Kibble. Canned. Raw. Dehydrated. Freeze dried. Home cooked. With so many options available to feed your dog or cat, it can be really hard to know if you’re making the best choice. And even then, how do you know whether the ingredients are truly benefiting your pet, and making them healthier?
Simpler is Better
When you break it down, our pet’s bodies don’t need any fancy formulas or exotic ingredients to feel great. Just like us, dogs and cats thrive on a diet of whole foods. Lean protein, healthy fat and nutrient-packed veggies, with a good multivitamin to top it off, will provide your furball with the fuel they need to feed healthy cells and organs.
A less processed, more natural diet will also have a noticeable effect on your pet’s overall health. This kind of healthy diet lowers inflammation, reduces the risk of chronic disease, and improves the overall quality of life for your fur-family member.
Moreover, when you are feeding your pet a whole food diet, like a home made raw or fully cooked diet, you have the freedom to select exactly which ingredients go into Fido’s bowl. This flexibility allows you to avoid foods that your pet can’t tolerate, and feed more of the ones that make her stronger. You’ll be able to fully harness the power of food, as nature’s greatest tool in fighting disease and illness.
"Let food be thy medicine." - Socrates
Keep it Balanced
Once you’ve resolved to provide your pet with a diet composed of nutritious ingredients, you must be mindful of which ingredients you select. Making your pet’s meals at home lets you create the right balance of protein, calcium, and other vital nutrients - the same way you do with your own diet. Working closely with a nutritionist, or following a certified balanced recipe like The Original CrockPet Diet, is always a good idea.
We know that all pets are different, and they all respond in their own way to various foods. Still, one of my favorite things about home cooking for pets is how it allows pet parents to feed their pets a diet that will reduce inflammation and improve the function of their gut and vital organs.
Using anti-inflammatory ingredients in your pet’s food is a great idea, and it can help knock out inflammation that causes leaky gut syndrome, chronic disease, and many other GI issues and health problems. Broccoli, leafy greens (like spinach kale or collards) and healthy oils can all be part of an anti-inflammatory diet, and are some of my go-to ingredients when creating a customized diet for my patients.
When in doubt, I always refer to the principles of food energetics to choose “cooling” foods and ingredients. In the world of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, cooling ingredients tend to reduce inflammation in the body. Choosing seasonal ingredients for your pet’s diet is another great way to keep their body in sync.
Foods to Balance the Microbiome
Preparing your pet’s food at home is the perfect way to help keep their microbiome balanced (bacteria within the digestive tract). The ingredients that support a healthy microbiome are the very same ones that will deliver a powerful punch of micronutrients.
Non-starchy, fibrous vegetables, like green beans, carrots, cauliflower, greens and asparagus are stellar choices for a healthy gut. You can include these in your pet’s meals, or even offer them as snacks.
It’s worth noting that fully cooked foods tend to be easier for your pet to digest, especially when it comes to healthy veggies. When eaten raw, fibrous vegetables require extra digestion, sometimes passing through the gastrointestinal tract (GI) without being fully broken down and absorbed. Keep that in mind, if your pet seems to develop any GI issues after you introduce new raw foods.
Should You Cook Your Pet’s Food?
Lots of pets do quite well on raw diets. And no wonder - they are full of wholesome, nutritious foods. Many dogs and cats, however, do experience occasional tummy troubles or leaky gut when exposed to lots of raw material. That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the healthy ingredients!
I’m a huge advocate of fully cooked home diets, as I’ve seen it work wonders in so many of my pet patients. Fully cooking your pet’s food is a method of predigestion, allowing optimal absorption of nutrients, and more organic energy left for use elsewhere in the body. If you’re dedicated to raw, you can consider lightly cooking some of the more fibrous veggies in your pet’s diet to aid their digestion.
Home cooked diets also provide lots of extra moisture for your pet, giving their hydration a helping paw. Dogs and cats who eat fully cooked diets tend to drink less water, and produce less solid waste - both good indicators that their diet is delivering more of what it should, and less of what isn’t needed.
Maintain a Balanced Gut Microbiome
If your pet has gastrointestinal troubles, one of my first recommendations is always making sure their microbiome is balanced and in tiptop shape. It’s easy to get them tested, and even easier to create that perfect balance once you know what you’re facing. If your pet’s diet is already on point, the right combination of fecal microbiota transplant therapy and a healthy diet may do the trick.
A Healthy Gut Makes a Healthy Pet
Doesn’t it make sense that your pet’s best health would begin right with what they’re eating? When your pet’s diet is delivering all of the right ingredients, and their GI system is functioning flawlessly, great health is in the bag (not literally, in this case). Creating a personalized diet for your pet can be easy. If you need a nudge in the right direction, I am more than happy to help you create a customized diet and health plan for your pet, so they can lead their healthiest, happiest life. After all, your pet’s best health starts in the bowl!
About Dr. Roberts: Dr. Ruth Roberts is one of the nation's foremost experts on holistic and integrative veterinary medicine. She provides pet health coaching and consultation, helping pet parents keep their furry friends as healthy as possible through integrative and holistic veterinary care. Learn more.
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