The most important thing you can do for your pet’s health is to feed an appropriate diet. Proper nutrition provides the building blocks of good health. Most dry commercial pet foods are processed at very high temperatures that destroy a good deal of the nutritional content of the ingredients. Vitamins and minerals are then sprayed back on the food along with flavoring to get your pet to eat it. The commercial pet food industry, through creative advertising, would like you to believe that these diets are the best you can do for your pet. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, I would put these processed diets at the bottom of the food chain of health for your pet. Fresh food is essential for the health of your pet, and without it, the health of your pet will suffer. (see my article on Feeding Fresh Food.)
In my 27 years of experience as a veterinarian, I have recommended many different types of diets. (Now available! Nutritional Consultations, Read More… )
There is now no doubt in my mind that pets are healthier when fed fresh, whole foods in their diets. The freshest, most natural diet to feed a dog or cat is a raw, meat- based diet. This may not be the best option for all pets, so I also recommend alternatives such as home-cooking or simply adding your healthy left-overs to your pets diet.
Here are some healthy tips for your pet’s diet:
- Never feed any diet that contains corn or wheat and always feed gluten-free. I typically recommend grain-free for commercial diets, but a small amount of a healthy grain may be ok if there are no sensitivities. Dry and canned foods are the most highly processes and should always be supplemented with fresh food.
- If you eat meat yourself, simply feed your pet some of your leftovers (unseasoned and low-sodium). Yes, people food is not only safe, but is actually quite healthy for your pet. You can feed up to 30% of the diet as cooked meat, vegetables, eggs, or fish without upsetting the nutritional balance of the commercial food you are feeding. Remember that dogs and cats are carnivores and should be eating a diet that is at least 70% meat. Your pet will still get all the basic vitamins and minerals it needs from a commercial diet without additional supplementation.
- Organ meats such as liver, kidney, heart, and lung are incredibly rich in vitamins and minerals. Feeding an adequate amount in the diet (up to 30%) will reduce or even replace the need for additional supplementation.
- Home-cooking for your pet is another great way to supplement with less processed food. This is basically creating a ‘stew’ cooked at low temperatures either on the stove top or in a crock pot. This low temperature processing will destroy far fewer nutrients than the high temperature processing used in commercial foods. The mix should be at least 3/4 meat, and ideally, include some of the organ meats mentioned above. You can add in any mixture of fruits and vegetables that your dog or cat will eat. Cats will tend to eat fewer fruits and veges so a diet that is 85-90% meat may work better. Avoid feeding onions, grapes or raisins as these are potential toxic to dogs and cats. This mixture can be a complete diet if properly balanced, or you can feed it as a supplement added to a commercial diet, up to 40% of the total amount.
- Commercial raw diets are a convenient way to feed exclusively raw. If you are going this way, be sure to pick a diet that is a completely balanced meal. You can feed the supplemental types of raw in addition to another commercial diet, up to 40% of the total diet.
- Home-prepared raw diets can be a more economical approach if you are feeding a larger pet. You will also have more control over the sourcing of the ingredients but it will require more time in preparation and shopping. Again, organ meats are essential to make sure that your pets are getting enough vitamins and minerals. Bone must also be adding in for proper calcium and phosphorus content.
I ask you not to believe me, but I challenge you to try one of the changes above for one month and see what you notice about your pet. I bet you will see some improvement in a current medical condition, improved skin and hair coat, better energy and temperament.
If you are hesitant to make this change, or if your pet has particular health concerns, I am available to help with a private consultation. Please see my Consult page for more information. The diet options above can be used with any type of health condition, but medical guidance is recommended.