The Raw and Fresh Pet Food Trends
We love our pets; they become our best friends, and we even consider them family. They help us through the hard times, share in the good times, prevent us from being lonely and even bring considerable amounts of joy to our lives. In exchange, we want to care for them to the best of our ability. This entails not only giving them our love and affection, and a safe place to live out their lives, but also food to sustain them—food that helps them live a long fulfilling life.
Lately, there’s been a bit of a fresh or raw and even gourmet diet fad going on in the pet food industry. And, depending on who you ask, it’s the best thing that could happen to our dogs and cats—or reap possible health trouble down the road. To find out more, I spoke with two very knowledgeable women on the subject, one from each camp, and they agreed that both opinions are true. A fresh and raw diet can be the best thing for your pets and the worst. The key is doing your homework. Concerning dogs—type, breed, age, size, and individual health needs, dictate nutritional needs. Just like our own health needs, pet health is nuanced and complicated and should be taken very seriously.My first conversation for this piece was with Andra Dakota, an animal rights activist who puts on free vaccination along with spay and neuter clinics for the less fortunate pet owners of Slab City, Imperial Valley, and also runs a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dog rescue. Dakota is a proponent of dumping the kibble we feed our dogs—although, she isn’t saying all kibble is bad. In her own words: “There are responsible kibble manufacturers out there.” Though she points out: “Stay away from the kibbles that contain animal by-products, they can contain anything from roadkill carcasses to feces.” It also contains tons of preservatives, and non-USDA-certified ingredients, including chemicals not safe for human or animal consumption.
Dakota pointed out that: “Dogs are carnivores, and the Dog and Cat food industry loads up their kibble with too much corn and grains.” Then she enlightened me that before dogs were domesticated as they hunted for meat, in the stomachs of their prey were undigested greens, which became vital to the K-9 diet. As they are now fully domesticated, we don’t think about these nuanced needs—like your dog eating grass, which is a sign that he or she is lacking certain minerals or vitamins in their diet. Though the answer to a problem like that is a visit to the vet, along with some simple research to find out exactly what is ailing your pet. Rather than a drastic diet change that may do more harm than good, research and incremental changes are ideas promoted by both of these women.
Dakota recommends feeding dogs fresh tripe–which can be found at a butcher or ordered by the can over Amazon (she advised me it was less smelly this way). She also recommends feeding dogs steamed vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, squash, and certain fruits. This would mimic the predigested greens in their natural prey before domestication.
The second woman I spoke with during my odyssey into pet health was Carol Otjens, a Registered Vet Tech (RVT) who has worked in the veterinary field for 20 years and was a former animal trainer at the San Diego Zoo for 13 years. Otjens began our conversation with the idea that: “Animals have been domesticated to cohabitate with us, so their DNA has changed, they have different nutritional needs….raw diets are more specifically proper to give to a wild animal, rather than a domestic.” She added: “We see a lot of metabolic disorders nowadays from raw diets…though the big name responsible companies have a lot of research and development into making their foods healthy for our pets.” They have spent the money, time, and brain power to figure this out for us all. This is beneficial for pet owners since not everyone has all that time and money to put into their pet's diets. Otjens added: “I always worry about a raw or fresh diet because owners don’t know the nutritional needs of their animals…the general population just doesn’t know, so leave it to the experts: the people who have gone through years of education to become Vet Techs or veterinarians.”
Otjens impressed me when it came to knowing her dog food: “The raw diets, the fresh diets are very much a fad….and raw meat all the time will shut down a dog's kidneys.” In other words, do your due diligence, talk to vets, stay vigilant, and know your pet's allergies and ailments. Like Dakota agreed, there are good pet food companies out there who make kibble responsibly; this list was compiled by veterinarians and Vet Techs who have recommended these brands in real-life cases: Purina One, Science Diet, Iams, Eukanuba, Pro Plan. All are recommended by professionals, but it’s OK if you want to put in the time and money to give your dogs a ground turkey, egg, and chicken liver gourmet dinner every night. As long as you know your pet's nutritional needs and have done your homework on what your dogs can and can’t eat.