Most of us keep a crazy hectic pace and convenience foods are just, well too convenient. For many people this means scooping out some dry food nuggets (kibble) for our furry friends. But could we feed a better kind of food? A raw, meat-based diet is the best -- it’s what wolves, wild dogs, and feral cats eat, and what dogs and cats are designed to eat. Kibble, even the best brands, may not be the most beneficial for your dog or cat.
If not kibble, what do you feed? The simple answer is a species-appropriate diet. For dogs, who are opportunistic carnivores, a diet rich in raw meat and organs, raw eggs, some fruit and veggies, and raw meaty bones is best. Cats are obligate carnivores and should have a diet comprised of raw meat, organs, eggs, bones, and a touch of produce. Since cats have not evolved much since their desert origins, moisture in their diet should come from their food. Digestion for both cats and dogs works more efficiently when moisture is part of the food instead of on the side.
Not convinced that raw is best? Here are some reasons to feed raw:
Whole Food Nutrition
- Dogs and cats naturally produce only about 25% of the enzymes needed to digest food. This means that 75% of the remaining enzymes need to be in the food.
- Without enzymes in the food or enzyme supplementation, the pancreas works overtime to produce the enzymes needed for digestion.
- Nearly all of the enzymes needed to digest food are already in raw food. Enzymes are fragile and are easily damaged by pesticides, herbicides, and artificial additives. Cooking destroys these enzymes along with many vitamins and other nutrients.
Dog and Cat Anatomy
- The GI tract is much shorter in carnivores than in either herbivores or omnivores. Both dogs, and especially cats, have very short digestive tracts.
- Digestion starts in the mouth. The natural absence of amylase (an enzyme required to digest plant-based starches) in dog and cat saliva indicates they aren’t designed to digest plants.
- Cats and dogs not only do not have grinding teeth, their jaws only work in and up and down direction. Their teeth are made for ripping and tearing, with very little chewing, and no grinding.
- Dogs and cats have a very acidic digestive system. Unless your furry pal is suffering from a suppressed immune system, those bugs that make people ill (E.coli, salmonella, etc.) simply can’t survive the stomach acids in a healthy cat or dog.
- Raw food is inherently high in moisture, which helps keep the body hydrated.
- High quality, easily digestible protein puts less strain on organs like the pancreas and kidneys.
- Neither dogs nor cats have a dietary need for carbohydrates. Their bodies are designed to use fat as their energy source.
- Kibble is high in carbohydrates and devoid of enzymes. This combination sets the perfect stage for plaque adhesion, tartar build up, gum disease, and tooth decay.
- In a healthy dog or cat a raw diet usually results in cleaner teeth and fresher breath.
Varieties of Food
There are many brands of raw food these days. Some of them (Stella & Chewy’s, Primal, and Bravo) high pressure pasteurize (HPP) all of their formulas. Northwest Naturals uses HPP only on their poultry formulas, while Nature's Logic remains unpasteurized. HPP kills all bacteria, which makes the food much safer for people, however good bugs (probiotics) are also killed. Only Stella & Chewy’s adds probiotics back in to the food. A popular, raw, unpasteurized kitty diet is Rad Cat, and it’s available in three different meat formulas. Between these various brands there are many formulations to choose from to meet just about any meat preference or restriction. Many raw foods are also available in shelf-stable, freeze-dried form.
You can also include Answers raw goat’s milk to your dog or cat’s diets. It’s highly digestible and chockfull of healthy probiotics and enzymes.
Raw Food Safety
If you're considering switching to a raw diet for your pet but are concerned with food safety, here are a few tips.
- Thaw raw meat in the fridge or in a pan of cold water.
- As with any raw food, regardless of who is eating it, humans need to practice safe food handling methods.
- Thoroughly wash everything (utensils, cutting board, your hands, etc.) that comes in contact with raw meat in hot soapy water to avoid cross contamination.
Drop in anytime to discuss your concerns or ask questions about a raw diet. If you want your dog or cat to survive, then feed him anything. Want him to thrive, then feed him raw.