Have you ever wondered what goes into your fur-baby’s tummies every day? Is there one choice that could be better over the other? In today’s market, pet owners are constantly on the lookout to better improve the diets of their pets but with the plethora of information on the internet, this can become very confusing and daunting.
WHAT IS KIBBLE?
In a nutshell, kibble is ground up ingredients that are cooked and then processed into shaped pellets consisting of meat, grains, vegetables and other materials. It is the most popular and commercially available type of food given to our pets. Kibble is believed to be complete and balanced.
WHAT IS RAW FEEDING
Raw feeding as its name suggests, is a diet that is uncooked. It is also commonly referred to as raw meaty bones diet (RMB) or biologically appropriate raw food diet (BARF) and can either come in the form of commercially prepared frozen meat patties or home-prepared chunks of meat, bones, organs and vegetables.
PROS AND CONS OF KIBBLE
Because kibble is so readily available, it makes for a cheaper and more convenient food choice for our pets. Being commercially produced, its ingredients are also regulated by law to ensure that it meets the nutritional requirements for our pets to be complete and balanced. Kibble is dry, therefore the risk of spoilage is low. It is also packaged into condensed bags, which makes it easier to purchase and store in bulk.
However, does this convenience come at a cost to the long term health of our pets? Every year, hundreds of pet food companies have had to recall their products due to issues with toxins and other harmful contaminants found in their pet food. This can be rather concerning as these often go unnoticed for a while before any action is taken. By then who knows how much damage has been done?
One must also consider the processes involved in making kibble. High heat is often necessary to prepare the food, unfortunately, this can compromise the nutrient content left in the ingredients and cause denaturation of natural fats (there have been studies to suggest that these could be potential carcinogens!). In order to compensate these changes, artificial vitamins, minerals, and preservatives are added back in to meet the nutritional requirements. Carbohydrate content is generally high in kibble too. Carbohydrates are starches that are converted to sugars in the bodies of our pets, making it a quick source of energy. These sugars are also often responsible for many of the common diseases we see in our pets such as obesity and diabetes. You may ask, what about a grain-free diet? As it suggests, grain-free does not mean carb-free. Some studies have shown that some of the grain-free diets are actually higher in carbohydrates than the regular diets we feed.
As a general rule, we are able to estimate the amount of carbohydrates found in our pets diet using the following formula:
100% - ( % crude protein + % crude fat + % crude fiber + % moisture) = % carbohydrate
For example: A diet contains: crude protein 19%; crude fat 12.5%; crude fiber 3%; moisture 10%. 19+12.5+3+10= 44.5. 100-44.5= 55.5 (so 55.5% of this diet is carbohydrates!)
Another downside to a commercially prepared meal, is that we don’t actually know what exactly goes in. We are at the mercy of pet food manufacturers doing their due diligence to ensure the quality of the ingredients that go into making the product. Let’s just say that ultimately, pet food companies are a business and would aim to make their products as profitable as possible, which we all know can sometimes be a delicate balance.
PROS AND CONS OF RAW FEEDING
We’ve just seen above the shortfalls with kibble feeding. SO is there light at the end of the tunnel? Is raw the perfect solution?
Many raw advocates would tell you that a diet consisting of raw meaty bones, muscle meats, and organs is the most biologically appropriate. It consists of all the necessary vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes in its natural form. Eating a clean diet from wholesome fresh foods is linked to improved cell oxygenation, metabolism, and renewal, which in turn improves longevity and may ward off common diseases and illnesses.
A home-made raw diet allows you to control exactly what ingredients you will be used to prepare each meal, thus offering the flexibility of tailoring the contents to meet your pet’s specific needs. This is especially helpful if you have a furbaby suffering from allergies or intolerances in its diet. The higher water content and absence of carbs in a raw diet also allows you to feed more to your pet while keeping caloric content low, therefore reducing the risk of obesity and hence its associated diseases.
A diet consisting of raw meaty bones is also known to be associated with improved dental health and mental enrichment especially in dogs as it provides for a natural outlet for chewing tendencies and may in turn help improve overall behaviour.
Needless to say, you are probably thinking, “WOW! This sounds amazing!”. Despite the many benefits of which not all are listed here, a raw diet does have its pitfalls too and may not be suited for everybody. Why is this so?
Some owners may find a raw diet expensive and time-consuming, as meals have to be carefully prepared each time. Inappropriate handling and storage of raw ingredients can also be a potential risk of spoiling and hence food poisoning. Poor choices in the type and size of bone could also be a potential risk for dental fractures and choking. (As a friendly reminder, never feed your animals cooked bones!) An imbalanced raw food diet can also lead to nutrient deficiencies. Consideration must also be taken while feeding raw food to animals that may have underlying health conditions that could compromise their ability to safely consume raw foods as the risk for bacterial contamination may be higher.
At the end of the day, there is no one size fits all package to meet every pet’s needs. As a pet owner, we have the responsibility to do our research in order to give them the best that they deserve. Many raw feeders find that the benefits of a raw food diet outweigh the risks associated with it as they know that many of those risks can actually be prevented and well managed. After all, why not feed your animal what it would choose to eat if it were living in the wild. (Fresh juicy meat anyone?)
What would you be feeding your pet today?
Alicia Tay graduated in 2012 from Massey University, New Zealand with double majors in Animal Science and Biotechnology.
She has experience with many common ailments associated with various animals while studying and working. Her approach towards nutrition and health from a holistic vs a symptomatic path has made her an asset to any organization she has been affiliated to.
Ever since then, she has made it her mission to continually share this knowledge and educate people on the benefits of how appropriate nutrition can dramatically improve the lives of our beloved pets!
Aside from nutrition, Alicia also has a keen interest in animal welfare and behaviour. She would spend her time outside of her work volunteering for a local rescue organization by taking on dogs on death row, fostering them and rehabilitating them, giving them a second chance in finding themselves a new home. She was also conducting puppy classes to help equip owners with the necessary tools to raise their puppies to be happy healthy balanced dogs.
Alicia is now currently working in a general animal practice in Singapore where she continues to share her knowledge with the people around her.
She is a friend and a constant at the table of Paw Kitchen.