They say ‘the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know’ and when it comes to nutrition, this sentiment rings true. Solving the nutrition puzzle for our pets is a complex undertaking and, in my opinion, while we continue to learn, we have yet to completely master it.
Whilst we have a solid comprehension of the specific nutritional requirements for our cats and dogs, we are still understanding the nuanced nature of a truly optimal diet. Yes, we have conquered food as fuel, but the power of nutrition is so much more.
Whilst dietary opinions may differ, there is consensus that the key to solving nutrition in our pets lies in optimizing's their diet to maximize health, longevity, and quality of life for our beloved companions. And, in order to do this, we need to call on two of our greatest assets, both Science and Nature.
If we consider the ancestral feline and canine diet, they would both be classified as carnivorous.
Whilst the domesticated dog has evolved to be able to digest a more omnivorous diet, the domestic cat is still considered a strict or obligate carnivore. For optimal health it is critical we feed our pets a biologically appropriate diet, so for cats that is a diet high in animal meat with very low levels of carbohydrate. Interestingly however, many commercial feline diets can have between 20 – 50% carbohydrate content, which is certainly at odds with their biology and may be a contributing factor to increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in our feline friends. Thankfully, however, we are starting to see more premium offerings from companies such as Feline Natural with their complete diets comprised of 98-99% meat and the dietary carbohydrate content as low as 1%. Whilst our dogs are capable of digesting and utilising carbohydrates, they should be used in moderate amounts with the essential macronutrients of protein and fat making up a significant portion of the diet. Again, many commercial canine diets can over index on the carbohydrate component, some as high as 60%. K9 Natural complete diets however, have a meat inclusion around 90% which is based on the nutritional requirement of our canines. It seems obvious, but providing meals composed as nature intended may just be one piece of the nutrition puzzle solved.
In recent times we have now started to consider that individualizing our pets’ diets might be a critical component in optimizing's their health.
Whilst the general principles of a species’ nutrition are universal; one size does not fit all on a personal level. For example, many dogs have food intolerances or allergies to certain protein sources which if continued to be fed can lead to uncomfortable symptoms and an increased state of inflammation. Identifying and eliminating these potential allergens can be a real challenge for owners with sensitive dogs, especially considering many commercial diets are a blend of a number of protein sources. Now, however, we are recognizing the importance of tailoring nutrition to the individual and their needs. For example, single-source protein foods including highly nutritious organ meats are now readily available for those with food allergies and sensitivities, with companies like K9 Natural and Feline Natural leading the charge.
Importantly, this isn’t to say feeding more than one protein source is a bad thing. Single-source protein foods are great for pets with specific food allergies however, there are a number of benefits to feeding specifically formulated dual-source protein diets such as those from the Feline Natural and K9 Natural range. They can provide more nutrient variation, potentially improve digestibility, reduce the risk of actually developing food allergies and are particularly useful for fussy eaters by providing flavour diversity. It is all about choosing the best suited diet for your individual pets’ needs.
Through science, we have gained knowledge about functional ingredients that provide health benefits beyond meeting basic nutrition.
When consumed, these can help to ensure that our pets don’t just survive but thrive! Some pet foods are now starting to incorporate functional foods in their offerings such as Feline Natural and K9 Natural using Green Lipped Mussels in their complete & balanced ranges. These ingredients are rich in Omega 3 Fatty acids, which provide a myriad of health benefits to our pets’ joints, eyes, coat, brain, immune function, and heart. Another example of this type of nutritional prowess is Green Tripe which, similar to Green Lipped Mussels, confers a range of benefits. The unbleached nutrient-rich lining of a ruminant animal’s stomach is a heavy hitter in promoting gut health, boosting the immune system and assisting to build healthy muscle. It also supports healthy skin and coats. Perhaps most notably, it is utterly irresistible so can be used as a treat or to enhance the flavour of other foods for fussy eaters.
It is all well and good to identify that feeding our pets a high-quality diet as close to what nature intended is optimal, but how do we package that up in a convenient and shelf-stable bundle for pet owners?
Through scientific developments, companies like K9 Natural and Feline Natural have used freeze-drying techniques to lock in the superior nutrient content, bioavailability, and flavour of their premium raw ingredients and package that up in a shelf stable easy to use offering for our cats and dogs. Again, through the use of science, they can test for potential food-borne pathogens in every batch they make reducing the risk of food-borne illness. These scientific developments are what allow us to successfully tap into and harness the genius of nature in a way that suits our modern world.
So, whilst there is always more to learn, it is exciting to know that companies like K9 Natural and Feline Natural are on the right track using both Science and Nature to solve the pet nutrition puzzle and help our canine and feline friends thrive.
Written by Veterinarian, Dr. Josie Gollan.