For many pet owners nutrition is a veritable minefield of misinformation and opinion, with no real place to turn to for help. The words ‘let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’ have turned pet owners into polarized groups, each believing that their model is best.
Every day I read blog after blog and post after post about how Fido is healthier on a prey model, Spot does best on a BARF diet, and Daisy thrives on her commercial dog food. For me Nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all solution to better health, but rather an individualized approach to preventative health, wellness and longevity.
So What Is Nutrition and Why Is It Important?
Merriam-Webster defines nutrition as ‘the act or process of nourishing or being nourished; specifically: the sum of the processes by which an animal or plant takes in and utilizes food substances.’ For me, the key words are ‘takes in and utilizes food substances.’ The importance of nutrition is to support our pets. While a steady diet of unhealthy food leads to obesity, poor health, and a shortened life span, healthy eating habits support our veterinarians while decreasing the chances of future ailments.
Health is not simply the absence of disease, but also the ability to resist disease, to be able to recover from an illness quickly, and most importantly, give the pet vitality and allow it to thrive. There is plenty of research that proves a pet with cancer has different nutritional needs than a healthy pet, and a growing pet has different needs than an adult or geriatric pet.
Nourishment of our pets can begin at home, no matter the diet or condition.
Whole foods can be properly assimilated by the body, while the process of selective absorption allows the body to use what it needs. For example, the addition of a couple of grated carrots or some finely chopped broccoli will supply your pet with antioxidants.
These antioxidants remove toxic free radicals from the body before they can cause damage to healthy cells and tissue, while also promoting longevity as well as healthy body weight and lean muscle mass. Blueberries are also an excellent whole food addition because they contain phytochemicals, which are known for their anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties.
Good nutrition can also include the addition of essential fatty acids to your pet’s diet in the form of whole food essential fatty acids. Small amounts of sardines (DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids) and chia seeds (ALA omega-3 fatty acids) can provide our pets with relief from an allergic response. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to slow the growth of certain pet cancers as well as aid in the treatment of cardiovascular disorders, kidney disease, and arthritis.
Good nutrition starts with the foundation of a well balanced diet. This diet should be able to provide most, if not all, of your pet’s nutritional needs, and should include the addition of fresh, naturally raised plants, wild caught fish and grass-fed meats. Vitamins, minerals, herbs, and perhaps even proven supplements can be used to promote health and wellness; however, they are not a substitute for a well-balanced diet. Your pet’s body is designed to absorb the nutrients it needs to thrive from fresh, living foods.
John Frierson is founder of LivelyPet, a companion pet health and lifestyle website. LivelyPet is dedicated to consulting pet owners in achieving quality health for their pet through proper nutrition. Working in conjunction with their veterinarian, John’s goal is to help pets and their owners achieve the healthiest and happiest lifestyles possible. He firmly believes that a big part of this starts at home, and most importantly, in the kitchen. Growing up with a diverse collection of pets, some requiring special diets, he developed his passion for nutrition. He is currently working on completing his Certified Pet Nutritionist certification (almost done!), and resides in Cape Coral, Florida with his wife, four children, and three Min-Pin fur kids. John can be reached at livelypet.net. Also look for him on Facebook at facebook.com/livelypet, and twitter @livelypet!