Dr Jean-Paul Ly, a vet and founder of Addiction Pet Food, was in Kuala Lumpur recently to talk about dog food. In this exclusive interview, he answers some common questions.
Dr Jean-Paul Ly, a vet and founder of Addiction Pet Food, is an Australian by nationality but he’s been living in Singapore for the last 20 years.
He has three dogs, two birds and fish and three kids, “in that order”. His dogs Khan, eight, Jazz, six, and Panda, four, are blue heelers, a breed famous for their cattle herding skills. The birds are lorries.
In an exclusive interview, this vet-turned-pet food mogul answers common questions about dog nutrition. Read it and be prepared for a surprise: the doc doesn’t think commercial pet food should be a staple diet!
My pet only eats one type of food – not just one brand but only one flavour. Every time it is “new and improved”, my pet won’t eat for days. What’s your advice?
Some of the pets I meet are better treated than kids! I also know people whose pets won’t eat unless they are handfed. This is a situation where you have a very-well-trained owner; the next time your pet says, “I won’t eat this, get me something else,” you have to assert yourself.
Don’t worry that your pet will starve. I’ve been a humane society veterinarian for 15 years and I’ve never heard of a case where an animal has starved in the kennels when there is food in front of them. Pets are highly manipulative, so turn the tables by using psychology. Put the new food on your own table, pretend to eat, then when your pet sees it, you very reluctantly “hand over” a bit in their own bowl.
They’ll probably gobble it up as flavoursome human food.
I keep reading about natural diets; just what is natural for dogs? If dogs are carnivores, why do commercial pet foods contain things like wheat and cranberries?
It’s confusing because there’s a misunderstanding. Carnivores don’t just eat meat, they eat a lot of meat. Dogs and cats need a balanced diet that includes plants, just like their relatives in the wild do.
For example, when a wolf makes a kill, it eats everything, including the stomach and whatever grass, grain and so on is in there.
Lions in Africa have been seen to eat grass. So, if you feed your pets an all-meat diet, they don’t get the fibre, minerals and vitamins they need. This leads to an “all meat syndrome”, a form of rickets where bones collapse.
I’m baffled by nutritional labels. How do I discover how much meat was used to make commercial wet food compared to grains, cereals, protein powders, etc?
It depends on the brand but most commercial foods contain at least 20%-30% protein. As actual meat is expensive, they use grain, potatoes or protein mix to bulk it out. The better quality foods use about 20%-30% actual meat.
Now, the thing about the word “meat” is that it includes meat meal, offal, off cuts and abattoir scraps. I feel that it’s misleading because you don’t know what you’ve really got in the tin. A rule of thumb is that better brands use better meat; it’s not always a price issue.
I suggest that when you buy tinned dog food, take out a chunk of meat and test it. Some manufacturers use real cuts of meat. Others use meat meal mixed with starch and shape it into sausage-like chunks. Press the chunk you’re testing flat with a spoon. If you see fibres, you’ve got meat. If it goes flat, you’ve got sausage.
And to really confuse you, I’d say this: all meat is OK, the problem is how it’s cooked. If you take meat and BBQ it, then it’s probably good quality protein to start with, but is the end product good for you? No, because protein subjected to high-temperature cooking releases nitrosamines which are thought to be cancer causing.
Now typical dry dog food and some canned food is cooked at very high temperatures like 300°C so that it cooks really fast. One minute you’ve got meat; the next you’ve got kibble. After this, the meat is denatured. It looks awful and doesn’t taste too good either, so flavouring and other additives are added.
Manufacturers are constrained by laws on how pet food has to be prepared, and each country has its own rules. Addiction dog wet food is made from fresh meat and cooked at about 130°C. We also make dry food as there is a demand but really we’re trying to educate people to use less dry food.
Proper foods: Dr Jean-Paul Ly believes that healthy pets should have a balanced diet of raw and cooked food
Should I cook for my dog? Or is there a product that I can buy?
I believe that healthy pets have a balanced diet that is a mix of fresh cooked food and raw food. We’re all busy so you would have some dehydrated food and commercial wet food standing by. If you must use kibble, add it sparingly.
When I cook for my dogs Kahn, Jazz and Panda, I use meat that’s been frozen and thawed because the freezing process gets rid of parasites. As long as you’re using good quality meat, it doesn’t matter what it is.
I add green veggy like spinach and cruciferous veggy like broccoli. I blanch these a bit so they’re easier to digest. Carrot sticks are great for cleaning teeth. Wheat grass is wonderful because it contains a lot of vitamins as well as superoxide dismutase, an enzyme that helps break down potentially harmful oxygen molecules in cells, thereby preventing tissue damage. I like using potatoes and brown rice as starch; but remember, these must be cooked! Finally, I feed my dogs fresh papaya every day. It’s chockfull of vitamins and dirt-cheap too – irresistible!
One thing: if your pet is new to this, then start slowly. Half-cook the food and mix it with the current diet for a week. Then slowly increase the raw food percentage.
If you’re not up for cooking every day, Addiction has a raw dehydrated food that’s balanced. It’s gently dehydrated in fan oven that produces even heat at 60-65°C so the enzymes are preserved. It’s convenient but not to be regarded as a total substitute for fresh food.
Ellen Whyte lives with three cats but sneaks out to visit dog friends regularly. She has a blog at blog.lepak.com.