Posts tagged pet food

Vegetarian Pets?

People have many reasons for choosing a vegetarian (no meat) or vegan (no animal products) lifestyle: to lower cholesterol, lose weight, conserve water, save rainforests, stop animal cruelty, and many other personal, health, environmental or ethical reasons. Sometimes, these reasons are so compelling that they want to extend this major life choice to their pets as well.

Dogs are classified as carnivores, but as a practical matter, they are omnivorous and can easily survive without meat, as long as they eat a balanced diet. Dog relatives like foxes and coyotes consume lots of fruit or other vegetation at certain times of the year. While not ideal for every dog, most dogs can be successfully converted to a vegetarian or even vegan diet, and there are several suitable commercial dog foods as well as homemade diets. If you are considering a vegetarian rather than vegan diet for your dog, a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet has more flexibility by allowing dairy products and eggs as protein sources.

Cats, however, are exclusively carnivorous by nature and by physiology. The cat’s body has made many specific adaptations to its expected diet of prey, which consists mostly of protein, fat and moisture. While you may hear stories about successfully vegetarian cats (including one lion), as a veterinarian, I cannot recommend trying to make a cat exclusively vegetarian or vegan. I’ve just seen too many problems from it. However, one company makes a good canned food that can be helpful in reducing the amount of meat you need to feed your cat:

Evanger’s Canine/Feline Vegetarian Canned Food

There are lots of products being marketed as “vegetarian” dog foods. However, many contain corn gluten meal or soybean meal—both of which are already common meat substitutes in mass-market pet foods. Dogs have difficulty digesting soy, which along with soy’s naturally high phytoestrogen content, makes soy problematic as a protein source. Corn gluten meal contains about 60% protein. Today, it is being promoted as a lawn fertilizer and weed killer! When considering a vegetarian dog food, corn and soy are key ingredients to avoid. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about that when you’re shopping at Only Natural Pet Store—we don’t carry foods containing those ingredients! We carry dry, canned, and even “raw” vegetarian dog foods:

Natural Balance Vegetarian Dog Food Allergy Formula

Evanger’s Canine/Feline Vegetarian Canned Food

Raw Advantage Organic Vegetarian for Dogs

As we’ve talked about before, variety is essential to your pet’s diet, so don’t get stuck on a single food–a mix of homemade and commercial foods may be ideal for both variety and convenience.

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New Halo Spot’s Stew Dry Formula for Dogs & Cats!

Only Natural Pet Store is happy to introduce Halo Spot’s Stew Dry Formulas!

Finally, a dry food for dogs and cats good enough to be called “Spot’s Stew”. Created for all life stages, Halo blends a unique combination of proteins from meat or fish, eggs and vegetables for pure nutrition and easy digestibility.

  • No rendered meats or meals
  • Nothing artificial
  • No by-products
  • No fillers
  • No chemicals or preservatives

Click Here to View Halo Spot’s Stew Dry Food.

Halo also offers a complete line of pet care products for dogs and cats, all specifically created to achieve and maintain optimal health for your pet. They guarantee all their products will deliver noticeable results, or your money back!

Click Here to Check Out All Halo Products.

. . . and coming soon at Only Natural Pet Store. . . Ziwi Peak!

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Why Switch Foods? (Part 1 & II)

The spice of life is variety, or so they say. If that’s true for people, what about our dogs and cats?

Pet food company advertising would have you believe that feeding one food (theirs!) for your pet’s entire adult life is the way to go. But that concept is all wrong. When you really think about it, it doesn’t even make sense!

For many of us, our pets are our children. So let’s imagine for a moment that you have a child, let’s say a 2-year old boy named Junior (of course!), and let’s imagine taking him to the pediatrician for a check-up. The doctor bustles in, looks Junior over, then plunks a big bag of Yummi-o’s down on the exam table.

“Good news,” he beams. “All the vitamins, minerals and a perfect balance of nutrients that Junior needs are right here in New Complete Yummi-o’s. Now all you have to do is make sure Junior gets three servings every day.” The doctor wags his finger at you as he continues in a serious voice, “Now, since this food is perfectly complete and balanced, you mustn’t feed Junior anything else—no apples or oatmeal or broccoli or peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches—because you might cause a nutrient imbalance!”

Well, this sounds a little weird, but you trust the pediatrician—after all, it’s his name you see on all the gold-embossed university degrees on the exam room wall—so you go ahead and put Junior on an all-Yummi-o’s diet.

Time passes, Junior grows, and by golly, it sure is cheap, easy and convenient to feed him. The next year you bring him in for his checkup, and the doctor is very pleased.

“He looks great,” says the doc. “I see you’ve been keeping him on Yummi-o’s. Terrific! Now, I have more good news for you! Yummi-o’s now comes in Life Stages! You’ll keep him on Yummi-o’s Growth until he starts kindergarten. Then he’ll go on Elementary Yummi-o’s until he hits middle school. Then you give him Adolescent Yummi-o’s until he’s 18, when he can be weaned onto the Adult formula. And it gets even better—you can eat it too! New Improved Yummi-o’s is complete and balanced for adults up to 65 years old.”

Ridiculous? Of course! What rational parent would feed a child only one food for years on end? Even if the food were, in fact, complete and balanced, most of us would consider it unnatural, even cruel to the child. Never give Junior a carrot or a glass of orange juice? No fresh food at all? Preposterous!

Then why does everyone think it’s okay to feed a cat or dog that way?

We would think a pediatrician who recommended a single food diet for a child was bonkers, yet when the veterinarian recommends a single food for our pampered pet, we obey without question. But feeding a dog or cat is not all that different from feeding a child.

It’s way past time to bring a little common sense to bear, and common sense dictates that an animal ought to get a variety of foods.

The veterinary literature is full of cases where nutritional deficiencies (or excesses) were discovered, and in virtually every one, the problem arose (or was discovered) because the animal was kept on one food for a long period of time.

Cats, being strict obligate carnivores, have most often been the unintended victims—taurine, copper, vitamin E and potassium deficiencies have turned up in cats fed certain foods (which were, by the way, “complete and balanced” according to the standards at the time) as their sole diet.

Dogs, whose omnivorous metabolism is more adaptable, haven’t had quite as many problems, though zinc and fatty acid deficiencies have occurred on certain poor quality foods.

The Myth of Complete and Balanced

Wait a minute … aren’t we indeed talking about “complete and balanced” foods? How can a complete and balanced food have deficiencies or excesses of nutrients? Unfortunately, even for the best commercial pet foods, there are several places along the road to the retail store shelf where any food’s nutritional value can go astray.

1. The standards by which the food is made aren’t perfect. Pet nutrition is an evolving science, and we don’t yet know all there is to know about it (if we ever will!). Veterinarians have seen many examples of how the particular nutritional needs of a species become known—mainly by stumbling on cases where they aren’t being met.

2. The exact quantities of individual nutrients in a given ingredient may not be known, or may be inaccurately assessed. A shipment of barley might be presumed to have a certain nutritional composition based on analyses of previous batches, but depending on the weather where it was grown, the soil conditions, and the type of fertilizer used, the exact amounts of each nutrient may vary. The same applies to animal-based ingredients.

3. Ingredient quality may be inconsistent or unknown. A vitamin-mineral premix purchased from an outside supplier and added to the food may guarantee minimum levels of each item, but if the quality control on that product was poor, the finished pet food will merely compound the error. Many vitamins and minerals are normally “overdosed” in pet food to make up for loss of those nutrients during processing, transport and storage. Some of these may present a health risk. For instance, iodine excess in cat foods is suspected of contributing to the skyrocketing incidence of hyperthyroidism in older cats; and a zinc overdose in a commercial dog food sickened author Ann Martin’s dogs and started her on a quest through the maze of pet food manufacturing and regulation, detailed in her stunning book Food Pets Die For in 1997.

4. Processing alters many nutrients. The heat used in various stages of pet food manufacturing can alter many ingredients, some for the better and some for worse. Carbohydrates are made much more digestible by cooking, but proteins can be denatured, vitamins can be destroyed, and fats can be damaged by heat. In general, pet food manufacturers are aware of changes that occur in their products during processing, and compensate for heat-sensitive ingredients by adding supplements, such as extra vitamins, but alterations in proteins and fats are not generally accounted for.

5. The pet food manufacturer itself can make mistakes. It’s obvious from feed reports from around the country that virtually every manufacturer—no matter how good, bad or indifferent its reputation—at one time or another fails one or more tests for protein, calcium, magnesium or other nutrients.

6. Increased risk of toxic effects. As many people unfortunately discovered in last year’s recalls, feeding the same food, from the same manufacturer, who continually buys from the same suppliers, can lead to health problems for your animal companion. While some of the recalled foods had such huge amounts of melamine that even one serving was deadly, feeding a variety of foods could have “diluted” the effect of the toxin and caused less harm for thousands of pets.

Next time, we’ll talk about how periodically switching foods can prevent food allergies and finicky eating behavior.

Why Switch Food Part II…

In this post, we’ll continue our discussion about the reasons for periodically switching your pet’s food.

Let’s consider all the different kinds of pet food on the market. When I started veterinary school, there were basically two kinds of pet food: adult, and puppy or kitten (growth/lactation); “light” foods were just coming into the market, although there were no rules at the time about calories or fat content, so the claim was a little questionable.

But looking at dog food today, we find all-life-stages food, baby dog food, puppy food, adult food, mature food, aging food, senior food, food for sensitive stomachs, food for itchy skin, food for small, medium, large, and giant breed dogs, food for Yorkies and Dachshunds and Poodles and Bulldogs and Shih Tzus and Boxers and Retrievers, vegetarian food, high performance food, reduced calorie food, light food, and an array of veterinary diets for dogs with heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, arthritis, digestive problems, cancer, diabetes, bladder stones, dandruff, and dirty teeth.

Cats, being more or less the same general size and shape, have been spared some of this, but recently a spate of new foods for indoor, outdoor, and specific breeds of cats has arrived on the market. And there are designer diets for hairball hurlers, happy bladders, and tartared teeth. And, of course, most of the veterinary diets available for dogs have a feline counterpart.

However, the standards for pet food nutrient levels remain the same today as they were when they were set in 1989 (for dogs) and 1991 (for cats). There is one chart for adult maintenance, and one chart for growth/lactation. (Food intended to treat disease must provide documentation to FDA that it actually works as advertised, but the research is done by the company making the food-–and the claim.) New standards for dog and cat nutrition were just recently published by the National Research Council, but it will likely take several years before they are reviewed and accepted by AAFCO. Until that happens, pet food manufacturers don’t have to abide by them.

Is There Really a Difference?

Is it just me, or is something wrong with this picture? How much different are these foods really from each other—given that they all have to meet the same nutritional standards? For instance, if you look at the ingredient statements on the labels of regular versus large breed foods, they look pretty similar. In any case, the exact nutritional requirements of hundreds of breeds (and infinite combinations of breeds), every imaginable lifestyle, and each animal’s individual metabolism simply cannot be accurately known, at least not with current technology.

Moreover, even an individual animal’s needs fluctuate, depending on the season, activity level, normal variations in hormone levels and organ functions, infections, parasites like fleas, illness, and a host of other factors. A dog who spends a lot of time outdoors in Colorado may need a higher calorie/higher fat food in the winter to cope with the cold, but unless she is extremely active in warmer weather, such a food may put on the pounds if fed year-round. It does make sense to try to match the food to your animal’s particular needs as those needs vary, although whether you can really do this based solely on a manufacturer’s claims for its food is unlikely.

The Allergy Factor

Another pitfall of feeding a single food is the potential for your animal to develop an intolerance or allergy to one or more ingredients. A dietary intolerance is a reaction to something in the food, rather than the food itself.

The list of suspects is a long one and includes flavoring agents, coloring agents, emulsifiers, humectants, stabilizers, thickeners, texturizers, and dozens more. Different manufacturers use different additives, so changing foods periodically may avoid constant exposure to certain ingredients that could become a problem for your animal.

True food allergies are thought to be uncommon (though more common in cats than dogs), but many practitioners and veterinary nutritionists are coming to the conclusion that most, if not all, cases of inflammatory bowel disease are linked to food.

It usually takes months to years of exposure to a food to develop an allergy. Allergies are usually to proteins, which are found in animal products, of course, but also in to some extent in the cereal grains commonly used in pet food. Corn meal (also known as ground yellow corn) contains 9 percent protein, soybean flour contains 37 percent protein, and wheat contains 10 percent protein. Corn and wheat are very common allergens in pets.

Switching foods every three or four months, from chicken-and-corn, to lamb-and-rice or turkey-and-barley or duck-and-green peas or rattlesnake-and-quinoa may help prevent your animal companion from becoming food-allergic in the first place. (But remember to carefully check the ingredient list on the package-–a food legitimately labeled “emu-and-amaranth” could actually consist mainly of corn and chicken.)

A Matter of Taste

The last big reason to change foods periodically is to prevent finicky eating habits and enable the gut to handle challenges without catastrophic consequences.

Pet food makers are masters at making the food irresistibly tasty. Consequently, an animal fed a single food may become “addicted” to it. I once got a call from a woman whose cat would not only eat just one flavor of cat food, but it had to have been canned at a particular factory! Cans of the same flavor with a different code stamp were rejected by the cat. She was frantically searching from coast to coast to find more cans from that factory—which had since closed down.

Some foods are produced on a “least cost” basis, and the ingredients may change significantly from batch to batch. “Fixed formula” foods always use the same ingredients. Depending on ingredient quality, such a food may be a better pick. But even fixed formula foods that use the same ingredients all the time may still periodically alter certain characteristics, such as size of the kibble, or flavoring components.

When you buy a new bag of the same food, it could be just different enough from the usual fare that your furry friend will turn up her nose at it. Or you might run out of her favorite food and not be able to get over to the gourmet pet store right away—she’ll just have to eat something from the grocery store for a few days. If you board her, she may get fed whatever the kennel is using (errors can be made, even if you supply your own food).

It’s best to have your animal companion develop more “cosmopolitan” tastes, and be willing to eat whatever you give her. (For some dogs in some situations, training to accept food only from you can and should be done, but that’s an issue beyond the scope of this blog.)

Next time, we’ll get to the nuts and bolts of how to make the switch. The first word of caution: too radical or too abrupt a switch could cause your pet stress and tummy upset. On the bright side, it could keep your local carpet cleaning company busy!

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The Importance of Taurine for Dogs and Cats

Back in the 1970s, thousands of dogs and cats were mysteriously dying due to a form of heart failure called dilated cardiomyopathy. At the same time, there were reports of cats going blind that were often associated with cats being fed dog food. But within a few years, the same problems were discovered in cats eating a “premium” cat food sold by veterinarians. Finally, in the late 1980s, the problem, in cats at least, was traced to the deficiency of a basic amino acid called taurine.

There are 22 amino acids, the basic building blocks of protein. Animals can manufacture many of them in their liver, but some must be obtained in the diet—these are called “essential.” In humans and dogs, taurine is not essential, but it turned out that in cats, it is. Taurine is found primarily in muscle meat, and is completely absent in cereal grains. The lack of taurine in the diet caused serious eye and heart diseases to develop.

But what happened to the cat food? Thousands of cats had been eating the same “complete and balanced” cat food since it came on the market in the 1960s, so why should they suddenly start dying a decade later?

The answer lies in a part of the history of pet food that the big manufacturers don’t want you to know.

Before WWII, more than 90% of commercial pet food came in cans, and contained mostly meat. However, metal was needed for the military, and by the time the war ended, 85% of pet food was dry kibble. It still contained a good amount of meat, and this is what prevented taurine deficiencies from occurring.

The primary machinery for producing what is familiar to us today as dry food is called an extruder; it was introduced in the 1950s. However, to get the right crunchy texture, the recipe called for a higher proportion of starch. This started the trend of ever-increasing quantities of cereal grain, such as corn, in dry foods. At the same time, meat processors were getting more proficient at getting more meat from livestock carcasses. Less meat was available (and what was available was getting more expensive), so pet food makers substituted other animal tissues leftover from slaughter, officially called “by-products.” Over time, the result was a high-grain, low-meat dry food, for which the profit margin was—conveniently—much higher than for canned food.

Unfortunately, cats were about to pay for the pet food companies’ profits with their lives. With virtually no muscle meat in even the premium dry foods of that period, cats eating that food were missing crucial taurine, and suffered the consequences of corporate greed as sickness, blindness, and death.

When studies fingering taurine deficiency as the cause of these ailments were published, pet food manufacturers hastened to supplement taurine in their diets. Curiously, because bacteria in the cat’s digestive system evidently prefer canned food to dry, they needed to put three times more taurine in canned food than dry. The problem disappeared, and everyone lived happily ever after…or did they?

Because dogs make their own taurine from other amino acids, it’s been thought that they didn’t need such supplements. But in the last few years, researchers have discovered that a few dogs evidently can’t supply their own taurine needs; at least not on a diet of cereal grains and by-products. Certain lines of spaniels, retrievers, and particularly Newfoundlands developed the same form of heart disease that was killing cats. Now, this disease is actually pretty common among dogs of all breeds, but what was interesting about these particular dogs was that supplementing taurine could reverse their heart disease. As it turned out, many of these dogs were eating lamb and rice dog foods. Lamb meat has a relatively low level of taurine compared to chicken, the most common pet food protein. (Beef, venison, and rabbit are also much lower in taurine than poultry.) Consequently, a few pet food makers have started to supplement taurine in some (but not all) their dry dog foods.

However, the basic reason remains the same for dogs as cats: there isn’t enough real meat in the food to sustain a meat-eating predator like a dog or cat. The vast majority of dry pet foods out there contain little or no real meat, but instead use cheaper substitutes like grain proteins (corn gluten, wheat gluten, soy protein), and by-products such as meat and bone meal.

Here at Only Natural Pet Store, we stock only the best natural pet foods. You won’t find any low-end foods full of by-products here, so you can be confident that your pet is getting the best nutrition available. Shop now for your dog or cat!

While all processed cat foods and some dog foods are supplemented with taurine, in some cases more might actually be better. Taurine is a helpful and valuable supplement for pets with liver disease, seizure disorders, and Type I diabetes (the most common form in dogs). Here are some products that contain extra taurine:

Only Natural Pet Super Daily Canine Senior

Only Natural Super Daily Feline Vitamins

Missing Link Feline Formula

Pet Naturals of Vermont Natural Cat Daily

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Why Go Organic?

Among the many pet food choices available today are a handful of products labeled “organic.” These products tend to be higher in price than most foods—are they worth it?

Definition. Because there’s a lot of confusion about it, let’s start with what “organic” really is. The term “organic” has a very specific, legal meaning set by the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program:

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

Products labeled “100% Organic” with the “USDA Organic” seal contain only organically produced ingredients. Products made from at least 95% organic ingredients may also carry the “USDA Organic” seal. Products that contain at least 70% organic ingredients may label those on the ingredient listing. The USDA has ruled that its organic standards do apply to pet food. Most organic pet food products fall into 70% organic category, but a few follow the higher standards.

It’s important to understand that natural and organic are not at all the same. Natural, as applied to pet food, means that the ingredients come from nature (animal, vegetable, mineral); in other words, they are not synthetic.  However, they may undergo many types of processing and still be considered natural.  Neither term implies anything about animal welfare; products from “factory” farming and confinement operations (such as battery cages for chickens), can still be organic, natural, both, or neither.

Organic Benefits.  Organic food has many benefits to the environment.  Unlike conventional agriculture’s chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides, organic farming is safer for earth, air and water.  Organic farming is more labor-intensive, which accounts for its higher cost—but it uses less water and less energy, which are both in limited supply.

But is organic really better for our pets?  Yes!  Organically grown crops are higher in nutritional value and contain more vitamins and antioxidants than conventionally grown produce; organic meat and dairy products have a healthier balance of fats.  Pesticide residues are, of course, dramatically lower in organic diets.

Pesticides have many harmful effects; many are particularly toxic to the nervous system.  Acute overdoses are the most well-studied, but chronic exposure to pesticides over time has been linked to impaired cognitive function, decreased immune function, cancer, and even weight gain.  Young animals and smaller pets may be even more sensitive to chemical toxins, due to their faster metabolism.  Unfortunately, crops that have too much pesticide residue for human consumption can legally be used in pet foods.  Buying organic pet foods ensures that these contaminated crops don’t find their way into your pet’s food bowl.

Ready to try organic for your pet?  Here are some of our great organic products:

Dry Dog Food

Castor & Pollux (70% organic ingredients)

Karma (95% organic ingredients)

Natural Balance Organic Formulas (70% organic ingredients)

Newman’s Own Organics (70% organic ingredients)

Canned Dog Food

Castor & Pollux (95% organic ingredients)

Newman’s Own Organics (70% organic ingredients)

Evanger’s Organic (100% organic ingredients)

Raw Dog Food

Nature’s Variety Organic Chicken Diet (95% organic ingredients)

Raw Advantage for Dogs (100% organic ingredients)

Dry Cat Food

Castor & Pollux (95% organic ingredients)

Newman’s Own Organics (70% organic)

Canned Cat Food

Castor & Pollux (95% organic ingredients)

Newman’s Own (70% organic ingredients)

Raw Cat Food

Raw Advantage (100% organic ingredients)

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Safety of Raw Meat Diets

Along with recalls of wet and dry pet foods earlier this year, two raw meat diets were also recalled. Wild Kitty recalled four flavors of its raw cat food (chicken, turkey, duck, and tuna), and Bravo! recently recalled three lots of chicken and turkey pet food. Routine testing found Salmonella in the Wild Kitty foods, and both Salmonella and Listeria in the Bravo! foods.

Let’s look at this issue in more detail. First, we should remember that the recalled raw foods are vastly outnumbered by the hundreds of canned and dry foods that sickened or killed tens of thousands of dogs and cats. How many animals got sick from the raw foods? Zero. On the other hand, the benefits of a raw meat diet are many. Skin, ear, digestive, allergic and immune-related diseases usually improve on a good quality, balanced raw diet. Weight issues will also improve, since a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet is what dogs and cats should be eating—not heavily processed, high-carb kibble containing synthetic chemical ingredients that pack on the pounds. Obesity itself contributes to many serious and even painful diseases such as diabetes and arthritis.

But there are always two sides to any story, and raw food has its potential drawbacks as well as benefits. Bacterial contamination and lack of balance are the ones most frequently invoked by veterinarians to prevent pet guardians from trying a raw diet. Let’s talk about bacterial contamination first.

The bacteria Salmonella is the most commonly cited danger from feeding raw meat. However, even though this bacterium is a common contaminant of meat, eggs, and soil, it is not a significant threat to dogs and cats, due to the carnivore’s shorter gastrointestinal tract and faster transit time (compared to humans). Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings typically emphasize the risks to frail people like infants, the elderly, and immune-compromised people (e.g., those with autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, or those on immune-suppressing drugs like steroids or chemotherapy).

However, according to experts—including the FDA—Salmonella does not pose any real threat to healthy animals. In fact, it’s estimated that 30% of normal healthy dogs and 18% of healthy cats (virtually all of whom eat processed commercial pet food) are already carriers. One study showed that, even when 80% of meat samples were positive for Salmonella, 70% of dogs eating that meat tested negative, and none got sick. The vast majority of human cases are completely unrelated to dogs and cats. It is prudent, however, to avoid feeding pets non-organic raw ground beef, due to severe contamination problems in the meat packing industry.

Listeria is another common environmental bacteria. The vast majority of Listeria cases in people come from processed foods, like hot dogs, cold cuts, cheese, and raw vegetables. It is a fairly rare disease, since healthy people (and pets) are resistant and don’t usually become ill from this bug.

Common sense says that handling raw meat diets for pets is no different from buying raw meat at the grocery store to make hamburgers for your family. By always following safe meat-handling procedures with all raw animal products, you’ll virtually eliminate the risk of illness for your pet and your family.

Lack of balance is another concern cited by those who are against raw feeding. While it is not difficult to make your pet’s food at home, it does involve education and commitment. For instance, plain meat is not a balanced diet, and can cause serious health problems. There’s also something called “diet drift”—you might run out of a supplement and forget to buy more, and after a while, the diet really does go out of whack.

Even without making meals from scratch, there are easy ways to make sure your pet’s diet is always fresh and balanced!

1. Pre-made raw meat diets. Only Natural is proud to offer more than a dozen raw meat diets for dogs and cats! There are both frozen and dehydrated diets that are easy to use, and great for your pet. Nature’s Variety, Raw Advantage, Primal Pet Foods, and Northwest Naturals, and FarMore are the high-quality brands you can find here.

2. Complete supplements for raw meat. These products are easy to use; all you do is add fresh meat. There come fresh, freeze-dried and dehydrated; and with grains or without. Only Natural carries many excellent products from Sojourner’s Farm (“Sojo’s” to many), Honest Kitchen, and Dr. Harvey’s. They’ll save you time and effort, yet still allow you to control the quality of the most important ingredient, meat.  Wysong’s Call of The Wild supplement is also available for balancing raw meat diets.

Raw diets aren’t for every pet. Animals with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and those taking immune-suppressing drugs should not be fed raw meat until the system has time to heal. You can cook raw meat or even raw complete diets without losing essential nutrients. As your pet’s health improves, cook the meat less and less until your pet is ready to transition to raw.

Many raw recipes and diets are grain-free, but some dogs seem to do better with some grain. Cats typically do better without grains. Either choose a food that contains grain, or add a little cooked rice, couscous, or oatmeal. Food-allergic animals should avoid wheat and corn; animals with suspected gluten intolerance should avoid barley, rye, oats, and wheat. Experiment with alternative grains like amaranth, buckwheat, millet, spelt, quinoa and teff.

If you haven’t fed your pet raw meat or “people” food before (or it’s been a long time since you did), be sure to make all dietary changes slowly and cautiously. The whole digestive system has to restructure itself to digest the new food properly. To ease the transition, extra digestive enzymes and probiotics are helpful. Of course, these supplements are beneficial for all pets, no matter what they eat! Only Natural carries a wide variety of probiotics, enzymes, and combination products for you to choose from. To name just a few:

• Only Natural Pet Vital Digest, Prozyme, and Biozyme provide important enzymes to help your pet’s digestive system break down the food properly.

• Ark Naturals Gentle DigestNF Spectra Probiotic and Only Natural Pet Probiotic Blend supply friendly bacteria and nutrients to support proper absorption and elimination of toxins and bad bacteria.

• Pet Naturals Digestive Support for Cats and Dogs and Animal Essentials Plant Enzymes & Probiotics contain both enzymes and friendly bacteria.

Even if you don’t want to feed a raw diet full-time, adding a little fresh meat to your pet’s regular diet a few times a week, or feeding part raw and part regular commercial food, will go a long way toward better health for your pet.

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