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Species Appropriate Diets

    If you’ve read our blog, “What’s Wrong with Kibble” you have learned all of the reasons why feeding a
    widely available dry kibble is bad for your pet and you’re here because you want to learn more. Let’s
    look at the alternatives that are widely available which are not the typical bag of super processed kibble.

    As a reminder, you should always speak to the veterinarian who regularly sees your pet to help
    determine which option is right for them. This is especially important for any pet who is being treated for a current or chronic medical issue. Always transition your pet slowly when changing foods to help prevent GI upset.

    Commercial Frozen Raw
    This is our number one choice for the average household who wants the benefits of raw feeding for
    their pet. There are many commercially prepared raw diets that come very close to what nature
    intended for your pet to consume. They are consistently balanced, nutritious, species appropriate and
    take the worry out of preparation. Make sure you’re choosing a diet that is balanced and complete. The
    only downside to these diets is that you have to do a tiny bit of planning ahead to ensure you have a
    portion unthawed for the next meal but it’ll become second nature very quickly. Of course we always
    recommend rotational feeding, even when you have a diet as wonderful as this one.

    Rotational feeding is done by changing the protein and possibly even the brand of food that you are feeding. If your pet does not have allergies to certain foods, this expanded way of eating offers them more nutritional variety than sticking to a single brand and protein every day and all the time. I typically change my dog’s protein and brand of food at the end of every bag. This eliminates the issue of the store being out of stock of your chosen food as well and offers you less stress in the purchasing of your products. Always read your labels and purchase the best quality food you can afford for your pet.

    Commercial Dehydrated Raw
    We are fans of many of these diets. Most are nutritionally balanced and are actually raw food that has
    been dehydrated which removes much of the concern of bacteria, which has a very hard time living in
    an environment without moisture. It’s easy to pack for trips since you just add water to rehydrate and
    then your pet’s meal is ready. There are few drawbacks with these diets. One that we have heard many
    times is that pets tend to lose weight on them which is usually an okay thing. To combat this if you have
    a pet who gets a little too lean on one of these diets, add some calories by adding a nutritious protein
    like water packed sardines or fresh egg.

    Home-Prepared Raw
    A home-prepared and balanced raw diet is the freshest and most biologically appropriate diet for dogs
    and cats because you can choose a variety of the freshest foods available. The challenges are that they
    are not appropriate for all pets or for all households and they are not a good fit for many people’s lifestyle. Additionally, sourcing can become a challenge at times, and ensuring they are balanced requires knowledge, focus and determination.

    While feeding a balanced, home-prepared diet is one of the best things you can do for your pet
    nutritionally in most cases, feeding a unbalanced, home-prepared diet is one of the worst things you
    can do to harm your pet’s health. You need the help of a trained veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist
    to ensure your home-prepared diet is complete and balanced! Please do not ask the salesperson at the
    local health food store for help with this. You must speak to a trained professional or you could harm
    your pet. Chicken and rice may be an acceptable choice to feed your pet during a short term GI upset
    issue, however it is not a balanced diet that will sustain your pet long term.

    Commercial Cooked / Gently Cooked
    These are also called fresh cooked. Most are cooked at an appropriate temperature to kill bad bacteria
    but not destroy the value of the food. By and large, this category of food is a good choice for people who want to ensure the food is balanced and feels home cooked. Most are only available via a subscription
    service which is fine if you’re into subscriptions. This category of food also contains the ones you can
    buy in the refrigerated section of your local grocery store that come in a log shape which you cut to
    serve and we do not recommend those for several reasons. As with every type of food, please read the
    ingredients. There is a range of (terrible for your pet) to (great for your pet) in each of these categories.
    Always look for a product made in a USDA-inspected and -approved kitchen when choosing foods from
    this or any category.

    Commercial Dehydrated Cooked
    There are some diets on the market that are considered raw because everything except the meat is raw
    and the meat is heat pasteurized such as Honest Kitchen. We like the Honest Kitchen company and feel
    they do a good job of creating a diet that is balanced and has many of the benefits of feeding raw
    without the challenges. The drawback is that the food doesn’t look very appetizing to us humans but
    pets don’t seem to mind! They are a solid company with a long history of providing well thought out
    diets for dogs and cats.

    Home-Prepared Cooked
    If raw is not for you for any host of reasons, a close second is a complete and balanced home-prepared
    cooked diet. You must be careful not to overcook and obliterate the nutrients from this diet but even if
    you do, it’s still far better than kibble for your pet. You will need the help of a trained veterinarian or
    veterinary nutritionist to ensure this diet is balanced. You can become a pro in no time and begin
    offering your pet fresh and nutritious meals you cook for them. Some of the challenges are that feeding
    an unbalanced diet will certainly harm your pet, sourcing can become difficult and requires some
    planning and storage of the diet can be a little tricky to prevent bad bacteria from overgrowing.

    Canned foods require fewer preservatives because the canning itself helps to preserve the food. There
    are many canned foods available on the market that have whole and nutritious ingredients. It can be a
    bit expensive to feed quality canned foods and so these diets are utilized most by people with small
    pets. Read your labels and ensure the ingredients are in line with your goals. There is a large range of
    canned foods on the market and most are of lower quality. This is one category where you definitely get
    what you pay for.

    Lightly Baked Kibble
    There is very little difference between baked dog kibble and extruded dog kibble. Kibble is kibble! It
    requires large amounts of carbohydrates to make it into kibble form and keep it that way. It contains
    ultra-processed ingredients that have already been overcooked and then it is processed and cooked
    some more once the recipe ingredients are combined to make the kibble. While the temperature it is
    baked at is lower than conventional extruded kibble, it is cooked for far longer. For us, this is not an
    improvement over regular kibble. Don’t feed kibble!

    Vegetarian Diets
    There are species that should be vegetarians and there are species that simply are not. Dogs and cats
    are not vegetarians! There are diets that contain insect proteins that may be acceptable to vegetarian
    owners who simply cannot stomach feeding animal proteins to their pet but make no mistake, they
    require species-appropriate diets and will suffer in the long term if fed a vegetarian only diet.

    Is choosing a single food and sticking to it the right answer?
    Pets need a varied diet just as humans do. Feeding the same meal every day can create nutritional
    deficits regardless of the quality of the food. If your pet has food allergies, you may be limited on
    selection but should still add in a variety of species-appropriate, whole foods that offer nutritional
    variety to your pet’s diet while being careful to avoid known allergens.

    What is rotational feeding and should I be doing it?
    Rotational feeding is switching the brand and usually the protein and ingredient panel of your pet’s food
    on a rotational basis. Many people find it’s easy to just buy a different food at the end of the bag they
    are currently feeding while others prefer to feed out of several bags at a time, rotating different foods at
    each meal. Pets who are sensitive to diet changes may not be candidates for this system but most are
    and eagerly look forward to meal times when fed this way.

    How do I switch my pet’s diet without causing gastrointestinal upset?
    If you are embarking on introducing a new type of food to a pet who has been fed dry kibble for a long
    time, you need to proceed carefully. Dry kibble is so incredibly processed that digestive enzymes are not
    as necessary to digest the food. The pet’s body reduces production and this can create gastrointestinal
    upset when switching too abruptly. We like to recommend that you take 1 week for every year that your
    pet has been fed dry kibble to acclimate them to a new way of eating with it taking a minimum of 2
    weeks to switch completely.

    Example 1:
    You have a 9-month old puppy who has been kibble fed since being weaned from its mother. You should
    take 2 weeks to switch this puppy’s food by taking a little kibble away each day and increasing the
    amount of the new diet each day.
    Example 2:
    You have a 20-pound dog who has been eating kibble only for 5 years. You regularly feed 1 cup in the
    morning and 1 cup at night of the dry kibble. Because this pet has been fed kibble for 5 years, we will
    recommend that it take 5-6 weeks to switch foods completely.

    Week 1 – Feed 1 cup kibble minus 1 tablespoon kibble. Replace kibble with 1 tablespoon new food.
    Week 2 – Feed 1 cup kibble minus 2 tablespoons kibble. Replace kibble with 2 tablespoons new food.
    Week 3 – Feed 1 cup kibble minus 3 tablespoons kibble. Replace kibble with 3 tablespoons new food.
    Week 4 – Feed 1 cup kibble minus 4 tablespoons kibble. Replace kibble with 4 tablespoons new food.
    Week 5 – Feed 1 cup kibble minus 5 tablespoons kibble. Replace kibble with 5 tablespoons new food.
    Week 6 – If your pet has suffered no gastrointestinal distress such as vomiting or diarrhea during the
    process, you can at this point feed only the new food in the proper amount for your pet. The switch is
    If at any point during the process your pet experiences gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting or
    diarrhea, go back to the previous amount where no distress was present and stay at that level for
    another week before trying to increase again. If your pet is having ongoing gastrointestinal issue, speak with
    your veterinarian to determine the cause.

    What if my pet has chronic allergies?
    Chronic allergies are a big deal! They are incredibly common in dogs older than 2 years of age and
    symptoms can be itching, licking paws, chronic diarrhea, recurring ear infections, and even vomiting just
    to mention a few. If your pet has any of these symptoms, the first thing you should do is to find out
    what your pet is allergic to and remove it from the diet. This can be accomplished by using a food
    sensitivity test that will test for many common foods to determine what foods your pet is allergic to.
    After you have determined the issue, you can start to move toward a healthier, happier pet! You will be
    able to find foods that allow you to feed your pet a balanced and bioavailable diet while avoiding
    allergens that wreak havoc on your pets’ well-being.

    What is the best choice for your pet?
    I wish it were that simple! There are many considerations before recommending a food.
    What can you afford?
    What will suit your lifestyle?
    What are the energy requirements of your pet?
    What are your pets’ breed health predispositions?
    Do you have very young children in your household?
    Is anyone in your home health compromised?
    Does your pet have allergies?

    Some closing thoughts;
    No pet food company is exempt from having recalls for various reasons. When you extrude or bake a pet
    food at high temperatures or for prolonged periods of time, you must spray oils that contain vitamins
    and minerals back onto the food after processing and cooking to replace the nutrient profile so that the nutrients will show up when tested. This oil often becomes rancid in the bag while it sits on the shelf, for sometimes years, before being bought in a store. This moist environment is also ideal for bacteria and aflatoxin growth which is why dry kibble creates more recalls than any other form of pet food.

    I know kibble is easy-but easy doesn’t mean appropriate.
    We all must stop thinking of our pet’s diet as a one decision and done proposition. I know that we all
    just need something to be easy, especially right now, but what you give to your pet for nourishment is
    the largest controllable factor in their future health. You are creating your future pet with each meal.
    Are you doing all you can to create health for your pet?

    If you haven’t yet, please read our blog “Understanding Cancer” for more information about the
    negative impacts of carbohydrates and processing in pet food.

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