What's Best for Pet Health Spurs "Paws" for Thought
Dogs aren't living as long as they used to because of a variety of factors including the rising level of pollutants and toxins in the environment, unhealthy diets typically fed to pets, and a trend toward over-vaccinating, veterinarian Christina Chambreau said.
In her practice, she's seen an increase in cancers, epilepsy, endocrine and autoimmune diseases like Addison's, and maladies like renal disease.
German shepherds, for example, are given a life expectancy of about 10 years to 12 years today, Dr. Chambreau said. "But I remember when they used to live much longer; I've treated German Shepherds that are 17 years old."
Dr. Chambreau, a homeopathic veterinarian and lecturer, is a graduate of Princeton High School and the University of Georgia Veterinary College. She is also co-founder of the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, based in Wilmington, Del.
While visiting downtown Princeton on a recent sunny afternoon, Dr. Chambreau asked: "What's healthier for humans, fresh foods, with lots of fruits and vegetables and organic foods, or processed foods?"
The answer, obviously, is fresh foods.
"The same goes for dogs," she said. "If you feed them processed foods and dry foods made with by-products and questionable ingredients such as cellulose, which is paper, then an animal's health can easily be compromised."
She also questioned annual vaccines for small animals, and said that the common practice of vaccinating with a combination injection of distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza and parvovirus, and often including Corona vaccine and other vaccines is based on limited scientific evidence.
"Do you receive vaccines every year until you die?" she asked.
Dr. Chambreau was speaking and signing her new book, Healthy Animal's Journal, at Hazel & Hannah's Pawtisserie on Witherspoon Street on Saturday.
Optimizing Pet Health
In her book, which includes information on optimizing pet health and blank pages for keeping a journal, Dr. Chambreau holds that while some people (and dogs) are very healthy on more processed foods, the least processed is best.
She also believes that pet owners rather than veterinarians and other experts know what's best for their animals. And her journal, she believes, is a way to better equip owners to resolve pet health issues.
"If you follow basic guidelines and record types of foods eaten and corresponding energy levels, happiness and overall health, then you have the best information on building up good heath," she said.
"Personally, I feed mostly free range, hormone free, antibiotic free, locally raised, pesticide and GMO free meats and vegetables to my family (humans and animals)," she wrote in her book. "I choose locally raised over organic since I can visit the farms and know their methods."
In the book, she outlines the basics of how a carnivore's digestive system works and says that while dogs are omnivorous and can eat vegetables and fruits along with animal protein, they have digestive systems designed to process raw meat, organ muscle, bones, skin, and fur. Cats are strictly carnivore. Ultimately, however, she puts the final word on diet in the laps of individuals.
"There is no expert you can trust to know all the answers because there is no one correct answer," she wrote. "Always think back to how the carnivore is designed by nature and what you would feed your children."
That idea ? only the best for your dog ? may, for some, raise eyebrows. The same is true about the idea of a Witherspoon Street gourmet dog bakery, which is what Pawtisserie is.
Naysayers of the dog bakery concept have been many. Even animal activists got in touch with Pawtisserie owner Will Hassett after he opened his unusual store nearly two years ago.
"They thought I was somehow going to take advantage of animals," he said about the activists' concerns.
But undermining dogs and cats was the last thing the California pet lover had in mind.
Mr. Hassett says he and his wife love their dog as a member of the family and want him around for as long as possible.
With the shop, his intent is to promote the healthy aspects of raising a pet.
"School age children come in with part of their allowance, $1 or 50 cents, to buy dog treats, he said. "For 25 cents or 65 cents they're treating their own dog, or a neighbor's dog," Mr. Hassett said, offering a compelling picture of the positive influence of his store.
His shop is off beat, if not quirky, filled with rhinestone-studded cat collars, doggie postcards, fresh baked daily dog treats, and dog portraits, photographed by nationally known photographer Amanda Jones. But a major emphasis of the store is the sale of highly nutritious dog and cat foods, with added vitamins, minerals, and probiotics for optimum pet health.
Pinnacle is one of these dog foods, produced by California-based Breeders Choice Pet Foods Inc.
The company says Pinnacle is an all-natural dog food that includes ingredients such as trout, sweet potatoes, grape seed oil, and quinoa, a protein rich grain grown in South America.
It's "the first dog food to utilize this high Andes grain that is 100 percent grown organically," the company's literature states.
Pawtisserie carries about 30 different types of dog and cat food. They are available through the shop's food club, which includes free delivery to home or office and bulk discounts.
"The people who have accepted what we're doing have become friends," he said.
Fresh Baked Daily
While the store's business concept seems pretty original, Mr. Hassett said he and his wife first saw a pet bakery in California, where the couple formerly resided.
"The idea was so striking at the time that it stayed with us," Mr. Hassett said. When the couple moved to New Jersey to enable his wife to complete a medical internship, the entrepreneur made up a business plan for the pet bakery in its "most idealistic" form and found a storefront.
The dog treats, which are made by a baker who comes in five mornings a week, comprise one-third of the store's business, Mr. Hassett said. There are about 20 varieties, including peanut butter, bison, chicken, and liver. And they are doled out with tongs into gourmet quality bags.
They are made with all human grade ingredients," Mr. Hassett said. "The meats are hormone free or free range." But they aren't supposed to be eaten by people.
Mr. Hassett explained that there's a sign posted to that effect. Because these products are intended for animal consumption he isn't required by the Borough to have health department inspections.
In addition to hosting speakers like Dr. Chambreau, Pawtisserie schedules breed specific adoption days, holds pet portrait days, and provides services like doggie birthday cakes.