The Paleo Diet for Pets

The Paleo PetsHave you ever wondered why our furry friends are becoming obese?  In addition to obesity, why are they suffering from similar degenerative conditions as humans like diabetes, pancreatic issues, cancers and so on.  Are raw foods diets for cats and dogs the best to consume?  Veterinarian James C. Coghlan has found the best diet for his furry patients with over two decades of research suggesting the Paleo Diet, or a raw diet might be the best option.

Q & A with Dr. Coghlan

Tell me about PaleoPet

Paleo diets are a hot topic of late so it is no wonder that Paleopet has been attracting a lot of attention as well.  As a practicing veterinarian, carbohydrate disease is the single most common cause of disease I see on a daily basis.  To put it simply, pet food is loaded with carbohydrates in the form of grain starch.  It is unusual for a dry commercial diet to be less than 40% starch because starch is the “cement” that holds the kibble together (1).  Starch is sugar.  Where in nature did canines and felines ever consume starch sugar as the primary ingredient of a daily diet?

 Can the Paleo Diet become as effective to pets when treating inflammatory conditions like diabetes and cancers?

Everything we know about the Paleo or Caveman diet for humans is perfectly adaptable and translatable to dogs and cats.  Inflammation, cancer, obesity, arthritis, digestive disease, and skin disease are a few of the diseases now implicated as caused and exacerbated by a diet far too high in carbohydrate ebnergy.  Worse still, combine a high carb diet with rendered animal fat, a deficiency of fiber and zero raw oils and we arrive at the metabolic nightmare called commercial pet food.

 I’m aware of the pitfalls of  processed foods, tell me about the processing of  pet foods.

Yeast is veterinary evidence of the presence of metabolic disease caused by starch in commercial pet food. Yeast infections are now the most common dermatological finding in companion animals with skin problems.  Yeasts feed on sugar.  Highly glycemic grains such as rice and oats are directly to blame for yeast infections in pets.  As the price for a bushel of corn has soared over the past decade, rice, barley, oats and sweet potatoes are used as affordable substitutes.  Some commercial pet foods are now  60% starch and have the glycemic equivalent of pizza or granola.  Yeast infections are unheard of in a Wolf or a Coyote. Both yeast and fungal infections resolve when humans resort to a low carb diet. If yeast infections are prevalent in dogs and cats, it is direct evidence that they must be predisposed to a litany of other carbohydrate diseases as well.

The most accurate prey model for both the dog and the cat as evolved in nature is a rabbit.  This particular herbivore is considered the pastoral evolutionary equivalent for carnivores as a Woolly Mammoth is for Neanderthals.  A rabbit is over 20% by weight vegetables, all in various stages of digestion.  It is loaded with raw mesenteric fat , enzymes, probiotics, and is very rich in fiber.  Though this is a disturbing visualization, it is how the dog and cat evolved.  There is no starch in a rabbit…ever.  Commercial pet food is the complete opposite of the rabbit nutritional model.

 Tell us about the book

In the book Paleopet I describe abdominal fat as the driving force behind predatory instinct. It is herbivorous energy reserved for a rainy day.  All essential vitamins are stored in fat and the raw materials to make everything from hormones to enzymes are all derived of lipids. Ever since Beale and Bauer (2) published a study regarding the potential benefits of marine-life oil supplements for companion animals there have been many studies to support the fact that raw fats and fish oils will treat or allay allergies, heart conditions, memory and cognition, arthritis, hyperlipidemia, irritable bowel disease and cancer.(3) In nature all fats are consumed raw and are essential for all major organ functions. The heart derives almost 80% of its energy from fats, the brain is 70% fat and, the largest organ of the body (the skin) is essential of fats and oils.  In the economy of the predator/prey relationship, raw fat is the moneybag.  Unfortunately, raw whole fat is the first thing to spoil or go rancid in meat. Fat is also the first thing completely destroyed  by the cooking process.  When meat is cooked, fat is changed to where it is no longer recognized by digestive enzymes. Cooked fat kills carnivores. Feeding an obese female dog a bowl kibble with gravy or bacon fat poured over the top is playing Russian roulette with dog food. This is why veterinarians tell their clientelle never to feed table scraps. There is no whole and balanced raw mammalian fat in commercial nor freeze-dried pet food. The animal fat listed in the ingredients list is devoid of anything useful and is added more for flavor and preservation than nutrition. It is similar to the jar of bacon fat stored under the kitchen sink. It lasts forever because absolutely nothing can live on it to spoil it.

This is a very important concept to understand because it is the reason I prefer feeding a pet raw. Cooked fats are useless and cause death, raw fats are golden. While bacon is cooking it releases a vast array of enticing fragrances, enough to get a teenager out of bed before 10 am. These delicious ethereal essences represent chemicals that all carnivorous animals value and absolutely require to thrive. The problem is that they are evaporated and lost forever while being cooked. Bacon is infinitely more valuable when raw.

Stage 2 Paleopet is the complete elimination of the common starch carbohydrate ingredients from pet food.  It is the diet most acclaimed to cure common carbohydrate diseases of cats and dogs.  It is not the corn nor soy nor preservatives, etc in commercial processed pet food that causes problems, it is the starch.  Digestive disease, skin disease, ear infections, itching and odor are all invariably allayed or cured by this diet. Chicken and beef are the most common meats to feed. The addition of probiotics bacteria provide essential vitamins and enzymes and prevent pathogenic bacteria from growing in the gut.  Any ground meat sold in America by a licensed retailer is safe to feed pets.However, if you acquiesce to the typical American meat phobia as I do then shop from the selection behind the glass counter at your favorite grocery store and avoid the freezer bins.

Even though I never recommend consuming pork for both animal and human use, tell me about the processing of bacon

Raw bacon happens also to be safer than cooked bacon. There are no pathogenic bacteria or parasites in properly cured pork. However, the curing process itself requires nitrates (salts) and friendly probiotic bacteria as a preservative. When nitates are exposed to high temperatures they convert into nitrosamines. It is the nitrosamines in cooked bacon (and pepperoni on pizza) that are carcinogenic. Otherwise, nitrates are completely safe until they are exposed to high cooking temperatures. Therefore, cooking meat not only destroys the fat content, it may also cause cancer via nitrosamines and cyclic amines. Cyclic amines are a chemical known to cause cancer in meats that are cooked well-done or burned.

Ask the butcher if the meat is ground fresh on site and ensure that there are no additives. All meat intended for human consumption is FDA inspected and batch-tested for the presence of harmful bacteria. In 25 years I have never had a dog or cat with diarrhea test positive for salmonella nor any other feedlot pathogen and I test often. I am regularly surprised at what some of my paleopet clients feed their pets and yet I never, ever treat these dogs for food-borne illnesses. If you still carry a doubt, use a probiotic and never mix raw meat with commercial pet food.

 Pet cravings do exist!  Tell us more…

Sometimes a cat or a dog will need reminding to wake up the part of the brain that governs cravings. Serotonin needs to be activated and acted upon by the insular cortex for cravings to awaken – a complex neurological task that requires time. Avoid the “lean is better” mindset with cats. Lipids are now their only energy source so raw fats must be included in the diet. Humans have an aversion to raw fat so it may help to think of it as ice cream for pets.  Carnivorous animals in the wild are driven by raw fat. Begin with a small meatball of raw meat by itself on an empty stomach.  Never mix raw meat with commercial pet food!

Paleopet is common-sense nutrition.  It is a safe method of using common ingredients to make healthy pet food for less money per pound than premium pet commercial pet food.  Some commercial pet food is $4 to $5 dollars a pound while fresh ground chicken, turkey or beef is under $2 a pound.  Does that make sense?  Raw meat is completely safe when properly prepared the Paleopet way.

Raw Diet for Dogs Recipes

Article by:

James C. Coghlan, DVM 12/12/12

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1)  Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, Mark Morris Institute  ISBN 0-615297-01-35) Page 173 5th Edition Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, Mark Morris Institute  ISBN 0-615297-01-32)

2) Logas D, Beale KM, Bauer JE. Potential clinical benefits of dietary supplementation with marine-life oil. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1991;199:1631-1636

3) Freeman LM, Rush JE, Kehayias JJ, et Al. Nutritional alterations and the effect of fish oil supplementation in dogs with heart failure. J Vet Intern Med 1998;12:44