Many pet owners are unknowingly doing a disservice to their companion by humanizing their food. This is the concept of placing ideologies and trends humans practice, on their companions. Many popular beliefs or trends include vegan or vegetarian diets, low fat diets and weariness of bacterial contamination. After close evaluation of the canine and feline physiology as well as dietary behaviors in the wild, one quickly realizes these impositions are not appropriate for our domestic companions.
Many humans are making the switch to vegan or vegetarian diets. These diets are free of meat, but include fruits, vegetables, other plant materials and can include non-meat products from animals like milk, cheese and eggs (except for those practicing a vegan diet). Some switch to this diet for health, religious and/or moral/ethical reasons.
Vegetables, fruits and grains are all carbohydrates. For humans we understand they contain lots of valuable vitamins and minerals that our body can use to function on a regular basis. Dogs and cats however do not have the enzymes or the long digestive system required to breakdown, digest and absorb all the wonderful nutrients they provide humans. Humans can utilize all of the vitamins and minerals available from the digestion of carbohydrates due to the proper enzymes like amylase and cellulase. They also have a long digestive tract that allows complex plant material to break down slowly over 24-72 hours. Carnivores have short digestive tracts that can only afford to digest over an 3-6 hour period, ideal for readily available nutrients such as those from animal based sources.
Humans also can turn many components of plant materials into other important nutrients that can actually replace these nutrients from animal based products. Cats, dogs and ferrets do not have this ability with key nutrients.
So how do we know they don’t properly digest these plant materials? Easy! Describe your companion’s average bowel movement. Its stinky, large, and frequent. Stinky poop results from plant materials combined with body juices and other waste material that has sat around to decay. Flatulence, due to a build-up of fermented material resulting in gas from gut bacteria that cannot properly use the food stuff is another. Finally, large stool due to the bulk of unused consumed products is the last indicator.
Airplanes only fly on a very specific type of fuel. If one puts automobile gasoline in the gas tank, the plane may be able to start to move down the runway, but it isn’t going to fly. Airplanes have airplane engines not car engines therefore it will not function optimally. Your companion is like this plane. You can put fruits and vegetable in it, but cats, dogs and ferrets have different anatomy than humans, so they are not going to function at their full potential because it just isn’t the right type of food.
Meat for animals however is one of three components of a proper diet (outside of organs and bone). It contains a complete amino acid profile with several vitamins, minerals and other components only available through an animal based source. Meat is also 90-95% bioavailable meaning this percentage of nutrients can be utilized providing more energy to fight pathogens, rebuild tissue, and detoxify the body. Plant based material only is about 70% bioavailable.
Humans have also taken the low fat craze to heart when it was introduced in the early 1990’s. Low fat foods including junk food like chips and candy as well as excessive exercising and visiting the gym became common place. People have learned fat is bad when in fact although there are bad fats there are good ones that are essential for a quality energy source, cushioning vital organs and protecting nerves to properly deliver nerve impulses throughout the body.
Deficiencies in fats can result in impaired brain function, imbalance of essential hormones, heart malfunction and ironically weight gain and overeating. Although humans associate fat intake with obesity it is actually the sugar loaded, low quality carbohydrates that is a major contributing factor in the weight problems our companions face today. Believe it or not a natural raw diet for your cat, dog or ferret is free of carbohydrates, full of important protein and provides all the right kinds of fats to thrive on!
Finally, one of the biggest concerns about raw feeding is bacterial contamination from salmonella and other contaminants. This belief stems from the fact that humans are pretty susceptible to the illness if directly obtained from raw or undercooked meats or even unwashed fruits and vegetables. While humans have a stomach acid of 2.0 to 3.5 pH, raw fed cats and dogs have a pH level of 2 or lower (7.0 pH is neutral, the lower the number the more acidic). In fact, the pH of stomach acid can be a good indicator of what the organism should/can digest as a result of the diet. Acidic foods include meat such as poultry and fish as well as eggs while alkaline (or basic, the opposite of acidic) foods include fruits, vegetables and legumes. Acidic foods maintain or increase the acidity of stomach acid while alkaline foods reduce acidity.
A low pH, that is found in canine, feline and ferret stomachs are ideal for breaking down and digesting meat, bones and bacteria. Therefore, the acidity of the canine, feline and ferret stomach is directly related to the meat protein consumed.
It has been shown that kibble fed dogs have a less acidic stomach acid, one rising to pH levels of 4-5 which can no longer digest meat, organs, bone and bacteria efficiently. Their stomachs can no longer soften bone which will result in intestinal obstructions nor can they kill harmful bacteria, actually making them MORE susceptible to bacterial contamination. Let me note however this does NOT mean they have adapted to a cereal based diet. This is pretty scary not only because a naturally raw fed dog CAN handle potential bacteria contamination, but the fact that humans are inhibiting this natural occurrence with alkaline based foods. These foods are being produced by commercial pet food companies that have been suffering from increasing recalls due to listeria or salmonella contamination. This is not only putting our pets, but our families in danger.
This information is certainly not to deter animal lovers from feeding a raw diet to their companions. Although, it is advised to start when our companions are kittens and puppies, it is never too late to feed a species appropriate diet. A kibble fed companion’s ideal acidity can return within 7-10 days if introduced to a raw diet gradually.
It is a well-known fact that humans can eat vegan or vegetarian diets and thrive on a combination of fruits and vegetables. That they can eat fats but should be mindful of which they consume and should be more cautious of potential bacteria contamination when consuming raw meat or unwashed produce. Our companions however, are simply not the same species. We must think about common issues that humans have in a different light when it comes to our companions. Cats and dogs belong to the order carnivora….also known as carnivores and consume as well as can handle different food sources than humans. It is time that humans accept this fact in order to provide the best possible diet for their companion’s health and well-being.