The Happy Beast - Blog - Dog Health

Ending the Monotony Meal Plan: The Benefits of Pet Food Rotation

At The Happy Beast, we believe that there are significant benefits from pet food rotation. In fact, we think it’s a big pet food myth that animals should eat the same formula of the same brand of food for their whole lives. While this is a great marketing ploy for the pet food companies (who don’t want you to feed anything but their brand of food) it is not in the best interest of your animal’s health and well-being. For one thing, eating the same thing over and over is boring… just imagine eating one kind of cuisine for every meal for the rest of your life! Even more importantly, from a health perspective, a monotonous diet can have negative effects on your animal for the following reasons:  

  1. Although pet foods are formulated to be “balanced and complete,” it’s unlikely that one food will meet all of an animal’s nutrient requirements over a long period of time.
  2. Feeding one food may cause your animal to develop an intolerance or allergy to the ingredients in that food.
  3. The digestive system of an animal that has only had to process one kind of food will be weaker and less tolerant to changes and natural aging.

The good news is that there are many ways to incorporate pet food rotation into your animal’s diet:

  1. Even if you like feeding a specific brand, choose a different recipe or protein source each time you buy a bag, box, or can of food. Most companies offer several formulas. If you usually feed a chicken recipe, try bison or fish.
  2. If you normally feed dry food or kibble, supplement with another, less processed food. Raw, dehydrated, freeze-dried, and canned foods can all make great mix-ins.
  3. Add fresh food. “Table scraps” aren’t necessarily bad as long as you’re not feeding them during a meal at the table! Just limit what “people food” you share with your animals to healthy foods like lean meats, salmon skins, yogurt, and cooked vegetables. Although small fish bones are fine, you should not typically feed larger “table scrap” bones because they have been cooked. In comparison to raw bones, cooked bones can more easily splinter and cause a choking risk. 

If your animal has a very sensitive digestive system or has been eating the same food for a very long time:

  1. Add in new foods very slowly.
  2. Supplement the diet with a prebiotic, probiotic, or digestive enzyme. (We like Optagest or raw goat milk.)

Chicken, turkey, lamb, and beef are often used in pet foods, but new protein sources are making their way into the market. “Novel proteins” is an industry term for meats not commonly found in pet foods. We commonly recommend novel protein diets for animals with food sensitivities or allergies, but healthy animals can benefit from these meats as well. Try including goat, rabbit, venison, alligator, or kangaroo in your animal’s next pet food rotation!

 

If variety isn’t the spice of life, is it catnip?

Flimflam Food: The Truth About Grain-Free Pet Food

Grain-free pet food is one of the fastest growing areas of the pet food industry. Even major commercial brands such as Purina and Science Diet now have grain-free pet food options for cats and dogs. Due to clever marketing, “grain-free” has become synonymous with premium quality and the assumption is that it is a more biologically-appropriate food for both cats and dogs.

However, it’s important to note that “grain-free pet food” does not mean “zero” carb, or even “low” carb, which is a very important distinction. Carbohydrates are an essential part of the manufacturing process of dry pet food, or kibble. Just like with baking; you have to have a flour source or binder to create kibble; whether it’s wheat, corn, potatoes, peas, etc. It is the nature of kibble and can’t be avoided.

“Grain-free” kibble only means that the carbohydrate binder of choice is something other than grain, such as potatoes, lentils, or peas. Grain-free foods can be equally high in carbohydrates when compared to their grain-based counterparts. For cats, potatoes and peas are just as inappropriate as corn, wheat, or soy.

A cat’s natural diet of rodents, rabbits, insects and birds, is about 2% carbohydrate. Dry cat food is generally 25-35% carbohydrate. Carbohydrates in such excessive percentages contributes to both obesity and diabetes, and therefore no kibble is a biologically appropriate food option for cats.

As a frame of reference, let’s take a look at how many carbs are in some of our most popular foods as well as other foods on the market:

Percentage of Carbohydrates | Sample of Brands

Cat Dry Food (Kibble)

  • Orijen dry food: 17%
  • Earthborn dry food: 18.5%
  • Acana Dry food: 27%
  • Taste of the Wild: 27%- 39%
  • Blue Buffalo Wilderness: 25-27%
  • Science Diet w/d: 30%
  • Science Diet t/d: 34.4%
  • Hill’s Ideal Balance: 35.3%

Dog Dry Food (Kibble) 

  • Orijen: 29%
  • Earthborn: 29.5%
  • Petkind: 29.5%
  • Fromm Grain-free: 35%
  • Blue Buffalo Wilderness: 30-35%
  • Taste of the Wild: 37%-46%
  • Kirkland: 45%
  • Science Diet w/d: 40.2%
  • Science Diet t/d: 51.7%

Carbohydrates are not typically listed on pet food labels, but there is a simple calculation to figure out how many carbs are in your animal’s food. Simply add all of the percentages listed, including protein, fat, fiber, moisture and ash, and subtract the total from 100. Here are a few examples:

EXAMPLE 1: Earthborn Cat Primitive

  • Crude protein – min 44%
  • Crude fat – min 20%
  • Crude fiber – min 3%
  • Moisture – max 10%
  • Ash – max 4.5%

TOTAL: 81.5%

100% – 81.5% = 18.5% CARBS!!!!

 

If you are trying to figure out how many carbs are in canned or raw food you must first convert the percentages into dry matter.

EXAMPLE 2: Earthborn Cat can Chicken Catcciatori

  • Crude protein – min 10%
  • Crude fat – min 2%
  • Crude fiber – min 1.5%
  • Ash – max 3%
  • Moisture – max 82%

Total: 98.5%
Dry matter conversion: Subtract the moisture percentage from 100 percent: 100%-82% moisture = 18% dry matter

100% – 98.5% = 1.5% / 18% = 8.3% carbs

 

EXAMPLE 3: Small Batch Raw Cat food:

  • Crude Protein (min): 15.9%
  • Crude Fat (min): 8.9%
  • Crude Fiber (max): 0.3%
  • Ash (max): 2.9%
  • Moisture (max): 71.8%

Total: 99.8%

Dry matter conversion: Subtract the moisture percentage from 100 percent: 100%-71.8% moisture = 28.2% dry matter

100% – 99.8% = 0.2% / 28.2% = 0.71% carbs

 

In summary, we feel that for a majority of dogs and all cats, protein should be the main source of dietary nutrition and calories. Incorporating less processed and lower carb food options is always encouraged, and there are a wide variety of ways to accomplish this. Feeding canned, raw, freeze-dried, and air-dried meat options are easy to incorporate, highly digestible, and very palatable – even for the pickiest of eaters.

Stop by the store to talk with us about your animal’s diet and history and we’ll help you develop a customized feeding plan to meet your needs.

Pet Food Safe Handling Tips

Amidst the FDA’s testing assignment of raw pet foods, we’ve heard more questions from customers lately who are concerned about pathogens and pet food safe handling tips. Pathogens can show up in all types of food, but by using safe-handling practices when preparing, serving, and storing your animal’s food, you can minimize risk and keep everyone safe!

Note: Your dog may lick his bowl clean. He may even be an expert at cleaning your dishes! Do NOT mistake your dog’s tongue for an appropriate cleaning product! Also, resist the urge to let your dog lick your face and remember to wash your hands after he licks your fingers.

  1. Keep It Clean!
    Use hot, soapy water to clean food preparation surfaces like countertops and cutting boards. Follow up with a cleaning product that contains bleach, or make your own diluted bleach solution. Clean utensils and bowls with hot, soapy water too or run them through a dishwasher. You can also use a similar diluted bleach solution to clean utensils and bowls; we typically do this once a week. Let everything air-dry to reduce contamination.After handling pet food, always remember to wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least thirty seconds. Singing “Happy Birthday” to yourself while you wash is an easy way to make sure you’re being thorough.
  1. Get Those Cats Off the Counter
    Easier said than done, we know, but by trying to limit your cat’s exposure to the counter, you can reduce the chances of spreading bacteria from your kitty’s paws to your food preparation surface. Although it may sound like an impossible task, here are some tips for discouraging your cats from jumping on the counter:

    • Don’t make the counter fun or tasty – never feed your cats on the counter and try to move any objects of interest such as houseplants or flowers.
    • Experiment with placing a sheet or two tinfoil on your counters – many cats seem to hate the sound and texture and will avoid walking on those areas.
    • For hard-to-break counter habits, consider getting a PetSafe Ssscat Cat Spray Control System, which sprays a shot of harmless compressed air whenever a motion sensor is tripped by your cat.
  1. Choose stainless steel bowls
    Feeding your pet from a stainless steel bowl is great since stainless steel is much less likely to trap bacteria than plastic or ceramic and is easier to wash. We always keep a great selection at the store for both dogs and cats.
  1. Store Food Properly
    • Raw food should be kept in the freezer and then defrosted in the refrigerator until meal time. Stainless steel fridge containers are less common, but a plastic storage container will work just fine – it’s really the feeding bowls that should be stainless steel. We recommend designating a container with a lid specifically for defrosting pet food.
    • When finding an ideal container, you should also consider what type of raw food you typically feed. For example, some raw food meat patties can be more than 4 inches in diameter so you’ll want a container that’s wide enough.
    • Kibble, dehydrated, free-dried, and air-dried foods should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Many of these foods already include packaging with a resealable, interior plastic bag. This works fine, but for foods that don’t include resealable packaging, it’s best to transfer the entire contents to another, air-tight container.
    • Canned food should also be also be stored in a cool, dry place.
    • Always pay attention to expiration dates and discard any food that is no longer fresh.

FDA Testing Safety of Raw Pet Food: What You Need to Know

At The Happy Beast, our focus is on incorporating as much fresh food into your animals’ diets as possible. For our own households, that means feeding primarily raw food. For our customers, it can mean feeding solely raw, dehydrated, or freeze-dried food or combining one of these fresher forms of food with some type of kibble (aka dry food).

Earlier this month (June 2015) the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) began an assignment of collecting and testing samples of raw pet foods for salmonella and listeria. The motivation for this assessment, according to the FDA’s website, is based on this statement: “FDA does not believe raw meat foods for animals are consistent with the goal of protecting the public from significant health risks, particularly when such products are brought into the home and/or used to feed domestic pets; however, we understand that some people prefer to feed these types of diets to their pets.” You can read all the full article here: http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/Products/AnimalFoodFeeds/Contaminants/ucm449501.htm

This is not the first time the safety of raw pet food has been put under a magnifying glass, and surely these types of investigations will continue as the market for minimally-processed pet food expands. As raw pet food feeders ourselves, we actually think these types of assessments are good for the industry. However, rather than focusing on the “fear factor,” we think it’s important to highlight the relevant risk, especially when compared to the human foods that we eat every day.

Safe handling of pet food is important to the health of you and your animals.

The incidences of recalls due to pathogens are no more common in pet foods than in foods intended for humans. In the last year, two dog kibbles and three raw dog food products were recalled for salmonella or listeria contamination. In the same time period in the human food world, there have been at least forty recalls on multiple products for salmonella and at least thirty-five for listeria. Recalled products included nuts, peanut butter, potato salad, ice creams, cheeses, dried oregano, even caramel apples. The fact is, pathogens can appear in lots of food products; not just raw food for pets. The FDA publishes a complete list of recalled products for humans and animals, which you can find on their website: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ArchiveRecalls/2015/default.htm

Here’s the good news: The companies that make raw, dehydrated, and freeze-dried foods for animals intend their products to be fed uncooked. They are committed to quality control, batch testing, and safe handling. Learn more about the safety procedures used by the brands found in our store by visiting their individual websites. Just click on the individual food manufacturer logos under the “Brands We Carry” section on our “Products” page.

You can also stop by the store or read our blog post on “Pet Food Safe Handling Tips” for more information on safely feeding your animal any type of pet food (raw, freeze-dried, canned, kibble, etc.)