A Guide to Natural Pet Diets and Nutrition.
Like Humans, the digestive tract of cats and dogs has evolved over tens of thousands of years. During this long evolutionary process cats and dogs have evolved to hunt, eat and digest meat. Whereas humans have evolved to eat both meat and vegetable matter. Because of this, cats and dogs are taxonomically known as ‘Carnivores’ and humans ‘Omnivores’.
So what does this mean? Essentially it means the digestive tracts of cats and dogs are specifically designed to gain nutrition through the digestion of meat. Their digestive tracts have restricted ability to extract nutrients from carbohydrates and vegetable matter. Cats in particular have no ability to digest these ingredients.
The Change in Animal Diets and What It Means
With the domestication of cats and dogs and the changing nature of human communities, we have created an artificial environment from which our pets obtain their food. Commercially prepared foods are a new ‘innovation’ (<100 years old). In the quest to provide a cost effective (cheap) product with a long storage life and simple feeding regime, artificially prepared diets have flooded the market. These diets are typically very high in carbohydrate and inexpensive vegetable fillers. The majority are also low in pure animal protein.
Dry food (kibble), is also physically very different from the natural diet and provide questionable benefit to digestive health. Why is this you ask? Because the digestive tracts of our pets remain designed to gain nutrients from meat and not from carbohydrates and vegetable matter.
What is the Problem With Dry Food Preparations?
Kibble diets are super heat treated which denatures proteins and nutrients and removes water. To make this food digestible, pets must drink a large amount of water to rehydrate this food inside the stomach. Unfortunately this can cause issues. Usually the amount of food being fed, once rehydrated, is much larger than what it appears as a dry product. (ie what is in the cup or scoop expands once water is added). Like obesity in humans, Pet obesity is at epidemic proportions. Can feeding a super concentrated, high carbohydrate and low protein form of food to our pets be contributing to this epidemic?
Cats can also run into complications when eating a dry food only diet. Cats normally have a poor desire to drink water, therefore cats eating a dry kibble diet can become borderline dehydrated. Dehydrated animals produce concentrated urine and are much more likely to suffer from urinary tract diseases including sterile cystitis and renal disease.
So what’s the alternative?
The Benefits of a Natural Diet
Food that closely mimics what your pet would eat ‘in the wild’ is the best thing for your pet’s digestive health. Overall pet health is also improved with a diet that is prepared from real and natural ingredients. Chunks of meat and soft raw bones provide the original dental health plan. Raw bones also provide essential proteins and nutrients for growth and healing. Adding supplements of essential nutrients and trace elements also ensures that the diet is balanced as well as tasty.
A natural diet compliments the evolutionary design of our pet’s digestive tract.
Does This Mean You Shouldn’t Feed Your Pet Commercial Diets?
No. It would be better to feed a purely natural diet but we understand and appreciate the convenience and economy of these diets can also be important. Many of these diets still provide essential nutrients. However like fast and convenient human food, it’s not advisable to feed this food every meal, every day. Choosing ‘wet’ commercial diets (eg loaf, sausage, pet mince) is a better choice than dry food only diets.
This information may be vastly different to the ‘common’ message delivered by most veterinary clinics. However we strive to inform our patients about what is in the best interest of their pet’s wellbeing and health. Hopefully this information can help you to decide what you would like to feed your pet.
Bentons Road Veterinary Clinic stocks a range of natural foods for all pets and can help your pet achieve better health through natural nutrition. Starting a natural diet can be daunting, but have no fear we are here to help. If you are thinking this type of diet suits your pet then read our blogs on Natural Diets and Cat Raw Food Diets. If you would like to know more about pet nutrition and diets, we strongly recommend that you drop into the clinic, give us a call or make an appointment with one of our friendly vets.