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A healthier pet diet could increase their lifespan

Staci Vail, owner of Nature's Pet Market in north Spokane, with her two dogs, Barkley and Tucker. She opened the store to offer higher-quality products to the community.  (Renee Sande / Down to EarthNW Correspondent)
Staci Vail, owner of Nature's Pet Market in north Spokane, with her two dogs, Barkley and Tucker. She opened the store to offer higher-quality products to the community. (Renee Sande / Down to EarthNW Correspondent)

You’re reading labels, buying organic and locally-sourced foods when you can, and feeding your body the nutrients it needs. However, are you doing the same for Fido and Fluffy?

Do you know where your cat’s or dog’s food is sourced? Even if your pets seem to like their food, do you know if it’s really healthy for them?

Unfortunately, if you’re feeding them one of the many commercial pet food brands out there today, it’s

like feeding them a daily diet of fast food. Even if they seem to like it, it doesn’t mean it’s good for them.

According to the Born Free U.S.A. web site, pet food ingredients are more than questionable.

“Pet food provides a convenient way for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered ‘unfit for human consumption,’ and similar waste products to be turned into profit. This waste includes intestines, udders, heads, hooves, beaks, necks, and possibly diseased and cancerous animal parts.”

If that’s not enough to ruffle your feathers, hold on because it’s only one small part of a nasty equation that contributes to our animals poor health while feeding the $16.1 billion dollar commercial pet food industry.

Fillers, a.k.a wheat, corn, barley, and soy, which have no nutritional value for our pets because their intestines aren’t long enough to digest them, end up causing corn and gluten allergies. In order to excrete these fillers and other byproducts, our pets’ bodies must work harder to process.

“If you think of a coyote or a wolf—it’s not going to raid a potato or a wheat field, it’s going to go after the chickens or other source of meat,” said Staci Vail, owner of Nature’s Pet Market in North Spokane.

Vail bought the business a year ago because she wanted to educate pet owners on the necessity for high-quality, U.S.-sourced products, along with wanting to help the community with pet adoption.

“There’s an issue all in itself with quality control from overseas—and not just China—when it comes to pet products,” said Vail.

Other culprits in commercial pet foods that can lead to poor health include carcinogenic preservatives such as BHT; salt, which can dehydrate and cause kidney failure, especially in cats, who are not natural water drinkers; and added sugar, which can cause tooth decay, bad breath and diabetes. Wild cats, by the way, get most of their liquid through fresh meat and blood.

Add to that hydrolyzed yeast, flavorings and other additives, not to mention insecticides, fungicides, and pesticides from grain filler, and the result is other health problems which can show up in the form of smelly fur, gas, excessive eye discharge, fleas, mites, worms and other parasitic infestations.

Over time, these toxic levels build up in our pet’s system, taxing the eliminatory organs, especially the liver. When they get sick out of the blue, we often attribute it to old age, when actually, it very well could be from a lifetime of toxin build-up which their body is too stressed to fight anymore.

Just ask Marcia Irvin. Her dog Libby developed diabetes at age 11 ½, which led her to formulating a recipe for a new kind of treat—one that didn’t include sugar, salt or preservatives and which was 100 percent organic.

“I knew what dogs could and couldn’t eat and I knew what I didn’t want,” says Irvin, a former vet tech and restaurant owner, and now owner of Libby’s Best Dog Bakery in Hauser Lake, Idaho. “The majority of dog treats out there contain sugar, preservatives, and too many carbs, much like human food.”

When she first created these, there was’t much else available.

“It’s been in just the past five years that the market has kind of exploded with much more selection. However you still have to be careful and do your research to make sure you’re really getting a good product that is what it claims,” Irvin said.

Primarily wholesale, Irvin’s treats are available at retail stores throughout Washington, Idaho and California, although she does have a website where anybody can purchase them for home delivery.

Baked fresh when you order, Irvin sources the ingredients for her two kinds of dog treats—Oat Spelt and Peanut Oat—as locally as possible; the ingredient that travels the furthest is the organic peanuts from New Mexico, the closest state that grows them.

“You can add three to five years onto your pets’ life by changing their food and the good news is, it’s not too late to start,” said Vail. “In just 45 to 60 days, you can see a significant change in your pet. They’ll be happier, have more energy and you’ll have less poop patrol because their bodies can use more of what they eat, rather than having it just pass through their system.”

Two of Vail’s most popular products are Instinct Raw and Bravo Raw, which actually include freeze-dried raw meat that provides the natural enzymes for digestive health. Other ingredients include apples, carrots, butternut squash, ground flaxseed, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, dried kelp, honey and salmon oil.

Vail says if you can’t afford the price of those brands, Nutrisource is also a great dog and cat food that is all natural and free of grains, steroids, preservatives and additives. Although, she also adds that your dog or cat will eat less high-quality food—up to two-thirds less—because they’re actually getting what they need and can digest.

“The bottom line is the more nutrition you feed your pet, the less food they’ll need, which adds up to less waste and less money in the end,” said Vail.

Other stores in the area that carry all natural, holistic pet food brands include Huckleberries Natural Market on the South Hill and PetSmart.

Operational manager for PetSmart, Miles Bergsna, says they started carrying these types of brands, such as Innova and Bil/Jac dog and cat food, two years ago due to customer demand.

“It seems people are becoming more educated about their pets’ health and how health issues and allergies can be attributed to what they feed them,” said Bergsna. “They’re learning that, just like people, if they feed their pets well throughout their lives, there’s a good chance they’ll stay healthy and live longer.”

Nature’s Pet Market will have an Open House’s is Friday, Dec. 7, featuring adoptions from Spokanimal, and Ask the Trainer (Cathy Fox from Diamonds in the Ruff), and as well as the chance to have a holiday picture taken of your pet. Beer, wine & hors d’oeuvres will be served. If you adopt an animal from a local shelter, bring in the adoption certificate and Staci you’ll to receive a free four-pound bag of food, four cans of food, and one treat.


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