Cats and Dogs: Vegetarian pet food: Why feed our pets with a diet ?

Raw Food Diets

Ideally, our companions would eat an all raw diet that includes some viscera and bones. Generally, the more raw food you can include in your companion’s diet, the better – but some is better than none. Some guardians choose to feed their companions a ½ raw and ½ dry (dehydrated or kibble) diet; either mixing the two or feeding raw for one meal each day and dry or cooked for the other. It does not have to be complicated – you can feed raw chicken and turkey necks and chicken backs as part or all of a meal several times a week. Raw poultry bones do not splinter, they crunch.

This is a great way to clean teeth, exercise chewing muscles, and provide a natural source of balanced calcium and phosphorus, as well. As always, naturally raised, hormone and antibiotic free or organic meat is best.

Canned food for pets - good friends

Raw bones to dogs

When introducing raw bones to dogs they may experience diarrhea, constipation, or both as their systems adjust. Remember to go slowly and feed small amounts at first. When beginning the introduction of raw bones, it may be helpful to crush them with a hammer or in a meat grinder until your dog becomes fully transitioned to a raw diet. For cats bones should always be ground.

If your companion has a delicate digestive system, consider grinding meat and bones through a 1/4 inch blade before feeding. Ground bones do not have the same teeth cleaning benefits as whole bones, however. You may also see similar symptoms as your companion's system goes through a detoxification process during the transition to a healthier diet. Again, the key is to go slowly and persevere. In the long run, your companion's increased health and vitality will be the ultimate reward.

Obvious precautions should be taken when feeding raw meat
– wash hands thoroughly after handling the raw meat. Thaw meat in the refrigerator, not sitting on the counter at room temperature. Warm water can be used to thaw or warm the food after it has been mostly thawed in the refrigerator. Do not microwave raw food as the live enzymes are damaged and bones will harden even in just 30 seconds of micro waving.

We do recommend avoiding pork as it has been shown to be a source of Trichinella. If you are concerned about bacteria, you can rinse it with several drops of food grade hydrogen peroxide in a sink of water or 1/2 teaspoon liquid grapefruit seed extract in a sink of water to help kill bacteria on the surface.
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Pet Vegetarian Food: Transitioning to Raw Food

Canned food for pets - good friends
It is best to introduce raw food slowly into your companion’s diet over the course of two weeks. If your companion is used to having food available throughout the day, first transition him or her to eating only once or twice per day for dogs, and two to three times per day for cats before beginning the transition to raw food. Consider transitioning fully to raw in the beginning even if you ultimately intend to feed a mix of raw and cooked or dry. This will give your companion’s digestive system the optimal environment for generating healthy enzymes and flora.

Start with 1 teaspoon for small dogs and cats and 1 tablespoon for larger dogs for three days or so. Then increase to 2 teaspoons or tablespoons for several days, decreasing the amount of regular food by ¼ to ½ in general proportion to the raw. Work up to replacing at least ½ the normal diet for several days. Finally replace one full meal with raw for a day or two, then fully transition to raw.

We recommend supplementing with digestive enzymes and probiotics
for at least the first two weeks to help your companion’s natural digestive processes kick back in after eating cooked foods for so long. If your animal is resistant to the raw food at first, you may want to use a bit of canned raw food to entice them. Cats, in particular, can be resistant to a change in diet.

They tend to fixate on whatever food they are weaned onto and will resist switching to a healthier diet. We have found that grinding or shredding their favorite treat on top of the raw food can help. Halo’s Liv-A-Littles or Whole Life Dehydrated Meat Treats work well for this. Cats will most likely take some persistence on your part, but it is well worth it for the health of your companion
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If you decide to put your pet on a vegetarian diet, two important factors need to be considered:

Am I prepared to do it properly?

Eliminating meat or all animal products from the diets of dogs and cats to meet one’s personal philosophy, regardless how well intentioned, may not be the correct choice if it is not done properly and potentially compromises the health of the pet itself.

Pet Vegetarian food: Will the diet meet the nutritional needs of the pet?

Many homemade recipes, including those found in some books and magazines, may be seriously incomplete or unbalanced. Ask yourself whether they have been shown by scientific testing to meet the nutritional needs of dogs and cats. For commercial products, check the label for an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement as required for all "complete" and "balanced" pet foods.

The label may say that the product "is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog (or Cat) Food Nutrient Profiles." However, since palatability and bioavailability of nutrients are of concern, look for product labels that bear the statement that "Animal feeding tests following AAFCO procedures substantiate that (the product) is complete and balanced."

After a month or two on the diet, and occasionally thereafter, try to objectively assess the performance of the diet compared to your pet’s previous food. Has the pet lost or gained weight with the vegetarian diets? Is it enjoying its vegetarian pet food? How’s its skin and coat? Energy levels? Stool volume and consistency? Ask your veterinarian for an examination and professional opinion going to 1-800-PetMeds on your dog’s or cat’s health status. (You may like to consult one of the vegetarian-friendly vets listed on their Doctors and Naturopaths page.)
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