Is the food you're feeding your pet causing more harm than good?

One of the most commonly asked questions we hear at Woofur is, "What food should I feed my pet?"  

As a proactive pet care services provider, we strive to source natural and quality products as well as share insightful knowledge with our valued clients.  We heavily encourage pet owners to read and understand their pets' diets (treats included) because food is the most important foundation for good or poor health. 

Dogs and cats are carnivores. They are meant to eat a high quality protein diet with high moisture content of about 70%, not the typical 10-15% moisture that we see on dry food (kibble) labels. The high moisture content is necessary to help prevent organ dysfunction, including kidney failure.  This is especially important for cats who do not typically drink as much as dogs, but require high moisture content in their diets.  Pets who are fed a dry food diet are typically found to be in a state of chronic, mild dehydration that can put a lot of stress on their organs. 

Many pet food companies realize dog and cat parents are growing more concerned about the quality of food they feed their pets, so they label formulas as "natural," "holistic" and "organic" enticing consumers to purchase their products.

It’s impossible to feed your pet a biologically appropriate and natural diet from a can or a bag unless you’re willing to spend a small fortune on grain-free formulas made with true human-grade ingredients. These brands of pet food still contain additives, preservatives, flavour enhancers and/or extra fats; after all, these foods must be able to sit on a shelf for six months to a year after being manufactured, without growing mold.

So what should our pets eat?  To answer the question, we must first abide by the laws of nature - feed everything our pets' bodies need and eliminate ingredients that provide no nourishment. Their nutrients must be balanced because deficiencies will develop much faster in your dog or cat than they will in you. A poorly nourished puppy or kitten can end up with obvious signs of skeletal problems and organ degeneration before he or she is six months old.  An older animal can develop life-threatening organ degeneration, among many other not-so-obvious symptoms, over a one to three year period of eating an unbalanced, nutrient-deficient diet.


Recommended Types of Pet Foods

1. Balanced, raw diet

This is the best type of food you can feed your dog or cat. It is nutritionally balanced and complete because raw means the food is unprocessed, unadulterated and still contains all the enzymes and nutrients that are typically destroyed during cooking or other types of processing.

There are two options for making a balanced raw diet. 

The first is a balanced homemade raw diet that you can make out of your own kitchen.  Your pet can get plenty of nutritional variety by adding seasonal fruits, vegetables and various protein sources to choose from.  However, you must find a quality butcher or farm where you can source fresh meats that are free from bacterial contamination.  With this option, you are in complete control of what goes into the food and the quality of the food.  However, this does require some preparation time and nutritional knowledge in order to make the most balanced diets for your pets. 

The next option is to purchase a commercially prepared raw diet where someone else has done the preparations for you.  You'll know if the raw food you've selected is balanced because it will say it right on the packaging: "This food has been proven to be nutritionally complete or adequate for all life stages" and that the food meets AAFCO certification standards (The Association of American Feed Control Officials - the organization responsible for all animal feed manufacturing rules and regulations).  It is important that the diet is balanced and you should be aware that there are raw food pet diets entering the market that are not yet proven to be nutritionally complete. These foods often say "For supplementation or intermittent feeding" on the label.

2. Balanced Cooked Diet

With this type of diet, you have complete control of the ingredients and quality of the food. Once again, you can get plenty of nutritional variety by adding seasonal fruits vegetables and various protein sources into the diet.  You can usually source your protein sources from your local supermarket or butcher (just like how you would purchase your own groceries).  However, with this option, some nutritional composition is diminished through the processing and cooking of the food.

To make home cooking much easier, there are now commercially prepared mixes that are ready to eat, and nutritionally complete, once you add your protein source, oils and water.

Diet Not Recommended

The worst thing you can feed your pet is an unbalanced, homemade diet – raw or cooked. There is an increasing number of misguided pet owners who think they are doing the right thing by serving their pet, for example, a chicken breast and some vegetables or chicken and rice, and they think that the diet is complete. This is absolutely nutritionally unbalanced and pets who are fed this way for a long period of time may end up with with endocrine abnormalities, skeletal issues and organ degeneration as a result of deficiencies in calcium, trace minerals and omega fatty acids.

Ready to Switch to a Healthier Diet?

Transitioning to a balanced raw or cooked diet can be done a variety of ways. 

1. 24 hour Fast

Usually, the best way to switch, is to go cold turkey after a 24 hour fast. Yes, that means no feeding for at least 2 meals! 

Although against your parental instincts, fasting your pet for 24 hours is not cruel, it is something they are naturally built for. Wild animals cannot order their prey on set hours and may go days if not weeks without food. We do not advise to starve your pet, but a day of fast is, in many cases, advisable.

In fact, some will say that a day of fast every week is a good practice for a healthier digestion system. Most pets are in the habit of eating more than they need and the problem of pet obesity is the best evidence. A day of fasting will let your pet, literally, get that commercial food out of his system and make him much more receptive to trying a new diet.

2. Green Tripe Addition

If you do not wish to fast your pet, the second option (and usually the one that your pets are most thankful for) is to add either lamb green tripe or beef green tripe into your pet's new diet and switch cold turkey.

Tripe is the stomach of a ruminating (grazing) animal, including cows, buffalo and sheep.  It contains the same digestive enzymes and beneficial bacteria that help ruminant animal digest food that will do the same for your pet.  It is important that your dog’s tripe is not only green, but raw because any cooking of tripe will destroy its digestive enzymes.

3. Gradual Transition

Some animals that have been eating a processed diet (kibble or canned food) have adjusted to digesting those foods. Therefore, when introducing raw food, this must be given in small meals separate from the processed diet since these two diets digest at different rates. You will gradually increase the size of the raw meal while decreasing the size of the processed diet, eventually replacing the processed meals, one at a time, with raw food meals, then eliminating the extra meal. DO NOT mix the processed diet with the new raw diet and serve as one meal as this has reportedly cause stomach upsets for pets.

Next Steps

Now that you have the knowledge to help your pets achieve better health, isn't it time you feed a diet that they will thrive on and love?  A healthy diet that helps ward off unwanted illness and disease will help you save money in the long run from veterinary bills. Your pet will be much happier and will thank you for helping him/her lead a long and healthy life by eating a balanced and wholesome diet.

Additional Articles: