When he’s not rescuing dogs from extreme cruelty situations, Marc Ching is teaching dog and cat parents how to improve the health of their pets with nourishing, wholesome food. A fourth-generation Japanese herbalist, macrobiologist, and holistic nutritionist by trade, Ching is the owner of The PetStaurant, a natural wellness and pet food company based in Sherman Oaks, California.
But this isn’t your average health-oriented pet food store. Besides offering its own line of fresh, organic pet cuisine – along with a variety of gluten-free, organic, and hypoallergenic foods, supplements, and treats – The PetStaurant is a friendly, inviting place where people can bring their pets and learn how to design real-food holistic diets to maintain health and correct common pet ailments, including skin allergies, intestinal and urinary disorders, and cancer.
“My place is really popular for health issues that veterinarians sometimes can’t fix,” says Ching. “Oftentimes modern medicine is so strong that it kills intestinal flora, which in my opinion is something you need to be healthy. People come to me when their dog has cancer, for example, and maybe they can’t afford chemotherapy, but they want to try to extend their pet’s life or even beat the disease. As a practitioner, I’m really honest if I can’t help somebody, so I always tell clients what they can expect, what I can do, and what my limitations are – that way they’re under no false pretenses about what they can accomplish with me.”
A typical free consultation involves Ching evaluating the dog or cat’s health, looking at what the pet is currently eating, then customizing a new diet to meet that animal’s individual needs.
“If it’s skin issues, I work through scent,” he says. “Sounds weird, but I’ve been doing this so long that based on the scent, which is pretty specific, I’m able to determine the fastest way to fix the problem. When designing diets, I go based on what’s best for the animal and for the family, whether they want to feed dry, dehydrated, raw, or cooked, taking convenience and cost into consideration in order to make the best plan.”
Besides his diet expertise, Ching also provides clients with a 24-hour free hotline that allows them to ask for help and advice about any of their pet healthcare issues.
Everything the store carries – food, supplements, and treats – is categorized according to disease, says Ching. But where some pet boutiques and big box food stores might stop at organic and grain-free pet food, ThePetStaurant goes the extra mile by staying clear of anything with ingredients known to increase inflammation, opting instead for low-starch and low-glycemic diets.
“We don’t carry anything with wheat or corn, or things that a disease will react to, but we also go a step further than grain-free by going potato- and tapioca-free,” Ching explains. “A lot of people don’t realize that 30 percent of many grain-free foods contain potato, which is a very high starch. I find that starch and sugar is a problem, so if a normal company uses sweet potato or fruit, we don’t because I’ve discovered over time that these ingredients limit my ability to cure something and can make the process much slower. I really believe in science, so I look at studies of how different diseases react to different foods and always try to apply that information.”
In keeping with his anticruelty stance, Ching is also strict about where he sources ingredients for his customized, in-house food, making a practice of only working with vendors that conform to cruelty-free best practices.
Since founding The PetStaurant eight years ago, Ching estimates he’s helped thousands of dog and cat parents from across the country learn how to feed and care for their fur babies, especially those suffering from chronic ailments.
“People fly in from all over to come here because they love their dogs so much,” he says. “It’s great because it shows the importance that animals play in our society now and how connected we are to them. A lot of these people go through this terrible ordeal with their pets and they learn how to avoid it in the future. Just like with us, the better we eat from the beginning, the better we’re going to be in life. Some people look at a bag of dog food for $30 and compare it to natural feeding, which can cost around $100 per month, and they don’t want to spend that. But if you add up that cost in years, it’s so minuscule when it comes to vet bills and the happiness and health of someone you love.”
As if he doesn’t already do enough for animals at his day job, Ching is also a fearless defender of animals in peril. As the founder of The Animal Hope & Wellness Foundation, a rescue organization dedicated to saving severely abused dogs, Ching not only rescues locally but also from the horrific dog meat trade in Asia. You can read more about his harrowing rescue missions here.
Whether saving lives through rescue or changing lives through proper nutrition, it’s clear that Ching is a man on a mission, devoted to helping animals in any way he can. He even offers his clients free hospice pet care, often making house calls in the middle of the night to help pet parents care for their dying animals and evaluate when it’s time to say goodbye.
“Dogs and cats are our family members – they are our children,” says Ching. “Working with people and seeing how much they love their pets, it’s just magical. To be able to be there for somebody when their animal is hurt, dying, or sick, and to change their whole life, it’s so rewarding. I love what I do.”