Don’t Go Breakin’ (Your Dog’s) Heart

Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a pretty frightening word, and certainly not one you want to hear associated with the health of your beloved canine. This condition has been in the news a bit lately and can be especially worrisome to hear that certain forms of the condition may be related to diet. It’s worth taking a moment to understand the issue and what you as a pet parent can do to make sure the condition doesn’t affect your dogs.

Dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM, is a condition in which the left ventricle of the heart becomes enlarged and weakened, leading to poor circulation, more extensive heart damage, and eventually heart failure. Though the condition is often hereditary when observed in dogs, an increasing number of cases have been observed in dogs without any known genetic predisposition. So what has been happening in the last few decades that may account for the increase in affected dogs? It turns out that, as with many modern illnesses in pets, diet may be to blame. In this case, grain-free kibble diets high in potato, pea, etc. starches.

First a Bit About Taurine

Taurine (aminoethane sulfonic acid) is an essential amino acid, meaning that, though the body may be able to produce small amounts of it on its own, the primary source needs to come from food. Taurine is especially essential because of how vital it is to heart health. It’s an important osmoregulator that stabilizes membranes and mitigates oxidative stress and contractile function. Taurine is also essential to eye health, insulin sensitivity, hearing function, and electrolyte balance. Luckily, taurine is found in high levels in heart and other muscle tissue, which are both often found in pet food. However, it absolutely matters how the meat is treated, and what else the food contains.

Raw Food Preserves Intact Amino Acids

In other Steve’s Real Food literature, you can read all of the science-y goodness about how and why amino acids are more bioavailable in raw pet food, but the basic idea is this: raw foods retain all of the natural unaltered amino acids in the food. Not only are the amino acids found in naturally high concentrations, but they are in their most basic and usable form, meaning that they are ready for your dog to use directly after digestion. Cooked foods simply do not have much (if any) actually usable amino acids present, after undergoing the high heat process that most kibbles endure. Though many foods include supplemental taurine, it will still never be as good as the real, straight-from-the-source taurine found in raw meats.

Starches Can Prevent Amino Acid Absorption

Grain-free kibble needs some kind of starch to hold the doughy mixture together through processing, so many companies turned to alternative sources for starch, such as potatoes and peas. According to Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, a possible link between low taurine absorption and high-starch content may be related to a “chemical reaction (called the Maillard Reaction) between taurine and a carbohydrate during the extrusion process that depletes the digestible taurine level in the food”. The high heat processing that causes the interaction of carbohydrates and amino acids also promotes the proliferation of gut bacteria that can further inhibit the absorption and recycling of taurine. So basically, the high carbohydrate content in the food and the high heat process the food undergoes lowers the amount of taurine in the food and makes it harder for your pet to absorb what taurine is present.

Ways to Ensure Your Pet Has Adequate Taurine in Their Diet

Though we will always recommend raw feeding above all, we realize that this is not ideal for everyone. Luckily, there are ways to add taurine into your pet’s diet, no matter what you choose to feed. Try any of the following methods to make sure your pet has a healthy intake of taurine:

  • Avoid foods that are high in starches including grains, potatoes, legumes (such as peas or beans), or tapioca
  • Avoid foods that are processed (extruded) at very high heat; a “lightly baked” or equivalent is a better bet if you are not able to do raw food
  • Add raw muscle meats (especially heart) into your pet’s current nutritionally balanced diet
  • Look for pet foods that have supplemental taurine added into the recipe
  • Add a can or two of canned fish to your pet’s diet per week
  • Add raw goat milk into your pet’s diet—try our enhance line of products, all made with raw goat milk

Taurine is especially high in the following foods, so try to incorporate them into your pet’s diet! Raw is always best, but if you must feed these foods cooked, make sure they are as minimally processed as possible. Remember that variety is the key!

  • Mussels
  • Turkey
  • Clams
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • And other animal muscle meats

Becker, K. S. (2018, July 9). Are Dogs With DCM Taurine-Deficient? Retrieved from
Lourenco R, Camilo ME: Taurine: a conditionally essential amino acid in humans? An overview in health and disease. Nutr Hosp. 2002, 17: 262-70.
Yu, H., Guo, Z., Shen, S., & Shan, W. (2016). Effects of taurine on gut microbiota and metabolism in mice. Amino Acids, 48(7), 1601-1617. doi:10.1007/s00726-016-2219-y

Diet’s Role in Doggy Dental Hygiene

Most dog owners go a long way to keep their four-legged friend healthy; routine checkups, regular exercise, quality food, and so on. But what about his dental health? According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), periodontal disease is the most common oral disease in dogs. A healthy dog’s teeth should be white and free of tartar and plaque. They should also not be broken or jagged.

The Importance of Dental Health for Your Dog

Proper dental hygiene is a critical part of your dog’s overall wellbeing. The plaque which builds up on your dog’s teeth is a mixture of food debris, oral bacteria, and proteins in your pet’s saliva. Plaque forms a biofilm that sticks to a tooth’s surface. Plaque requires physical scrubbing to remove, and once cleaned, it can return in under 24 hours. The plaque hardens to form tartar (a.k.a. calculus), a rock-hard crust that forms along the gum line, which is a perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria. This leads to gum infection (gingivitis) or gum inflammation.  Gingivitis leads to the spread of harmful inflammatory substances known as cytokines through the bloodstream to internal organs such as the heart, pancreas, kidneys, and the liver. Thus, periodontal disease is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases in dogs.

The Major Source of Dental Disease in Dogs

Although the lack of proper dental hygiene and old age contribute to periodontal disease in dogs, the major source of such is an improper diet.  Contrary to the belief that kibble helps maintain good dental health, the truth is that kibble is what crunchy crackers are to your teeth. They can only succeed in removing some of the plaque on your dog’s teeth but will be ineffective in removing the plaque on the gumline.

The predominant ingredient in most kibble products is starches or carbohydrates which are used to bind ingredients to form the kibble shape. As dogs do not have the enzyme amylase in their saliva to break down the starch, the bacteria in the mouth feed on these sugars and carbohydrates. This leads to rapid tartar and plaque buildup, which explains why dogs that feed on kibble have more dental issues than those which feed on raw diets and bones. Your pet’s immune system responds by trying to fight back the bacteria build-up which leads to inflammation or gingivitis. This is the onset of periodontal disease.

If left untreated, tartar continues to build up and pulls the gumline away from the teeth. This creates pockets where more bacteria grow. This causes tissue and bone deterioration causing your pet to lose its teeth.

Benefits of Raw Pet Food and Raw Bones on Your Dog’s Teeth

The best way to prevent periodontal disease in your dog is by providing it with the best diet; raw meaty bones and raw pet food. When your pet is gnawing on a raw bone, they have to chew through the meat and bone which helps scrape off the plaque on its teeth. In addition, raw meat has live enzymes that destroy the dangerous bacteria which build up on your pet’s gums. Chewing on a bone provides your dog with an outlet for their natural species-appropriate behavior.  It releases calming endorphins and exercises your dog’s jaws, neck, and shoulders.

Raw diets are a natural dental abrasive, that effectively acts as a toothbrush when your pet is eating. Raw diest are also rich sources of minerals, calcium, phosphorus, and protein. Raw pet foods contain natural live enzymes as well as “good” bacteria which help prevent plaque and tartar buildup. Raw and barf diets also provide a suitable habitat for your pet’s healthy oral microbiome.

Final Thoughts

Professional dental cleaning under anesthesia has become quite common and can be attributed to starch laden diets and kibble. In fact, a recent study shows that raw fed dogs showed signs of dental diseases when fed with kibble for only 17 days. You can avoid this by ensuring that you provide raw meaty bones and a natural diet to your pets.

Food Safety Program Update

Our company is driven by five core values and accountability is one of them. We are accountable to the distributor, retailer, and customer. The decisions we make must ensure that we have everyone’s best interests in hand while not compromising on our mission of creating a pet food that is convenient, affordable, and of the highest quality.

Giving Thanks With Our Pets

Gobble Gobble, it is almost Turkey day! At Steve’s Real Food we are thankful for many things, especially our pets which is why we want to share some helpful tips, and fun facts for you and your pets for this lovely holiday.

Benefits of Raw Pet Food on Dental Health

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.

All About Pet Allergies

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?

How Raw Food Helps Trim Down and Build Up Your Pet

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.

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

Detoxing Your Pet

Episode 5 – Out with the Old, In with the New

Detoxing Your Pet

A few years ago, detoxing was all the rage. People got caught up in the very appealing idea of eating nothing and drinking something like lemon and cayenne water all day in the hopes they could cleanse their body and release years of built-up toxins. While the methods-of-old certainly have shortcomings, the concept of detoxing the body is sound. Detoxing is simply the process of ridding the body of toxins or harmful substances. There are various methods of going about this (a quick internet search will prove that), but the healthiest and most natural way to rid the body of toxins is to eat a clean diet. How can we do this for our pets? Why, with raw food of course!

So what are toxins, anyway?

A toxin is some kind of harmful matter in the body that builds up over time and overwhelms systems, causing them to work less efficiently, or not at all. Toxins can come from a source within the body, such as accumulated cellular or bacterial waste, or they can come from an external source like heavy metals, poor air quality, or chemicals found in the home or common pet products.

How do toxins harm my pet?

As toxins build up, our pets’ bodies become less and less able to flush them. Eventually, both internal and external toxins can cause harmful conditions or diseases such as liver failure, malnutrition, allergic reactions, respiratory failure, and digestive issues. The body has two big organs that help filter toxins: the liver and kidneys. The liver removes toxins in a two-step process to create water-soluble toxins that can be flushed out of the body through the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. If any of the steps in this process go awry, things can get backed up. As a secondary measure, the lungs, skin, large intestine,

and bladder can also process small amounts of toxins, but because that is not their primary function, they easily get

overwhelmed and cannot do their day-jobs as well, which causes even more harmful conditions.

How does detoxification work?

The primary goal of detoxification is to increase liver and renal support so those organs are functioning properly to remove toxins and prevent build-up. This is best achieved by eating the correct kinds of foods, so there goes the notion of fasting or highly restrictive diets. The most effective elements in detox are water, antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals such as selenium and sulfur. When the body is receiving these ingredients, it is able to complete the phases of detoxification and kick out the toxins. Luckily for us and our pets, raw food diets are a great source for all of these things. Raw organ meat is especially high in folate and vitamins A, B12, B6, and E. Raw fruits and veggies are a great source of bioavailable vitamins and minerals, and cruciferous veggies are a great source of sulfur. And of course, all raw food is high in (intracellular)moisture, enzymes, and amino acids!

Will my pet detox when I switch to raw food?

If your pet is older or has been eating a cooked, processed food for a long time, they will most likely experience some symptoms of detox. However, each pet is different and it’s sometimes hard to say what the effects will be. One thing is for sure though: by switching to raw food, your pet will be much better equipped to deal with toxin build-up in their body.

What kind of things will I notice when my pet is detoxing?

Detoxing is not always a completely smooth process. There is a lot of repair work that needs to be done in the body to be able to get those nasty toxins out. You’ll likely notice symptoms that appear to be flu-like in nature and it may seem like things are getting worse before they get better. This is normal and very common during the detox process. Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Decreased energy
  • Extra-bad breath
  • Shedding, more than usual
  • Hot spots
  • “Slimy” poop (a thin coating of mucus)
  • Diarrhea
  • Joint stiffness
  • Itching, especially paws and ears

Don’t be discouraged! Remember that these are temporary symptoms and a totally normal step on the way to better health. Symptoms should clear up in about two weeks, though some can persist for a few months. However, if symptoms become overwhelming for you or your pet, or they persist beyond what you consider a reasonable timeframe, consider introducing the raw food more slowly or adding goat milk to your pet’s diet to aid in digestion. And as always, if you ever feel a serious health concern for your pet, contact your veterinarian.

How can I help my pet through this process?

There are a few things you can do to help alleviate some symptoms of detox. First of all, make sure your pet has access to plenty of clean, filtered water and don’t skip playtime or walks. Try adding raw goat milk to their diet for a boost in probiotics, and perhaps liver or renal support supplements. You can also try giving your pet a bath, focusing on massaging the skin and thoroughly cleaning the paws, from where our pets “sweat”.

Good luck with your detoxing journey! Though you may have to brave the storm before the calm, stick with it. Stick with the switch to raw food and you’ll be rewarded with a happy, healthy pet!

Previous Episode 4 – Benefits of Raw Pet Food   ||   Go To Episode  6 – Digestion

The Benefits of a Raw Food Diet for Cats and Dogs

Episode 4 – You’ve Got to Admit It’s Getting Better

(This post will focus mostly on the observable benefits of feeding a raw diet, but if you’re into the science and mechanics of why raw food works, check out this blog post for some seriously science-y information.)

Raw feeders often refer to the many observable benefits that feeding a raw diet has had on their pet’s health and well-being. The list of benefits can get pretty long and involved, but you can bet your bologna that we are going to go through (most) of them here. First of all, while you can definitely start seeing the effects of a raw diet on your pet’s health pretty quickly, it won’t happen overnight. You’ll probably notice gradual changes at first, but before you know it, you will have a new pet on your hands. Generally speaking, you will notice many changes about a month into feeding your pet raw, so keep a lookout!

So what changes will I start Seeing?

Poop — you’ll notice your pet poos less, and when it does happen it’s drier, smaller, and less smelly.

Allergiesallergy symptoms can be lessened or even completely alleviated. A reduction in inflammation and histamines mean less redness, hot spots, itchy ears and paws, and weepy eyes.

Weight managementif your pet is on the heavy side, expect to see her trim down. If she’s active and can’t keep weight on, you’ll see it’s easy to “add some meat” pretty quickly.

Muscle developmentlean muscle mass is easy to build, which in turn can help support weak joints or other skeletal issues.

Dental healthyour pet will have healthier gums and teeth with less plaque build-up, and some of that bad breath will go away.

Skin and Coatwill be healthy and shiny without flaky skin and excessive shedding.

Cognitive functionessential fatty acids promote brain health which can help improve focus and the pet’s ability to learn new things.

Energyyour pet will have the energy for long walks, play sessions, or training/work.

Pest mitigationfleas and ticks don’t tend to hang around raw-fed pets as often as they do around pets who are fed other diets.

This is a very basic overview of some of the health benefits raw food provides, but be sure to check back in as we will be going over each topic a little more in depth in future posts!

Previous Episode – How to Feed  ||  Go To Episode 5 – Detoxing

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