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Table Manners

Treat your dog and cat to healthy, tasty treats.

By Erin Hull

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Although some of today's commercial pet food is nutritionally balanced, veterinary nutritionists have taken a second look at the produce aisle to improve your pet's quality of life and stave off illness. Ensuring that your pet gets all of the nutrients it needs can be as easy as mixing in some of your own favorite foods with your dog or cat's next meal, according to Mindy Bough, director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' pet nutrition and science advisory service in Urbana, Illinois. Fruits and veggies from the farmers' market can improve your pet's cognitive and immune function in addition to providing valuable vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, Bough says. When they're in season, pick up an extra pound of carrots, broccoli, apples, yellow squash, pumpkin, or oranges for your furry friend. "If your pet likes these kinds of treats, definitely share them! My Chihuahua Honeybear shared carrots sticks with me at lunch," Bough adds. Fruits and veggies can be served steamed or raw, either as a special treat or mixed in with store-bought food. Just be sure that they make up no more than 10 percent of the animal's total caloric intake.

Don't get too carried away, though; many foods beneficial to humans may cause your dog or cat major health problems. Such foods include raisins, macadamia nuts, onions, dark chocolate, milk, caffeine, and garlic. Also, fruits, such as apples, should be served without seeds, which are difficult for animals to digest and can lead to bigger problems down the road.

And take it slow, cautions Rob Silver, a holistic veterinarian at Boulder's Natural Animal, in Boulder, Colorado. "Introduce these foods gradually" he says, "watching for digestion and appetite changes. Over time, you can gradually increase the amounts."

Creatures of Health

To supplement commercial pet food, veterinarian Rob Silver says that animals can benefit from the same probiotics, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids that humans use.

Acidophilus

Dose: 2 to 10 billion units of active bacteria daily.
Good Stuff: This pro-biotic promotes healthy gut flora, strengthening immunity to disease and allergies.
How to: Mix powder into dry or wet commercial pet food, or give as a capsule.

Green Tea

Dose: 1/4 cup liquid daily.
Good Stuff: Contains antioxidants, which are believed to protect against heart disease and cancer.
How to: Steep a tea bag for 45 seconds in a little boiling-hot water. Drain and discard the tea, and then add 1/4 cup more hot water to the bag. Pour over food.

Flaxseed

Dose: For dogs, give 1/2 teaspoon of flaxseed oil or meal per 15 pounds of body weight. Cats need just 1/4 teaspoon.
Good Stuff: Provides omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids for overall health. Flaxseed meal is a good source of plant fiber.
How to: Mix oil into dry or wet food, or give it in a gel cap. If using flaxseeds, run them through a clean coffee bean grinder.

Kelp Powder, Nutritional Yeast and Lecithin

Dose: Give cats 1/4 teaspoon of the mixture twice a day; dogs can have 1 teaspoon twice daily.
Good Stuff: Another source of antioxidants, which are believed to protect against heart disease.
How to: Combine the powders in equal parts and store in the fridge; mix into dry or wet food.

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Reader Comments

Anonymous

Well thank you for drawing attention to this precious, heart-centered subject. Some of us have a harder time putting head before heart, after all!

Linda

I completely agree with Nenad's comment. It is a naive article and can seriously damage your animal's health. All animals should be fed a species appropriate diet, preferably based on raw meat.
Why not do a downward dog with your dog, and a cat stretch with your cat - much healthier!

Nenad

A dog or a cat CANNOT digest the sort of 'foods' recommended by this article. Your "own favourite foods" are not appropriate for a cat or dog. Some things humans can eat can seriously damage the health of a dog or a cat - or even kill them. This is appalling misinformation.

Cats and dogs have evolved to be carnivores - and no, it will not help if you "Introduce these foods gradually," - not unless you do so over a million years or so to give them time to evolve.

In future, please stick to articles that won't harm anyone/anything should someone try to follow the advice given.

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