The Holistic Healthy Pet Lowdown with Dr Gary Richter

Dr. Gary Richter

Meet Dr Gary Richter

Dr. Gary Richter, DVM, is a distinguished veterinarian, author of newly launched books Longevity for Dogs and Longevity for Cats, international bestselling author of The Ultimate Pet Health Guide, founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition. Dr. Richter is certified in veterinary acupuncture, as well as veterinary chiropractic. Dr. Richter understands the benefits of both conventional and holistic treatment methods. His professional goal is to provide a center where pets can receive effective holistic and regenerative therapies in conjunction with the highest quality of western medical care. He also places great emphasis on the well-being of the pet owner, knowing that a sick pet can cause great strain and strong emotions. He instills this understanding in his staff and works to ensure that both pet and owner are treated with the utmost care and respect.

Dr. Richter’s professional interests are the integration of holistic and general practice veterinary medicine, regenerative medicine, and educating professionals and pet owners on the benefits of integrative care. Dr. Richter is a past-president of the Alameda County Veterinary Medical.

Listen to the episode on Spotify here or on your favorite podcast platform.

Podcast transcript:

Welcome back to the urban monk podcast. Dr Pedram Shojai here today with Dr. Dr Gary Richter loved this guy. America’s favorite veterinarian. Good reason. Uh, just been around the block is not afraid to ask the difficult questions, not afraid to try new things and has really pushed the envelope in veterinary medicine.

Um, He has been at this for a very long time has been on TVs. You. Done all the stuff. Um, but really just shows his compassion, his caring in his ability to really dig deep and ask the important questions because this animal in front of him is suffering. Uh, great guy i think you’re going to really enjoy this uh very specifically we’re talking about dogs and cats so if that’s what you care about you’re in the right place enjoy the podcast

Dr Dr Pedram Shojai: Well, Dr. Dr Gary Richter, it is nice to see you. It’s been a minute.

Dr. Dr Gary Richter: Yes, it has, and it is good to see you as well.

Dr Dr Pedram Shojai: Just to contextualize for my audience, the, , , the auspices under which we met was, . A human thing. , not a dog thing, not a cat thing, a human thing. All about longevity and life extension and first off meeting you, it was just like, what a cool guy. Right? Chill. Easy, you know, easy hang, , you go to a lot of these conferences and people are selling themselves, , people are trying to, do the look at me thing and you’re just a chill dude who’s kind of doing his thing, which

Dr Dr Pedram Shojai: I always gravitate towards, and then I’m like, oh, he’s an animal guy. What’s he doing at a human thing? Right? And I realized that it was just such a cool juxtaposition of, , a, a veterinary guru sitting here looking at the, the human data science and looking at life extension and longevity, , across the board for mammals, right.

Dr Dr Pedram Shojai: Because it progresses your thinking, because it progresses the way you look at it. So I really appreciated that about you being there.

Dr Gary Richter: Thank you.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah. And, and you know, you’re, you’re a famous vet, right? You’ve helped me with my dogs, , over the years and, um, you’ve really kind of made a name for yourself by stepping out there and, you know, it’s not that you’re unconventional, but you’re looking at all things, right, which is really refreshing in veterinary medicine.

Dr Pedram Shojai: How did that journey start for you?

Dr Gary Richter: That’s a great question. And, and you know, it started, I’d had a brief, we’ll say I had a brush with acupuncture and Chinese medicine when I was in veterinary school. Um, that was enough to peak my interest. Uh, but you know, in the midst of just . The madness of what veterinary school is. There was no time for me to really explore that.

Dr Gary Richter: And then, um, you know, years later, I’d been out in practice for probably, I don’t know, three, four years. Um, you know, it’s a funny thing about medicine that I think a lot of people who are not in healthcare don’t realize, but I mean, medical practice in many ways is it’s really following an algorithm. So if this, then you do that and you know, depending on what your test results go, then you do this, that, and the other thing.

Dr Gary Richter: Um, and like any algorithm, there is a finite end to the thing. Um, and you know, after being in practice for three or four years, I started to really see. Where the hard stops were in, in the medicine that I was practicing. Um, and, and you know, I, you know, you start to see it coming down the road that day when you have to go to somebody and say, look, there’s nothing else that we can do to help your dog or your cat, or whatever animal it may be.

Dr Gary Richter: So take them home and keep them comfortable and when it’s time, call me. Uh, and to be honest with you. , I have never enjoyed having that conversation with people. Uh, it is not a fun conversation to have. Um, you know, and as somebody who has dedicated their life to, you know, to the, the health and welfare of animals, the last thing I want to do is tell somebody there’s nothing left to do.

Dr Gary Richter: So what that, what that ultimately led to was me. Starting to explore other avenues that were outside of the, the kind of scope of what I was taught in veterinary school. And I got, I got an excellent education at University of Florida Veterinary School. Um, but I needed to look elsewhere. And because of that sort of brush I had had with acupuncture and vet school, that was really the first place I went is I got trained in acupuncture.

Dr Gary Richter: Uh, and what I found, uh, almost as soon as I started practicing acupuncture. Was that hard stop in my, in my treatment plan suddenly became a little further away. I had effectively moved the goalpost, uh, and you know, from acupuncture that led to chiropractic, to herbal medicine, to hyperbaric oxygen and any number of other, of other modalities.

Dr Gary Richter: And what I found was, is the more things I added, the further that goalpost got, uh, and the less frequently I had to have that conversation I didn’t want to have. Uh, and, and it kind of just led me down a path of . Of creating a medical philosophy and a medical practice of let me incorporate any scientifically legitimate treatment modality that I can into my practice to help my patients do better.

Dr Gary Richter: I don’t really care what the, the, you know, general western medical establishment has to say about it. As long as I have scientific justification and it works in my hands. We’re gonna go ahead and do that. Uh, and you know, that was, that was 20 plus years ago now. Uh, and, and it has really turned into something magical.

Dr Gary Richter: I mean, we’re able to do things in my practice that you just don’t see happen, uh, in, in medical practice, animal or human for the most part. Uh, and it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to make things better that, you know, by traditional medical standards are not supposed to get better.

Dr Pedram Shojai: I love that perspective. I mean, a lot of docs will stop at do no harm and not really think through that, the modality that they are looking to maybe flirt with. I. Hasn’t demonstrated any harm like acupuncture, come on, unless you’re gonna puncture a lung or, you know, you’re just really bad at placement.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Uh, it’s been around for, you know, 6,000 years and, you know, hundreds of millions of people have undergone this thing, right? Data’s there. Um, there’s a couple points I wanna unpack here. One of them is actually broader medical paradigm, which is we like to find the really smart robot monkeys and give ’em an algorithm.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Tell ’em to think this way and stop here and don’t question. Right. Which is, has a a, a whole slew of implications and challenges downstream. Right. Which is, you know, thank you for learning the biochem. Now here’s what you do, doctor. Um, and you broke that mold and you move further into this kind of wild, wild west, if you will, especially 25 years ago.

Dr Pedram Shojai: I mean, come on. Right? That was, that was hippies doing stuff. That was weird. Woo. Doing stuff right now. Everyone’s trying to catch up and, and, you know, claim that they’re, they’re doing this stuff. You were ahead of the times. Um, but then the learnings that come from that, right? The advancement of medicine and science.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Um, and the general kind of paradigm that you’ve expanded in your own clinical practice and kind of trailblazed on, I’m sure people have hated on you. We can talk about that later, right? Like the traditionalists saying, you know, what’s this guy doing? But what was the stop say for, you know, let’s talk about two or three diagnosis 25 years ago that you blew past the goalpost and now it’s just like there’s this unbelievable amount of results and a body of work that you can show for it.

Dr Gary Richter: Sure. You know what I, I think, uh, I think a great example of that is kidney failure. Uh, we see kidney failure a lot, particularly in cats. It’s something that happens very frequently in older kitties. Um, and frankly, there is not . A whole lot from the Western paradigm perspective that you can do. Um, you know, you can make adjustments to their diet, you can give them supplemental fluids, you can add in a few different, uh, medications or supplements to basically help sort of mitigate the side effects of the kidney failure.

Dr Gary Richter: But that’s pretty much it. That’s all you can really do. Uh, and, and . You know, as, as illogical as it may seem to a Western medical brain, something like acupuncture can be incredibly helpful. Um, certain Chinese herbs, uh, one very well known Chinese urban in particular called Romania actually has, excuse me, for the, uh, fire truck going by.

Dr Gary Richter: Um, but, um, you know, Romania. Has research-based evidence behind it to show that it actually increases blood flow to the kidneys. I am not aware of a pharmaceutical that can do that, but Romania can. Um, but yet that’s not something that anybody looks at from a Western medical perspective. Uh, another thing that I found was, is instead of, you know, instead of these

Dr Gary Richter: Shall we say prescription diets that many pets get put on. Uh, if we utilize a similar nutritional profile but use a fresh whole food diet, we tend to get a lot better results and get a lot further down the road. So, I mean, so acupuncture, herbs, better nutrition, a a, a great sort of trifecta, if you will, to make a really big impact in an older cat that has poor kidney function, whereas before it was

Dr Gary Richter: Give them subcutaneous fluids, feed them this prescription diet and call me when things aren’t working out.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Let’s go back a little bit because older cat. Used to be, you know, older lion. Older lion, when he couldn’t hunt anymore, you know, rolled over and got eaten. Do we, I mean, in the African Savannah, how much kidney failure is there or do they not get old enough for that type of diagnosis?

Dr Gary Richter: Yeah, that’s a great question. And I, and I think the answer is, is the latter in so much as they don’t get old enough so frequently why, why? The reason why Wildcats die, um, is actually, um, dental issues, uh, believe it or not. So they lose enough teeth or they break enough teeth that they can’t hunt anymore.

Dr Gary Richter: That’s, and you know, the, the, the, the combination of that and, and essentially as they get older, being run off by a more dominant animal from their territory, that frequently is what leads them effectively to starve to death. Um, so, you know, things like, you know, end stage kidney failure, well, it probably happens sometimes in the wild.

Dr Gary Richter: It’s not, it’s not the norm because these animals aren’t living long enough for that kind of thing to happen.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah, that’s fair. The luxury of long life, um, doesn’t happen in the wild. Um, what about what, I mean, I’ve actually gotten freeze dried. Snacks that are kinda whole foods stuff for, for my dogs from you. And I’m grateful for it. Thank you. By the way. They love it. Um, whole foods versus synthetic kibble. Um, you know, I know people that, uh, I mean, God bless ’em ’cause I don’t have the time or energy for this that are like, you know, buying frozen meats from the butcher and cutting ’em up and doing the whole thing.

Dr Pedram Shojai: What have you seen? There’s so many trends I’ve seen come and go. Like, you’re the guy. So I might as well ask on behalf of everyone here.

Dr Gary Richter: Sure. So. To me without question, the lowest hanging fruit from a natural medicine, holistic medicine, longevity medicine perspective, whether you’re talking about animals or people, is proper nutrition. Uh, you know, there’s a couple things to say about that. Number one, every animal, human, dog, cat, what have you, every animal on the planet evolved eating a fresh whole food diet.

Dr Gary Richter: It. Nobody evolved to eat food out of a bag or a can. Uh, and if you think about, if you think about a biological system, whether it’s our body or your dog, or your cat, if you think about that biological system as a biological machine, that machine is designed evolutionarily speaking. To run optimally off of a certain spectrum of nutrients, just like my car is engineered to run off of a certain type of gas and a certain type of oil and other various fluids.

Dr Gary Richter: If I put the wrong kind of gas in my car, will my car run Probably. Will it run? Well, probably not. Uh, now it turns out that biology is a lot more forgiving than my car. If I were to put, say, diesel fuel in my unleaded car, it would not go well. Biology will let you get away with a lot more than that, which is, you know, certainly an explanation why you’ve got people out there that are eating pizza and french fries for their entire life and still managing to live into their sixties.

Dr Gary Richter: But the reality is, is if you’re gonna. If you’re gonna play the odds and you want to take advantage of everything that biology has to offer for us or our pets, you feed them the biological f uh, fuel, the food that their body was evolutionarily designed to thrive on, which is fresh Whole foods. Now, certainly the spectrum of nutrients that are optimal for you and I are gonna be a little bit different than for our dog or our cat because

Dr Gary Richter: It’s a different machine, but at the end of the day, it without question, fresh whole foods are ideal. And when we look at these highly processed foods for animals, . It is a disaster. Uh, you know, number one, kibble ’cause that’s what most people feed, so we’ll stick with that. For the purposes of this discussion, kibble is generally speaking 60 or 70% carbohydrates, completely evolutionarily inappropriate for dogs, let alone cats that are obligate carnivores.

Dr Gary Richter: And furthermore. All of that high heat processing leads to the formation of things like advanced glycated end products, mayard, reactant products that we know promote inflammation and cause cancer. And the irony is, is when you look at the amount of these compounds that your average dog or cat are eating, it’s somewhere between 30 and a hundred times more than your average person.

Dr Gary Richter: Is eating on a day-to-day basis because most people aren’t eating 100% processed food all day every day. Whereas that’s exactly what we’re asking our dogs and our cats to do. And then everybody scratches their head about why rates of cancer are going up. It makes no sense, and it’s the easiest thing in the world to fix.

Dr Pedram Shojai: So we’ve had this with our local veterinarians, right? Like moving from California to Utah. You know, you get, you get what you get sometimes. And so, you know, I’ve gotten into arguments and I’m no vet, so it’s hard for me to stand toe to toe with someone who’s went to school for this saying, look, here’s the scientifically formulated, uh, you know, pharmaceutical version of kibble that we’ve been told is best for this dog.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Take this and it’s like a prescription vet diet thing that they’re all pushing through their, their offices and, and I’m like, wait a minute, this is grains, this is this, this is that. And it’s completely counter to, you know, the rabbit, the whole rabbit, like the fur, the teeth, the eyeball, the goopy brain, all of it that you envision this animal having, you know, in the wild.

Dr Gary Richter: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s a, it, it’s a true statement and I think it’s, I think this is a good moment to, to maybe just highlight something, uh, which I think a lot of people kind of lose sight of, which is. Almost without se exception, every veterinarian that you talk to, and for that matter, every physician that you talk to is practicing the best medicine.

Dr Gary Richter: They know how to practice. Uh, it’s all coming from the heart. Uh, I hear people go down the road of, oh, my veterinarians just recommending these prescription diets because he makes money off of them, or they’re more interested in money than they are in my pet. That is a load of crap and that needs to be sort of disavowed.

Dr Gary Richter: That said, most Western medical professionals, veterinary or human, are sort of in this box of, of what they teach us in veterinary school and medical school. And when I was in vet school, I was taught, put the dog on a kibble that they do well on and leave them on that. Basically until they get a point to a point in their life where they require a prescription diet.

Dr Gary Richter: That was what I was taught, and if I’m being honest, at the time, it made perfect sense to me. You know, when you have a little bit more, a little bit more space and distance from that academic environment and you learn more about, about sort of just the way biology and nutrition works, you start to see.

Dr Gary Richter: The holes in that logic, uh, you know, you start to see the problems about, you know, the lack of whole foods, you know, the elevated carbohydrates, the, the, you know, all of these sort of inflammatory products that show up in these foods. Um, but realize that, you know. Most veterinarians and most physicians get almost no nutritional education in school.

Dr Gary Richter: And what we do get, uh, is either directly or indirectly fed to us from the big pet food companies, which are multi-billion dollar companies that clearly have an agenda. Uh, and, and unfortunately that’s where most veterinarians are getting their information from. So it’s really no big surprise that those companies are not talking to people about, wow, maybe you should feed this animal a fresh whole food diet.

Dr Gary Richter: Um, although I have often thought that one of these days I’m gonna walk into a veterinary conference and one of these big companies, be it Hills or Purina or Royal Canaan, or somebody is going to be advertising the latest and greatest thing in pet food, which is gonna be a fresh food diet. And they’re gonna claim that they invented the thing.

Dr Gary Richter: And I’m gonna look and scratch my head and say, good, we finally got there. Let’s move forward. I don’t care what they claim, as long as they’re recommending the right thing.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Amen. It’s, you know, I’ve been around medicine for my entire adult life, and let me tell you what doctors look like. They look like . People, they’re coming out with a load of student loans and debt. They’re probably at a reproductive age where now they’re on a hurry up offense to like build a family and make babies and they got car payments and they want to go home and not be working either.

Dr Pedram Shojai: And so it’s very easy to just say, well, this is what we know and this is what I’ve been taught and I’m gonna go with this until I start questioning things and, come out of the, the, the fog of war of, you know, med school and kids and all of it. So I appreciate that. Position, right?

Dr Pedram Shojai: Because I don’t think there’s like an intrinsic evil plot here other than market driven forces that, you know, own the education, which, I mean, I guess you could kind of read into that as being intrinsically evil, but it’s, people are trying to, , build products around what they think are sustainable businesses.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Now is that best for your dog? I don’t think that’s what you’re saying. Right.

Dr Gary Richter: No, that’s exactly right. And, and you know, I mean, to, to take that one step further, you know, financially speaking as a, as a doctor, you have to see a certain number of patients every hour. Or you’re not paying the bills or your employer’s gonna get upset with you and you’re not gonna have a job. Um, and furthermore, I I think the other issue that comes up with is, you know, take a, take a practitioner that’s been out for five years, 10 years, whatever it may be, um, there’s this really difficult moment of self-evaluation that has to happen if you start thinking about this kind of stuff, be it nutrition or other sorts of integrative care.

Dr Gary Richter: What it requires you to do is metaphorically look in the mirror and admit to yourself that for however long you’ve been in practice, you have not been doing as good a job as you thought you were. That is not an easy place for people to go. Again, doctors are practicing from the heart. We all think we’re doing the best possible job we can, and for you to have to admit, holy shit, you know, maybe I’ve really not been doing this all that well, that’s a tough place to go.

Dr Gary Richter: Um, and a lot of people just, they don’t wanna go there. And I get that. But you know, I mean, from the perspective of how do we, how do we do right by our patients? You, you just kind of have to be there.

Dr. Dr Gary Richter: Mid bumper

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Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah. Well that’s also part of growth, right? Personal growth development. It’s called a practice for a reason, right? We’re we’re, we’re getting better, right? We’re getting better every day, so, okay, so what does this look like? I know that there are . Whole food, kind of, you know, conglomerations, approximations, like freeze dry the stuff.

Dr Pedram Shojai: I mean, I, I don’t, I don’t know very many people that have like a rabbit farm that they feed to their huskies. Right. And so, like in the real pique of what that looks like for a guy who just got back from work and the dogs are hungry, like, what, what’s the easiest way to do this?

Dr Gary Richter: Yeah, that’s a great question. And, and that, that’s sort of where the rubber hits the road from the perspective of. You know, we can talk about what is ideal nutritionally speaking, but you know, as I tell people in my office all the time, any recommendation that I make for you, for your pet, whether it’s food, supplements, medication, whatever it is, that plan has to be sustainable.

Dr Gary Richter: I. Because if you’re gonna do it for a week or two and then say, this is too hard, I’m not gonna do it, then I haven’t done you any favors. So how do we make optimal nutrition sustainable? Well, there’s a lot of different ways to do it. Uh, the great news these days is there are foods you can go out and buy that are ready made, uh, you know, so you can buy ready-made raw food.

Dr Gary Richter: You can buy Ready-made cook food that’s frozen. You buy it, you thaw it out, you feed it. Um, you can also buy freeze dried food. So for example, my company, ultimate Pet Nutrition, makes freeze dried, perfectly balanced whole food diets for dogs and cats. Uh, and the great thing about freeze dried is you, you get more or less all of the benefits of these fresh whole foods.

Dr Gary Richter: But it is about as easy as kibble in the sense of does it need to be refrigerated or frozen? It’s shelf stable. You literally put it in a bowl, add some water and feed it. So from the standpoint of like, let’s be real, you just worked an 11 hour day, you’re fricking tired. Your kids have homework, you have to help ’em with.

Dr Gary Richter: You don’t have 20 minutes to spend preparing food for the dog. Well, you know what? Freeze dried is a great way to solve that problem and still get your dog the nutrition that they need. I mean, it’s, it’s not all that different from me. Like I, I’m always sort of doing that calculus of I. , how do I make sure my nutrition is optimized in a way that’s not gonna put me in the kitchen for an hour every day?

Dr Gary Richter: So maybe that means I have to get meals delivered. Maybe that means I cook a bunch of food on Sunday and then I have meals for the rest of the week. It just depends. You just, you have to figure out what works in your life, you know? I mean, I have clients that, you know, their zen space is in the kitchen.

Dr Gary Richter: And they want to cook for their dog. And that’s amazing. And you know, I, I fully encourage that. I will give them a recipe and say, here, go do this. If that works for you, great. But for the rest of us, we need a solution that works for the dog, but also works in our life,

Dr Pedram Shojai: I really appreciate that. I like cooking on my terms. Um, and

Dr Gary Richter: Right?

Dr Pedram Shojai: you know, it’s a ritual that, you know, we, we, we like to do, but I don’t, you know, I don’t wanna

Dr Gary Richter: don’t want to have to do it right.

Dr Pedram Shojai: I don’t wanna have to do it. And man, you know, life has a lot of, you know, darts. It’s thrown your way. Um, you mentioned something that. Some people would take issue with, and I wanna kind of get it from the horse’s mouth here. Right. Um, you said cooking for the dogs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wolf in Yellowstone build a campfire and cook the thing that it did. So breaking down and creating this thing called cooking as a way to help assimilate is, you know, a human thing.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Is it helping? Are you seeing that being a healthier way to get the food to the dogs versus the risks of giving ’em raw food and getting ’em sick and all the crap that that could happen?

Dr Gary Richter: Yeah, that’s a, that’s an excellent question. And for me, I mean, if there’s magic and nutrition, I think the magic is in fresh whole foods. Um, probably the amount of daylight between raw food versus cooked food versus freeze dried food is not enough to really lose any sleepover. Um, and, and while on the one hand I think it’s unquestionable that dogs and cats are far more able to deal with foodborne pathogens than we are as humans.

Dr Gary Richter: Um, you know, I mean, if I walked into the grocery store and bought a pack of chicken wings and ate them raw. I mean, you might as well just drive me to the emergency room ’cause you know where that’s going. Um, but you could do that with most dogs and, and, and they’ll do just fine. Um, that said, uh, you know, there are concerns potentially with cross-contamination of, of raw food to humans, particularly if somebody’s got an immune system issue.

Dr Gary Richter: Um, and, and you know, for a lot of people it’s just easier and more palatable for them to work with cook food than to cut up a bunch of like raw organ meat. And deal with that. Again, that goes back to that sustainability thing. How many people in my office am I gonna get to go out and say, okay, I want you to go out and buy liver and lungs and heart and chop them up and feed them.

Dr Gary Richter: People just aren’t gonna do it. It’s gross and nobody wants to do that. So, you know, you know, if, if you’re gonna buy that raw pre-made and ready to go, great. But if not, it may be that it’s easier and more practical to do it with cooked.

Dr Pedram Shojai: I appreciate that. I think, you know, it’s very easy to become a philosophical purist in the world of medicine and functional medicine. And you know, I have these two beautiful white lobbies who, you know, grew up in the house and sleep in warmth. And you know, I’ve probably drank out of 10 rivers, right? So they do not have the microbiome of the wolf pup who.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Was born and bred in the wild. And so the raw meat is a very different thing. It’s, you know, these are domestic animals. And so I think about these, these kind of purist arguments going, look, it’s not the same. I mean, you’re not living out there in the elements the same way a wild animal would be. And so there, I don’t think my dogs have their immunity primed for that.

Dr Pedram Shojai: And it’s probably too late after the age of two. I don’t know. I mean, I, I’d love for you to, you know, weigh in on that.

Dr Gary Richter: No, it’s, I mean, it, it’s a good point. And, and, and so I’ll give you a great example. I just got back from three weeks in Tanzania. Um, I was there with a group called International Veterinary Outreach where we were, I. Uh, both treating animals as well as teaching veterinarians and veterinary students about sort of small animal medicine from both an animal welfare perspective, but also from a disease prevention perspective.

Dr Gary Richter: Because something like 1500 people in Tanzania die from rabies every year. Almost all of it kids and almost all of them from dog bites, which is just dumb because it’s the easiest thing to prevent in the world. So anyway, we spent three weeks out there working with Tanzanian dogs. That basically are dogs that they more or less live on their own.

Dr Gary Richter: They sort of are owned by people in the sense that they hang around that person’s house at night. But when the sun comes up off, they go out into wherever they go, hang out with their dog friends and forage for food. Nobody feeds them. They just eat what they eat. So there’s a, a, a dog that is the exact same Canis Domesticus as your dog.

Dr Gary Richter: But that’s a dog that could basically eat out of a dumpster and be quite happy about it. Pretty sure if my dog did that, it would not go well. Um, I’m also pretty sure that me, who’s been a vegetarian for 30 years, if I went out and ate a cheeseburger for lunch, it also would not go well because my gut is not prepared for that.

Dr Gary Richter: So like, could your dogs. Essentially learn to eat that way. Sure they could, but they’re certainly not prepared to do it now. Uh, you know, so it’s just a function of we’re all living in the world that we’re living in. And I’m certainly not advocating that people start feeding their dog out of the garbage can.

Dr Gary Richter: Um, but, but you know, we just have to. . We just have to work within the, within the framework that we’re working with. And I think, I think for in, in, in almost every respect, feeding our dogs clean food is to their benefit, uh, you know, it’s, there’s no, there, there’s no benefit in saying make sure your dog eats a rotten piece of meat once a month to strengthen their immune system.

Dr Gary Richter: That makes no sense. And that’s just, that’s, that’s the blessing and the benefit we have of living where we live.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah. Amen. And, and look, this isn’t Little House on the Prairie, right? We all live in a society. We have stuff going, and frankly, I, I don’t wanna be cleaning my carpets. Right . Every time we change kibble it’s an issue, let alone if they get into something and, you know, and I, I, you know, we have wild animals around and, you know, we had a, a, a, an episode, um, that just kept an ongoing episode with our dogs eating elk poop droppings.

Dr Pedram Shojai: I. Right, and the giardia that would come from it. Is that good or bad for their microbiome? I, I mean, it is. And so, you know, when we have, when we have these things introduced, it sucks. So things that are a little closer to home, um, this is, you know, uh, I don’t know why it’s still an ongoing debate in the Shogi household.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Um, my answer is always no. Um, my wife loves her dog so much. They occasionally get table scraps. What’s, what’s the line on this doc?

Dr Gary Richter: All right. For starters, you are about to insert me into a marital argument and I don’t appreciate it. That

Dr Pedram Shojai: You’re now a counselor, right?

Dr Gary Richter: this is not the first time, nor will it be the last. Um, that said, so there’s a couple of things to be said about table scraps. Um, a it depends on what you’re eating. I know you, and you probably eat fairly healthy. Um, so. There are a few, there’s a very short list of things that like a person might eat that a dog should not eat.

Dr Gary Richter: Uh, you know, things like onions, things like grapes, raisins, um, anything that’s particularly spicy. Um, outside of that, you know, meat, vegetables, what have you, they’re fine for dogs. Um, and honestly, I am very much okay. With dogs eating those kinds of fresh foods, you know, in addition to whatever diet they may be eating otherwise.

Dr Gary Richter: The one thing that I would say, and this is more of a behavioral issue than a nutritional one, is you don’t wanna feed your dog from the table, because the second you do that, what you’ve done is you’ve created a beggar and the dog will never leave you alone while you’re having dinner. So. The way that you do that is whatever you’re gonna feed them, save it.

Dr Gary Richter: And when everybody’s done eating and gets up from the table, you put it in their bowl and that’s when they get to eat whatever it is that you’re gonna feed them. But that said, nutritionally speaking, if what you’re eating is healthy, then there’s no reason why your dog can’t have some of it. So sorry if you just wound up on the wrong end of that

Dr Pedram Shojai: Well, you know, I ended, I ended, that was a 50 50 split for me. ’cause we also have, uh, table feeders. So, you know. Thank you. You arm, you armed me against that,

Dr Gary Richter: Okay.

Dr Pedram Shojai: um, the eyeballs. The hair, the fur, the hooves. Um, if you’re trying, I mean, listen, you’re trying to feed ’em meat. It’s like the side of a, you know, leg muscle and, you know, a chicken breast.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Uh, these aren’t things that you can readily get at the store. So if you’re trying to give them the, the, the kind of whole nutritious diet with the, like vitamin A and all the stuff that you find in the organ meats, aside from, you know, some of the products that are out there now, like how hard is it to get this stuff?

Dr Gary Richter: It, it, it can be difficult to do. And it’s an interesting point because like, if you look at carnivores in the wild, you know, a carnivore in the wild, you know, uh, be it a lion or whatever it may be, takes down an animal. And the first thing that they go for, the internal organs, they’re gonna eat the liver, they’re gonna eat the heart instinctively.

Dr Gary Richter: They know where the nutrition is. The muscle meat usually goes last. Uh, you know, so that’s a, it, it’s, it’s a really excellent point and I think that as a, you know, sort of societally speaking where we are, it is a difficult thing to do. So, for example, like I have known people, you mentioned that you don’t know anybody that has a rabbit farm for this purpose.

Dr Gary Richter: I’ve actually met a couple of people that do. Um, but you know, there are people that will feed literally a whole ground rabbit. The entire rabbit goes into the grinder, you know, nose to tail. Um, so everything goes in there. That said, for the, you know, the rest of us where that’s not really a practical possibility, that’s when nutritional supplementation has to get added to these diets.

Dr Gary Richter: Um, because you’re never gonna get, say enough vitamin A in the diet if you’re not putting like liver. In the diet. Um, so you just have to supplement it. It’s not a big deal. Uh, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of ways to kind of get from A to B here and, and you know, when I provide people with recipes on how to cook at home for their, for their dog or their cat, it’s always with a list of nutritional supplements that you have to add, because truthfully, if you’re gonna make a fresh whole food diet that is well balanced.

Dr Gary Richter: Without adding supplements, you’re talking about a diet that probably has 20 or more ingredients. It’s not an easy thing to do. Um, and, and because, you know, unlike an animal in the wild that’s eating a lot of variety because you know, they’re eating whatever presents to them in any given day, most of our dogs are eating the same thing on a regular basis, which means that if that diet, for example, is short in vitamin A.

Dr Gary Richter: That deficiency is going to magnify over time. So we need to make sure that every meal these animals are eating are properly balanced. Whereas for you and I, you know, the presumption is, is that it may not be that every meal I eat is balanced, but if I eat enough variety, I’m going to sort of make up for, you know, you know, for things in the aggregate.

Dr Gary Richter: All that said, you better believe that I take supplements as well. Um, because it’s really hard to tell if you’re getting everything that you need. So, so the short answer to your question is, is you just supplement these diets to make sure that they have everything they need.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah, it’s interesting too, the human microbiome is incredibly elaborate and we have a lot more. Real estate transit time in the intestines. And, um, you know, our biology has kind of co-evolved to work with lots of vegetables to create the butyrates, to do the thing that allows for us to, you know, derive more of, uh, you know, kind of these downstream, uh, substrate from what we’re eating.

Dr Pedram Shojai: These guys aren’t eating leafy green vegetables. They might be chewing on grass once in a while, but dogs and cats, for the most part, you know. Meats, right? Animals, fur. And so I think that’s a really important point for the listeners to get is it is gonna be incredibly hard unless you’re the rabbit farmer and even the rabbit farmer.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Look today, you got a rabbit tomorrow, you got a possum and you might’ve gotten a bird the following week. Like there’s still variety and variants in what these things used to hunt. So how hard would it be to to, to get it all? And you know, to me it’s darn near impossible in the world we live

Dr Gary Richter: It is, it’s, it’s darn near impossible. And let’s also remember that, that, you know, from the standpoint of an animal that’s sourcing their own food, the other thing that they’re getting on a day-to-day basis is nothing. So there is something to be said for they’re not necessarily eating every day. Um, and you know, that brings up a whole nother conversation about the relative benefits of things like intermittent fasting.

Dr Gary Richter: Uh, you know, and this comes back to this, is, comes back to what our bodies are evolutionarily designed to thrive on. Our ancestors, when they were hunting and gathering, they weren’t eating every day. So that’s how our bodies developed. There’s actually evidence to show that, for example, with dogs, dogs that are eating once a day actually live longer than our, than dogs that are eating twice a day.

Dr Gary Richter: That’s not a study that you see quoted a whole lot, but I find it fascinating because it sits right in the wheelhouse of what we all know about intermittent fasting for us.

Dr Pedram Shojai: That’s fascinating. Um, that is not, I mean, aside from the guilt of eating in front of them, um, , right? Which is a thing, right? People have, it’s like, you know, they’re not at the dinner table, but they’re part of the family. Um. What, you know, if you have a dog that is eating twice a day, how would you recommend starting to titrate down that one meal and training them to move to once a day?

Dr Pedram Shojai: I mean, if the ev, I mean, to me it’s a slam dunk. You know, if you give ’em the same amount of calories once a day, one big meal, who caress right? You probably have less times to gather poop.

Dr Gary Richter: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s, it’s, it, depending on the, the sort of the, the personality and level of food, motivation of your dog, that may or may not be a difficult thing to do, uh, clearly the much easier thing to do is to acclimate them to once a day feeding from day one. So it’s never a thing for them. Uh, but yeah, I mean, if you have a dog that’s used to eating twice a day, um, it may not be easy to sort of take a meal away from them because they’re gonna be after you incessantly.

Dr Gary Richter: ’cause they think they’re starving to death. Um, you know, that said, are you a bad dog owner if you feed your dog twice a day? Clearly not. Um, you know, I mean, there are, there’s, there’s, there’s far easier things that you can do that are gonna have an impact before you have to get to that. But I think it really just speaks to this whole concept of we have to feed these animals based on what they’re biologically designed and optimized for.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Makes sense and, and what makes sense here is, I mean, obviously, you know, food motivated dogs and behavior and, and snacks, right? If you’re just constantly peppering calories throughout the day, you’re never giving them a chance to fast either, right? I. Which, you know, again, this is the, the context under which we started this call was, I met you at a human longevity conference where we know, you know, caloric restriction and intermittent fasting and time delayed eating are definite movers of the needle for this type of mammal.

Dr Gary Richter: Mm-Hmm.

Dr Pedram Shojai: of course it would translate, right? Of course it would translate. Um, what else, what are the other kind of big levers we can pull? We talked about supplementation, we talked about, you know, diet in general, right? And now we’re talking about intermittent fasting for dogs, which may or may not be too late for, you know, current dog owners.

Dr Pedram Shojai: What are the other big levers? Dogs or cats? Sorry. You know, and I wanna make sure I, I’m a dog guy, so I’m like very dog centric, but let’s just make sure our, our cat owners feel loved up here too.

Dr Gary Richter: Yeah. And you know what I mean? Everything that we’re talking about is applicable for dogs and cats. Um, you know, the, these, the, the finer points of their nutritional profile is different, but the principles are the same. So, you know, when we’re talking about health and longevity for animals, . You know, the, the, again, the basics are no different than what you and I know as far as health and longevity for us.

Dr Gary Richter: Um, so, you know, certainly there’s a lot of things that I do in my office, whether or not it is kind of more advanced supplementation, whether it’s pharmaceuticals, whether it is regenerative medicine. So stem cell therapy. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, things of this nature, all of that stuff is available and for the sake of saying it, all of that stuff is very, very sort of carefully detailed and outlined in the books that I just came out with.

Dr Gary Richter: Longevity for Dogs and Longevity for Cats, for people who really want to dig into that. Um, when it comes to sort of this question of like, . What can anybody do at home that is gonna make a difference? The things you don’t need me for? Uh, certainly diet is one of them. And the other two sort of legs of that triangle are exercise and lifestyle.

Dr Gary Richter: Again, this is no different than it is for people, so we gotta get their diet right. They need an appropriate amount of exercise, and I think appropriate amount is really to be highlighted here. Um. Because over exercise is problematic as well. Over exercise is, is is asking for injury, uh, you know, is gonna cause all kinds of other problems.

Dr Gary Richter: But by far and away the bigger problem with animals, just like with people, is under exercise. Uh, and, and you know, so much of that, and again, this is a little bit more of a, of a dog specific comment, but so much of that is relative to a what kind of dog do you have? Uh, you know, because. You know, for example, a border Collie is going to have a much different exercise requirement than say an English bulldog.

Dr Gary Richter: Uh, you know, and, and a lot of this has to do with the owner’s lifestyle. Uh, and this is one of these things that I often tell people the, the time to start addressing these sort of exercise and lifestyle questions is before you get a dog. Or before you get a cat, you have to think about what is going to fit into your lifestyle.

Dr Gary Richter: So if you’re the kind of person that works a 16 hour day and you live in a one bedroom condo, probably getting a real high energy dog is a bad plan for you. Uh, you know, the, and the, the problem that we often see. And, and, and, you know, if I could, if I could leave people with anything, uh, from this chat, . Is that so many people get a pet based on aesthetics.

Dr Gary Richter: I like the way that dog looks, um, without really doing any research into whether or not this is gonna work out long term. You know, that same person will spend six months researching what kind of television to buy, and they’ll probably have the thing for five years when they’ll get a dog on a whim. And this is a 15, 20 year investment.

Dr Gary Richter: This dog is gonna last longer than quite possibly any other relationship in this person’s life. So, uh, , sad truth, but it is what it is. Um, so, you know, getting a pet whose lifestyle sort of. Interacts well with your own is a big thing because not getting enough exercise for an animal, number one, you know it’s going to lead to weight gain, poor muscle mass, bad joints, all kinds of health problems that sedentary people wind up with.

Dr Gary Richter: But the other aspect of it really sort of bleeds into this lifestyle conversation, which is understimulated. Animals are anxious. They become self-destructive. Uh, they have stress, they have anxiety, and all of those things shorten lifespan and healthspan. We all know this from our own, from our own health.

Dr Gary Richter: Anybody that is at, uh, uh, of adult age has experienced that. Stress and anxiety has a physiologic effect. If you’ve never had a stomach ache from, from being stressed out. You’re living a far better life than I am. Um, but, but the same thing is true for our animals. But the thing is, is just like with their food, these animals are 100% reliant on us for everything.

Dr Gary Richter: So their food, their exercise, their lifestyle, it all comes from us. So getting them out for an appropriate amount of activity, whether that’s a walk, a run, a swim, whatever it may be. It kind of really depends on what kind of dog you have and making sure that their life is relatively speaking, low stress.

Dr Gary Richter: Uh, and you know, so for example. If somebody lives in a very high tension household, um, maybe they have a very tumultuous relationship and there’s a lot of yelling and there’s a lot of anxiety, or maybe they live in a house with like six small children. Um. These things are going to put a lot of stress on an animal, particularly a cat.

Dr Gary Richter: Uh, and these things will ultimately have negative impacts on their health span and lifespan. So these are all things that we need to think about, but again, they’re also things that you as a pet owner can take care of at home. Doesn’t cost you a thing. You don’t need to come have a consultation with me to make sure your dog’s getting enough exercise.

Dr Gary Richter: Or that their, their life is reasonably speaking, low stress. Um, you know, this is, this is the low hanging fruit that anybody can do, and that’s the foundation upon which you build and saying, okay, what supplements do we need to add in? What pharmaceuticals, what vaccines does this dog need? You know, regenerative medicine.

Dr Gary Richter: All that stuff is great, but if you’re gonna, if you’re gonna put that on top of a dog that has poor diet and not getting enough exercise, you’re not getting anywhere. You know, I mean, a person that’s overweight and is a chronic smoker that’s taking a bunch of supplements probably isn’t doing themselves a whole lot of good.

Dr Gary Richter: And it’s the exact same problem.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Yeah, I love that. Anyway, . That we can’t detox and retox at the same time,

Dr Gary Richter: true. Well.

Dr Pedram Shojai: It’s a, it’s a big problem with humans. It’s a big problem with dogs. Okay. We’re running outta time and I wanna ask one more important question. As a veterinarian, as a, you know, a lifelong dog owner, you know, people, we, we now have some sort of

Dr Pedram Shojai: Like insurance that helps with vet bills, which I think my wife’s happy about. Um, but we have, um, you know, it’s always like, you know, the running joke, you can’t go to our vet without spending three, 400 bucks and, you know, those things for a lot of people end up adding up and making it, you know, very stressful.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Right. As a dog or cat owner. So. What do you think is a, a, you know, aside from the, the wonderful things that we’ve talked about, one of the biggest levers that if people understood and pulled would save them in the downstream veterinary bills and the things that are preventable in your universe. You know, it could be one or two, but just the, the things that you can easily prevent in terms of costs and grief downstream.

Dr Gary Richter: Sure. Um, you know, things that can easily be prevented, um, injury, uh, you know, so animals that get hit by a car, um, you know, particularly if you have a cat, keep your cat indoors for the love of God, keep your cat indoors. Uh, the average lifespan of a, of a strictly outdoor cat is something like three years.

Dr Gary Richter: These animals do not live long. Um, so keep your cat indoors. Um, when you exercise your dog, do it someplace safely. Do it someplace where they’re not likely to get hurt. Don’t let them do exercise that is going to invite an orthopedic injury, like a lot of Frisbee chasing or ball chasing, where they’re probably gonna blow out a knee.

Dr Gary Richter: Um, so, so appropriate amounts of exercise, uh, are really important. Spend a little more money on the nutrition so that they don’t wind up with the chronic inflammatory diseases down the road. Uh, you know, these are two really important things to do. Uh, other things that, that, you know, you might be able to talk to your veterinarian about, but you can also sort of read about in, in my books and others is what type of preventative healthcare is recommended and what type is not.

Dr Gary Richter: So, for example, I am certainly not anti-vaccine, but I am absolutely anti-vaccine and many, many dogs and cats are chronically over vaccinated to their detriment. Uh, I think there’s a conversation to be had about when animals should be spayed and neutered because if you do it too early, you may be inviting medical problems later.

Dr Gary Richter: Certainly not doing it all also presents some real potential problems. So that’s a conversation that needs to be had with a veterinarian that understands the various pros and cons of when these things should be done. So, you know what, what is not sort of hardwired into us as people is preventative care.

Dr Gary Richter: We just, we just are not really good at thinking about how to prevent things from going wrong. You know, evolutionarily speaking. We’re real good at if the tiger jumps out of the bush runaway, we’re real good about that. What we’re not good about is sort of thinking about, Hey, you know, I. Six months or a year from now, you know, are the things that I’m doing right now going to cause me problems?

Dr Gary Richter: Then it’s the reason why people smoke cigarettes. They know intuitively that it’s gonna kill them, but are they thinking about that every time they light up? Of course not, because it doesn’t have an immediate negative impact. It’s a down the road impact, and we’re not real good about thinking about that.

Dr Gary Richter: And the one other thing I’ll bring up, because you just mentioned it in passing, is pet insurance. I am a huge, huge advocate for pet insurance. You know, the good news is in the 25 years I’ve been a veterinarian, the quality of veterinary care has advanced. By leaps and bounds, the bad news is it’s bloody expensive, uh, and it is not hard at all for somebody to run up a bill in the tens of thousands of dollars in a big hurry.

Dr Gary Richter: And there’s nothing more tragic than seeing people have to make life and death decisions for their pet based on what they can afford. So pet insurance these days is quite good. Uh, I would very much recommend people do their homework and figure out . What, what company and what policy works best for them from the perspective of what do you want your de your deductible to be, coverage limits, all this sort of stuff.

Dr Gary Richter: But if your pet has some sort of catastrophic injury or illness, you don’t want to have to make a decision on treatment based on can I pay for this? Uh, and the irony is, is in many ways pet insurance actually pays better than human insurance. I have pet insurance, I have clients with pet insurance in my office.

Dr Gary Richter: The insurance is paying 90% not only of their medical, physical therapy, hyperbaric oxygen, herbs, medical cannabis gets covered. You name it. Insurance will frequently cover it as long as the veterinarian has recommended it. So get pet insurance for your pet so you don’t have to make those tough decisions.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Sounds like the early days of medical insurance before the bean counter started squeezing Yeah. You know, used to be good too. So longevity for dogs. Longevity for cats. Um, I will post links to it. Um, you know. If you got both, get both books. If you’ve got one, absolutely. Get the books. Uh, my dogs love the, the freeze dried food, um, that you’ve provided.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Um, and look, I just, I think everything you’ve said here has been more than saying, more than reasonable. I love your perspective, having, you know, I love talking to clinicians. Boots on the ground. Clinicians who see the real pik. There’s a lot of, you know, hyperbole. People could say things from academia that have never seen a dog or a cat, and don’t realize how hard it is to do what they’re recommending.

Dr Pedram Shojai: I love talking to people who are, you know, on the ground doing the work and know, you know, the reality is I’m not gonna feed rabbits every day, so what do I do, doc? Right? So, really appreciate your perspective, uh, appreciate your friendship. Um, and I invite everyone to read the books. Have the, the knowledge to be able to prevent some of the things that are coming downstream and also just give these, these loved ones, they’re part of our family, the quality of life they deserve.

Dr Gary Richter: Agreed, and I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Thank you. Always a pleasure.

Dr Gary Richter: bet.

Dr Pedram Shojai: Okay, hope you enjoyed it. Like I said, Gary’s a great guy. Known him for a few years now. I just love the guy. You know, tell it like it is help you help your animal. Um, just the right kind of energy you want in a doctor. So please check out his books, longevity for dogs, longevity for cats, check out the food product lines.

He’s created everything. He does. He, everything he touches is ethical and great. So if you get a dog or a cat, he’s your guy. Uh, appreciate you being here again. Um, Mito boost is what I’d like to call your attention to today. It’s in the urban monk store. El ergo theme. a powerful antioxidant helps drive.

Longevity helps push, uh, the aging clock backwards. Which is what we want. Um, I’ll do whole episodes on aging as a disease. If you could bring down biological age, you could bring down pretty much all chronic disease instead of playing whack-a-mole. And to me, it’s the best literature. Uh, for the lowest cost out there. Um, L ergo theonine. Uh, it’s extracted from a mushroom.

It’s really, really powerful stuff. So check it out. Mito boost in the urban monk store. Hope you enjoyed today’s podcast. I will see you in the next one.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.