Species Appropriate Pet Food Means…What, Exactly?
Posted by Christina Delzenero on
During a time when so much of our pet food is driven by human trends (keto, low carb, grain-free, etc.), how do you decide what the right food is for your fur family?
“Herbivores have a high ability to extract nutrition from plant matter as the result of their ability to ferment it, and therefore have a high coefficient of fermentation. Carnivores aren’t equipped to do this and therefore have a low coefficient of fermentation.”
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What is Species Inappropriate?
The grains that might be healthy for humans, like starches, potatoes, pumpkins, and vegetable proteins, are causing unnecessary dietary stress and inflammation for your fur families.
Dogs and cats need to work overtime to extract nutrients from plants because they have low coefficients of fermentation. Instead their digestive systems are optimized for extracting nutrients from animal products and lack the sophisticated mechanisms that omnivores have.
- Dogs are facultative carnivores.
- Cats are obligate carnivores.
- Carnivores hunt — they don’t garden!
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My Fur Family Eats Carbs all the Time…
In high school, when I had the choice between a healthy, balanced lunch and a chocolate chip bagel with cream cheese, I almost always chose the bagel option. Dogs and cats are the same way — they find food/treats with carbs to be irresistible. Growing up, our dogs constantly begged for our table scraps and we unknowingly gave it to them (there might’ve been a reason our dogs were horribly obese…).
But the thing is, the way I ate didn’t catch up to me until I was an adult. In my 30s, I struggled with weight, arthritis, and high blood pressure. That was 20 years after my chocolate chip bagel days. Our pets are the same way. Their poor eating habits aren’t necessarily going to manifest as physical issues immediately.
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Dogs — Carnivores — No Really!
Wait, I grew up being taught that dogs are omnivores, what gives?
New research is discovering that dogs may not be as genetically removed from their wolf ancestors as originally believed.
1. Their low coefficient of fermentation means that they really aren’t good at processing nutrients from plants (link).
2. They continue to instinctively exhibit behaviors associated with large carnivores like digging to hide their meals for the future and being able to go a long time between meals (link).
3. Dogs’ teeth are used to tear muscle and crunch bones, not to grind vegetation — just check out those canines (link).
As a result, dogs are classified as facultative carnivores. The dictionary defines facultative as meaning “not restricted to a particular function or mode of life”. Essentially, dogs are carnivores who can survive on a non-carnivorous diet when necessary, but they will not thrive.
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Cats — Obligate Carnivores
Cats — unlike dogs — are understood to be obligate carnivores that require natural prey to thrive.
Research has shown that cats have simple digestive systems that rely on the high digestibility of natural prey (link). They also require a high amount of protein, and use a process called gluconeogenesis (link) to create glucose, instead of acquiring it from carbohydrates in their food.
They are literally restricted to eating other animals to thrive.
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So, What Should I Be Feeding my Fur Family?
Taking the dietary needs of carnivores into account means choosing appropriate food made of high-quality meat, allowing for easy digestion. It also means not falling for marketing that tells you that carnivores should be eating plants because they are “natural” (You know what else is natural? cyanide).
Look for products:
- That don’t use plants for nutrients.
- Have at least 60% animal protein on a dry matter basis.
- Don’t use “meals” (meals = trash, not fit for human consumption).
- That are complete and balanced.
Pets are family, and we want what’s best for them. At Balanced Blends, we’ve opted to make pet food that’s species appropriate.