Pet Food: Frozen Raw vs Freeze-Dried Raw for Cats and Dogs

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Just as people benefit from eating organic, non-processed foods, so do our pets.  In the past, pet parents could only find real food for cats and dogs in frozen form.  Recently, a new concept in pet food-preparation has evolved.  Feeding our pets the healthy diet they deserve is now easier than ever before– with freeze-dried raw food for cats and dogs.

What’s Involved in Our Freeze-Drying Process?

Our freeze-dried pet foods use the same great formulas that our frozen foods do; we simply use a cold freeze-dry process to remove the moisture. That means we can take our formula from frozen to freeze-dried without thawing or cooking it. By freeze-drying, we preserve nutritional quality and consistency, removing only the moisture.  We’re essentially putting the food “on hold” for an extended time.  Removing moisture from raw pet food deactivates any bacteria or enzymes that would otherwise greatly shorten its shelf life and compromise its nutritional quality.

Freeze-Dried Raw Dog Food vs. Frozen Raw Dog Food

freeze-dry-raw-pet-food-infographicThe freeze-drying process does add a bit more to the price of the food because you are paying for the extra step, but freeze-drying gives you the CONVENIENCE of storing the food in the pantry. By adding a little water, you can go from the bag to be the bowl in just 5 minutes. The benefits of freeze-dried raw pet food include:

  • Its long and stable shelf life allows you to store it at room temperature for long periods, so it doesn’t crowd your freezer.
  • It’s incredibly convenient to take on-the-go.
  • It rehydrates quickly and easily– you don’t have to cut up or defrost raw meat.
  • Freeze-dried nuggets make great treats for training.
  • Freeze-dried food help you transition your pet to a raw food diet since the consistency is similar to kibble.

Are They the Same Nutritionally?

When considering freeze dried raw dog food vs. frozen raw dog food, you may be wondering, nutrition-wise, if they are created equal.  The answer is YES, but it may not appear that way at first glance. When looking at the protein and fat levels in the guaranteed analysis in the two types, you may notice higher levels in the freeze-dried product, due to the numbers being calculated on a dry-matter basis. However, freeze-dry dog food is formulated the same way as their frozen raw counterparts so when comparing both on a dry matter basis, the results will be identical.  Click here for dry matter basis explained!

Feeding Instructions:  Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food vs. Frozen Raw Dog Food

  • Rehydrate!  If freeze-dried is your pet’s primary food source, we strongly recommend adding water– 1 tablespoon for every nugget or 1/4 cup for every four nuggets.  For best results, break each nugget into small pieces and mix thoroughly with water to ensure it absorbs all of the liquid.  Once you’ve rehydrated the food, it’s ready to serve.
  • Serving Size.  Feeding quantity guidelines are the same for both frozen and freeze-dried pet food.  Measure out the same number of freeze-dried nuggets as you would frozen ones.
  • Portion-Size Pointers.  Use our handy calculator to figure out how much to feed your pet.  With freeze-dried food, base portion sizes on the number of nuggets.  With the frozen kind, you need to pay attention to the weight of the food.

Freeze-Dried Raw:  The Perfect Kibble Topper and Treat

Steve’s Real Food is dedicated to providing high-quality freeze-dried and frozen pet food.  When considering freeze dried vs. frozen from Steve’s Real Food, keep in mind that both have about the same proportions of vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins. Our pet products are derived from superior, locally-sourced ingredients, with no fillers, hormones or antibiotics added.  We provide a practical way to help your pets live their healthiest life possible.

Pet Food Allergies and Intolerances

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Before buying and feeding your cat or dog pet food, it is important that you check the ingredients used to make the food. This is because some of these foods may contain ingredients that could result in pet allergies. If you are to avoid such ingredients, here are some things you will want to familiarize yourself with before making a pet food selection.

What is a Pet Allergy?

Pet allergies are caused by an overreaction of the immune system after the pet has been constantly exposed to potential allergens. There are basically two kinds of dog allergies – environmental allergies and food allergies. Some of the common substances that cause these reactions in dogs are:

  • Trees, weeds, grass, and pollen
  • Dust and dust mites
  • Mold
  • Feathers
  • Dander
  • Household cleaning products
  • Fleas and flea-control products
  • Ingredients such as corn, wheat, and soy

If the immune system of an animal misidentifies a protein in food as an invader rather than a food item, it will mount an immune response. This is what is referred to as a food allergy.

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The Difference Between a Food Intolerance and a Food Allergy

Although food allergy and food intolerance are both terms used when talking about unusual responses to food, they are different in several ways. “Allergy” and “hypersensitivity” are terms that tell of immunologic responses to food allergens to which there was previous exposure to bring about symptoms. Food allergies result from the reaction of the immune system and are characterized by symptoms such as skin conditions, itching, swelling, and irritation in the ears. On the other hand, food intolerances do not create a typical allergic response and the affected animal will either diarrhea or vomit. Unlike food allergies, food intolerance does not involve the immune system and can occur with the first exposure to a certain food. Intolerance to food in pets can be compared to the digestion disorders characterized by stomach upset or diarrhea in people with lactose intolerance. The best way to deal with this problem would be to identify the particular food causing it and then eliminating it from the daily diet. Since similar symptoms accompany both abnormal reactions, it may require veterinary guidance to tell them apart.

The Trouble with Many Commercial Kibble Diets

Skin allergies and skin conditions can make pets downright miserable. If your pet is experiencing digestive upset, here are some things to consider when evaluating the food you’re giving your pet:

  • Common Allergens are Common Ingredients – Some of the most common ingredients found in popular commercial pet foods can be allergenic. Common potential culprits to which pets may react are wheat, corn, soy, rice, milk, potato, yeast, and some animal proteins.
  • Lack of Variety – A myth perpetuated by the pet food industry is that your pet should only be fed one kind of food their entire life. Pet food loyalty is another common cause of health issues in dogs. Feeding your pet the same food daily over a number of years increases the chances of a reaction to certain food ingredients. Switching up proteins with the same pet food can help combat developing an allergy.
  • Fillers – Many commercial pet food manufacturers use fillers to make pet food cheaper to produce. However, research has shown that the fillers are not biologically appropriate for dogs and cats and can cause stress on the immune system. The end result can be hypersensitivity and allergic responses to the fillers.
  • Additives: Other substances that can trigger food intolerances are flavor enhancers, emulsifiers, preservatives, dyes, sugars, as well as hormones and chemicals found in the meat used to manufacture pet food. In some cases, food intolerances can develop to become systemic allergic reactions.
  • Poor Quality Protein: Low-quality sources of protein such as hooves, beaks, and feathers can potentially initiate allergic reactions in pets. There is protein in a leather boot, but that won’t provide the same benefit as protein from a good cut of fresh meat.
  • Kibble has low digestibility: Just like eating a bunch of crackers without something to wash it down is a lot of work, a dog’s system has to do a tremendous amount of work to break down kibble and hunt down the nutrients and put them to use.  By the time a dog’s gut does all this work, their digestive system is spent. In both humans and dogs, the digestive and immune systems are closely tied. As such, when the digestive system is taxed, there will be some adverse effect on the immune system. This makes it more difficult for some dogs to fight off allergens and inflammation.

Diagnosis of Food Allergies in Pets

The first step in identifying the best dog food for dogs with allergies is to understand what food allergies are and the common factors that cause them. Today, dietary elimination trial makes for the best method of diagnosing food allergies. For instance, a pet that has been fed on beef and rice-based food for several years can be gradually moved to a novel protein source such as rabbit, pork, or kangaroo. It is important that both the primary carbohydrate and protein sources in the current diet are identified so that the new diet does not contain the same ingredients. Once the elimination food trial is done, foods can be introduced one at a time, with the animal’s response being monitored closely. During the elimination diet, it is important not to give your pet anything but the recommended diet until the culprit is determined. This means not giving your pet treats or flavored medicines.

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Hypoallergenic Food for Pets with Allergies and Food Intolerances

It is recommended that you rotate protein sources in your pet’s diet. This provides a wide variety, broadens the nutritional base and reduces the risk of food sensitivity. You may also consider a diet of natural raw foods that providethe pet with a variety of meats and vegetables, keeping their bodies nourished and their immune systems strong.  In the end, a pet with a strong immune system will have a better chance of fighting off allergens without the need for medication.

Enjoy the Rewards of Feeding Raw – Ask Your Local Pet Store for Steve’s Real Food

If you’re looking for a natural, whole pet food, ask your local pet store for Steve’s Real Food. Steve’s Real Food‘s tater-tot sized nuggets allow you as a pet parent to simply pour and serve. You don’t have to defrost it overnight, you don’t have to cut up raw meat, and you don’t have to mix it with anything. It is 100% complete and balanced, made from only the most superior ingredients on the market. We are so proud of the ingredients we use that we gladly share who we buy from so you can have the same level of confidence as we do.

The Benefits of Raw Pet Food

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Did you know that the raw food sector is the fastest growing division in the pet food market? More people are finding out that just like unprocessed foods in human diets benefit them by improving their overall health, immunity, and vitality, so does raw food for their pets. Check out some of the amazing benefits that raw foods have on your pets.

Improved Digestion

The digestive system of pets like cats and dogs is much shorter than humans, which means their bodies have less time to absorb nutrients. They’re designed to digest raw meat and bones from prey found in the wild, and not grains or fillers present in many kibble foods. Unprocessed foods, like those found in raw pet diets, deliver the maximum amount of absorbable nutrients and healthy bacteria for your pet’s overall wellness. Additionally, pets do not have the enzyme amylase that is required to digest grains. When feeding a pet a grain-filled diet, their body has to work extra hard to process the grain and cor. Long-term stress on the pancreas can create toxic bacteria in the lower bowel that can cause liver and kidney problems.

Better Dental Hygiene

Periodontal issues are one of the most common reasons for trips to the vet, and it is often caused by bacterial growth from eating starchy kibble which sticks to the teeth. This means a sticky film of carbohydrates sticks to the teeth leading to pets with bad breath, sore gums, plaque build-up, and even requiring painful tooth extractions. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats will exhibit some stage of gum disease by two years of age. Raw pet food does not contain starches and processed fats, which means the saliva is able to break food down so it doesn’t stick to the teeth.

Stronger Immune System

Have you ever wondered why wolves and wild dogs appear stronger and have fewer health problems compared to domestic dogs? This is primarily due to the diet. Raw foods are rich in fatty acids and immune-boosting nutrients. Raw vegetables have vitamins and antioxidants in their natural and absorbable form. While kibble manufacturers try to replace them with artificial additives, they only succeed in making the nutrients harder to absorb.

A Healthy Skin and Coat

About 40% of the protein a pet ingests goes into their coat and skin. A grain-based diet means that they do not have the necessary amount of proteins to grow a healthy and shiny coat. Better nutrition from raw foods implies that there is a minimum to no shedding of your pet’s hair which results in a shiny and healthy coat.

Better Muscle Tone and Healthier Bone Structure

Intake of a diet rich in proteins will help your pet develop healthier muscles, skin, and joints. This is unlike the alternative which is only rich in carbohydrates which can contribute to pet obesity. Puppies raised on raw are shown to have fewer bone problems in their later years. Most of the calories in raw are from meat which has a high protein, low carb content which promotes a healthy growth rate. Later in life, pets will benefit from the high levels of Omega-3’s, and experience less inflammation and ease joint problems such as arthritis

Reduced Allergies

Common symptoms of allergies in pets include constant itching and/or discharge from the eyes. Many pets are allergic to grains and fillers in kibble. Feeding a raw diet eliminates these allergens from their diets. Adding raw goat milk to the diet further boosts their immunity which consequently reduces allergies.

Smaller and Less Smelly Waste

As the digestive enzymes in pets are better suited for raw foods, they are able to absorb more of the food’s nutrients and subsequently, there is less waste excreted. You will notice stools are smaller, firmer, and devoid of super-smelly odor that occurs due to the incomplete or improper digestion of processed foods.

Ask Your Local Pet Store for Steve’s Real Food

The increase in pet diseases such as cancer, kidney disease, digestive issues, obesity, constipation, and so on could be attributed to the highly processed commercial pet foods due to their inferior quality. Steve’s Real Food uses only ingredients that are 100% bioavailable for your pet. This means that everything put in it can be digested and all the nutrients can be used. Feeding your pet foods from Steve’s Real Food will ultimately result in fewer trips to the vet and a happier, healthier pet.

Why Raw Goat Milk for Pets is so Great

Episode 12 – Great Goat!

More people drink milk from goats than from any other animal worldwide, yet here in the US, less than 5% of people regularly drink goat milk. With small (but increasing) popularity, it’s no wonder that most people aren’t aware of the great benefits goat milk can provide to us and our fur babies. So let’s take a look at what those benefits are and how you can incorporate goat milk into your pet’s daily diet!

It’s easy to digest.  Goat milk has smaller fat particles which produce a smaller, softer curd in the stomach. These curds are much easier for the body to break down in the gut and intestines. Goat milk is also low in milk sugars (lactose).

It contains high amounts of short and medium-chain fatty acids. These nifty fatty acids provide an energy boost without storing “extra” as fat, can help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) while raising good cholesterol (HDL), and can even help prevent coronary and intestinal disease. Even though they provide the same amount of energy for the body, they have fewer calories and are much more easily digested.

It reduces inflammation. Goat milk contains oligosaccharides and a unique enzymatic composition that soothes gut inflammation. Oligosaccharides act as prebiotics in the colon; promoting healthy gut flora, lowering occurrence of inflammation-causing bacteria, and even help repair damaged gut cells that may arise from such problems as leaky gut syndrome or diabetes.

It supports metabolism and acts as an antacid. With a high fat content and low sugar content, glucose metabolism is much more effective and insulin sensitivity is improved, meaning that goat milk is a great tool to help prevent or manage diabetes. The antacid properties of goat milk are thanks to the very high amounts of potassium in the milk that, when consumed, is alkaline-forming and helps to maintain a proper pH balance in the body.

It provides complete, bioavailable nutrition. Goat milk not only contains exceptional amounts of nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, but the raw and natural (bioavailable) form of the nutrients are more easily digested and absorbed by the body. Disorders such as malabsorption, bone demineralization, and anemia may be prevented or treated by providing such bioavailable nutrition. Additionally, high amounts of selenium and zinc can help prevent neurodegenerative diseases.

Also pretty neat: Goats are easy(er) on the environment—three goats can live on the same acreage required for one cow, they require less food than cows, and they produce less harmful gas such as methane.

So, how should you feed raw goat milk to your pet? It’s easy! Raw goat milk can be found in the same freezer section as other raw frozen foods at your local pet supply store. Raw goat milk comes in several packaging options, and many brands have added ingredients to make goat milk even more amazing. At Steve’s Real Food, we take goat milk to another level by turning it into raw yogurt (extra probiotics!) and adding chia seeds. You can find the Enhance Chia Freeze in a 16oz. resealable pouch with other frozen Steve’s products. You may add the defrosted goat milk to your pet’s regular meal or use it as a meal substitute in times of digestive upset. Follow packaging directions for proper feeding amounts.

Please also check out the Enhance line of products, exclusive to Steve’s Real Food. Enhance is a line of products designed to add a nutritional boost to your pet’s diet, no matter what they currently eat. All freeze dried powdered formulas begin with a freeze dried raw goat milk base and have extra functional ingredients specifically designed to address common nutritional needs for both dogs and cats. More information on our Enhance line can be found HERE.

Note: As always, we are referring to raw goat milk. Raw goat milk has not been pasteurized and so retains enzymatic and biotic activity, as well as unaltered fat molecules. These benefits mentioned above will be not as effective or non-existent when the goat milk is cooked (pasteurized).

Previous Episode 11 – Dental Health

How Raw Pet Food Benefits Pet Mood/ Behavior

Episode 10 – Giddy Up!

We’ve gone over some of the physical changes you will see in your pet when making the switch to a raw food diet, but you may ask: will this affect their mood/behavior too? You betcha! With all of the bioavailable nutrition, digestible protein, and biologically appropriate animal fats available in a raw food diet, your pet will have the nutrition and fuel it needs to put a spring in its step!

First of all, it’s important to understand that cats and dogs obtain nearly all of their required energy from fat and protein. This differs from omnivores, like humans, who typically rely on carbohydrates for a high source of energy (though omnivores do use fat and protein for energy as well). Interestingly, it’s not the familiar “carbs” that provide energy, but glucose. Glucose is readily available in the types of carbs we are used to (like grains and sugar), but glucose can also be obtained from fat and protein in a process called gluconeogenesis. The body prefers to use carbs to obtain glucose because it requires the least effort. It has to put in a bit more elbow grease to get glucose from fat, and even more from protein. So if carbs are readily available, they will be processed first, and the “extra” fat and protein are likely stored as fat.

Dogs and cats have a very limited ability to break down plant material and digest carbs, so they’re totally unnecessary to include in their diet from an energy standpoint (though the bioavailable nutrition provided from fruits and veggies is very important!). Have you ever heard of a carbohydrate deficiency in pets? That’s because dogs and cats don’t have an actual need for carbohydrates.

It’s true that carbohydrates can provide a boost in energy for your pet, but it’s also important to note the type of energy. Since carbohydrates are so easy to metabolize, the glucose both enters and leaves the bloodstream quickly. That fast burst of energy results in an energy low in a short period of time. That process isn’t optimal for the body since glucose highs and lows can cause fatigue, dizziness, brain fog, irritability, and even cardiac symptoms. It also isn’t useful for times when energy needs to be sustained for any period of time, such as when exercising or training. When there are no available carbs, fat and/or protein are used as the source of glucose, and energy levels remain constant for a much longer period of time without resulting in a slump afterwards. Surprisingly, fat actually provides more energy per gram than carbs do, so they’re more effective in more ways than one!

(Quick note: When we say “fat”, we are referring to animal fats specifically. Animal fats are a natural and healthy aspect of your pet’s (and your!) diet, whereas plant-derived fats such as corn oil or canola oil are very difficult to digest and do not break down in the same way. A good rule of thumb is: if it’s not naturally “greasy”, don’t eat its “fat”)

With all of this natural and sustainable food energy, you can expect your pet to be more focused when training, have more endurance when exercising, and keep a lean a trim physique. So what is the best way to provide digestible, usable and beneficial energy for your pet? Lots of healthy animal fats and proteins. And you can find those and more in (you guessed it) raw food!

Previous Episode 9 – Allergies  ||  Go To Episode 11 – Smile!

Benefits of Raw Pet Food on Dental Health

Episode 11 – Let Me See that Smile!

Raw-fed dogs and cats tend to have healthier teeth and gums. I know, I know, we were all told for so long that the best way to clean our pet’s teeth was by feeding them a dry, crunchy food. But consider this: after you eat dry, crunchy pretzels, how do your teeth feel? You have bits of pretzel stuck in and around your teeth, right? It’s definitely not a clean, just-brushed feeling. Now think about eating a crisp raw apple. It leaves your teeth squeaky and mostly free of particles of leftover food. The same thought process can be applied to our pet’s food.

A dry, crunchy kibble isn’t effective in cleaning teeth, but here’s why raw food is: moisture (wet food doesn’t tend to stick to wet surfaces) and enzymes. Enzymes are catalysts for processes in the body such as digestion and breaking down of nutrients. They are found naturally-occurring in the body but are also found in high amounts in raw food. Enzymes happen to especially good at breaking down the biofilm that bacteria create as a protective barrier on teeth. That slimy biofilm is tough to get rid of, and even proper brushing cannot break it down effectively. Enzymes help destroy the biofilm, effectively “brushing” the teeth and removing that pesky bacteria that cause tooth decay and bad breath. And, as a nice plus, the boost in immune support that raw food provides will help ward off oral infections and promote healthy saliva, with an appropriate balance of bacteria strains.

Ok, so now we know that raw food will help your pet’s oral health, but will any ol’ type of raw food do? A regular raw food diet will absolutely provide benefits, but the most effective way to reap the dental benefits is to incorporate raw bones into your pet’s diet. Raw bones are soft and fun for your pet to chew, and they have marrow, muscle/tendon meat, and cartilage (great for joint health). The raw enzymes do their job breaking down the biofilm and plaque, and the chewing and scraping motion will help whisk all the bad stuff away. Interestingly, cats won’t often chew on a marrow bone in the wild, but they do enjoy crunching on a poultry bone, especially the smaller pieces that are easy to swallow. And, your dog will especially love the raw bones because it helps fulfill a psychological need to chew (especially puppies)!

So where’s a good place to start? Try to incorporate 2-3 raw bones per week into your pet’s diet. Make sure to choose a bone size appropriate for your pet (ie: big dogs should only have big bones—larger than around 4 inches).  Feed the bones either outside, or indoors on an old towel or in the kitchen or even in the bathtub, where any mess can be cleaned up easily. And always monitor your pet, as you would with any chew toy or treat. Your pet will be smiling in no time!

Note: We are only talking about raw bones here. Raw bones are soft and full of moisture and have a different structure than cooked bones. Cooked bones are brittle, break apart in sharp pieces, and are not easy for pets to digest. Please make sure that all bones you feed your pet are raw!

Previous Episode 10 – Energy  ||  Go To Episode 12 – Goat Milk

All About Pet Allergies

Episode 9 – Nothing to Sneeze About

The phrase “my dog has allergies” may be one of the most common phrases uttered by pet parents, right after “who’s a good boy?”. But why are there so many pets with so many allergies out there? Was it always this way? And what can we do to combat allergies?

Allergic reactions in dogs and cats manifest as itchy skin, hot spots, hair loss, ear infections, watery eyes and nose, redness and swelling, respiratory issues, and digestive problems. The most commonly reported allergens for dogs and cats are fleas, outdoor factors (grass, trees, pollen), indoor factors (dust, mites, chemicals), and some foods. True allergies are uncomfortable for your pet and may be detrimental to their health, so it’s important to find a way to alleviate symptoms by eliminating the source, or in extreme cases, seek veterinary treatment and medications.

Interestingly, despite how common we think allergies are, only about 10% of pets have true diagnosed allergies. So why then do we see so many more dogs and cats experiencing symptoms of allergic reactions? The answer may not be the “allergens” themselves, but how the body handles inflammation.

Inflammation is pretty much the root of all evil or at least the root of most sickness. Everything from heart disease to cancer can be attributed to chronic inflammation. (Read more about inflammation here) Inflammation is intended as a short-term reaction to protect the body from things that hurt it, which we can see in the swelling of a sprained ankle, for example. It’s kind of like “high alert” mode in the body. While a short-term inflammatory response can be a good thing, too much inflammation for too long can be harmful. It puts enormous stress on the body and stops things from working as they should. Systems in the body no longer focus on what they are supposed to be doing (like removing toxins, for example), the swelling impedes function, and the increased release of hormones and steroids can cause adrenal fatigue. Inflammation can be a pretty nasty thing, so we should try to reduce or prevent inflammation in our pets as best we can.

Allergies and inflammation can go hand-in-hand: allergies cause an inflammatory response, and inflammation can cause an allergy-like reaction. A good first step in combating these issues would be to reduce overall inflammation your pet experiences so that you may see if there are still any “true” allergies to deal with. A raw diet helps to reduce inflammation in your pet because it contains biologically appropriate proteins, fats, and nutrients that are easy for your pet to digest and use. The easier time your pet has digesting and processing its food, the less inflammation is likely to occur. Steve’s Real Food includes unique ingredients in our formulas such as coconut oil and raw goat milk that actively fights and prevent inflammation in the body. Once your pet has been eating a raw diet for at least a month, you will be able to tell if there are persisting symptoms of a true allergy. You might then consider rotating through different protein sources to see if that may be the culprit. The goal is to isolate the allergen, identify it, and eliminate it. But don’t forget that treats may be the culprit! Many treats are grain-based, which can definitely cause an allergic or inflammatory response in pets. So remember to consider those as a possible inflammatory trigger and consider switching your pet’s treats to something like freeze-dried whole food treats such as liver, lung, and heart.

It can be hard to watch our precious pets suffer from the symptoms of allergies, but with a little effort and detective work, you can identify and remove the problem. Reduce inflammation, identify an allergen by elimination, and get it out of your pet’s life. Your pet will be happier, and so will you!

Previous Episode 8 – Weight Management  ||  Go To Episode 10 – Energy

How Raw Food Helps Trim Down and Build Up Your Pet

Episode 8 – Finding the Balance

According to a 2016 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 59% of cats and 54% of dogs in the US are overweight, and those percentages are growing every year. That’s incredible! Mostly, it’s incredibly sad. Most people know that obesity is dangerous, but many pet parents seem to turn a blind eye when it comes to their pet’s size. Obesity in pets is a serious problem that causes a whole host of health issues including diabetes, arthritis, back pain, liver disease, chronic inflammatory disease, heart disease, and cancer. So what’s causing this obesity epidemic in American pets? Like most things we talk about, it has everything to do with food—specifically, the type of foods our pets are eating.

The most popular and widely available pet food in the US is kibble, accounting for about 68% of total pet food sales. Unfortunately, the most popular brands of kibble are those that contain low-cost ingredients such as grains, starchy veggies, and animal by-products. These types of ingredients are tough for cats and dogs to process and this is problematic for two reasons: digestibility and carbohydrate load.

Digestibility

When the body comes across something it cannot digest and use, it may have an inflammatory response like you would see in an allergic reaction. Inflammation is incredibly taxing and harmful to the body. Additionally, large indigestible molecules can get clogged up in the liver and kidneys as the body tries to process and expel them, putting unnecessary stress on the organs.

Carbohydrate Load

Since dogs and cats are both carnivores (opportunistic and obligate), they are especially good at processing protein, which is the source of most of their energy. They don’t need carbohydrates to make energy like omnivores and vegetarians do, so when extra carbohydrates enter the body and don’t need to be processed for energy, they get stored as fat.

Raw food can both prevent weight gain and help your pet lose weight because it is easily digestible, doesn’t contain a large carbohydrate load, and provides plenty of digestible protein so your pet can have more energy to exercise/play. If you have a pet who needs to gain a few pounds, it’s also easy to add a little extra padding by temporarily increasing their portions. In addition to weight management, raw food is the perfect tool for building healthy lean muscle mass.

Protein Builds Muscle

When a cat or dog eats food high in digestible protein, it breaks the protein molecules into amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The amino acids are then used to build new proteins as their body sees fit, including protein filaments that build muscle cells. More protein in the diet means more ingredients available to build more muscle. Raw food is the best source for usable protein and amino acids because the molecules are in their most natural and bioavailable form. Kibble diets high in cooked protein and low in moisture are not easy to digest or collect intact amino acids from. This can often lead to a build-up of big unusable protein molecules that cannot be flushed out by the liver and kidneys, causing something called protein toxicity. That’s why it’s so important for cats and dogs to get their protein from raw meat high in naturally-occurring moisture.

When you give your pet raw food, you are providing exactly what your pet needs to stay trim and build/sustain healthy lean muscle!

Previous Episode 7 – Skin and Coat  ||  Go To Episode 9 – Allergies

How Raw Food Helps with Skin/Coat and Pest Mitigation

Episode 7 – It’s What’s on the Outside That Counts

 Let’s face it: we all want to have pretty (or handsome) pets. We all love to see soft, shiny fur on our precious darling cats and dogs. Not only do we like the way pretty fur looks and feels, but we know that it means our pets are healthy and happy too. Skin and coat condition is a great indicator of overall health, and with the excellent bioavailable nutrition raw food provides, your raw-fed pet has everything it needs to be the belle (or gentleman) of the ball—including relief from pesky pests!

Skin and Coat

Cats and dogs can suffer from several skin conditions that are directly related to nutrition, including hot spots, redness, itchiness, yeast overgrowth, and flakiness. Most of these problems are related to excess inflammation or allergic response to something in the environment or the pet’s food. Topical treatments may be able to offer temporary relief, but the only way to truly solve the issue is to treat it from the inside out. It helps to remember that the skin is an organ and it’s just as important to keep it healthy as it is to keep the liver, kidneys, or lungs healthy. Luckily for us, raw food has several problem-solving components in their most natural, bioavailable form: appropriately balanced ratio of omega fatty acids to keep inflammation down, amino acids to support protein function of skin cells, enzymes to help with cellular regeneration, intracellular moisture to ensure the pet has adequate hydration, and food ingredients that are full of vitamins/minerals and don’t typically cause allergic reactions. At Steve’s Real Food, we also add coconut oil to our formulas which has strong allergy-fighting benefits as well as anti-fungal properties to keep yeast at bay.

When your pet is getting all of the bioavailable nutrition it needs to have healthy skin, a healthy coat will follow. Hair grows inside follicles surrounded by layers of skin cells, so when the skin cells are happy and functioning optimally, and when the right nutritional ingredients are within the body, the hair that grows is thick, shiny, and soft. Also, because the follicle is healthy, it holds on to the hair better and shedding is reduced.

Pest Mitigation

As a society, we are so used to treating our pets for pests such as fleas, ticks, and worms, that we often don’t stop to ask why. Why is it such a problem for our domesticated pets when we know that their wild counterparts are rarely overrun with such pests (unless their health is compromised in some way)? There is little available research as to the mechanics of how raw food can help mitigate pest problems, but there are two theories as to why this happens. The first is that an appropriate, natural diet is providing the nutrition and immune support necessary for the pet to ward off any little buggies that might try to snack on them. The second theory has to do with the “tastiness” of the pet. When a dog or cat eats a diet high in starches (like potatoes) or grains (like rice) it can change the chemistry of their blood. In basic terms, it makes the blood “sweeter” and more delicious to biting bugs. The same thing happens with humans as well. Studies show that people who eat foods high in sugar, salt, and alcohol are much more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes and ticks. Though we still don’t have direct evidence of why it is known that diet affects tastiness of the host. As an additional tidbit, cutting down on poo snacking can lessen the possibility that your pet will contract worms whose larvae are commonly found in feces, such as tapeworms. A big reason why many dogs (and even cats) like to snack on the poop of their friends is that there is still undigested food in there and (for reasons unknown to us) it seems tasty to them. A pet who is eating raw food is able to digest and use nearly all of what they eat, so their poop is just waste.

While we can’t promise you’ll never see a flea or tick on a raw-fed pet, we feel confident that you’ll notice a difference in how many of the little guys hang around. However, just because we have some evidence to support this, it doesn’t mean that you should stop giving your pet heartworm medicine or any other medications your vet has prescribed. As always, feeding raw food is a great preventative method, but we cannot claim that it will cure or prevent any infection or disease.

Previous Episode 6 Digestion   ||    Go To Episode 8 – Weight Management

The Benefits of Raw Food for Digestion

Episode 6 – In One End…

You may often hear about how digestible raw food is, but is there any proof of why? There sure is! In this post, we will go through how and why raw food is easier for pets to digest and how, as a result of that, your pet will be happier, healthier, and poop less (really!).

Enzymes are perhaps one of the greatest aspects of raw food. We’ve gone somewhat in-depth about enzymes in an earlier post, but here’s a refresher: enzymes are catalysts for many biochemical processes in the body from digesting food to replicating DNA. These vitally important molecules are highly specialized and considerably fragile; temperatures as low as 118 degrees Fahrenheit can destroy nearly all enzymes in food. So why do we care so much about these little guys? Because the more enzymes we can obtain from whole raw food sources, the less our bodies have to work to digest the food we eat. Foods that are rich in enzymes can actually “predigest” in the stomach in a process called autolytic digestion. This happens without the aid of stomach acid and can be responsible for up to 75% of total meal digestion. If the body is able to predigest the food in this manner, it will not have to use its own store of digestive enzymes from the pancreas and stomach acid levels can remain low. Without ample enzymes in the food, the pancreas and small intestine have to work overtime which in turn stresses the endocrine system and can lead to problems such as leaky gut syndrome and diabetes which of course cause a whole host of problems on their own.

Take away: More food enzymes = less work for the body to digest.

Raw food also contains whole, undenatured proteins. This means that the protein molecules found in raw meats (and produce too!) are in their whole, natural, and easily recognizable form. Cooking alters proteins by breaking down molecular bonds and disrupts alpha-helix and beta sheets, causing the proteins to uncoil and reshape into unrecognizable forms. This inability to recognize the shape of a protein is one of the greatest causes of food-based allergies. Basically, the body has no idea what to do with the weird-shaped proteins and it sends a team of histamines to destroy it. And we all know histamines can cause a whole lot of damaging swelling, heat, and uncomfortable itching. Interestingly, dogs and cats (and humans) can have an allergic reaction to a cooked protein, but can oftentimes tolerate the raw form of the food. It’s one of the main reasons why infants can easily digest breastmilk, but as adults, nearly 97% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant to some degree.

Take away: Cooking proteins makes them less recognizable and digestible.

Probiotics are another great aspect of raw foods. Probiotics are commonly referred to as “good bacteria” and are one aspect of a healthy bacteria ratio and biome both inside and outside of the body. There are trillions of bacteria cells in dog and cat bodies and only so much real estate, so bacteria strains are constantly battling each other for precious territory. Without enough “good bacteria” in the body, the bad bacteria (and yeasts) can overgrow and cause lots of problems such as widespread yeast infections and diarrhea. Raw foods contain live, naturally-occurring probiotics that can help your pet keep a nice healthy ratio of good to bad bacteria, which in turn can help support gut health, brain function, and infections prevention.

Take away: Healthy, live probiotics = healthy, lively pet.

Naturally occurring moisture is pretty important too. Intracellular moisture is the fancy name for moisture that is found in plant and animal cells. In addition to providing the most natural, effective way for dogs and cats to absorb moisture, intracellular moisture helps keep the whole digestive process a well-lubricated machine. Think of raw food cells as little miniature water balloons. Those little balloons stay intact until they reach the small intestine where cell walls are broken down and processed. Water that is added back into a cooked food or water that is drunk cannot behave in this way and goes through the digestive system in a separate process. Since the body requires moisture to digest and process any food, it would make sense to feed our pets a diet that already has that moisture built in, so they don’t have to use their own moisture reserves to complete the task. Pets who are fed a diet high in naturally-occurring moisture can digest their food more easily and do not have to over-consume water. In fact, many raw-fed dogs and cats drink very little water from their bowls! Another reason why moisture is so important? It helps to flush out the liver and kidneys, keeping them as healthy and free from excess toxins as possible.

Take away: Naturally, occurring moisture eases the digestion process and helps support liver and renal health.

Lastly, a word on poop. Poop is one of our favorite things to talk about in the raw pet food world. Poop is the best evidence for what’s happening digestively within a pet, and when feeding raw food, you’ll see plenty of proof in the pudding. Well, pudding may be the wrong word. That’s because the poop of raw fed pets is more firm and dry than anything else. Less smelly too. Why? Because the pet is using everything it is eating, instead of passing on indigestible food that starts to get preeeety pungent. By eating raw food, your pet is absorbing and using all of that naturally-occurring moisture found in raw meat and produce, leaving behind dry poops that are easy to pick up and have a pleasant aroma (ok, that last part might be pushing it). One of the greatest things about this hard, dry poop is that it helps to naturally express the anal glands of cats and dogs, so you don’t have to worry about your pet developing that particularly stinky problem. But the best part about all of this business is that you’ll notice your pet poops less frequently. Waaay less frequently. And who doesn’t love that?

Take away: More raw food = less poop.

Previous Episode 5 – Detoxing   ||  Go To Episode 7 – Skin and Coat

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Steve's Real Food

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Cottonwood , UT 84121
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