nutrients that sustain life at the most basic level. Conventional pet foods can sustain life for many years, but are they the best for the health of your pets? How bioavailable are they? Most pet food formulas are simple and contain cheap fillers. They are not as healthy for your pets as fresh foods from your garden or foods you cook for them. Also, commercial pet food ingredients are heated to high temperatures to kill off all pathogens. Unfortunately, the process also renders nutrients in the food much less viable and bioavailable. Ask yourself: Would I eat the products I feed my pets? Would I feed these products to my children day after day, year after year, for their entire lives? The answer is simple. Common sense says we must have a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and meats in order to live a long, healthy life. You do not need a veterinary degree to see this.

Before processed commercial pet foods, animal lovers shared their foods with their dogs and cats. When I was a boy, we scraped everything into a big bowl and took it outside to feed our dogs. With the exception of all chicken and turkey bones, we fed them everything from our table. My mom washed the seasonings off the scraps, but everything else we fed to our dogs. We fed them large steak bones, chicken carcasses, even pasta and vegetables. They lived long and healthy lives. I don’t remember my parents ever taking our dogs or cats to the veterinarian for anything except neutering and spaying.

All animals on our planet evolved over years with good health by eating specific types of foods native to their environments. Their food requirements varied with the physiology of each type of species, but one thing remained common to dogs and cats. They need protein. While dog food and cat food are different, you can easily prepare homemade dog and cat food using similar ingredients. We know certain supplements contain vital nutrients, enzymes and amino acids that you can add in lesser or greater quantities to achieve a desired result for your dog or your cat.

Evolution has helped dictate dog and cat digestive systems for at least 120 million years. The ancestors of the animals we now domesticate were once savage killers. Our pets have teeth and claws that were obviously designed to catch, rip and tear living flesh. Their eyes are strategically placed in the front of their heads so they can focus on prey. Most grazing omnivores have eyes on the sides of their heads so they can be wary of a dog or cat preying on them.

Dogs are more scavengers than cats. Nevertheless, before domestication, both dogs and cats struggled and survived on a diet that consisted mainly of protein from consuming other animals. Yet, dogs and cats are not pure carnivores, nor should your pets eat a diet of only lean proteins. When making dog foods or cat foods, remember to use all the parts. They love the skin, the organ meats and the connective tissue (sinew). Most importantly, feed your pets vegetables, too.

Raw Food
In recent years, a passionate debate has raged on feeding pets raw food. I have yet to talk with any two people who completely agree on this subject. Some viewpoints are extreme and contend all foods must be raw. Others take a more moderate approach and feed raw foods to pets occasionally for nutritional benefits. With such contrasting beliefs regarding raw or partly raw foods, many pet owners are confused over which direction to go. I believe both raw and cooked foods are good and each has a place in providing maximum nutrition for your pet. I believe your pet's diet should be similar to yours. We should consume meats and cook them lightly to make the nutrients more bioavailable. (There is a fine line between overcooking it to the point that most nutrients and digestive enzymes are burned away and heating food enough to kill any potential pathogens.)

I love sushi and eat it all the time without any problems. I also have eaten steak tartar (raw ground beef) many times when I was in Europe with no illness or side effects. Why can't pets eat only raw food? They can, as long as it is fresh from a trusted source. I have spoken with many veterinarians who believe remarkable good comes from eating a raw diet exclusively. Their conviction comes from experience with pets that were sick and full of conventional food toxins consumed for many years. Many biologists say raw foods aid newborns and promote greater health and normality in later years. This theory makes sense, since the majority of nutrients are most available in their raw state. In general, the less we alter the natural state of any food, the more likely it will contain the maximum nutrition.

Milo Lou Shammas
Founder and Formulator

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