By Dr. Al Townshend
Today, Guardians understand that quality nutrition and proper digestion are keys to a long, happy and healthy life for their beloved pets. They are also aware that the cost of better, natural nutrition is significant, especially when compared to lesser quality foods often marketed through multiple media outlets.
Guardians that want those better recipes also want to be sure their pocketbook is getting the best value and their pets are getting the maximum benefit from the foods they choose. That’s where proper digestion comes in.
You can provide a recipe with the best ingredients possible, however, if the digestive tract doesn’t have everything it needs to digest, absorb, and utilize those nutrients, you are wasting your money.
Maximum utilization of what we feed our pets depends on several variables that the Guardian can control. Feed a total daily diet (that included the main recipe, treats, and supplements fed daily) that is made from highly digestible ingredients.
Highly Digestible Ingredients
- Whether you are feeding just dry kibble, raw or any combination of foods in between, the primary diet should be a high protein/low carbohydrate recipe. It should be appropriate for the age, breed, and activity level of the dog or cat. The recipe should be fed in amounts that only maintain an ideal body and more. Overfeeding leads to obesity and increases the risk of all the harmful conditions that are prevalent in overweight animals (arthritis, heart and kidney disease, diabetes, and even cancer).
- It has been found that feeding a high protein/low carbohydrate diet also encourages a healthy digestive tract colony of good bacteria known as probiotics and discourages unhealthy, disease producing bacteria like Salmonella.
- Treats should be made from the same, high-quality ingredients as the primary meal. Many less than ideal treats are made from lower quality ingredients and boosted with artificial palatability enhancers to improve the taste.
It is important to understand that treats have calories too. Many dog treats in the market have close to 100 calories per treat. Feeding 5-6 of these treats to a 50-pound dog can provide half the daily calories required to maintain its weight. Add that to the calories in the primary meals and you have a pet destined to become overweight or even obese.
Cat treats are no different, they all have calories that should be considered in their total daily intake.
Supplements for digestive health are intended to provide the digestive tract with all that is needed to digest, absorb and utilize the nutrients in the quality food and treats the Guardian provides the pet.
There are several that every Guardian should consider in order to get maximum value for the pet. Some pet food manufacturers already add some supplements to the food they produce and some need to be additions to the diet.
Supplements to Consider
- Probiotics or the “Good Bacteria” are absolutely essential in a healthy digestive tract. They support optimum digestion and are a major part of the pet’s immune system. Many are not aware that 70% of a pet’s immune system is in the digestive tract and Probiotics are an essential part.
- Prebiotics are ingredients that feed the probiotics and assure they stay healthy and active. Many pet food manufacturers include prebiotic ingredients like insulin, chicory root, or beet pulp that are not there for the pet, but simply to assure the good bacteria have all they need to stay healthy.
- Digestive enzymes are natural enzymes essential for the breakdown, absorption and utilization of protein, fat, and, carbohydrates. Pets naturally produce these necessary enzymes in the pancreas, and they are released into the small intestine. Supplementing additional amounts can only improve digestion. Many believe supplementing relieves stress on the pancreas as well.
- Raw food recipes or toppers which have not been exposed to high heat like kibble, also contain natural enzymes that benefit proper digestion.
- Natural supplements, often in combination and prepackaged can provide additional support. Pumpkin provides additional fiber to a diet and is especially helpful in pets known to have a “sensitive stomach”.
Homeopathic supplements like L-Glutathione and Slippery Elm soothe the digestive tract and reduce stress. There are prepackaged combinations of herbs that also support a healthy digestive system.
Be sure and stop in your nearest Pet Planet store and take advantage of a Free Nutritional Consultation concerning the digestive health of your pets.