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September 01, 2005

Making a Low-Fat Muffin

By: Dr. Jodie, Animal Doctor

Q: Every year Muffin’s veterinarian scolds me at her annual check up because she is too fat! I insist I feed her only a tiny amount. I have followed all of his recommendations and even tried the high fiber diets he suggested. I’ve also used the veterinary prescription diet with no success and was recently told that I should cease feeding her this food due to the absence of quality nutrients. Are there other alternatives? Muffin is six years old and I’m really worried that she may develop diabetes or arthritis because of her obesity. How can I prevent this?
       Muffin’s Mom in Mukwonago

A: I am going to assume that Muffin has had a thorough check-up complete with blood work to rule out underlying causes of obesity, such as hypothyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism. I am also sure that you provide Muffin with a happy life full of plenty of exercise and stimulating activities.

If that is the case, then I can tell you how to make a low-fat Muffin. Loosely, your little carnivore needs the Atkins’ diet. Dogs (and especially cats) do not metabolize excessive processed cereal grains (carbohydrates) well.

In the proceedings from the Iam’s International Nutrition Symposium, an author states, “It is useful to remember dry foods are often more energy dense than canned products. Diets that are high in carbohydrates…provide readily available sugars…”

According to an article in the Whole Dog Journal, “Kibble is loaded with carbs because they are (an) inexpensive…source of energy…and if a food mixture contains more than 45% animal product…it will gum up the extruder.” Therefore, in general, the canned version of any brand will be more meat-based (higher protein, lower carb) than the dry version of the same brand.

It is my opinion that some veterinarians have done pets a disservice by insisting on dry food for dental health. In reality our pets are crunching on sugar cubes daily. You may be able to decrease Muffin’s weight significantly just by changing to a regimented twice daily feeding of canned food. Nature intended that our little carnivores would consume raw flesh full of moisture and free of processed cereal grains. Ideally we should try to mimic the “carcass-concept” for Muffin and any other obese dog or cat companion. Quality natural canned diets which are grain-free, commercial balanced raw meat diets, or balanced home prepared diets are three wonderful options for Muffin. Soon she will be on her way to leanness and satisfaction!

In my clinical experience, we have repeatedly resolved obesity, stopped the onset and even cured diabetes, and diminished arthritic symptoms by removing high-calorie, inflammatory processed grains (such as corn, wheat, and rice) from the diet.

There is a wealth of information available to guide you and Muffin through a gradual transition from a conventional kibble diet to an appropriate canned diet (free of grains and artificial preservatives) or to a biologically appropriate raw food.

It is imperative you understand that I am not telling you to start feeding “chunks of meat.” This could become extremely unbalanced. A balanced meat diet must include adequate flesh, organs, bone, and herbs or vegetation in a pre-digested form as found in the gut of a prey. Sound yucky? No, sweet Muffin will find it delectable, and commercial products are readily available that have made the handling of it extremely easy and convenient for you!

I strongly recommend feeding a quality probiotic during the transition. This replenishes the gut with “good bacteria” which aids in proper digestion and immune function. Plain yogurt contains some healthy probiotics, but larger numbers may be purchased in enteric-coated capsules or microencapsulated gels; strains which have been shown to survive the acidic stomach to prevent or treat diarrhea stemming from small or large intestinal floral imbalances. Probiotics and enzymes should be supplemented intermittently, long-term to any pet being fed a heat processed canned or kibble diet of any brand. If a raw diet is fed to a healthy pet this would not be necessary. These are two of the most common nutrient categories lacking in a heat processed diet. I also recommend supplementing a utilizable fatty acid (omega 3) source with any diet, even raw. Grandmas have known for years how useful cod liver oil is for good health. This applies to our pets even more than us. Norwegian salmon oil or cod liver oil certified free of mercury and PCBs is best to purchase. Most pets love this addition to their food. Get advice from an experienced holistic veterinarian or reputable pet supply shop owner who has performed their own research and listens to client feedback for product selection, because nutraceutical supplements and herbals are not government regulated. Patience, persistence, and follow-up with your veterinarian are important during any weight loss program. Too rapid weight loss is possible and can be especially dangerous in cats. Therefore leading to a life-threatening illness called hepatic lipidosis or “fatty liver disease.” Please monitor carefully.

L-carnitine is an amino-acid nutraceutical which can be used to aid lipid metabolism. I have used this successfully to assist weight loss and to aid treatment of fatty liver disease.

When Muffin loses weight, you will greatly decrease her chances for development of diabetes and arthritis. However, it is also appropriate for you to consider joint support products which contain glucosamine as a preventative. In nature, carnivores consume glucosamine in the form of joint cartilage and tracheas. Yet the pet food industry does not recognize glucosamine as a necessary nutrient. Even conventional veterinarians have witnessed dramatic improvements in pets consuming products to treat arthritis, such as Cosequin or Glycoflex. Why wait for pain to occur? Why not use our common sense and prevent this problem with a raw meaty bone diet or glucosamine supplement at a young age.

If you feed this great new diet, don’t undo the good you’re doing by feeding “bad” treats — but that information is for another installment of “Ask the Vet.”

Dr. Jodie is a 1987 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. Her practice, the Animal Doctor, is located on Janesville Road in Muskego. She is a current member of the AVMA, WVMA, American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, Veterinary Botanical Medical Association, and the Association of veterinarians for Animal Rights. You can submit questions to Dr. Jodie via her staff by calling 414-422-1300.

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