I’m a fan of feeding real, whole foods to pets whenever possible, because processing foods results in their losing many of the beneficial traits that make them great. As a veterinarian who wholeheartedly believes that food can work as medicine, I’d like to offer my top foods to supplement your dogs' and cats’ diets.
Perhaps no other food packs a more potent punch than cold water fishes rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies. These healthy fats have been shown to do everything from helping dogs’ and cats' coats stay shiny and lustrous to combating cancer. In the simplest terms, omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory.
The issue here is that most pet foods and treats are heavy on omega-6s, which are pro-inflammatory. So, in order to balance the ratio in the body and reduce the risk of inflammation, you should feed your pet a diet rich in the omega-3s DHA and EPA. I also recommend additional omega-3 firepower in the form of nutritional supplements for dogs and cats. Have your vet calculate proper dosing and form for your pet.
The Incredible Egg
Eggs top the list of excellent protein sources for dogs and cats. In fact, when it comes to digestibility, all other proteins pale compared to eggs. Eggs are loaded with vitamins D, B2, B12, K and biotin, as well as the minerals calcium, selenium, iodine and phosphorus. I recommend feeding free-range, organic, omega-3 enriched eggs whenever possible. Raw or cooked eggs are OK, but I advise feeding cooked eggs to eliminate the risk of food-bourne illness. Hold the salt, and remember that each egg contains about 90 calories, which can be a lot for cats and small- to medium-sized dogs. Portion control isn’t just for people, after all!
Chickpeas, garbanzo beans — whatever you call them, they are the world’s most widely eaten legume. And for good reason: their soluble fibers help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, keep your heart and arteries healthy, and promote proper digestion. These beans may also help protect against cancer and are excellent antioxidants. Dried chickpeas should be rinsed and soaked in water overnight, then boiled. Rinse and drain canned beans well to wash away excess salt. Chickpeas are appearing more frequently in commercial dog foods, and not just because of their health benefits — most dogs love the taste!
Humans have long used celery as medicine before elevating it to food status. Calorie for calorie, it is one of the healthiest treats you can offer your dog. Rich in fiber, it helps dieting dogs feel fuller. Celery is also brimming with the antioxidant coumarin, which helps support the immune system and regulate blood pressure. It also contains healthful flavonoids that are being studied for their anti-cancer properties. Because celery contains oxalates, check with your vet before feeding to a pet with bladder stones. Celery can be safely stored up to two weeks in the fridge and may be fed raw or lightly sautéed.
Mighty Fighter Yogurt
Humans have been making yogurt since around 2,000 BC. While yogurt has often been regarded as a “health food” in the U.S., it’s a staple in Asia and Eastern Europe. We now know that the bacteria contained in yogurt are important not only in digestion, but also in promoting the immune system, fighting infections and even preventing cancer. I recommend feeding your pet plain, unflavored yogurt at least once a week. The research supporting frequent yogurt consumption is piling up; sharing just a tablespoon of yogurt over your dog or cat’s food each week could do wonders!
Whatever you choose to feed your pet, I hope you’ll consider adding real, whole foods to their diet. A splash of food reality in today’s over-processed world is just what this doctor orders for your pet.