ALL ABOUT DOGS and CATS Resource Center for Canine & Feline Lovers
What You Need to Know About Your Pet's Food
by Dr. Larry Siegler
Your Companion’s Diet
Nutrition is the foundation of good health for people and the same is true for our animal
companions. Diet is the most important component of your pet’s health care. The best diet for
your dog or cat is not unlike the best diet for you – it consists of a variety of whole foods
enhanced with vitamins and minerals, enzymes and supplements, when necessary, to promote
optimal health, prevent disease or to address health issues.
Our animal companions are natural hunters and carnivores - just look at their ancestry. The dog
at your feet (or on your sofa) has evolved from the wolf, and his digestive system is virtually the
same despite thousands of years of domestication. They have very short intestinal tracts geared
to the consumption and digestion of raw foods. The cat on your lap is a true or “obligate”
carnivore (meat only diet) and is specially designed by nature to hunt small rodents and birds.
Her digestive tract, as well, is intended to assimilate raw meat best.
Commercially prepared kibble has become the standard diet for most pets in our culture. It is
relatively cheap and quite convenient. Knowledgeable guardians and many veterinarians,
however, are becoming increasingly aware of the true nutritional needs of companion animals
and are taking a proactive approach to nutrition by placing more importance on getting the
highest quality ingredients and carefully controlled preparation than on cost and convenience. For
most dogs and cats, a home-prepared raw food diet is best. This is not always feasible, however,
so at Natural Nutrition we offer the healthiest options available for all lifestyles and feeding
choices. Whatever food you choose to offer your pet, putting some thought into your decision
now can produce big rewards over his or her lifetime and very probably help him or her avoid
serious and costly illnesses caused by poor nutrition and feeding practices.
When trying to determine the best diet for your companion, there are two things to keep in mind:
The fresher, the better, and rotation is optimal. First let’s discuss freshness.
Fresh food is teeming with life. It contains natural enzymes, probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins and
minerals in their most natural state, making them more digestible and more easily assimilated.
Heat is the number one enemy of nutrients in food. The fresher the food, the more bioavailable
the nutrients in that food will be. This means that the antioxidants in the fruits and vegetables
listed in the ingredients will be far more likely to be intact and digestible in raw food than in dry
kibble or canned food, which are processed at high temperatures. This is also true for natural
enzymes, probiotics, amino acids and vitamins and minerals in your pet's food.
The less heat-processed the food, the more likely it is that the nutrients will be preserved in their
natural state by the time you feed it to your companion, and the more digestible those nutrients
will be. So even if dry kibble is a part of your companion’s diet, adding fresher foods like fresh or
frozen raw food & bones, or fresh cooked meat, healthy table scraps, freeze-dried or dehydrated
foods, and even canned food can enhance the quality of his or her overall diet.
The Freshness Scale:
1. Home prepared diet (preferably raw)
2. Frozen raw food diets
3. Freeze-dried & dehydrated foods
4. Canned foods
5. Dry kibble
In addition to freshness, variety is important in your companion’s diet. A more diverse diet is far
more likely to provide complete nutrition than a “formulated” diet fed over and over again. While
all pet foods on the market meet the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)
standards for “nutrition” for dogs and cats, that does not mean that any one of them are the
ideal food for the life of your companion.
A good meal is a pleasurable experience for you, and the same should be true for your
companion. However, even a good meal served over and over can become tiresome. You wouldn’t
eat corn flakes at every meal for years at a time, so why ask your companion to eat cereal - the
SAME cereal, for every meal, every day, for months or years at a time? It is detrimental to both
your health and your companion’s to eat the same thing for months or years at every meal.
Consuming the same food repeatedly over long periods of time can contribute to the
development of food sensitivities and allergies.
More recently, some veterinarians specializing in feline medicine have stated that inflammatory
bowel disease may develop, in part, because of food sensitivities caused by feeding one diet for
over a year or two at a time. Feeding cats, who are obligate carnivores, a grain-based diet has
also been shown to contribute to the incidence of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD),
also known as Feline Urological Syndrome or FUS. The resulting dehydration over a long period of
time pets a great deal of stress on the kidneys and lining of the urinary tract.
We recommend varying your companion’s diet regularly. If feeding a raw diet, you do not need to
“transition” from one type of food to the next. Animals eating kibble, however, should be
transitioned gradually over a week or two from one to the other. Cats should not eat dry kibble
as a main portion of their diet.
Optimizing Freshness and Rotation
While the ideal diet would be a continual rotation of fresh, raw foods, most guardians do not
have the time and resources to carefully formulate and make their pet’s food. So if you can’t meet
the ideal, just get as close as you can with what you can afford. The next best thing would be to
feed raw food as at least 50% of the diet. You can feed one meal a day raw or mix raw in with
processed foods. Here are some ways to increase the freshness of your pet’s diet:
1. Home prepared food can't be beat for freshness. This is especially valuable for animals with
health issues such as allergies or immune disorders. Following a recipe is crucial so that proper
vitamin and mineral supplementation is achieved. Particular attention must be paid to the ratio of
calcium and phosphorus when preparing pet foods at home. Basic recipes can be found in Dr.
Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, which also includes recipes for a
variety of health issues. The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care also has basic recipes and
information to support home prepared meals. For further information on feeding raw food, the
book Raw Meaty Bones contains good information.
2. Frozen raw foods generally come either in a formula of raw meat, grains, and fresh vegetables
designed to provide complete nutrition, or as pure raw meat designed to be added as a
supplement to other types of food. For more information about transitioning to and feeding a raw
diet, please see our article All About Raw Food.
3. Natural Nutrition offers vegetable and/or grain-based mixes by Sojo's and Honest Kitchen -
Preference that are designed to be added to raw or cooked meat. You simply rehydrate the
mixture and add the meat. The Honest Kitchen Verve Formula can be used this way as well.
4. Adding freeze-dried or dehydrated foods is another way to enhance the freshness and variety
in your companion’s diet. The Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Diets for dogs and cats and the
Nature's Variety Prairie Freeze-Dried Diets are convenient and easy to feed. Again, this can be for
one meal a day or every other day. Alternatively, top dressing dry kibble with freeze-dried food
adds more bioavailable nutrients, amino acids and enzymes that kibble lacks.
5. If you include dry kibble in the diet, rotate the kibble you use every month or every other
month (gradually transition over a week or more). Mix a variety of different high quality canned
foods into the diet as a meal or mixed with kibble. If possible, mix raw meat and, for dogs, lightly
steamed vegetables and fresh fruits into their food. And YES – you CAN feed your dog or cat
healthy people food. If you are cooking a nice meal of pot roast and vegetables for the family,
save a portion for your companion – it’s a great way to add variety and fresher food into his or
her diet. Always remember, however, that to prevent weight gain you must use proportionately
less of the kibble when adding canned, freeze-dried, or dehydrated food, raw meat, or people
Keep in mind that the less complicated you make your pet’s diet plan, the more likely you are to
stick with it. If it is easiest for you to just reach into the freezer and take out an already prepared
and balanced meal, consider stocking up on a frozen raw food formula. If using a premix like
Sojo's with raw meat sounds workable, by all means try it. Or try feeding your dog raw turkey
necks or chicken necks, backs or wings for breakfast 2-3 times per week. You can buy them at the
grocery store or from our raw food section. If you can’t manage the raw food, but cooking a little
extra at each meal is easy for you, then add a bit of your breakfast or dinner to your pet’s diet.
Make it easy and your companion will reap the benefits through a healthier and more interesting