The Big Fat Truth about dietary fat and domesticated pets (it’s not what you thought)

Billy_Profile_200x200Guest Contributor— Answers Pet Food Nutrition Science Director, Billy Hoekman, is involved in Answers diet formulation, research, product development, as well as working with farms and fermented raw feeding science education. Leading Answers Executive Veterinary Program, Billy specializes in developing fermented raw diets that pertain to specific health conditions.

 

We’re busting the anti-fat myths to help our furry best friends.

Forget the “fat facts” you think you know, read somewhere, or that you applied from your own human diet perspective. Because the truth is, a balance of fats is actually crucial to canine and feline good health. Read that again: it’s crucial.

Offer fats for your beloved pet? Yes. Really, yes. And science tells us why.

So, it’s time to break down the anti-fat myths that can actually be harming your trusty companion and show you a better, healthier way to feed the fuzzy faces you love best.

 

Big Fat mistakes that can harm your dog’s or cat’s health

Largely due to misinformation, people have turned dietary fat into a scary bogeyman in canine and feline nutrition.

Maybe you’re committed to making your own diet at home for your pet, following what you thought was a good “prey model” diet recipe. Unfortunately, these homemade “prey diets” are actually often problematic interpretations of what is needed, resulting in a diet that’s going to be too high in protein in relation to the amount of fat.

So, okay, maybe you use a commercially prepared diet in your quest for a better choice. There are many out there vying for your attention with good intentions, and great promises. But is your commercial choice using carnivore-inappropriate vegetable oils? Oops. That’s actually another big “no” for your pet’s health.

You can see how easy it is for anyone to make mistakes with the best intentions while trying to create a healthily balanced diet for their furry companion. We read information that may seem solid and reasonable, but that is based more on myth, assumptions and hearsay than real science.

Unfortunately for the misinformed pet owner, and their pets, the cost of believing these myths, in health terms, is much too high.

That’s why we rely on science.

 

The Big Fat Truth, from the wolf’s mouth

Wolves are carnivores. They eat large animals. They eat small animals. In the wild, wolves’ diets vary by location, by season, by what’s available to them and by other environmental factors. But whatever animal prey they manage to catch and eat, that animal has skin plus a layer of subcutaneous tissue. This is a layer of fat that helps regulate the animal’s body temperature and helps protect bones and muscles from injuries.

Since the hungry wolf is going to eat as much of its prey as it can, skin included, the fat content of what they are eating is dramatically raised. That’s Mother Nature’s plan.

This works out well for the wolf.

And as life would have it, it works well for their canine ancestor (your dog’s!) body too.

 

Dog teeth being examined by the animal doctor

Carnivores feed on animal tissues, large mouth opening, long sharp canines, sharp jagged blade shaped molars, little to no chewing, gulp food whole pieces.

What we know from evolutionary diets of cats

Like the domesticated dog, cats have dental and biological characteristics that conclude they are carnivores. Unlike dogs, cats are actually obligate carnivores which takes it a step further— cats diets require nutrients found only in animal flesh. Animal tissue, unlike food from plants, is low in carbohydrates and contains an excess of protein and fat. Their essential biological need for high protein, fat, and essential amino acids such as arginine and taurine, is a requirement for them to live and thrive.

 

Pets big fat needs

Domestic dogs and cats use protein to rebuild muscle. They use fat for energy. That’s simple biology.

What they don’t have, though, is a biological need for carbohydrates. Carbs aren’t found in the natural wild diet of dogs or wolves: there are no dog biscuit bushes in the wild. There’s no kibble field along the river. Cats don’t stalk corn (see what we did there?).

Nature also gives dogs and cats a built-in propensity to store energy. If you have an active fun-loving pet, you know this storehouse is a serious thing. Fat gives pets what it needs to have and store energy.

But when a dog’s or cat’s diet doesn’t have enough fat but does contain carbohydrates, guess what happens? Their body will store carbohydrates for energy. To get the right amount of energy takes twice as many carbs, weight-wise, compared to fat. That’s a lot of carbs.

What’s important is this: storing the right amount of good fat doesn’t make the pet fat. But storing that big double-load of carbohydrates does make your pet obese.

The recent upswing in pet obesity is directly related to the increase in carbohydrate-rich plant ingredients in modern pet foods. It all sounds good on the label, but…

The other end of the doggy and kitty danger zone: many of the incorrectly designed “prey model” diets relay on lean meats are actually deficient in both fats and carbohydrates. This is a big negative for your pet’s health, because now their body is forced to try to use protein to create energy, creating extra nitrogen that has to be processed by the kidneys, and that’s extremely tough on the kidneys.

Starting to get the picture? The big fat myths about fat are a dangerous thing for our beloved pets.

 

 

 

British Journal of Nutrition, Volume 113, Issue S1. January 2015 , pp. S40-S54.
Guido Bosch (a1). Esther A. Hagen-Plantinga (a2). Wouter H. Hendriks (a1) (a2)
(a1) 1  Animal Nutrition Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands. (a2) 2  Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, PO Box 80.151, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands

James G. Morris. Idiosyncratic nutrient requirements of cats appear to be diet-induced evolutionary adaptations. Nutrition Research Reviews (2002), 15, 153–168 DOI: 10.1079/NRR200238. Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA

 

 

 

 

 


How a German village’s fresh raw food changed my American city cat’s life

Andrea_Profile_200x200Guest Contributor—Andrea Chesney O’Neill is an advertising writer and speech writer, as well as traveler, and longtime lover of animals big and small. Her pets have brought joy to her and her family for years. From stray cats on Ocracoke Island, NC, to her own three rescue cats, Toola, Lilly and Bob, she has come to believe that if we pay close attention to our animal companions and to nature, too, we’ll help them live their best lives.

Frau Francesca stands outside the heavy wood door of my little Bavarian house one early spring afternoon with two bowls in her hand. One, she tells me, in careful, melodious Bavarian (because she knew I was still learning their old regional dialect, so different from the sparse German I knew), contained fresh goats’ milk. It was still warm; you could feel it through the smooth sides of the old pottery vessel. The other bowl held fresh goat meat, with some herbs, and two duck eggs.

Not for me, she lets me know, pointing to the big black and white tomcat in a basket across the room, but for him, for Harley.  Harley has been visiting Frau Francesca and her husband of fifty years, Herr Josef, on the sly, you see, and they have come to love his calm, affectionate, big-hearted presence over the last few weeks – perhaps he could use some goat’s milk, some better food, to welcome him back from his visits at the animal clinic?

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Morning milking time like this is a German farming task everywhere

She comes in and pours some into a smaller kitchen bowl and puts it down. He sniffs warily, weakly, then begins to lap it up with serious intent. I am amazed, but she is satisfied, and nods, and explains she and her husband began giving him the milk at their house a few weeks ago, when he was starting to seem unwell, quieter than he usually was, not himself. It will help. She is sure he needs it now.

It turns out, she’s right.

A life-changing visit to Bavaria

Three months earlier, at the end of a cold, endlessly gray winter, I found myself driving into a Bavarian village on the banks of the Isar, taking a long dreamed-of holiday break while typing up notes for a writing project. My glass and stone house, the summer home of a friend in the center of a tiny village, boasted a big wood-burning kamine, stunning mile-long views of woodland and hills, and fantastically friendly new neighbors (from age 5 to 90) with their assorted pets, rabbits, horses and livestock. It was a treasure trove of great family stories, recipes, health tips, and new traditions shared over beer (at the “new’ Gasthaus which was merely 100 years old, apparently vs. the “old” Gasthaus, a much more respectable 325 years old).

 

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Milk jugs like these held the health-giving natural magic

A troupe of little village girls was determined to teach me German and Bavarian in exchange for English lessons, American chocolate chip cookies, and my agreement to be the judge when they decided to perform sing-offs or demonstrate their soccer cheers on Saturday afternoons. They pushed a baby buggy filled with their pet mice up and down my path until they were bold enough to approach “the English girl” with their plan to educate me, and we became friends.

A cheerful, kindly elfin baker drove to our village every morning at 6:30 a.m., his sparkling station wagon loaded with baskets spilling over with oven-fresh breads and pastries; the gossip and jokes shared as we all waited for his arrival with our clean canvas bags taught me half the language I would need (I had to hear out who ran off with Herr Max’s first wife on a popular tv show, and how Fraulein Maria did at the horse jumping event, after all).

 

The city cat meets his new world

It was all life-changing for me, much more than a little vacation escape; it was a new world filled with people I would love the rest of my life.

It was also going to be life-changing for Harley.

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City cat Harley loved the country

A dog-sized, broad-chested Norwegian Forest cat with huge paws and soulful, absolutely square green eyes, Harley began his journey as a tiny scruffy kitten I found in a parking garage. He grew up to be a muscle-bound, Thor-type of character who thought he was my bodyguard, covered in miles of snow-white and blue-black fur. He snorted when upset or impatient. He loved to jump five feet into the air, just because. He loved little kids. He talked non-stop, such a varied language that friends would bring people I didn’t know to talk to him. But before all that, at a vet visit, when he was just 5 months old, I was told a defect in his heart would likely claim him in a year.

When he turned three, a big resolute bodyguard of a cat who carried a small stuffed toy cat around the house, I was told more bad news: he might look like a giant parade float of cat, but his lungs had remained too impossibly small for him to live long, another genetic stumbling block. It was why he often sighed. The ultrasound shocked even me.
And yet, he lived on.

So when he turned five, still strong and hearty enough to please his vet, although showing signs of mild diabetes that we controlled with diet and occasional insulin, Harley found himself in a giant dog-size carrier, in a specially designed private pet cabin with a high ticket price, floating off on a direct Lufthansa night flight with me from Chicago to Germany. Show dogs, white tigers and pandas had used the unique cabin in the past, with its soft lighting, soothing music, and air pumped in from the passenger cabin, plus private vet check-in; now it was big Harley’s turn.

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Harley, in one of his serious “Viking cat” moods, plans his trip

He was given souvenir “wings” by an enraptured flight crew for his handsomeness, his 007-cool “yeah, so?” demeanor and friendly “let’s shake paws on that” trick that he apparently invented on the trip over. At the Munich airport, Lufthansa’s vet proclaimed him a king, and several French tourists took his photo (“is he real? But his head is the size of melon!”). A handsome Japanese businessman with two frantic assistants in matching Chanel suits offered me $1000 for “the lucky cat.” When I declined, his assistants placed his card in my hands with a bottle of duty-free perfume and urged me to think about it and call.

Of course, I wouldn’t call them, but I loved that my big survivor kitty was seen by someone to possess a lot of luck. I felt he’d need it.

“A cat with more soul”

As we waited for my ride, an Air Iberia flight attendant stopped beside us and looked at him, then grabbed my hand and looked intently at me. “He has the eyes of god,” she said. “In my home village, once every seventy years, there is such a cat, with more soul, who is meant to bring something more to all of us, and teach us. This is your cat.” She kissed her fingertip, touched his nose, and was gone.

“Harley,” I told my easy-going emperor, “I think we were meant to make this trip together.” He seemed, with his newly-named soulful eyes, to agree.

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Rocco the dog, Harley’s German BFF

So when I saw my lucky rock star taking his first happy footsteps on the path of our new temporary home, tugging at the harness and leash he wore as a city cat in a strange exhilarating new world of good smells and fresh breezes, breathing the crystal air as a few snowflakes fell on his big broad head, I was happy he’d made it this far. When a few weeks later he shot out the back door on his own to swat a big Bernese Mountain Dog/Shepherd mix with one blind eye that had decided to hang out at our house, and then the two made an instant invisible friendship pact and romped off together to go watch the swans in a pond by the woods (fast friends that would never be parted again until we returned to the states), I knew again I was right to bring him along.

If his life was going to be short, let him go out and enjoy this beautiful place with me, let him breathe the freshest air and hear birdsong. We had all his shots, U.S. and German, every box checked. I told him, “Together forever, little guy” every day, with extra meaning knowing the hidden time-bombs within his strong-looking self.  Now we were together for this visit to a stunning country, too.

Harley quickly acquired a posse of village cats. They appeared one day at the door as if they knew him already, to invite him out, and he looked at me, eyes pleading. I opened the door hesitantly, and he quickly stepped out and joined them like old friends, noses smelled, a few kind licks on ears. Not a hiss or a puffed tail. They walked off together to sit under the trees. In days ahead, they would play in the cornfield, lay on the riverbank to swat at (or catch) little fish this tiny branch of the river carried, or pile on my terrace to nap.

He learned to chase wild rabbits and long-eared squirrels with the dog, always skidding to an elegant stop as their prey scampered safely off. But he also rescued the village girls’ kittens and floppy eared bunnies when they escaped their houses, and would delicately carry them home, one by one, then return to the terrace to flop down with a sigh: another’s day’s work done. He visited other homes with the dog, too, looking for treats. The neighbors would point and laugh in English for me: “Vagabonds!”

Harley also posed nonchalantly in the garden near the road, just inside our fence, when international cyclists, training for races, skidded to a stop to take his photo and ask if all American cats were this big?

He watched television on Tuesday and Friday nights with my elderly neighbors across the road, Frau Francesca and her husband Josef; they waited for him at the door and he would glance back over at me like “’later, my fans need me, see you in the morning.” If strangers parked in the road and then knocked at the door to see the “big American cat?” with their kids, he obliged with his new “shake my giant paw” trick. In Germany, he came alive, running, thriving, chasing, trying to climb the apple tree.

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Harley relaxes with Hermione the chicken (front) and her sister

Then one fine early spring day, he was sick. He went overnight from lively explorer, shiny fur and sparkling eyes, stamping the ground with excitement as he followed our chicken Hermione around the yard, to still and quiet, distant. Always at my side or eager to play, he stayed in his basket. The next morning, his eyes, his expression told me something was going wrong. I rushed him to a vet I’d heard about, a small family-run practice that offered holistic care too. They didn’t like his gum color, from what I could understand, and I was sent to another village, to a vet who had the latest ultrasound machine.

That vet was modern, brisk, and direct: Harley had cancer, a tumor near his tiny lungs, and we should put him to sleep. It was best. He had beaten the odds with that heart, those lungs, but he could not beat this.

Shocked, I found myself driving back through the winding Bavarian country roads to our holistic vet. We talked. He and his daughter, both vets, were kind. They had talked to the ultrasound vet and suggested I take a few days, and try a holistic oil, a few drops in his food or on his tongue, let him rest. At least a few days to say goodbye. They sent another prescription to the Apotheke, run by an animal-loving pharmacist who was also happy to help us.

At home, Harley nibbled food lightly, turned his head away, and lay in his bed next to the long ceiling to floor windows. Outside, on the cool hard spring ground, his loyal friend Rocco the dog hulked like a mountain range, watching his feline friend through the glass, unwilling to leave, unwilling to go home with his owners when they came. We agreed Rocco could stay at my house. He came in and slept near Harley that night, tried to offer Harley his food in the morning and then slumped home, repeatedly looking back over his big wolf-like shoulder.

Harley’s village steps in: eat, pray, love

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Frau Francesca

Word traveled quickly through the village somehow, and the little girls, worried, brought Harley their favorite toys and petted him and sang quietly. Then, right after I’d hung up after talking to our American vet, Frau Francesca appeared with her two bowls. The goat milk would strengthen his blood and muscles, she told me in Bayerisch and a few American words her son had armed her with for the visit. The goat meat. From their own animals, healthy, only good food, playing the fields…. good meat. Raw, and fermented. Healthy traditional foods good for us all.

Crack a duck egg open in another bowl, or a chicken egg, freshly laid; let him lick it up. This helped all their animals. It helped Frau Sofie’s calico cat when it fell off the roof and was healing after surgery at the finest vet in Munich; it would help our big American cat, too. She knew this because sometimes she gave Harley goat milk and eggs when he would visit and look at his nice fur! She, proper and bright, but also tiny, bones still stiff after a tractor accident on their farm decades earlier, then suddenly lay down upon the floor, murmuring to Harley, petting him, talking, telling him in her way to eat, eat, such a brav boy… He looked at me, but, for her, he shifted and made the effort to lick at the goat milk. He licked egg off my fingertips.

 

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Duck eggs: traditional health food from the farm

The next few days melted into a swirl of neighbors and friends checking on Harley, bringing us fresh butter, duck meat, more eggs, broth. Some suggested their freshly baked bread placed in the goat milk (fresh bowls daily) would be more nourishing. Some added garlic to their homemade chicken broth. I was a girl alone in village in Germany with a gravely sick best friend, but I wasn’t. The village showed us love, compassion, and climbed over barriers of the several dialects spoken there to offer advice and hope, or watch him while I tried to work. They each had a Harley story somehow, this cat that they had only known for a couple of months.

And he, ever the king, obliged one and all, obediently licking the milk and broth and eggs, then the next day, licking more.  On day three, he wanted the fresh goat meat, a piece of goat cheese, and some pickled vegetables. The vets called me: was I ready to say goodbye? No, I told them, looking at Harley chewing goat cheese for his fans with a new glint in his eye, no, not yet.

Day five, there was a shout of laughs from the village men and boys outside the house. The giant loyal dog Rocco had furiously dug a massive pit, six feet across, three feet deep. He emerged to cheers utterly filthy with a squirming mouse in his teeth that he had unearthed.

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Harley and Rocco (new haircut!)

He marched proudly with it to the window of the French doors. Harley, in his bed looked up. A look was exchanged. Harley slowly stood, and as we watched holding our breath, indicated he wanted to go out. I opened the glass and wood door and Harley stepped out shakily to Rocco. With the dog leading the way, they went around to the terrace. A moment passed and two little boys returned to say excitedly that the giant American cat ate the mouse promptly and then curled up to sleep with Rocco.

 

Each day he was better. Each day, his diet was his dab of special cat food topped with a duck egg, plus a small bowl of goat milk or kefir. In the evening, we had our choice of the fresh-caught fish or goat meat or rabbit, or what seemed to be a sort of pickled duck meat, brought by our village supporters. I gave him a drop of the little vial of holistic oil every night. In two more weeks, he was ambling around again, turning back into the king he was. I noticed that when he resumed his visits to favored houses in our village, bowls of goat milk and plates of fresh meat would magically appear. “We had too much, we were about to eat, he can have it,” his host would shrug. “See, he likes it. Good for cats! German cats are strong, he knows what is good, he is really a German cat, see?”

Harley and I returned to America, then made another trip back some months later. Harley was thriving, but clearly longing for his German fields and friends, and the fresh wholesome food I was having trouble replicating back in the States, so back on the plane he went for a little visit. He could breathe air, walk, visit with village friends to eat well, play, boost his health. We booked visits with our German vets.

 

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Pastured goats like these enjoyed the German fields and hills

Our holistic vet was happy but not surprised; nature’s food is best, he explained. He had studied in Vienna and went to seminars, and good, natural healthy food, this is what our pets need. The modern ultrasound vet with his sleek modern clinic was stumped. Harley was still with us? How could this be? He offered to do another ultrasound, free, just from curiosity. The tumor was smaller, hard to see. No one could explain it. We crossed our fingers.

 

One more feast from nature

Harley went back to his Bavarian diet, especially thrilled to have his goat milk and kefir and nest-fresh duck eggs again. Now 6 years old, he ran through the fields with his old friends and made his visits, enjoying the summer evenings as he slept under a bench as neighbors gathered at someone’s courtyard in the evening to laugh and talk. Some nights, he went home with Rocco the dog to sleep in the dog’s lavish, two-story chalet-style doghouse, side by side in the doorway, best buddies always.

Everyone had milk or eggs for Harley’s visits. His fur was glossy, and he bounded around again on strong muscular legs. He made the most of his little vacation in every way.

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Raw Goat Milk

Harley and I returned to the States, and he lived another five years as an indoor city cat again, before heart issues and pancreatic cancer, mimicking a fake bout of diabetes again, caught him short. I had trouble sourcing the milks and meats I wanted for him, though when I could find them, he ate them; though perhaps the cartoned pasteurized goat milk and processed duck eggs weren’t as appealing to him as the treasures carried to him by his loving village friends. I would always wonder if I should have left him in his beloved village with the people who eagerly offered to take him in, the people’s whose knowledge of nature, and animals, gave him seven extra years to be his delightful, strong, loving self on this earth.

Harley’s legacy

But what Harley taught me still lives on. Before his death, a tiny sickly stray Maine Coon came into our lives, frail, nearly blind from malnutrition, suffering from failure to thrive, not recognizing food as something she needed to consume. As he had done back in Germany with the village kittens, Harley took little three-month-old Toola under his wing, chewing food and carefully placing it into her mouth like mother bird might, carrying her around the house on his massive back like a cat taxi, washing her, sleeping with her, until she began to get well. Uncle Harley was her hero.

A few months later as he was living his last days before we put him to sleep, Toola spent 24 hours washing him nose to tail, and back again, a tiny undersized piece of fluff trying to clean and soothe a jumbo jet. The love she had for him echoed the love I, and an entire distant village, would have for him forever.

A beautiful life goes on, with good nutrition

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Toola loves her garden too

Eighteen years have passed, and Toola is now in her twilight years. Two years ago, we were told she had just days to live. But as Harley and a group of wise Bavarians taught me, why give up easily?  Although very picky about eating her whole life, forcing us into a diet regimen we aren’t crazy about to just get to eat and maintain weight, she has been willing to lap up a little goat milk and goat cheese, sardines or kefir every few days. But then, finding Answers Pet Food at our local better pet food shop a little over a year ago meant she can also have the kind of goat milk Harley enjoyed, farm fresh, filled with nourishment few other foods supply. She’s holding her own, still asking us to take her outside to scratch the bark of a favorite tree, or sit on the porch with us for a few minutes, then curling up in my husband’s lap with a look of pure devotion on her face.

At every vet visit, the team’s happy amazement at Toola’s continuing journey as she gives them one of her sweet, doe-eyed looks, this gentle little cat reminds me that nothing is over until it is over, that more answers are always around the corner, that just like her superb vet, Mother Nature knows what she’s doing – as a village filled with new friends taught me when I needed the knowledge most.

There’s always another day when the answer can come, and beautiful life can go on, here at home, or along a distant riverbank where a waterfall tumbles to the delight of group of lazy country cats.

And Toola reminds me every day what Harley and I learned years ago:  that sometimes we are lucky enough to have a real village or a village of friends, or a farm filled with caring people like everyone at Answers. A family we didn’t know we had, who know what to offer us to help our pets thrive when they are most in need, and help those little ones we love so much stay by our sides for the journey ahead, wherever it takes us.


Answers Raw Diet Saved My Dog

Mo_BLOG_200x200Guest Contributor—Maureen Keenan, JD, MAT Owner, Lead Behaviorist Downward Dog Canine Transformation. Maureen provides rehabilitation services and obedience training for dog owners and rescue groups throughout Eastern Carolina. As a non-profit executive for many years, Maureen left her position in order to rehabilitate and train dogs full time. She trained under Cesar Millan (“The Dog Whisperer”) and expanded her education under the guidance of several trainers across the country, including Lucas Agnew, Inc. and others.

I feel compelled to start by saying that I am not a veterinary professional. I have no medical expertise of any kind. I am a dog behavior expert and a typical dog owner who would do anything to protect my dogs and keep them healthy and happy. I have had dogs my entire life, but it was not until 2014, not long after our beloved collie mix Macy had a near fatal experience, that my dogs’ nutrition became a focus of my dog-loving life.

Macy is momma dog type of girl. We took her as a foster from a municipal shelter the week before she gave birth to 9 robust puppies. She was a great mother. She is an equally great friend, to me and Deb and to our three other dogs. She is a role model for my client dogs, and often steps in to provide calm assurance to my anxiety rehab cases. Macy is smart and funny. With some herder DNA, she is prone to nip for attention and to talk and “whisper bark” at us if we are not paying attention. She is the kind of dog who is so smart and endearing that you would swear she has a sense of humor. She is simply wonderful.

So, when Macy suddenly developed severe symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and lethargy, with a distended and painful abdomen and fever, we were terrified. She almost did not survive. She was hospitalized for days and eventually diagnosed with pancreatitis. We are forever grateful to the veterinarians and staff who saved her life.

Her recovery was slow, and we were tremendously careful to follow the strict orders to feed her only Royal Canine ID and nothing else. No treats, no homemade food, no exceptions. We were told that if we did not keep Macy on this strict and limited diet for the rest of her life, that her pancreatitis would return, and she may not survive. At that time, our fear prevented us from asking questions or exploring options. We just bought our Royal Canine and stuck to the plan.

As the months went by with Macy’s interest in food lukewarm and her energy levels somewhat low, we crossed paths through our dog rescue with some folks who were bringing healthy, holistic and organic pet food options to our hometown of Louisville, KY. The woman leading this effort to transform pet owner awareness about nutrition, Kim, also happened to have a pancreatic dog and she and her boy, Otto, had been down the same path we were on with Macy.

As our conversations progressed about our dogs, we expressed our concerns about Macy’s overall well-being with her nutritional consumption limited to a food that was not only devised in a laboratory, but also consisted of things like corn, soy, beet pulp and animal by-products. While our trusted veterinarians seemed to feel more secure about the prescription food, they did not see Macy’s energy dim and her enthusiasm fade about food, play, walks, etc. She was free of pancreatic symptoms for those months while she ate only her prescription food. There is no doubt about that – the prescription food prevented symptoms. But she was consuming so much unhealthy material and we worried about how that would affect her health and quality of life. We did not want to trade one evil for another evil that just chipped away at Macy more slowly.

Kim shared with us her journey with Otto, one that took him from prescription food to a balanced raw diet with a complete disappearance of Otto’s pancreatitis. We met Otto and saw a happy, active and robust dog. We owed it to Macy to educate ourselves and to take responsibility for her health, her whole health. So, our research began. We read everything we could find. We talked to people with years of experience in different types of raw diets and we studied the diet and products offered by Answers. Our friend, Kim, used Answers and praised not only the quality and healthfulness of their products, but also the company’s value systems and prioritizing of animal health, small business, local sourcing and so much more. We studied until we knew that it was time to act for Macy.

In 2014, we spent four months transitioning Macy from her prescription kibble to Answer’s Detailed Beef, supplemented by goats milk and fish stock. The transparency of Answers product and practice made it easy for us to take control of the fat that Macy consumed while also providing her with a balanced and healthy source diet. At the end of the four months, Macy had no symptoms of pancreatitis and she was dancing for her food again. She could not wait to eat, and her overall energy increased noticeably. Her playful nature returned, and walks became a pleasure again. We had our girl back in full form. Macy was again sassy and happy.

Once she was on a full Answers raw diet, we kept a very close eye on her with daily observation for any signs of belly issues. We were prepared to act at the first sign of problems. But months went by, then years, and Macy was the picture of health. Her teeth improved, her muscle tone improved, and she ate with the enthusiasm of a puppy.

Here we are now in 2020. Macy’s health has been outstanding since we moved her to Answers, without any sign of pancreatitis since her diagnosis. We have even been able to expand Macy’s diet to healthy treats in addition to her meals and supplements. At a recent vet visit, we were having some lumps on Macy checked because she is an old lumpy girl now. All lumps were cleared as benign. Because we are those dog owners, we decided to have the vet do an ultrasound just to know how Macy’s organs are doing and whether she had any internal masses. The vet returned with Macy after the ultrasound and expressed surprise and delight at the pristine condition of all her organs. He said that she could not be in better shape internally.

Macy is at least 15 years old now, and while her joints may ache and her back legs may be getting weak, she is full of life and joy. We are certain that we still have Macy today because of the quality of her nutrition. It is the reason for her longevity and for the superior quality of her life. All of our dogs are following in Macy’s footsteps, and every dog who comes along in the future will be an Answers dog.

About the author: Maureen Keenan, JD, MAT, Owner, Lead Behaviorist Downward Dog Canine Transformation. Maureen owns Downward Dog Canine Transformation in Emerald Isle, NC where she provides rehabilitation services and obedience training for dog owners and rescue groups throughout Eastern Carolina. Before moving to North Carolina, Maureen founded Saving Sunny, Inc., a rescue that prioritizes Pitbull-type dogs, as well as services to underserved and low-income communities in Louisville, KY. For nearly 10 years she volunteered for Saving Sunny as a Board Member and as the leader of their behavior program, which rehabilitated shelter dogs to improve their adoptability. Maureen also provided free behavior services on behalf of Saving Sunny to low income families to help prevent the need to surrender dogs to shelters for behavioral issues. During her tenure with Saving Sunny, Maureen decided to leave her career as a non-profit executive in order to rehabilitate and train dogs full time. She trained under Cesar Millan (“The Dog Whisperer”) and expanded her education under the guidance of several trainers across the country, including Lucas Agnew, Inc. and others, before starting Downward Dog Canine Transformation. Maureen is a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP).