Some of you know that when I was a mere pup of 13 years old, my Mommy took me off a high end food Veterinarians sell and started me on the road to a raw diet. The 2 years previous to the diet change involved lots of time spent with knowledgeable self-taught friends dragging Mommy kicking and screaming to their way of thinking. Eventually it started to make sense and she spent more time with owners of independent pet shops learning about what was really in the food I had been eating. Grains, chicken parts (what parts I asked. Reba you really don't want to know they said). Mommy didn't like that I was eating ground up chicken talons and beaks not to mention other undesirable less than nutritious fare. So we were on the road to raw** foods and holistic supplements.
It seems today that the big box pet stores are jumping on the bandwagon and offering all kinds of natural foods. When it comes to pet food, the options are almost as varied as people food. "Natural food" is a growing trend among our furry friends, so we wanted to talk about what does a natural diet actually entail?
For Veterinarian Doctor James Bianco*, it's a no-brainer. We found Dr. Bianco, whose practice is Ardmore Animal Hospital in Pennsylvania. He is often called on to speak about pet health issues and diet. "They (natural foods) are worth their money, absolutely. They're worth their money because they promote healthy skin and healthy coat, they promote a healthy immune system," said Dr.Bianco.
Natural food will say "natural" on the packaging, but that isn't the only word you will want to look for. You must look at the ingredients. "The first things you look at, the type of meat. Is it a meal, is it a meat by-product, or do you have corn or soy as a first ingredient. What you want to see is meat," said Bianco. One of the first things Mommy and I did was cut out all grains and I give a puppy up recommendation that you stay away from grains of any kind. Dogs are carnivores. We don't forge around in wheat or corn fields in the wild. We go for the nutritious stuff.... meat, tripe, salmon, rabbit, chicken and beef hearts, venison, pumpkin, carrots, sardines, fruits, nutritious yummy foods!
National pet store chains are growing their inventory and it can be confusing. Many have a section devoted to natural options, but Doctor Bianco recommends the mom and pop shops in your neighborhood. "Personally, I feel that going to the smaller, non-national chain type stores is where you're going to get your best information. Many times when you have the owner there, they're very knowledgeable," said Bianco.
We could not MUTTer more in agreement. The small independent shops are way ahead of the game and they understand what 'natural' means. They will steer you in the right direction for your dog. In fact, most of them will want to meet your dog to determine the best food for him or her.
And that's where Food Energetics comes in. When we went to a small independent store where we spend the summer, we were amazed when the owner looked at my gums and said "Oh, Reba is a warm dog she has red tongue and gums". She asked my Mommy if I liked to sleep snuggled under covers or on a cool spot on the floor. I always go for whatever is going to make my tummy cool. That short evaluation (more came later and continues to this day) gave her the information she needed to steer my Mommy to food for warm dogs. I should not eat what cool dogs eat. She actually started me out on Nature's Logic Duck and Salmon and I thought I died and went over the bridge! BOL!
So Food Energetics is a subject I'll talk about in my Blog next week. It's fascinating stuff. You don't have to buy into it but all I can tell you is that it has worked for me and within 3 to 4 weeks of being on the raw diet my Mommy could tell a big difference in me. She said I was like a different dog.
But isn't this an expensive undertaking Reba? Well depending on the brand or if you make it at home yourself it can cost anywhere from $30 to $100 a month but there
will be may be some hidden money savers.
Your dog will eat a smaller quantity of food, feed him the same amount you are feeding now and he will gain weight. Because there is no filler in these foods our poop is much smaller and it doesn't smell and it's perfectly formed and easy for the pawrents to pick up and you just might have fewer trips to the vet.
"As veterinarians, we see dogs on the more premium diets with healthier immune systems, healthier coats, less gastrointestinal problems," said Dr. Bianco. Overall, pet lovers say that they can see a difference.
FYI - a word worth writing down: AAFCO, it's the pet version of the FDA.
Next week: Food Energetics for pets.
* Ardmore Animal Hospital has provided compassionate care and veterinary services since 1937 for pets in Ardmore as well as the Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Radnor, Wynnewood, and Narbeth areas. Currently owned and operated by veterinarian Dr. Bianco since 1989, our veterinary hospital caters to the health and well-being for dogs, cats and certain pocket pets including guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits and hamsters.
**Cavet: Raw does not necessarily mean raw out of the freezer or fresh not cooked raw although many people do it that way. There is air dried raw and other raw presentations. Raw home prepared meals are often referred to as the Canine Cancer Diet.