Back in 2002, my family adopted Crinkles, an amazing dog with (unfortunately) a whole host of problems. We worked hard to get Crinkles healthy, but it seemed like every conventional solution we tried ended up creating another problem. And that’s when it hit me, “If I’m thriving on a natural life, why wouldn’t Crinkles?”
My family and I had incorporated natural products into our household: from the food we ate, to our household cleaners, to our laundry detergent, but we were still feeding our pets conventional foods and treats, filled with artificial ingredients and fillers. We started Crinkles on natural pet products and the difference was night and day. And to share the health, Only Natural Pet was founded in 2004.
When I tell people that I founded a company that sells natural pet care products for dogs and cats, they almost always want to know how to start their pet on a natural diet, and what a natural diet actually looks like. I always give them a quick “starter guide” on natural pet food and now I’m passing it along to you!
When choosing the right natural food for your dog or cat it is important to remember several factors:
Freshness – The fresher and less processed the food, the better. As with human food, the more pet food is processed, the more nutrients are lost.
Meat – Dogs and cats are natural carnivores, so it is important that the main source of protein in their diet is meat. Grains are inferior sources of protein and cats especially do not tolerate grains well. Diets with higher grain and carbohydrate content can lead to weight gain and other potential health problems.
Vegetables & Fruits – Vegetables and fruits contain beneficial vitamins and antioxidants and should be included in the diet as well — to a greater extent for dogs than for cats. Cats are almost exclusively carnivores, so this portion should be smaller for them.
Variety – It is a good idea to feed your pet different types of food, either through rotation or mixing them together. Try different brands and/or different flavors of the same brand. Feeding your pet the same dry food all the time would be like you eating only corn flakes – sure you could survive, but it wouldn’t be very healthful or enjoyable! Every meal does not need to be perfectly balanced. Feeding a variety of healthy meals will create balance over the course of the week.
Supplements – Most of the food we offer contains additional ingredients to add vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients. It is always a good idea to also add some fish oil to your pet’s food, an excellent source of essential fatty acids, as well as digestive enzymes and an overall multivitamin supplement containing key nutrients (a lot like your daily vitamins, only more important since a pet’s diet tends to be less fresh and varied than yours).
BUT. . .what kind of food should you feed your dog or cat?
To help you out, I’ve compiled a list summarizing natural pet food and highlighting some of the benefits of each type. Raw food, dehydrated and freeze dried are the least processed, then canned food, and finally dry kibble. Of course your budget is always a factor, because the better quality the food, the more expensive it tends to be. Keep in mind, dry natural kibble is always a better choice than conventional food filled with grains and artificial ingredients.
This variety comes frozen and must be thawed before feeding. It’s made from mostly fresh ground muscle and organ meat, as well as ground bones. Many brands also contain fruits and vegetables for added bioavailable nutrients.
Dehydrated, Air-Dried & Freeze Dried
These are as easy to feed as dry food, but since they’re not cooked at such high temperatures, they maintain the benefits of raw, including high levels of protein, amino acids and digestive enzymes. You just add water to prepare and they can be fed as a complete meal or used as a healthy topper.
Great for adding variety into your pet’s diet, canned food is perfect for finicky eaters because of its excellent palatability. The high moisture content is great for keeping pets hydrated, especially cats. Unfortunately, nutrients are lost with the heat involved in the canning process.
Certainly the widest known type of pet food, there is a lot of variety even in the dry kibble category. Look for dry kibbles that feature meat as the first ingredient, have a protein level higher than 30%, and are grain-free. If you can find kibble with nutritional boosts, like added freeze-dried ingredients, then go for that; it also helps to add freeze-dried or air-dried food as a topper. Unfortunately, a lot of nutrients are lost from the high heat used in making kibble.
No matter which type of diet you choose, a good daily vitamin will help optimize your pet’s health by ensuring they get enough of the necessary vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.
[About the author: Marty Grosjean is the Founder of Only Natural Pet, www.onlynaturalpet.com, the leading online retailer in the natural pet supplies market. The company operates an e-commerce site, retail store, and catalog business that offers more than 3,900 products from leading manufacturers in the natural, organic, and eco-friendly pet supply market. Only Natural Pet produces more than 500 of its own highly popular Only Natural Pet branded products, including food, vitamins, supplements, and flea prevention and treatment. Image: elizabeth tersigni]