Health-Conscious Owners Are Putting Their Pets On Raw Food Diets And Organic Foods

Daisy, a 10-year-old papillon, dines on organic vegetables and fresh meats twice a day.
They are prepared by her owner, Mr Timothy Loh, 49, a public relations consultant, who started her on a fresh food, mostly organic diet when he adopted her last year.

"The kind of food that we feed our dogs is a hot topic, especially when it is elderly. Your primary concern is cancer. You ask do you want to feed it food with hormones and additives?" he says.

These days, health-conscious pet owners are tailoring nutritious or organic diets for their animals.

Mr Loh spends about $200 a month on fresh meat, organic vegetables, vitamin supplements and antioxidants for Daisy.

He is conscious about his own health and diet too, and feeding the dog tasty, healthy meals is a priority. "If you are healthy, you tend to feed your dog healthily too. It rubs off," he says.

Ms Melissa Lim, 37, a committee member of the Cat Welfare Society, put her seven rescue cats on a raw food diet of primarily raw meat mixed with vegetables and grains last year.

She has been a vegetarian and on-off vegan for the last 21 years, and the switch from commercially produced kibble to raw food was related to her interest in holistic, healthy and conscious eating.

"I was getting freaked out by the many food recalls of commercial premium food brands. I did some research and realized that many pet food brands use rendered meat and meat by – products, and I did not feel comfortable feeding such items to my cats."

She did research online and spoke to vets before putting her cats on a raw diet of antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken or premium beef, pork, or lamb, which she mixes with a raw food vitamin mix such as Alnutrin, and freezes into portions to feed. She thaws the food when needed and feeds her pets twice a day.

She says she spends about $150 a month and an hour a week preparing the food. Feeding her cats a raw diet costs just as much as feeding them premium canned cat food, she says, but with added benefits.

"I have noticed a huge improvement in their health. More vitality, no more over-weight pets and in the case of one cat, it cured him of his chronic constipation," she says.

Self-employed trader Paresh K. Kamani, 51, feeds his family's 10-month-old golden retriever Argo a mix of Natural Balance vegetarian formula kibble and vegetarian canned food.

He spent hours researching the dog's nutrition requirement online and speaking with vets before committing to the vegetarian diet for the dog. Argo also gets vitamins, and health and bone supplements with every meal.

However, some vets remain skeptical of home-made food and of raw food, in particular.

Their primary concerns are that the meal may not contain all the necessary nutrients for good health and that handling raw food improperly may cause the pet and its owner to fall ill.

Pet experts tell Life! that animals have finely tuned nutritional needs which may not be met by home-made meals, even if they include supplements.

A spokeman for Pet Lover's Centre says that vitamin deficiencies are a problem as much as vitamin over-loads.

"Vitamin A deficiencies are a problem as much as vitamin over-loads.

"Vitamin A deficiencies have been known to cause eye problems, lack of coat and skin quality, poor growth and a reduced ability to ward off infections, but too much vitamin A can cause your dog to have muscle weakness and bone problems," she says.

Likewise, too much or too little calcium during a dog's early years can lead to as many problems for bone health too, says Dr Vanessa Lin, a vet at My Family Vet Clinic and Surgery in Bukit Batok.

Experts point out that the animal's physiology, age and energy requirements should be considered when selecting their diet. What you serve your pets will depend on the animal and its stage in life, and should be determined with the help of a vet.

There may be a bridge across the divide, however, as more organic, sustainable and vegetarian commercial pet-food options enter the market.

Pet accessory and grooming shops, including Doll House Pets in Kampong Bahru, sell Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (Barf). These are pre-packaged, commercially developed raw food meals sold in packs which can be defrosted and served. They are on sale in stores and online at the Barf Singapore website, at $60 for 12 individual 8oz patties.

Alternatively, there is Fish4Dogs, a range of premium dog foods and treats made primarily from Norwegian salmon, which is available at Pet Lovers Centre at $27.75 for 1.5kg.

Commercial pet foods such as Natural Balance should meet the nutritional requirements for pets in order to be sold in stores, though buyers should research online and check with their vet to be sure.

Dr Ong also reminds owners not to serve pets leftovers from the table. "We have seen pets come in for vomiting, diarrhea or life-threatening issues such as pancreatitis, resulting from being fed table scraps by their owners.

Source: The Straits Times, Saturday, April 6, 2013
~ by Lydia Vasko