The Happy Beast - Blog - Diet & Digestive Health

Understanding Puppy Food

What’s different about puppy foods?

Dog food for puppies, or any food labeled for “growth and gestation” are required by the FDA to have higher levels of protein and fat than foods labeled for adult dogs. More specifically, puppy food must have a dry matter minimum of 22.5% protein and 8.5% fat, compared to minimum 18% protein and 5.5% fat for adult dogs.

Many dog food brands will cut the amount of protein and fat in their adult formulas because nutritionally-dense ingredients are expensive. These companies can use less expensive ingredients and still meet the FDA requirements. However, just because dogs can survive with these nutrient levels doesn’t mean they will thrive.

Instead of taking this approach, at The Happy Beast, we recommend quality brands and foods for puppies that are labeled for ‘All Life Stages,’ meaning the diet is appropriate for dogs from puppyhood all the way through their senior years. Instead of replacing high quality meat with less expensive fillers for adult dogs, the brands we recommend choose to promote a high protein diet in line with the nutritional requirements of a canine for the entire life of the dog.

Special Consideration for Large Breed Puppies

The term ‘large breed’ is generally used for dogs that are at least 70 lbs when they are full grown. Conservatively, we can lump puppies who will be 50 lbs or more into this group when we look at feeding requirements. The most up-to-date research tells us that we need to control calorie and calcium intake to make sure these puppies don’t grow too quickly. While many hip and joint problems are caused by genetics, slow and consistent bone growth throughout puppyhood is thought to reduce the severity of conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia, osteochondrosis, and developmental orthopedic disease.

If you have a large breed puppy, carefully regulate how many calories are consumed on a daily basis, including bones, chews, and treats. Check your puppy’s weight frequently. You should be able to feel his ribs without using too much pressure when you run your hands over his sides.

Fresher is always better!

Incorporate as much fresh food into your puppy’s diet as possible, which will naturally include a variety of beneficial nutrients and enzymes, which help promote digestion. There are a variety of fresh food options, but a few of our favorites include:

  • Treats: Air-dried or freeze-dried like The Real Meat Co, Smallbatch, and ZiwiPeak
  • Raw Goat Milk: Bark n’ Big, Pure, or Answers
  • Meal Toppers: Rehydrated Sojo’s or Grandma Lucy’s

In summary, puppyhood is a critical time for your dog to develop a healthy digestive system, which helps build and strengthen your dog’s overall immune system. While there can be a lot of hype around “puppy food” labels, we recommend you simply choose a balanced, raw food (frozen, air-dried, or dehydrated) as a simple way to ensure you’re giving your puppy everything he needs to live a long, healthy, and happy life.

Got a new puppy at your house? Stop by the store to talk more and we’ll help you figure out the best option for your pup.

Overweight and Obese Cats – Why You Should Act Now

Overweight or obese animals are at risk for serious health consequences and their conditions should not be taken lightly. The extra weight can seriously impact the length and quality of an animal’s life and increases their risk for many health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, unnecessary strain to the bones, joints, and ligaments, and difficulty breathing.

Obesity is a nutritional disease that results from consuming more calories than the body needs. Current statistics show that in the U.S., over 50% of cats and dogs are overweight or obese. This means we are simply feeding them too much, and likely feeding them too much of the wrong food. The good news is it is fully within our reach to get our animals back to a healthy weight so that they can live a happy and pain-free life! (Read about canine weight-loss here.)

Identifying the Problem

For most cats, the obesity problem can be attributed to two factors: living indoors and being fed a biologically-inappropriate kibble. Typically, indoor cats do not exercise as much as cats that have access to the outdoors, and therefore do not burn as many calories in a day. Additionally, if we feed an indoor cat a diet that is exclusively or predominantly kibble, we are feeding a high carb diet to a low activity animal. This becomes an easy recipe for an overweight cat.

(See Flimflam Food: The Truth About Grain-Free Pet Food)   

The Solution: Eliminate Kibble and Increase Exercise

Eating Right: Ditch the Kibble!

It’s important to note that all kibble has carbohydrates, regardless if it’s grain-free or not. Grain-free simply means that the carbohydrate of choice is potatoes, peas, or tapioca, and is still not appropriate for your cat, who is a strict carnivore.

Most kibble is around 25-35% carbohydrate, the lowest on the market is 13% carbohydrate. The carbohydrates that your cat would naturally ingest would not exceed more than 5%, and those carbohydrates would have been predigested in the guts of their prey.

Cats lack the ability to digest carbohydrates because they lack the enzyme, amylase, which s responsible for digesting carbohydrates. When we feed cats kibble, especially carbohydrate rich formulas such as Indoor or Weight loss formulas, those carbohydrates are not translated into energy but instead are stored as fat. “Indoor” and “Weight Loss” formulas tend to be higher in carbohydrates because carbs allow the “person” to feed a larger portion of food to their cat, and avoid feeling guilty about reduced amounts of food.

Using an Indoor or Weight Loss formula is actually counterproductive to helping your cat lose weight because of these excess carbs.

Additionally, because cats cannot process and utilize carbohydrates, Indoor and Weight loss formulas result in the loss of lean muscle mass because your cat is not consuming enough protein to maintain that muscle mass. Your cat’s body uses more calories maintaining muscle mass, than it does maintaining fat, so when muscle mass is lost, their metabolic rate goes down. If weight loss does occur on these types of formulas, it is typically short term.

Regardless of age or stage, indoor vs. outdoor, skinny or fat, all cats should be eating a diet that consists exclusively of raw or canned food, or some combination of the two. Protein is the appropriate form of energy for cats and when we provide them with a diet rich in fresh protein their bodies are able to attain their full potential and avoid chronic health conditions.

Exercise is Good for the Body and the Mind

Exercise is a very important aspect to living a healthy lifestyle. If your cat is not a good candidate for harness training and getting exercise outside, then it is really important that you provide them with exercise and stimulation from play. Indoor cats can be just as high maintenance as a dog because it is your responsibility to provide them with the exercise and stimuli that they need.

You should be aiming for 15 minutes of exercise, at least 2-3 times per day. There are many great toys that can get your cat moving, the Da Bird, Da Mouse, and laser pointers all provide your cat with “the chase” that is so good for their cardio and mental stimuli. If your cat is obese then you should start with shorter bursts of exercise lasting anywhere from 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times per day, and work your way towards longer stints of exercise. Another great way to get your cat moving is by throwing a small healthy treat up or down the stairs. This is a really fun activity that gets your cat moving and is really easy to do. Just be sure you know exactly how many calories are in the treats and deduct those calories from how much you feed that night.

By following these steps and fine tuning your cat’s weight loss regime to their personal needs, your cat is sure to lose weight. As your cat returns to their ideal weight you will see huge improvements in their quality of life!

From Kibble to Raw: A Feline Food Journey

This month we are featuring Meghan B, who successfully and happily transitioned her feline household onto a species-appropriate raw food diet. As Meghan says, the outcome is a “Cat Mom Win!” Read her challenges, tips, and ultimate success story.

Mya and Diego are my four-year-old purr-babies who came from the same litter. Despite their single origin, each is a unique individual with a differing personality and, as it turns out, gastrointestinal fortitude!

Both fur balls are 100% indoor cats and had been on a kibble (dry food), free-fed diet their entire lives. Previously, I’ve experimented with different proteins and limited-ingredient diet foods because Mya seemed to be particularly sensitive to chicken and salmon. Another concern of mine was the lack of water both cats would drink from their bowl. Instead, they prefer to meow (loudly!) in the sink until I turn on the faucet. Throughout my four years of being the proud cat mom I am, I had never heard of a raw food diet… until recently on a visit to The Happy Beast!

Why raw food you ask? For one, kibble is full of carbohydrates that can often lead to obesity. It lacks a sufficient amount of species-appropriate nutrients and has little to no water content. While I know that kibble may be cheaper and free-feeding my cats is convenient, I’d rather go a little out of my way for the overall health of my babies!

Our cats’ relatives are hunters and live off their prey, so why shouldn’t our pet cats also eat raw?! Raw food is all protein. It’s minimally-processed, contains plenty of moisture, and is amazing for your cats’ digestive health.

Mya has not thrown up once since switching to raw, which for me, is a huge Cat Mom win. Both of their coats are already softer and their stool is smaller/less frequent because their bodies are using all the essential nutrients from their food.

The process of switching my kibble-loving cats to raw-food felines was not the easiest, but I urge all of you that are trying to not give up! They were both set in their kibble-eating ways, although, Diego was much easier to transition than Mya. I started by shredding dehydrated food and mixing it in with some of their old kibble. Mind you, I had to try several types of dehydrated foods because Mya wouldn’t touch some or, alternatively, she would get sick. Next, I gave them only dry, dehydrated food for a few days before adding water to rehydrate the food. This was Mya’s first time eating “wet” food, because, unlike her brother, she would not touch canned food. After sticking to the rehydrated food for a couple of weeks, I then started to slowly introduce raw food. I began with duck raw food because they had been eating duck in both the kibble and dehydrated form. But Diego threw up and Mya wouldn’t touch it. I had stayed away from chicken for years because Mya would get sick every time she had anything chicken based, but I decided to try it in a raw form. Two white cats cuddlingI put a spoonful of raw food under some of their dehydrated food. Diego loved it! Mya still wasn’t convinced. She would eat around the raw food. I kept trying this with Mya for a few days and started to mix the dehydrated food into the raw so that she had to try it. I would also add a tablespoon of water to it. It took a bit of time and persistence, but she finally started eating the whole bowl of food. Within a few days from that point, Mya was completely on a raw food diet! Victory!!! The overall transition took Mya about 1 1/2 months and Diego about 3 weeks.

Overall, I truly couldn’t be happier that my fur babies are now on a raw food diet. Despite the trials and tribulations to reach the outcome, it was all worth the effort. I’m looking forward to seeing continued health benefits for my kitties over the months and years to come!

If you’re working on transitioning your own kitties to a raw food diet, I highly recommend a few other blog posts from The Happy Beast:

Simple Diet Solutions for Anti-Inflammation

Inflammation is a healthy and normal response the immune system uses for healing, but if not kept in check, can cause pain and more damage. For animals suffering from chronic inflammation and inflammatory diseases, we look for diets that are anti-inflammatory instead of pro-inflammatory.

When is inflammation a good thing?
Inflammation is a useful response of the immune system to attack foreign debris, objects, viruses and bacteria. When the body is attacked, white blood cells surge to the affected area to combat possible infection and to repair or destroy affected cells. The increase of blood flow and the release of healing chemicals cause the affected tissue to warm and swell, which creates pressure or pain. In acute cases, inflammation is a great response, it lets us know we are hurt, and it helps us to recover.

Inflammatory Disorders
Chronic inflammation results in conditions like ear infections, allergies, arthritis, colitis, IBD and IBS, dermatitis and pancreatitis, and can cause cancer and chronic pain. Most inflammatory disorders begin as a healthy immune response. Inflammatory disorders develop for a few different reasons. 1) The cause of initial inflammation is not eliminated, 2) the immune system responds to the pain resulting from the initial inflammation and more inflammation occurs to treat the existing inflammation, or 3) the body suffers from an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakes healthy tissue for a pathogen, and the body attacks itself.

Anti-inflammatory Diet
Unfortunately, we can’t control everything that contributes to inflammation, but we can control what our animals eat. Because the body’s natural response is inflammation, we choose foods that keep that response in check. This is especially important for animals suffering from disease, but healthy animals benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet as well.

  • Feed raw, species appropriate foods
    Remember, inflammation occurs when something foreign enters the body, so we want to feed our animals foods that the body recognizes and accepts as natural nutrition. Our animals evolved eating fresh meat, and we can mimic that with species appropriate raw diets that are either frozen, freeze-dried or dehydrated.
  • Dogs may benefit from added fruits and vegetables
    Fruits and veggies with anti-inflammatory properties like berries, cruciferous vegetables (like brussels sprouts, kale and spinach), and dark leafy greens. Some commercially available raw foods, like SmallBatch and Bravo include these ingredients in their dog food formulas. For cats, we always want to avoid plant-based proteins and carbohydrates.
  • Avoid kibble and other highly processed foods
    High cooking temperatures actually increase the pro-inflammatory property of the food. Processed, dry dog food (we call “kibble”) are heated to temperatures of 400°, resulting in denatured proteins and high levels of AGEs, both of which can trigger an inflammatory response.

Inflammation Fighting Supplements