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Selecting a quality food for your pet can be an intimidating task. With the variety of differing opinions on how to feed your animal, this can seem not only daunting, but also impossible without the help of a professional. While it helps to seek advice from a person experienced in animal nutrition, most of what you need to know can be resolved through common sense. We know that the best foods for us are whole, unprocessed, fresh foods. The same rules apply to what food is best for our pets. Take advantage of the fact that all pet foods have the ingredients listed right on the label. This is the key to finding what your pet needs.
First, look for a specified meat or meat meal as the first ingredient. Avoid any product that contains by-products, “meat and bone meal” or fails to specify the source of meat.
Grain & Vegetables
Then, look for one or a few unique complex whole grains. Avoid excessive corn, wheat and simple, high glycemic carbohydrates. Avoid products that contain the same grain listed multiple times. Example: Rice, Brewer's Rice, Ground Rice are all white rice derivatives. Fresh vegetables and fruits are always a good thing to find in the following ingredients, as well. This is your foundation for a good food.
Supplements also play a considerable role in the quality of a food. There are a number of supplements that will go a long way to improving and sustaining your animal’s health and well-being. Some of these include:
Fish oil: Rich source of omega 3’s and 6’s in a desirable profile (choose salmon or sardine)
Kelp: Regulates thyroid, as well as providing trace nutrients
Probiotics: Beneficial bacteria that aids in digestion, intestinal health and promotion of healthy immune system
Glucosamine/Chondroiton: Helps maintain healthy joints
Enzymes: Aids in digestion and general well-being
Herbs and botanicals: Contain various health-giving properties (Milk thistle, dandelion, barley grass, parsley, etc.)
Vitamins & Minerals
Fortunately, all dog and cat foods must contain a certain amount of essential vitamins and minerals, which saves time when considering supplements. However, some minerals are superior to others. When you look at the list of minerals, look for chelated minerals. With chelation, the mineral is bound to two or more amino acids, which make it much more bioavailable to the body than the standard, unchelated form.
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Benefits of Feeding a Raw Diet:
- Heathier skin and coat
- Less odor
- Cleaner teeth and better breath
- Improved digestion and nutrient absorption
- Better weight control
- Better dental health
- Reduction of allergic symptoms
- Smaller, less smelly stools
- More energy and stamina
A raw food diet is based around what a dog or cat would eat in a natural setting. Dry and canned pet foods are a relatively new phenomenon originally designed to use byproducts from the production of human food. Before that, our companions ate our own whole food scraps and in a wild setting, what they could kill or scavenge. Modern raw diets mimic a combination of a prey carcass and knowledge we now have on balanced nutrition.
Why Feed Raw?
All raw foods are rich in enzymes. Enzymes are biomolecules that increase the rates of chemical reactions in the body. These chemical reactions range from digestion, reducing inflammation and repairing damaged cells. Enzymes are necessary to break down food into digestible components. When raw food is cooked, enzymes are destroyed. While animals are capable of producing their own enzymes, this causes an unnecessary strain and diverts attention from the rest of the body.
Is it safe
Feeding a raw diet is just no more risky than feeding a commercial diet if properly handled and produced. In addition, dogs and cats have digestive systems designed to thrive on raw meat. Their highly acidic stomachs and short intestinal tracts afford them the ability to consume, and even benefit from, bacteria that would otherwise be harmful to humans.
In a natural setting, most if not all food consumed by dogs and cats would be moist in form and contain blood and plasma. This allows for proper hydration and provides nutrients not found in water. Eating a moist food is essential for kidney and urinary tract health, especially for cats.
Hide this sectionMost people (and pets) can agree that fleas are maddening. It is important to remember that prevention, maintenance and persistence is key in treating fleas. In doing this, you can avoid infestations, which are much more difficult to take care of. While the natural approach to flea control may be more labor/time intensive, it also avoids the negative ramifications associated with commercial chemical flea treatments.
It is also good to note, however, that natural does not necessarily mean safe. There are toxic flea products derived from natural sources. Be wary of products containing pyrethrins and permethrins, as they naturally based but cause damage to the brain and central nervous system.
Proper diet goes a long way in preventing flea infestation. A raw or fresh diet leaves intact a number of nutrients that are key in preventing fleas, including B Vitamins and Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Adding additional B Vitamins and small amounts of garlic to the diet is also advisable in helping to keep your pet’s body an undesirable host for fleas.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Additional supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids works to improve the health of the skin and immune system. Healthy skin preserves more of its own natural oils. This makes the skin harder to penetrate, creating a less hospitable environment for fleas.
Desiccants like diatomaceous earth are non-toxic ways to treat active flea populations. Diatomaceous earth is derived from ground, fossilized remains of algae. They cut into the exoskeleton of fleas and cause them to dehydrate. Diatomaceous earth can be used topically on your pet, or sprinkled throughout problem areas in your home or yard.
A number of essential oils act as repellants for fleas and ticks. Look for external sprays that incorporate cedar, neem, bergamot or citronella or other pungent herbs. Many of these herbs will also aid in healing insect bites. These can be applied as needed. It is important to note that essential oils are not appropriate for use on cats. Hydrosols (distilled essential oils) are a safe alternative.
Maintaining a clean environment for your pet is important in keeping fleas at bay. During flea season or an infestation, it would be advisable to vacuum at least weekly, as well as cleaning your pet’s bedding on a similar schedule. Products like diatomaceous earth and boric acid can be used throughout the home to kill fleas not living on your pet’s body. In addition, flea combing your pet regularly will keep the number of mature fleas on your pet’s body low. Although not ideal, you may need to bathe your pet on a weekly to bi-weekly schedule to cleanse the body of fleas and their remnants.
If you have a yard or patio, nematodes can be applied to keep flea populations at bay. These microscopic worms feed off of flea larva and are available at many hardware stores.
We at Jeffrey's care deeply for your pets. Over the years we have been providing invaluable information and advice to those who want to care for their pets with a natural approach. We have begun to compile this information and present here an ever-expanding collection of articles.
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