As mentioned in the last guest post, several of the top reasons that cats and dogs are taken to the vet, are often directly related to the foods they eat. Here we continue to look at how food and disease are interrelated, and some factors to consider in your journey towards complete and lasting pet health.
If a constant supply of steroids, antibiotics and other medications only seems to suppress the symptoms without providing a long term cure, but it’s worth considering Food as Medicine. But remember that it’s always important to always get a vet’s diagnosis on what’s going on with your pet.
4. Gastro-intestinal upset (diarrhea, colitis, irritable bowel): most chronic GI issues are related in some way to diet.
Grain is one of the most common culprits. Eliminating grains, especially those like wheat, corn and soy or beet pulp, those with gluten and those which are genetically modified, can have a tremendous beneficial effect on chronic intestinal problems.
Many pets suffer with ongoing, intermittent diarrhea for years before the connection to diet is made, and their owned are often astounded when a simple switch to a grain-free, more pristine diet is made. Chemical preservatives, cheap fillers and colorings can also aggravate sensitive tummies.
It takes some care to transition a sensitive pet to a new type of food. Overnight or ‘cold turkey’ changes should be avoided unless absolutely necessary, as this can actually exacerbate the upset. Instead, try transitioning slowly over a few days, which will allow his ‘good’ gut flora to adjust. You could also add a tablespoon or two of plain yogurt or a probiotic, to help ease the transition. (Be cautious supplementing with a probiotic for extremely sensitive animals however, as it can sometimes make matters worse if you add more than one new thing at a time – in these cases it’s better to move to the new food first and then supplement after the transition has been successfully completed).
5. Vomiting or enteritis can also correspond with food. The consumption of spoiled food or other unsavory objects (such as stones, dead animals or food wrappers!) can trigger a bout of vomiting, but a food allergy can also cause a dog or cat to regurgitate their meal soon after eating.
If you recently switched to a new diet and your pet vomits, take a look at the ingredient panel and see what new ingredients are present in this diet, which he wasn’t consuming before. It may take time to transition to a new food, and mixing the old and new diets together for a few days can help your pet adjust – but if vomiting occurs each time he eats, consider the possibility of a food allergy, and try another recipe that’s free of the ‘suspect’ allergen to see if that helps.
Of course, food and diet are not always directly related to health problems, but it’s quite surprising what a little investigative work can dig up. If food doesn’t seem to be the cause, a truly holistic approach will help you look at every other aspect of your pet’s life: the laundry detergents you use for her blankets; floors cleaners used in the home; chemicals sprayed in the yard or park where you walk, or maybe the treats that someone else is sneaking your pet’s way. Leave no stone unturned in your quest to fine the true cause and you may be on the way to eliminating the need for long term medications, many of which can have horrible side effects. Prednisone, for example (one commonly prescribed veterinary drug,) can cause the following adverse side effects (among others): Excessive itching, hives, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcers, & tumors.
If you have a pet with a condition that’s among the top reasons pets visit the vet, do look at diet as a possibility. Just as one food can be the cause of a problem, another can be the ‘medicine’ your animal companion needs. Many pet owners find it helpful to keep a journal of what they’re feeding and how their animal’s symptoms change. Cut out ingredients panels to save writing everything out and over time you may be able to identify a pattern of what makes things better or worse.
Lucy Postins is a companion animal nutritionist and the founder and CEO of The Honest Kitchen, a producer of dehydrated human-grade foods that promote wellbeing in dogs and cats.