Written by Aspen Anderson, www.desertraw.com
You know how to eat right – plenty of healthy fats, whole foods, probiotics, and leafy greens. But as you prepare your quinoa and asparagus dinner, have you ever looked down at your dog and wondered, “am I doing everything I can?” You know how to feed your family right, but what about your dog?
In the wake of the real foods movement, people across America have found their way to better health through nutrition. We have rejected the calories in/calories out theory, and we know all fats are NOT bad. We have learned and the market has shifted around us as we voted with our dollars – the organic sector is continually expanding in response to consumer demand for healthy, non-gmo, unprocessed foods. We have ravenously read The Omnivore’s Dilemma and we “Like” the Food Babe on Facebook. But again – what about our pets?
A smaller but growing community of people are working to answer this question and research just what our pets need to be as healthy as we try to be. The health food pet market is nearly doubling every year, and for good reason – when pets start eating healthier, they live longer, have more energy, weigh less, and have a dramatic drop in chronic diseases – kind of like humans. Scratch that – exactly like humans.
But there are some key differences. Dogs and cats may have been domesticated by humans thousands of years ago, but genetically they still share almost all the same genes as wolves and larger cats like panthers and lions. This means that despite domestication, their digestive systems still closely imitate their wilder ancestors – not those of their human companions. For example, dogs and cats lack Amylase, a digestive enzyme found in the saliva of humans that starts to break down carbohydrates before we swallow. Because of this, it is even more important than it is for humans that dogs and cats eat a low amount of carbohydrates.
Another difference pertains to cats specifically. Feral cats that exist on mice and small prey get about 90% of their water from the food they eat. Domesticated cats on a kibble diet get about 10%. Because of this discrepancy between how they would naturally eat and what we feed them, the number one cause of death for our household felines is Renal Failure – something virtually unheard of in the feral cat population. They exist in a chronic state of dehydration that puts stress on the kidneys, eventually leading to Renal Failure.
These are just two examples of the special dietary needs that need to be taken into account for cats and dogs to be healthy. Despite these and other differences, there are actually a lot of things humans and pets have in common nutritionally – we both need whole foods free from cheap fillers, probiotics for good gut health, and lots of healthy fats. Unfortunately the food industrial complex that has saturated the human market with cheap foods has also infiltrated pet food, with similar consequences of high obesity rates, chronic health issues like diabetes, and shortened life-spans.
If you want to avoid these awful products and make your pet healthier, the best food you can feed your dog is a raw diet. This means food that has had no heat applied to it, and there is good reason why this is the best. First, important digestive enzymes are killed off in the cooking process. For humans that doesn’t matter because of how varied our diet can be, a luxury not afforded to many pets. Even if your just feeding a little raw, your pet is going to be healthier – more like you. Second, quality raw diets have high moisture content and are usually good quality. The best raw brands on the market don’t use synthetic vitamins, which are necessary in processed food. Third, most raw brands are small, family-owned companies, made in the US, and use quality ingredients like grass-fed cow and free-range meats. Kelp, goat’s milk, apple cider vinegar, organic fruits and vegetables, and probiotics are also common ingredients. If that is how you are eating, it makes sense to feed your pet the same way.
Of course, we can only do what we can afford to do, so if feeding a 100% raw diet isn’t in your budget, there are still some great things you can do to give your dog or cat some extra nutrition.
At the very least, add water to your pet’s kibble.
Even just doing this, your pet will be a lot healthier than they otherwise would be because their digestive system won’t be as taxed trying to digest dry food.
Switch to a grain-free pet food.
Cats and dogs don’t need corn or wheat – or soy or alfalfa or any other number of cheap fillers. They need a food with high meat content. It shouldn’t just be the first ingredient – it should be ingredients 1-4.
Move to a wet food that is at least 90% meat – and be specific.
If it has the word “chicken meal” in it, or anything else with “meal”, it is from those rendering factories.
Supplement your pet’s diet with things from your plate.
Especially raw meats while you are cooking in the kitchen and any other fruits or vegetables they will eat (be sure to research which are safe for your pets).
Feed them raw milk or kefir to give them digestive enzymes or probiotics.
Not the milk you get from the store or your pasteurized yogurt – I’m talking 100% raw.
There are some great supplements out there that can add extra probiotics.
Omega-3’s, and digestive enzymes to your pet’s diet – green lipped mussel comes to mind.
Supplement your pet’s diet with raw as much as you can.
A quarter time, half time, whatever. Even raw treats can be a good way to add in some healthy food.
Bio: Desert Raw Holistic Pet, www.desertraw.com
Desert Raw Holistic Pet is only one pet store in Salt Lake City that takes a fully holistic and nutritional approach for pets – in Salt Lake City.