Nutritional Consultation

Proper nutrition is one of the most significant influences on your pet's health. At Trusted Friend, we always recommend feeding your pet the best possible diet.

Of course, the type of diet you choose will depend on your pet's preferences as well as your lifestyle. This means there is no single diet we recommend for all households. The questions and answers below are intended to help guide you in making an informed decision.

Can you give me specific recommendations for my pet?

Yes. We will always take time to discuss your pet's diet with you and answer any questions you may have about nutrition. We have handouts for pet parents interested in learning about raw diets, home-cooked diets, or high quality commercial pet food brands.

We prefer to discuss these handouts with you in the clinic after your pet has been examined. That way we know that our recommendations are appropriate for your pet.

What is a species-appropriate diet?

We believe that feeding a species-appropriate diet is best. By this we mean mimicking what our pets would eat in the "wild" as much as possible, like birds, rabbits, rodents and fish. These "prey" animals are made up of mostly protein and some fat.

What about grains?

Dogs and cats, as carnivorous animals, consume some digested vegetables as a consequence of eating the intestines of their prey. Grains are not part of their natural diet, as evidenced by the fact that they do not make digestive enzymes to break down carbohydrates. Grains like wheat, rice, and oats do not provide quality nutrients to our pets, and some pets end up developing skin allergies and digestive problems due to the grains in their food.

How does diet influence dental health?

Another reason to try to mimic a carnivore's natural prey is related to dental health. The form of an animal's teeth is linked to their function. Dogs and cats have canine teeth to rip flesh, premolar teeth to shear, and molar teeth to grind their food, including bones. Dogs and cats use all of their teeth when they eat a whole rabbit, and using all of their teeth while eating also helps clean their teeth so plaque does not accumulate.

Why is periodontal disease the most common disease of adult dogs and cats?

Our pets eat processed canned and dry food, so they are not using their teeth as nature intended. Consequently, plaque accumulation leading to periodontal disease is a major problem for our pets.

Doesn't dry food clean my pet's teeth?

Dry food will not clean your pet's teeth. Feeding canned food does not lead to increased dental problems. For cats especially, a canned diet is much healthier overall than a dry food only diet.

Why should cats not be fed only dry food?

There are two main reasons. First, the carbohydrate content is too high for cats. Dry food contains about 40% carbohydrates so that the food can be made into the dry kibble pieces. Cats lack many of the enzymes people have to help digest carbohydrates. With the epidemic of obesity and type II diabetes in our society, you can see that people do not even do well on a diet high in carbohydrates. Cats do even worse on this type of diet, and they are also prone to developing obesity and type II diabetes.

Second, the water content in dry food is too low. Cats evolved as desert animals, so they do not have great thrist generally. They concentrate their urine very well in order to conserve water and prevent dehydration. Over the years, this overtaxes the kidneys. Very concentrated urine and not drinking enough water to flush out the bladder make conditions like crystals in the urine and cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) worse.

When is a raw diet appropriate?

For these reasons, I am in favor of feeding a natural diet made up of raw meaty bones. However, in some cases, a raw diet is not appropriate. Examples include pets and people who are immunosuppressed because of a disease or their age, as with children. Proper hygiene is always important, even if everyone in the household is healthy.

If your pet is healthy, there are no family members whose immune systems are suppressed or immature, and feeding a raw diet fits with your lifestyle, then I would suggest learning about transitioning to a raw diet.

What are the benefits of a raw diet?

Pets fed a raw diet enjoy better dental health and improved skin and coat quality.  In addition, you will notice that your dog or cat produces a smaller amount of feces, and there is much less odor. Pets with food allergies (chronically itchy skin, ears, and paws with frequent yeast infections) usually resolve their symptoms once changed to a raw diet. Inflammatory bowel disease is another chronic disease seen in dogs and cats which improves or resolves when changed to a raw diet.

What if I can't feed a raw diet?

If you are not able to feed a diet of raw meaty bones, there are other options. There are commercial frozen and freeze dried raw foods, and higher quality brands of canned and dry food that contain no grains and high quality sources of protein. It is even feasible to cook for your pet at home.

I want to stress that feeding a more natural diet is not an all-or-nothing situation. Incorporating some fresh foods into your pet's diet is very beneficial to their overall health, so you can feed some cooked meat (without added seasonings) a few times a week to start getting some fresh food in your pet's diet.

What kinds of fresh foods are ok for my pet to eat?

Cooked table scraps can include meat and some vegetables or even fruit, but NEVER cooked bones. Cooked bones are sharp and can injure the throat and esophagus. Of course, do not feed scraps from the table while you are eating, as we do not want to reinforce bad behavior like begging.

Similarly, you can give your pet a raw meaty bone once a week or so and see how he or she likes it. I recommend feeding it on a floor that can be easily cleaned, or on a towel that you don't mind getting dirty. When they are finished eating, disinfect the floor or wash the towel.

What can I do to help keep my pet's teeth healthy?

Feeding dental chews regularly for life and brushing the teeth if possible are necessary to help maintain good dental health.

Even pets fed a raw diet can have some plaque accumulate on the teeth, especially the canine teeth. We will always examine the mouth and teeth during a physical exam and discuss your pet's dental health.