Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chew on this: You are what you eat.

Since allergies are a part of many pet owners’ and their animals’ lives, I figured I share with you this interview conducted by Business Times Weekend’s Melissa Heng with Dr. Jean Paul Ly, D.V.M., veterinarian and clinical nutritionist and director of the Animal Recovery Centre in Balestier:
As far as nutrition is concerned, this maxim is as true for humans as it is for pet dogs. "Today's dogs are different," says veterinarian Jean Paul Ly, "They have evolved, and so have their nutritional needs. They need variety in food the same way a human child would in order to stay healthy."
In tandem with rapid social development, even pets are more vulnerable to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and even high cholesterol, just like humans.
"Dogs today face diseases that are virtually unheard of two or three decades ago," says Dr. Ly, who has been practicing for 33 years in Singapore as well as Australia. "In fact, up to 70 per cent of all pet dogs today are likely to develop some form of chronic' illness in their lives. "
But unlike humans, dogs have much shorter life spans, which means that
diseases tend to hit them harder and at an earlier age. Tell tale signs that all is not well include skin eruptions, discharge from the eye or ear, a persistent cough, frequent vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal gas and lethargy.
"Many pet dogs suffer from neuro endocrine/immune deficiency," says Dr. Ly. "Basically, what this means is their immune systems cannot stand up to stress, so they are much more likely to fall victim to all sorts of diseases. This stress can take two forms: Internal stress resulting from diet deficiencies and external stress
triggered by environmental changes.
"Diet is very important to your dog's health. Gone are the days when you could feed your dog scraps and leftovers from the table. Dogs today simply don't have the digestive abilities that their ancestors had," says Dr. Ly, who blames rampant inbreeding as one reason for today's problem pets. "Breeders breed for vanity, not for survival. The dogs these days are mostly Frankensteins. Their genetic makeup is all messed up. They can't survive anymore without human help." says Dr. Ly.
Such human help must necessarily take the form of a proper diet, something pet owners tend to ignore or take for granted. "The type of food we give to our dogs makes a huge difference," says Dr. Ly. "Most owners solely feed their dogs dried food because it's hassle free. But owners should be aware of what goes into a pack of dried dog food. Firstly, not all dried foods are created equal. Some use real meat, while others grind up discarded piece s of organ s such as intestines and pass that off as meat. "Secondly, dried foods often contain preservative s and other additives to enhance flavor or color. These toxins will do no immediate harm, but taken over a long period of time, such additives will inevitably take a toll on your dog's health."
Frustrated by the lack of healthy food options, Dr. Ly, who also runs a state of
the art animal hospital in Shanghai, consulted with a dog food company to develop a range of ultra premium dog and cat foods that contain no by-products, fillers or preservatives. That was five years ago. Today, the home grown pet food company, Addiction, is widely known for its unique food blends and use of game or free range meat.
"I felt there was something lacking in the market. Every other brand of dog
food was offering the same old traditional meats, beef, chicken and lamb. But that's the problem, many dogs have developed allergies to such foods. At the time, no other company was offering novel protein." Novel proteins refer to non traditional sources of protein like venison, emu, rabbit, kangaroo, geese or duck meat. Such game meats have hypoallergenic properties and are suitable for all breeds, according to Dr. Ly. "Most dogs are unlikely to develop allergies to such meats because their bodies do not recognize such proteins. Their immune system is not primed, so they usually don't have negative reactions."
While pleased with this new range of pet food, he recommends that owners give their dogs regular supplements of fresh vegetables, fruit and half cooked or raw food. "Commercial pet food is not complete, so please feed your dog something fresh," says Dr. Ly candidly. Ultimately though, Dr. Ly's advice for pet owners is simple: "Treat your pet like you would your own child. Don't feed your dog things you won't give your own kid. That's the basic rule. Food makes the difference in fighting allergies."

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