Feeding Raw – An In-depth Overview
Why a Raw Diet
I started to feed my Maine Coon cats a raw diet because I wanted to them to have a more natural and quality level of food. I saw the benefits of real food verses feed (kibble). The changes in my cats’ health when eating raw were amazing. However, there was no easy means to purchase a raw diet in my area. I realized that I did not have a place to go to purchase and talk with someone about feeding raw. I wanted to learn more about a raw diet. Because of this need for a raw product, I started my own company and named it – About Cats and Dogs. I believe this is a very appropriate name since dogs and cats are my only focus. I find products that you cannot find in today’s pet supply stores.
Let’s talk about a raw diet. Why raw? When dogs were in the wild, they ate meat with a variety of greens, they are omnivores. When dogs were domesticated, we changed their diet to bagged and canned food for our own convenience. The same is true for cats. Actually, even more so for cats because they are true carnivores. The need for this ancestral diet is retained in the DNA of our dogs and cats. You may be feeding kibble or canned diet to your dog now; but you will be amazed how fast they will accept raw diet and thrive.
Man-made pet food ingredients and manufacturing
Maybe we should take some time to talk about commercially produced pet food. These days, most pet food companies are owned by conglomerates that also produce human food; i.e., Nestle’s owns Purina; Mars owns Royal Canine. Owning a human food company and a pet food company is good business for these companies. Anything that is left over from the human food; can then be used in the pet food.
Here is an example of the ingredients in a premium brand kibble:
Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, Atlantic flounder, whole eggs, whole Atlantic mackerel, chicken liver, turkey liver, chicken heart, turkey heart, whole Atlantic herring, dehydrated chicken, dehydrated turkey, dehydrated mackerel, dehydrated chicken liver, whole dehydrated egg, whole red lentils, whole pinto beans, whole green peas, chicken necks, chicken kidney, whole green lentils, whole navy beans, whole chickpeas, lentil fiber, chicken fat, natural chicken flavor, Alaskan pollock oil, ground chicken bone, chicken cartilage, turkey cartilage, mixed tocopherols (preservative), whole pumpkin, whole butternut squash, freeze-dried chicken liver, dried kelp, zinc proteinate, kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, whole carrots, whole apples, whole pears, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, thiamine mononitrate, D-calcium pantothenate, copper proteinate, chicory root, turmeric, sarsaparilla root, althea root, rosehips, juniper berries, dried lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried lactobacillus casei fermentation product.
Here is an example of the ingredients in a widely available budget kibble:
Meat and bone meal, ground whole corn, ground whole wheat, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, animal fat (preserved with BTA and citric acid, source of omega 6 fatty acids), natural flavor, salt, potassium chloride, fish oil (stabilized with mixed tocopherols), choline chloride, zinc sulfate, vitamin e supplement, ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, L-Lysine, niacin, copper sulfate, vitamin A supplement, biotin, manganous oxide, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin B12 supplement, Thiamin mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K activity), riboflavin supplement, sodium selenite, calcium iodate, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, cobalt carbonate.
“Do you see anything wrong with this list of ingredients? The list started with actual food – chicken, turkey, flounder. But kibble is not little chunks of meat, even if they have been formed and colored to look like they are. Kibble is a super processed combination of many ingredients and it contains carbohydrates, lots of carbohydrates. It’s loaded with other forms of carbohydrates such as whole pinto beans, whole green peas, whole green lentils, whole navy beans, whole chickpeas, lentil fiber, whole pumpkin, whole butternut squash, whole carrots, whole apples, whole pears and pumpkin seeds.
Dry kibble contains a large percentage of carbs. Otherwise, it wouldn’t form those nice little nuggets that we feed to our pets. You would not feed your pet a bowl full of powder. Pet food companies strive to ensure their kibble sticks together which requires carbs and processing methods. Both carbohydrates and over-processing methods are a recipe for an unhealthy pet.”
How is kibble made?
Kibble starts out as slurry/dough. The dough includes raw meats, meat meals, ground grains, supplements, colors, preservatives, and any added ingredients like vegetables and fruits. Manufacturers heat the mixture before putting it in the extruder. This initial heating is the first cooking for some of these ingredients. Then it’s extruded into the pellets. They even have sizes sometimes for different size dogs and label it for that type of dog or cat. Then it’s cooked in different ways but mostly baked. When it’s cooled down, then it sprayed with oils to add the nutritional supplements that were cooked out.”
If you would like more information on the extrusion kibble cooking process, here is a link: Process for extrusion cooking a kibble
“In total, renderers and manufacturers cook the ingredients as many as four times and as few as three. This essentially renders the “food” inert. Dead. That’s why the supplements are added to the formula. All that cooking destroyed the delicate vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.”
After cooking, the kibble travels on down the assembly line to the vitamin station where it is sprayed with the vitamins listed on the label. It now contains all of the vitamins that are listed on the label.
There are many other additives that can be artificial favors, color additives, gums used thickeners for wet foods, and other supplements which can come anywhere in the world, including China. I bring this up because the supplements in kibble can be man made which harder to absorb than vitamins or minerals that are found in real food.
The FDA, Education and Recalls
“The FDA checks the food for bacteria and to ensure the listed ingredients are what is in the bag, not for nutritional bioavailability. The FDA is there to ensure the food won’t directly kill your dog via toxins. They are not responsible for making sure the food is biologically appropriate, nutritionally balanced nor are they responsible to ensure the nutritional content of the food is bioavailable for your pet.”
Pay particular attention to the part that states a pet food company needs no pre-market approval by the FDA.
Take a minute and think about this – your doctor tells you to eat healthier, eliminate processed foods, and increase intake of lean proteins. Your veterinarian tells you to feed your pet an overly processed kibble. The nutrition education veterinarians receive in vet school is limited and with 2-3 weeks of nutrition education from one of the big three kibble companies. So is this the person you want making the decisions on your pet’s diet/health. No, the person’s education is limited and does not have all the facts of all the nutritional options that are available.
This is starting to change for the new graduates coming out of vet schools. One new vet I spoke recently told me she actually took extra classes in raw nutrition. I fired my vet of 21 years due to her hounding of me about feeding my cats a raw diet. My new vet loves what I do and actually encourages people to feed the raw diet.
There are many factors that go into preparing a diet plan for each individual pet; just as there are many factors that go into preparing a diet plan for a human. For your pet, you must seek the advice of a veterinary nutritionist who is trained in species appropriate diets. Hopefully one day, all veterinarians will be thoroughly trained in this field; but sadly, this is not the case today. “Meanwhile, there is still no consensus as to appropriate nutrition for humans, with some still clinging to the outdated and disproven food pyramid. This tells us that there is still much to learn while millions of dollars that go into research each year. Somehow though, we believe that “Big Pet Food Industry” has figured out the magic recipe” for an ideal diet to properly support a healthy life for every pet and put it into a magical brown nugget.
If you ate your favorite fast food for every meal, every day, but took your multivitamin, how would that be healthy for you and how would it affect your lab work and how would it eventually lead to health issues? “The cheeseburgers may be free of toxins that will kill you quickly but no one argues that they won’t kill you slowly if you eat only them every meal, every day, forever.”
Next, we should talk about pet food recalls. Many vets threaten owners that if they feed raw their pet will get sick or die from Salmonella. The truth is there is a greater chance for you to get Salmonella by not handling the raw meat properly than your pet getting sick. Over the years, kibble has recalled an estimated 20:1 times more than raw.
FYI, beware of any dog food that does not specify what kind of meat is in it. Roadkill anyone?
- Dead Dogs and Cats Used to Make Meat Meal
- FDA: Questions & Answers: Contaminants in Pet Food
- FDA: Recalls & Withdrawals
Prescription diets are another issue. Prescription diets are meant to improve a pet’s health who is in peril and yet they are void of life-preserving, bioavailable nutrients that can be found in real food. Prescription diets do not have medication in the food. They are only sold at veterinarian’s offices for a premium price. However, it’s not about what prescription diets have; it’s what they don’t have. Please read the information on the site below. The prescription diet is so controversial that it’s even hard for me to figure it out sometimes, this should help especially myth #6.
- Prescription Pet Foods: 6 Myths About Therapeutic Diets (embracepetinsurance.com)
Here is an example of the ingredients in a prescription kibble:
Brewers rice, chicken fat, corn, corn gluten meal, dried plain beet pulp, natural flavors, wheat gluten, fish oil, powdered cellulose, vegetable oil, potassium chloride, calcium carbonate, salt, powdered psyllium seed husk, sodium silico aluminate, DL-methionine, L-lysine, fructooligosaccharides, taurine, choline chloride, vitamins [DL-alpha tocopherol acetate (source of vitamin E), L-ascorbyl-2- polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), biotin, D-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A acetate, niacin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid], trace minerals [zinc proteinate, manganese proteinate, zinc oxide, ferrous sulfate, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite, copper proteinate], magnesium oxide, L-tryptophan, marigold extract (Tagetes erecta L.), rosemary extract, preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid.
Species Appropriate Diets for Dogs and Cats
So, with all this said, what should you feed your pet? You should feed “Species Appropriate Diets”. That is a raw diet that has real proteins, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and yes, it’s all real food, not feed (kibble).
Unlike other pet foods, the raw diets are a grain-free with no added fillers, preservatives or additives. Real meat is easily digested and more nutritious than bagged or canned pet foods that are highly processed and full of preservatives for a long shelf life. The raw diet is real meat with the very best proteins for your pet’s natural nutrition. Raw is about 40% more readily assimilated by your pet than dry kibble.
Some of the benefits of a raw diet:
- Less veterinary visits
- Firmer Poops
- Smoother, Shinier Coat
- Well Hydrated Skin
- Increased Energy
- Decreased issues with Allergies
- Better Digestion
- Less Output (more food is being absorbed and used)
- Whiter Teeth
- Less Gassy
The specifics of a cat’s diet
A cat’s diet is a little different. Cats are true carnivores. Look at the cats in Africa such as the lions, tigers and cheetahs; they are true carnivores and eat a meat only diet. The cats in our homes are just like the wild cats; their nutritional needs are the same as the big cats and should only be a real meat diet. Cats cannot digest grains such as – rice, corn, seeds, peas, etc.
An essential requirement for cats is the amino acid Taurine. Taurine is exclusively found in animal-based proteins. It is critical for normal vision, digestion, heart muscle function, and maintaining a healthy immune system. Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats. Cats cannot make their own Taurine; they have to consume in their diet. Taurine is in lean muscle meat found in beef, chicken, turkey, beef liver, and other animal-based proteins.
Benefits of Taurine:
- It stimulates muscle growth
- It is an antioxidant
- It helps in the production of bile to aid digestion
- It regulates salt and water in cells decreasing chemical imbalances
- It helps your cat have a good eyesight
- It acts as a neurotransmitter
Good food, fresh water, clean air, plenty of exercise and loving relationships will provide your pet with a long and healthy life.
- Susan Thixton – ThetruthaboutPetFood.com
- Dr. Karen Becker
- Chattanooga Holistic Animal Institute
- Dog Food Insider
- VCA Animal Hospitals