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Southlake Animal Hospital

3570 E. Lincoln Hwy
Merrillville, IN 46410

Choosing Species Appropriate Diet

Dry kibble, canned food, raw diet, does it really matter what we feed our pets as long as the packaging says complete and balanced? The answer is YES! The food we feed our pets affects every part of them from the moment they take the first bite. So the question is, what exactly is the best thing to feed our dogs and cats?

The absolute best thing we can feed our pets is home prepared raw or homecooked diets. This is because they are biologically appropriate, meaning they are designed to meet all the needs of our carnivorous pets in a form their bodies recognize and can readily use, and don’t contain extra ingredients. These diets are high in proteins that are in a form that are easily digestible because they are in their natural form and not damaged by the heating like that which occurs in the making of dry foods. This makes the nutrients readily available to the pet without a lot of work by the body to break it down. These diets also have a high moisture content which means the body doesn’t have to use water to breakdown and process these foods. This helps the body maintain hydration and electrolyte balances, allows the pet to consume less water throughout the day, and puts less stress on the kidneys, urinary tract, and circulatory system. Raw foods are also low in carbohydrates, making it easier to control our pet’s weight, and prevent obesity. Carbohydrates are highly inflammatory leading to arthritis, allergies, and cancer.

Commercially prepared raw diets are balanced and complete to meet all the pet’s nutritional needs. Commercially prepared raw diets come in a variety of forms (nuggets, patties, ground, etc.) and protein sources (lamb, beef, chicken, turkey, venison, etc.). They are designed to be a complete and balanced diet, so all you have to do is thaw and serve. Some of the brands we recommend include, Raw Bistro, Answers, OC Raw, Vital Essentials, Primal, Steve’s real food, Northwest naturals. Rad Cat, Tiki Cat/Dog, and Small Batch. A home prepared cooked diet by Always Real Food is available for purchase at Woof Life pet store in Crown Point and can be special ordered here. We also have select items available from My Pet Carnivore. One such item is raw green tripe. Tripe is a super food containing an ideal calcium/phosphorus ratio, tons of natural bacteria, digestive enzymes, and a power house of nutrients.

Homecooked diets can be better for old, or sick pets, and some diseases, such as IBD, actually do better with cooked diet. We have balanced recipes for a home cooked diet or home prepared raw diets. Always Real Food is a homecooked diet available at Woof Life or special order through us. If you feed an unbalanced raw diet, home cooked diet, or home prepared meal, you can do a lot of harm to your pet. Home cooked or home prepared raw diets should be balanced with our RX essentials supplement or standard process whole body support. If you are not following a recipe you can have one be formulated specifically for your pet by Dr. Carlson.

Commercially prepared raw diets also come in a freeze-dried or dehydrated formulation. These diets aren’t as ideal as the fresh or frozen raw because they are dry and don’t have the high moisture content. However, the freeze dried formulations can be rehydrated with water so they can be served in a more moisture rich preparation. These diets are nice for transitioning pets who aren’t accepting of the consistency of the traditional raw diets. It still gives them that “dry kibble” texture, but the nutrients aren’t damaged by the heating that occurs with drying kibble. As you transition your pet, you can start to slowly rehydrate the formula getting your pet use to a change in consistency. Freeze dried formulations are also convenient for people who are going to be traveling with pets, boarding their pets, or having someone pet sit because they do not require refrigeration, are easy to store, and can be served dry or rehydrated. Brands we recommend are purpose, small batch, Northwest naturals, Vital essentials, and Open Farm. We have vital Essentials freeze dried niblets available for purchase. We also recommend Chi Dog or Nom Nom Now cooked diets.

The next best thing we can offer our pets is canned food. Canned diets, like raw diets have a high moisture content, so they are good for the urinary tract and circulatory system and prevent our pets from drinking large quantities of water that their bodies don’t really need. Canned foods can be tricky because some are heat processed, meaning their nutrients aren’t as readily available and some have high carbohydrate contents or poor quality ingredients.

The first one or two ingredients are going to be what makes up the majority of the diet, therefore you want the first couple ingredients to be a meat protein source (chicken, turkey, fish, lamb, etc.). Pet food companies will use things like soybeans as a protein source, so avoid foods that contain non-meat protein sources because our pets are not able to easily digest these and don’t obtain all the nutrients they need from them. Read the label and avoid foods that say “flavored” or “with” (i.e. chicken flavored dog food or dog food with chicken). These diets have little to no actual meat in them. Foods labelled as “flavored” do not actually have to contain any of that protein source, they only have to taste like it. Foods labelled “with” only have to have as little as 3% of the diet consisting of that protein source. You also want to avoid canned food that contain fillers, chemicals, thickeners, and large quantities of carbohydrates (i.e. rice, barley, potatoes, peas, etc.). These canned foods to avoid also include ones containing: BPA, ethoxyquin, carrageenan, BHA, BHT, and Guar Gum. Quality canned foods are going to contain water, meat protein sources, vitamins and minerals and occasionally a small amount of carbohydrates. Some of the brands we recommend include Rawz, Weruva, Tiki Dog/Tiki Cat, Identity, Lotus, Earthborn, Koha, Zignature, Open Farm, and Dave’s.

As for dry kibble, these foods should be avoided as much as possible because they are not biologically appropriate for our pets. They leave our pets in a state of chronic dehydration. The nutrients in these diets are damaged by the heating that occurs during processing, thus making the food harder to digest and the nutrients less bioavailable. Dry kibble also tends to contain ingredients like soybeans and corn that our pets cannot readily digest and that can cause allergies. In addition, dry kibble tends to be high in carbohydrates, which causes issues with obesity, inflammation,(arthritis, cancer), allergies, and diabetes. Even when labelled as “grain free” these diets are still contain large amounts of carbohydrates from ingredients like potatoes, tapioca, peas, and barley. However, if dry kibble must be fed, you want to choose a dry food that is made with low heat or has been air dried, contains at least 40% protein (from meat protein sources), at least 30% fat, and less than 30% carbohydrates (subtract the crude protein and crude fat percentages from 100 to determine the approximate percentage of carbohydrates). If you must feed kibble, we recommend Carna4, Farmina, Open Farm, Small Batch, Zignature, Rawz, Stella and Chewy’s Raw Coated Kibble, Essence, Fromm Four Star ,(Lamb and Lentel, Surf and Turf, pork and peas, game bird). Try to add fresh whole foods to your pet’s kibble as often as possible. Dry kibble being great for dental health is just not true. Dry Kibble does not have cleaning/shearing action to scrape off tartar. The high amount of carbs in them actually sticks more and creates MORE tartar. Pets can lick wet food off of their teeth easily after eating raw food, or other moisture rich foods.

Remember, the food you feed your pet feeds their whole body. Every bite they take affects every part of their body, so the more biologically appropriate and nutrient dense foods are, the better they are going to be for your pets. Even if you can only feed one species appropriate meal per week or can only add fresh whole foods to your pet’s kibble your pet will be healthier! If you have questions about your pet’s nutrition, just ask, we are always happy to help you figure out what’s best for you and your pets.