The food we eat becomes the building blocks for all cells within our body. Therefore we truly are what we eat. And this can be said for our pets as well.
Cats are obligate carnivores—meat eaters. Dogs are more omnivorous, but still need a good ratio of highly digestible meat in their diet. Fresh foods that are minimally processed provide the best nutrition. Home cooking for our pets is great, but often more labor intensive than one might anticipate. Ratios of calcium to phosphorus, organ meat to lean muscle meat, vitamins and minerals all need to be balanced. Luckily there are ample options commercially available to make feeding your pet a healthy diet easy.
Raw diets are a great way for many pets to improve health. Balanced raw diets are actually quite user-friendly and cost effective. Despite the hesitancy of many allopathic veterinarians, feeding raw diets to pets can be done safely in a way that will enhance health. Nutrition with real food is a cornerstone of addressing health issues such as allergies, inflammatory conditions, behavior, and many chronic diseases.
Real food should be highly digestible. Often processed kibbles use ingredients that are not necessarily digestible—such as meat by-products. By-products are the leftover ingredients from other industries, and can include road kill, euthanized and rendered animals, toenails, beaks, and feathers. These meats should not be the primary source of protein in a dog's diet.
Dogs and cats need organ meat in every meal, as well as hormone and antibiotic-free lean muscle meat. Preservatives such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin are still routinely used in both human and animal foods, and are known carcinogens. These should be avoided since they contribute to mutations that can result in cancer and chronic disease.
According to the Feline Hyperthyroid Treatment Center of Shoreline, WA, it may be best to avoid the following in order to prevent chronic disease such as hyper or hypothyroidism when feeding your cat:
- Soy-containing foods
- BPA in canned food linings
- Plastic food and water bowls (replace with glass, ceramic or metal)
- Storing food in plastic containers
- Ultra-high or ultra-low iodine diets.
Since cats are obligatory carnivores, they should not be eating foods high in wheat, gluten, soy, or corn. Although they tend to be attracted to eating these foods, they are not healthy for them. Wheat has been so genetically modified that it actually is addicting, as it stimulates the opiate receptors in the gut. It makes sense now why kitty likes the cheapo food even though it makes him vomit. Also, dry kibble fed daily may put undue strain on hydration and dental health. In the wild, cats eat fresh meat and bone that are high in moisture content. To find out more about feline health and nutrition, speak directly with your holistic veterinarian.
For cats, it is best to feed:
- Canned or raw diets with little to no fruits, vegetables, or grains.
- Meat-by-products okay for carnivores
- Pates instead of gravy foods which are high in carbs
- >40% meat protein, 50% fat, <10% carbs, <250mg/100kcal phosphate
Where to Begin
So how does one initiate a change when feeding their pet a raw diet? Consult your holistic vet who has an interest and experience in feeding raw. Generally, make slow changes. It is generally recommended to at least warm the food after thawing so that it is closer to body temperature. If you live in the damp, cold Pacific Northwest, if your pet is really old, really young, or debilitated, then generally cooking raw diets is advisable. However, many pets love raw meals even cold. For some conditions, feeding the food cold is beneficial. Certain warming or cooling ingredients can be beneficial in treating hot or cool sensitive ailments such as arthritis or dermal issues.
Slowly the word is getting out that nutrition matters for optimal health! Even amongst allopathic veterinary nutritionists, feeding pets what their anatomy and physiology are designed to handle is being promoted more and more. As with all things, there is no one correct answer or diet for all pets everywhere, so individual needs and conditions need to be personally addressed.