75 years ago the pet food industry made it's debut. Whether this is a good thing or not is up for debate. Regardless it is important to fully understand the industry to recognize why Prey Model Raw feeding is so important.
One of the worse feelings is seeing your beloved companion in pain. From the young age of 4 months, my parents’ Pitbull, Kirya developed food intolerances so severe that she scratched herself to the point where she was bleeding and looked like an abused dog. Puffy and red eyes, crusty and bleeding ears, skin so raw it was bright red on a regular basis. She would scratch herself to the point where she was crying in pain, but continued to scratch never satisfying that itch. Thousands of dollars were spent on allergy tests, biopsies, skin scrapings, food changes and medications with little relief. Most of the tests showed nothing, the food changes only helped so much and the medications had such effects as severe weight gain, hair loss, in ability to heal and developing Cushing’s disease (a disease where the adrenal gland over produces hormones). Symptoms such as muscle weakness, lack of energy, thin skin, shrinking testicles and more are common symptoms.
Firstly, there is a difference between allergies and intolerances. A true allergic reaction occurs when anaphylactic shock occurs or other severe reaction that is life threatening. An intolerance occurs with lesser symptoms that are not as serious. In most cases our companions will have an intolerance. Although intolerances are common in the environment such as too grasses, pollens and dust in the home, intolerances to food have become even more prevalent. More times than not people want to switch to raw because of their companions’ suffering from what they assume are allergies. In most cases our companions suffer from food intolerances that include symptoms like itching, redness and rashes, ear infections, hair loss and hot spots, however vomiting, diarrhea and paw licking or chewing is also very common as well.
The most common suggestion to relieve intolerance symptoms for companions on a commercial diet is to eliminate the use of grains such as wheat and corn. Cats, dogs and ferrets are carnivores which means they eat meat. You will never find a cat, dog or ferret walking through a field of wheat in the wild eating mouthfuls of the golden plant. They are not anatomically or physiologically designed to consume grains of any sort. Not only is this evident in the large, stinky feces they produce but also the countless health problems that are provoked by grains such as cancer, behavior problems and inflammation including that resulting in skin and coat problems.
Heavy use of grain products like wheat are also known to prevent the absorption of zinc which is an essential ingredient for keeping the skin and coat healthy. This is because grains contain phytic acid. Those deficient in zinc will have hair loss, rashes, crusty skin of paws and weakened immune system among other symptoms not related to the skin and coat.
In a species appropriate prey model raw diet, no carbohydrates are included in the diet such as corn or wheat which eliminates any potential allergic reactions and intolerances to these ingredients.
Genetically modified organisms are also a concern with common food crops mainly of the carbohydrate variety. In the 1990’s genetically modified crops became available and foods with these modifications were quickly available to manufacturers to be put into pet foods because these crops were widely available and cheap. In this time allergies in cats and dogs increased as well. Even though there is little research specifically geared towards the effect of GMO’s on companion allergies and intolerances, health experts are saying that there is a rise in allergies/intolerances in the human population most often connected to the consumption of soy which is one of the leading genetically modified crops. Even without genetic modification soy and wheat are among the top eight allergenic foods in both the human and the pet populations.
Bt Toxin which is often the genetic modifier of corn to prevent pesticides in the human population is known to cause leaky gut syndrome in newborns. This syndrome causes food stuff to leave beyond the intestinal walls into the blood stream leading to allergies and autoimmune diseases which includes allergic reactions and intolerances. It is important to note that animal companions can suffer from leaky gut syndrome as well.
Another problem that arises are the limited variety that pet owners provide their companions food wise. Once an owner finds a food that works for their companion they seldom switch brands or even flavors. Among other problems like boredom this results in intolerances as the body is only fed one thing continuously for years on end. In addition, the most common allergies to pet food other than grains includes chicken and beef. These are the most common proteins found in most pet foods as well as the human population. They are also produced on such a large scale that often they are injected with hormones and antibiotics despite being prohibited from use. These additions to the meat can also cause allergic reactions, intolerances and immune issues in the body. When feeding a raw diet variety is key and easy to achieve. Many companion animals enjoy a variety of meats, organ and bone to chow down on not only providing variety but preventing boredom.
Another common recommendation is to add omega fatty acids to the diet to aid the skin and coat. This is a great recommendation as a proper balance will help maintain a healthy skin and coat that is lush, hydrated and healthy. However, commercial pet foods often contain so many omega 6’s which are essential fatty acids responsible for inflammation that it out balances the beneficial omega 3’s. Inflammation is important to alert the body that there is an injury somewhere that needs to be addressed. On the flip side too much can provoke or influence cancer, hip and joint problems like arthritis, seizures and this very topic…allergies or inflammation of the skin. Balancing omega 6’s and omega 3’s the essential fatty acids that reduce inflammation is essential. One source that is recommended is fish oils like those from salmon or krill. Animal based fats/oils are the most easily utilized by our carnivore friends. Oils like vegetable, canola, soy, sunflower, flaxseed and other plant based oils are not properly utilized and provide little relief to the skin and coat while causing other issues. Be careful of where these omegas are sourced from. Just like our pet foods some companies just wish to capitalize on our companions’ ill health and may not be providing the best product.
Because allergies have become common place in the animal population pet food manufacturers have come out with limited ingredient diets, sensitive skin diets, medications like apoquel and prednisone and even human grade allergy medications like Zyrtec and Benadryl are flying off the shelves. But are any of these helping? For some they may, but they aren’t without major side effects. As mentioned in the opening paragraph Kirya was first given prednisone which ultimately had caused the listed symptoms including a concern for damage to the liver. Other medications just mask symptoms to make owners believe a cure has been found. As for prescription food diets, legally these companies cannot actually make any medical claims and often these foods contain no special ingredients or at least those in significant enough amounts to make much of a difference in our companion’s skin health.
Let’s take a look at a common skin support prescription food and the same company’s regular adult pet food.
Brown rice, fish meal, rice, rice protein, chicken fat, natural flavors, powdered cellulose, dried beet pulp (sugar removed), soya oil, anchovy oil (source of EPA/DHA), salt, curcumin, … preserved with natural mixed tocopherols (source of vitamin E) and citric acid.
No EPA, DHA, or Omega 3% listed on their company’s website or on their pet food bag!
Cost $32.49 for 6 lbs
Chicken meal, brewers rice, brown rice, wheat, corn gluten meal, oat groats, chicken fat, natural flavors, dried beet pulp, fish oil, brewers dried yeast, vegetable oil, salt, … preserved with natural mixed tocopherols and citric acid.
Product recommendations partial
0.48% Omega 3
Cost 18.98 for 6 lbs
White=likely GM ingredient
Although the prescription food has less grains in it, nevertheless it includes them, in fact brown rice is the first ingredient which means it makes up most of the food being that it is listed first! This diet has fish as the primary meat source however chicken fat is included so if your companion is allergic or has an intolerance to chicken which is one of the most common protein source intolerances, this diet probably won’t help. This diet does have anchovy oil in it which will provide beneficial and available omegas since it is animal based but it also contains soya oil in greater amounts than the anchovy oil which is not species appropriate and won’t be properly utilized. In addition, due to the nature of this product being a dry pet food most of the beneficial fats will be rendered useless because fats and oils are destroyed by heat which is how this food is processed and because the ingredient list is the ingredients before processing we don’t know what is really left. Although the adult food states the EPA, DHA and omega 3 content neither the company’s website nor the actual food bag label for the prescription diet states this content. Finally, the prescription food is $13 more than the adult food despite having 5/9 ingredients in common with the adult food with the remaining contributing little benefit to the patient needing skin support.
So what do you do if almost all commercial pet foods are loaded with omega 6’s that promote inflammation as well as grains and meat that may be laced with antibiotics and hormones as well as other allergy and intolerance inducing components? A raw diet of course! Not only is the raw food not overly processed destroying the natural structure of proteins and enzymes, but if sourced properly will not contain preservatives, hormones or antibiotics that may be resulting in these allergy symptoms. A prey model raw diet also will not include any kind of corn, soy, wheat or other carbohydrate sources that not only are a leading cause for intolerances but if sourced properly will not be genetically modified. Many owners who switch to a raw diet will find that if their pet is allergic or intolerant to chicken in a commercial pet food, they will not have any reaction to the same protein source raw. It is quite amazing to see the results of a raw diet but there are hundreds of testimonials out there and many more companions who no longer suffer from intolerances and others who even have been taking off medications they previously were once on for allergies and intolerances.