Raw Food TransformationJun 01, 2014 11:39PM ● By Robert Goldstein, VMD, and Susan Goldstein
A transformation is taking place in the pet food industry with new types of food emerging, including raw (frozen), dehydrated, freeze-dried and grain-free foods. The decision on the part of small manufacturers to leave behind heavily processed foods is being well received by both consumers and the animals ingesting the foods.
The return to feeding foods with active life force ingredients, as opposed to heavily cooked “dead” food is appealing to many pet parents. This is due in large part to the collective experience of generations of millions of animals, many of whom suffered from degenerative diseases such as chronic skin, liver, kidney diseases, arthritis and cancer, all linked to improper, by-product-based, highly cooked diets.
In the 1940s, Juliet de Barclai Levy, author of A Handbook of Natural Care and Rearing and an early pioneer of raw foods, described dogs fed raw meat as looking “quite different” and “vitally alive.” Upon examination of their teeth, eyes, limbs and coat, she claimed a noticeable difference in the looks and actions of dogs and cats who had been raised on an uncooked rather than denatured, processed diet.
Despite the real benefits of feeding a raw diet, such as healthier skin, teeth, eyes, vibrant health, and reduced incidence of chronic diseases, raw feeding is not for everyone. While some may not be comfortable with the sight of blood being part of this process, others may be turned off by the looks or odor. Additionally, there are some in the veterinary community concerned about bacterial contamination with the raw foods. The majority of practicing veterinarians follow the AVMA’s guidelines, instructing their clients to avoid feeding raw foods in favor of balanced, commercially prepared foods.
Dogs and cats are anatomically carnivores, with a highly acid digestive tract, giving them the ability to prevent pathogenic bacteria, similar to animals in the wild. Understanding this may help to shift the focus from contamination to the conscious sourcing of the meat from humanely-raised and organically-fed animals. Raw food purchases should be from trusted manufacturers who process safely and achieve nutritional balance by adding proper supplementation and living foods. It is important to note that bacterial contamination can occur in the commercially processed petfood industry as well.
There are other choices available if raw foods are not a good option for your family and pets. Both dehydrated and freeze-dried versions of unprocessed foods offer a compromise to raw and a step away from processed, highly cooked foods. In addition, they offer the convenience of not requiring either freezing or thawing. The freeze drying and dehydration processes render the food safe from bacterial contamination, while preserving the nutritional value and life force of the ingredients.
There continues to be controversy surrounding feeding grains to pets, due to the allergic response and higher levels of simple sugars and carbohydrates. Dogs and cats in the wild, while ingesting the whole body of their prey, receive and eat small amounts of predigested grain from the intestines. It is important that pet parents recognize each dog or cat’s individual nutritional needs and reaction. While there are many animals who tolerate whole grains such as oats, barley or brown rice as part of their daily diet, there are also animals that are intolerant. The grain-free movement was birthed partially in response to less expensive grain and grain by-products being used to fill the bags or cans, which caused increased allergic reactions.
A wholesome diet consisting of range-free organic raw chicken or beef (sometimes lightly steamed), phytonutrient-rich organic vegetables and appropriate supplements such as omega oils is an example of good, well-balanced raw meal.
Dr. Bob and Susan Goldstein are the founders and co-owners of Earth Animal in Westport. The Goldsteins are the authors of The Goldstein’s Wellness and Longevity Program and Dr. Bob is the editor and an author of the veterinary textbook, Integrating Complementary Medicine into Veterinary Practices.