Dr. Richard Pitcairn, DVM, published Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats in 1982 to encourage healthier diets for companion animals. As time went on, he realized that in the context of today's factory farming system, it is optimal to feed our pets a plant-based diet. He emphasizes three main factors — health, resources, and ethics.
Very important to most people is that their dogs are healthy and happy. I have been a veterinarian for 50 years now and seen an evolution in the health of animals, an evolution that is not in a favorable direction. Very often dogs are presented to the veterinarian with persistent, chronic, and difficult to treat, conditions. These are not the straight-forward problems like vomiting from eating spoiled food, or having an infectious disease like Distemper or Parvo virus. The bulk of health problems are not this chronic pattern. The face of veterinary medicine has changed and though many drugs are available to us, in all honesty, we are not really able to restore complete health to most of these animals. Why not is a good question.
I have looked into this over the years and finally came to realize the importance of the food eaten as a major factor in these health disorders. The evolution of agriculture and factory farming, as mentioned above, has resulted in an incredible contamination of our food supply. When dogs and cats have been tested for the chemicals that have accumulated in their tissues, the amounts that have accumulated is higher than what is in we humans, which is already quite high. In one study by the Environmental Working Group, testing blood and urine of dogs, 35 chemicals were detected – 40% of them at higher levels than in people. This is highly significant as these toxic chemicals include ones that, for example, cause cancer.
It is now estimated that of all dogs over the age of two, that 50% of them will develop cancer in their lives. This is incredible, an epidemic. That these same dogs are eating, daily, foods that contain chemicals that cause cancer is surely significant don’t you think?
There are over 100,000 chemical in use in our world today and hundreds of them end up in the environment, accumulate in plants, and even more in the animals that eat the plants. Those that get the highest amounts of these chemicals, increased by hundreds of thousands or a million times, are the ones eating at the top of the food chain — eating the animals that eat the plants. In our country these are human beings, dogs and cats. The food sources that contain, by far, the highest amount of toxic chemicals are meat, bones and other animal products like cheese, milk, etc.
Once I realized this I began advising clients with dogs, having these chronic disorders, to change the food the dogs were eating to a plant-based recipe as in our book. The idea here to avoid the intake of the many chemicals in the animal products that might be the cause of the problem. Results outweighed expectations. Many dogs noticeably improve in their condition with this change alone. It was these experiences that encouraged us to promote a plant-based diet in the last edition of our book, and now to encourage you to consider the same change.
The raising of animals as food is a very inefficient way to get nutrition and in today’s world is significantly impacting the limited resources we have available. At this time there is continued demolition of forests for the purpose of growing grains to feed to livestock. This cannot continue as we are running out of land and water. When calculations are done, it is found that the feeding of a primarily meat and bones diet to dogs uses considerably more resources compared to the human diet, even the human diet that includes meat. Because of this consideration, we include the effect on earth resources to be another reason for changing the diets of dogs in today’s world.
As a veterinarian I began my interest in the care of animals because I did not like to see them suffer. I wanted to help them. Along the way, as I had experience in treating farm animals, livestock, even working in a chicken ranch at one point, I came to a question addressed to my heart. Can I care for only one form of animal? Is is acceptable that some animals suffer miserable lives so that the ones I prefer can presumably be more healthy by eating them? Not an easy question, one not easily answered. Over time I had to accept that I care for these other animals as well and do not want to support modern factory farming with the immense suffering of the billion animals going through the process every year.
When I found that dogs, and to some degree cats, could do very well on plant-based diets, then this ethical concern even more reason for me to suggest the diet change to my clients. You may find this a consideration as well.
Ever wonder what the animal agriculture industry looks like through the eyes of animal? Check out Dr. Pitcairn's blog to read about Beatrice the cow's perspective.
Since 2005, v-dog's nutritionally complete kibble has helped improve the health of thousands of pups. Read their stories here! Our formula is veterinarian and AAFCO approved, free of common allergens like wheat and soy, and packed with all the deliciousness that your pup needs to thrive! Learn more about v-dog here and check out our Vegan Dog Starter Guide to get your pup started on a kinder diet.