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Dr. Michael Fox, Published July 18 2013

Pet care: Don’t be swayed by food

Dear Dr. Fox: I am a cat owner/lover, and I read your column regularly. You give excellent advice, and I have learned many things from you. I have one problem with your advice, however: I am concerned that your descriptions of ideal cat care, especially diet, may discourage some folks from adopting a shelter cat.

The home preparation of some foods and the purchase of specialized and expensive prepared foods may be more than many people want to take on. My own cats have lived long, healthy lives with supermarket foods.

As you well know, thousands of cats are put to death in shelters because there are no homes for them. Wouldn’t you choose life for a cat in a comfortable, loving home with a less-than-ideal diet rather than euthanasia? Your advice is good, but I’d like to see you do more to encourage adoption by people like me. – C.G., Hendersonville, N.C.

Dear C.G.: I appreciate your comments, and I must stress that pet food manufacturers often provide free cat and dog food to shelters, which is better than nothing – or whatever might be rounded up from local butchers, bakers and grocers, as was done in the old days. Also in the old days – I am talking about 20 to 30 years ago – pet food manufacturers, while having less nutritional science knowledge, often had better ingredients from U.S. family farms with minimal pesticide use and no GMOs (genetically modified foods). Today, manufacturers rely on food and beverage industry byproducts and imported ingredients, like those from China that have sickened and killed thousands of dogs and cats. Certainly, adopting a pet with a pack of free food from the shelter is good salesmanship when it comes to pet food manufacturers marketing their products.

I agree with you that cats and dogs can adapt to the kinds of diets that I do not endorse because they are not biologically appropriate – too high in soy and cereals with poor-quality animal protein and fats. But many do not, and they develop costly chronic diseases, as documented in this column on a near-weekly basis.

I constantly beat the drum for good nutrition for humans and animals. It is not simply a matter of food costs, but of what manufacturers are putting into pet foods and prepared human foods that contribute to the obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome epidemics and a host of other physical and behavioral maladies plaguing the Earth.

Dear Dr. Fox: Snoopy, my brother and sister-in-law’s 11-year-old beagle, is ailing. A year ago, they were told he had an inoperable tumor on his heart. But after a lot of TLC, he revived, recovered energy and became like his old self. It appeared his tumor had shrunk.

But now he is lethargic again. He hardly has the energy to go outside or walk to his pillow bed on the floor. He sleeps a lot, will eat when fed directly and occasionally drinks a small quantity of water. Family members pet him gently for long periods, and this puts him to sleep. When he wakes up, he is perkier.

I am writing to ask if there are some foods (or better still, liquids) you recommend to make him as comfortable as possible. Since his tumor shrank before, I wonder if it could shrink again. – A.G.S.

Dear A.G.S.: Strange things can happen with various cancers when the immune system kicks in and is supported by good genetics and good nutrition.

There is a movement gaining momentum for human and animal cancer patients that recommends going on a high-animal protein (meat, eggs, poultry, fish), high-fat (fish, flax and coconut oils) diet with lots of variously colored fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants, all blended together and fed raw or lightly cooked. Always transition gradually onto any new diet, therapeutic or otherwise, and provide probiotics and digestive enzymes. In addition, supplements such as canine resveratrol; vitamins A, E and C; coenzyme Q10; magnesium; and selenium may also be of benefit. Some holistic practitioners also prescribe the amino acid L-arginine and various anti-cancer mushroom formulations.

To find a holistic veterinarian in your area, a searchable list can be found at ahvma.org. Veterinarians wishing to learn more are encouraged to become members of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. The winter 2013 issue of the journal Integrative Veterinary Care has an excellent article on nutrition and cancer.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.