A Brief History of Pet Food:
James Spratt was first to produce a dog cake in 1860 made from blended wheat meals, vegetables, beetroot, and meat. Spratt was offered some inedible, discarded biscuits at a London ship-yard for his dog, and decided there might be a better approach. He created hard, baked biscuits of meat, grains and vegetable, which was arguably the first pet food available commercially. [i]
Pet food has evolved from table scraps, to the first dog cakes in 1860, to DNA specific diets available today along with the myriad of supplements (more on this in future issues). This newsletter will focus on the basics to help you understand what is available for your fur-kid. Lyn and I work hard to select the most appropriate diet putting your fur kid as our first priority.
Types of Pet Food
Today, there are several categories of pet food to choose from. These include various super-premium dry and canned diets, holistic, dehydrated, RAW, and DNA specific diets. Our store carries choices in all categories offering more than 25 brands at any given time. It is important to note that while using diet to manage health concerns, it is important to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to eliminate other potential health concerns.
When was the last time you enjoyed Duck and Sweet Potatoes? Or consumed Kelp and Alfalfa or other natural vitamins to improve your health? How about supplementing your diet with probiotics and enzymes to improve your digestive process? Well, many of our foods contain just such items to help provide your furkid with a complete and balanced diet with added antioxidants and vitamins to strengthen their biological system.
We have some Customers with picky pets who will only eat their dry food with a topper of some sort which usually includes canned food. When I hear this I usually turn to my wife and suggest that I too will only consume T-Bone steak, 20 year aged Rye, and Cuban cigars. All kidding aside, canned food is a great addition since offering improved digestibility and moisture content while offering varying sources of protein and vegetables cooked at a lower temperature than kibble. The challenge becomes the need to continue to add rocket fuel to the diet to encourage your fur kid to eat. Our dogs have trained us well forcing us to continue this trend. Another benefit of canned food is for older dogs with poor teeth or dogs prone to kidney stones and other related health disorders – again, see your veterinarian first for such disorders.
This would not be a complete article if I did not include our little furry cat friends (I am a dog person trying not to be biased). Cats are true carnivores while dogs are omnivores. Cats need an essential ingredient called Taurine which is available from fresh meat. Most diets are supplemented since they are processed. There are several essential amino acids that differ between dogs and cats that must be included in the diet for health balance. A great source to understand this better is a book written by Dr. Pitcairn, Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats.
Given cats propensity for meat, we feel more comfortable recommending the newer trend of grain free diets. What is grain free? This diet usually contains higher meat content, and excludes such common ingredients such as corn, rice, rice flower, rice hulls, wheat, and other binders. It is our experience that these ingredients, and their pesticide treatments, have contributed to growing health concerns within all of us. There are several Canadian food brands which guarantee meats without hormones and other potentially harmful ingredients offering a grain free alternative. This food category has also been successful in helping our Customers furkids improve allergies, normalize digestion, and minimize room clearing flatulence.
Another area to have awareness is how the food is preserved. In general, foods will spoil without some form of temperature control or preservatives. Many commercial pet foods use synthetic antioxidants such as BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin as a less expensive means of achieving shelf life.[ii] At very high concentrations these preservatives may be linked to liver disease and other health issues.[iii] While it should be noted that consuming concentrations found in human and pet food have not been shown to cause disease in animals, you should avoid these foods when possible. Chicken fat is also another commonly found preservative, but varies widely in quality. Alternatively, you can select foods preserved in tocopherols (Vitamin E). A quality pet food will be preserved in mixed tocopherols.
RAW diets have become quite popular for their performance in dealing with allergies and other health disorders. This is a controversial diet category with a mixed response from veterinarians. The idea of RAW diets is to provide a diet consistent with how our Furkids ancestors ate. RAW diets offer the best digestibility, essential amino acids, and vitamins as well as natures delivery mechanisms to provide health balance. This is an expensive diet and they are many apprehensions and fears concerning its use.
Our own pet suffered from extreme allergies, bleeding from excessive scratching and keeping us up at night. We tried every holistic diet in our store without success. We finally switched to RAW and experienced immediate lasting success. This approach does not work for everyone which is why a trip to your local veterinarian is advised.
There are challenges for RAW diets which may include the following:
- Many raw diets utilize necks, backs, and frames as their protein/calcium source. The problem may be elevated calcium levels since you don’t really know the ratio of meat to bone. Higher quality diets usually offer a better balance.
- Regulation for raw diets in Canada is lacking empowering several small suppliers to offer a diet which may not be complete, sourced from undesirable supply, and handled and packed in less than a favourable manner. Lyn and I have experienced Customers serving only chicken necks and backs to their pets only to experience health imbalances down the road due to an incomplete diet. We suggest following a veterinarian recommended raw diet such as those offered in the book by Dr. Pitcairn.
Our new Nature’s Harvest raw diet is partially cooked to assist families with children handling the food. This is a low glycemic diet prepared with chicken, lamb, beef, and turkey protein sources packed in convenient patties.