An Intro To Pet Food / Basic Guide to Different Feeding Methods

Pets need a diet that meets their nutritional needs.

Did You Know?

Dogs and cats need over 30 essential nutrients including protein, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals. The goal is to feed the pet such that when caloric needs are met, all essential nutrients are consumed (complete) in the proper amount and ratios (balanced). This is referred to as “complete and balanced nutrition”.  Look for the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Nutritional Adequacy Statement on the pet food label to see if that food is complete and balanced for the specific pet’s life stage. This is one of the most important pieces of information on the pet food label.

Pet food is regulated at both the federal and state level.  FDA regulations require proper product identification, net quantity, manufacturer or distributor name and place of business, and a listing of all ingredients in the product by descending order of weight. Many states base their regulations on the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Model Bill and Regulations for Pet Food and Specialty Pet Food. These regulations include label requirements for complete and balanced products such as the nutritional adequacy statement, feeding directions, guaranteed analysis, and calorie statement. More detail can be obtained on the AAFCO Talks Pet Food website.

There is no “one size fits all” to recommended feeding. A Dog’s individual requirements will vary based upon several factors including metabolism, age, daily exercise, health conditions, genetics, outdoor environments, stress and anxiety. Certain terms such as natural or human grade are defined by AAFCO while terms such as holistic or biologically appropriate are not.

Every ingredient in a pet food must be included on the label and listed in descending order by weight. Ingredients are listed by the name and definition established by AAFCO. For example, “meat” listed in the ingredient list is derived from cattle, swine, sheep or goats unless the label specifies the meat was derived from another species (e.g. venison or rabbit meal). Ingredient names such as meat by-products or poultry by-product meal have specific definitions that define what can and cannot be included in the ingredient (e.g. meat by-products can include organ meats such as liver, kidney and lung but cannot include hair, horns, teeth or hoofs).

Some neighbors prefer to home cook for their pets rather than feed a commercial pet food for various reasons. As with feeding a commercially prepared food, it is most important to ensure the pet is receiving a complete and balanced nutrition. Many recipes available to pet owners do not provide complete and balanced nutrition. Consult with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist to ensure the pet’s needs are being adequately met.

 

Feeding a Raw Diet

Q: What are raw diets?

A:  Raw diets usually contain some or all of the following: muscle meat from animals (often still on the bone); bones (whole or ground); organ meats (e.g., liver, kidney); raw eggs; raw vegetables and/or fruit; and possibly some dairy products, such as unpasteurized yogurt or milk. As the name implies, the food is not cooked prior to feeding.

Q:  What are the benefits of raw diets?

A: There are many anecdotal reports of benefits associated with feeding raw food – including easier weight management; reduced dental disease; healthier coat and skin; elimination of allergies; improved overall health and immunity; and more. Raw food advocates also contend that the diet more closely resembles what dogs’ and cats’ ancestors ate. Typical raw formulas are 95% meat, bone, and organ with 5% Pumpkin. Raw diet manufacturers believe that simple carnivore diets offer maximum absorption.

Replacing kibble, and with it starch, leads the way toward healthier gut bacteria, balanced blood sugar and a better overall system.

Heat addition of any kind (boiling, frying, roasting, baking) initiates a process referred to as protein denaturation. An example would be frying an egg. This cannot be undone. You can’t un-fry an egg. Its protein has been denatured. We know a fried egg delivers quality nutrition but what is not appreciated is a raw egg delivers even more. But the advantage of raw food is more than avoiding the diminished digestibility due to cooking. There are subtle but critical additional benefits. Natural enzymes and numerous beneficial bacteria are found in raw pet foods, undamaged by any heat application.

 

The Advantages of Freeze Dried Raw

This is where a freeze-dried diet can be useful. It has the ease and convenience of kibble, yet it’s comprised of the same ingredients as a raw diet. The food is not messy to feed so your dog doesn’t get it all over himself or the area where you feed him. Ideally, the food will already be nutritionally balanced, so you don’t have to spend time choosing the ingredients or making the food yourself. Freeze drying kills the bacteria that sometimes poses a problem with raw foods. The bones in the freeze-dried food are already ground and with freeze drying, fruits and vegetables can be picked at their ripest, with their nutrients at their highest. In this way, freeze-dried foods can be even better for health than fresh foods, freeze-drying halts degradation and keeps the vitamins intact.

Freeze-dried raw ingredients contain a blend of prebiotics and probiotics to help promote healthy bacteria in the stomach just like all raw diets

Plus, freeze dried pet foods have a long life. If you keep them in their packaging, they can last a long time until you are ready to re-hydrate them and feed them. No additional refrigeration or freezing is required. You can store them in a kitchen cabinet or take them with you when you travel with your dog. Freeze dried foods are often a good alternative for people who like to feed a raw diet. Your dog gets the same nutritional benefits of eating raw without the mess. The foods are nutritionally balanced, easy to handle and store, plus they keep a long time.

 

Feeding Raw- Coated / Kibble plus Freeze-Dried Raw

Q: What is Raw-Coated?

A: Protein rich baked kibble coated with freeze-dried raw that is added after the baking process. It’s an easy way for pet parents to work raw into their pet’s diet. Raw-coated is a simple, pristine, less processed, and highly palatable kibble with the additional benefits of feeding raw diet.

Q: Kibble plus FDR?

A: Simply high-protein kibble and freeze-dried raw ingredients contain a blend of prebiotics and probiotics to help promote healthy bacteria in the stomach just like all raw diets.

 

Feeding a Natural Grain Inclusive Diet

Q: Why Are Grains Used in Pet Food?

A: Grains are a source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. They provide carbohydrates and help dry pet food maintain its shape and crunch. They aren’t just filler,” says Dr. Susan G. Wynn, veterinary nutritionist at BluePearl Georgia Veterinary Specialists. Traditionally, wheat and corn have been the go-to grains for commercial dog food manufacturers. But in recent years, there’s been an increase in “ancestral grains” which include barley, oats, millet and rye.

Q: Is One Grain Better Than Another?

A: Each grain has its own unique nutritional profile. No one diet works for every single pet.  No matter which grain you choose, veterinarians agree that whole grains, which contain all parts of the plant, are best. The complexity of a whole grain is as unprocessed as you can get.

 

Feeding a Natural Grain-Free Diet

Q: Why Feed Grain Free?

A: Grain and gluten-free diets replace traditional grains like corn, wheat, oats, and barley with items like potatoes, peas, and lentils. Like grains, these ingredients also have unique nutritional benefits. For instance, sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta carotene, there’s also some weight management benefits to peas in a dog’s diet.  There are continued discoveries of food sensitivities and intolerance, and there are benefits received from eating only the unprocessed foods available to our ancestors. Pet owners often notice an improvement in their pet’s gastrointestinal health when changing to a grain free diet. These diets are particularly helpful for people that have Celiac disease, intolerance to gluten in general, or allergies to wheat for instance.

Food hypersensitivity or food allergies most commonly start in pets between the ages of 3 and 6 years old, depending on the pet. Most food-sensitive or food-allergic pets develop allergies to the proteins as well as the carbohydrate portion such as grains during this time of their lives. For dogs that truly do have allergies to grains, a grain free diet would be an appropriate choice.

The following are symptoms that would be expected in dogs that have food allergies:

  • Itchiness
  • Excessive hair loss
  • Bald patches
  • Inflamed skin
  • Sore and scabs
  • “Hot spots”

Feeding a Premium Diet

Commercially processed canned or kibble foods are formulated to meet dogs’ and cats’ nutritional needs for proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. They are convenient, cost less than raw or homemade diets, and are readily available in most grocery stores, pet stores and “big box” stores. These pet foods comprise most of the pet food market. Most premium diets ex: Science Diet, Pro Plan, etc. market their products around what is known as life stage nutrition. That is a pet’s nutritional needs vary according to the age of the pet. Puppies and Kittens need more nutrients in their diet like fats and proteins but that the older a pet becomes, like most people the less nutrition the pet needs. Disease conditions often arise slowly over the lifetime of the pet as a result of excess nutrition. By reducing the amount of nutrients an older pet consumes you can help avoid health issues associated with eating too much. HOWEVER, premium diets have an ingredient panel profile that is less than desirable to our neighbors today, ingredients like, poultry by-products, brewer’s rice, ground whole grain wheat, corn gluten meal, etc. along with artificial preservatives is not what our neighbors want to feed their pets. FACT: A marketing trick to acquire a “Meat First” ingredient panel is to weigh the ingredients before the water content is removed during processing. As a result of the cooking process the food is no longer “meat first” but heavy with grains and meat moves down the ingredient panel.

 

Feeding “Grocery” Pet Foods.

Commercially processed canned or kibble foods are formulated to meet dogs’ and cats’ basic nutritional needs for proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. They are convenient, cost less than premium, raw or homemade diets, and are readily available in most grocery stores, pet stores and “big box” stores. These pet foods comprise most of the pet food market. These cheaper pet foods contain meat meals such as ‘meat and bone meal’ and ‘by-products’ which come from the rendering process and can contain dead animals from farms, ranches, feedlots, marketing barns, animal shelters, and other facilities; and fats, grease, and other food waste from restaurants and stores.

Grocery foods like dome premiums have ingredients like, poultry by-products, brewer’s rice, ground whole grain wheat, corn gluten meal, etc. along with artificial preservatives and high ash counts which directly lead to kidney and bladder stones this is not what our neighbors want to feed their pets. Feeding a grocery food can lead very quickly to health issues ranging from a dry skin and coat to heart disease and diabetes. Nutritionally speaking feeding most grocery foods is like eating fast food every day, you can live on fast foods, but you won’t have a very healthy or a very long life.