Defending Our Pet’s Health

Many complex and highly scientific theories have been put forth over the years describing how and why our animals get sick. Evidence indicates that in spite of the many medical advances we have today, disease in our companion animals continues to rise.

Here is a startling fact: very few animals ever die of old age. Most succumb prematurely to what is incorrectly termed “natural causes”. Why do you suppose a long and healthy life is almost never achieved within our pet population today? The answer is our pets are dying prematurely of chronic, degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes, kidney, liver & heart failure. What if we could lower or cut our pets risk of these degenerative diseases. Could we give them a chance at living a longer life in addition to gaining a better quality of life?

Most dog and cat owners wish that their pets could live longer. Science dictates that health and longevity is directly related to three powerful forces – Genetics, Environment & Nutrition. Since this data represents both the mistakes and successes in the past, wouldn’t it be great going forward if we could eliminate the mistakes and improve upon the successes thereby enhancing both health and longevity.

Although genetics plays a role in aging and disease – nutrition and the rate of cellular death are much more influential in that they control the powers of self-healing and regeneration. Nutrition is said to be the very “foundation of life”. More simply stated…optimum nutrition produces optimum results while poor nutrition and excessive cellular destruction leads to degenerative diseases that cause aging and the acceleration of death.

Health defense begins with a full range of vitamins, minerals and other micro-nutrients. Pets do not manufacture vitamins; they must get them from either whole foods or supplements. Vitamins and minerals aid in antioxidant protection, help strengthen the immune system and support the body’s ability to naturally repair itself.

As pets age they become more and more depleted in nutrients capable of slowing tissue breakdown and handling tissue repair. Also, as animals mature their digestive systems slowly lose the ability to digest and absorb specific nutrients thus adding to the problem. When you insert inadequate nutritional intake into the mix you have all of the ingredients for accelerated physical aging and the early onset of degenerative diseases.

A significant fact to remember – Today’s nutritional guidelines only provide for minimum maintenance levels of nutrition. It makes sense that optimum levels of nutrition would certainly benefit pets in terms of improved performance, vigor and lifespan. Over the past 100 years, pet food manufacturers have had the opportunity to improve upon their minimal guidelines. This leaves one to wonder why they have not.

Optimum Nutrition is the most important factor we know of when it comes to overall health & longevity

Prevention vs. Cure

Degenerative diseases do not appear overnight. They develop slowly, sometimes taking years before symptoms finally emerge. What this means is that most adult pets are, in fact, pre-ill. Their bodies are already developing the illnesses that may cause their premature death. This is why it is so important to think in terms of prevention rather than cure.

Through prevention, it is possible to slow, reverse or even stop the progression of these diseases before they become clinical. Preventive nutrition is a powerful tool in the arsenal of Health Defense.

Conventional pet care waits for something to go wrong and then attempts to treat disease with “magic bullet” drugs. These chemical compounds, with which a pet’s body is unfamiliar, carry a high risk of side effects. Preventive nutrition is pro-active. It uses substances that your pet’s body depends on. Preventive nutrition boosts an animal’s defense mechanisms and helps them deal with the cause of potential problems before they start.

Pet Health Tips for Veterinarians

  • Nutritional needs vary considerably between species. Cat food is not necessarily good for dogs even though it contains higher protein levels. Dog food should never be fed to cats.
  • Nutritional needs vary during the different periods in an animal’s life. Be aware of the additional needs created by growth, pregnancy, lactation, stress, performance, work and aging.
  • Internal parasites rob animals of needed nutrients leaving them susceptible to many different health problems. External parasites, like fleas, are highly stressful to an animal and can lead to numerous skin and coat conditions as well as anemia. Natural resistance to parasites is maximized when nutritional health is at its peak.
  • The skin and coat can be one of the first indications of a nutritionally related problem. Excessive shedding, losing coat and the development of dry, flaky skin can all be easily reversed by assuring that optimum nutritional needs are consistently met on a day to day basis.
  • Most of today’s pets are being overfed and yet they are undernourished from a nutrient standpoint. Reversing this trend is as simple as reducing consumption by 20 – 25% and providing a highly concentrated, completely balanced nutritional supplement to replace needed nutrients.
  • Remember that high doses of any single nutrient can be just as dangerous as omitting a key nutrient from the diet. A balanced nutrient intake assures that all nutrients will work synergistically to support optimum health and well-being.
  • When fed properly, any animal has the opportunity to be its best. Remember, it is always easier and much less costly to maintain an animal’s good health than regain it once it has been lost.
  • Most pharmaceutical drugs contain serious side effects. When indicated they can be lifesaving, however, most of the health threats our pets face are often complicated degenerative diseases. The best defense for this is to support your pet’s own natural capacity to heal and regenerate itself through optimum nutrition.

Add years to your pet’s life and life to your pet’s years

Enter a New Era in Optimum Nutrition, Health & Longevity

It is up to science to define the ideal level of macronutrients, micronutrients and total energy needed during all developmental and maintenance phases over an animal’s lifetime. Nutrient levels that will promote optimum health, minimize disease, benefit reproduction and mental health as well as maximize the life span of both humans and animals.

This noble endeavor has great implications for the health and well-being of men, women and children around the globe, and will have a comparable impact on the health and longevity of our companion animals should we choose to adapt these principles.

One primary area of nutritional research concerns total energy intake and its impact on health and longevity. It is quite obvious that over-nutrition can lead to obesity with accompanying health risks and disorders. Generally, energy intake in the adult animal, sufficient to maintain weight without accumulation of excess body fat, has been thought to be ideal. However, a recent body of research now suggests that slight under-nutrition may, in fact, be an integral component of optimal nutrition.

Well-controlled studies in a diverse number of animal species have shown that calorie restriction over a lifetime creates significant positive beneficial changes in physiological functions accompanied by a decrease in age-related disorders. The latest studies in dogs, primates, and humans also indicate that modest underfeeding over periods of months to years results in similar physiological changes and suggest that extended calorie control may also affect various pathologies associated with aging. Underfed animals exhibit increased vigor and energy, maintain youthful mental and physiological functions well beyond normal fed control animals, and they remain relatively disease free. Taken collectively, these results provide an impressive case for under-nutrition without malnutrition as an important component of long-term health for animals.

Calorie Restriction and Longevity

Can restricting calorie intake increase the life span of animals? Early studies in the 1930’s by McCay and his associates suggested this was true. McCay allowed free food access to rats throughout their lifetime while restricting the daily food intake of a second group. Results were conclusive…the underfed rats were observed to live, on average, twice as long as the control animals.

This intriguing phenomenon has been confirmed by a large number of recent studies. Collectively, results from this body of research make a compelling case; that by reducing food intake, the maximum life span of several species can be increased significantly. Even more interesting is the observation that underfed, long-lived animals are free of most age-associated chronic diseases.

A lifelong canine study reveals how dogs can live longer

In one of the first-ever lifelong canine restriction studies, researchers at Purina have proven that a dog’s median life span can be extended by 15 percent (nearly two years for the Labrador Retrievers used in this study) by feeding to ideal body condition through dietary restriction. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The 14 year “Life Span” study found that dogs that consumed 25 percent fewer calories than their littermates over their lifetime maintained a lean or ideal body condition resulting in a longer life. This study provides the most significant data to date on the effects of diet restriction in the dog. According to Dennis Lawler, DVM, Purina scientist and a lead study investigator. “What’s exciting about this study is that, for the first time in a larger mammal, we have shown scientifically that by simply feeding to maintain ideal body condition throughout a dog’s life, we can increase length of life while delaying the visible signs of aging.


Study Design

When the study began, 48 eight-week-old Labrador retriever dogs from seven litters were paired within their litters according to gender and body weight and randomly assigned to either a control or restricted-fed group. The control group was allowed to eat an unlimited or free choice amount of food during 15-minute daily feedings. Dogs in the restricted, or “lean-fed,” groups were fed 75 percent of the amount eaten by their paired littermates.

All dogs were fed the same 100 percent nutritionally complete and balanced diets (puppy, then adult) for the entire period of the study, from eight weeks of age until death – only the quantity was different.

Dogs were weighed weekly as puppies, periodically as adolescents and then weekly as adults. Beginning at six years of age, they were evaluated annually for ideal body condition. Other health indicators, body fat mass, lean body mass, bone mass, glucose and insulin levels, and cholesterol and triglyceride levels were measured annually to assess overall condition and health.

Study Results

Study findings revealed that the median life span of the lean-fed dogs was extended by 15 percent or nearly two years. Median life span (the age at which 50 percent of dogs in the group died) was 11.2 years for the control group versus 13 years for the lean-fed dogs.

By age 10, only three lean-fed dogs had died, compared to seven control group dogs. At the end of the twelfth year, 11 lean-fed dogs were alive with only one control dog surviving. Twenty-five percent of the lean-fed group survived to 13.5 years, while none of the control group dogs lived to 13.5 years.

The study showed that the lean-fed dogs maintained a significantly leaner body condition from 6 to 12 years of age than the control group dogs. On average, the lean-fed group weighed less, had lower body fat, and after a certain age, experienced a two-year delay in the loss of lean body mass as they aged, compared to the control group dogs.

In addition, according to observations of the researchers, the control dogs exhibited more visible signs of aging, such as graying muzzles, impaired gaits and reduced activity, at an earlier age than the lean-fed dogs.

The study provides some insight into human health as well.

Dr. Richard Weindruch, University of Wisconsin professor of medicine and expert in the diet restriction field said, “This study is significant for human as well as canine health because it’s the first study completed in a larger mammal that proves the significant power that diet restriction wields in extending life and delaying the markers of aging. From this study, we can extrapolate that large mammals, including humans, can potentially live healthier and longer through diet restriction – a theory that has been put forth for many years now.”

What is most impressive about the research on underfeeding and longevity over the last two decades is the variety of disciplines represented by current researchers and the broad scope of physiological and disease processes affected by restricted feeding. Prominent scientists include Roy Walford, MD, Pathology, UCLA; Edward Masoro, Ph.D., Physiology, University of Texas; Robert Good, MD, Ph.D., Immunology, University of South Florida and former head of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute; Richard Cutler, Ph.D., Genetics, National Institute of Health; and, William Regelson, MD, Gerontology, University of Virginia.

Food restriction effects are global and include:

  1. The ability to maintain a broad array of physiological processes in a youthful state.
  2. Retarding or preventing age-related diseases and pathologies.
  3. The prevention of disease and extending the life of genetically disease-prone animals.

Physiological processes: Aging is accompanied by deterioration in many physiological reactions. Underfeeding is able to delay, blunt, or prevent most of these changes including age-related increases in serum cholesterol; decreasing the loss of dopamine receptors in the brain; slowing the age-related decline in the ability to learn a maze; prolonging the female reproductive function; preventing the decline in immune functions with age; inhibiting the decline with age of liver protein synthesis and proteolysis; and slowing the loss of locomotor activity.

Age-related diseases: In most studies, major age-associated diseases are the predominant cause of death. Food restriction has been shown to delay the onset and the severity of pathologies, or to totally prevent some pathologies of old age. Included are nephropathy, cardiomyopathy, hypertension-related lesions, neoplasia, diabetes, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.

Disease-prone animals: Many animal species are predisposed to specific diseases, and laboratory animals have been selectively bred to study these disease processes. Generally, these animals develop diseases early in life and have a greatly reduced life span compared to normal strains of the same species. Underfeeding has the universal effect of delaying the early onset of pathology, reducing the incidence or severity of the pathology and extending the life span of disease-prone animals. In many instances, the increased life span exceeded the life span of free choice fed animals. These include animals genetically predisposed to the early onset of several types of autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, mammary adenocarcinoma, lymphoproliferative diseases, leukemia’s and lymphomas, gastric ulcers, cataracts, adenomas of the pituitary and pancreas, lung tumors, and genetically obese short-lived animals.

How Caloric Restriction Works

The effect of caloric restriction is due to a reduced level of energy intake, regardless of whether the energy comes predominantly from protein, carbohydrate, or fat. Early studies of McCay began food restriction shortly after weaning, and he postulated that food restriction extends the life span by slowing growth and delaying development. However, numerous studies have shown that calorie restriction beginning in young adulthood or even mid-life, were just as effective at prolonging life, delaying age-related changes in physiological processes and inhibiting pathologies.

Evidence from current research suggests that two major effects occur during underfeeding, which may account for increases in longevity.

  1. Reduction in oxidative free radical damage and an increase in antioxidant defense.
  2. Reduction in glycemia and plasma insulin.

Food restriction appears to protect animals against the damaging actions of reactive oxygen molecules (Free Radicals). This protection involves a reduced rate of production of the molecules and an increased ability to scavenge them by elevation of antioxidant defense mechanisms. It should be said that underfeeding may also add to longevity by reducing the work load on all organ systems associated with digestion and the assimilation of food.

Antioxidant Protection

Free radical damage is responsible for the chronic age-related diseases that primarily cause the early demise of our pets. Free radicals are atoms that have lost an electron thus making them harmful when they come in contact with a healthy cell. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by giving up one of their electrons to the free radical thereby protecting against potential cellular damage.

When animals are food restricted, they accumulate less lipofuscin and undergo less lipid peroxidation with age than ad libitum fed controls. Also, the antioxidant system that protects against this damage such as glutathione, glutathione reductase activity and catalase activity are increased by dietary restriction, compared to control aging animals that exhibit a decrease. Taken together, the studies strongly support the Free Radical Theory of Aging and suggest that underfeeding reduces the generation of reactive oxygen molecules and enhances the mechanisms, which protect cells from their damaging action.

Glucose and Insulin Control

Control of plasma glucose is dependent on insulin. Poor regulation of plasma glucose, as exhibited in insulin-dependent diabetes, results in serious complications including cardiovascular and renal disorders, neuropathy, cataracts, macular degeneration, aging of collagen and other tissue proteins, hypercholesterolemia, and declining immune response.

These conditions are all commonly observed during the aging process but appear to be accelerated in diabetics. Hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia are both known to have damaging effects. Furthermore, increased plasma glucose concentrations are known to result in glycation of proteins. This indiscriminate attachment of glucose molecules to any cellular or serum protein may have damaging effects and underlies the process of aging.

Food restricted animals were found to maintain mean plasma glucose levels significantly below ad libitum fed animals throughout their life span. In addition, underfed animals maintained plasma insulin at much lower concentrations than did ad libitum fed animals.

A recent study on rats supplemented with a highly bio-available form of chromium also supports this theory. Chromium is essential for insulin activity. In the study, rats were fed bio-available chromium during their lifetime, compared to control animals that received the same daily intake of inferior chromium generally found in most commercial feeds. Both groups were allowed to feed ad libitum. The animals receiving superior chromium had mean plasma glucose levels 35 mg/dl below control animals, while glycated protein and plasma insulin levels were less than one-half the levels of controls. Finally, the superior chromium animals had a life span, which exceeded the control animals by 25%.

Effective glucose and insulin control is enhanced by food restriction. Therefore, the anti-aging effect of dietary restriction appears to be due to maintaining lower levels of plasma glucose and insulin throughout a life span without interfering with the use of glucose as fuel.

In summary, commercial pet food manufacturers, to date, have not utilized these long-standing nutritional advantages to any great extent. One can only hypothesize why the dog and cat have been denied optimal guidelines, ingredient quality, caloric management, antioxidant protection and the benefit of numerous nutrients that have been identified through research over the years.