In pets, we believe that there is a dietary hierarchy, which includes processed dry kibble, processed canned food, cooked homemade diets, and raw food. Processed pet foods provide less natural vitamins and enzymes than other more natural options. Processing techniques, like canning and high-temperature extrusion, have been shown to create new molecules by binding proteins and carbohydrates together. This creates a substance that pets and humans may not have the right enzymes to digest, which can be highly inflammatory to the gut and result in numerous consequences.
Many veterinary nutritionists comment that variety is good, and that many of the sickest animals are those which eat the same food, every day, for extended periods of time. No matter which grade of pet food you choose, it is important to rotate between protein types, and if feeding starches to rotate those as well. LPWC supports organic diets and recommends that pet owners stick to as natural a diet as possible.
To stay as close to a natural diet, it is recommended to add in some fresh ground veggies and some fresh fatty acids like fish oils or olive oil. Supplements may be added t help with digestion, inflammation, and nutritional deficiencies. Supplements become increasingly important as the level of food processing increases. These could include digestive enzymes, probiotics, fatty acids, and whole food vitamins. We utilize Standard Process products, and we have seen strong health benefits when doing so. Our goal is to see our patients thrive, not just survive!
Dry kibble based pet foods are one of the most widely fed diets. Dry kibble smells the least, can be the least expensive and has a very long shelf life. Unfortunately, it is not quite what our pets need, especially for our feline friends, the obligate carnivores—animals whose diets should solely be based on a prey model. With kibble based dry foods, we forcefully turn our felines from carnivores to “CORNivores,” causing them to become potentially overweight and diabetic. Dry food is cereal based and must include carbohydrates. Carbs are great for energy but provide substantially less nutritional value. The LPWC recommendation, if you feed dry food, is to rotate through a few different proteins, such as grain-free brands like Nature’s Variety Instinct (or the highest quality kibble that your budget will allow), and add in natural fresh foods, supplements and fish oils to help compensate for the lack of natural vitamins and enzymes. LPWC recommends adding water to dry kibble and letting it soak in. This helps keep pets from becoming dehydrated and aids the digestive system.
Canned pet food is the next most widely fed food, but will also have less natural vitamins, enzymes, and fats available than homemade or raw diets. The entire purpose of canning is to destroy bacteria, but in the process, it severely alters nutritional contents. Canned food has a moisture content that is more advantageous to the digestion process than kibble, and it does not need the addition of carbohydrates to bind the food. There are arguments that feeding canned food may cause a faster build-up of tartar on the teeth, though LPWC believes that tartar build-up may be more a function of individual “mouth cleanliness”, individual immunity, and lifestyle. Of the processed variety, canned food is the better option for cats, who do not need much, if any, carbohydrates in their diets. The LPWC recommendation, if you feed canned food, is to rotate through a few different proteins, and add in natural fresh foods, supplements, and fish oils to help compensate for the lack of natural vitamins and enzymes.
Cooked homemade diets may be the best option for those animals that cannot handle raw food, or for owners that do not want to feed raw food. Owners still have control over the ingredients and have the ability to reduce processing. Cooking veggies to mush and meats to a char will eliminate any benefit gained from fresh ingredients, so gentle light cooking is recommended. Lightly cooking the food kills some of the bacteria and increases digestibility, but at the same time, will result in the least amount of destroyed nutrients like enzymes, vitamins, and fatty acids. This is also a viable option for pets with food allergies or intolerances because the proteins, ingredients, and processing that might create these reactions can be closely controlled. Throwing a bunch of food together may result in nutrient imbalances, therefore LPWC recommends using approved recipes to ensure the calcium and phosphorus ratios are appropriate. Get help with BalanceIT.
Raw feeding is generally the LPWC recommended diet for healthy animals. Raw food can still be controversial among some circles, it can be expensive, some pets may not be able to handle it after years of processed diets, and it could contain bacteria that may not be conducive to some immunocompromised animals or owners. However, raw food has the highest quality of nutrients, the availability of functional enzymes and vitamins is higher, fats are minimally processed, and the least amount of carbohydrates are present. With the latter, there is an argument as to whether dogs need any carbohydrates at all. Digestion of carbohydrates may be based on each individual’s needs, however many people in the raw food industry think that 5-10% of carbs is more than adequate. Raw food can either be purchased in a prepackaged form, like Nature’s Variety or Bravo, or you can make it yourself from nutritionally balanced recipes. You control the quality and cost of the ingredients. Commercial pet food has been around for less than a century, and many people argue that raw feeding is what Mother Nature intended
Visit the Price-Pottenger Nutritional Foundation for more interesting information on diets.