Moisture is critically important to both dogs and cats.
- After oxygen, water is the next element animals (and humans) can’t live without.
- Water makes up 60% of our dog’s and cat’s bodies.
- Body fluids, cell walls and tissues are made up of mostly water.
- Water is critical for the body to function and stay healthy.
- Low fluid levels in our cars leads to mechanical problems. The same goes for our pets.
Dogs and cats are both carnivores. In the wild, dogs are “scavenging carnivores,” eating animals they catch, dead animals, and other foods. Cats in the wild evolved as “strict carnivores.” They got most of their nutrition from catching live prey. Carnivores also get lots of water from their foods – 60-75% of fresh foods is water.
Cats don’t naturally drink a lot of water, even when they are dehydrated. As strict carnivores, they always got most of their water from their food – they are genetically programmed this way. I’ll repeat: foods that carnivores naturally eat are 60-75% water.
However, dry food - a mixture of meat, grains and other ingredients, heated and formed into dry, crunchy pieces - is currently the most popular way to feed dogs and cats. And dry foods are only 5-10% moisture. Did you get that? 5-10% moisture. This is less than 1/10th the moisture content of fresh meat – a huge change in how cats and dogs are naturally designed to eat. How would your car function on 1/10th the fluids it was meant to have? Imagine if you only ate regular meals of beef jerky and granola.
Is kibble alone the best food for cats and dogs? NO. Could feeding ONLY dry food be causing health problems? YES!!
Here are some problems with feeding only dry foods:
- Dry, kibble foods are only 5-10% moisture. This lack of moisture can lead to dehydration and other health issues.
- In order to digest dry foods, the body has to give up moisture to soften the food before digestion can begin. These fluids have to come from other body areas, like the kidneys, liver and skin.
- Dry foods are high-carbohydrate foods, which can contribute to weight gain, inflammation and diabetes.
- Cats eating dry foods have a higher risk of urinary infections and urinary crystal or stone formation
Cats and dogs are genetically built to do best on high-moisture foods, like canned and raw meats, vegetables and fruits. These foods are easier to digest, and increase the amounts of water taken in every day. As high-moisture foods, they match cat and dog’s natural need for high quality protein and fat, low carbohydrate levels, and most importantly, plenty of water.
Do your best to feed a variety of high-moisture, low-carbohydrate foods. Here are some suggestions:
- If you feed dry food, moisten the food before feeding, using warm bone broth or water. Allow the food to sit for several minutes before feeding.
- Introduce canned and/or fresh frozen foods into the diet. The more high-moisture foods (canned, fresh frozen, freeze-dried) in the diet, the better.
- Rotate proteins every 1-2 months, to ensure variety.
- Keep plenty of fresh drinking water available at all times.
- Be sure your pets get plenty of regular exercise.
Intracellular moisture is extremely important for the digestive tract, for the proper digestion and breakdown of food nutrients. Without this moisture, in the example of dry food kibble diets, the cat or dog is in a constant state of dehydration. Drinking water from a bowl is not usually sufficient. A dog eating 4 cups per day would need to consume at least a gallon of water to digest that food. For cats, they would need to drink over one cup for every 10 pounds of body weight, to adequately digest a dry food diet.