As humans, we understand why we should be eating a fresh diet and less processed food. But what about our pets?
Our own diets have evolved over the last couple of decades to include healthier ingredients, while our pets are still consuming “kibble,” the little brown kernels in fancy packaging, full of ingredients that we can’t pronounce. The front of the package of pet food often pictures a colorful cornucopia of fresh meats, vegetables and grains before that fresh food becomes processed into kibble. When you look inside the bag, the picture is very different.
Have you ever wondered why pets like it so much when you top off their dry food with something from your own dinner? Not only does it taste better, but their bodies crave that fresh food. So, aside from our basic understanding of why fresh food is best for any living body, here are some of the benefits of a less-processed diet for our pets.
Overly processed diets can be difficult for a pet’s digestive system to break down and extract nutrients. This means that a lot of the food goes in one end and out the other without the body absorbing all of the vitamins and minerals it needs. Fresh ingredients are more digestible, which enables the pet’s body to generate more energy from the food they’re eating. This gives the pet more readily available energy to use when needed instead of spending so much time trying to break down and make sense out of the processed foods.
Shiny coats and healthy skin
If your pet suffers from allergies or itchy skin, feeding a less-processed diet can reduce the likelihood of an allergic reaction to ingredients such as artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. In addition, nutrients found in less-processed, less-heated and altered pet foods have a greater likelihood of maintaining their efficacy than their synthetic counterparts, present in most dry pet foods. Better absorption of nutrients leads to healthier immune function, resulting in improved vitality and appearance.
Less waste, better digestion
Processed pet foods, especially the low quality, grocery store variety, add much more fiber than is necessary. Low-cost fillers like rice, wheat, corn, soy and potatoes make pet food less expensive. Some fiber can be a good thing, but, when there is too much in a pet’s food, it is likely coming out the other end of your pet without being used, leaving your pet unsatisfied. The result is a higher volume of stool output and less actual nutrition. Aside from better satisfying hunger, a fresher diet will result in smaller stool volume, leading to easier pick-ups in the backyard or litter box. Remember, just because a food claims to be complete and balanced does not mean all of the ingredients are being used by your pet’s body. If a food is producing too much waste, where is the savings for the consumer?
Better overall health and longevity
Most pet owners are conscious of the cost involved in caring for a pet. One way to trim back is to cut corners on the cost of feeding a pet. This is counterintuitive. In reality, the best way to keep a pet healthy is to put the best “fuel” into them from the very beginning. We wouldn’t think of buying a new car and putting poor quality gasoline in the tank, expecting it will run efficiently for years. The old adage holds true: We always get what we pay for. Dry food in a bag is not the best diet for any living creature.
Luckily, the pet food industry has evolved with the thinking that fresher is better. There are a growing number of alternatives to dry food on the market. Dehydrated, freeze-dried, fresh and raw diets have been available for more than a decade and are in growing demand as consumers become educated about the benefits of less processed pet foods. This doesn’t mean we must go all-or-nothing into the fresh food world. For instance, replacing 50 percent of a pet’s diet with appropriate, less processed foods can make a dramatic difference in their health. If that is the case, our pets will look and feel better, making trips to the vet less frequent. And that is where we really save money.
Kristen Zellner is the owner of Abrams & Weakley General Store for Animals, 3963 N. 6th St., Harrisburg. To learn more, visit www.abramsandweakley.com or call 717-232-3963.