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5 Natural Pet Food Myths 09/05/11

Paul Jacobson, Pet Food Nutritionist, weighs in on the five misperceptions about home-cooked and natural pet food.


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The pet food industry is dominated by some of the most powerful and influential multi-nationals. Through  clever marketing and jargon they have managed to cloud logic and common sense. By doing so they have instilled a sense of fear and doubt amongst the consumer and that home-cooked, home-made natural food and vegetable based diets are nutritionally inferior, dangerous and harmful.

Herewith some misperceptions:

  • Home-Cooked does not clean teeth – FALSE

This is possibly the biggest farce, but yet the strongest tool that the industry uses, to scare off consumers from using home-cooked meals. The powers that be claim that our pets can only clean teeth by chewing on processed pellets.

This argument holds no logic. When we go to the dentist he certainly does not recommend that we clean our teeth by chewing on a rusk or cracker.

Moreover, dogs are gulpers. They are accustomed to swallowing large chunks at a time. They are not used to chewing pellets that form a paste between tooth and lip. Dogs do not have the ability to lick this paste clean. Thus, the food eventually ferments, builds up bacteria and leads to tooth decay.

No, this is certainly not true.

  • Garlic is dangerous. – FALSE

For years people preparing food from home have included various herbs in their pet’s food, which included garlic. Authors like Margaret Roberts have even promoted the use of garlic for medicinal purpose and to get rid of fleas and ticks.

At one point a variety of articles started appearing that made unsubstantiated claims about how harmful garlic is, and that it could be killing your pet.

However, these articles failed to mention the most important criteria, dosage. Every food and component thereof can be deemed to be dangerous in mega doses. The same applies to garlic and the evidence shows that if you fed your pet copious amounts of garlic it may lead to Heinz Body Anemia (the thinning of the blood).

The evidence shows that you would have to feed 5% of your pet’s body weight in garlic  for a prolonged period of time for it to be dangerous. In other words, you would have to feed your average sized dog half a tub of garlic every day for months

But which fool would do this?  Any normal and logical person would only feed a reasonable quantity of herbs and garlic to their animal

  • Wet food = sloppy stools – FALSE

The other evening, I went to the movies and ate a whole box of popcorn. The next day I spent much time on the toilet! But when I eat a wet Chinese soup or vegetable stew, I produce the perfect stool.

The consistency of your stool is not related to the dryness or wetness of the food you are eating, but rather how nutritionally sound and wholesome that food is.

Processed commercial food often uses an ingredient called beet pulp to stabilise the gut. This has the same effect as a medication that prevents diarrhoea. It causes a false sense of stability in the gut and eventually the digestive system is compromised. This has dire consequences, one being sloppy and messy stools.

Natural, wholesome food produces correct stools that biodegrade quickly and perfectly. Here’s a response that one of my clients sent through to me about our about our natural dog food:
“Now this is what I think will bring a smile – the other day my husband and I were looking out the window and couldn’t believe our eyes, the birds were pecking at the dogs stools – we were delighted – a wonderful food chain had developed, and we were also feeding the birds! Now isn’t that just wonderful”

  • Home-cooked food is not balanced – FALSE

In fact, by law all commercial pet food has to provide a balanced diet;  but balance is not the only criteria for a nutritional and healthy meal.

As humans, we aspire to have a correct balance of minerals and vitamins, but we do not judge our health on every meal. Rather we measure it against a period of time, say one month. We certainly do not a have a balanced meal each and every time we eat a meal.

Moreover, to balance a meal and present a composition of minerals and vitamins is an easy task. The question is which ingredients have you utilised to obtain this spectrum of nutrients? Here is an extreme and exaggerated example:

While, a metal nail contains a lot of iron, spinach would be preferable. The left over oil after your car has been serviced may contain omegas and fats, but olive oil is recommended. Melamine or coal has a large protein content, but lentils, oats, brown rice or spirulina is more desirable.

Yes, you can balance your food with synthetic minerals and vitamins, but nothing beats whole, real and natural nutrition, preferably organic.

  • Veterinarians do not promote natural diets – FALSE

World-wide there are vets promoting natural diets for pets and warning against the feeding of commercial processed food. The trend towards a more natural life style is growing for both human and animal.

Dr.T.J Dunn, a well known veterinarian, gives evidence of the concerns that many veterinarians are expressing. And there are many more.

“During my 30 years of veterinary practice I have often been upset by the poor condition I see some of my canine patients in, due to inferior quality diets that the owner honestly believes to be adequate. In good faith the dog owner assumes that since the dog food label proclaims “complete and balanced”, “premium”, “high protein”, and so on, that their dog will automatically do great if that’s all it is fed.

Because of ambiguous or deceptive labelling of the dog food, the owner unknowingly will feed an inadequate diet. And it may be decades before the FDA requires more strict guidelines for dog food manufacturers to follow, so that misleading, ambiguous, and sometimes phony labeling practice no longer confuse or trick the purchaser.”

In preparing a home-cooked balanced diet for your companion animal, one need only apply the same principles of healthy living as we do for humans. If you choose to feed your companion an exclusive vegetable or vegan diet, then one should approach the preparation responsibly by doing the research to derive at a balanced diet, that contains a fair protein component.

The concept of a natural wholesome diet, prepared from home, is no revelation. Our parents and ancestors have being doing it for hundreds of years, with great success. Certainly, the many common ailments that we find nowadays, were of no concern then, as they knew inherently how to prepare a balanced healthy meal for the “whole” family.

Extra Reading:

PETA: Vegetarian pets

Paul Jacobson is a Pet Food Nutritionist and qualified chef and owner of Vondis Holistic Pet Nutrition. Vondis has been producing natural pet food for 14 years and is a registered nutritional pet food. Vondis is actively involved in educating the public on the benefits of natural diets for pets and a holistic approach when treating them. Go to www.vondis.co.za for more information. 

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Paul Jacobson is a Pet Food Nutritionist and qualified chef and owner of Vondis Holistic Pet Nutrition. www.vondis.co.za


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