Wednesday, 17 October 2018 07:37

Feeding for Optimum Health

I’ve always believed in the adage ‘you are what you eat’.

This is not a new concept. Way back around 600 BC Hippocrates famously said: “Let medicine be thy food, and food be thy medicine”.

Prudence, my Miniature Bull terrier, Mr Binks my English Toy Terrier, and Gremlin my cat, all eat a raw diet.

They’re benefitting from my study with the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies where I learnt about the new science of Nutrigenomics.

I learnt that key nutrients have an influence at a cellular level to boost the immune system, prevent disease, prevent obesity, and even delay aging.

Nutrigenomics reveals how functional foods nourish deep at a cellular level to influence our genetic make up through gene expression.

Nutrients interrelate with our epigenome, which is a clever structural layer that surrounds our DNA.

Luckily ready prepared convenience foods have never appealed to me. I’m conscious of not consuming too many processed foods, and don’t own a microwave.

I want to balance the inevitable negative health effects triggered by modern environmental stressors like air pollution, over medication, intensive farming, pesticides, insecticides and the like that are all ubiquitous to modern living.

It’s been easy for me to transfer my eating values to my pets. It all began 16 years ago when Molly my first Miniature Bull terrier arrived.

Her breeder advised me not to feed the standard dry ‘cremated’ pellets so often recommended by vets. Instead to feed her raw green tripe mixed with some vegetables, and some fruits.

Raw green tripe (not to be confused with the white, bleached tripe prepared for human consumption) is a rich source of nutrients for dogs – it’s an elixir!

The stomach of a ruminating (grazing) animal including cows, and sheep, green tripe is packed with key nutrients, proteins, fats, pre and probiotics and is low in fat.

This is because the unique stomachs of these ruminants have four chambers to naturally process grasses with a slew of digestive enzymes, gastric juices and amino acids.

Over the years Molly championed an awareness of raw green tripe as a superfood for dogs. 

It may not smell like a bed of roses, but I’ve got used to the aroma! It’s a small inconvenience to bare, in return for one meat ingredient that boasts so many health benefits as a functional food.

I like to combine some muscle meat like lamb, or venison. Another staple functional food that’s always in our fridge are lamb’s hearts.

Rich in amino acids, especially Taurine, Gremlin eats one or two hearts a day. Without Taurine a cat’s immune system shuts down. A cat cannot survive without Taurine. 

Cats are known as obligate carnivores, which means they are biologically and physiologically designed to eat meat.

The interrelationship between diet and health is inextricable. By feeding as nature intended, we can impact so positively on the health and well-being of our pets.

I feed strategically and add a variety of fresh very finely chopped leafy greens like kale, spinach or watercress for a mineral and vitamin boost.

I’m fascinated by recent research that highlights the brain boosting capacity of Coconut oil, which we all take in moderation, and I use probiotics.

Whilst dogs do produce Vitamin C, I never underestimate the potential of berries like a blackberry or a blueberry as anti-oxidants that absorb unwanted C02 and free radicals from our system, boosting our immune system.

I’ll add some small fish like sardines or sprats for an Omega boost as well as a raw egg beaten up and served as a low calorie, Omega rich snack.

Even if everyone made tiny steps towards a raw diet, beginning with home cooked foods, it’s a way of helping to manage your dogs’ health, naturally.

“Let food be thy medicine” Hippocrates.

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My journey to the alternative healthcare model, interestingly began with my late Miniature Bull Terrier, Molly’s Titre Test in 2008.

Back then, before in-house Titre Tests like VacciCheck were available, a Titre Test was not only expensive, but treated with suspicion and scepticism by Vets.

The option for Titre was only presented to Molly as I was anxious about giving her a booster. I’d read many articles in the consumer dog press that highlighted how some dogs become ill after a booster jab.

As I had constantly ignored the reminder letters to booster, our then conventional vet practice phoned me. The vets were highly concerned that Molly had not been boostered since her puppy shots.

She was aged six in 2008 and they were correct in that she had never had a booster. Listening to my concerns, our vet reluctantly suggested a Titre Test.

I was advised it would cost £380.00 and that I would most likely have to pay for a booster jab as well, as Molly was sure to need one.

Our vet was convinced that Molly’s serological results to the core diseases for dogs, Canine Distemper virus (CDV); infectious hepatitis (ICH) and canine parvovirus (CPV), would be low and she would need a booster.

Imagine the Vet’s surprise when Molly’s Titre Test results showed results of her serological immunity scored as high, for all three diseases.

Molly proved that six years on from her first puppy shots, given at eight and twelve weeks, that her immunity was still high. She did not need a booster!

This questioned the school of thought that vaccines’ DOI (Duration of Immunity) was less than three years. Indeed back in 2008 the view was that boosters ought to be administered annually!

The landmark moment came when in 2013 the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) revised its original vaccination guidelines (published in 2007) to include the use of Titre Testing in lieu of annual boosters.

In its latest edition (2017), the WSAVA in fact stresses the value of, and recommends Titre Testing.

Just as Molly’s Titre testing proved, the topical issue of Duration of Immunity (DOI) has been shown to last from initial puppy shots, often for a lifetime.

Offering Titre Tests, vets can reach out to owners like myself who do not believe in doing something (ie giving a booster jab) when it’s unnecessary.

The key principle behind natural ‘holistic’ medicine is to adopt the ‘Precautionary Principle’ keeping the toxin load from environmental stressors – arguably vaccines, flea treatments, wormers, overuse of medications like antibiotics, steroids and pain killers - to a minimum.

This also means balancing and reducing the environmental stressors that are present in the foods we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.

I named Molly’s successor Prudence - as it’s not only a ‘old’ English name, suited to her breed, but it is also to remind me - be prudent.

Aged 15 weeks, Prudence arrived into the UK under the PETS scheme. She had had her first puppy shots at eight weeks, then the Thimerosal free rabies shot at 15 weeks allowing her entry into the UK.

Prudence went for her vet check and a discussion about her vaccines, which involved Titre Testing her, using VacciCheck at 16 weeks.

Prudence had seroconverted! Her level for canine parvovirus (CPV) was high; for canine distemper virus (CDV), medium; and for infectious hepatitis (ICH), medium.

As she displayed adequate immunity, there was no need to give her any more shots. In line with my study, I wanted to keep environmental stressors to a minimum, especially at such a young age.

Thanks to the WSAVA VGG group, the on-going acceptance by Vets of Vaccicheck’s in house Titre testing, s arguably one of the biggest steps forward in modern Veterinary health care.

It allows owners to manage and take control of their pets’ immunity, and not unnecessarily over vaccinate.

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