Dogs and cats are very resilient creatures and we have seen that they can survive on very little nutrition. Many pet parents purchase the same bag of pet food each month, trusting that it is complete and balanced as it states on the bag, and not giving it much further thought. If this is you, you’re not alone. And if you are reading this article, you probably have a sense that there may be more you could be doing to potentially increase your pet’s longevity and well-being.
Fifteen years ago, I discovered that there is a gaping chasm between the quality of one brand to the next, and that the guidelines for creating a pet food allow for health degrading ingredients to be commonly used in pet diets.
As a very protective pet momma, this fact really struck a chord with me and it is what led me to creating Pupologie.
For further exploration on pet food guidelines and the truths about the ingredients, I highly recommend Susan Thixton’s blog www.thetruthaboutpetfood.com and I encourage you to watch the documentary Pet Fooled, which is available on Netflix.
1. Think Rotation and Variety
One of the simplest ways to improve your pets’ nutrition is by offering variety! A variety of nutrients from a variety of sources is biologically what our pets are built for. Dogs became “man’s best friend” as descendants of wolves. Wolves hunt in packs eating a variety of prey and scavenging. As they integrated into man’s best friend, they would eat whatever man would eat. Leftover scraps from the camp and the dinner table. Cats are pure predators and still to this day hunt whatever prey they can get their paws on if permitted to do so.
The pet diet as we know it today is built upon modern convenience, rather than what your pet actually needs. We’ve been lulled into thinking that if it states “complete and balanced” on the bag, then it must be sufficient. Further perpetuating that idea are commercials with slogans like “Good for the life of your pet” and a gross misrepresentation of true nutritional education within the Veterinarian curriculum. And over the last 70 decades, as we have come to accept the modern way of feeding our pets, we are witnessing a shortening of their expected lifespan and an increase of ailments that were once unheard of in pets.
Adopt a habit of choosing a minimum of three base diets and cycle through them. A base diet can be any pre-made commercial diet or a homemade diet using a balanced recipe. It is a myth that changing your pet’s diet is “bad” for them. To avoid any stomach upsets, the key in introducing anything new in your pet’s diet is slow and steady. I recommend adding a 1 part portion of the new food with 3 parts of the familiar food for the first time. Do that for about two to four feedings and monitor your pet. Check their stools. If there are changes such as extreme stool softening, continue to feed this ratio until the stools become firmer. Once the stools are regular, move forward with a 1 part new to 2 part familiar for two to four feedings. Continue increasing the ratio of the new food, decreasing the ratio of the familiar food and monitoring the stools until you are able to fully integrate over to the new food with no stool issues. Do this any time you are introducing new foods and eventually you will be able to cycle between the different foods, switching back and forth, as often as you’d like.
If you find that the new food doesn’t really produce a happy pet with a happy stool, do not be alarmed and do not give up hope. Every pet has unique needs and finding the proteins and other ingredients that jive well with your pet is a simple process of trial and error.
2. Support the Gut
A happy gut is foundational in keeping all other systems functioning. Focus on ensuring there is a flourishing array of gut flora and healthy gut lining.
I recommend adding in pre and probiotics as a routine mix-in daily or at least 3 times a week.
To support the gut lining add in bone broth two or three times a week as well. Bone broth helps to heal any little tears or holes in the gut that may have occurred and it has a slew of other health benefits, including joint support.
3. Address Taurine and Heart Health
There is currently evidence in recent studies that the standard requirements for dog foods to be labeled “complete and balanced,” is lacking an important amino acid called Taurine which is connected to heart and eye health. It has been a requirement in cat food for decades, however it was deemed unnecessary for dog food. The evidence that is currently under investigation is showing that some dogs are having heart issues linked to lack of taurine.
The guidelines will likely be changed to accommodate these findings once they have conclusive evidence, but until then, there are natural sources you can add to your pets’ diet to ensure your pet has plenty of this amino acid.
- Sardines and Salmon
- Organ meats such as giblets, liver, heart, kidneys
- Dark meat
- Clams and Mussels
Add in any combination of the items on the list a few times a week and you will be covering your pets need for taurine, not to mention they will thoroughly enjoy the deliciousness.