Your Companion’s Diet
Nutrition is the foundation of good health for our animal companions. Diet is the most important component of your pet’s health
care. The best diet for your dog or cat is not unlike the best diet for you – it
consists of a variety of whole foods enhanced with vitamins and minerals, enzymes
and supplements, when necessary, to promote optimal health, prevent disease or to
address health issues.
Our animal companions are natural hunters and carnivores - just look at their
ancestry. The dog at your feet (or on your sofa) has evolved from the wolf, and
his digestive system is virtually the same despite thousands of years of domestication.
They have very short intestinal tracts geared to the consumption and digestion of
raw foods. The cat on your lap is a true or “obligate” carnivore (meat only diet)
and is specially designed by nature to hunt small rodents and birds. Her digestive
tract, as well, is intended to assimilate raw food best.
Commercially prepared kibble has become the standard diet for most pets in our
culture. It is relatively cheap and quite convenient. Knowledgeable guardians and
many veterinarians, however, are becoming increasingly aware of the true nutritional
needs of companion animals and are taking a proactive approach to nutrition by placing
more importance on getting the highest quality ingredients and carefully controlled
preparation than on cost and convenience. At Only Natural
Pet Store we do our best to offer the healthiest options available for all lifestyles
and feeding choices. Whatever food you choose to offer your pet, putting some thought
into your decision now can produce big rewards over his or her lifetime and very
probably help him or her avoid serious and costly illnesses caused by poor nutrition
and feeding practices.
When determining the best diet for your companion, there are two things
to keep in mind: The fresher, the better, and rotation is optimal. First let’s discuss
Fresh food is teeming with life. It contains natural enzymes, probiotics, antioxidants,
vitamins and minerals in their most natural state, making them more digestible and
more easily assimilated. Heat is the number one enemy of nutrients in food. The
fresher the food, the more bioavailable the nutrients in that food will be. This
means that the antioxidants in the fruits and vegetables listed in the ingredients
will be far more likely to be intact and digestible in raw food than in dry kibble
or canned food, which are processed at high temperatures. This is also true for
natural enzymes, probiotics, amino acids and vitamins and minerals in your pet's
The less heat-processed the food, the more likely it is that the nutrients will
be preserved in their natural state by the time you feed it to your companion, and
the more digestible those nutrients will be. So even if dry kibble is a part of
your companion’s diet, adding fresher foods like fresh or frozen raw food & bones,
or fresh cooked meat, healthy table scraps, freeze-dried or dehydrated foods, and
even canned food can enhance the quality of his or her overall diet.
Keep in mind that the less complicated you make your pet’s diet plan, the more likely
you are to stick with it. If it is easiest for you to just reach into the freezer
and take out an already prepared and balanced meal, consider stocking up on a frozen
raw food formula. If using a pre-mix with raw meat sounds workable, by
all means try it. Or try feeding your dog raw turkey necks or chicken necks, backs
or wings for breakfast 2-3 times per week. You can buy them at the grocery store
or from our raw food section. If you can’t manage the raw food, but cooking a little
extra at each meal is easy for you, then add a bit of your breakfast or dinner to
your pet’s diet. Make it easy and your companion will reap the benefits through
a healthier and more interesting diet.
Here is an overview of the different types of foods available to feed your pet:
Frozen Raw Foods
More and more guardians and veterinarians alike are discovering the health benefits
of a raw food diet. Many health issues such as chronic allergies and inflammatory
bowel disease can completely clear up on a raw food diet. Many other chronic and
degenerative diseases may be reduced or prevented by feeding a biologically appropriate
raw diet. As interest grows, so does the availability of a wider variety of pre-formulated,
frozen diets for dogs and cats. Only Natural Pet Store offers some excellent
Frozen Raw Diets. For more information about the benefits of feeding
a raw diet, please see our article
All About Raw Food.
Dehydrating is the oldest form of food preservation. Dehydrated
food is made from high quality human grade meat, vegetables, and fruits and it
offers all the nutritional benefits of frozen raw food, but is less expensive
and easier to handle and prepare.
Dehydration suspends the activity of enzymes in the food until the food is re-hydrated.
Dehydrated food loses only 3 to 5% of the nutrients in the original ingredients
because the temperatures used are much lower than those used for canning or for
extruding kibble, where the loss can be as much as 60 to 80%. See our
Dehydrated Dog and Cat Food
sections. The favorite around Only Natural Pet Store is our
EasyRaw formula, which is not only the most cost effective dehydrated
alternative, but looks a lot like a bowl of soup you might have for lunch once
Another new trend in pet foods is the availability of freeze-dried or “cold processed”
diets. Since heat is the number one enemy of nutrients in food, freeze drying is
a far superior way to preserve the nutrition and biological nature of fresh foods.
The natural enzymes, amino acids, and probiotics remain intact. The addition of
grains is unnecessary in the processing of the food, so those looking for a grain-free
diet can include freeze-dried foods in their companion’s rotation.
Freeze-dried food can be fed alone or top dressed on raw or dry food. Freeze dried
food is an excellent way to supplement a dry, kibble diet or offer some variety
in the rotation of your companion’s diet. It can also be used as a highly nutritious
treat, and is an excellent food for puppies and kittens as it can be well re-hydrated
and even run through a blender to make it easy for them to eat. Because it is very
light weight, it is excellent for camping and traveling. One pound of freeze dried
food will typically re-hydrate to the equivalent of about 10-12 5.5 oz. cans of
food. See our
Freeze-Dried Dog and Cat Food selections.
Canned Food & Meats
Canned food is a good option for those needing the convenience of processed foods
but who are trying to eliminate grains from their pet's diet. It is especially important
for cats to be on a meat protein based diet with minimal grains as discussed previously.
In addition, too much carbohydrate content in your pet's diet can contribute greatly
to the problems of obesity, cardiovascular disease, acidosis, arthritis and immune
Canned food is also a great way to supplement kibble for added variety and nutrition.
It can also be used to increase the appeal of healthier diets and raw foods for
those animals that are “addicted” to their dry kibble and are having a hard time
accepting real food. Many dry foods and regular canned foods have flavor enhancers,
sweeteners and sodium in them that dogs and cats become accustomed to, causing them
to reject real food or healthier canned varieties. Give your companion plenty of
time and repeat exposures to healthier foods and they will usually make the transition.
Use as much variety in your companion’s canned food diet as they will accept. Cats
especially, can be finicky. Sometimes crushing or sprinkling their favorite treat
over the food can help lure them in for a taste, and they will then eat the food.
Do not feed your companion a food that contains ingredients you would not eat yourself.
The canned foods sold at Only Natural Pet Store use human grade, whole food ingredients.
Organic foods offer the best of the canned options as they do not contain pesticide
residues and other toxins that your companion then has to eliminate through her
liver and kidneys. This is especially important for animals with a compromised immune
Canned Dog Food and
Canned Cat Food sections.
Know your Kibble
If you choose to feed kibble as part of your companion’s diet, we hope you will
consider the source carefully. Become a label reader - the ingredients are not always
what you might think. Many consumers are not aware that the pet food industry is
an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a market
for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered "unfit for human consumption," and similar
waste products to be turned into profit. This waste can include intestines, udders,
esophagi, and even diseased and cancerous animal parts.
In evaluating a dog or cat food there
are a variety of points we look for including the quality of the protein source,
the amount of grain by-products, and any artificial ingredients such as preservatives,
colors, or flavors among other things. The ingredient listings are regulated by
the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The ingredients listed
on dog and cat food labels must be listed in order of predominance by weight. When
determining the main ingredients in a food it is helpful to look for the source
of fat or oil in the food – the ingredients listed before the fat or oil source
make up the majority of the food (including the fat or oil), those ingredients listed
after the fat or oil are present in much smaller amounts. Generally, a good quality
food will list at least one specified whole-meat and/or meat meal such as
chicken meal, turkey meal, beef meal, etc - but avoid any products containing
meat meal of an unspecified source or any meals containing by-products. In addition
a high quality kibble will list one or more sources of WHOLE, unprocessed grains
in the main ingredients.
The term "meal" means that the meat or other animal materials are not used fresh,
but have been heated at extremely high temperatures. The fat rises to the top and
is skimmed off. The remaining solids are then pressed to remove the residual liquid
to create either chicken meal, turkey meal, beef meal, OR "meat meal" “meat and
by-product meal,” “poultry meal,” etc. In a lesser quality food, meat and poultry
meals, by-product meals, and meat-and-bone meal are common ingredients, which indicates
the use of less desirable animal products such as slaughterhouse offal.
One of the main meat sources in the prescription foods sold by many veterinarians
is “Chicken by-product meal,” which translates to: chicken feet, chicken entrails
and other parts of the chicken unfit for human consumption. While the processing
of meats and by-products for pet foods can destroy a great deal of the nutrients
in the food, it does not necessarily destroy the hormones used to fatten livestock
or increase milk production, or drugs such as antibiotics or the barbiturates used
to euthanize animals. This is why foods that use human-grade meat sources are the
Grain sources must be considered, as well. Along with “meat and bone meals,” grains
such as corn and wheat are usually among the first ingredients listed on both dry
dog and cat food labels. Most dry foods use grain products for a large portion of
the protein content, but not all protein sources are as readily digested and utilized.
Cats especially are obligate or “true” carnivores and should derive their protein
from meat, not grains. And as with the “meat” sources used in these foods, the grains
are frequently not whole grain but the by-products of milling and processing grains
for other uses.
The dry foods and kibble sold at Only Natural Pet Store use human-grade,
wholesome ingredients - see
dry dog food and
dry cat food. When feeding dry kibble, be sure
to supplement with a
daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement and
essential fatty acids (our
favorite is salmon oil), and consider
to help your pet assimilate the most nutrition possible. Top dress with people food such as leftover meats and
vegetables, but not carbs like the mashed potatoes. (And don’t forget to reduce the serving of kibble in proportion to
the table scraps. Overfeeding is a common problem for many companion animals and
compounds their risk for poor health and disease.)
About Puppy & Kitten Food
While most manufacturers of pet food market a particular product for growing animals,
we do not think this to be necessarily in your companion’s best interest. If you’ve
read this far you have some understanding that a raw diet is the best diet for dogs
and cats. The same is true for puppies and kittens. Their dietary needs are fully
met by a high-quality diet of all raw food or the best possible combination of fresh
foods and processed foods you can provide supplemented with raw or cooked meat and
vegetables. Many puppy and kitten foods encourage the over-feeding of young animals
which can lead to a host of chronic health issues later in life. Puppies and kittens
should not be round and roly-poly as they are often depicted in photos, they should
be appropriately trim just like adult dogs and cats. Growing too fast can predispose
an animal to joint problems as well.
Many veterinarians are recommending prescription diets on a more regular basis.
While it is a great way for veterinarians and especially the pet food industry to
make more money, it is a very poor way to feed most companion animals. These diets
are typically highly processed and contain highly questionable ingredients. The
most popular brand of these foods uses grains as a principle protein source and
includes “chicken by-product meal,” which translates to: chicken feet, chicken entrails
and other parts of the chicken unfit for human consumption. In addition they often
contain the preservatives BHA and BHT – common ingredients in floor cleaners and
paint products which, according to the manufacturer’s Material Safety Data Sheet,
may be harmful if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through skin contact, and is a skin
and eye irritant. Would you knowingly feed that to your companion?
These diets may help certain symptoms simply by providing a change, but they do
not address the underlying causes. The best diet for any animal is a biologically
appropriate diet. For dogs and cats that means fresh raw meat is the ideal. Diet
is the foundation of good health. For many health issues in companion animals, a
change in diet to real food can make all the difference in the world.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
One of the most commonly asked questions in our veterinary practice is “how much
should I feed my companion?” The answer is always the same – only you can determine
that through time and experience. Every pet has a different metabolism, lifestyle
and caloric need. Indoor cats will usually expend less energy than cats with access
to the outdoors. A 50 lb. not-so-active Basset probably needs less than a hard working
50 lb. Australian Shepherd. Feeding guidelines on food labels are just that – guidelines.
You have to watch your pet carefully and adjust their portion size appropriately.
If you have a hard time seeing the weight of your companion until he or she is “fat,”
use a scale a couple times a month. Stand on a bathroom scale to determine your
own weight, (you can do this when no one is looking – your pet won’t tell anyone),
then pick up your pet and calculate their weight by subtracting yours. (Obviously
this is easier with small dogs and cats). You should be able to feel your dog’s
ribs, and they should not have a lot of “cushion.” Their abdomen should be hourglass
shaped – they should have a waist. If their stomach protrudes on either side and
they “waddle” when they walk, it’s time for a diet. Another sign of an overweight
dog is extra fat around the base of the tail.
Overweight pets are at increased risk of developing orthopedic problems, cardiovascular
disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, liver disease. Obesity also can affect an
animal’s mental health and they can become lethargic and less enthusiastic about
life. So keep this in mind when you reach for the treat jar for the tenth time and
adjust dinner accordingly. For more information about keeping your animal companion
fit and healthy please see
Weight Management for Dogs and Cats.
Nothing can replace a wholesome well-balanced diet when it comes to promoting
good health for your pet. Proper supplementation however, can make a great diet
even healthier. In addition, common problems such as arthritis and "aging changes"
such as poor coat and decreased activity don't always improve when diet alone is
improved. By identifying specific problems and providing additional nutritional
support through supplementation, many such conditions can be helped. Only Natural
Pet Store offers a wide range of food supplements for dogs and cats. If you are
unsure of which supplements are best for your companion, please call our Customer
Care team for suggestions and guidance.
Daily Supplements for Healthy Companions for more information.
The Dog Food Project -
The FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine -
Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats
The Nature of Animal Healing
The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care
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The articles and information in the Holistic Healthcare Library are presented for
informational purposes only and are not intended as an endorsement of any product.
The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian.
Instead, the content offers the reader information and opinions written by our staff,
guest authors, and/or veterinarians concerning animal health issues and animal care