If you want to feed your pet a better diet, you should own THIS BOOK
I’m a pretty regular visitor to my local Half-Priced Books store, I especially love perusing the section on pet health and training, and on my last trip I made quite a find. I picked up a copy of Andi Brown’s “The Whole Pet Diet, Eight Weeks to Great Health for Dogs and Cats.” I’ve read a LOT of books about dog and cat nutrition, everything from the very technical reference manuals to the relatively “fluffy” pet cook books, and I have to say I was extremely impressed with this book. Three things, specifically, I love about it:
- It’s formatted as a step by step process. Many well-intentioned pet owners who want to make a diet change for their pet don’t know where to start and can become easily overwhelmed by what seems like an insurmountable and intimidating amount of information and guidelines. Brown actually walks you through it one week at a time and keeps you on track.
- There are forms included that prompt you to do a physical evaluation of your pet at different points during the process so you can see the improvements, and also determine if further adjustments need to be made. Evaluation is something that should be done whenever a journey towards any goal is undertaken, and that’s an important component that I’ve never seen addressed in any other title.
- The information is accessible, actionable, and focused. As opposed to the reference manuals, such as Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats (which should also be in every pet owner’s library!), the information is specifically geared for the task at-hand: eight weeks to better health. She mixes in testimonial stories throughout to keep you engaged and motivated. But the information is well-organized and brief. It’s designed to be USED, so you aren’t bogged down with a bunch of details that, while interesting or applicable, won’t get you to the stated goal of better health in eight weeks.
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
- Making your pet’s meals at home, from scratch
- Making your pet’s treats/providing healthy treats and meal “toppers” or bribes
- Providing “green” food supplementation
- B-vitamins and making a vitamin/mineral supplement
- Vitamin C
- Healthy teeth and bones, and glucosamine & chondroitin
- Grooming, safe and natural flea & tick prevention
If you are a person who has decided you no longer wish to feed a commercial or prepared pet food, this book will be invaluable in helping you feel confident about feeding a balanced and appropriate diet for your dog or cat. Many of the books I’ve read seem to over-simplify home feeding, saying you essentially only have to feed the dog what you yourself are eating (minus the onions, grapes, and spices, of course), which leaves one wondering if they really are providing complete nutrition, or if they aren’t possibly “missing something” along the way. After all, we’ve all heard it from our vets and the pet food manufacturers that it’s darn near impossible to provide adequate nutrition unless you’re feeding from a bag and not doing so is a risky endeavor. Despite the knowledgeable pet owner’s understanding of the profit margin that fuels this claim, fear is a powerful thing!
Other books seem to over-complicate the issue, providing intimidating, albeit completely balanced recipes with ingredients that the average person may not have ever heard of, much less know where or how to acquire. These types of books also create doubt in the average pet owner’s mind about whether or not they can really home cook safely and effectively—and unfortunately, many people end up throwing in the towel and going back to the commercial diet because they’re scared they’ll “screw it up.” Brown splits the difference in her book and, I think, strikes an achievable balance for most average pet owners.
Recipes for a vitamin/mineral mix uses 5 ingredients, and the EFA oil recipe includes 6 ingredients, all of which can be purchased at a local Whole Foods Market or co-op, or GNC/health foods store. It took me about 10 minutes to create the EFA oil blend—actually took longer to clean the food processor afterwards than it did to make the stuff! Making the vitamin/mineral mix was even easier—simply measuring out and combining all the dry ingredients in a container, about 5 minutes total. There are a couple of different “stew” recipes, and that’s the core of the 8-week plan, making your pet’s actual food at home. The primary recipe, “Spot’s Chicken Stew,” includes 12 real-food ingredients (vegetables, meat, herbs), all of which can be purchased at your local grocery store, except perhaps the kelp powder.
I’d previously done one-pot home cooking for my dogs and since switched to raw feeding because it really was incredibly time-consuming to cook and store food for two 65-pound dogs. Brown makes the home-cooking as simple and effortless as possible with her one-pot “stews,” however, I don’t plan on going back to home cooking at this point. Even so, the information has still been invaluable as I’m incorporating the supplementation: EFAs, B-vitamins, green foods, glucosamine & chondroitin, and vitamin C, into my pets’ raw diet. Brown touches on raw feeding in her book, not being a proponent but also not discouraging the practice.
Besides the nutritional advice, Brown advocates for better mental health for our pets by encouraging play. She asks that you play with your dog or cat at least 10 minutes per day, interacting in healthy, brain-building ways, and ways that are physically challenging and provide a cardiovascular workout, especially for those overweight pets. That’s great advice. One thing I might add to this, as a trainer, is obedience training to mentally stimulate and tire out a dog and build the relationship between dog and owner.
I regularly advise my clients that have dogs with behavior problems to improve their pets’ diet as I believe diet can contribute to problems like hyperactivity and anxiety. Part of the overall behavior solution is to make sure the dog physically feels healthy as the state of physical wellbeing has a direct impact on his emotional or mental state. Taking Brown’s play advice a step further, once your dog is in great physical condition; not suffering from joint pain from being overweight, irritated by persistent itchy skin, or feeling sluggish or over-excited due to poor-quality ingredients or preservatives from commercial pet food, it’s a great time to really hone his good manners.
His mind will be primed to think and be focused, so teach him manners like walking well on leash, coming when called, and greeting people and other dogs appropriately to name a few. Getting and keeping his manners in check will insure he’s welcome to accompany you on your travels and adventures, which will further provide healthy mental stimulation, keep him fit, and strengthen your bond and relationship even more. And obedience training that emphasizes focus, responsiveness, and self-control really provide a mental workout that will burn calories and also build the relationship between the two of you, just like home-cooking, massage, and the play activities that are recommended in the book.
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