Part of the mission of Earth’s Natural Clay is to educate people not only about calcium bentonite clay, but also about other natural health topics. Our customers are not only interested in natural health for themselves, but for their pets as well. This blog post covers the topic of raw food from a leading homeopathic veterinarian, Dr. Richard Pitcairn.
The Case for Raw Foods
Once for ounce, raw food contains more vitamins, minerals and other nutrients than cooked food. Quite simply, cooking destroys many nutrients. When nutritional standards for dogs and cats were initially established, the presumption was made that raw foods – not cooked foods – would be fed to animals. However, most of the commercially available foods are in fact cooked through and through, even more so than were the food cooked at home. Commercial, cooked foods are not nutritionally equivalent to the original standards. Fortunately, more raw foods have made their way to market, making it easier for pet owners to feed their pets more nutritious food.
When referring to feeding your pets raw foods, think of feeding uncooked food as much as possible. Think to how domesticated pets’ ancestors ate in the wild. Certain foods – like grains and some vegetables – must be cooked in order to be edible. However, meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, soft veggies and fruits can be fed to animals raw. Just as with people, a diet of raw, whole foods brings many benefits including superior nutrition, better digestion and fewer skin problems.
The Pottenger Cats
Dr. Francis Pottenger was a scientist and medical doctor who became concerned with health issues in the offspring of the cats he worked with in his laboratory. This came about as a result of his work treating respiratory ailments in people. He was also worried about the bad survival rates of the cats he operated on as part of his research.
One of the landmark studies that speaks volumes about the impact a raw food diet can have was conducted by Dr. Pottenger, known as the Pottenger Cat Studies. Between 1932 and 1942, Dr. Pottenger studied 900 cats in California.
While his original goal was not to study cat nutrition – he focused on treating people – the differences in the health of cats he was using in experiments caught his interest. For many generations of his feline subjects, one group was fed all raw food including meat, bones, milk and cod liver oil. Other groups of cats were fed either wholly cooked or partially cooked food. His findings are summarized here:
Cats on the all raw food diet were completely healthy and never needed veterinary attention. Their bones had normal calcium and phosphorous levels. There were no reproductive problems and birthing and nursing was normal.
The more cooked the food was, the less healthy were the cats that ate it.
Health problems found in cats on the cooked food diet were the same as problems found in cats today – mouth and gum issues, bladder inflammation and skin disorders. The skin disorders included parasites, lesions and allergies. What’s more, with each successive generation of offspring, these conditions worsened.
Over three generations, cats on the cooked food diet continued to get worse, until they could no longer reproduce. There was absolutely no fourth generation of these cats because the third generation could either not reproduce or the offspring died before birth.
When cats were put BACK on a raw food diet, it took three generations for them to totally recover.
What Accounts for These Findings?
There are many complexities involved in the science of food and its impact on health. Researchers have discovered, for example, that cats require a dietary source of taurine. Taurine is an amino acid that many mammals (including humans) can make on their own from the protein they eat. Cats, however, cannot manufacture taurine. For this reason, they must obtain it from other animals in the form of food – in other words by eating other animals or parts of other animals. Taurine is only found in animal tissue and is destroyed by heat (cooking). Many commercial cat foods once had low levels of taurine as a result of cooking. Now, however, taurine is added to cat food and supplements. We are learning more every day about the science of food and how it can contribute – or harm – both our own health and the health of our pets.
While dietary requirements vary between man and animal, a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods is equally as good for our pets as it is for us. Raw, whole foods contain more nutrients, are better for the digestive system and are closer to nature than cooked and processed foods. Dr. Pottenger’s work made clear the negative effect a diet of cooked foods can have on cats. Each successive generation of cat feed cooked foods suffered progressively worse health until that lineage died out completely.
As with processed people food, it may be readily available and cheap, but there is a price to be paid in terms of obesity and chronic disease. The same is true with cheap, cooked pet food. Pay now or pay later. The good news is that healthy, raw foods can easily be made at home using human-grade ingredients. These can be made for pennies on the dollar compared to high end canned pet food. For those that lack the time or interest in making their own pet food, mainstream pet stores are now carrying raw pet food.
Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, Richard Pitcairn, DVM, PhD and Susan Hubble Pitcairn