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November 2010
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Human Foods are Good for PetsDog Food

You may have heard this warning: Keep pets away from chocolate; garlic, onions and chives; Macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins and currants; and alcohol… because if a dog or cats eats even a morsel of these human foods it could be fatal.

Fortunately, the calming counsel of Dr. Carol Osborne, a world-renowned veterinarian and leading authority on alternative and holistic veterinary medicine, offers new understanding: “These foods have the ability to become a toxic threat if continually fed to pets,” she advises, “with the exception of grapes, raisins, currants and alcohol, which should be entirely avoided.”

That’s not to say that these foods are good for pets, but most are far from deadly. For example, chocolate contains theobromine which, as a cousin to caffeine, may cause signs of hyperactivity, including an elevated heart rate and/or seizures. Grapes, raisins and currents, if eaten in sufficient quantities, can damage pet kidneys; the exact toxic mechanism remains unknown. Onions and garlic have the potential to damage red blood cells, leading to anemia. So, while we don’t feed these routinely, a little onion powder or garlic in a pet’s meal or the accidental bite of chocolate off the floor, are generally not issues to cause concern.

Osborne explains that liver function in dogs and cats is less efficient in its ability to detoxify certain foods when compared to the liver capabilities of an adult person. “The liver detoxifies what people and pets eat,” she says. “In pets, liver function is similar to that of a child, with a limited ability to metabolize and detoxify certain foods, thereby rendering them potentially toxic.”

Rumors of Harm

The concept of killer pet foods escalated into a crisis when Menu Foods, a Canadian-based manufacturer of many pet foods, recalled its products in 2004 and 2007, creating the biggest-ever pet food recall in U.S. history. The recalled pet foods contained wheat gluten, contaminated with two chemicals: melamine (used to make plastics); and cyanuric acid (used to sanitize pool water). Both were added as cost-saving bulk agents.

The lethal mix of these two chemicals caused acute kidney failure, resulting in death for 250,000 pets. Menu Foods ultimately paid $24 million to compensate affected pet owners.

“Heightened awareness and demand for quality pet foods skyrocketed after the recalls,” remarks Osborne. “It’s frightening that cyanuric acid is still being legally added to pet food. It artificially boosts protein levels and misleads pet owners as to true protein content; while camouflaging a toxic chemical at the same time. Updated manufacturing guidelines and safety regulations are essential to ensure quality and safety of pet food ingredients. Unfortunately, both are lacking.”

She further notes that slaughterhouse floor scraps, considered inedible for human consumption, comprise the bulk of ingredients in pet foods, regardless of the label or price. Clever pet food names are often misleading, she says. Unlike “certified organic,” holistic and natural are marketing terms which, when used on pet food labels, guarantee nothing about content or quality.

A Sound Solution

Osborne’s professional experience, training and research validate the fact that feeding our pets homemade foods similar to those we enjoy is a sound, healthy choice.

“A meal of chicken, sweet potato and broccoli, for example, is as good for pets as it is for people,” advises Osborne. “Don’t be afraid to prepare meals made of human foods for your pets. In addition to offering honest pet nutrition, it helps curb pricey pet food bills.” Her clients have found that simple recipes save time and money, help to avoid emergency room visits and promote health and wellness.

Homemade canine cuisine made of equal portions of a lean protein, such as chicken, turkey, beef, veal, duck, fish or eggs; long-acting carbohydrates, like potatoes, rice, pasta or oatmeal; and fresh vegetables, including broccoli, spinach, green beans, lima beans, peas and carrots are ideal. For “allergic” dogs, modify to 50 percent protein and 50 percent veggies, cutting the carbs.

Cats require more protein than dogs, so 80 percent lean protein and 20 percent veggies is purr-fect.

Owners can prepare pet meals raw or cooked. Cooking options include broiling, boiling, frying, baking and grilling. Mix, and add a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil; the oil enhances the smell and taste of a pet’s food and is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Don’t forget to season a pet’s meal so it smells good. The three top flavors most pets enjoy are barbecue, pasta sauce and low-sodium tamari. Osborne balances homemade pet meals with a reputable vitamin-mineral, antioxidant supplement.

Carol Osborne is America’s first veterinarian to be a Board Certified Anti-Aging Diplomat. She founded the American Pet Institute, created PAAWS Pet Anti-Aging Wellness Systems and authored Naturally Healthy Dogs and Naturally Healthy Cats. Her research has pioneered new therapies to treat and prevent age-related degenerative disease and promote optimum health and longevity for pets. Visit www.CarolOnPets.com.

Carla Soviero is a freelance writer in Naples, FL. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .