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Can Fido or Fluffy make it as Vegetarians? (part 1) 
07/15/04 J.R. Rogers

In the past, we have talked about the importance of diet for pets dealing with arthritis. This is a very important issue and one that many pet owners do not address properly. That is not to say that they don't care, it is more a question of understanding what works best for your pet particularly if they are arthritic or have joint-related issues. 

Why our Pets are Living Shorter Lives

Cats and dogs are exposed to the same kinds of life-shortening problems that we are. Pollution, stress and diet are all an issue. In fact, in some studies, it has been shown that some pure bred animal's lives have been shortened dramatically. This is not a random event. It is a fact of life and these factors are all contributing to that. When the immune system is constantly threatened, there will be an impact. In fact, veterinarians generally agree that there is an overall decline in pet health across the board. 

Commercial Pet Foods and the Difference in Dogs and Cats

Our pets are born with sharp teeth and claws which would seem to suggest that they thrive on meat. While this is true to a point, it is not a complete picture. I have suggested in the past that (some) raw food should be added to your pet's diet. I did that because there are several factors at play when you feed them commercially-available foods. 

Issues with Commercial Brands

Many of these off-the-shelf products are a little questionable. While protein is essential to pets, often these products don't have enough of it. Much of it is not digested well and in other cases, it happens because of an imbalance in amino acids. There is also the issue of "what" is in the product. We know by now that many contain "animal by-products" that are not even pleasant to discuss. Many of these products are contaminated with a host of undesirable ingredients. 

Before we address this issue, let's talk about picking a pet food that works for your pet. 

The Ones to "pass" On

If you see ingredients that include artificial colorings or have preservatives like propylene glycol, propyl gallate, sodium nitrite or nitrate, BHA or BHT, don't buy it. It is also not a good idea to feed commercially packaged foods to your pet if there are "animal by-products" included except those that are named as "organ meats." That is a good starting point. 

Second, even these commercial foods that pass muster (which means high-quality products) usually must be cooked. If you have any familiarity with cooking, you know that this destroys much of the beneficial enzymes, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. 

Adding Raw Foods

We have talked about this in past editions. Add some raw foods to your pet's diet. This helps to supplement what they are not getting from even good commercial brand foods. In a perfect world (from a nutritional standpoint) this would be the foundation of your pet's diet. 

You can mix vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and dairy products together to provide a good starting point toward a better overall diet and particularly for an arthritic pet. 

Diet, Exercise and Liquid Glucosamine

We are going to expand on this theme a little further in our next article. In the meantime, pay attention to the commercial foods you are buying and take the time to bring a little vegetarian mix to your pet's diet. It will help them maintain healthier joints and overall improve their health. 

In the next issue, we will target a little more closely the differences between feeding a healthy diet to cats (versus) dogs.