The Happy Beast - Blog - Safe Feeding

Feline Nutrition with Veterinarian Dr. Angie Krause

As many of you know, we spend a lot of time educating our customers about appropriate feline nutrition and which commercially-available foods meet our criteria for a proper diet. You can imagine my shock and disappointment when a coworker of my husband’s was told by his vet that cats are omnivores! I couldn’t believe my ears. The domestic cat is part of the Family Felidae which consists of 41 known species, all of which are known to be obligate carnivores.

An obligate carnivore requires a diet of meat and organs to survive, their bodies do not produce enzymes that can convert plant matter into essential amino acids and vitamins. Taurine is the most commonly known essential amino acid that cats must acquire from meat alone.

Over the years, we have had several personal conversations with local vets about feline nutrition and what their nutrition curriculum consisted of while in veterinary school. I decided to take this opportunity to sit down with veterinarian Dr. Angie Krause, DVM, CVA, CCRT from Boulder Holistic Vet, and formally interview her about feline nutrition.

As it turns out, our conversation about feline nutrition was short and simple: proper nutrition means feeding a biologically-appropriate diet that is high in moisture, high in protein, and low in carbohydrates. In essence, we should come as close to feeding a mouse, or other typical prey animal, as possible. This also means that for your cat to achieve optimum health, you should eliminate or feed as little kibble as possible. Kibble is too high in carbs and too low in moisture to meet the needs of a strict carnivore.

Of course my burning question was “why have vets recommended a kibble-based diet?” Dr. Krause said that by the time she had entered vet school in 2003, she was taught that veterinarians had gotten it wrong when it came to feeding cats. Cats had previously been lumped into the same category as small dogs, and were fed as such. However, it is now a well accepted truth that cats have very specific needs and that a diet high in carbs and low in moisture is not well suited for these strict carnivores.

Dr. Krause believes nutrition is everything and that if individuals fed their animals a biologically-appropriate, less-processed diet, the need to see a vet would decrease by 50%! She said that when she first started practicing at a conventional vet clinic, a majority of the feline cases she saw were inflammatory in nature (e.g. Pancreatitis, Irritable Bowel, etc.). When she switched to an integrated vet practice, where patients were feeding healthier foods, she saw a huge shift in the type of conditions she would see. This furthered her belief that nutrition plays a vital role in the overall health of companion animals; cats in particular.

The importance of nutrition became clear to Dr. Krause through her own health crisis. When she was just 18 years old, Dr Krause got mono, followed by chronic fatigue syndrome. The doctors told her that she would suffer the effects of her illness for the rest of her life. Dr. Krause was incredibly active and couldn’t accept this prognosis. At just 18 years old, Dr. Krause followed her intuition and used nutrition to make a full recovery. The key to her recovery was the removal of sugar!

We are all shaped by our experiences and what I valued most about my conversation with Dr. Krause was that she has personally experienced the effects that nutrition can have on our overall health and the power it has to bring us back from disease and illness.

Learn more about Dr. Kraus and her practice with Boulder Holistic Vet.

 

Digestive Enzymes for Pets

What are digestive enzymes? Enzymes are responsible for making the chemical reactions in our body faster and more efficient. Digestive enzymes aid the body by breaking down proteins from food into amino acids which can be absorbed and utilized. Enzymes facilitate proper absorption of foods.

Digestive enzymes are found in raw foods. They are what cause foods to break down and decay. For example, bananas contain the enzyme, amylase. Amylase breaks down raw starch into sugar, which is why green bananas become softer and sweeter as they sit on the counter. All raw foods contain the right amount of the specific enzyme required to break the proteins they are made of.

Why is this important? Cooking destroys the enzymes that are required to break food down, so when we eat cooked food our bodies have to source enzymes from an internal supply. If the body is focused on producing enzymes for digestion, less energy is allotted to the metabolic enzymes used in organ, muscle and cell function.

Efficient and complete digestion is essential to good health. When the digestive system is functioning well, the rest of the body is prepared to maintain good health and fight disease. Digestive enzymes can take the body from merely surviving to truly thriving. This is especially important in animals with allergies, compromised immune systems, IBD, IBS, and pancreatitis. Symptoms of an enzyme deficiency can include bloating, gas, irritability and fatigue.

How should this affect your choices for pet food?

  1. Feed raw. Any food that hasn’t been cooked over 118 degrees will retain its required enzymes. Choose a frozen, dehydrated and freeze-dried raw food that is complete and balanced. See some of the foods we recommend here.
  2. Supplement with a digestive enzyme. Choose a plant-sourced enzyme as they survive under more diverse conditions. Avoid enzymes called “animal pancreas extracts” which may not survive the acidic environment on the digestive tract. We like InClover’s Optagest.
  3. Choose raw treats like frozen marrow bones and raw goat milk. These treats contain live enzymes to support the digestive tract and overall good health and your animals will love them!
  4. Read our blog post on “Helping Pets with Digestive Problems for more info and recommendations.

Helping Pets with Digestive Problems

Many pets will likely suffer from one type of digestive problem or another in their lifetimes. The symptoms may be mild, including bad breath, excessive gas, a rumbling tummy; or more severe, including chronic diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, or mucus or blood in the stool.

The causes of digestive problems include food sensitivities and allergies, low-quality or species-inappropriate diets, overeating, stress, and ingestion of contaminated water or “found” foods (i.e. from the trash or picked up from the ground.) They can also be a side effect of another health condition, medication, or a result of parasites or bad bacteria in the digestive tract.

If your animal is suffering from chronic or acute digestive problems, including colitis, parasitic infection, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), irritable bowel disease (IBD), or bacterial infection, be sure to consult with your vet. Often treating pets with digestive problems can be done through diet and inexpensive supplements.

Other things you can do to help pets with digestive problems:

  • Feed more fresh, less processed, species-appropriate foods.
    Highly-processed foods like conventional kibble (i.e. “dry food”) are harder for the body to digest. Replace some or all of your animal’s food with dehydrated, freeze-dried, or raw food. (We like Grandma Lucy’s, Sojo’s, Primal, Steve’s Real Food and SmallBatch.) Less-processed foods are more digestible and easier on the digestive tract.
  • Eliminate foods commonly associated with food allergies or food sensitivities.
    Choose foods that do not include “filler” ingredients like corn, wheat, soy, and animal by-products. Moving to higher-quality foods that don’t contain those ingredients often relieve many digestive issues. Some animals have reactions to other ingredients and will benefit from a limited-ingredient diet. Complete and balanced raw foods with simple ingredient profiles are ideal for experimenting with and eliminating potential food-allergens.
  • Add prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.
    Digestion requires a lot of the body’s energy. (Think of how tired you feel after a big meal!) Adding enzymes found in fresh foods, raw goat’s milk, raw bones, and supplements (like InClover’s Optagest) can support the digestive system by helping to break down foods. Prebiotics and probiotics work in the intestine and improve efficient digestion. Read our blog post about “Digestive Enzymes for Pets” for more info.
  • Control portions and meal times.
    Many animals can also have upset stomachs from from overeating. (Again, think of how you feel when you eat too much!) Measure out how much food your animal gets at each meal and decrease those portions on days when your dog gets a bone or a lot of treats. Be cautious about feeding your animal too close to playtime/exercise, especially if you have a large-breed dog, in order to avoid bloat.
  • Make a meat stock.
    Adding a meat stock to your animal’s diet can help “seal” the gut. NOTE: Meat stock is different from a bone broth. Bone broth is cooked longer, resulting in high levels of glutamates. Bone broth has numerous health benefits for animals and people who have healthy intestines, but can worsen symptoms in a compromised digestive system.

    • Meat Stock
      • Ingredients:
        • 1 whole chicken or 2-3 lbs. chicken quarters or bone-in cuts, or
        • 2-3 lbs. beef or lamb knuckles, marrow bones or ribs
        • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
        • Water
      • Instructions:
        • Place meats (still with the bone in) into a crockpot/slow-cooker with apple cider vinegar. Add enough water to cover meat.
        • Cook on high for 1 hour, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 3 hours.
        • Remove meat and strain broth through a colander or cheesecloth.
        • Add ¼- 1 cup of broth to your animal’s meal or serve separately.
        • The meat can also be deboned and consumed and the bones can be used to make a bone broth.
    • Bone Broth
      • Ingredients:
        • The bones you just cooked!
        • Water
      • Instructions:
        • Place bones back into a crockpot/slow-cooker. Add new/fresh water; enough to cover the bones.
        • Cook on low temperature for 12-24 hours.
        • NOTE: Bone broth should be reserved for animal and human members of the family not suffering from colitis, IBS or IBD.

Kick Ash: Is a Low-Ash Diet Right for Your Pet?

If you have a cat or dog with kidney or urinary tract issues or a large breed puppy, it may have been recommended that your animal be fed a low-ash diet or foods that are low in ash content. But what exactly is ash?

Ash refers to the inorganic matter or mineral content left over after the organic matter of a food is burned off. We often think of ash as a “bad” component of food, however it is just a general term referring to the collection of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, etc. that are in some pet foods.

Excess ash content can be the result of using meat meals, especially “meat-by-product” meals, which contain higher amounts of tendons and bones. These foods have higher levels of calcium and phosphorous. A note of caution with large breed puppies is that excess calcium and phosphorous can contribute to irregular or rapid growth that may negatively affect their bones and joints.

In the past, it was also theorized that feeding a low-ash diet reduced the risk of the creation of bladder stones. However, recent studies have shown that the most effective way to reduce the incidence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) is to feed a high-moisture diet. Additionally, reducing stress is an important factor when treating UTIs; especially for cats.

In animals showing signs of compromised kidney function, it is important to pay attention to the ash content, and more specifically the phosphorous levels. It is important to prevent excess phosphorous intake because it may lead to an imbalance of calcium/phosphorous. Calcium is then drawn from the bones and deposited into other tissues and organs, which can cause damage over the long term. The best way to avoid excess phosphorus is to avoid foods that contain “meat meals” because these products contain higher amounts of connective tissue and bone, and thus higher values of calcium and phosphorus.

In summary, ash in itself isn’t bad, but for certain pets, you may want to pay closer attention to those values and consider a low-ash diet. However, the best way to ensure that your animal’s intake of ash is well balanced is simply to include high-quality meat sources and moisture in her diet. The best way to do this is by including raw, canned, dehydrated, freeze-dried, and air-dried foods, which are free of “meat-meals” and “meat by-products.”

Ideal Products

Tiki and Weruva are great about listing their mineral content for each food. Tiki even has a chart of the Veterinary recommendations for animals with renal disease and urinary stones: http://www.petropics.com/petropics-nutrition-facts/

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.