So……. what do I feed my Fur family? Here is my nutritional evolution, otherwise known as,”the saga of how Dr. Fisher feeds her pets”.
I currently have a NS Duck Tolling retriever, an Australian kelpie, 2 older cats in their teens and 2 young cats (“the little boys”).
I graduated from vet school in 1997. I proudly fed all my pets veterinary brands of dry and wet food. These companies offered diets that were formulated by veterinary nutritionists and had undergone extensive testing and research. These companies also offered access to boarded specialists to give advice on complicated cases. That just doesn’t happen with the regular commercial brands. I felt very confident feeding these foods and recommending them to my clients.
But over the last 8 years I have made some changes to how I view healthy eating.
I believe that shopping around the periphery of the grocery store (ie, not down the aisles that contain all the processed foods) is healthiest. I don’t believe you get the same nutrition from packaged foods, or when vitamins are added vs being bio-available in their natural forms. Want the best nutrition? Eat whole foods, no GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), that are ideally organic and sourced locally. Do I always eat this way—no, but I should. So if this is how I should eat, why do I think that my pets can get the nutrition they need in a highly processed bag of food?
At the time that I was becoming more convinced that whole foods and less processed foods were important, my favorite vet food company was changing their diets to include wheat gluten as a protein source in my cats’ foods. Cats are carnivores; shouldn’t their protein source be meat?
So I started experimenting. And I tried raw food. There are now pasteurized commercial versions that meet the AFFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) guidelines. Not that AFFCO guarantees it is a balanced diet, I mean Old Roy passes AFFCO standards, but at least it met some minimum standard in feeding trials. I bought the small bites for the cats, and the large blocks for the dogs (because I found the smaller patties were too expensive when I priced it out for the two dogs). The little boys loved it; the two older cats would sample it, but preferred their dry wheat gluten food. The dogs loved it, but it was a pain to unfreeze the big blocks and the thawed version sometimes looked bloody. This turned my partner off, and since she wasn’t keen on feeding raw in the first place, she refused to feed it. She feeds the cats more than I do, so raw was out for the cats. I feed the dogs, so they got kibble in the morning and raw at night, mixed in with a multivitamin, and any quinoa, rice, coconut oil or veggies that we were eating. I just couldn’t convince myself that the raw alone was a balanced diet. The cats were transitioned to Purina DM a veterinary formula without wheat gluten, that is a high protein, low carb diet. More in line with what carnivores eat.
I wanted to try home preparing and I wanted to use the recipes in the Complete and Balanced book by Hilary Watson since she is a veterinary nutritionist and has tested the diets to ensure that they were indeed balanced. I felt that I should be rotating which diets I fed as there are benefits in different foods and as I have previously stated- I believe that getting nutrients from the whole food is better than just getting them from a vitamin mix. But I am very lazy when it comes to preparing the meals for the pets. Getting all the ingredients, mixing up the recipes and portioning it out, just sounded like it would take too much time. I never did it.
Then I found Hilary’s Meal Maker. It doesn’t get simpler!! Rehydrate the veggie mix, add the supplement and two oils and mix with the meat. When Full Circle starting buying meat from Meadow Brook Farms (a LOCAL company) packaged in amounts designed to go with the Hilary’s diets, I could think of no excuse not to home prepare for the dogs. I prefer to bake it because it is then easier to divide it up into the proper amount to feed each dog without weighing it out. Again—I said I was lazy. The dogs also get any veggies that we are eating for supper and any left-over lean meats. This gives their diet more variety. The dogs will eat spinach, salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, turnip, beats, beans, sweet potato, squash, zucchini and Wisp will eat asparagus—Quick draws the line at asparagus. So this is what the dogs now get for supper. My partner is willing to feed the home prepared because it just looks like meat loaf, no blood.
I admit, the dogs still get kibble in the morning. I only get up with enough time to dress, throw their kibble in a bowl and leave for work. I am not a morning person!! So I started experimenting with non-veterinary brand kibbles —some grain free, some 95% meat, etc. The dogs seemed to do well, but at the back of my mind I still wondered about who was formulating these diets. If I recommend these brands to my feline clients will they develop urinary crystals? Will my clients be upset with me if their pets don’t do well on these foods? I have no research from these companies to back me up.
Then Rayne came along. Rayne is a new company specializing in veterinary nutrition. They believe in feeding whole foods, they believe in having boarded nutritionists designing their diets. They do all the research and testing I am used to having. They believe in being as green as possible. (They use recyclable plastic containers for their wet foods, not cans, as this leaves a smaller carbon footprint). They believe in transparency— want to know their recipes? Go to their website. All real foods, and they will tell you what percentage of the diet is made up from each food. No artificial preservatives and they cook the dry food at lower temperatures (of course some of the nutrients are lost when making a kibble, but the higher the temperature, the more you lose). I am so happy to have found this company! So my dogs get a Rayne kibble in the mornings, and their home prepared in the evening.
The little boys will eat some of the home prepared, the older cats won’t. So the cats are now transitioning from Purina D/M to the Rayne Urinary Protection dry and Sensitive GI canned. I give the little boys some home prepared when I feed the dogs. And every once in a while, the little boys get some raw small bites when my partner isn’t looking. Just for fun!
So that’s my feeding evolution. My family does not get all whole foods, all the time, but I am trying to do the best I can and ensure that my pets have the most well rounded diet that I can provide given my current lifestyle.
Families have to have a feeding regime that they can provide consistently. But I encourage you to start adding more whole foods to your pets’ diets, even if it is just a topper on their kibble!!
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