Monthly Archives: March 2016

Your Vet’s Pet Food Misunderstanding

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As explained in last week’s blog, determinism is the belief that any subject can be best understood by understanding its parts. When determinism is applied to nutrition you get the kind of silly statements that veterinary nutritionists and pet food manufacturers make all the time. These experts will tell you that it is not the ingredients of a pet food that matter but rather it is the nutrients.

Of course, if you believe in the reductionist view that we understand food best by studying its parts, then it does not matter what ingredients provide the calories, protein, and other nutrients. This is the kind of nutrition information that gets spoon fed the veterinary students who become your local pet nutrition experts (your vet). And we all have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. This belief is also what justifies the poor ingredients in the foods veterinarians often recommend.

Such ingredients as “Whole Grain Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Whole Grain Wheat, and Brewers Rice” are among the first listed in one feline prescription diet. Now, grains and starches of any kind are not appropriate for pets – especially cats, which are known to be obligate carnivores.  And, the protein provided by grains is of poor quality (inappropriate amino acid profile and inadequate absorption).

The notion that nutrients rule is refuted in this research published in the journal, Nutrition Reviews. The title of this article says it all; Food, Not Nutrients, is the Fundamental Unit in Nutrition. Here is what the researchers have to say.

It seems a good assumption that the vast majority of components of plant and animal-based food is functional, that it has some kind of biological activity…there are thousands of other substances [besides vitamins and minerals] in the food matrix that must be considered as possibly leading to biological activity, possibly synergistically with each other, that in some sense could equally be deemed essential for life because they are not produced by nor do they augment human biological systems.”

Between the number of nutrients in food and the way the body selectively absorbs and utilizes them, nutrition is much more complicated than the veterinary nutritionists and pet food manufacturers lead us to believe. I will write more on that next week along with the solution to the nutrition problem.

Read your pet’s food ingredient label and let us know what questionable things you find.

The Folly of Reductionism

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Reductionism is a common belief among scientists and researchers in Western medicine. The idea is that anything can best be understood by looking at its parts. When you comprehend how each part works then you can appreciate the thing of which they are a part.

This is the way I was trained in veterinary school. When studying anatomy, we started with a dead, preserved animal body. We examined the skin, fur, and other superficial structures. Then we cut deeper to look at the muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. We went still deeper to the bones and internal organs.

Along the way, we learned a lot about the body, but unlearned the true “meaning” of the animal itself. In the end, it was hard to identify the species that we started with. In fact, what we really learned was to see every animal as a lump of meat. We had to become hardened to the animal in front of us. There was no way we could cut a body to pieces thinking about how this dog was once someone’s best friend.

In the end, reductionism does not work. It goes something like this: we can best understand an animal by understanding the organs and tissues that make it up. We can best understand the organs and tissues by understanding the cells they are made of. We can best understand the cells by understanding the organelles within each cell. We can best understand the organelles by understanding the molecules they are made of. We can best understand the molecules by understanding their constituent atoms. We can best understand the atoms by understanding the sub-atomic particles. OOPS!

It turns out that sub-atomic particles are pretty hard to understand. For example, such a particle can have the properties of a wave at one time and the properties of a particle at another time. Since waves and particles have very different abilities (waves bend around an object and particles do not) it is impossible to understand subatomic particles using any logic we know of.

So, if you cannot understand subatomic particles it follows that you cannot understand atoms which means you cannot understand molecules which means you cannot understand organelles which means you cannot understand cells and on up the line. You cannot fully understand anything by simply understanding its parts.

There is more to a pet than flesh and blood. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts! This is the holistic philosophy in a nut shell.

Next week I’ll write about how the struggle between the holistic philosophy and reductionism applies to nutrition.

Side Effects from Raw Food

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As a holistic practitioner, I treat the whole pet. Animals often come to me because they have a specific problem. The Western medicine way of dealing with such difficulties is to only focus on the issue at hand. In veterinary school we really learn more about disease care than we do about health care. The holistic approach is to focus on the patient. If we make the patient well then by definition the disease has gone away.

To this point, every time a pet comes to me I consider diet. I have found that if an animal is not getting proper nutrition (balanced, raw diet) it is not likely to become truly healthy no matter what I do. Some pet caregivers are put off by my seeming lack of concern over the disease they came in for. Most come to understand my approach once I explain it.

Meet Lucy. She is a 4-year-old yorkie mix. She came to me for her first holistic exam on 12/2/15. Her problem was that she was lame on her right rear leg on and off for the past month. Her owner wanted to try a holistic approach.

When I examined Lucy I found that she was very sensitive to my manipulation of her right knee. I could also feel a subtle grinding when I flexed her knee. She seemed to have a strain or sprain of her right knee.

As always, I discussed vaccines and vaccine titers with Lucy’s caregiver. I talked about holistic health and recommended Answers Raw Pet Food and Fermented Goat’s Milk. I also prescribed 8 weekly therapeutic laser treatments for Lucy’s right knee. (I never ignore the problem at hand).

I saw Lucy back on 2/16/16 and her lameness had completely resolved. After the exam, as her caregiver was leaving the room, she asked me about the food. She had taken my recommendation seriously and had switched Lucy from her “high quality” kibble to Answers food and goat’s milk.

Lucy’s caregiver asked me about a strange side effect she noticed from the diet. Lucy was listening to her better than she ever had. Apparently, Lucy had a tendency toward ADHA that her caregiver thought was normal behavior. She didn’t realize there was a problem until the diet fixed it.

I commonly see positive side effects from getting pets off processed food and onto a balanced raw diet. I love my job!