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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pet Health: FOOD

My friend and holistic vet, Rick Palmquist, sent along this information to me about Dr Pitcairn's blog. Dr. Richard Pitcairn has written several books on holistic and homeopathic veterinary, including the Complete Guide to Natural Care for Dogs & Cats.

Here he writes about the controversy of feeding grains.  I make home cooked food for my dog and cat, and often use organic brown rice or organic barley.  Belle, my Golden Retriever, loved home cooked organic whole oats as a puppy, with banana. Learn more -

Feeding Grains to  Cats and Dogs, from Dr. Pitcairn

Since the last edition of our book was published there has been a strong movement towards feeding dogs and cats primarily meat and bones. Along with this, the strange idea has been put forth that grains are harmful or poisonous. Likely this is an exaggeration of the concept that grains in large amounts are not the optimal diet. The situation is more complex, however, than most realize.
The first question is if grains are not good for animals. The short answer is that grains are well accepted by animals if they are properly prepared. By this, I mean that the animal digestive tract is shorter than the human so the grains must be well cooked to be digestible.
Well, then, are they are in some way harmful? They are not if the quality is good. By “quality” we are meaning that the grains are complete, not just “leftovers” from milling. Also they need to be fresh, not rancid or spoiled. One would assume this is obvious but the fact is that commercial pet foods can use the leftovers and rejects from the production of human foods – the spoiled, contaminated, nutritionally inadequate floor sweepings – as their source of grains. Much of the concern about the harmful effect of grains in food for animals is because of the poor quality grain used in many commercial foods. The formula is like this:
Poor quality grain in commercial food = diminished health in animals = avoidance of grain based commercial foods = all grains are bad.
You can see that the first 3 steps make sense but the last conclusion does not as it is not taking into account that the health problems seen in animals has to do with the quality of the ingredient rather than the nature of it, e.g. that it is from grains.
Research into animal nutrition as cited in “Nutrient Requirements for Dogs” and “Nutrient Requirements for Cats” published by the Subcommittee on Dog Nutrition and Cat Nutrition by the National Research Council (about as reliable as one is going to find outside of the industry) reports that growing dogs fed a diet of up to 62% starch (which is an unusually simple carbohydrate, grains being much more complete) were able to digest 84% of the starch and use it for growth and energy. Even more significant these puppies had no apparent health effects from such a diet, growing the same as the group fed no carbohydrates.
Cats have been shown to be able to digest over 96% of starch fed to them.


Jake said...

You fool. This is irresponsible at best.

You neglect to mention the sheer volume of anti-nutrients present in grains as well as the horrific effect gluten has on a dog's intestinal tract, much the same effect it has on a human's. Not to mention you completely ignore what biochemistry tells us about grains and their effect as a gut irritant.

Your comment on grain being digestible when it's cooked properly is fallacious to begin with. Just because we can eat something with proper preparation doesn't mean we should. Dog's intestinal tracts are not designed to consume grains, as evidenced by the fact they are not digestible before being processed.

I contend that a dog's diet is best when it most closely mirrors that which it was genetically programmed to eat. By your own admission grain needs to be cooked properly to be digestible. I hope we can agree that dogs couldn't process and cook the grain in nature. Compare this to a mouse who can survive strictly on unprocessed grain and I hope you can understand the difference.

Unknown said...


It seems as if you aren't able to restrain your emotion and write civily, but I did post your article. I need to point out that you seem not to have read the material becaue all the rant you have posted are addressed.

Of course the information was provided by one of the most respected holistic vets in the country, whom I have known for many, many years. He probably knows more about pet nutrition than almost any one I could ever think of and I am happy to see his thinking.

Neither he nor I are fools.

Unknown said...

How much more must one...

"We are the measure of ourselves"

Don't feel that way Jake! Surely you're no f...
Stop calling yourself those names.

Anonymous said...

Have some perspective, Jack, dogs are just animals.
Don't lightly call fellow humans "fool" - charity starts with your own species.

Anonymous said...

You really should not post things you know nothing about. I have raised my dogs for 50 years using 1quart of rolled oats and 4 cut up hot dogs for two adult dogs everyday. I have very heathy dogs, All my dogs have lived to be old. I do use a food processor and chop the oats up put them in a crock pot with 4 cut up hot dogs and cook for 2 to 3 hours. Very cheap and healthy way to feed your dogs

Anonymous said...

I'm a long time cat owner (dogs too but not for some time) they were "outside country cats" most never made it over 8 or so years old due to traffic, bigger critters, disappearances etc. I now have 2 12 year old girls...Mayhem & Chaos...sisters & they are stuck indoors. I have switched to a gluten & corn free diet & see a difference in the coat & the muscle tone. They do not look their age. The canned food is better than what most humans consume & not all that more expensive than the mainly soy/wheat crap. I believe 1 has developed an allergy (little bumps that are not flea bites) months after a round of antibiotics from a junior & terrible Vet thus the change in diet. The only "grain" would be rice flour & that is not in the
1st 5 ingredients...hard to find anything without any grains unless you make it yourself. Her fur is much softer & though she is still a bit overweight her skin has much less dander. She also gets fish oil, MSM & pre/probiotics in a very small amount but that is a very recent addition. I gave away a lot of decent grocery store food as I don't want to chance it at their age thus worth the added expense for better food...far less that multiple trips to a Vet & possibly needing pharmaceuticals. I believe it is all in the food...animal or human.

I'm including a link to a Vet who does not feel grains are appropriate in humans or animals. I have no connection to him but I feel his research is rather might want to have a look at his site & decide for yourself. It is rather lengthy but he has recently revamped it.

Unknown said...

A cat is a carnivore. A carnivore does not eat vegetables. Cats nowadays get heart disease, cancer and diabetes. It all happenned after we started feeding them the same corn, soy and wheat-based junk that humans are making themselves sick with. If omnivore humans cannot stand these grains, what do they do to carnivores?

tal said...

To complicate matters further, Juliette de Bairacli Levy recommends a 70% meat; 30% grain diet, raw in both cases:

"The dietary rule of next importance (#1 rule=RAW) is the realization of the fact that the dog has far greater difficulty in digesting cereals than flesh foods; and therefore the natural food, meat, ought to form 70% of the diet, and the percentage of cereal which is fed to the dog should be kept separate from the meat, being given as a separate meal"

She also maintains, however "The dog can be kept in health on an entirely meatless diet, but it is far more difficult to keep a balanced diet that way, also, with cereal so costly nowadays, it is less economical"


" The Scottish mountain sheep-dog puppies reared on oatmeal porridge and raw milk are the best boned collie puppies that I have seen"

all quotes from Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable - Rodale Press,3rd edition, 1977

Bairacli Levy's third rule is one day of fasting and one with no meat per week for an adult dog.

It is my personal opinion that the recent human and animal craze for the paleo/so-called original diet is simply the latest form of the extremism which brought us the cholesterol scare, demonizing saturated fats/meat/eggs.

While many people suffer from gluten intolerance and other digestive disorders, the case is unlikely to be as simple as grain-eating which we have done for millennia (and yes, I HAVE seen the hypothesis that blames the high protein content of modern wheat). I would turn the spotlight, first, on inoculations and go on from there.

My 2¢

Unknown said...

Thank you tai for sending in your comments based on Juliette's wisdom.

I wanted to add this but have been getting ready for a move.

I have used her wisdom for years for my animals and and for people as well as recommending her books to many others.

I think the problem for most people is that they usually go from supermarket food to some narrowly focused approach to feeding.

I was my very erudite holistic vet who supported feeding organic oats. He was the first in WA state from 1967.

My Aussie-Corgi that is my dog now likes barley but he gets only organic and I make his food base with vegetables and broth in a crock pot so it is easy and well cooked. His vet marvels at his coat and his energy.


Anonymous said...

Ok lets try and think straight. we are not experts, and we do not have the ability to judge who are the real experts and who is not, there is conflicting science, so we cant rely on that, and we are not knowledgeable to understand much of thr science anyhow.

So how do we determine what to feed animals? watch what they do in the wild, and replicate that as best we can. make sense? in the wild as far as i can see dogs/cats are largely carnivorous, they dont graze on wheat fields. is this not logical? I suggest you stop listening to "experts" on both sides and try to think for yourself and keep it simple.

keep em off the grains, humans, cats, dogs can do better grain free.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the information.