One of the hardest decisions that we make as pet parents is what to feed our pets. Diet has a huge influence on the health and quality of life our pets experience, but with so many options available, it’s hard to know what is best for your fur kid. As we learn more about our pet’s natural digestive function, pet food options adjust to optimize pet health, resulting in new, holistic diets. The latest trend in dog and cat nutrition is raw or freeze-dried raw diets that are formulated to satisfy your animal’s natural instincts and overall nutritional needs.
A raw or freeze-dried raw diet includes whole food ingredients that have been minimally processed without using any heat. Raw cat and dog food proves especially healthy because it consists of meat, organs, bone, marrow, and vegetables that retain naturally occurring enzymes, amino acids, and vitamins. Commercial raw diets are held to strict safety and nutritional standards, using a flash-freezing process or high-pressure pasteurization to eliminate any bacteria, parasites, viruses, or mold that could be present in the raw ingredients. If you’re interested in learning more about how raw pet food is produced, Kahoots Feed and Pet Store’s knowledgeable staff can assist in explaining the differences and benefits of each option.
High-heat processing destroys naturally occurring enzymes, amino acids, and vitamins, reducing the natural nutrient value of the food and making the proteins harder to digest. Raw pet food is processed at lower temperatures, making it much more digestible and nutritious for your dog or cat. By providing the form of food that your pet’s gut is designed to handle, you can ensure your pet gets all the nutrition it needs while significantly reducing the risk of an upset stomach. When gut bacteria is unbalanced, due to poor diet, health issues, or medication, dogs and cats can experience symptoms of inflammation such a gas, digestive upset, itchy skin and paws, hot spots, tear stains, and chronic ear infections.
To understand the benefits of a raw diet, it is important to know a little about the design and function of your pet’s digestive system. While your fur babies are domesticated they still have the inner workings of a carnivore. Dogs actually have the shortest digestive tract of any mammal compared to total body size, which means they only have 8 to 9 hours to pull nutrition out of whatever they have eaten. Dogs compensate for this by having extremely acidic stomachs to break down bones and proteins, and a precise balance of bacteria in the intestines that help absorb nutrition quickly. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they lack the enzymes to digest and utilize plant proteins, so a diet of high-quality meat protein is especially important to their long-term health.
Your pet’s teeth and vital organs are also well-designed for a raw diet, as both cats and dogs have the hinged jaw and sharp teeth made for tearing and swallowing pieces of meat and crushing the occasional bone. It is a common misconception that chewing kibble cleans your pet’s teeth — it doesn’t any more than eating a pretzel would clean our teeth! Also, fast-eating dogs and cats often don’t chew food much at all, which results in more gastronomic upset and chronic vomiting Because raw diets contain the natural moisture found in meat, it is easier for your pet to swallow and keep down. This high-moisture recipe also aids in easy digestion and keeps the kidneys working smoothly. Having water present during digestion keeps the entire system hydrated, which is especially crucial for cats who are prone to urinary tract infections when their hydration needs are not met.
Raw ingredient diets are fairly new to commercial pet food suppliers and pet parents, but they have already shown to have a positive effect on pet’s overall health and wellness. Researchers have observed many benefits of raw pet food diets, including a positive effect on pets with various heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, or urinary tract issues. In these cases, raw food can naturally alleviate inflammation in the skin, eyes, joints, or digestive tract. It has also been shown to help pets maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of congestive heart failure.
How To Get Started
Finicky dogs and cats usually prefer a raw or freeze-dried raw diet, as they naturally crave meat, but they should be introduced to it slowly if previously fed a kibble diet. Since highly processed diets may have already affected the bacteria in your pet’s digestive tract, giving your pet a probiotic for three days before you begin a raw diet can help them transition to a raw diet more quickly and easily. Freeze-dried raw diets are easier on digestive tracts, but should still be slowly introduced over the course of a week or two depending on the dog or cat’s condition. Some pet parents choose to feed a partial raw diet and that’s okay, too! Any amount of raw food that can be added into your pet’s diet will be beneficial for their health. Freeze-dried raw diets can be easily mixed into any canned or kibble diet once they are transitioned. Raw food can also be fed as part of a rotational diet; for example, kibble for breakfast and then raw for the evening meal.
It might be hard to imagine our lovable little (or not so little) fur kids as being the hungry carnivores that they are on the inside, but considering their natural dietary needs when we make those big choices for them is very important. If you’re considering getting your pet on a raw food diet, we’ve got you covered with Kahoots Naturally Raw in both frozen and freeze-dried varieties.
Find your store to speak to a Kahooligan about your pet’s specific needs.