Food for Fido and Fluffy: Is It All It’s Cooked Up to Be?
By Dr Margaret Meier, DVM, CVSMT
As we celebrate food in this issue, it is important to consider the food we feed our pets as well as ourselves. Did you know that how the food we eat, and feed our pets, is processed can change the inherent nature of the raw ingredients? We all have heard numerous times that processed foods are “bad” for us and that if it comes in a box we should avoid it. Is the same true for our pets? The answer isn’t necessarily as black and white as one might think.The idea of feeding our pets a diet that owners have prepared for them has been rapidly gaining popularity over the last few decades. There are numerous recipes available online, and one can even find several commercially prepared“raw” diets now in the pet stores and grocery stores. The question then becomes more a matter of balanced nutrition and safety, for us and our pets, than availability and/or accessibility of these diets should we choose to feed them to our four-legged friends.
If you choose a non-processed “raw” diet for your pet, one of the biggest concerns is that of parasites and bacterial overgrowth. Bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter can be found in raw protein sources such as chicken and milk, and if handled inappropriately can lead to illness. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) make the following statement on their website:
“Raw diets, especially raw meat diets, are not recommended because of the risk for salmonellosis and other infections that can affect pets and their owners.”
That being said, we all have also seen many recent pet food recalls for salmonellosis in processed pet foods. So, what else must we consider when choosing what to feed our pets?
As we go through life our nutritional needs change, and so do the needs of our pets. When we feed our pets a non-processed diet, it is essential to provide balanced nutrition. I recommend Canine/Feline Whole Body Support by Standard Process to help meet the micronutrient needs of my patients, regardless of their base diet. Disease processes such as allergies, diabetes, kidney and/or heart disease, and even osteoarthritis also change nutritional needs and should be addressed with supplements accordingly with your veterinarian’s assistance. For example, increasing the amounts of EPA/DHA essential fatty acids in the diet can substantially aid with skin, heart, and joint problems.
Finally, the species of pet must also be taken into consideration. Dogs are omnivores, like humans, but cats are obligate carnivores. These dietary classifications are essentialto understand and follow if you are electing to provide a non-processed diet for your pet. Dietary amounts for essential amino acids, such as taurine, differ between the species (and even breeds), and if not monitored closely can result in deficiency diseases such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
As we look to provide better nutrition to our pets, processed diets are also improving. All one need do is look at the growing selection of pet foods in the store for the evidence. Unfortunately, this is also adding to confusion as to what’s the best option for you and your pet. Discussing all of your questions and concerns with your veterinarian will provide the best scenario for you and your pet