Yet another blog about whole foods

Soon I’ll be blogging about my new gardens in extreme detail, but I just wanted to get in one more reminder about the amazing healing power of species-appropriate whole foods.  For humans and dogs, and, really, all living beings, this is so important.

So many folks still feed dry and canned dog food to their beloved companions. But then, the American human diet is in shambles, too. It’s difficult to resist all the advertising and fast food that surrounds us.

Feeding whole, species-appropriate foods to your dog or cat is similar in many ways to a human adopting a Paleo diet. It means taking a look at what we were designed to eat. Or we can look at it another way by asking: What kinds of foods really WORK for us and our animal friends? Which foods provide bioavailable, easy to digest nutrients that support organ systems and supply the necessary nutrients for cellular vitality? Can these foods be delicious, too? (Yes!) We all need a series of very specific nutrients to allow the chemistry of our bodies work at top efficiency. Having vibrant energy for participating in fun and meaningful activities, being able to rebuild muscles and joints, living pain-free, recovering and healing from injury or illness, simply enjoying being inside our bodies, looking good, feeling happy and relaxed – all these are supported by consuming high quality protein, vegetables, greens, nuts, seeds and fruit in whatever combination works best for you or your animal companion.

Heat processed dog and cat food may seem like a good and tasty food for your friend. And it’s pretty much available everywhere, just like McDonald’s burgers and fries, Pringles potato chips, Velveeta, Spam or Stouffer’s frozen dinners. But hidden in the ingredients and processing are substances that cause problems in our bodily functions at the cellular level. Damaged fats, chemical preservatives, artificial flavors and a general lack of nutrition make it challenging for our bodies to extract any existing nutrients and excrete the waste products, taxing the digestive and immune systems. Over time, the lack of nutrients plus the extra burden of chemicals and damaged ingredients takes a toll, often showing up as inflammation in the form of frequent infections, allergies, pain and discomfort, swelling, and many other imbalances.

The fats we ingest supply our bodies with the essential fatty acids from which our cells are composed. I’m POSITIVE I don’t want my cell walls to be constructed of damaged fats. That goes for my animal companions too. Freeze dried, raw, dehydrated or lightly cooked foods are infinitely more digestible and bioavailable than any dry or canned food, and the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids and other nutrients remain intact. More delicious for your dog, too. Give it a try for one month. You will see results.

Zero enzymes in dry and canned food. Zero, zip, nada. That’s a problem.

The enzymes that circulate in our bodies are not just for digesting our food. And we each have an allotted number of enzymes to expend throughout our lifetimes. Enzyme activity transports nutrients, helps the body grow and rebuild, removes toxins, and generally keeps things moving in a positive manner all throughout our various organ systems. We all benefit greatly from consuming enzyme-rich, raw foods as part of our diet. Raw greens, fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables have a lot to offer in the way of nutrition and healing for both humans and animal companions.

Wild canines eating a species-appropriate raw diet expend very few of their own enzymes to digest their food, because the food is fresh and loaded with living enzymes that actually contribute greatly to the digestive process. These same wild canines have an interesting physiological reaction when fed dry food – the pancreas enlarges in order to produce more enzymes to compensate for the lack of enzymes in the food. Their personal enzyme bank begins to become depleted.

The same type of thing happens to humans who eat a lot of processed food, sugar, damaged fat, and chemicals.  Our digestive systems become congested or inflamed, which leads to further issues down the road.  Or we might develop an itchy rash, ear infection or other unpleasant symptom. Inflammation takes many forms.  It’s a message from the body!  Don’t ignore it.  You can improve your diet in small increments.  With dogs and cats, you can make the change to whole food more quickly.

The congestion/inflammation scenario often spirals downward as we age, and as our enzyme and nutrient banks become overdrawn. Inflammation, in its many forms, creeps in and becomes chronic. If we medicate instead of resolving the imbalance, the problem becomes compounded as the organs of elimination have to work harder to break down and excrete yet another foreign substance.

Why deplete your dog’s digestive and immune systems with food that is unrecognizable, baked at very high temperatures, and has an almost indefinite shelf life? Heat processed foods are the biggest contributors to allergies, ear infections, itching, overweight, dental issues, digestive disorders – including pancreatitis, body odor and even worse. I have spoken with literally thousands of people regarding this subject over the years.

The good news?  Health and well being can be recovered by switching to a whole food diet. I’ve seen these miraculous recoveries happen for thousands of dogs and cats.  People, too!  My own experience with including more nutritious foods and supplements in my own diet has been nothing short of miraculous.  I focus on what really works for me – greens, some fruit, lots of vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other high quality proteins. I avoid “problem” foods.

Here are some food options for your canine friend that are super nourishing, delicious and economical. Added benefits include: way fewer visits to the vet, better dental health, optimal body weight, emotional balance, shiny coats, and good energy. And very happy dogs at meal time. Keep in mind that dehydrated foods expand when they are rehydrated, so the 8 pound bag of Sojos Complete makes about 40 pounds of food. Really economical.

High quality protein can include eggs (raw yolks,  or boiled, scrambled, poached), freshwater fish (a frozen fish makes a great meal for a large dog!), human foods to share with your dog (meatloaf, bison burgers, turkey meat, soups, stews, salads, sweet potatoes), and any of the dehydrated, freeze dried or raw dog food blends (Primal, Stella & Chewy’s, Dr. Harvey’s, Sojos, Only Natural Pet). Or any combination of the above! Really a good idea to rotate proteins and ingredients.

Including raw fruits and vegetables in your dog’s diet offers amazing health benefits. Broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, kale, chard, spinach, lettuces, apples, and berries are all excellent sources of enzymes, minerals, bioflavonoids, and vitamins. Great for keeping those teeth clean and shiny.

Lily loves her greens, and it shows!

Lily loves her greens, and it shows!

Lily adores raw sweet potato and broccoli. She loves cabbage. Apples and raw almonds are also favorite treats. Eating a whole food diet with additional supplements was literally a life-saver for her.  Most of what I now know about canine nutrition I learned from my adorable, beloved Lily.

Greens and nutritive herbs are super good for dogs. During the last couple summers, I grew a big pot of oats. I noticed my dogs made a beeline to munch on the oat grass every morning. I grew oats in order to make milky oat tincture, and the fact that the dogs ate the grass with such enthusiasm (which didn’t stop the plant from producing oats later) was a major side benefit. They also grazed on the leaves of Rudbeckia on a regular basis. My little dog would grab a bite of comfrey leaf almost every day as we wandered through the garden.


When I deadheaded and pruned Echinacea purpurea, I would throw a few stems to my dogs. My big shepherd, Ozzie, would rip off the leaves and eat them with gusto.

I make a rotation of green blends for my animal friends. It’s easy to do, and cost effective when you make it yourself. Here is one simple formula for dogs:

1/4 c wheat grass powder
1/4 c Spirulina
1/4 c nutritional yeast powder
1/4 c NOW brand Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C)
1/4 c organic grated coconut

Give 1 tsp per meal for a 20 pound dog. Make a larger batch for multiple dogs or big dogs. Great stuff!

Wheat Grass and Spirulina are remineralizing, cleansing, and support your dog’s digestive system.  Other super nourishing green powders: Nettle, Violet Leaf, Dandelion.

Nutritional Yeast is loaded with B vitamins for good energy, calm nervous system, nourished liver function.

Vitamin C – we could all use some extra C! Since our world is so stressful and toxic, I add this important detoxifying nutrient based on my own amazing experiences of ingesting way more than the Recommended Daily Allowance on a regular basis. Thank you, Linus Pauling, Andrew Saul and Dr. Tom Levy, among others. Wendell Belfield, DVM, has done extensive research on immunity and nutrition in both dogs and cats, for which I will be eternally grateful. His books are a joy to read. Dr. Belfield recommends the sodium ascorbate form of Vitamin C for dogs and cats (and Linus Pauling recommends it for people). My companions receive this nutrient every day.

Coconut provides beneficial essential fatty acids, and the added bonus of fiber and beneficial anti-bacterial properties for digestive support.

My philosophy about feeding my animals and myself is to make every bite count. For dog treats, I often feed raw vegetables, raw nuts and a few fruits (apples and berries). Absolutely no baked treats for any of my animal friends.

And, of course, both dogs and cats benefit greatly from consuming organ meat. I’m not a big fan of handling raw liver and such, so I buy freeze dried lamb lung, boar’s heart, liver, tripe and other delicacies and use them as treats.

ChandraBeautyShotFeb15Since cats are obligate carnivores, supplying some organ meat throughout the day creates a balanced state in my feline friend, Zandra. And she is gorgeous! Just ask her!

Zandra’s green blend right now:
1 c nutritional yeast
1/4 c spirulina
1/4 c sodium ascorbate powder
1/4 c lecithin granules
1/4 c barley grass powder

Oh, she loves it!!!


I hope you are already feeding a whole food diet to your animal friends.  If not, give it some serious consideration.  Results are often miraculous!  Your animals will definitely thank you.

If you are looking for ideas, check out my e-book,  The Whole Food Recipe Book for Dogs and Cats.


Recommended Reading

Belfield, Wendell O., and Martin Zucker. How to Have a Healthier Dog: The Benefits of Vitamins and Minerals for Your Dog’s Life Cycles. New York: New American Library, 1981. Print.

Belfield, Wendell O., and Martin Zucker. The Very Healthy Cat Book: A Vitamin and Mineral Program for Optimal Feline Health. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983. Print.

Bernard, Michelle T. Raising Cats Naturally: How to Care for Your Cat the Way Nature Intended. Lincolnton, NC: Blakkatz Pub., 2003. Print.

Frazier, Anitra, Norma Eckroate, and Anitra Frazier. The Natural Cat: The Comprehensive Guide to Optimum Care. New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2008. Print.

Goldstein, Martin. The Nature of Animal Healing. New York: Random House International, 2001. Print.

Kidd, Randy. Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Cat Care. Pownal, VT: Storey, 2000. Print.

Kidd, Randy. Dr. Kidd’s Guide to Herbal Dog Care. Pownal: Storey, 2000. Print.

Lipman, Frank, and Stephanie Gunning. Total Renewal: 7 Key Steps to Resilience, Vitality, and Long-term Health. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2003. Print.

Martin, Ann N. Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts about Pet Food. Troutdale, Or.: NewSagePress, 2008. Print.

Pedersen, Mark. Nutritional Herbology: Including the Nutritional Profiles of 106 Commonly Used Herbs and Foods. Bountiful, Utah (P.O. Box 761, Bountiful 84010): Pedersen Pub., 1987. Print.

Pitcairn, Richard, and Susan Pitcairn. Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. [S.l.]: Rodale P., U.S., 83:. Print.

Plechner, Alfred J., and Martin Zucker. Pets at Risk: From Allergies to Cancer, Remedies for an Unsuspected Epidemic. Troutdale, OR: NewSage, 2003. Print.

Pottenger, Francis M., Elaine Pottenger, and Robert T. Pottenger. Pottenger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition. La Mesa, CA (P.O. Box 2614, La Mesa 92041): Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, 1983. Print.

Puotinen, C. J. The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care. Los Angeles: Keats Pub., 2000. Print.

Schwartz, Cheryl. Four Paws, Five Directions: A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dogs. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1996. Print.

Tilford, Gregory L., Mary Wulff-Tilford, and Mary Wulff-Tilford. Herbs for Pets: The Natural Way to Enhance Your Pet’s Life. Laguna Hills, CA: BowTie, 2009. Print.

Zucker, Martin. The Veterinarians’ Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs: Safe and Effective Alternative Treatments and Healing Techniques from the Nation’s Top Holistic Veterinarians. New York: Three Rivers, 1999. Print.

About Sarah Wadleigh

I am a Clinical Herbalist, Organic Gardener and Nutritional Consultant for people and companion animals. I live in Madrid, New Mexico with my wonderful husband, two little dogs and a big cat. My practice revolves around helping people create health through whole-food nutrition, nutritive herbs, lifestyle and self-awareness. With more than 20 years of experience as an animal nutritional counselor, I offer consultations to improve the health and well-being of our four-legged friends, as well as their humans. We can work together via Skype, in person,or over the phone. Let's create health for ourselves and our animal companions! Contact:
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2 Responses to Yet another blog about whole foods

  1. Martha says:

    Wow! So much information. Thanks for sharing with the world!

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