We all love our pets and want to give them the best life we can but one of the biggest concerns as pet owners is what is the best diet for cats and dogs. The main thing to remember is cats and dogs are carnivores.
This means that they are biologically the same as their ancestors and their wild cousins.
Cats and dogs are designed to eat meat, tear hide and crush bone. They have sharp interlocking teeth and their jaws can only move up and down to cut through meat and gulp it down without a lot of chewing.
Dogs and cats, have short digestive tracts. They are naturally able to eat foods that may be loaded with pathogens and bacteria (remember wild cats and dogs eat the whole prey animal…stomach, intestines and everything) Having a short digestive tract means food passes through them quickly limiting their exposure to harmful bacteria.
In the wild they would be living on rabbits, rats, mice, birds and other small prey. This wild prey is naturally very lean and high in moisture. And the amount of carbohydrates they would normally consume are very low, just the contents of the preys stomach. This is the way they have eaten for thousands of years.
Commercially processed pet foods have only been around for about 100 years, it is a fairly new
way of eating for our domesticated pets. These processed pet foods are made with high amounts of corn, wheat, rice and soy and poor quality protein sources.
In recent years their have been more pet food companies that have realized that our pets health is declining with the use of high amounts of these carbohydrates and they are now offering limited ingredient food choices with a lower percentage of carbohydrates and higher quality protein sources.
Some of the most scary things about commercially processed pet foods is they can contain synthetic vitamins and minerals and they are heated at very high temperatures.
When protein is cooked at high temperatures it creates heterocyclic amines and starches cooked at high temperatures create acrylamides these are both carcinogens. For more information on this please read my article, Natural Pet Food Solutions.
Raw Homemade Species appropriate diet that meets your pets nutritional requirements which means it needs to be nutritionally balanced. This is the diet that would be closest to what they would eat in the wild. You can read more in these previous articles, Is a prey Model diet a balanced diet for your dog and Raw Diets For Cats
When making a homemade diet it is very important to work with your vet so they can assist your in designing and adjusting the diet to meet your specific pets needs. Young pets, older pets and pets with any medical ailments will need specific ratios of vitamins, minerals and enzymes.
When your make a raw homemade diet your have control over what goes in to your pets food and your have the control to vary their diet and adjust for any allergies or personal preferences. And your can vary the recipe according to what is available in bulk or on sale to make it more affordable.
Cooked homemade diet that is still nutritionally balanced. Because this option is still homemade your still have control over all the ingredients that your use but remember it should be slow cooked at a low to medium heat NOT on high.
You will still lose a lot of the natural enzymes but this is still a far better choice than commercial foods. For a sample recipe read my article My Homemade High Protein Dog Food Recipe. Some animals will not eat a raw diet so this is the next best option.
Commercially prepared complete raw food diet. These can be found in the freezer section and also a freeze-dried option. It is very important to make sure they are “Complete” meals not a supplement. These foods should have ground bone or bone meal, this is in here for the minerals.
A meat source should always be the number one ingredient and always look for Human Grade, grass-fed, non GMO and organic, this means they are not using the “3D’s and be sure to pay attention to the fat and carbohydrates and be sure to choose the one that best fits your pets needs. But most important is try to stay away from synthetic vitamins.
The freeze-dried raw diet is just slightly lower ranking than the frozen raw but it still ranks higher than the next choice.
Commercially prepared cooked or refrigerated food. These foods are generally slow cooked at low heat processing and maintain a higher moisture content
Again try to find human grade meat as the first protein source, these foods are usually fresher than a commercially prepared dry kibble.
Human-grade canned food. This food is usually a more expensive option but always make sure the protein source is human grade, non GMO or organic. Always read the label
Premium canned food (or in some cases Prescription canned food). They will have a higher moisture content but are usually not made with human grade ingredients but they can be nutritionally complete.
Human-grade dry food. This food is rated low even though it is made with human grade ingredients because dogs and cats are not designed to eat a dry food. And these foods are generally still very high in carbohydrates. Dry foods do not come close to the prey model diets that are appropriate for cats and dogs.
Dry foods are also usually processed at high temperatures thereby increasing your pets exposure to carcinogens.
All the following choices receive the lowest ranking.
Premium dry food (or in some cases Prescription dry food). These foods are generally do not use human grade ingredients and usually contain high levels of carbohydrates that are not part of a species appropriate diet. They are the higher end foods that would be found at large pet stores like Petco or Petsmart, some feed stores and most conventional veterinarians.
Commercial grocery store brands of canned or dry food. The ones your would find at any everyday grocery store such as Walmart, Safeway, Fred Meyer, Target. These commercially prepared foods rank low because they are loaded with carbohydrates and most use synthetic vitamins and toxic dyes and preservative such as ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). They are not biologically appropriate for cats and dogs.
Commercial store brands of moist pouched food. You need to really watch the ingredient list on these. Some of the commercial pet food manufacturers have used propylene glycol to keep foods soft. Propylene glycol is not the same as ethylene glycol that is used in antifreeze. Now that being said their is a lot of controversy that propylene glycol is still just as bad and it has also been used in antifreeze.
Propylene glycol is approved for use in pet foods (as well as some human foods)but it is only to be consumed in small quantities. That should be a red flag to stay away from it.
And last but not least is a homemade diet that does not meet your pets nutritional needs. Your pet needs a varied diet of biologically appropriate foods. If you are not able to provide a balanced homemade diet then please try one of the other options above. It would be much safer than having your pet suffer crippling and even fatal health problems from nutritional inadequacies.
Do the best you can with what you have
Knowledge is power and knowing what your pets nutritional needs are and having knowledge of how to correctly meet those needs (to the best of your ability or affordability) will ensure a long and healthful life for your pet.
As always, If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments section below. I do my best to offer helpful and insightful articles that all my readers will enjoy.