Pets are People – Catching up with Vondi’s Owner, Paul Jacobson

Vondi's

It’s 10:30 on a Monday morning and the Vondi’s Holistic Pet Nutrition shop in Sea Point is bustling. Beyond all the doggie treats and cat toys that greet you upon entering, an impressive food production line is in progress to my left and, to my right, large boxes are being prepared for delivery in Joburg.

Behind the production line, large gas stoves groan under the weight of simmering pots and the scents of wholesome meals and freshly-baked biscuits fill the shop. I watch as countless pairs of industrious hands work efficiently to prepare and package sachets of freshly-cooked veggies, grains and meat. On the other side, someone’s rolling out bright green, Spirulina-infused dough and pressing out flower-shaped biscuits.

“The most important thing about our shop is that it’s open and transparent. The pet food industry has a bad reputation of hiding stuff. You don’t know what goes into your pet’s food. So, we want people to see exactly what goes into the Vondi’s food they’re buying for their beloved animals,” explains owner, Paul Jacobson, as he gives me a whirlwind tour. “Nothing is hidden behind walls or doors. We display the work being done on a TV above the till counter.”

Apart from the fact that they prize honesty with their clients, Paul and his team also aim to keep their carbon footprint as small as possible.
They use gas, instead of electric stoves, for meal-prep and, furthermore, they transfer the food into Wonderbags under the counter to complete the cooking process, rather than letting the gas burn for extended periods of time. This also assists in making the grains they use in their pet food recipes more digestible.

They do currently still use plastic for their packaging, as biodegradable materials are unfortunately just too expensive for most clients’ pockets at this stage. Fortunately, the plastic they use is high micron and can be reused.
Curious about Paul’s passion for pet nutrition and wellness, we sat down for a coffee to discuss what they’re doing with Vondi’s in more detail:

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START THE BUSINESS?

Well, actually, I didn’t start it. A small little homeopath was producing this type of diet about 20 years ago. My dog, Chester, was struggling with skin disorders, so we eventually heard about a lady named Eleanor, who was making food from home and selling it to a couple of locals here.  That’s how I came to support her.
Chester sadly just died of eating nachos – one got lodged in his throat. If it wasn’t for that, he would probably have gone on for a lot longer.
Anyway, Eleanor was a small operator who had a couple of beautiful pet food recipes. I had always been in restaurants – as a chef – and liked the idea of getting away from working with humans. So, eventually we decided that I’d take the business over from her.
From a small operator with just a few staff members, we’ve grown into a recognisable brand that employs many people.

WHERE DOES THE NAME “VONDI’S” COME FROM?

Vondi was the name of the previous owner’s Belgian Shephard. The reason why Eleanor’s pet food started becoming so popular, was because everyone was seeing how well Vondi performed and how healthy he looked.

WHAT PRODUCTS DID YOU START WITH?

We started with food first – the recipe Eleanor had been making – and one range of biscuits. We haven’t done anything different with the food. We’ve still got six lines. The biscuits, we expand all the time to include different ingredients, like coconut oil (which is one of our biggest sellers now).

Then our remedies – at one stage we only had a vitamin mix. But now we do a whole range of items now, including spirulina, fish oil and rooibos. This part of the business has grown quite a bit because we feel it completes holistically the nutritional side.

WHERE DO YOU SOURCE YOUR INGREDIENTS FROM?

It’s very important for us to make sure that everything is natural and ethical. So, with the meat, we pay a premium, buying it from a certified supplier who is registered themselves as a pet food supplier. Then, we get our wholegrains from Sasko and we’ve confirmed that they are not genetically modified. Our vegetables are bought through a fresh trading supplier here. And our olive oil is all South African-produced.


SO, A LOT OF THOUGHT 
GOES INTO EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT, BASICALLY?

Oh yes! Nutrition is all about performance and if you aren’t seeing results, something must be lacking in the ingredients.
We make a strong claim in healing skin and other ailments, so we have to be absolutely vigilant. Also, we rely on the palatability of those ingredients. There are so many shortcuts in the pet food industry: you get manufacturers using tomato source with sugar or even digestives.
For us, the nutritional value of our food is more important than the taste. Of course, it is tasty, but that’s not our number one priority.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST OPEN THE SEA POINT SHOP?

It must be about 15 years ago. Eleanor ran it for a bit and then we’ve taken over for about 14 years. She actually started in a tiny shop, but then we got the opportunity to move over to the larger premises. We were reluctant at first, but now we’re really grateful. The size was obviously what we needed. It’s even too small now!

DO YOU HAVE ANY SHOP ELSEWHERE?

We have about 200 stockists, but no other shops yet.

WHAT ARE YOUR MOST POPULAR PRODUCTS?

Our main sellers, which represent about 70% of our business, is still food. But that takes a lot of work, explaining to people the nutritional values. So, once you’ve imparted that information and people become enlightened, they understand why.
But, then, the ‘quick fixes’ like biscuits and treats are also very popular, but definitely a smaller part of our business.
I guess, we focus more on aligning ourselves with the human industry, which is huge in South Africa, especially Cape Town, which boasts some of the most amazing nutritionists in the world. We are a step ahead of most countries.

SO, OBVIOUSLY, THE MESSAGE YOU’RE TRYING TO SEND OUT IS THAT THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD NUTRITION EXTENDS BEYOND THE HUMANS IN YOUR FAMILY?

Yes, it’s just common sense!
I just don’t understand how people can say, “Preservatives are bad, chemicals are bad” and then, without a second thought, apply anti-flea medication to a dog. That stuff is poison! It’s always strange to me when they’re so vigilant with their own homes and bodies, but don’t extend the same courtesy to their companion animals.
If preservatives are bad, they’re bad. For everyone. So, we want to help people understand that there are healthier meal options for their pets as well.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE AWARE OF WHEN BUYING COMMERCIAL PET FOOD?

Well, firstly, there are the two types: wet food and dry food.
Wet food is a lot better for your pet, because it typically requires fewer preservatives as canning itself serves to preserve the food to a great extent. It’s also high in moisture, which is a good thing.
What we commonly know as dry commercial food is actually horrendous, because the cooking process it goes through actually ends up destroying a lot of the important nutrients. So, they end up having to supplement further with pharmaceutical vitamins. But, vitamins are best in their natural form.
In other words, dry food is basically just cardboard with a multi-vitamin.
All dry food also has to be preserved to be able to sit on the shelf for 24 months and is pretty much devoid of moisture. That’s how omnivores and carnivores metabolise liquid – through their food. Cats are now drinking copious amounts of water, because they’re dehydrated. All our animals are in a constant state of dehydration. If they eat proper, whole food, they don’t need to drink as much.

DO YOU THINK THERE’S ALSO A SOCAL ASPECT TO SERVING HEALTHIER FOOD TO YOUR PETS – TO INTEGRATE THEM INTO THE FAMILY IN A WAY?

Yes, it’s quite interesting actually. In terms of behaviour, our animals disrespect us now. In the olden days, we used to make food with love and put it down on a plate for them. It was all done with love and you built a bond with your animal.
Now, we just heap a bowl of dry food and put it down without even really looking at our animal. No wonder they’re not always keen to do what we ask them to.

SPEAKING ABOUT BEHAVIOUR, YOU GUYS ALSO RUN A DOGGY DAY CARE AT VONDI’S. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR DOGS TO SOCIALISE IN THIS WAY?

We have about 40 dogs attending our Doggy Day Care and they love it!
Just the same as children, dogs need to interact with humans and other dogs. If you leave a child on their own all the time, they’ll develop all sorts of psychological inadequacies. The same is true with dogs! They need interaction, they need to be entertained. They’re such sociable animals and to leave your doggie at home alone for a whole day is simply cruel.

VONDI’S DO A LOT OF COMMUNITY AND CHARITY WORK. CAN YOU SHARE?

Yes, I feel that we have a responsibility to assist animal welfare as much as possible. We’re very proud of the fact that we support a number of shelters and clinics and also offer a variety of ways in which clients can do the same. One of the fun things we did earlier this year was the Paws on the Promenade doggy walk with Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha to raise funds for them. We had about 500 dogs and humans walking. We’re also very involved with DARG in Hout Bay, when there was the fire, we raised R40 000 worth of food. On our website, we have an option of buying food for your preferred animal welfare. We supported the SPCA going up to Mount Kilimanjaro – we’ve even got a Vondi’s flag flying on the summit!

FINALLY, YOU ALSO HAVE REGULAR RADIO SLOTS WHERE YOU TALK ABOUT PET HEALTH AND WELLNESS. WHERE CAN PEOPLE TUNE IN?

Every Saturday morning – sometime between 09:15 and 10:15 – I have my own show on Smile FM. It’s called Pet Pals and we cover everything on there – from the godliness of our dogs to remedies for ailments, the beauty of our animals, questions-and-answers.
From time to time, I also talk on Voice of the Cape.
Then, apart from that, we’re also quite big on social media and I write a lot of blog posts, which can be found on our site.

The Vondi’s website: www.vondis.co.za

Vondi's


Natural Pet Care Tips for Winter

Four Fab Organic Pet Care Tips

Natural Pet Care Tips for Winter

Natural Pet Care Tips for Winter

When you’re taking care of your family’s winter healthcare needs, don’t forget your furry, four-legged friends. Just like you and your kids, your pets need special care in winter to stay healthy; and of course the natural way is always the best way to do this. Check out a few of our top natural pet care tips for winter, and show your wonderful animal companions some extra love.


Nutrition

During the winter months, your pet’s body needs extra nutrition to function at its peak – without adding empty calories. A balanced, preferably organic diet of food made without pesticides, preservatives, flavourings or colourants is always best. Like people, pets are more likely to pick up illnesses and infections during winter, when their immunity is lowered. Up your pet’s daily nutritional intake with a natural immune-boosting supplement.

Don’t forget the occasional treat for your furry friend – like a biscuit made with organic health-giving ingredients. Some of our favourites: Vondis Spirulin


Exercise

It’s important for your pets to stay active during the winter, so be sure to get that daily walk in as often as you can; and play indoors when you can’t. This is a great tome to stock up on some eco-friendly pet toys for indoor rainy-day fun. Rest is also very important during the colder months, so your pet can build up and store the extra energy they needed to keep warm. Just as with humans, a good balance of play and rest is ideal.


Paws

Walking on the cold wet ground can make your dog’s or cat’s paw pads sore and irritated, and that leads to licking, itching and scratching. Wipe you pet’s paws after they’ve been outdoors, to remove irritants and prevent little cuts and cracks. If your pet’s paws do get irritated, dip them in warm water, dry them gently and then apply a little natural moisturising ointment, or a natural pet wound healer for cuts or cracks. And to combat itchy skin from the inside out, add a little natural omega supplement to their meals. Two products that work wonders are Vondis Buchua Moisturising Oil and Crede Flax Oil for Animals.


 Grooming

Proper brushing and good grooming helps to boost circulation, which improves your pet’s ability to keep warm. If your dog (or cat) enjoys swimming or gets caught in the rain, be sure to towel-dry them, or very gently blow-dry their coat on a low heat. Only wash your pets when necessary; washing too often will disrupt the balance of natural oils on their skin. Wait for a sunny day before giving your pet a bath, and be sure to use only natural, pet-friendly shampoos and soaps.


 

Four Fab Organic Pet Care Tips

Looking after a pet is both a great joy and a big responsibility – these furry friends become part of our families, and we all want to help give them the longest, happiest and healthiest years with us. Here’s a look at four ways to keep your beloved animals in peak health, by giving them the same organic care you give the rest of your household:

1. Diet

Give your animal companions healthy, balanced nutrition with organic pet food and treats. These nourishing foods are free of allergens and additives, so they’ll max your pet’s health daily and keep their strength, energy levels and immune system in tip-top condition.

2. Grooming

Don’t expose your cat or dog to the harsh chemicals in ordinary pet shampoos and soaps – rather choose a natural or organic product to gently care for their coats and skin, without causing allergies or stripping away those natural oils. Our organic pet shampoos are made with gentle cleansing and moisturising plant-based ingredients, like soothing chamomile, flea-fighting khakibos and hydrating buchu.

3. Playtime

Pet toys made from eco-friendly, biodegradable materials are much safer – for your pet and your planet – than ordinary chemical-laden products. Our natural dog and cat toys are made with materials like rice husk rubber and organic cotton. They’re 100% safe for chewing and tough enough to keep the most playful pets entertained.

4. Supplements

Our furry friends need dietary supplements to keep their systems in balance, the same as we do. Keep them strong and healthy by choosing the right homeopathic pet supplements; these products are formulated using plant extracts, vitamins and minerals, with no harsh synthetic additives, preservatives or antibiotics.

We think these organic pet products are the cat’s pyjamas – and we’re sure your four-footed family members will agree!

Flea & Tick Drops – Get the Safe Alternative!


We asked Paul who started Vondi’s (a company specialising in holistic Pet Nutrition) to tell us a bit more about his motivation in starting a natural pet range that includes gentle but effective pet repellents, washes, sprays and immune boosters. This stunning range is of course available on Faithful to Nature and on special at the moment (See our Vondis Pet Range).

This is what Paul had to say:

Over the years we have interviewed many pet owners at The Natural and Organic Expo, Good Food and Wine Show and The Woman’s Show both in Cape Town and Gauteng. We looked at testimonials from pet owners at the many markets in and around Cape Town. We discussed in-depth, health issues, with the many clients that frequent our retail outlet in Sea Point.

Many complained about the immediate sickness that befell upon their pets when they applied the flea and tick drops. Others complained that there pets skin swelled up after application of these drops and most claimed that there pets continued to suffer from sort of skin condition.

After investigating the ingredients that are used to formulate these flea and tick drops, we were appalled to learn that ingredients fipronil and permethrin, used in animal flea products Advantix and Frontline, are also the active ingredient in common household insecticides, advertised nationally as almost instantly killing cockroaches. Note also that these products have a hazard rating of 4, the highest value.

I find it hard to believe that these products are not absorbed in to the tissues and organs of the animal, accumulating over time, with a consequent impact on the well-being of the pet.

There are some wonderful natural alternatives that repel fleas and ticks without being dangerous to our pet’s health. Garlic has been used for centuries as a natural anti-biotic but also to repel parasites, mosquitoes and fleas.

Khakibos has always proven to be a great flea and tick repellent. Many older folk will tell you of stories how they would cover their carpets and curtains with Khakibos, in order to repel fleas and ticks. Many tell of how Khakibos can even be used to spray your organic herb garden. Safe and natural it can be sprayed directly onto your pet and linen and in fact, is very gentle on the skin.

Cats generally prefer the powder, and dogs the spray. However, either can be used on dog or cat. Khakibos is safe and can be licked. It may also be used as a rinse for your pet’s laundry.

Shampooing your dog or cat should be done very seldom. In fact, a healthy pet, with healthy skin and good bacteria does not need to be washed often. However, when you do choose to shampoo it must always be a natural, chemical free shampoo. Khakibos is soft on the skin whilst also acting as a flea and tick repellent.

Louise van der Merwe, SA Representative: Compassion in World Farming and Editor of Animal Voice testimony is frightening but there are worse:

“My cat lost all the hair on her neck and back after I had applied one of those flea poison ampules you get from the vet. The baldness wasn’t just where the ampule had been applied. It spread over several square inches. It took a long time for her hair to grow back. I felt dreadful.”

Need I say more?

Visit our natural & organic online shop

Solving Your Pet’s Skin Allergies

The skin is the largest eliminatory organ in the body, which is why skin and coat problems are often the first indicators of poor health and care. Yet, almost every pet suffers from some sort of skin condition. Even veterinarians are lost when it comes to treating skin allergies and “hot spots” and many acknowledge the severity of this ailment. Treating with cortisone or changing to another flavor of food will not solve the problem.

Skin allergies and conditions can be cured. All that is required is a holistic and natural treatment.

Diet is the most important factor contributing to skin related conditions. Prominent veterinarians world-wide have been advocating diets that are natural, wholesome and free of preservatives.

However, the other important component in dealing with skin allergies is avoiding the use of chemical based shampoos and flea repellents. The later is not only toxic, but poisonous and many of our pets have suffered severe sickness and death as a result of its application.

Vondi’s has developed a range of remedies that are totally natural and free of chemicals. The ingredients are known for their healing properties (Khakibos, Buchu, Rooibos, Spirilina ) and have a history of being effective. This completely holistic approach will serve you well.

Shampooing your dog or cat should be done very seldom. In fact, a healthy pet, with healthy skin and good bacteria does not need to be washed often. However, when you do choose to shampoo it must always be a natural, chemical free shampoo. The Khakibos shampoo is soft on the skin whilst also acting as a flea and tick repellent.

Khakibos oil is valuable in keeping insects at bay and can help with parasitic and fungal infestation. It can also be used in cases of skin infections and it has a healing effect on wounds, cuts, calluses, warts and bunions and other infections of the skin.

The Khakibos spray or powder has always proven to be a great flea and tick repellent. Many older folk will tell you of stories how they would cover their carpets and curtains with Khakibos, in order to repel fleas and ticks. Spray or powder your dog or cat, apply to your organic herb garden or sprayed directly onto your pet’s linen, this is a must for every household.

Another big mistake that we make is trying to wash the skin irritation or redness away. We feel like we need to bath them and relieve the itchiness. Most probably, we will use a chemical based shampoo. This aggravates the skin further.

Buchu is known for its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The Buchu moisturising oil is perfect for dry and irritable skin and sooths the skin. It is also very effective for arthritic dogs and a loving massage using the oil does wonders.

So far, we have dealt with skin topically. But curing skin and cell damage must also be fought from within. Salmon Omega 3 Oils (or any marine based oil) is essential for skin conditions and general well being. A small dog needs 500mg and a large 1000mg per day. This you can acquire at any health shop and some vets.

Rooibos Anti-Itch is a wonderful infusion of Rooibos, Camomile and Spirulina with Grape Seed oil and is brilliant for alleviating skin allergies, scratching and skin irritation. Taken orally, it is easy to administer over food or directly into the mouth.

The medicinal and healing properties of Rooibos and Camomile are well documented and are a must for all pets with skin related conditions.

Spirulina is rich in essential oils, anti-oxidants and vitamins and produces healthy skin and a lustrous coat.

Whether you are trying to boost your pet’s immune system, improve digestibility or just enhancing their well being and energy, Spirulina has it all. Why not grind some over your own food?

So there you have it. It is as simple as that. You can cure skin conditions and sometimes within only a few weeks.

Administer a natural preservative-free diet that is enriched with cooling herbs (lemon verbena, lemon balm, borage, variety of sages and a variety of mints), and avoid the use of chemicals in shampoo and repellents.

More About: Vondi’s Holistic Pet Nutrition is a registered nutritional pet food that is natural, wholesome and free of preservatives. In an industry that is dominated by large multi-nationals with massive advertising budgets, our stance on correct natural feeding, using REAL meat, REAL veggies, olive oil and FRESHLY picked herbs, has found much popularity, and it is economically priced. Vondi’s is actively involved in educating the public on the nutritional rights and demands of our cats and dogs, and we have had major success in curing the many common ailments and sickness that we find nowadays.
We are proudly South African, completely transparent and aspire to a code of good business ethics, which includes supporting animal welfare organisations and animal rights campaigns.
Visit our natural & organic online shop