Veterinarian Karen Becker has a simple message to share: what our furry companions eat matters, and many of us are not feeding our dogs and cats foods that help them to thrive.

Becker said she first learned the importance of diet while working in wildlife rehabilitation as a teenager.

"I learned that if you nourish a species with the diet that it was intended to eat, they do far better than putting them on a diet that's not biologically appropriate for them," said Becker.

Becker, an integrative wellness veterinarian based in the Chicago area, will be sharing her message with a Regina audience Saturday night at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel.

Being an 'empowered pet parent'

She believes the diets we feed our pets are a major contributor to the rise in diseases like obesity, diabetes and cancer in animals.

Dr. Karen Becker

Becker says nutrition is central to healing for animals, as well as preventing disease. (Dr. Karen Becker/Facebook)

"The exact same epidemics we're seeing in human health, we're seeing in our companion animals as well," said Becker.

"I've used food as functional medicine — really, as my go-to medicine all along. What I've seen is animals recover faster, and they also have fewer complications when you use functional foods as an actual tool in your toolbox for treating disease."

Becker advises pet owners to find a veterinarian whose philosophy aligns with their own, and for pet owners to take an active role in understanding their pet's health.

"It's wonderful, of course, that pet parents provide this kind of blind faith in the veterinary community. However, that doesn't serve anyone well long term," said Becker.

"It's really important that you know in the bottom of your heart that you are comfortable with where you're at, and the direction of your pet's health care is going in a way that you are guiding and steering."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend