Warning: this post is long, but well worth the read if you want to learn more about pet nutrition. Here we go!
We love our pets. They are part of the family and provide unconditional love that is one-of-a-kind. If only their time on this Earth was longer.
I truly believe that pets are a gift in this ever-changing and challenging world we live in. They provide companionship, comfort, safety, happiness, and many other things that make human’s lives better. Wouldn’t you say they deserve nothing but the best care throughout their precious lives with us?
Knowing where to start doesn’t come easy. It takes curiosity, research, and dedication to provide a healthy and stimulating life for our furry friends. Just like the food we eat affects our overall health and wellness, the same goes for our pets. Unfortunately, majority of the mass-produced pet foods out there are not actually good for them. You might be wondering, how is that possible given all of the commercials and advertisement you see that say otherwise?
Just like with other big corporations, many of today’s leading pet food manufacturers are driven by profit and not the wellbeing of pets. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true. All you have to do is take a closer look at the ingredients list on the pet food at your local chain grocery store or pet food store, and you will notice some things that don’t sound very…appetizing. Some ingredients to look out for – beef and bone meal, chicken byproduct meal, animal digest (eww!), cellulose, corn bran, animal fat, Blue 2, Red 40, soy flour, Propylene Glycol, Phosphoric Acid, and many more. Some of these ingredients are obviously bad while others are more deceptive, like animal fat. You would tend to think that animal fat is natural and perfectly fine to feed your pets because they would likely eat it in the wild, but when you dig a little deeper you find out that the animal source doesn’t need to be specified. What this means is that the fat from animals, other than “healthy” ones used for slaughter, can come from the dreaded 4-D (dead, dying, diseased or disabled). Some of the animals used to create “Animal Fat” for pet foods are the typical farm animals, but there can also be roadkill and euthanized animals from shelters. Yes, you read that right! I won’t go into the details, but you can imagine what that means. It’s sad and horrific to think that pets are potentially being fed other pets and animals of their kind. Not okay!
This is why it’s so important to know what you’re feeding your pets. I cannot stress it enough. It will truly make the biggest difference in their quality of life and longevity. The number one thing to consider is this – pets need fresh food just like people do. That’s why raw food has become so popular with animal lovers and their furry companions. Raw food is the closest thing to what pets would eat in the wild. There are many benefits of feeding raw including healthier teeth and gums, a higher functioning digestive system, increased energy, decreased skin issues, and much more. However, some pets have become more accustomed to eating pet food that is not raw and might prefer fresh food that is cooked. Cooked food tends to be more palatable for pets that are older and a bit more picky about what they eat. Like my little guy 🙂
With all that being said, here’s a little background on me and my pet Zoki’s experience with nutrition. My dog, Zoki, is a 14 year-old male Yorkie. Even though he is considered to be a senior dog, he still has great energy and the heart of a pup half his age; give or take a few. Most of the dog owners we meet on our walks think he is a puppy when I tell them his age, and that’s even with having some grey hair! Needless to say, his diet is the #1 thing that has maintained his youthfulness. It is true that small dogs tend to live longer than big ones, but even so, their chances increase with the addition of fresh and healthy foods.
Zoki was a family pet growing up and I essentially “adopted” him when I moved out on my own for the first time. I had never really thought about the food my family and I were feeding him because I just assumed that if it was made for dogs, it must be good. Boy was I wrong! I remember at one point I started purchasing the individual containers of Cesar wet food thinking it was an upgrade from his Beneful kibble. With flavors like Filet Mignon, Porterhouse and Gourmet Filets, I genuinely thought that I was feeding him quality pet food. Plus, he seemed to like it more than the kibble.
The first red flag was his teeth. Yorkies are already known for having dental issues, especially if you don’t take care of their teeth from an early age. And Zoki has never been a fan of brushing his teeth. So, the combination of not brushing regularly and eating processed food took a real toll on his mouth. Poor dental health can cause a whole bunch of other health issues like heart disease and tooth decay. Raw food helps with keeping the mouths of animals clean and healthy because the process of chewing on raw bones and flesh is nature’s way of brushing their teeth. All the gnawing and chomping helps to remove tartar and freshen breath. Fresh food in general improves mouth health and reduces bad breath.
Another sign is skin issues. What we put in our bodies not only affects our insides, it shows up externally too, and this applies to our pets as well. Hot spots, skin rashes, and itching can occur due to unnatural or unhealthy ingredients commonly found in commercial pet foods. Some pets are allergic to certain ingredients, which can also cause health concerns. If your pet has any of these skin issues, your best bet is to try and feed more wild protein sources like rabbit, venison, and buffalo. Transition gradually and give it at least three weeks to see if you notice any changes or improvements. Always check with your veterinarian when making any changes to your pet’s nutrition. Disclaimer: not all vets are experts on pet nutrition, so always do your own research and make sure you’re informed.
In his older age, Zoki has developed chronic pancreatitis and kidney disease. We have been managing both through nutrition and supplements. There is a lot of controversy over what the best way is to treat kidney disease in dogs. After following the orders of an internist at our specialty vet and discovering that his renal issues worsened after giving him the prescribed meds, my husband and I have decided to focus on healthy, quality proteins and food, along with organ meat supplements, fish oil, and kidney support treats. After a lot of research, I have determined that feeding extremely low protein in the form of commercially made prescription pet food formulas (AKA more expensive and less nutritious) was not the route we wanted to go with our little guy. Our focus is on feeding him good food that supports and promotes good health.
Now that you’re ready to incorporate healthy and fresh food into your pet’s diet, here are some of my favorite local businesses and products:
- Natural Pet Pantry – raw and kettle cooked meals (venison, turkey, buffalo) with plenty of fresh, organic, and ugly veggies!
- St. John Creamery – Grassfed Raw Goat Milk for dogs and cats.
- Curious Goat Treats – raw goat milk crackers (plain or blueberry).
- Dr. Jodie’s Natural Pets – N-Trail Mix (Organ Variety Pack) and P-Support (Nutritional Powder made from pork uterus, pork kidney and cordyceps).
- Quality commercial brands – Lotus Pet Foods canned and baked kibble; Cocolicious Organic and Wholesome Grain Free. There are other reputable brands that you can view here.
A great resource for reviewing any dog food you want to purchase is Dog Food Advisor. You can search for specific brands and ingredients to understand what you’re really feeding your pets. When deciding how to proceed, a homemade and raw diet is arguably the best option for feeding. You can also make homemade cooked food, if you prefer. The challenge with these options (and I have tried) is balancing nutrients. Rodney Habib, pet nutrition expert and blogger, has a lot of great information on making and feeding homemade meals. For premade food, it’s ideal to have a local pet store like the Natural Pet Pantry that makes quality, fresh food.
That’s it! I hope you found this post helpful and informative. Remember, human food is only bad for your pets if it’s pizza and hot dogs (and other processed foods)! Real food = optimal nutrition for you and your furry friends. Happy feeding 🙂