Diet and Nutrition
Dogs and cats have been our domesticated family members for thousands of years. Until the last 50-60 years, our pets existed on a diet of table scraps and whatever they could catch or scrounge. Dogs and cats are carnivorous in nature. They are designed to live on food consisting of other animals, including the meat, bones, internal organs and the stomach contents of those animals, raw and fresh. Pets need a species-appropriate diet to be healthy.
Today’s commercial pet foods are both convenient to obtain and serve, and our pets seem to enjoy eating them. But did you ever think about what is in those prepared foods? To begin with, animals in the wild never cook their food. It is eaten raw and off the ground (where the food picks up nutrients from the soil). Some commercially prepared foods can consist of undesirable remnants from human-food ingredients that are cooked into a crunchy kibble. Heat destroys many of the nutrients, vitamins, and enzymes that are present in these foods. Our animals need to consume more product just to get enough essential nutrients. Fillers, preservatives, sweeteners, artificial flavors and colors are all added to appeal to people who buy the food for their pets but add nothing to the nutritional value.
Food is fuel, and quality of life depends upon the quality of the food that is eaten. There is a lot of discussion that fresh-whole foods are healthier for humans than processed foods. Is your pet any different?
Proper nutrition can boost the body’s natural resistance to diseases. Today’s pets show different health issues than 20 or 30 years ago. While many of these changes are from pets living longer with improved home and veterinary care, dietary changes may in some part, be responsible. Diet is also linked to problems with allergies, obesity, skin and coat problems, poor teeth and gums, heart enlargement, thyroid problems and possibly cancer.
We believe that dogs and cats that are fed a more natural diet live longer, healthier lives and have stronger immune systems that are better able to fight off disease and parasites. Because natural foods have more digestible nutrients, our pets need to consume less and therefore eliminate less. Commercial foods are convenient but lack vital enzymes and are an unchanging, fixed formula. Research suggests that pets and people need a variety of good, fresh food.
When one reads the ingredients on pet food labels, which are listed in descending order of weight, one may notice a lot of grains, such as corn and wheat, which are used as fillers. Grains should not be a large part of our carnivorous friends’ diet. Some pets, as people, are actually allergic to them! Avoid ingredients such as poultry or meat digest, animal fat, and by-products. Digests are slurry of ground parts that can include hoofs, beaks, feathers, fur and other non-food parts. “By-products” aren’t much better and un-identified “meats” can be any type of meat. Then there are the additives and preservatives. Many of the listed ingredients may look OK, but if your pet cannot digest and absorb the nutrients, they are of limited value to your pet.
There are good “dry” foods available. Simply look at the ingredient list for whole, single source meat, such as whole chicken or turkey as the primary ingredients. Please visit us for a free handout of the location and name of good foods carried by pet stores in our area.
You can safely add fresh foods up to 1/3 of your pet’s meal to a quality kibble. Ground turkey, chicken, or beef, along with some blended or grated fresh vegetables such as beans, peas, grated carrot, or sweet potato may be added. Raw meats are best, but cooked fresh meats are still better then canned processed foods. The addition of supplements such as powered kelp, alfalfa, and omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oils (cod liver oil) and omega-6 (flaxseed oil) boost the nutritional value of food for your pet. Raw beef knucklebones are a great treat and good for teeth and gums. Missing Link is a great, all-natural supplement that we recommend adding to their food.
Feeding a natural diet may make a difference in your pet’s overall health. There are human health concerns with bacteria such as salmonella and e.coli which are found in raw meats. Dog and cat digestive systems are adapted for handling these bacteria, and they should not affect healthy animals. Please do follow safe handling methods for using raw meat. This includes not feeding raw meats in households with immune suppressed individuals or children less than 2 years of age. Raw ground or blended veggies (cabbage, broccoli, green beans, and ect.) should be added at 1 tablespoon per 30 lbs. once daily. Frozen, ready-made diets, such as Primal, Nature’s Variety, Northwest Naturals, Fromm’s and J.J. Fudds are available for families with busy schedules.
The only downside to making your pet a more natural diet is the time commitment to prepare a fresh meal daily. However, the long-term benefits may far outweigh the inconveniences by providing better health, fewer Veterinary visits, and a longer happier life for your pet. Any new foods should be gradually introduced over a week, or so, in order to allow your pet time to adapt to their great, new diet. Change that is too rapid may cause diarrhea.
While we recommend the most natural diet, many of our clients develop “diet drift”. Diet drifts starts with good intentions of feeding a small amount of fresh food and turns into table scraps only! If this starts to happen, please contact us and we will work with you to balance your pet’s diet.