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The following article is an excerpt from the book,

It's For The Animals! Natural Care & Resources

by Helen L. McKinnon 



Photos by Helen McKinnon

The cats, at dinner time:  "Before"  and  "After"

The Transition to home-made food

Back in 1984, when living in Massachusetts, I found a wonderful holistic veterinarian, Dr. Richard Kearns.  As I understand it, he was one of the Founders of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Assoc. (AHVMA).  I was already utilizing holistic philosophies for myself and wanted the same for my dog, Lady. So, I brought Lady to see him.

Dr. Kearns said that he was known as the "Geriatric Veterinarian" because it seemed that his patients lived such long lives. He was a very kind man, and I was amazed that he had such a striking resemblance to the character, Obi-Wan Kenobi, the wizard in Star Wars movie! Dr. Kearns has long since passed on, but I can still vividly remember our first meeting as he gently suggested that I change Lady's diet to all home-made food. This consisted of rice, veggies, and meat- chicken turkey eggs and yogurt. I still have his hand-written recipe. He tailored it to just what was right for Lady - which veggies, meat, etc. to include and exclude.

Up until I saw Dr. Kearns I fed Lady kibble, canned dog food and some of my the food I had left from my own meals (back in 1984).  When Dr. Kearns examined her, she was 7 1/2 years old, had an awful lot of that black gunk in her ears, and he diagnosed her with: "chemical toxemia affecting mainly the liver, allergy to food and fleas, and a sebaceous cyst on her chest".

What Dr. Kearns instructed me to do was to feed a cooked diet of:

Protein as 25% of her diet, and that was to be: chicken, turkey, eggs & yogurt.  Meat that was NOT to be fed was: beef, pork, lamb, organ meats, rabbit, duck, fish, nuts, soybean, milk or cheese products.

Rice as 50% of her diet, "brown rice is best".

Vegetables - 25% of her diet, and that was to be: beets, beans, carrots, peas, lettuce, radish, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, & spinach.  I was NOT to feed her any squash, potato, tomato, pepper, eggplant, cauliflower, corn or celery.

Herbs, oils and cereal grains were not allowed.  Fruits were all allowed. 

He wanted her on supplements of "FA granules, Lipmoid, seroAmulsion, selenium & Vitamin E, and some homeopathics".

REMEMBER - this may NOT be the TYPICAL diet or a diet that would be suitable for every dog -- it was prescribed for Lady, by Dr. Kearns based upon what her body was dealing with at that time. 

Because of the effectiveness of the Madison Avenue types, at that time I was convinced (brainwashed) that commercial "dog food" MUST BE FED to dogs.  I didn't feel comfortable with making the "drastic" change to ONLY this diet as he suggested.  So, Dr. Kearns said that if I wasn't comfortable with a *totally* home-made diet for Lady, it would be OK to feed her **half home-made and half commercial kibble**. That's what I did, -- fed her half of the food according to his instructions / recipe and half commercial kibble or canned.  Even still, she did very well and improvement in her was remarkable.

About two years into this way of feeding everything was going along fairly well, and one Halloween my husband had left a bowl of candy bars on the kitchen table for the "trick or treaters".  He went out for something and when he returned, Lady had eaten every one - something she'd never done before.  This was when it wasn't so commonly known about the danger of dogs and chocolate. 

I am convinced that incident of eating the chocolate, along with the prior ivermectin toxicity (Heartguard), the "over vaccination" and flea treatment products, all contributed to her health problems the following year from which she didn't recover.  She was 10 1/2 when she passed on. To read a little more about my Lady, and see her photo:

I continued to follow Dr. Kearns' feeding advice with my other two dogs, Maggie Mae & Paco since they came to me as puppies - in 1988 and 1989 respectively. However, that all changed in 1995 when I read Ann Martin's article in NaturalPet Magazine, "Does Your Dog Food Bark? A Study of the Pet Food Fallacy".

Understand that, all those 11 years (1984-1995), my animal companions were always eating the "half home-made" food - according to Dr. Kearns' recipe. After coming out of shock when I read Ann Martin's article, I called the company that made the 'special' kibble I bought and they wouldn't tell me what the real ingredients were.  So, I went on my own journey of discovery, reading books by Dr. Pitcairn's, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, Wendy Volhard, etc. I ended up after months and months, figuring out how to make a Big Batch of home-made dog & cat food so that it was practical, nutritious, and appetizing for my dogs and cats.

What was most remarkable was the DRAMATIC improvement in my animals when I *eliminated* the commercial kibble and just fed ONLY home-made.


Now, this is what Dr. Kearns wanted me to do all those years ago, and I guess I was afraid to do it then.



Some dogs have special dietary considerations, for example, Dalmatians are a breed known to have a problem whereby they can form urinary stones which can be life-threatening.  It's wise to consult with a knowledgeable veterinarian who has done extra studies on nutrition prior to any drastic changes to diet, just to be on the safe side.

Changing the dogs' and cats' diet from all commercial "stuff" should be done gradually. I just increased the amounts of home-made food, while decreasing the amounts of the commercial stuff, until it was all home-made food that I fed. The cats took a much longer time for this transition period than the dogs did. Again, the cats were more accepting of the home-made food when I added some tasty flavors, such as:  a little grated cheese / cottage cheese / ricotta cheese, or a few sardines, and little extra olive oil in their food.

Many people have told me that their animal companions had diarrhea when they changed to the new, natural diet. Some said that the poor dog had an "accident" in the house which was upsetting to both the human and I'm sure to the dog, too! My dogs and cats did not experience this perhaps because they were always fed half home-made food. However, I have also read about this common reaction which is the body's way of cleaning out the toxins and I think it's similar to a black eye: it looks worse, but it's actually getting better.

Some of the best information on this topic to pass along to you is from the web site of William Pollak, DVM. With Dr. Pollak's kind permission, I am highlighting one of his excellent articles regarding "Healing Episodes" (also sometimes referred to as Healing Crisis):

"Upon switching to a more nutritious diet, physical and behavioral improvements can be dramatic or gradual depending on the state of the animal's health. Severe nutritional deficiencies and toxic states have been known to mimic almost every known disease in veterinary medicine. In chronic conditions, some developing over several generations, improvement in health can take months or years. A pet's ability to respond to high protein diets may require the individual animal 'transitioning' through periods of purification or detoxification. Malnutrition and the toxic condition of the animal fed commercial diets can result in the inability to digest and assimilate basic food components of the fresher, more wholesome type we are describing here. The body will sometimes expel these accumulated poisons during periods of diarrhea, hair loss, or scaling of skin. These periods are known as Healing Episodes. Though these situations are not necessary, they are not uncommon. The body will cleanse itself of these toxic agents before it can assimilate more healthful nutrients to regain a higher state of balanced health.

During these Healing Episodes, the animal's immune system continues to react to remaining toxins and poisons until a more gentle, balanced diet can complete the transition to a more resilient internal state. These periods, during which time the animal can have diarrhea, loss of some of its coat, and appear transiently sick, are really signs of a more vital life force finally shedding disease more completely. The situation is an important sign indicating a transitioning to a state of greater Wellness. The frequency, intensity and duration a Healing Episode is totally dependent on an individual animal's health, nutritional state, age and breed. Each animal will react differently during the transitioning to a more nutritious healthier diet. Not always will there be signs of purification. We can rest assured that as long as the animal is clear eyed, bright and full of energy of life, these periods (should there be any) will quickly pass and the need for medical intervention is almost never. As concerned pet owners seek out these more wholesome natural food sources, we can anticipate occasional brief detoxification episodes. Finding professional or lay support that understand the process of Healing Episodes will help make the transition for the owner easier and less filled with fear and doubt."


 Testimonial: the difference Helen's 'Big Batch Recipe' made for Licorice & Shadow (two Labrador Retrievers) -- and their humans!

Copyright 1995 Helen L. McKinnon All Rights Reserved

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