The Right Nutrition Saves the Day
From Chapter 23 of "Healthy Garden Healthy You" by Milo Shammas
I would love to rescue every homeless dog and cat from every shelter or owner who is abusive or neglectful. I see so much suffering in the eyes of abandoned animals. Unfortunately, even owners who dearly love their pets can unknowingly neglect them through poor nutrition. Fortunately, your garden and kitchen scraps can serve as sources of good pet nutrition. A little creativity at the super market blended with some organic store bought pet food also can help.
Consider a story of how nutrition can make a difference in pet health. I had a beautiful cat at my home and was quite content with her. When I moved into my new office, a six-acre property belonging to a family member, I "inherited" 24 cats abandoned by the previous tenant.
I signed up for the huge job of taking care of my relative's property, (an abandoned water park/amusement park with a huge empty pond, four swimming pools and several fruit trees) because I believed it needed the kind of attention only I could give it. I was also running a large company, trying to change the world by advocating for natural and organic garden methods and home grown foods. Just what I needed on my plate was to rescue 24 cats! With no time on my hands and all the responsibility in the world, I still felt a duty to the welfare and health of my newly adopted pets.
Lives Saved Through Nutrition
All 24 cats greet me everyday when I drive up to my office on the property. It warms my heart to know they eagerly wait for me every day. They know the "man with the good food" is coming. It's like a scene out of National Geographic or a wildlife documentary film. I park my car about 150 feet from the building. The cats crisscross in front of me to the point where I can hardly walk. They always meow and look up at me with such anticipation while endlessly rubbing the sides of my legs. They make my morning a joy with their unconditional love.
While all the cats were beautiful and special in my heart, I especially loved two of them, Tony and Wade. I had to bring them into the warm office since winter was just around the corner, and they were very sick kittens. About 8 to 10 weeks old, they each weighed about 1 pound. They both had eyes almost swollen shut from an infection. Both were definitely the runts of the litter. The other kittens, easily twice their size, were forcing them away from their mother's milk and the food I put out for them. These small, undernourished kittens were obviously in trouble.
I could not bear leaving these two to the fate of death by competition and natural selection. I had to intervene, separate them from the others, and bring them indoors. Doing so was hard on the kittens and me. They seemed so sad to be taken from their mother, but their illness was well beyond her means and ability to help them.
The Visit to the Veterinarian
I immediately took Tony and Wade to the veterinarian to get a professional diagnosis. The veterinarian prescribed some eye cream and nasal infection drops and asked me to bring them back in a week. "How about their diet?" I asked. "Feed them anything you have available," he said. "It doesn't matter what kind of pet food you give them." "Why?" I asked. "All pet foods are pretty much the same. Any kitten food is good enough."
When I began to tell him the importance of micronutrients to human health, he looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I eagerly told him about my professional background. "I know nutrient rich soil is the foundation for healthy plants. Healthy plants provide maximum health potential for the livestock we raise and eat. What's the difference when it comes to our pets? Why can't a healthy diet be the foundation of good health and recovery for my kittens?"
His diagnosis was bleak. "Too much damage has already been done. These kittens will both likely develop blindness in a short time." When I questioned him again about supplements rich in micronutrients and essential fatty acids to boost recovery time, he simply said it would not matter. "All pet food is the same." I was stunned at this response. I was caring for 24 cats. The two that I chose to adopt as personal pets were not going to live a normal, healthy life. I followed his instructions for the eye cream and the nasal infection drops, but I was determined to prove his nutrition ideas wrong. I disregarded everything he said about cat food.
I put Tony and Wade on a probiotic diet loaded with kelp meal, brewers yeast, super green powder supplements, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and digestive enzymes. I used boiled organic chicken breast that I make for my family. I used no seasonings, not even salt; just boiled the chicken in water and began to formulate my homemade concoctions. (Dr. Sue Chan, one of my chief experts on animal nutrition, advises me to avoid pet foods with "by-products" in them. Consult books specifically on homemade pet foods to learn more on this subject.)
After one short month on what you might call "Dr. Earth's Emergency Cat Rescue Diet," my sick kittens grew to almost the size of the others. I have always known nutrition is the foundation of health in all organisms, animal or human. In this instance, I applied the same nutritional techniques to animal health that I apply to my own health and got good results. I used everything I learned over the years from living an organic lifestyle, applying my understanding of functional foods (super foods), bioavailable supplements, mineral nutrients and probiotics to the needs of my kittens. Intensive attention to nutrition brought Tony and Wade back from near death. I doubt I would have gotten this kind of wonderful result if I had resigned myself to the gloomy outlook and limited knowledge of nutrition coming from the vet.
Natural Nutrition For Every Pet
Pet health is similar to human health. We are both mammals. Though pets prefer an all meat diet, they are omnivores the way we are. Dogs are classified as true omnivores and cats are classified as true carnivores. But you can look at any cat food label to see it contains mostly vegetable matter. Therefore, I conclude cats, dogs and humans are all omnivores. You can get your dogs and cats to eat vegetables if you mask the vegetable content with meat. This balance of vegetables and meat offers the maximum health potential for your pets.
Many would argue with me and say that a dog's or cat's digestive system has not evolved enough to digest vegetables. However, digestive enzymes assist in making those nutrients available from the vegetables we feed to pets. The digestive enzymes are catalysts for breaking down and extracting all foods, especially those rich in proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and fiber.
I want to do for pets what growing a healthy garden has done for the health of my customers, readers and friends. I have dedicated a large part of my life now to pet care by rescuing them directly and by sharing my knowledge of animal nutrition. I ask people not to buy pets. I advocate rescue and adoption. I hope that you adopt this philosophy as well.
My kittens and other cats have inspired me to continue learning about animal health. I have always been aware of the nutritional benefits of organically grown animals for human consumption. I have begun to focus my knowledge and learning toward pet health. The science of human and pet nutrition is the same. Everything comes down to understanding and delivering an animal's nutritional requirements.
Much prepackaged dog or cat food is unnatural for our pets, unless you buy high-quality, organic pet food. The generally higher price for such products is justifiable. If the manufacturer blends the food with premium ingredients, it is worth every penny. You either pay now for the good food, or you pay later for the vet bills and the grief of losing your pet prematurely.
Commercial pet foods do not take into consideration a modern, domesticated pet's nutritional requirements. They also hardly consider evolution. To guide you on how to custom blend a natural dog or cat food that your pets will enjoy and thrive on, I have enlisted some help.
The Expert Panel
Over the years, I have done extensive research on animal husbandry and read many books on the subject. I have yet to find a simple book that explains how a garden can aid pet owners interested in better pet nutrition. I work with several biologists at the University of California at Davis. These experts in wildlife rehabilitation and animal biodiversity are near the Dr. Earth ranch in Winters, California. Before I wrote this part of the book, I wanted to make sure that I explored every available resource and the latest technology in animal health. I also worked with a local veterinarian, Dr. Sue Chan, who runs a non-profit pet organization that focuses on educating and helping both people and animals. When necessary, she also rescues animals from cats to horses and everything between. Dr. Chan says, "If you change the diet and environment of your pets, you will see an immediate difference." I do, and you will, too. My conclusions on pet health are the same as on plant and human health. Pets are only as healthy as the nutrition you provide for them. A healthy garden is one of the steps to having a healthy pet.
Milo Lou Shammas
Founder and Formulator