IN THIS ISSUE:
Feed your pet the right way
The healing response
The pet food industry
Dogs: omnivores or carnivores?
Animals: mirrors of us
The eight laws of health
RAW PET DIGEST
Raw Pet Digest
Editor-in-chief: Kristin Clark
Technical editor: Dr. Jeannie (Jeannette) Thomason
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Letter from the Editor - page 4
The Carnivore Question - page 5
Nature Knows Best - page 8
The Eight Laws of Health - page 12
Animals Naturopaths - page 17
Food as Medicine: Starting a SARF Diet - page 19
Fears About Feeding Raw - page 24
The Healing Response - page 27
The Mirrors of Us - page 29
Features and columns
Letter from the Editor:
Welcome to Raw Pet Digest!
We all love our pets. Without question, that is a fact. They share our homes, our lives, and our hearts. And all of us want the very best for them. We want them to have the greatest quality of life and, of course, the longest life possible. But sometimes it can get a little confusing to figure out how to achieve this. And so, I started Raw Pet Digest with one simple goal: to help empower you with the knowledge and information you need to give your pets the highest quality and longest life possible.
This magazine aims to provide you with clear, concise information about how to feed your dog or cat what they need to thrive, how to help them feel their best naturally, and how to support them in maintaining optimal health of mind, soundness of body, and fulfillment of spirit. In each issue, we will strive to bring you valuable information ranging from (among other things) nutrition, to herbs and essential oils, to stories about the mind/body/spirit connection and the role it plays in health.
Raw Pet Digest aims to deliver clear explanations for all of the facts presented within. And through your letters and comments, it will offer you a chance to participate in the journey of the magazine. If you have a particular topic you would like to see covered, let us know! It may show up in a future issue, and we may thank you in writing for participating in the direction of the magazine. If you want more information on something we covered inside, tell us! We want this to be a magazine that gives you the facts and information you need to help your dog or cat have a happy, fulfilling life.
This inaugural issue of Raw Pet Digest focuses a lot on other kinds of "starts": starting your pet on a species-appropriate raw food diet, why it's important to do so, starting down the path of natural health care, and so on. Later issues will dive more deeply into other topics of interest to you, such as flea and tick prevention, interviews with raw food experts, specific information on various diseases, etc. But for now, whether you've been feeding raw for a long time or have yet to make the switch, welcome! I hope you will find valuable information in these pages. This is a labor of love, and I am so glad you are part of it.
Thank you for reading!
Kristin with Elle, Barkley, and Cleo. Photo credit: Adam T. Gilbert
The carnivore question
Everyone, human or animal, needs the right nutrients and foods to survive and thrive. Herbivores, like horses and deer, eat grasses and other foliage. Ominvores, like bears, live on plants and meat. And carnivores, such as wolves and lions, fulfill their nutrient requirements from the meat, bones, organs, and glands of other animals. Science has shown that our dogs and cats are—you guessed it—carnivores. And so, they need to eat a carnivore diet, not a diet that’s appropriate for herbivores and omnivores. And yet, processed dog and cat food often includes vegetables, grains, and fruits.
Why is this? Well, while most people accept that cats are carnivores (and obligate carnivores at that, meaning that they rely on flesh and bone for their nutritional requirements), one of the most prevalent myths about our dogs is that they are something other than obligate carnivores. Some people would have you believe that they are omnivores. Some say that dogs are facultative carnivores (very similar to omnivores, in that both are defined as relying on animal and non-animal food to fulfill their nutritional requirements). The truth is, our dogs are obligate carnivores; their bodies must have the nutrients they get from raw meat, bones, and organs to thrive.
Evidence for this can be seen in dogs’ bodies and physical makeup. Science has found that our dogs’ stomachs have 10 times the amount of hydrochloric acid that ours do. Their stomachs have a pH of about 1, whereas (for comparison) our stomach pH can be as high as 4-5, and our small intestine pH can be as high as 8.
Their teeth, from the canines to the molars, are sharp. In contrast, omnivores and herbivores have flat molars that allow them to grind their food. Take a look at your own teeth—you have sharp canines that let you eat meat, but flat molars that let you grind plant matter. Or look at the teeth of a horse—every tooth is flat, enabling them to powerfully grind plant matter. The skulls on the next page show a dog's skull vs. a boar's skull. The boar is an omnivore, and as you can see, the majority of the teeth are flat. Now look at your dog or cat’s mouth. Those pointy teeth are designed to handle meat and bone, not plants. And look at the picture of the dog skull on the next page. The teeth—even the molars—are sharp and jagged, allowing the dog to rip the meat off of the carcass. And it doesn’t end there. Dogs, like other carnivores, are unique in that they have carnassial teeth; these are used to slice meat and cut through sinew. The carnassials are formed by the fourth upper premolar and first lower molar.
Our carnivore pets have powerful jaws that are designed to move in a scissor-like motion, which assists them in ripping, shredding, tearing, and finally gulping their meals. Unlike omnivores and herbivores, carnivores, including our pet dogs, cannot move their jaws from side-to-side to chew and pulverize plant and grain matter.
Our dogs and cats are able to regurgitate food that did not get mashed up appropriately the first time around and then eat it again. Their intestines are shorter to allow their food to digest and pass through quickly and to help prevent “bad” bacteria from gaining a foothold. In addition, the large intestine in a carnivore has a relatively smooth, straight passage. This means that fatty wastes high in cholesterol can slide through before they start to putrefy. Omnivores and herbivores, on the other hand, have large intestines that are puckered and run in three different directions; it takes material much longer to make its way through the large intestine of an omnivore or herbivore, which gives their systems time to break down the plant matter and extract and digest all the available nutrients from it.
Carnivores, including our pet dogs and cats, do not have amylase in their saliva and their pancreases do not produce cellulase. This means they are much less able than omnivores and herbivores to break down the cellulose in plant matter and extract the simple sugars (and therefore energy) from it. In other words, unlike herbivores and omnivores, the energy in plant matter is not bioavailable to carnivores—they cannot use it.
Some people assert that wolves and other carnivores end up eating plant matter when they eat the stomach contents of whatever animal they have brought down. However, researchers have actually observed carnivores shaking out the stomach of an animal before eating it. Their bodies cannot effectively digest the plant nutrients, so they don’t consume them. Other people point to dogs and cats eating grasses as a sign that they need plant nutrients. In actuality, what they are working on getting is the soil-based organisms that come along with the plant matter. And if you look at their feces, you'll see that the plants came out the same way they went in. This is because, as we discussed, they cannot break down and digest the plant matter. Wolves and other canines have been observed eating berries out in the wild, but this tends to be when food is scarce, and the berries still only make up a fraction (20% or less) of their total diet. They are opportunistic and will eat anything to stay alive, but this does not necessarily mean it’s optimal for them (case in point—think of the number of dogs that are taken to the vet each year for eating chocolate. It's not good for them, but they will eat it!).
Since a carnivore’s system is not equipped to digest plant matter, when we feed vegetables and grains to them, they cannot process it and it ends up, at best, passing through with no benefit. At worst, it ferments in the stomach and over time, when fed repetitively, causes major issues. In a nutshell, just as you would never try to feed a horse a piece of steak, it doesn’t make physiological sense to feed your dog or cat vegetables and grains. They get all the nutrients they need when fed a species-appropriate diet. For tips on how to get started feeding them a species-appropriate raw food diet, see the article Food as Medicine: Starting a SARF diet on page 19.
In the face of overwhelming, common-sense and scientific evidence, it is difficult to assert that our dogs are omnivores. This makes it very easy to understand what our dogs should be eating: raw meat, bones, and organs, just as their wild brethren, such as wolves, do. It also makes it easy to see that our dogs, just like our pet cats, are obligate, not facultative carnivores. In essence, although dogs may eat fruits, vegetables, grains, trash, fecal matter, and any other thing they can get their mouths on (they are opportunistic scavengers, after all), they must have raw meat, bones, organs, and glands in order to gain the nutrients their bodies need to live a true normal lifespan and to thrive.
-By Kristin Clark
Dog skull. Notice that all the teeth, even molars, are sharp.
Photo credit: © Gavran333 | Dreamstime.com - Dog Skull Photo
Boar skull. Notice the molars are flat and canines are pointed.
Photo credit: © Kornilovdream | Dreamstime.com - Boar Skull Photo
The fact that our dogs and cats are carnivores has been scientifically proven. Their wild forbearers—wolves and small hunting cats—hunt for their meals, consuming the raw meat, bones, and organs of their prey. Regardless of what they look like on the outside, our dogs and cats are virtually identical to their wild brethren and require the same types of food to thrive. But somehow, in the last hundred years or so, we have stopped feeding our cats and dogs the raw meat and bones they require and crave. How has that happened? Is processed pet food like kibble really better for them than raw meat and bones? And what did they eat before kibble?
Before the rise of the modern-day pet food industry, dogs and cats ate a variety of things depending on when and where in history they were located; often, they ate scraps and whatever they hunted on their own. Many pets that belonged to wealthy people were fed meat, while others, particularly those that belonged to poorer people, ate whatever their owners had available, such as bread and milk. And of course, as I mentioned, animals supplemented whatever their humans gave them with whatever they could catch on their own. However, once people realized that there was money to be made selling dog and cat food, a new, multi-billion dollar industry—the pet food industry—was born.
The Pet Food Industry
According to PetProductNews.com, retail pet food sales in 2013 were estimated at $28 billion dollars. This was an increase of 3.7% over 2012. One of the factors that industry experts feel contributes to the growth of the pet food industry (expected to reach $33 billion by 2018) is the rise of so-called “premium foods,” especially premium dog food. Clearly, the pet food industry makes companies a lot of money. But how good is the food they’re selling—even the premium foods—for our pets?
Processed pet food, whether it is “premium” or just regular old kibble, often is made by companies that are affiliated with (often by being owned by the same parent company) companies that also manufacture human food. This lets them use the waste products from human food production to make pet food (especially kibble). Whether someone is purchasing what they believe to be a high quality pet food or not, it all boils down to the same thing—as Drs. Jeannie Thomason and Kim Bloomer so succinctly put it: “kibble is kibble is still kibble.”
To make kibble and canned pet food, companies use raw carcasses, many of which are considered to be “4D meat” (meat from dead, dying, disabled, or diseased animals). The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is fully aware of this practice, stating on their website:
CVM [FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine] is aware of the sale of dead, dying, disabled, or diseased (4-D) animals to salvagers for use as animal food. Meat from these carcasses is boned and the meat is packaged or frozen without heat processing. The raw, frozen meat is shipped for use by several industries, including pet food manufacturers, zoos, greyhound kennels, and mink ranches. This meat may present a potential health hazard to the animals that consume it and to the people who handle it.
4D carcasses are not the only things that go into the food; other waste products, such as supermarket rejects of meat (for example, expired or spoiled meat), are also included.
Making the pet food
The process to make the pet food that eventually winds up in the bag or can at the grocery store or your local pet store is fairly similar among most companies. First, the whole conglomerate (carcasses and, in many instances, supermarket rejects) is put together and loaded into a hopper (essentially, a stainless-steel pit) that has an auger-grinder. There, it is chopped into small pieces. Those pieces are then taken to another grinder and shredded. The shredded material is cooked at 280°F for 60 minutes (in the USA—the exact time and temperature varies by country). The cooking process causes the meat to melt off the bones, producing a soup-like slurry. The fat, or tallow, rises to the top and is skimmed off. Once the tallow has been removed, the cooked meat and bone are put into a press which squeezes out any remaining moisture and then pulverizes the remaining product into a gritty powder. This powder is sifted to remove excess hair and large bone chips. Once the processes are complete, the final products are the tallow, the meat slurry, and the bone meal. The pet food manufacturers buy either the meat slurry or the dried meal for use in their pet food.
It is important to remember that canned food and kibble contain similar ingredients. What varies is the amount of fat, protein, and fiber. The quality and type of meat also varies across batches, so it is next to impossible to guarantee any kind of consistency.
Leaving aside the question of what 4D meat (the carcasses of which, in some pet foods, may also include our own euthanized companion animals as well as things like medicines and antibiotics that were used to treat whatever diseases the animal in question might have had) does to our pets, it is critical to understand the effect that cooking has on protein. This is especially important because many owners feel it is safer to prepare home-cooked meals for their dogs and cats than feed them raw. This, of course, is because they think of their dogs and cats as little humans. We do not have the ability to eat and digest raw meat and bone safely, so we assume our pets cannot. However, they are carnivores, and so are equipped with all the tools they need to survive and thrive on raw meat and bones. Cooking denatures the protein. Put another way, cooking modifies the molecular structure of protein, which destroys or diminishes the protein’s original properties and biological activity. This means that it is unusable, or much less usable, by your dog or cat’s body. Essentially, denatured protein has had the secondary bonds that hold the amino acid chains in place broken, which causes the molecule to become a jumbled mass bereft of biological function. When protein is denatured by heat (and it takes very little heat, relatively speaking, to do this—cooking the meat at 117°F for just three minutes is enough), your cat or dog's body does not have the ability to rebuild the damaged amino acids usable protein molecules. This is because the amino acid chains form enzyme-resistant links when cooking takes place. Because the body cannot separate the amino acids and use them, it eliminates them. The unusable protein becomes a source of toxicity rather than a source of health and energy because it is, in essence, dead organic waste material. And this toxicity eventually presents as many of the diseases and ailments we see cropping up in younger and younger animals today, from obesity to pancreatitis, from liver and kidney disease to cancer.
We are seeing a rise in “raw” dog and cat food today being sold by pet food companies, often under the guise of being labeled “holistic” or “balanced.” While these products are not cooked (definitely a step in the right direction!), they do contain varying amounts of vegetables and fruits—which our carnivore pets do not need and are unable to properly digest. These products are expensive as well, and it is often difficult to know the quality of the meat they are using. Plus, because they are ground, the dogs and cats that are eating them do not get the teeth-cleaning benefits of crunching through bone, nor do they get the visceral satisfaction that comes with gnawing on meat and bones. Finally, no matter what marketing claims are made, these products are not, in and of themselves, balanced. Balance is achieved over time, and it is only by eating a variety of protein sources, organs, and bones that carnivores get all the nutrients they need, in the proper amounts and ratios they need.
The bottom line? Processed, cooked pet food, such as kibble and canned food, is not a good source of nutrition for your pet. And raw pet food from companies contains food materials that are not suitable to a carnivore diet, as well as lacking in appropriate forms of bone. The best food, and the foundation for your dog or cat’s health, is a diet of raw meat, bones, organs, and and glands, preferably from animals that are hormone- and antibiotic-free, pasture-raised, and fed a species-appropriate, organic diet of their own. Once you begin feeding your pets this way, you will go a long way towards ensuring them the longest and highest quality life possible.
-By Kristin Clark
nature knows best
Lolo enjoying a raw meaty bone. Photo credit: Erin O'Connor
© Adogslifephoto | Dreamstime.com - Labrador Dog Looking Down At Food Bowl Photo
Cleo, a 17-year-old Canaan dog, eating lamb
Photo credit: Kristin Clark
The eight laws of health
Naturopathy is a powerful way of supporting the body to heal itself naturally. At its foundation, naturopathy relies on proper nutrition to achieve true wellness. However, nutrition alone does not give the body enough to heal itself and maintain balance. Besides nutrition, there are seven other laws of health that must be adhered to for complete wellness. Each law is critical and must be followed; failure to do so means that eventually the body will be thrown out of balance and disease will occur. This article will give a brief overview of these eight laws of health, while subsequent issues will cover each law in greater detail. By following the eight laws of health, all living beings can remain in balance and thereby prevent or cure disease. This holds true for carnivores, such as dogs, cats, and ferrets; herbivores, such as horses; and omnivores, such as people. Of course, while this concept is simple, it does not necessarily follow that it is “easy”, especially since over time we have been conditioned to do what is convenient instead of what is right. We have also been led to believe that those in authority (such as veterinarians and doctors) possess accurate knowledge and are, by virtue of their titles, omnipotent forces to whom we should surrender all authority. We have been told that health care (which, in our modern-day world, is more accurately labeled disease care), whether it is for ourselves or our pets, means addressing and suppressing symptoms instead of viewing the individual as a whole—mind/body/spirit. Embracing the naturopathic path means taking responsibility for our own animal’s lives, along with our own lives, instead of surrendering that responsibility to someone else. It means taking a truly holistic approach towards caring for our animals and ourselves. The eight laws of health, which include nutrition, exercise, clean water, sunshine and supplements, temperance, fresh air, rest, and trust, guide us in all of these things, though, and allow us to approach health care organically, holistically, and naturally, while retaining our own power and letting go of our fear.
Nutrition, which is the first law of health, is at the core of naturopathy. Broadly defined, nutrition as it relates to this law means species-appropriate food in the appropriate quantities. This means that carnivores must be fed a diet appropriate to a meat eater, while herbivores must eat the appropriate plants. Omnivores, of course, can eat a mix of things, but they too should eat the foods that nature intended, such as whole, unprocessed foods. In the last hundred years or so, however, pet food companies have managed to convince us that the correct diet to feed our animals is made up of processed, biologically inappropriate foods; this goes for both our carnivore and herbivore pets. Unfortunately, these processed, biologically inappropriate foods throw our animals’ bodies out of balance and lead to acute conditions which, if allowed to continue, eventually become full-blown chronic illnesses. Take a bag of dog kibble, for example. When the dog eats the kibble, its body perceives the kibble as a foreign invader and moves to attack it. That it does this should come as no surprise; 80% of the body’s immune system is in the gut. When the immune system is healthy, energy (electricity) flows freely and the body is balanced. The kibble, though, has little to no electrical frequency/energy. It is essentially made up of some combination of “4D” animals (dead, diseased, dying, disabled) and grains (which are essentially poor quality chaff). These are then cooked at very high temperatures and synthetic vitamins and minerals are added back in (often with other synthetic materials, depending on the brand). The kibble can cause basophils (which are a type of white blood cell that contain histamines) to flood your pet's system; the basophils can then release the histamines, resulting in symptoms such as itching, vomiting, and diarrhea. On top of this, the dog could not get the nutrients it needed out of the food in the first place. This means that in addition to its body spending energy attacking what it perceives as a threat, the dog’s essential energy is not replenished. If this continues, the body’s acute reaction can become a chronic condition.
The second law of health is exercise. All animals must have appropriate exercise, both for their species and for themselves as individuals. Horses, for example, were designed to be able to move fast when necessary to escape from predators. Therefore, horses evolved to be “trickle feeders” that continuously eat small amounts over long periods of time. Eating this way ensures they aren’t bogged down with lots of heavy food in their stomachs at any one time. In order to thrive, they must constantly move as they graze and forage. They constantly eat small amounts while standing and moving, generally between 14 and 16 hours per day. This constant movement, interspersed with periods of intense effort (running and playing) keeps their lymph systems healthy, their blood pumping properly, and their feet at the appropriate length. Dogs and cats must also exercise, although unlike horses they do not tend to move constantly for hours at a time. They must have intense exercise (taking into account, of course, their age, condition, and any other factors, such as whether or not they are currently recovering from some sort of disease). This exercise (such as a good run or playing with a favorite toy) pumps their lymph nodes, much as the heart pumps the blood, and also keeps them from becoming obese. And it ensures that they burn excess energy that otherwise might come out in very inconvenient ways (anyone who has dealt with a cat pouncing on their feet and biting their toes while they’re trying to sleep, or had their dog chew up the furniture while they’re away, can attest to this!).
All animals, of course, need pure, clean water. In this day and age, that means filtered water that is free of chlorine and fluoride. Making sure that animals have access to pure water at all times is essential, for without this pure water, their bodies cannot function properly. Like us, our animals are about 70% water, and they must be able to maintain that level for all systems to function properly. If we look at it even more closely, we find that blood is 83% water, muscles are 75% water, the brain is 95% water, and the lungs are 90% water. Clearly, water is critical, both to maintain and cleanse the body.
Sunshine and Supplements
All of our animals need vitamin D3, which is found in sunlight. It is important to remember that sunscreen prevents absorption of the D3. Sunlight, which is one aspect of the fourth law of health, is critically important. Of course, as we will see later, all things must be done in moderation, so it is not beneficial for either our animals or us to go out and bake in the sun for hours at a time. However, animals have an innate sense of how much sunlight they need. By giving them access to sunshine and letting them decide how long to stay in the sun, they will ensure they get enough sun. My own dogs regularly go outside and sun themselves daily, even when it’s 100°F or more, but often it’s only for a few minutes at a time. Then they move to the shade or come back inside, before going back into the sun a little while later. Because they innately know to practice moderation when it comes to time spent in the sun, they don’t get sunburned, and they get all the vitamin D3 they need. The other aspect of the fourth law of health is supplements. It is important to realize that most animals have had some sort of damage done because their owners have not followed the eight laws of health. Therefore, a species-appropriate diet and supplements help repair the damage that has been done. Some examples of supplements are probiotics, enzymes, and colostrum. Probiotics and enzymes are especially critical when switching carnivores from a kibble diet to a raw diet. Many of our carnivore pet’s enzymes, vitamins, and minerals have been depleted by their diet, and often they are further reduced by the toxic vaccines and other “preventatives” (such as flea and tick medicines and heartworm pills) we give them as a matter of course. Even after switching to a raw diet, though, supplements may still be needed. Because so much of our soil has been depleted through improper management, the herbivores that graze on the soil are also depleted, which means that the carnivores may not get all the nutrients they need when they eat them.
Temperance, or moderation, is the next law of health. This comes into play in so many areas of naturopathy and health care. When I think of this law, it reminds me to slow down and be OK with taking things a step at a time. Nature works over the course of time, and as long as balance is achieved over time, a perfect formula does not have to be followed each and every day. Follow moderation with feeding: feed your pets the correct amount of food for their species and as individuals. Overfeeding, even if your pets are on a SARF (species-appropriate raw food) diet, can lead to obesity. It’s also important to feed the right things in moderation. For example, while bones are very important for carnivores, just eating bones without moderating them with other foods will lead to an imbalance, just as only eating meat without the bones will lead to an imbalance. Temperance reminds us to maintain a balance in everything we do, which in turn maintains health.
Giving our animals access to fresh air is the sixth law of health. Hopefully, by letting them have an appropriate amount of sunlight and exercising them appropriately each day, they will get lots of fresh air, but it is important to keep fresh air moving as much as possible throughout the day, for their sake and ours. This means opening up the house or office, if possible, even if you only open the windows a small amount because of the weather. This will keep everything fresh and will also help mentally and emotionally. Making sure that we, along with our pets, get plenty of fresh air, is one of the things that truly nurtures the mind, body, and spirit.
One of the biggest examples of rest (the seventh law of health) for our animals is fasting. Fasting reduces inflammation and is a form of healing. Fasting, which is done by animals in the wild, gives the body a break from the duties of digestion. When the body is sick, it must focus on healing—it cannot heal and digest at the same time. When fasting, the body detoxes by digesting morbid matter and pushing it out. You can fast your dogs by feeding them once per day and/or skipping feeding them for one day. And of course, on their rest day, you don’t need to exercise them intensely (remember the fifth law of health: all things in moderation!)—just let them rest.
The eighth and final law of health is trust. Just like each of the other laws, this one is critically important. Naturopathy is slow to work, and if you do not have trust in the process, you will not stay the course. As I mentioned above, we have been conditioned to believe that our vets know more than we do about how to properly care for our animals. However, what vets do, most of the time, is disease care, not health care. They suppress symptoms instead of healing the root problem. Naturopathy, on the other hand, allows the body to cure itself, which can be a long, slow process. It can involve a healing response (also sometimes called a healing crisis). For more information about the healing response, see the article The Healing Response on page 27. If you begin to fear that the process is not working or try to suppress the symptoms of the healing response, the process will be halted and healing won’t take place. It is vitally important to remember this law and trust the process rather than going back to conventional medicine.
The role of mind/body/spirit cannot be overlooked in any discussion about naturopathy and natural health care. While conventional medicine takes a mechanistic and reductionist view of health and the body, naturopathy looks at the individual holistically. When the mind and spirit are depressed, the immune system (which is innate and runs throughout the whole body) is also depressed, and therefore not operating at full efficiency. On the other hand, when the mind and spirit are light, energy flows more freely throughout the whole individual. Everything is connected. As Caroline Myss says in her book Anatomy of the Spirit: "As neurobiologist Dr. Candace Pert has proven, neuropeptides—the chemicals triggered by emotions—are thoughts converted into matter. Our emotions reside physically in our bodies and interact with our cells and tissues. In fact, Dr. Pert can no longer separate the mind from the body, she says, because the same kinds of cells that manufacture and receive emotional chemistry in the brain are present throughout the body."
Myss goes on to quote Dr. Pert as saying “Clearly, there’s another form of energy that we have not yet understood. For example, there’s a form of energy that appears to leave the body when the body dies…Your mind is in every cell of your body”. Our animals pick up on our energy and often take our emotions into themselves, so if you feel negative about the healing response your dog is experiencing, for example, or if you are worried about your cat’s sickness, the emotion becomes a part of the animal’s being as well; this depresses their immune system and makes it more difficult for their bodies to handle it. Therefore, it is really important to stay positive. The added bonus is that staying positive will have a beneficial effect on your own health as well as your animal!
At its essence, naturopathy is about supporting the mind/body/spirit to come back to and maintain balance. Naturopathy uses nutrition as the foundation for this, but as we have seen, every one of the eight laws of health is critical to keeping the body in balance. To truly support our animals on their path to true, sustained health, we must look at the mind/body/spirit connection and treat them holistically, rather than working to suppress symptoms and looking at the body from a mechanistic and reductionist viewpoint. And, just as importantly, we must remember that every individual, whether that individual is a human or an animal, possesses the innate ability to heal him or herself.
-By Kristin Clark
Photo credit: Milton Clark
Barkley experiencing fresh air, exercise, and sunshine, which rejuvenates his mind, body, and spirit, at the off-leash dog beach in Huntington Beach, CA.
Often when I mention the term “naturopathy” to someone, I get a blank stare and then a question—“What is that?” It sounds mysterious and foreign, and many people have never heard of naturopaths, particularly for animals. The goal of this article is to explain a little bit about what an animal naturopath is, what they do (and don’t do), and when you should seek one.
What is an animal naturopath?
Since most of us are familiar with veterinarians, it may be easiest to look at a table comparing veterinarians with animal naturopaths (also called animal health coaches).
As you can see, naturopaths are focused on education and supporting the body to maintain health, while many conventional veterinarians are focused on managing disease. Naturopaths help their clients learn how to support their animals in achieving and maintaining homeostasis and health. Rather than viewing disease symptoms as things to be eradicated, they look at them as helpful clues that tell us what is out of balance in the body. They then provide information on how the owner may be able to support the animal in bringing the body back into balance.
As an example, let’s look at a fairly common problem in today’s dogs: skin allergies. From an allopathic (conventional) viewpoint, skin allergies are looked at as a problem in and of themselves. If you take your dog to the veterinarian, they may give a steroid shot (which suppresses the immune system), or tell you to give your dog a drug like Benadryl to help “stop the itching.” There is generally very little discussion as to what may have caused the allergy, although they may do some tests and recommend that you begin a process of desensitization. They may also tell you that your dog is having a reaction to fleas (whether or not they find fleas on the dog). If the itching continues, they may continue to give the shots, tell you to keep giving your dog Benadryl (and possibly increase the dosage), or prescribe another drug. Ultimately, though, the focus is on stopping the itching and suppressing the allergy symptoms.
If you contact a naturopath about your dog’s allergies, he or she will tackle the issue very differently. Rather than approaching the case with the ultimate goal of suppressing the symptoms, the naturopath will view the symptoms as a sign that something is off in the body. They will work with you to figure out what your dog is eating, what sort of toxins are present in their environment, what kind of exercise they get, whether or not their water is clean and pure, and so on. Because naturopaths consider the diet to be the cornerstone of health, they will work with you to switch your dog to a species-appropriate diet. If needed, they will educate you about other natural healing modalities (such as aromatherapy or homeopathy) that will help support your dog’s body's ability to heal itself. They will educate you on why the allergies are occurring and how to address the root cause; this empowers you to take your dog’s health into your own hands and make informed, educated decisions about their health. They will also coach you through dealing with the healing response (for more about the healing response, see the article The Healing Response on page 27). At no point will they give your pet drugs or advise you to give them any. They will help you to see that the itching, while unpleasant for your dog, is a symptom of something deeper, and will help you understand how to support your dog to achieve true health, not just symptom suppression.
When Should I Consult with a Naturopath? Because conventional medicine is focused on disease care, not health care, we have learned as a society to wait until something is wrong before going to the doctor or taking our pets to the veterinarian. However, the best time to go to a naturopath is before there is an issue. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While naturopathy can be very effective at addressing issues that have already arisen, it is even more effective at helping the owner foster a situation where issues never gain a foothold. Often, people wait to consult with an animal naturopath or health coach until they’ve exhausted all the remedies that conventional medicine has to offer. It is best, though, to go to a naturopath when you first bring a new animal home. There are multiple benefits to doing this:
You help ensure that your pet has a strong foundation of health
You save money because you don’t have to take your animal to the veterinarian for anything other than emergencies (breaking a bone, getting hit by a car, etc.)
You gain the knowledge you need to empower you to take responsibility for your pet’s health and make informed decisions about what is truly best for them
Animal naturopaths don’t have to see your pet in person, so you can work with them no matter where you’re located. This makes it very convenient to work with them. Most of them will work with you via email, phone, or Skype, if they are not in your immediate area. To learn more or to start your search for a certified animal naturopath, visit: http://www.animalnaturopathy.org/practitioners/. This website lists all the naturopaths certified through the American Council of Animal Naturopathy (ACAN), and includes naturopaths all over the world.
-By Kristin Clark
Barkley and Elle enjoying a hike. Photo credit: Kristin Clark
Cleo out for a walk. Photo credit: Kristin Clark
food as medicine: starting a sarf diet
© Kewuwu | Dreamstime.com - A Wolf With A Piece Of Meat Photo
A wise person once said that a journey begins with a single step. This is true whether you are starting a physical journey or a journey into feeding your dog or cat a species-appropriate raw food (SARF) diet. It can be easy to get overwhelmed, particularly when you’re starting out. Because many of us didn’t grow up feeding our animals this way, we have a hard time imagining what it looks like and what to do. But don’t worry! At heart, it’s very simple. This article will guide you through how to get started. And later issues will explore different raw feeding questions you might have, such as how to find good suppliers or the percentages of bone in various animals (particularly useful if you’re feeding a prey model raw diet, or PMR).
Many people refer to a SARF diet as a “raw meaty bones” diet. While I have no problem with that, it can be slightly misleading. As you will see in this article, your dog needs more than just raw meat and bones. You should also include organs and even glands, where possible, in their diet.
So how exactly should you start a SARF diet? The answer varies depending on whether or not you are dealing with a cat or a dog. Cats can be finicky, and often need to be introduced to a SARF diet slowly, especially if they have been eating kibble or canned food for a long time. It is vitally important to make sure that they eat something, even if it is processed, to avoid development of a potentially lethal condition called hepatic lipidosis. We will go over tips on starting your cat on a SARF diet in a later issue, so we can give it the time and attention it deserves. But for dogs, it is best to start your journey into raw feeding with a quick, decisive step. Wait at least 8 hours from their last feeding (and really, 12-24 hours is best, because this gives their system a chance to digest and pass out the processed food), and then start feeding raw. If your dog doesn’t eat that meal, it’s OK to let them fast and try again at the next meal. It’s OK if they miss a few meals, and eventually healthy dogs will start eating the food you’re offering. And, the chances are good your dog may just dive right into the raw food, as if they instinctively know it's what they should be eating! If your dog still refuses to eat after a few days, contact a qualified naturopath for guidance.
Many people prefer to start their dog’s raw diet with chicken, because it is relatively inexpensive, easy to find, easy on the stomach, and full of soft digestible bones. It is also very bony (depending on the part you are feeding, it can vary from 15-59% bone), which helps firm up stool that may be softer due to the diet change and resulting detox. However, you don’t have to start with chicken—if you have ready access to a different protein source (beef, for example), start with that. Try to get organic or pasture-raised animals. Make sure that they are antibiotic- and hormone-free. And if you can’t find organic/pasture-raised, at least get a brand that isn’t enhanced (injected with saline and/or flavor enhancers). Feed the same protein source for at least a week, and preferably two, before you switch to a different protein source. Watch the stool to make sure it’s firm. You will notice that your dog’s poop is much smaller, breaks down more quickly, and that your dog doesn’t poop as much as he or she did when they were kibble-fed. Once the stool is consistently, but not overly, firm, start slowly introducing in organs. Start with liver and then start adding in other organ meats and glands. Basically, this includes all the parts that secrete and are squishy. You can feed all kinds of parts, such as liver, kidneys, blood, eyes, testicles, lungs, brains, and so on. You can also start introducing other protein sources, but make sure to monitor your dog’s reaction to these changes. The key here is moderation, and there is no need to rush the introduction of new proteins or organs. Your dog will achieve a balanced diet over time, so whatever nutrients it doesn’t get in its meal today it will get tomorrow, or the day after that. This is the way that animals in the wild also eat—with balance over time. If they required all of their meals to be balanced in and of themselves each and every time, they would not be able to function at an optimal level consistently. Our carnivore pets are the same way.
When figuring out how much to feed your dog or cat, aim to feed about 2-3% of its body weight per day. For puppies and kittens, aim to feed about 2-3% of their ideal adult body weight per day. If you have no idea what your puppy’s or kitten’s ideal adult body weight will be, you can aim for 10% of their current ideal body weight, but monitor their weight changes and adjust the amount given as they grow. If your dog or cat is underweight or overweight, you can adjust the amount you are feeding to help them achieve their optimal weight. Keep in mind that many kibble-fed dogs are overweight, and as a society we are used to seeing animals that are too heavy. When you look at your dog or cat, you should be able to easily feel their ribs but not see them (unless their fur is very short). When you look down at your pet from above, you should see a narrowing where their hips are. If you cannot feel their ribs easily or see this narrowing, they are too heavy. If their ribs or hip bones jut out sharply, they are too thin. If their weight does need adjusting, do it slowly (balance over time!), and remember that it is better to have an animal that is slightly thin than slightly heavy.
Feeding your dog a SARF diet attempts to mimic what carnivores in the wild, particularly wolves, eat. The prey animals typically consumed by wolves and other predators in the wild are generally about 80-85% meat (including muscle meat, fat, connective tissue, skin, heart, lungs, and so on), 10-15% edible bone, and 5-10% organs. Therefore, general guidelines for a raw meaty bones diet are about 80% meat, 10% bone, 5% liver, and 5% other organs. This is achieved over time, so if, for example, you feed a lot of meat with less bone for several days in a row, aim to feed a bit more bone at the next meal. Aim to achieve these percentages over the course of a week.
General percentages for a SARF diet:
To calculate how much to feed your dog or cat, figure out how much they weigh (or what their ideal weight is). Let’s assume you have a dog that weighs 40 pounds and you want to feed them 2% of their body weight per day. To get the total amount of meat, bone, and organs to feed, convert the percentage fed into a decimal: 2 ÷ 100 = 0.02. Then, to figure out the total weight in pounds your dog should eat per day (including treats!), multiply your dog’s weight (or ideal weight) by the decimal: 40 pounds x 0.02 = 0.8 lbs. You can then convert this to ounces to make it easier to figure out how much bone, meat, and organs to feed. To do this, multiply the pounds your dog should eat per day by 16: 0.8 x 16 = 12.8 ounces. Now, figure out how much this is per week (since you are balancing over time, not daily): 12.8 ounces x 7 (days in week) = 89.6 ounces/week. Now multiply this figure by the various percentages of meat, bone, and organ:
Meat/week: 89.6 ounces x 0.80 = 71.68
Bone/week: 89.6 ounces x 0.10 = 8.96
Liver/week: 89.6 ounces x 0.05 = 4.48
Non-liver/week: 89.6 ounces x 0.05 = 4.48
Feeding your carnivore pets a SARF diet may take some getting used to, but it is critical to supporting the body to maintain optimal health. Our dogs and cats have an innate need for raw meat, bones, and organs, and feeding them what they are designed to eat fulfills them holistically—mind, body, and spirit. There is a joy that is evident on a dog’s face when he or she crunches their way through a bone or gulps down raw meat, because it is what they were designed for. Providing them with a species-appropriate raw diet is the foundation of maintaining health; without feeding this way, they cannot thrive or live the way that nature intended.
The information and guidelines presented in this article are for general informational purposes only. If you want specific guidance about your dog and its needs, particularly if it already has some health issues or has been on a conventional diet for a long time, I recommend that you consult with a qualified animal naturopath. See the article Animal Naturopaths for more information.
-By Kristin Clark
Our dogs and cats have an innate need for raw meat, bones, and organs, and feeding them what they are designed to eat fulfills them holistically—mind, body, and spirit.
© Fotokate | Dreamstime.com - German Shepherd Dog ( Alsatian ) Eating Bone. Photo
For life to thrive, it must be properly nourished. This goes for humans, for wild animals, and of course for our pets. The right food is the key to optimal health. This means, of course, feeding our pets exactly what they have, as a species, been designed to eat, or at least as close to that as possible. In “raw” speak, this is often referred to as species-appropriate raw food, or SARF. But what exactly is a SARF diet for our carnivore pets? In essence, the SARF diet entails feeding cats and dogs raw meat, bones, and organs/glands. While the SARF diet is relatively easy to understand and implement, many people continue to be resistant to it, usually for one simple reason: fear. This fear can take many different shapes, but at its heart it is a fear based on misinformation or lack of information. If you have some anxieties about switching your dog or cat to a carnivore diet, read on! This article goes over some of the most common concerns about the SARF diet and should hopefully ease your mind about it.
One of the most prevalent apprehensions is that the dog or cat will choke on a bone or a bone will perforate their stomach. People are also sometimes concerned about bacteria such as salmonella and/or parasites. They worry about constipation and diarrhea. Some worry that a raw diet will cause pancreatitis or some other disease. And some think a raw diet will make their pet vicious. These fears are the result of decades-long programming by vets and mainstream media; upon closer examination, it becomes clear that these anxieties are generally unfounded. Let’s take a look at each one.
Choking and other fears about feeding bones
Many people are initially nervous about switching their pets to a raw diet because they worry that their dog or cat may choke on a bone. Choking is primarily caused by eating something that is too small. Carnivores don’t chew their food—instead they rip, tear, shred, and gulp—so sometimes they choke when eating something small, like a piece of kibble or a very small bone. When a dog eats appropriately sized raw meaty bones, they must spend time ripping the meat off the bone and scraping the cartilage and tendons off to separate the muscle from the bone. This slows down the rate at which they can inhale their food, significantly reducing the threat of choking (especially when compared to eating something like kibble). Remember, too, that carnivores are able to regurgitate their food. Sometimes your pet may "yack" its food back up. This generally happens when it has not pulverized the food to a small enough piece; it will bring it back up and then eat it again. This differs from vomiting and is no cause for worry.
Sometimes people worry that a bone may perforate their pet's stomach or intestinal lining. As long as the bone is raw, this is not a cause for concern. Cooked bones may splinter and pierce the stomach lining, but raw bones are much softer and more flexible, and they do not splinter into pieces that can pierce. Dogs and cats should not be fed cooked meat and bones, only raw, so this is not an issue.
Many times, I have heard people express a concern that a SARF diet carries a high risk of salmonella and e. coli infection (or possibly some other bacteria). Bacteria such as salmonella and e. coli are naturally present in both us and our carnivore pets. The issue only arises when there is an imbalance and the salmonella or e. coli numbers get out of control, which creates an imbalance in animals or humans with weakened immune systems. While raw meat and bones do contain these bacteria, kibble—and the meat you may prepare for your own meals—also do. Normal precautions, such as washing your hands thoroughly after preparing your dog’s meal (i.e. cutting it up into the appropriate size for your dog) and cleaning the cutting surface, will ensure that these bacteria do not become an issue.
Diarrhea and constipation
Diarrhea and constipation are issues that can occur if our pets are fed too much bone (constipation), too little bone (diarrhea), or introduced too quickly to rich organ meat or a new protein source (diarrhea). They can also occur when a dog or cat is transitioning off of kibble or canned food onto a raw diet. In the case of constipation, decrease the amount of bone you are feeding. Remember that one of the tenets of a successful SARF diet is balance over time, which means that you can feed a bit less bone for a few days and then increase the bone percentage if needed when your pet’s stool has returned to normal. Similarly, the idea of balance over time can help when transitioning a dog to rich organ meat or a new protein source. Until your dog or cat has gotten established on a raw diet, introduce new proteins and organs slowly. And if your pet is transitioning from a processed diet, again, go slowly (for example, feeding only chicken for the first couple weeks) to allow their body time to start shedding out the toxins present as a result of feeding the kibble. Give them a chance to detox and move through the healing response before introducing new and richer protein sources. Once the raw diet is established, though, you will find that you can introduce variety more quickly. And remember the adage “Know thy dog (or cat).” Watch their stool, watch their demeanor, and watch how they react to various proteins and sizes of meals. While you may still see occasional tummy upsets, you will be able to adjust what you are feeding to assist your dog or cat through those upsets while still achieving balance over time. For example, I know that our Canaan dog, Cleo, has a hard time digesting large amounts of liver, so I tend to give her smaller portions of liver over several days. Barkely and Elle, on the other hand, can easily digest liver, so I often give them their weekly liver portion all at once.
Another major fear I have heard expressed is that a raw diet will cause pancreatitis (or some other disease, such as kidney disease). However, in actuality, dogs and cats are hardwired to eat raw meat, bones, and organs, and switching to a raw diet does not cause these diseases. The body was already out of balance, for whatever reason, and this imbalance presented as pancreatitis or kidney disease when the body began to go through the healing response and throw off the toxins. Healthy animals will not present with disease when switched to a raw diet. If a dog or cat does exhibit disease symptoms when switched to a raw diet, it is important to stay with the diet to start giving the body the nutrients it needs to heal itself. If necessary, other modalities may be used to lend the body additional support, but as mentioned before, proper nutrition is at the heart of health.
Some people have told me that they think their dog or cat may become vicious and aggressive eating a SARF diet. They seem to think that their pet will develop a taste for blood and turn into a dangerous killer. In all actuality, though, raw-fed dogs and cats are generally much calmer than their kibble-fed counterparts. This is because they are getting the nutrients they need, they are burning energy eating their food (they have to work at getting the meat off the bone and crunching through the bone), and the very act of eating taps into something primal and satisfying for them. There are plenty of reports of raw fed dogs and cats peacefully co-existing with other animals.
Cost and convenience
Some people are also initially reluctant to start their pets on a SARF diet because they worry it may be too expensive or because they think it may be inconvenient. However, most people find that, after some practice and experimentation, feeding a SARF diet is just as easy as feeding kibble. There are also lots of resources available for finding a good source of quality meat at a reasonable price. And because your pet won’t have lots of the health issues that a kibble-fed animal will, you save money in the long run on vet bills, teeth cleaning, and even things like anal gland expression. Remember that health is not about convenience, it is about providing the body with the support it needs to keep itself in optimal health. It is much more convenient to feed a SARF diet than to constantly take your pet to the vet to deal with the issues feeding a processed diet causes. And ultimately, because raw meat, bones, and organs are essential for carnivores such as your dog or cat, feeding a SARF diet will allow your pet to live longer and have a much greater quality of life while it is here.
-By Kristin Clark
fears about feeding raw
Cleo with a goose wing. Photo credit: Kristin Clark
Bella, an Italian Greyhound, enjoying a raw meaty bone. Photo credit: Erin O'Connor
© Leoba1 | Dreamstime.com - Sick Cat With Ice Pack And Thermometer Isolated Photo
the healing response
If your dog or cat has been on a conventional processed-food diet and has been exposed to toxins (such as commercial flea and tick preventatives), their bodies are not operating at optimal health. When you move them to a species-appropriate raw food (SARF) diet and eliminate chemical toxins, you may see them go through a healing response (also called a healing crisis). This healing response is a natural part of the healing and detoxing process; in fact, it is the initial phase of healing. It occurs when the body starts to detoxify. Essentially, when an animal’s body gets out of balance because it has taken in more toxins than the liver, kidneys, and lungs can filter out (toxins can come from diet, vaccines, medicines, etc.), the body starts an intense detoxification process. As a result of this detoxification, the body may display illness-like symptoms that range in severity from mild to intense. This is because the body’s systems are working to eliminate waste products and toxins, which sets the body up for healing and regeneration. The symptoms of detoxification can include things like lethargy, joint pain and stiffness, bad breath, mucous discharge, skin rashes, hot spots, diarrhea, and vomiting. If you are following a conventional approach and your dog or cat begins to exhibit illness-like symptoms, it is a sign that their body is unable to flush out the toxins faster than more toxins are coming in. If no changes are made and the toxins continue to come in faster than the body can get rid of them, then the acute conditions (in other words, the symptoms) will develop into chronic disease. However, if changes are made to reduce the amount of toxins coming in—for example, the diet is changed so that it is species-appropriate and toxins (such as flea and tick preventatives) are no longer introduced, the body can start to shed the toxins and come back into balance. When this shedding of toxins occurs, you will see the healing response. It is important to know that, while the healing response includes symptoms that are similar to those it displayed prior to the healing response, the healing response itself is not an indicator of disease or illness. Rather, it is an essential part of the healing process because it allows the body to rid itself of the toxins and morbid matter that were contributing to illness and, if left unchecked, would eventually turn into chronic disease.
The healing response differs among each animal. It can occur immediately upon switching to a more natural approach, or it may take several months to appear. It can also last for different lengths of time. A general rule of thumb is that the healing response can last for one month for each year of the animal’s life. However, this varies greatly by individual and by how you approach the detoxification process. Viewing the healing response positively can be incredibly beneficial—and it should be viewed in a positive light, because it is an indication that your pet is starting to truly heal. If you lack trust in the natural healing process, you may have a tendency to see the healing response as an indicator of illness and return to conventional medicine to suppress the presenting symptoms. But, by understanding that natural healing works slowly and that the ultimate goal is true health, not just symptom suppression, you can step back and let the animal’s body heal itself. Part of our role in caring for our animals is to give their bodies what they need to support them through the healing process (which includes the healing response). We also must keep in mind that treating our animals holistically involves addressing mind, body, and spirit. This means that when we see the healing response, the best approach is to actually get excited about it. Our animals pick up on our emotions, and feeling sorry for them as their body is detoxifying can drag the process out and make it more miserable for everyone. On the other hand, if you can look at it as a cause for celebration—after all, your pet is starting to achieve true health and wellness, which can only lead to a better quality, longer life—your pet will pick up on that and will heal more quickly.
In some instances, the healing response becomes too intense for the body. In these instances, it is important to seek out the services of a qualified naturopath. They can help your pet get through the healing response without further damage being caused. They may provide additional support in the form of herbs, essential oils, or some other natural therapy. They may also slow down the rate of detoxification to allow your animal’s system more time to detox. Seek the guidance of a qualified naturopath if you have any concerns about your animal’s welfare during the healing response. For more about naturopaths, including how to find one, see the article Animal Naturopaths on page 17.
With trust, patience, and lots of love, your pet will move through the healing response and will finally achieve true health and wellness, not just a Band-Aid suppression of symptoms that will eventually blow into a full-scale, chronic disease.
-By Kristin Clark
© Sergey Rasulov | Dreamstime.com
the mirrors of us
Photo credit: Jessica Neuner
There is a wonderful book by Marta Williams called My Animal, My Self. Throughout the book, Williams continually shows how our companion animals, be they dogs, cats, horses, birds, or another species of animal, mirror us and, in so doing, become our teachers and healers. Anyone who has shared their life with an animal can attest to this. In their own quiet way, they show us where we are mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. By living in the now, they provide us with feedback, sometimes even before we are aware of it ourselves, of exactly how we are feeling. They show us areas that we need to grow, and they do it all with unconditional love that makes it easier to accept the lesson.
While I think it is safe to say that we love all the animals that pass through our lives, often there is one particular animal that seems to be our “soul” dog (or cat, or horse, or bird). This animal seems to find us at a time in our lives when we need them most, and they seem to know exactly what we need and then generously, unflinchingly, provide it wholeheartedly.
I would like to share part of the story of my soul dog, Barkley. He came to me about 5 years ago, when he was (we think) about 3. I have always been a dog lover and grew up with dogs, but while I was in college and throughout most of my 20s, I didn’t live anywhere that I could have one. I had 3 rescue cats, all of whom I adored, but for me it wasn’t the same as having a dog. When I bought a house, I knew the time was right. I contacted Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah and told them I was looking for a very social, active dog that got along well with other dogs, people, cats, and enjoyed going to the dog park and going for runs. They told me to come visit and we would find a dog. I live in California, so a few weeks later, in August of 2010, a friend of mine and I got in the car to take a road trip to the Sanctuary. When we got there, they told me that there was a dog named Chad available that seemed to get along with cats. I asked them to show him to me, but they were a bit hesitant—warning me that he might bark at me and not be friendly. I had a particular feeling though, so I told them that was ok and to please bring him out. When he came out and our eyes met, there was an instant connection. He came right over to me and lightly leaned against me like we knew each other. I was hooked, and after taking him for a little walk, I signed the adoption papers. My friend and I drove back home with my new dog, now named Barkley (after the dog in Sesame Street), in the back seat.
It soon became apparent that Barkley, while completely trusting me, had not been properly socialized. He barked and snapped at strangers, lunged at anyone who got to close, tried to attack other dogs, chased the cat, and gouged chunks out of my front door with his teeth whenever the mailman came. Essentially, he was the complete antithesis of what I had originally thought I wanted. And so, it fell upon me to figure out a way to work with him so that we could all get along. During that long, often frustrating, humbling, and slow process, I learned how to lighten up and be more welcoming to new people. I learned that I had a tendency to be a bit suspicious of strangers, and I also learned that I had a habit of worrying—a lot. Through working with Barkley, I found that he was an instant mirror for my emotions. On days when I was frazzled and stressed, his reactivity would shoot through the roof. On days when I was calm, he was almost zen-like. Of course we worked on obedience, but all the obedience in the world didn’t help if I wasn’t under control first. I started working on myself, meditating, and clearly communicating my feelings and needs to people in my life, and found a state of calm and joy that I never thought possible. And as I grew, so did Barkley. His reactivity calmed down considerably, and now when he has an episode I can stop it almost before it begins. And on days when I can’t, it’s a reminder to get myself back under control, because invariably it is tied to my moods and emotions. Sometimes that involves taking a time out. Sometimes it involves a brief meditation or listening to some calming music. Sometimes it involves turning to some Lavender essential oil, or just gently petting my dogs and cat and basking in their energy. But no matter what, it’s a reminder to take care of myself.
My dog is still a work in progress, but then, so am I. He is a source of inspiration to me, and a catalyst for much of the direction my life has taken. He didn’t just teach me about finding calm in my own life (no matter what is going on around me), he also started me on the path of naturopathy and raw feeding. He had always had problems with skin allergies, but eventually they got really bad. He was biting at his chest and legs so much that all the hair was gone, he was whining constantly, and he couldn’t sleep because he was so itchy. Vets couldn’t figure out what the problem was, and their best solution seemed to be to suppress the symptoms. Nothing they did helped in any significant way or for any significant length of time. I wanted true healing for him, so I started doing some research. I found out about naturopathy and raw feeding, and have been feeding him raw and learning everything I can about raw feeding and natural healing ever since. His allergies subsided, and as a bonus I found my true calling. Without him, I may not have gotten into this field and discovered the incredible passion I possess for helping other people help their pets achieve true wellness.
I invite you to share with me your story about your soul animal. The stories you tell may be shared in upcoming issues of Raw Pet Digest. I also look forward to sharing other stories about how our animals act as our healers, our teachers, and our inspiration in upcoming articles. Living and healing naturally involves every aspect of ourselves—mind, body, and spirit—and I am so excited to share stories about the bonds we share with our animals that encompass each of these things. To submit a story about your soul animal, please email me directly at email@example.com. Please make sure to include your pet’s name, your name, and a picture (or pictures) of you and your animal.
-By Kristin Clark
Our animals seem to know exactly what we need and then generously, unflinchingly, provide it wholeheartedly.
Photo credit: Peg Clark
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RAW PET DIGEST April/May 2015