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ANIMALS AND PEOPLE SUNDAY STAR-LEDGER NEWSPAPER , 1996

By LOIS STEVENSON


This electronic version appears with the kind permission of the author.


"It's For The Animals" is a new cookbook for pets, based on a natural diet that creates good health for pets and a greater feeling of satisfaction for their human companions.

The author, Helen L. McKinnon, has poured into the book all she has learned from many years of studies, seminars, consultations, literature perusal and personal experience.

Ms. McKinnon's entire concept of pet nutrition began to change in 1980 when she lived in Massachusetts. Her veterinarian, the late Richard Kearns, DVM, communicated his belief that home-made food was best for pets.

Following Kearns' suggestions, Ms. McKinnon began a weekly routine of making a supply of rice, meat and vegetables to add to the dry commercial kibble she was feeding her dogs. Then, in 1995, she read an article in Natural Pet Magazine, "Does Your Dog Food Bark? A Study of the Pet Food Fallacy," by Ann Martin.

"The article turned my world into another dimension," McKinnon declared in a telephone interview.

In her book she writes: "For over a decade I had believed that I was feeding my pets the best possible diet, reading all the labels, making the comparisons, being sure the label read 'all natural, preserved with vitamin C and E and with chelated minerals.'

"From Ann Martin's article I learned that the animal proteins used in many commercial foods are diseased meat, road kills, contaminated material from slaughterhouses, fecal matter and poultry feathers all rendered together.

Those decomposing animals from the slaughterhouses were 'denatured' by soaking in carbolic acid, fuel oil, kerosene and citronella.

"I learned that the mainstay of dry pet foods is vegetable proteins with little nutritional value, nothing more than sweepings and offal from milling room floors left over after processing. The Association of American Feed Control Officials' regulations have no restriction on the type of animals that can be used, including dogs and cats."

"Ann Martin says that one small pet food plant renders 11 tons a week of euthanized dogs and cats that are sold to them, with the euthanizing barbiturate still present in the end product we feed our pets."

Knowing that good nutrition is crucial, Ms. McKinnon refined her feeding techniques, and her cookbook is the culmination of intensive study, veterinary advice and first hand experience. The recipes have been taste-tested by her two adult dogs, one puppy and 14 cats. She also has two horses.

"Basically, I wanted people to know what my experience was and what changes I made," Ms. McKinnon told this columnist. "I was astonished by the result of home-made food. Many ills disappeared. My one cat's persistent cough cleared up. The dogs trimmed down in weight. Their teeth are good, their fur is glossy and thick, and they don't shed copiously any more. They no longer have 'hot spots', and they are happier and more playful."

"With the cats, I added the home-made food gradually. As I mentioned in the book, once the transition was complete, the cats became sleek and their fur shiny; they are more playful, they don't have hair-balls or digestive upsets and the litter box odor is much less offensive."

"The change is not just physical; it's emotional and mental. They are more like they were as puppies and kittens."

Ms. McKinnon also recommends avoiding the use of plastic feeding and water bowls. "Some may contain dyes, and some pets are allergic to them. The dye also can leach into the food and water. I use stainless steel and regular dishes for their feeding, but you have to be careful about the lead content. I use Corell."

Ms. McKinnon's book says preparing the food is like making a stew once a week or so. She explains to the reader step by step, just how she makes the food and why. Her instructions are detailed, with lists of ingredients and amounts. She makes a special effort to keep the food preparation as simple as possible. However, it is not by any means a 10 minute procedure.

She urges commitment on the part of pet owners. Reading her compassionate prose, one realized the entire process comes down to caring - about your animals, your relationship with them, and the satisfaction you get from knowing you are feeding them right and maintaining their health.

Her book has a wealth of information on other subjects as well. For example, she warns against using the clumping and clay-type litter box filler. She explains that the clumping agent is said to swell to approximately 15 times its original volume and thus can cause havoc in the intestinal tract if ingested. She recommends a plant-based litter, and mentions a brand name.

Ms. McKinnon includes excellent advice about the dangers of over-vaccination, and reprints an article from the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association's May-July 1995 issue. The article, by David M. McCluggage, DVM, summarizes talks by leading veterinary experts, presented at a symposium held by the San Diego Veterinary Medical Association.

The experts were Fred W. Scott, DVM, PhD, Cornell University; Ronald D. Schultz, PhD, University of Wisconsin; and McCluggage of Chapparal Animal Health Center, Boulder, Colo.

All three speakers agreed that there is no justification for current recommendations emphasizing a need for annual vaccinations. McCluggage said veterinarians should stop advocating yearly vaccines because of the harm they are doing to the animals they vaccinate. Chronic diseases caused by over-vaccination can be very difficult (and often impossible) to cure, he said.

Ms. McKinnon's spiral-bound book (to lie flat for reading recipes) includes a section on food sources and helpful information on finding supplies, catalogs, newsletters and consultants.

The author contributes a percentage of the sales proceeds to animal shelters and breed rescue groups.

Copyright 1995 Helen L. McKinnon All Rights Reserved

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