Holistic Pet Health

In 2013, I graduated from grad school and was looking to begin my career in writing or teaching. More importantly, I had a terrier named Baxter who was my whole world, and he was getting on in years. So when I found a writing job for a holistic pet food company that said, “must be dog-friendly,” I pounced at the opportunity to be able to bring my dog to work. 

I was ecstatic to receive the job, and after taking advantage of the employee discount on the food, I realized I had been wrong - my Baxter wasn’t getting old, I was just feeding him wrong! When I switched him to a species-appropriate food, his energy came back, his arthritis disappeared, he lost weight, and now, at ten years old, he looks and acts younger than he did when he was six. I believe I literally doubled his life expectancy by switching him to the right diet. I had been feeding him kibble from Whole Foods, so it’s not like I had been going the super-cheap route to begin with, but I didn’t realize that dogs were not biologically designed to eat kibble in any way. When I moved him to a diet better designed for his biology, his health dramatically improved. Since then I have made it my mission to spread the joy and educate pet owners about the issues facing the pet food industry and how to feed pets properly to keep them healthy. 

The pet food industry has, like many others, descended into chaos in pursuit of profits. With next to no regulation, large corporations have been able to twist their marketing into completely unrecognizable representations of what is essentially animal byproducts and cheap fillers disguised as food. Because pets can’t advocate for themselves, they are left victims, suffering from astronomical rises in disease, cancer, and shortened life-expectancy. There are three fundamental nutritional needs that have been abandoned by the 

industry that are essential to pet health:

Moisture: Throughout their evolution, cats and dogs have received most of the moisture their bodies need to function directly from the food they eat. An appropriate diet is rich in moisture, but kibble is only 10% moisture on average. This puts stress on the digestive system and internal organs as animals live in a constant state of dehydration. This is especially true for cats, who evolved in desert environments and received over 90% of the moisture they needed from their food, so they did not develop a good sense of thirst. This is why renal failure is the #1 cause of death in house cats but is completely unheard of in feral cats.

Meat: While the packaging may make it look like the kibble is full of quality cuts of meat, this couldn’t be farther from the truth for about 95% of the products on the market. What little meat is in the food is often “meal,” which could be quality meat - or it could be rendered meat unfit for consumption containing any part of the animals, including hoofs, intestines, eyes, roadkill, or euthanized shelter animals (yes that really happens - regularly). The nutritional content of these meals, flavorings, and byproducts are so low that they have to pump in cheap fillers and protein substitutes, which is what lead to the melamine scandals of 2007 that killed hundreds of thousands of pets across the globe. Genetically almost identical to wolves and larger cats, our domestic companions are carnivores with digestive systems designed to handle large amounts of protein in raw form - not large amounts of wheat, corn, soy, or peas. 

Raw: Humans are the only meat-eaters who have to cook their meat before eating it. No other animal, whether carnivore or omnivore, applies heat to their meat before they eat it. Your cat or dog’s body is designed to combat the bacteria in raw meat with a short, acidic digestive tract that either kills bacteria or allows it to pass safely through. Raw meat contains bioavailable nutrients, especially crucial enzymes that provide support for the digestive process. Without these digestive enzymes that can only be found in raw food, dogs and cats fed a processed diet their entire lives begin to struggle to digest their (usually toxic) food, leading to various health problems that often begin around the age of 6-8. Dogs and cats never cooked their food before a market existed that required shelf-stable products for humans to purchase - so that development has much more to do with profits than health benefits.

Because of these health requirements that are being completely ignored by the current market, more and more people are turning to raw pet food, either commercially purchased or made themselves after careful education. There is a growing movement of advocates who, like those in the human industry, are passionate about the difference proper nutrition and supplementation can make for the health of their loved ones. 

Comments (1)

  • Jessica on Dec 21, 2022

    Great article. I’ve thought about this for years with all my dogs. Often, I buy them the best quality kibble I can and add fresh fruit, veggies, grains and meat (albeit cooked meat and grains). Wondering if this is adequate or if you have recommendations for food brands or homemade recipes that are beneficial.

Leave a comment