By Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte, Holistic Veterinarian
I’m a holistic vet. I’m passionate about helping people give their dogs the best (and longest) life possible. One of the first things I recommend to EVERY animal I see who is fed processed foods is that their humans change them to a fresh, raw wholefoods diet as soon as possible. Processed foods, in my opinion, are a slow poison for your dog. While the ill effects may not be obvious, they can take years off your pet’s lifespan.
These foods are processed at high heat (making the proteins hard to digest, bio-unavailable, and toxic). They contain very poor-quality ingredients - nowhere close to human grade. They contain a lot of carbohydrates, and as we know, carbs are essentially sugar. Dogs are not optimised to burn carbs, the dogs I see on carbs in my practice tend to have obesity, itchiness, inflammation, diabetes, chronic illness, and are generally not as bright and vital as they should be.
Processed foods contain a whole lot more badness than I can go into depth with here today. Salt, sugar, colourings, flavourings, misleading advertising and cover images, other toxic ingredients, mould, and many more.
But you wouldn’t know that if you only listened to the veterinary industry, and a lot of what makes the news. There is so much mis-information about what is best to feed your dogs. It makes my blood boil when I see articles trying to scare dog owners about the supposed ‘risks’ of feeding raw food to dogs.
The truth is, much more processed food has been recalled on a volume basis than raw food has - for bacterial contamination, excess vitamin D levels, and other toxic contaminants. At least 50 times more (I’m being conservative here).
Processed food, quite apart from all of that, is literally a dead food. It has what I call ‘negative life force’ - in that your dog literally has to burn their own vital life force to digest it. Yes, processed food is technically ‘balanced’ - it has all the calories, and nutrients - BUT many of the micronutrients and vitamins are indigestible, not available for your dog to use in their body.
There is a cost to feeding any dog this rubbish. The cost is that it erodes your dog’s vitality and wellbeing. This means they age more quickly, and are more likely to develop chronic diseases. There is so much pressure put on dog owners by vets to feed processed foods like kibble, tinned foods, and of course those super expensive ‘prescription’ or ‘breed specific’ dog foods. The narrative (largely driven by the mutli-billion dollar processed pet food companies) is that raw food is dangerous to feed your pets.
Why is it then that my 25 years of clinical experience clearly shows that when we get pets off processed foods and onto a raw fresh whole foods diet, we see obvious improvements in vitality, wellbeing, and longevity? Shinier coats, healthier digestion, reduction in itchiness and increase in energy. In essence, dogs become happier and healthier when transitioned from processed foods to a fresh whole foods diet.
90 times out of 100, dogs do better on a raw, BARF diet. There are a few exceptions to this. Very old dogs sometimes do better on fresh home cooked food. And the occasional dog with severe IBD or intolerances will do better on particular processed foods. They are the exception rather than the rule though!
In my professional opinion, the most important thing you can do to help your dogs live long, happy lives, is feed a fresh, raw, wholefoods diet. This is why I advocate food brands like Big Dog, who use human grade ingredients. My pets have all been on BARF for about 6-7 years. (Funny thing, when I stopped feeding kibble, my little fluffy guy, Mitzi, got about 75% less itchy!)
Here’s other important steps you can take to maximise your dog’s vitality (and lifespan):
- Minimise vaccinations. The C3 modified live virus vaccines generally used these days give a long lasting immunity of at least 5-7 years. My strong recommendation is that you should ALWAYS titer test before re-vaccinating. The term ‘booster’ is misleading, as in most cases you’ll be giving an unnecessary vaccine that may cause harm.
- Add superfoods and supplements to your pet’s diet. Antioxidants are a great support - blueberries or cold steeped green tea are two easy ways to add antioxidants. CBD is a great all around anti-inflammatory, immune support, gut support herb. Bone broth is another great support to vital wellbeing.
- Detox your home and yard. Dogs are smaller than us, and so more affected by toxic chemicals. It’s a great idea to move to natural household and laundry products, free from artificial fragrances and other nasties. Avoid or minimise insecticide and herbicide sprays.
- Make sure you don’t let your dog get fat. Yes, many dogs are greedy little piggies! You should be able to easily feel your dog's ribs with light pressure. If you can’t, it’s time for a diet.
- Fast your dog one day a week. This is an amazing way to strengthen your dog’s immune system.
- Learn how to give your dog healing bodywork (massage). There are multiple health benefits to loving touch. This relieves pain and tension from the body, and can help anxious and traumatised dogs heal and relax.
- Daily exercise. Make sure that the majority of your dog exercise is low impact. A lot of high impact, high arousal activity (like ball play) is very hard on the body, and can definitely cause serious harm over time.
- Plenty of exposure to raw sunlight (not filtered by glass), and avoiding artificial (blue) light. Your dogs need natural light on their body to regulate their circadian rhythms, and to help them get a healthy sleep. It’s good practice to turn all screens off at sunset, and only use warm coloured lighting at night.
- Minimise the use of toxic flea, tick and working chemicals. I would never treat my pets for fleas unless I see fleas. You can also treat your yard with flea nematodes, which is completely non-toxic. In paralysis tick areas, the risk of tick paralysis may outweigh the risks from the chemicals.
- And finally - your self-care! The more you learn how to relax, the better you eat, the happier and healthier you are, the better for your dogs!
About the Author - Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte.
Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte is a holistic veterinarian, and a world-leading expert in silent pain in pets. Dr Edward is passionate about fresh raw whole foods for dogs. He is the founder of the Whole Energy Body Balance method- a profoundly healing bodywork modality for pet parents and pet wellness professionals to relieve silent pain, anxiety and trauma in pets. Join Dr Edward's free masterclass on silent pain in pets here.
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