Health is still somewhat of a mystery. It can be elusive. There are multiple components to health. Exercise. Diet. Environment. Age. Genetics. Sleep patterns. Access to quality health care. Plus about another dozen items. 20yrs ago that list was shorter, because we knew less. In 20yrs, the list is going to be longer as we learn more.
Health is bigger than diet, but diet is an important piece because it influences genetics. Put simply, what you eat won’t change the sequence of your DNA, but your diet has a profound effect on how you “express” the possibilities encoded in your DNA. The foods you consume can turn on or off certain genetic markers which play a major – and even life or death – role in your health outcomes.
Some genes determine your hair color or texture. They’re determinate. Others might make you prone to being thin or heavy, or being an alcoholic. You can make life decisions to avoid those tendencies, because they aren’t genetically determinate.
When it comes to health, most of us don’t eat a perfect diet. But yet we live relatively healthy lives. Then there are those who are genetically different, exceptions to the rule. Like the 100yr old celebrating their birthday revealing bacon, eggs, some whisky, and a few cigarettes/cigars a day are the secret to health. George Burns comes to mind.
Then there is the marathon runner that drops dead at 35. Bob Harper, fitness guru, had a heart attack at 51, after living what might have been a life of ‘perfect’ health.
All of this applies equally to dogs and cats. We’re similar enough genetically to know we’re all in the same boat when it comes to health.
Take for example TobyKeith, the Guinness Record holder as the oldest dog, a Chihuahua. He claimed the crown at 21 years and 66 days old. His secret: a daily walk and a slice of turkey. His pet parent, who adopted him as a pup, also credits good genetics and a loving home.
There’s Creme Puff (August 3, 1967 – August 6, 2005), a domestic cat, owned by Jake Perry of Austin, Texas, US. She was the oldest cat ever recorded, according to the 2010 edition of Guinness World Records. Creme Puff’s owner, Jake Perry, said her diet consisted of dry cat food supplemented with broccoli, eggs, turkey bacon, coffee with cream, and—every two days—”an eyedropper full of red wine.” Perry claimed that this diet was key to her longevity, and that the wine “circulated the arteries.”
Our cat Sam passed in late 2020, a week before his 3rd birthday. Sam was born with severe kidney issues. His vet didn’t think he’d last a year. We provided him with ample exercise, a great home life, unlimited love, and the best diet tailored to his specific kidney needs. His vet was astonished Sam made it 9mos, let alone 3yrs. We’d like to think his custom diet and our actions helped him live as long as he did.
The point of this article isn’t to throw up our hands and conclude our pet’s health is in the hands of fate, out of our control and in the roulette of genetics. The point is there are extremes with health and diet, and because those stories are extreme they’re popular, but also the few and NOT the norm.
The objective of feeding the best diet is you increase the odds of generating the best health in your cat or dog even though there is no guarantee that it’ll pay off. But it’s all about stacking the odds in your pet’s favor.
If you had a chronic health issue, your physician would probably tell you to lay off the processed and fast foods. Shop on the outer edge of the grocery store: fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, etc. It’s because the more whole, less processed food is remarkably more healthy. Natural vitamins and minerals, not synthetic versions. Kibble and canned pet foods are highly processed and heavily use unnatural ingredients.
The more you process food, the less healthy it becomes. Is a grilled pork chop better than an equal amount of SPAM? Processing means more chemicals/ingredients and additives needed to make the food palatable to the eyes and taste. The more complex the formulation, the greater the odds of adverse interactions with your body. Our bodies weren’t designed to efficiently process red dye #3, gums, natural flavors, nor was your cat’s.
The bodies of cats, dogs, humans, moose, fish, parrots, etc do best on simple diets of whole, natural, unprocessed foods. The more processed food you feed, the more chemicals in the diet, which makes the odds of your cat or dog developing a chronic health condition increase. Same for your diet!
You can’t know what or what combination of things that will trigger CKD, pancreatitis, diabetes, cushings, hyper/hypo thyroid, and other chronic conditions. Or if it’s in your pet’s genetic make-up. But you do know whole, fresh foods are good and are far less likely to cause or trigger poor health.
This article was a long way of knocking down a few things we encounter frequently. The “I know someone’s dog ate kibble every day for 20yrs and was fine” stories. Or, “I know an athlete who did everything right but died young”. These examples are sometimes lore, at the very least not the rule, and shouldn’t be used to maintain a poor diet.
Health is complex, but diet a big part of it. I’m a fan of prevention over cure, stacking the odds in my favor. Feed whole, natural, minimally processed foods for the best health and the least likelihood of developing a chronic condition. That’s Fetching Foods’ nutritional philosophy, is to use the best quality ingredients in a simple but powerful combination that supports your pet’s genome.