Kymythy Schultze is a certified animal-health instructor, clinical nutritionist, and the author of two pet-nutrition books: Natural Nutrition for Cats and Dogs and The Natural Nutrition No-Cook Book. A leading proponent of species-appropriate diets, including a raw diet for cats and dogs, Schultze teaches animal-nutrition classes across the country.
Have you been inundated with queries about the recent pet-food recall?
Yes, it just makes me so sad. And my heart goes out to all the dogs and cats that have died, and to all the people who are suffering because of this.
Do you think there will be any positive long-term changes within the pet-food industry as a result?
I hate to sound cynical, but we’re talking about a multibillion-dollar business that pays a whole lot to publicity firms, and I think that they’ll smooth things over as quickly as possible. I mean, they already are blaming everything on this Chinese company for tainted wheat gluten. They’re basically saying, “Well, we just won’t buy from them any more, and everything will be okay.”
The most ironic thing about wheat gluten is that dogs and cats shouldn’t be eating it, period. Whether it’s contaminated or not, it’s not good for them.
What do you think of vets who discourage homemade or raw diets for pets?
I want to, and often do, ask these vets who are so against homemade and raw pet food, “What do you think your great-grandparents did?” Well, I’ll tell you what they did: They fed real food to their dogs and cats, because that’s all they had.
So, yes, I find it highly insulting that so many vets think that we’re not intelligent enough to do the same.
Let’s see, we’ve had domesticated animals for over 10,000 years. So that means that we’ve been feeding cats and dogs for thousands of years before bags and cans were even invented.
Why are so many vets critical of pet food beyond kibble?
Well, for one, pet-food companies have a very good deal with veterinary schools. Millions of dollars every year are pumped into veterinary schools via the industry. And that’s not some hidden truth; I mean, that’s just good business sense.
Also, students in veterinary school — and I know, because I spent time at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine — don’t get lessons in actual food. They get more, “Well, if this animal has this problem, you can recommend this sort of prescription diet, or these are the basic vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that animals need.” But they’re not necessarily taught about correct foods.
But most importantly, let’s face it, vets have a lot going on, and it’s a lot easier for them to say, “Feed this food that we sell in the office, or buy this food at the store.” It’s a lot easier than them having to take time out of their busy schedules to actually learn nutrition.
What’s your take on the raw-meat diet for pets?
It’s what I’ve fed my animals for 20 years, and it’s what I’ve taught for just under 20 years. Now, of course, I’m talking about a well-prepared diet that includes raw meat. I think it would be very bad for your animal if you just tossed raw meat in a bowl every night and left it at that.
But a well-prepared meal that has raw meat along with other ingredients is very natural and extremely nutritious for our animal friends. This food, at least, is deemed fit for human consumption, which right away puts it a cut above the questionable parts that go into the vast majority of bagged and canned cat and dog foods.
It’s really not that hard to get your brain around; it’s just real food. And the reason why raw is better is because dogs and cats are naturally suited to this diet.
How did you discover the raw diet for your pets?
That’s easy — I discovered how to eat better for myself. Basically, I spent the first half of my life going to doctors for a myriad of health problems, but there just wasn’t very much they were willing to do. Right before giving up entirely, I went to see a doctor who at the time was a real pioneer in nutrition.
He taught me how to eat the way my body needed to eat: get rid of the processed foods and eat real, fresh foods, foods that my body would thrive on. It wasn’t a diet; it was just the right way to eat, and immediately I was on the road to recovery.
So, of course, I thought, “Well, my gosh, if eating a better diet can do this to me, what could eating a better diet do for my dogs and cats?”
Did you ever feed your pets commercial kibble?
At that time, they were eating all the best premium dog and cat foods that money could buy —supplemented by all the best things that would actually make them eat it.
I had a background in wild-animal nutrition already, because I’d worked for the federal government as a wildlife rehabilitator. So, in that regard, I had to learn about wild diets for animals released back into the wild. I just extended that knowledge base to include wild canids and felids.
What do you think we should learn from the pet-food recall?
I think that a lot of times the universe does open up a good door when something tragic happens. Just like there’s more awareness of what we put in our own mouths, I think that it can be a new awareness of what we’re putting into our dogs’ or cats’ mouths.
It shouldn’t come out of a bag or a can; it should come from nature. It should come from the same places we get our food. Most importantly it should be whole, fresh, real food.
Just real food, that’s all — nothing magical, nothing fancy.
Liz Crain is a writer based in Portland, Oregon.
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