Friday, March 17, 2017

Is Dry Food Enough To Keep Your Pet Healthy And Happy?

For many people, pet food comes in a dry form in a big bag that they scoop into their pet's bowl according to the directions. The bag clearly states it is a complete diet, leading the pet owner to believe that's all there is to pet nutrition. If you watch television the pet food commercials certainly want you to believe it is. I am encouraging you to "think outside the bag" and look at other food options for your dog or cat. While dry food (kibble) is very convenient it is a processed food. The heat used in processing destroys some of the enzymes, amino acids and vitamins and minerals. Some companies add vitamins and minerals back in at the end of the process, but they aren't as easily absorbed as those that occur naturally in food.

Dogs and cats benefit from having a raw component added to their diets. Even having one or two raw meals a week is beneficial. The enzymes found in raw meats help keep teeth clean and breath fresh, the amino acids are present in their natural form and are easily absorbed during digestion. Dogs and cats that get even a couple raw meals a week have healthier skin and coats, less itching and dandruff and healthier teeth. Most commercial raw diets are very low in carbohydrates, helping to maintain a healthy weight.

Although many people find the thought of giving their pets raw meats or fish unappealing, there are commercial raw diets available that take the "ick" out of feeding raw. Freeze dried and dehydrated diets are processed at a very low temperature, leaving the nutrients in the food intact. Frozen formulas are not heat processed at all.

Freeze dried diets are processed at very low heat. They are available in either nuggets or in a loose oatmeal consistency. Both types are meant to be rehydrated with warm water, the nuggets need to be crumbled so they absorb water faster. Honest Kitchen, Primal, Northwest Naturals, Grandma Lucy's and Sojo's are all excellent companies that make food for both dogs and cats.

Grandma Lucy's  has a complete line of freeze dried foods, with a variety of proteins. Their new
Grandma Lucy's Macanna
Macanna line is made with hemp hearts and kale, a great formula for dogs with allergies.These foods are rehydrated with water and have an oatmeal like consistency. I have used their products for my dogs and I can tell you the food even smells good. The Baker dogs gave it a very enthusiastic 4 paws up, even our picky dog, Beau.


Cats love a raw diet.

While pet food companies treat dogs and cats the same when it comes to making dry food, cats are obligate carnivores. They need a meat based diet to really thrive. They also have a poor thirst drive, as cats evolved in the desert. They are meant to get their moisture from prey animals. This is why cats fed solely a dry diet have frequent problems with urinary tract infections and bladder crystals and stones. Adding a wet raw food to their diet helps keep them hydrated and cuts down on dietary carbohydrates, a leading cause of obesity in pets. Because raw food digests so efficiently hair balls are rarely a problem. Jasmine the Baker cat loves her wet food, and we have had no urinary problems or hair ball issues.

The last type of commercially available raw diet is the frozen variety. These are available in nuggets, patties, bars or "chubs", a 2 or 5 pound tube shaped package. The frozen formulas do require freezer space and preplanning, because you have to remember to thaw tomorrow's food today.

Northwest Naturals Frozen Nuggets
Northwest Naturals has a variety of proteins available and is made in an FDA approved facility. They use HPP (high pressure processing) to eliminate pathogens without heat. The Baker dogs and cat have tried all the varieties and enjoyed them all. Primal also makes frozen varieties for both cats and dogs.

Hundars' Crunch is great for dogs & cats
Another way to add raw food to your pet's diet is by using freeze dried treats. These high flavor treats are a great training treat and add amino acids and proteins not found in processed foods. These treats also have only a single ingredient, which is very helpful for pets with allergies.  They also allow you to introduce different proteins into your pet's diet, lowering the risk of food allergies.


One of the biggest fears about feeding a raw diet is food safety. These are raw meat products, and people are concerned. Using the same food safety practices you would use for any raw meat handling works very well. Wash your hands after handling pet food. Wash pet dishes and storage containers in hot soapy water every time you use them. Use food safe germicidal wipes on your counter tops. Keep children away from any pet food, raw or kibble. These same practices should also be used for handling kibble as there have been incidences with bacterial contamination of those as well.