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No, not you personally. Obviously. You guys are the best.

The reason I pose that purely hypothetical question is that I recently put up a couple of Instagram stories about how I am apparently a terrible mother because I give my dog chemical flea and tick treatments. I explained that I make absolutely no apologies for doing this because I live in a very high risk paralysis tick area, and it’s really shitty that people are judged for the choices they make when it comes to the care of their animals. I don’t like giving my dog chemicals and for the first four years I owned him, I didn’t. But I also really, really like him and I don’t want any harm to come of him, especially if I could have prevented it. These products are FAR from perfect. I am aware of the risks and I’ve made an informed choice. It’s mine to make.

But I didn’t really think much of it. I needed a story to put up and I had just given the treatment that day and compulsively taken a photo of it.

I was completely overwhelmed by the response I received, on both Instagram and Facebook, from people who had been similarly shamed for giving their pets chemical treatments, as well as from people who had been shamed for NOT giving chemical treatments. You can’t bloody win! And that’s kind of what inspired me to write this post, which is realistically going to end up being a fairly pointless rant (I can feel it).

I love that there are these really tight knit little communities of animal loving dog and cat freaks, waging war against multinational conglomerates who are seemingly out to poison our treasured pets with endless streams of processed junk food and overmedication. I do. But can be all just back the fuck off each other a bit? I am a member of a zillion raw feeding groups on Facebook but I don’t follow any of them, I have all notifications turned off and I almost never participate.

The world of fresh feeding is confusing and overwhelming enough with just the corporations to contend with; when you add in a bunch of strangers on the internet criticising every single thing you do or every question you ask or every bit of input you offer, it makes me want to slam my laptop shut and feed my dog Pal in protest. The point of this post is not to offer the answers one way or the other (that’d be impossible and totally contradictory); more than anything, it’s really just to say “I get it.” It’s OK to not know everything and get overwhelmed. I do. There is almost never one single right answer to a question. I’m still learning and my opinion on many things has changed over time. The person who types the loudest isn’t necessarily the most knowledgeable. Even if they are, it’s OK to do something different. You’re not a bad person if you don’t feed your pets gourmet meals that look like the animal equivalent of an Instagram yogi’s smoothie bowl for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s OK to not give them breakfast or lunch at all. It’s OK to give your pets chemical treatments and vaccinations if you feel that it is the best choice for them (and for you). It’s OK not to, too. If someone disagrees with you in a comments thread, it’s OK to turn off notifications and walk away (trust me, I do it ALL the time and you WILL feel better for it). Don’t worry what everyone else is doing. Don’t give up. Don’t panic. Breathe.

There are heaps of really great resources out there and heap of really average ones. Find the ones that work for you and chuck the rest in the bin. My door is always open, and you are totally welcome to email me, Facebook me, Instagram me, call me, turn up at my house, whatever. I have free resources HERE and all of my nutrition products cover the most common concerns and have loads of flexibility built in to suit different lifestyles and levels of experience. If you buy a nutrition plan and you are finding it too much work, email me and I can give you my recommendations for commercial products to use as a base or a backup. Ask me stuff! I love it. Honest.

Just breathe.

The post Why are you all such jerks? appeared first on Clare Kearney // Animal Nutritionist.

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At a glance, the digestive system and all of its extremities is pretty similar when comparing dogs and cats. Both have sharp pointy teeth for ripping flesh, they lack flat molars for grinding plant matter, their jaws are hinged and don’t move from side to side, neither produces salivary amylase (amylase is the enzyme in our saliva that begins the digestion ofstarches in the mouth), both have highly acidic stomachs to facilitate the digestion of meat, bones and fat, and theirs is but a brief intestinal tract, which prevents pathogenic bacteria from taking hold and causing problems. All in all, it’s pretty clear that nature has carefully designed these creatures as finely tuned hunting and killing machines. Look out.

But there are a few things that set dogs and cats apart, and they make the current state of conventional cat food all the more concerning. They all come back to the fact that, while dogs definitely should eat a prey-based diet (or a fresh diet of at least 80% animal protein), it would not technically be incorrect to classify them as omnivores. They are not capable of, nor have I ever met a dog inclined to eat an indiscriminately omnivorous diet like humans do, but they do have the digestive capabilities to tolerate some plant matter and obtain nutrients from it, and in the wild they will select to consume some from time-to-time. When done correctly, I actually recommend that you feed your dog some plant matter for nutritional reasons.

I personally classify dogs as carnivores with omnivorous tendencies, and I make this distinction because I think classifying them as omnivores is genuinely misleading. I also find that it is often done by people who are about to try and justify feeding their dog loads of plants for reasons that have nothing to do with the health of said dog.

But we’re here to talk about cats. Cats are what we call obligate carnivores. They are physiologically, biologically, metabolically obligated to eat other animals. They simply cannot survive otherwise. Fortunately, this is widely accepted and even vegan pet food websites will acknowledge that cats are true carnivores. Which makes it all the more bewildering that vegan cat food exists at all, or that around half of the ingredients in most commercial cat foods are primarily sources of carbohydrates.

I mentioned that dogs and cats don’t produce salivary amylase, which I think is very telling of the fact that they simply have no evolutionary need for it. They don’t eat the starch that amylase is required to break down. Dogs do, however, produce a small amount of amylase in their pancreas, which makes sense because they are known to scavenge for berries, occasionally eat grass or consume the stomach contents of prey. But it is not enough to digest food that is 50% starch every day for the rest of their lives and doing so puts enormous strain in the pancreas.

I thought we were supposed to be talking about cats?! Yeah yeah, I’m getting to them.

Cats produce only FIVE PERCENT of the amylase in their pancreas that dogs do [1]. Five percent! Of an already tiny amount. This is not the marker of an animal that should be eating any starch, let alone half of their diet.

Supporting this is the fact that cats have very high protein requirements – around double that of dogs. Protein requirements are high in part because they cannot synthesise the essential amino acids arginine and taurine, or methionine and cystine, which must all be obtained from animal protein. A single meal without arginine can lead to death. This is because after feeding, the liver naturally produces ammonia [2]. Without sufficient arginine, cats are unable to convert this ammonia to urea so that it can be expelled in the urine, and the result can be ammonia toxicity.

Other serious nutrient deficiencies that will occur in cats if they’re not fed animal protein include vitamin A, B3, D3 and arachidonic acid.

Arachidonic acid is a fatty acid for which cats and other obligate carnivores have particular requirements for. Arachidonic acid is present only in animal tissue, not plants, and, unlike dogs, cats are unable to synthesise it from linoleic acid and will thus become deficient without a dietary source [3]. Liver is a particularly abundant organ.

Similarly, vitamin A occurs naturally only in animal tissue and, while omnivorous animals like humans and dogs can convert b-carotene in plants to vitamin A, cats cannot.

Cats also require more than twice as much Niacin (B3) than dogs for health, but cannot synthesise enough to maintain sufficient levels [4]. They can, however, easily obtain their high metabolic requirements from an animal protein-based diet.

Contrary to popular belief, neither cats nor dogs are able to produce sufficient vitamin D3 through photosynthesis like we do. Human produce the natural oil 7-dehydrocholesterol in our skin, which reacts with UV light and is converted to vitamin D3, before being reabsorbed back into the body. Dogs and cats, however, produce insufficient 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin to meet the metabolic need for vitamin D3 photosynthesis [5] so it must be obtained from animal proteins (plant based vitamin D2 is not an appropriate substitute). Liver from pasture raised animals is an excellent source of vitamin D3.

Really, it’s no wonder we hear so many cases of beloved family cats falling ill to urinary tract infections, pancreatitis, periodontal disease, diabetes and cancer, to name but a few. Commercial cat food is nothing short of poison. You can read more about the issues with the pet food industry in Australia in my post here, or get in touch to arrange a consultation to transition your cat to a fresh, species appropriate diet.

[1] Hand, M.S. (Ed), Thatcher, C.D. (Ed), Remillard R.L. (Ed), Roudebush P (Ed), Novotny B.J.(Ed), 2010. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition.Mark Morris Institute: 5th edition. 

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.

The post The Unique Nutritional Needs of Cats appeared first on Clare Kearney // Animal Nutritionist.

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You know how you hear about all of those perfect foods that can sustain human life because they contain every nutrient we need for health, like bee pollen or spirulina? Mmmm delicious. Dust for breaky again. Well green tripe is the doggy equivalent of this, except it’s more like if chocolate was the most nutritious food you could buy in the sense that they 

absolutely lose their minds for it. T H E Y  L O V E  I T.

I’m not suggesting you should feed your dog tripe and nothing else, but I think it definitely is the closest thing to a genuine doggy “superfood” and a fantastic addition to a homemade diet. If you can handle the smell…

So about that smell… The “green” part of green tripe is very important. I’m not talking about the bleached white honeycomb looking stuff you see at the butcher. There is very little nutritional value left in that. Green tripe is the untreated stomach lining of ruminant animals, named for the greeny-brown residue of the grasses these animals consume that is left behind. This residue means that green tripe is absolutely TEEMING with digestive enzymes and good bacteria. TEEMING.

Green tripe keeps your dog’s gut health in check by increasing the microbiota population of probiotics, aka “good bacteria,” and ensuring the equilibrium of good to bad bacteria is achieved and maintained. This equilibrium can help to stifle the proliferation of bacteria borne illnesses like Salmonella, e.coli and even urinary tract infections.

The loads of digestive enzymes found in green tripe facilitate more efficient digestion, which means food is processed without digestive distress, and in a manner that makes for optimal nutrient absorption.

It also contains at least 7 amino acids, healthy fats, a near perfect ratio of calcium to phosphorus (this is the ratio we work to maintain by offering the correct balance of muscle meat to bone in the diet), and the optimum balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.

And of course, as per usual, I love it because it’s a sustainable option. It is a nutritious waste product that is collateral damage from the meat industry, and thus consuming it reduces the impact that feeding my dog has on the Earth. It’s win win.

The hardest part about feeding green tripe is finding it. Butchers aren’t allowed to sell it because it is untreated, so you may need to go underground to locate a fresh source. I know of one business in Victoria that (legally) sells it in the little muffins pictured above, and you can buy it in a semi-processed form from most major pet stores. Otherwise, ask around your local farmers and see if any can point you in the right direction.

For more tips about how you can start improving your dog’s gut health today, grab my 7 Days to Fresh Food Toolkit or download a Recipe Pack.

The post Green Tripe: Canine Superfood? appeared first on Clare Kearney // Animal Nutritionist.

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