Monday, March 25, 2013

Introduction to Raw Diets Part II

 Frequently Asked Questions Continued

In the first blog of this series, Introduction to Raw DietsPart One  we addressed some of the more frequently asked questions concerning raw diets. In Raw Diets Part II we answer more questions and delve deeper into raw diet theory, and discuss HPP and the risks and benefits associated with this unique process.

"I'll have what you're having!"
“Where can I buy raw diets?”

You have completed your research and you have decided that it is in the best interest of your pet to start feeding a nutritious, raw diet. Congratulations! You have made a decision that will put your pet on the road to an even healthier, happier lifestyle. But what do you buy, and where do you buy it? We suggest going to an independent pet retailer like Cherrybrook Pet Supplies, one that specializes in natural and holistic foods. Because the sales associates tend to be knowledgeable about raw diets, many of them feed raw diets to their own pets. Ultimately, you want to pick a store that you feel comfortable in and that demonstrates a genuine interest in the well being of your pet. Where you currently shop, do the associates ask you if your pet is doing well on its current food? Do the associates ask if you need assistance or if you have any questions? If not, seek out a store that will, because attentiveness like this will make your raw journey smoother. Stores that are not investing in the care of your pet with you will not keep you up to date with critical information such as a recent recall or a change in formula, and you and your pet deserve better than that.

“Which raw diet should I buy?”

When you are in the pet store of your choice and you find the freezer or row of freezers, take a minute to look at the many different brands and forms of raw diets available to you. Take a look at some of the ingredient labels, and you will begin to notice differences among the brands and varieties. Some brands list many ingredients including large quantities of fruits and vegetables, while other brands have very few ingredients and consist mostly of meat, organ meat, and ground bone. Which one is better? It depends on you and your pet. It is at this time, that you should seek assistance from one of the associates. They will be able to help answer any questions you may have, and hopefully make it easier to decide which raw diet to start with.

When you begin speaking to the associate, ask them any question you have regardless of how silly you think it might be. To feed a raw diet and to have it work best you really need to believe in the product and the philosophy behind it. Here are some questions to ask before proceeding:

·      Is the food made in the US?
·      Are any ingredients sourced from outside the US? If yes, which ingredients and why?
·      Is there a money back guarantee if the food does not work well with my pet?

Don’t be shy about asking questions.  After you have asked the associate your questions about the different brands and forms of raw, the associate should then ask you a series of questions to try and find the best fit for you and your pet. They will likely inquire about the following:

·      The age, breed, weight, and desired weight of your pet.
·      Which food you are currently feeding your pet and what the primary ingredients are.
·      Whether or not your pet has any history of food allergies or sensitivities.
·      Past food transition successes or problems.
·      Any current or ongoing health problems.

These questions are used to start narrowing down the list of possible raw diets to the one or two that will meet the needs of your pet. After you have decided on a brand and variety of raw diet, continue to familiarize yourself with the product and the company who makes it. Many raw manufacturers have excellent websites that contain vast amounts of information as well as common FAQ’s regarding their products. Also, if the first raw diet does not work out with your pet, your pet seems anxious to eat it, or develops an upset stomach, do not be discouraged. Sometimes it is necessary to change proteins or change brands to find the raw diet that will work best with your pet. If your pet does well with the first choice, you can start to experiment with different protein choices and different brands after a stable routine has been established. This variety will help to satiate their appetite and they will receive a well rounded balance of nutrients over time. 

Which food would your pet choose?

 “How do I transition to a raw diet?”

Most pets transition readily to a raw diet. However, transitioning from a kibble or canned food may have potential complications. It is not uncommon for your pet to experience loose stools when starting out on a raw diet. You should keep a close watch on your pet’s stools over the next 2-4 days to assure they return to normal. Your pet may also need to go more frequently in the beginning as its body purges the remaining kibble or canned food. This is normal, and should also cease within a few days. Your pet may also experience other gastrointestinal ailments (sometimes more serious), but this should not deter you. It is also normal for some pets to begin having firmer stools than usual. This is happening because they are absorbing more of the nutrients. Your pet may even have a mix of both firm and loose stools for the first week or two. This is okay; it is their body’s natural response to the new diet. Understand that your pet has been accustomed to digesting highly processed foods for most of its life. With raw, your pet is eating a completely different diet, one that contains many natural vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and enzymes many of which were absent or degraded in their former diet. This can put stress on the body because the previous diet was devoid of many nutrients that are abundant in raw food.

Generally speaking most pets transition to a 100% raw diet between a few days and two weeks. As far as a specific method of transitioning, follow the manufactures guidelines as they know their product best. However, don’t be afraid to deviate from those recommendations if you think your pet will take more or less time to transition based on the previous food transition success or difficulty. Some pets have even switched to raw food cold turkey, no pun intended. You know your pet better than anyone, so if it takes extra time, don’t rush the process and use your intuition to guide you. Your pet’s body will figure out what it takes to digest the new diet properly. After all, it is what their system was designed to eat and thrive on.

 “What if my pet has problems while transitioning?”

 If your pet has had problems transitioning from one food to another in the past, let the associate know as you may experience similar problems while transitioning from kibble to raw. If you tried transitioning to raw and experienced loose stool or other gastro intestinal problems, there is hope. A good digestive supplement added to the food will boost the good bacteria in the GI tract and will make for a more stable environment for the change to occur.  There are many good digestive supplements available today. We happen to like two specifically:

·      1. Wholistic Pet Digest All Plus. This product is organic, and contains an astounding ten billion cfu’s (colony forming units) per quarter teaspoon. This is a highly concentrated digestive supplement, and will do wonders for pets that have trouble during the transition. This supplement can be used year round as preventative maintenance in case your pet happens to ingest something that they shouldn’t have. It will also help to avoid stress related stomach upsets. Furthermore, once you successfully transition your pet to raw and begin to rotate several proteins into their diet, this supplement is a great choice to support digestion of the different proteins while preventing stomach upset from changing the proteins rapidly.

·      2. Earth Animal Healthy Digestion. The Earth Animal line of supplements is formulated by veterinarian Dr. Bob Goldstein who is a specialist in alternative therapies and animal nutrition. This product has a different blend of natural ingredients and helps support an ongoing, healthy digestive system while boosting nutrient absorption.

Both of these products would be beneficial for anyone who suspects their pet may have an issue during the transition to raw, or is experiencing issues first hand. The stress of a new diet can deplete beneficial bacteria and enzymes. These products will begin to reinforce and rebuild what was destroyed.

 “What is HPP and how does it affect me?"

There has been, and continues to be buzz about feeding HPP raw diets and non HPP raw diets. HPP stands for high pressure pasteurization. Many companies producing raw diets are now using this process with their food. Why? This process will make the final product safer than products that do not use the HPP process.  During this process they essentially place large portions of packaged products into a chamber that is filled with cold water. They then seal the chamber and apply between 1-2 atmospheres of pressure around the product. This pressure kills any bacteria or parasites found in the food rendering them harmless. This sounds like it is something that could silence the misinformed critics about the dangers of raw pet foods, but this is only half of the story. While it does kill bad bacteria and parasites that may be found within the food, it also kills good bacteria and beneficial enzymes. The enzymes and good bacteria are the life force within raw diets. It is their ability that helps to bring balance and well being back to your pet again. Why sacrifice the killing of good bacteria and enzymes so the bad bacteria can be killed, when our pets have highly acidic digestive tracts and are naturally equipped to kill bad bacteria and most intestinal parasites on their own?

With that said, there are plenty of people who do feed foods using HPP and they do have compelling reasons for this choice. Raw diets after HPP are much safer for people at risk of illnesses associated with bacteria and parasitic infection. Young children, pregnant mothers, the elderly, and any one with a compromised immune system would benefit from the added security that HPP brings. Also, while it does change the food somewhat, it is still more nutritious than kibble or cans. It does have most of the benefits of non -HPP raw along with added safety benefits. For those people who do feed brands that utilize HPP, we highly recommend using a digestive supplement. These supplements will help to replace what HPP eliminates from the food.

 In Raw Diets Part III, we cover freeze dried raw diets and discuss why it may be a good option to choose if you are interested in feeding a raw diet. We will also discuss how it is made, and the benefits it has over raw frozen diets. Thank you for reading.