An interview with Bonnie Blumenfeld Holistic Animal Health Consultant
DTC: How did you get interested in nutrition and holistic care for animals?
Bonnie: I was a veterinary technician for many years, but about 15 years ago I saw that the health of our animals left something to be desired. I started doing my own research into nutrition and what was really in commercial dog foods, as well as how the food was made. At the time, trying to convince people to buy a premium brand dog food was a hard sell as most people weren’t interested or they didn’t see the importance of getting a better quality food. Several years later I had the opportunity to work in a holistic veterinary clinic, which complimented my personal belief in alternative care and also my passion for healthy diets for our animals.
I also want people to understand that I’m not taking the place of a vet but I can act as an adjunct to veterinary care. My opinions are based on my years of research and experience working with animals, but I’m not putting myself out there as a vet.
DTC: How does someone prepare a simple, balanced raw food diet?
Bonnie: This is what you need: 65% meat and 35% pureed or grated veggies and supplements. Grain is optional. You can do 5-10% grain. This will make the food go further, and grain can be a good source of some nutrition and some animals like it. But they absolutely do fine with no grain at all. The supplements that you must have if you are not supplementing with bones are a good quality multi-vitamin, essential fatty acid (you can alternate with fish oil and flax seed oil) and a calcium supplement. There are marine sources of calcium which I prefer over bone meal because of the possibility of Mad Cow and also because bones tend to concentrate chemicals and toxins. Of course there are a gazillion variations on this diet, but it can be that simple. You can generally prepare enough food for a week or two in one hour and put it in zip lock bags and throw it in the freezer and you’re done. It doesn’t have to be labor intensive. The meat should be fresh and you should always use safe handling practices for yourself as well as your animal for handling raw meat.
DTC: Please explain why adding bones to the diet makes a difference?
Bonnie: Many people use raw meaty bones as a component of their dogs’ diets, such as chicken and turkey necks, wings, backs or any whole part of a chicken. In addition to lots of live nutrients, the dogs are getting calcium. Therefore, if you’re feeding bones on a regular basis you can cut back on your calcium supplements. Do not ever feed bones that are cooked. They are brittle and can puncture intestines, etc. and they turn to cement in the gut.
DTC: Is the raw food diet healthy for all dogs?
Bonnie: No. But it is perfect for most dogs, but not all. There are some health conditions that preclude feeding a raw food diet.
DTC: If someone doesn’t want to feed raw meat to their animal, but still wants to give them a healthy diet, what do you recommend?
Bonnie: The next best thing would be a home prepared cooked diet with added supplements, as cooking destroys many nutrients and live enzymes.
If the person doesn’t want to do a total home prepared diet, some people feel more comfortable using a premium quality kibble as a base and adding real food to it, raw meat, cooked meat, vegetables, eggs, cottage cheese, plain unsweetened yogurt, whatever. Feeding variety in the diet, whether it’s raw, cooked or a combination with a commercial base is extremely important; both for interest to the animal and because you are covering the spectrum of all the different needed nutrients. If you are cooking healthy food for yourself, give them some of your food.
No matter what you’re feeding or not feeding, if you do nothing else but throw them some raw meat once in a while you’re going a long way towards improving their health.
DTC: Bonnie, what do you say to someone who has tried a raw food diet but their dog got diarrhea?
Bonnie: Sometimes loose stools can be a healthy sign of detoxification but there are safe and effective ways of transitioning your animals from a commercial diet to a home prepared diet.
DTC: What about the concern of dogs getting food poisoning from raw meat?
Bonnie: We are not carnivores. Dogs are carnivores. They have sharp teeth for ripping and strong muscular stomachs for digesting big chunks of meat and pieces of bone. They have a pH of 1, highly acidic to take care of Salmonella and E-coli that are a problem for us. They’ve got tons of digestive enzymes and a really short and quick intestinal tract to get the meat out before it putrefies. Whereas we have a long convoluted digestive tract to digest grains and veggies.
Sixty years ago most dogs didn’t eat from a bag. They ate people’s leftovers, bones, offal, guts and ligaments and they did fine. So one of the things I try to tell people is that it’s not scary or mystical to make the switch from a commercial diet to a raw food diet. Animals are much more adaptable than we give them credit for.
DTC: Can you advise someone who only wants to give their animals the best commercially made foods on the market?
Bonnie: When someone consults me, I teach them how to read and interpret a label so they can make decisions for themselves about the ingredients. Just as the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he’ll have food for a life time.” There are many good brands out there but even great foods aren’t right for every animal. Hopefully, I can do another interview for Dog Trainers’ Connection, and I’ll talk about label reading and what commercial brands I feel are the best ones out there. Also, we can go into supplements, the best brands and how to use them.
DTC: This is a two-part question. What modalities of holistic care do you feel are the most effective for animals, and do you think that holistic and allopathic veterinary care can work hand in hand?
Bonnie: The word out there is that Acupuncture and Homeopathy are the best alternative healing modalities. There are also a number of supportive modalities which are hugely helpful such as herbs, (both western and Traditional Chinese Medicine), flower essences, chiropractic, and NAET which is a non-invasive allergy elimination technique based on acupressure and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
I definitely think that holistic and allopathic veterinary care can work hand in hand. I recommend that people find a good complimentary veterinarian (one that practices both allopathic and alternative medicine) and everyone should definitely do their own research as well.
DTC: Thanks very much Bonnie!
Visit Bonnie Blumenfeld’s website: www.headtotailhealth.com
Bonnie Blumenfeld, All rights reserved. Copyright 2007.