Mike: Whenever I talk to pet owners, whose pets have joint problems, pain or disease, I hear a distorted line of reasoning -- the same in human medicine -- which is that it's just genetic. I hear that all the time.
Newman: Oh, I know.
Mike: What's your take on that?
Newman: My take on it is that we're making a lot of excuses instead of addressing what's really happening to our pets. This is the same as telling people that their animals are seniors at the age of seven. When I started working for a veterinarian down in Florida in my teenage years, 15 to 16 years old, dogs and cats were seniors at age 12, 15 or 16. The vet would tell you that your dog, even a large breed dog, was a senior at 11 or 12 years old. The smaller breed dogs were seniors at 15 to16 years old. They would easily live that long.
You have a Rottweiler mix breed -- I used to raise Rottweilers. They would live 15 and 16 years. People couldn't believe they were that old. Not only could people not believe they were that old but that they looked as young as they did. Right here in my product guide -- and I know other people can't see it, but I'm going to show you -- is my Rottweiler when she was 12 years old. She looks like she's five years old. Down here, I had to have her certified by a local vet that she didn't have cataracts and that she was actually 12 years old. She never got cataracts and she barely greyed until six weeks before she passed away. And that's the way life should be.
Mike: It shouldn't be a surprise to those who know about naturopathic approaches to longevity. If you keep your pet healthy, he or she is going to age very well.
Newman: Exactly. They aren't going to get premature aging and the symptoms that come along with that.
Mike: It is the same thing we find in human medicine. It's the expression of those genes that's either controlled or delayed by the approach of health.
Newman: It is not a virus that makes you sick. It's the condition of the environment when the body was introduced to the virus. You can be in an office full of sick people and never get sick if you are taking your vitamin C and garlic. In medicine today, we still blame the virus or bacteria.
Mike: It's the germ theory. It still dominates. I still have to ask about some more ingredients, but this is so fascinating that I have to ask you about some other things. I hear this all the time about people food, and I'm sure the same is true for pet food. People complain about the cost. They say, "Oh, I can't afford to spend another 50 cents a meal on my dog." For my last dog, I spent $1,000 in the emergency room in one day. Isn't it cheaper to keep your pet healthy?
Newman: Absolutely. What people often find when they start on Azmira is that they were easily spending $100 to $500 the year before on vet care. After they start using Azmira, they find they are spending $60 a year and going to the vet once a year for their checkup. What we're doing is helping the pets help themselves. The pet is helping to maintain its immune system and well-being. Even if an animal on the holistic animal care lifestyle comes in contact with poison or a virus, it is not going to get it again. The body is not going to be there in a weakened fashion so that the disease can take over. And if it does take over, they can respond much more quickly. They heal in a matter of days, even before you know the animal is sick.
Mike: What about table scraps? People feed their pets their own table scraps. What is your warning on this?
Newman: My dog often eats what I eat. Now, the difference is the quality of the table scrap. If you're feeding your dog the leftover bread and potatoes, if you are feeding him gravy and the fat strips off the steak, he is going to get sick just the way you would get sick if you were eating that, pure and simple. If you feed your dog some nice green beans that came out of your green bean dish or some nice meat chunks that came out of your steak or stew or chicken, that's different. Feed him some couscous -- my dog loves it, with a little bit of butter on it. It is not so bad, as long as it's being fed within the weight limit of the dog.
If you're feeding your dog the healthy choices off your table and your pet gains a little weight -- just like you would if you were overeating -- you have to cut back a little bit. It is not going to hurt him if it is good quality food. As a matter of fact, even though I think I have the best pet food on the market, I still recommend that people cook for their pets at home. You are not going to get as good food as you can get when you're preparing fresh meat and vegetables, because it's sitting in a bag. We use a barrier packaging, which I'm going to take a moment to explain.
Most foods are in a paper bag with a plastic lining to keep the oils from leaking through. We actually use a food-graded PVC plastic bag. It doesn't allow any oxygen through the bag, in or out. We have a freshness valve on it, just like a coffee bag -- the same material as a coffee bag. When the food is made, all the air is expressed out of the bag, so the oxygen level in the bag stays the same; it stays low. The oxygen level is what sends the food into rancidity. Once you open the bag and expose it to oxygen, if you fold down the bag three times and clip it, it reseals the bag. So, all you're doing is exposing the food to oxygen about five minutes a day.
Mike: So, you can use less preservative.
Newman: Exactly. The only preservative I use is vitamin C and vitamin E.
Mike: What about the yucca extract?
Newman: Yucca is a wonderful herb. It helps the digestive tract and keeps the animal's joints free of inflammation. It helps the circulation in the body. Yucca is also a stool deodorizer. That originally was what it was used for in the pet industry, to help control the odor of stool.
Mike: What about potassium iodide?
Newman: It is a source of sodium. We do have inter-vitamin mineral mix, because it is very expensive to put just the propionates in there. Propionated minerals are those that are attached to amino acids, so that it is easier to digest and assimilate them. It is very expensive, and you have to make a food that is going to sell on the market. You can't make a food that is too much more expensive.
I wanted to make an organic bag of dog food back in 1997, a four or five pound bag that would cost $25. Nobody would buy it. It could be the best food on the market, but no one would buy it. By the way, when people think they are buying organic food, buying really great food that's really expensive, consider the fact that if you were to put organic meat and vegetables in your food, it would cost a lot more because they cost a lot more at the market. You're not going to get inexpensive organic ingredients, but if you're using by-products, like the trim of the meat instead of the whole muscle meat, then you can afford organic meat.
You are also using organic vegetables that weren't acceptable for human consumption. Think of a head of spinach. It tastes great and the leaves are crisp. Let that head of spinach sit in the refrigerator for three weeks. It will turn brown and slimy. It has lost some of its nutrition, but it is still organic. And those are the organic vegetables that go into organic pet food. The meats are often trim pieces, not the whole muscle meat, because you can't afford it. I know, because probably one of the largest organic suppliers in the country came to us at a trade show and said, "You should put our brand of organic meat in your dog food because we have this other company doing it, and we're trying to expand into the market." I said, "Well, tell me what a whole pound of muscle meat would cost me. He said, "You couldn't afford to use whole muscle meat; we sell the trim pieces." That's what is being used in the pet food.
Mike: This is just another case where the label or the packaging contains misleading marketing claims. It says organic meat, but it is what you just described.
Newman: It could be a 3-D or 4-D meat that just started out as an organic meat but was dying, diseased, disabled or dead.
Mike: So, how do consumers protect themselves and make the right choice?
Newman: The feedback we get from our consumers is that we are the only company willing to talk about our food.
Mike: That's scary.
Newman: It is scary. We did three months of study where we would call one or two companies a day and talk about their food, and usually you don't get anyone other than the receptionist, who knows nothing more than what is listed on the food label. When you ask, "Why do you use meal? What is your meal, and why are you using these grains?" they won't even know why the formulation is what it is. I have a PhD in nutrition. This is the only company that is run by a doctor of nutrition. All the other companies are run by marketing people.
Mike: Because it is all marketing. Fill the can and move it.
Newman: We have used the propionated minerals in our food, but we've also had to augment them, if you will, with the iodines in those. We use the propionates as much as we can. We also have to use an iron oxide to bring them up to where AFCO wants them.
Mike: So, when pets eat this food, they not only get the nutrition they need, in terms of macronutrients, but they get a multivitamin and a multi-mineral diet.
Newman: Yes, but it only reaches AFCO's level. In my consideration, AFCO's levels are much too low.
Mike: Hence the supplement line.
Newman: Yes, we have supplements. You can't make a bag of dog food that is going to fit every dog's need -- and the same with the cat foods that we make. What we recommend you do is follow the holistic care animal lifestyle, which is having a good clean food as your basis, so that the food is giving you the basis that you need for basic protein, fats and so on. Then, you supplement according to the animal's own needs. This is how you're going to get the best out of both.
For instance, when I had three different dogs in my household, they didn't all get the same level of vitamin C. The puppies needed a lot more vitamin C because they were growing. I can't put that much vitamin C in my dog food. My senior dog needed a lot more vitamin C. My adult dog needed 1,000 milligrams less a day than the puppies and the senior dog. You can address the individual needs of the pet and bring a total supplement that is going to help that animal more than one bag of dog food will.
We don't have puppy formula or senior formula for that reason. Most companies that have a senior or puppy food are only cleaning up their meat source from what they put in their adult formula. For instance, a puppy can't eat as much crap as an adult dog can, and the senior dog can't process as much crap as an adult dog can. If you look on their bags, they usually have the same ingredients. They just shift the proteins and fats in each formula slightly. If you have a good, solid basic food, all three levels -- the seniors, adults and puppies and even the ill dogs -- can eat that food because it is a clean food. Then you can augment the food based on individual needs.
Mike: It makes a lot more sense.
Newman: Sure it does. Your animal is not always going to need the same nutrition. Your animal may get kenneled for a while. There is a lot more stress during kenneling. They need a lot more nutrients. Your animal might become more of a couch potato because of illness. You are going to have to adjust the nutrition based on the illness. Now, for puppies that need a lot more protein, you are going to feed them more food because they need more calories. You can add canned meat to give them more protein. The senior dogs that need less protein and calories can simply eat smaller portions.
Mike: With all the ingredients you have, you must have some logistical and supply challenges. How do you manage to put this together and make it work?
Newman: What we have, which is what most companies have, is a co-packer. We can't afford the $11 million worth of packing machines. So, usually you have a co-packer, and unfortunately, sometimes the co-packer isn't in your back yard. We visit our co-packer twice a year to talk face-to-face with them and to see the ingredients and get certification on certain ingredients.
Everything that goes into our food has been certified. It has been analyzed to have the levels of nutrients required. Again, you can get an ingredient that's very old, like a grain especially. You can get a grade-one grain, and you want to make sure your grade-one grain is there at the mill. We analyze our food twice a year apart from when we go to the mill. Whatever bag we take of the load, we send in for analysis to make sure it is at the level that we require. So, that is where we stand on that.
The co-packer is responsible for ordering the different ingredients that go into the food. He is ordering them through the channels we've set up. It can make it very difficult. For instance, we had an ostrich and emu canned food, and we had to take it off the market because we couldn't get a reliable ostrich and emu supply. So, logistically, you can have a great product on the market and lose it, which is very frustrating to us. But we have managed to maintain the same meat supplier, and beef, chicken and lamb, for instance, are the meats we use in our foods.
We have worked with the same supplier for eight years. They are very responsive to our needs. And that goes back to the question of, how do you find out what is in your pet's food? I started talking to the manufacturers and finding out how to get someone on the phone who can talk about the food. It is a rarity. So, if you can't get someone to talk about their food or give you proof of the quality of their food, then you know there is something to hide.
This interview continues in part 4 (published tomorrow), where Dr. Lisa Newman discusses pet supplements and disease prevention in pets.
Dr. Lisa Newman's pet care product line (Azmira) is available online through these websites:
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