Raw feeders are not your average pet parents. We are part of a much larger movement with a clear vision for our pet’s future. Each individual approaches raw feeding in their own way, but in order to reach the goal of a healthier and happier companion, we need to understand the differences between surviving and thriving.
Surviving vs. Thriving
Pets have been known to endure and live long lives on low quality and/or unbalanced foods; however, that does not mean their health reached its highest potential to fight illness and disease.
Providing the best species appropriate ingredients to carnivores ensures a healthy and strong immune system which minimizes the risk of disease and illness as aging progresses.
Yes, there are pets known to live in double digits being fed a bottom line kibble, mixing raw and kibble, on an unbalanced diet, etc. However, this does not mean we should follow in the same footsteps fully knowing the diet has a lot of room for improvement. Since we all want to provide the most health benefits to our companions, we need to consider the small factors that make surviving and thriving two entirely different concepts.
A Carnivore’s Needs
Carnivores metabolize their energy and nutrient requirements from a diet mainly consisting or exclusively of animal flesh. Obligate carnivores (cats) are animals that rely solely on animal tissue for their nutrient requirements and facultative carnivores (dogs) mainly consume animal flesh and sometimes small amounts of non-animal food sources to complete nutrient requirements.
Obligate Carnivore (Cats)
Obligate carnivores exclusively live and sustain a diet entirely on animal flesh. Cats specifically have high protein requirements and their metabolisms appear unable to synthesize certain essential nutrients (including taurine) and relies entirely on animal flesh to supply these nutrients.
It is important to note plant matter has no valuable traces of protein, taurine, or fat. Therefore, it has no place in the diet for an obligate carnivore. Cats thrive entirely on a raw meat diet consisting of high taurine items.
Facultative Carnivore (Dogs)
When it comes to feeding dogs, the single most important thing to understand is that dogs are carnivores. They require raw animal proteins and fat to meet nutritional requirements. However, they are not as strict about it as obligate carnivores, but they are carnivores nonetheless.
Dogs are facultative carnivores, meaning they are carnivores, but they can survive on other sources of food, such as plants and insects, for a short period of time. It’s important to understand dogs are designed to get most of their nutritional needs from animal matter, not from plant matter.
Wild carnivores (i.e. wolves, predatory wild cats, etc.) do not live the same lifespan as their domesticated counterparts. Additionally, wild carnivores are often left to scavenge/compete for food and fast for days before the next full meal. In the natural world, a carnivore’s diet is not at its best because feedings are not consistent. Monitoring and studying a wild carnivore’s diet sheds light on the steps we must take to consistently provide our pets with a species appropriate diet.
Species Appropriate Raw Diets
Raw diets are designed to provide family pets a homemade diet that replicates the diet of a wild carnivore without requiring the pet to hunt and kill wild prey. Through the process of providing a species appropriate diet, you eliminate all processed foods, grains, starches, carbohydrates, and sugars.
We provide shelter, food, and routine health exams to our pets which ultimately gives a leg up on living a longer life. Our pets look to us for the food they eat and it is our responsibility to provide ideal ingredients to ensure top quality of life. Feeding raw is a great way to ensure your pet’s health will be in top condition. However, being a raw feeder there are things to consider. Are you being too lenient with the diet? Do you follow strict raw feeding policies?
Being Too Lenient with Raw Feeding
It is easy to get swept away in the idea of the convenience of throwing items in a bowl for our pets to eat. However, it is important to analyze the items being fed to ensure they do not compromise achieving an optimal diet.
Feeding inappropriate foods
Grains, soy, starches, carbohydrates, and sugars are not suitable items to feed a carnivore. When selecting items to include in a raw diet, it is important to ensure they do not include these items because they flare up grain allergies and yeast (candida) infections.
Mixing kibble and raw permanently
Mixing is not optimal. You’re requiring the pet’s pancreas to create multiple enzymes to digest 2 molecularly different food sources, which effects stomach pH, digestion, and potentially immune health.
Holistically supplementing has major benefits. However, you should only supplement when there is something to treat and prevent. Providing too many supplements without understanding how the body stores certain vitamins poses the risk of hypervitaminosis.
Following Strict Raw Feeding Policies
Feeding a species appropriate diet is wonderful when you understand what a carnivore needs. However, adhering to strict rules without adjusting the diet to individual needs compromises the goal of achieving a optimal diet.
Not adjusting to individual needs
Diet guidelines are just that – guidelines – and percentage ratios are starting points when feeding raw. Maintenance percentages may need to be adjusted above or below the standard 2.5% and bone percentages may need to be changed depending on stool consistency.
Not open to change
Since there isn’t many scholarly studies for raw feeding, as time progresses we learn new things. With the introduction of new findings and data, it is imperative for us to adapt change only for the better.
Failing to supplement when needed
Sticking to a strict raw diet without holistic supplementation for prevention and treatment leaves the pet suffering with complications that could otherwise be resolved through natural oils, herbs, and/or spices.
Cats require at least one meal per 24 hours – this means the “tough love” method practiced with picky dogs should not be used with cats. Pushing a cat more than 24 hours without food raises serious health risks. Mixing kibble and raw is only recommended for transitioning picky cats since they become difficult to switch once imprinted on their current food source. However, mixing kibble with raw is not a permanent diet recommendation for a cat.
The Path to Thriving
Species appropriate raw diets are the foundation to providing your pet with the tools to live a long and healthy life. Since we understand what their bodies require to thrive, as pet parents we should strive to provide the best to our furry companions. Always continue to observe, research, and adjust according to the necessities your pet requires. However, it is imperative your adjustments made to the diet does not compromise achieving the optimal diet for a carnivore.
Create The Optimal Diet
The optimal diet is a concept, there is no true recipe to achieve it. Each pet, dog and cat, is individually different from one another and may require changes to meet their individual requirements.
Never forget your dog and cat is a carnivore
Specifically the topic of dogs, many classify dogs as omnivores which is the furthest from the truth. Where as it is widely accepted that cats are obligate carnivores. Knowing the biology of our pets helps us understand the nutritional requirements necessary to create the optimal diet.
Start with the guidelines and adjust as needed
When beginning raw feeding the best thing to do is start with standard guidelines and adjust accordingly. Throughout the transition process monitor your pet’s body condition and stool consistency closely. If your pet is getting to thin/fat, you need to change the maintenance percentage you’re feeding. Additionally if stool isn’t consistent, bone feeding amounts needs to be increased/decreased until stool regulates and is at the correct consistency.
Maintain variety as much as possible
Provide as much variety as possible. A diet filled with multiple proteins is ideal because the nutritional profile from one animal to another varies greatly. Feeding a wide range of proteins for muscle meat, bone, and organ ensures basic nutritional requirements are met.
Supplement omega 3 when it is missing in the diet
Commercially farmed meats are high in omega 6 and lacks valuable omega 3 which is an essential fatty acid to maintain heart, skin, joint, and immune health. If the raw diet you feed your pet is high in commercially farmed meats, omega 3 supplementation is required. However if the diet consists primarily of pasture raised/grass fed or wild game meats, supplementation of omega 3 is not necessary since those meat sources have the necessary omega 3s needed.
Eliminate grains, soy, starches, carbohydrates, and sugars
A carnivore’s endocrine system, which is set up to monitor metabolism, is designed for low starch diets. Carnivores lack sufficient digestive enzymes to properly break down and absorb plant matter efficiently. Foods high in starches, carbs, and fiber is a metabolic stressor for carnivores, including the fluctuation in hormones; and since their bodies cannot process these ingredients completely, it is passed as waste.
Provide food sources that are 100% bio available
Feeding veggies and supplements require research into what ingredients are suitable for our pets. Providing ingredients that are not 100% bioavailable just creates unnecessary waste and your pet doesn’t receive all nutritional benefits. If plant matter is selected to be in the diet, they must be prepared in a way to allow the body to receive all nutrients (puree, lightly steaming, or fermenting). Additionally, all supplements are best served as a cold pressed oil or in powdered form to receive the most benefit.
Understand supplementing is not species appropriate but sometimes necessary
Holistic supplementation does not typically fall into a “species appropriate diet” since most natural supplements are not readily available to our pet’s wild counterparts. However providing natural supplements does provide the necessary tools for treatment and prevention. It is important to know you should not supplement just because, supplementation should be provided on an as needed basis to target specific dietary requirements or to assist with treatment/prevention.
If ongoing supplementation is required, create a supplement rotation
Some pets need ongoing supplementation for specific issues. When ongoing supplementation is a must, it is highly recommended to create a supplement rotation. It is best to select at least 2 supplements that provide the same benefit to rotate between. Rotation of supplements provides the body rest from one ingredient for a duration of time as well as provides nutritional variety without relying heavily on one type of supplement.
Abandon the ``my pet loves it!`` mentality
Just because your pet enjoys something does not mean it has its place in an optimal diet. Household pets are notorious for displaying signs of greed over items they find high value, even if it isn’t healthy for them. Since it is the goal to provide an optimal diet to ensure top quality health, it is important to evaluate all food items provided so your pet receives the most benefit without compromising health even if it is high value to them.
Feeding items outside of the recommendations will not directly harm your pets health (if the item is not toxic, of course), but feeding items while consciously knowing it is not ideal does effect the goal of achieving the optimal diet. If you follow the steps to achieve the optimal diet, you are on well paved path to providing your pet with a vibrant, healthy, and thriving life.
About Perfectly Rawsome
Perfectly Rawsome provides free resources, tips for beginners and pros, and more to help pet parents feed their dogs and cats a raw diet. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram and use the hashtag #perfectlyrawsome to share your pet’s raw diet. For more information about raw feeding for your pet, contact us today.