Eating real, whole, minimally processed foods is important for optimal health and well-being. People who realize this and make healthy eating choices themselves quickly realize that this same logic applies to their cats and dogs.
Cats and dogs are biologically designed to eat what they have eaten for centuries before big pet food companies existed – meat, bones, and tripe (the fruits and vegetables digesting in the stomachs of their prey). They were never designed to eat high-carb, processed, grain-based diets, and they were designed to eat a variety of raw, moisture-rich foods. So feeding them the same dry kibble every day for their entire lives will likely result in a number of health issues over time.
Like people, pets need:
- Moisture rich meals
- Minimally processed foods
- Whole meats and produce (not meals or by products)
- Food free of additives, hormones, antibiotics and pesticides
Dogs and cats thrive on properly prepared raw meat-based diets. Processed foods can never match the nutrition available in such a meal.
What do we mean by properly prepared raw meat diets?
Properly prepared raw meat diets are “complete and balanced.” There are many people who feed their dogs and cats homemade raw diets, but for the average pet owner, these can be complicated and time consuming. There are a number of different nutritional requirements that must be met and it’s important to do your research. If you do not have the desire to invest in the education requisite to safely prepare a raw home meal, commercially manufactured raw pet foods are the best option for providing good nutrition for your pet.
There are a growing number of raw diets that meet AAFCO’s standards for “Complete and Balanced for All Life Stages.” This means that they have been formulated to ensure they have the nutrients necessary for good health over the lifetime of your pet. However, AAFCO standards are easy targets and can be achieved using low-grade ingredients. Many commercial dry pet food companies have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to figure out the cheapest ingredients available that will still yield the test result necessary to pass. These ingredients will be processed, artificial and non-human grade.
One of the goals of raw pet food is to maintain as much of the naturally occurring nutritional value as possible. Many of the processes food is exposed to before it reaches the shelf strips it of vital nutrients, so look for a company that does nothing more than grind the raw ingredients together, shape them, and freeze them. Heat destroys important building blocks for health, and High-Pressure Processing (HPP) destroys healthy digestive enzymes. By avoiding these processes, the food is an imitation of nature – with all the amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytochemicals intact.
When dogs and cats are switched from processed, dry foods to raw dog food diets, improvements become quickly apparent. A raw diet improves pet health in many ways, including:
- Fewer skin problems
- More energy and vitality
- Whiter teeth, better breath
- Arthritis and other joint issues are often resolved or reduced
- Digestive problems clear up
- Firm, smaller stools (that is a benefit for the pet parents)
Long term multi-generational feeding programs show that results are just as profound in the long term. The dogs live longer, healthier, happier lives.
Many people are concerned about the safety of raw meat-based diets. But as long as you take the same common-sense precautions that you would take when cooking steak or hamburger for yourself, there is not an increased risk for people. And pets are meant to eat raw meat. They can handle a much larger amount of bacteria than humans can. Think about your dog or cat taking a drink out of the toilet (they do it more often than we know). Do they get sick? It is likely you would if you took a nice big gulp. Pets have short, acidic digestive systems, especially when compared to humans. Bacteria doesn’t have a chance when introduced to the pet stomach environment.
Feeding a raw diet is admittedly more expensive than kibble, but those pet owners that have made the switch believe the higher cost is worth it. You can start out by just feeding one raw meal a week or alternating kibble and raw. Even adding a little bit of raw to your pet’s diet will be beneficial.