Why feed raw?
One of the hardest decisions that we make as pet-parents is what to feed our pets. For dogs and cats in particular, 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. The pet food market has seen a lot of change in the last decade alone, as new information about our pet’s dietary needs becomes available. As we learn more about our pet’s natural digestive function, pet food options adjust to fill those needs, resulting in new, holistic diets. The latest option in dog and cat nutrition is raw or freeze-dried raw diets that are formulated to satisfy the natural needs of your dog or cat’s system.
A raw or freeze-dried raw diet is one in which whole food ingredients have been minimally processed without using any heat. The idea is to offer your dog or cat a diet consisting of meat, organs, bone, marrow, and vegetables which retain their naturally occurring enzymes, amino acids, and vitamins. While the base ingredients are no different than you may buy for yourself at the local grocery store, commercially available raw diets are held to strict safety and nutritional standards. Commercial raw diets use a flash-freezing process or high-pressure pasteurization to eliminate any bacteria, parasites, viruses, or molds that could be present in the raw ingredients, and are formulated to be a complete and balanced diet for your pet. Specialty pet stores, like Kahoots, carry a variety raw and freeze-dried raw diet options and knowledgeable staff that can assist in explaining the differences and benefits of each option.
High heat processing denatures or destroys naturally occurring enzymes, amino acids and vitamins, reducing the natural nutrient value of the food and making the proteins harder to digest. The absence of heat processing means raw diets are much more digestible and nutritious, so your dog or cat usually doesn’t need to eat as much bulk in order to get the nutrition it needs. Less bulk in means less waste being passed through for you to pick up in the yard or the litter box. By providing the natural form of food that your pet’s gut is designed to handle not only do they get all the nutrition they need in an easy to digest form, you also significantly reduce the risk of upsetting that delicate balance of good bacteria in the gut. When the gut bacteria is out of balance, due to poor diet, health issues, or medication, dogs and cats can experience symptoms of inflammation such a gas, digestive upset, itchy skin & paws, hots 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 at home are domesticated (and possibly even a cuddle-bug) they still have the inner workings of a carnivore. Dogs actually have the shortest digestive tract of any mammal (comparative to total body size), giving them only 8 to 9 hours to pull nutrition out of whatever they have eaten. They compensate by having an extremely acidic stomach 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, making a diet of high quality meat protein even more important to their long term health.
In conjunction to the gut, the teeth and organs of your pet are well designed for a raw diet. 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 ours. Also, fast-eating dogs and cats often don’t chew food much at all, which results in more gastronomic upset and often chronic vomiting in many pets. Because raw diets contain the natural moisture found in meat, it is easier for your pet to swallow and keep down. This high moisture content 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 via their diet.
Raw ingredient diets are fairly new to commercial pet food suppliers and pet parents but they have already been shown to have a positive effect on pet’s overall health and wellness. As researchers have looked at the myriad benefits of raw diets they have found that regular use of a raw food diet has a positive effect on pets with various heart, liver, kidney, pancreas, or urinary tract issues and 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.
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 affected the bacteria in their digestive tract, giving your pet a probiotic for 3 days before you begin a raw diet can help them come to a healthy bacterial balance more quickly. Freeze-dried raw diets are an easier transition than raw diets but should still be slowly introduced over the course of a week or two depending on the dog or cat. 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 be fed as part of a rotational diet, for example: kibble for breakfast and then raw for the evening meal.
Kahooligan Tip - 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 it is important for their health that we consider their natural dietary needs when we make those big choices for them. We’ve got you covered with Kahoots Naturally Raw in both frozen and freeze dried options for your dogs.