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Transitioning Your Cat to Raw

Cats are obligate carnivores. This is a statement you may have heard once or twice at the Barkery. This means their diets should consist of almost entirely meat. In nature, cats don’t eat grains or carbs of any kind. Many grain-free foods are substituted with starches, which are just as bad but allow pet food companies to market as “grain-free.”

Our furry feline friends evolved from big desert cats which adjusted to staying hydrated from fresh meat of their prey rather than drinking water. Raw food is the best diet you can feed your cat, but many cat owners struggle to make the transition from dry food to raw.

Cats who have eaten nothing but dry foods are often a challenge to switch to fresh food. They are very opinionated and imprint on food at an early age. Cats who already eat other foods (real meat, fruits, vegetables, & cheese) will be much less of a project. It might take days, or even months, but it’s worth the effort! The most important thing to remember with cats is that you CANNOT use the tough love approach. Cats will starve themselves, and some severe conditions can occur if cats don’t eat for an extended period.

This article from Steve’s Real Food will explain best practices for transitioning your cat to raw.

The “Slow and Successful Method”

If you are feeding only dry kibble, introduce canned and reduce the dry. Have specific meal times rather than leaving the food out for them to eat whenever they want. If they are hungry, they are more willing to try something new.

Take some raw food and mix in the regular canned food you know your cat will eat. Test it on your kitty and increase the canned food until they are willing to eat it. Every time you feed, do this, and you will find you can gradually add more raw – though it may take several months. In the meantime offer bits of other kinds of fresh foods they like to eat – bacon, goat milk, salmon, etc. This slow method has proven to be the most successful for cats. However, if you have a cat that needs a little more work, consider the following tricks (in no particular order):

  • Expect it to take awhile. Fully transitioning a cat can take anywhere from a week to a year.
  • Stop leaving the kibble out to eat whenever they want. Have mealtimes, so they can start getting hungry enough to be willing to branch out.
  • Leave raw (or canned as a transition step) out for them all the time to try, but only offer kibble during their specified meal times. If they want a snack, they have to try the raw or canned.
  • Don’t just take away their kibble and play hardball, thinking that once they get hungry enough they will eat. Cats can starve themselves or go into shock that can turn fatal before they dare try something new, so this is not a good idea.
  • Have one meal available as kibble and one as raw, to see if they will be hungry enough without it getting dangerous.
  • Try different proteins to see if they like chicken over beef, etc.
  • Take freeze-dried raw food and hide it around the house, or put it in places the cat is not usually allowed. Cats like to feel that they have pulled one over on you, and they like to hunt.
  • Place the food in their usual feeding spot, or some other place they consider safe or theirs, like their bed or by their cat toys.
  • Take a stopper and (kindly) force a bit of raw meat into their mouth. Sometimes cats will try it once you have jolted their taste buds.
  • Tie a freeze-dried nugget to a cat toy and make them play with it. That gets them to put their mouth to it.
  • Mix in a tiny crumbly bit of freeze-dried product in with their regular kibble – not enough that they’ll notice, but enough that they can’t work around it. Once they have started eating it as a nuisance, slowly increase and make sure they are still eating their food.
  • Warm the food in a container with warm water. Cats like food to be at a warmer temperature, and it releases the smell.
  • Use a flat food dish, or a bowl that takes the span of whiskers into account. Cats don’t like their whiskers touching the side of their bowl.
  • Mix in raw freeze-dried with some goat milk and wet food, as little as the cat needs to still be interested in eating. Slowly decrease the amount of wet food. Often you can have a larger percentage of raw or freeze-dried if you place a small spoonful of unmixed wet food on the edge of the food, the cat will eat what they like and then just keep going in to the mixed food.
  • Offer other types of fresh food and meats to help them recognize they don’t have to eat just kibble. Let them eat other foods off of your plate such as salmon, bacon, chicken, or creamy milk products – you could even try putting a nugget of raw on your plate to trick them into thinking they have pulled one over on you by stealing it.
  • Re-hydrate the freeze-dried with something tasty like tuna juice, or beef or chicken broth.
  • Put some raw food onto their paws. They hate having dirty paws, and will try to lick them clean, and you have successfully gotten them to taste a little and realize it’s yummy!

You will begin to see improvements right away as your cat begins to receive digestive enzymes and a species appropriate diet. Be patient, your efforts will pay off as you extend the life and vitality of your feline companions!

Reasons You Should Supplement Raw Goat’s Milk

For those that don’t know, goat’s milk has been hailed as one of the most complete, natural food sources known to man. Raw, unpasteurized goat milk is full of vital nutrients, enzymes, vitamins, electrolytes, protein and fatty acids, and it’s more digestible than cow’s milk.

Not only is it safe to give your dog or cat goat’s milk, it’s also incredibly good for them. Even dogs who have a hard time digesting diary products derived from cow’s milk can do extremely well on unpasteurized goat’s milk.

Here are just a few reasons why you should supplement your dog or cat’s diet with goat’s milk:

1. It’s Great for Digestion

Raw goat’s milk is perfect for dogs who suffer any number of digestive issues. Some dogs just have sensitive stomachs, or aren’t able to properly digest food. This can mean gas and loose stools on a regular basis. Goat’s milk is full of natural probiotics, which strengthens your dog’s gut by repopulating the bad bacteria with good bacteria. This makes it invaluable for dogs with sensitive digestive tracts, and also for dogs that have been subjected to various antibiotics.

2. It’s an Immune Booster

By strengthening your dog or cat’s gut, you’re also strengthening the immune system. By virtue of the amount of vitamins, trace minerals, enzymes, and fatty acids, the overall health of your dog is greatly enhanced. Raw goat’s milk has been shown to help fight common ailments such as kidney issues, cancers, liver disease, diabetes, colitis, IBS, heart disease, ulcers, and various brain and nervous system disorders.

Whether you’re feeding a raw, cooked, or kibble diet, supplementing raw goat’s milk can help your best friend to be healthier and happier.

3. It Alleviates Allergies and Itching

The probiotics in raw goat’s milk fight off yeast. It also contains high levels of caprylic acid, which is a natural yeast destroyer. Believe it or not, dogs can get yeast infections in their ears and other parts of the body, including their paws. Your dog’s paw or ear itching could very well be from yeast or allergies, and goat’s milk can help stop the itching once and for all.

4. It Relieves Arthritis Symptoms and Joint Pain

The same enzymes that help with digestion are a natural anti-inflammatory, and can  help with pain in the joints. It also helps improve circulation, which can reduce or eliminate arthritis symptoms.

Other research has shown that carotene found in the milk can also prevent cancer, while the fat known as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is believed to shrink cancerous tumors in some cases.

How to Feed Goat’s Milk

Most animals can’t get enough of goat’s milk, so give it a try even if you have a picky eater on your hands. When you’re feeding goat’s milk, make sure you’re adding it to a good, healthy diet. Although goat’s milk is a great benefit to your dog’s health, alone it won’t carry enough nutrients to help your dog thrive on its own. Pouring milk over your dog’s meal is the easiest way to supplement, whether you’re feeding raw, dehydrated, kibble or wet food.

The Barkery carries a variety of goat’s milk options. Stop in and ask a nutritionist how goat’s milk can help your pet today!

For more on goat’s milk, visit Dogs Naturally.

 

3 Big Nutrition Messages for Cat Guardians

Sadly, estimates are that over half of kitty companions over the age of 10 suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD), which is also referred to as chronic renal disease or chronic renal failure. There are many causes of CKD in cats, but one of the most common and preventable influences is a dry food diet.

Cats are designed to meet most or all of their body’s moisture requirements through their diet, not at the water bowl, so they don’t have the desire to drink water the same way other species do. Kibble provides a very small percentage of the water cats need in a daily diet.

Kitties fed an exclusively dry diet suffer chronic mild dehydration that causes significant stress to kidneys over time. As Dr. Lisa Pierson, a feline-only practitioner and cat nutrition expert, writes at her fabulous CatInfo.org website, “It is troubling to think about the role that chronic dehydration may play in causing or exacerbating feline kidney disease.”

Dr. Pierson’s Big Three Nutrition Messages for Cat Guardians

Dr. Pierson realizes that feline nutrition can be overwhelming for cat guardians, and tries to keep things simple. Her recommendations are based on what a cat would eat in the wild – a mouse, bird, lizard, or some other small animal.

  1. Feed a diet that’s high in moisture.
    Dry food (kibble) is cooked to only maintain 5-10% moisture, whereas a bird or mouse is around 70% moisture. When a cat is fed a dry food, they don’t make up that deficit at the water bowl.
    Now, many people say, “but my cat drinks a lot of water.” Studies of cats on all-canned food diets vs all-dry food diets show that cats eating canned food (which has a very high water content) rarely went to the water bowl, yet they consumed double the amount of moisture as cats eating kibble. The kibble fed cats did not demonstrate a high enough thirst drive to make up the water deficit at the water bowl. A water-rich diet, like canned or raw food, is the first key to a healthy diet.
  2. Feed your cat a diet that’s animal-protein rich.
    Cats are obligate carnivores, and must get their dietary protein from animals, not plants. When we look at a can of cat food, we want to see that the protein is coming from animals – chicken, beef, etc. – and not from plants like corn, wheat, soy, or rice.
  3. Avoid carbohydrates.
    Cats aren’t designed to eat carbohydrates. A bird or a mouse is a very high-protein, moderate-fat meal, with maybe a percent or two of carbs on a dry matter basis. So diets containing more carbs aren’t appropriate for cats.

It’s also important to remember that although high-protein, low carb dry cat foods are flooding the market these days, they are inappropriate diets for cats because they’re water depleted. Many cats suffer from Urinary Tract Disease, and it is caused by urethral obstructions from a water-depleted diet. Cats on water-rich diets can develop UTIs as well, but it’s extremely rare.

What’s the Scoop on Prescription Diets?

Once a cat is diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, many veterinarians recommend a prescription “renal diet,” many of which are dry kibble. These formulas do not meet the dietary hydration requirements of cats, especially kitties who are losing large amounts of water due to worn out kidneys.

“I must say that I find it truly amazing when I hear about the very large numbers of cats receiving subcutaneous fluids while being maintained on a diet of dry food,” writes Pierson. “This is an extremely illogical and unhealthy practice and every attempt should be made to get these cats on a diet that contains a higher moisture content.”

Prescription renal diets also typically have reduced levels of protein, which is not ideal for cats, who are obligate (strict) carnivores requiring high levels of quality animal protein for optimal health. According to Pierson:

“Renal diets restrict protein to the point that many cats – those that are not consuming enough of the diet to provide their daily protein calorie needs – will catabolize (use for fuel) their own muscle mass which results in muscle wasting and weight loss.”

Pierson also points out that interestingly, there’s no FDA oversight of prescription pet diets. They oversee drugs, but these diets are marketed as “prescription,” when there’s nothing in them that requires a prescription. Clinical trials aren’t performed before these foods go on the market, and could be formulated in a far healthier manner if these “prescriptions” underwent much closer scrutiny.

Why Veterinarians Recommend Prescription Diets

Dr. Pierson focuses on helping cat owners formulate diets that are customized to that cat’s individual needs. She says that it’s extremely common that people are hesitant to feed a wet food rather than the “prescription” food another veterinarian recommends. Her clients are commonly led to believe that the only diet option for a kidney sensitive kitty is a prescription diet.

Pierson says that unfortunately, veterinarians are extremely busy trying to keep up with their continuing education, and nutrition is typically not very interesting to most of them. It’s much easier for a vet with a feline kidney patient to simply grab the “prescription” diet off the shelf. There isn’t a lot of critical thought going into nutrition for pets.

Switching Your Cat to a Better Diet

The transition to wet or raw food from kibble can be surprisingly difficult. Cats that have eaten dry food for most of their lives can become addicted to it. And cats, unlike dogs, will literally starve themselves if you aren’t feeding what they prefer.ca

Dr. Pierson refers her clients to the page on her website called Transitioning Dry Food Addicts to Canned Food. She encourages cat guardians to have patience, as it took her three months to get her own kibble addicts to switch to canned food.

If you’re first getting started, try a variety of proteins and textures in wet food. See if you can get your cat to respond positively to one or more, and gradually transition to an all-wet diet. And remember – patience, patience, and more patience!

 

Why Your Cat Doesn’t Want to Be Held

According to the most recent estimates, over 47 percent of US households include at least one cat, and the total number of pet cats is over 94 million. That means nearly half the families in the US are sharing living space with an animal whose behavior can, at times, seem impossible to interpret. If you have a cat at home, you’ve probably scratched your head a few times at his or her behavior. If so, you might find Dr. Becker’s answers to common cat parent questions helpful.

Why Does My Cat Seem to Avoid Eye Contact With Me?

Looking one another directly in the eye is a type of human greeting that doesn’t come as naturally to other species. Have you ever wondered why cats seem to gravitate toward the only people in the room that don’t like them? It’s probably because those people aren’t looking at them!

Gazing directly into the eyes of another creature may be considered a way of asserting dominance, so it’s possible your kitty feels threatened by prolonged eye-to-eye contact.

Every kitty is different, but as a general rule, once a cat is settled into a new household and is given consistent care and a dependable daily routine, he’ll learn to trust and bond with at least one family member. On the flip side are cats who follow their people around, demanding attention in the form of eye contact and petting.

If your kitty isn’t confident or comfortable in his environment, staring at him can make him feel anxious. A better approach is to glance away when a cat meets your gaze to show that you aren’t a threat.

Why Does My Cat Blink Slowly at Me?

Has your cat every done the slow blink with you where she looks at you, blinks in slow motion and then (sometimes) looks away? Interestingly, just as a voiding direct eye contact is normal for cats, so is the slow blink.

“Cat Daddy” Jackson Galaxy calls this the “I Love You Blink.” It’s a slow, intentional blink, and it’s your one and only way to meet your kitty at the “communicative fence.” According to Jackson, when your cat closes her eyes in your presence, she’s saying, “I allow myself to be vulnerable to you, a potential predator.”

To share the “I Love You Blink” with your cat, look at her with your eyes open, close, then slowly open. This is your way of telling your cat that you love her with your eyes. You’ll notice that your cat will return the slow blink to you.

Why Does My Cat Seem to Hate Being Held?

Cats are natural predators, but they’re also prey. Predators restrain prey animals, which is why your kitty needs to maintain his ability to move freely and escape. It’s also why your cat may feel stressed when you hold him, even though you’re being affectionate.

Cats like to have all interactions on their own terms, so it’s best to let your kitty come to you. Of course, some cats love to be cuddled, but many do not, and can only tolerate it for brief periods.

The right way to pick up an agreeable cat is with one hand under the chest and other supporting the back legs. Hold him gently against your upper body so he feels secure. If he pushes away, looks toward the door, flattens his ears or twitches is tail, that’s your cue to put him down quickly and gently.

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The Secret to a Happier, Healthier, Longer-Lived Pet

We Are What We Eat: Good Food Is the Foundation for Good Health

Dr. Susan Klein, a veterinarian based in Colorado, spent several years in a conventional veterinary practice after graduating from Colorado State University. She now runs Alpine Meadows Animal Clinic, an integrative practice in the Vail Valley.

Dr. Klein’s passion for nutrition started about 15 years ago with a patient who had severe, chronic gastrointestinal (GI) problems. Her patient’s condition prompted her to begin investigating commercial pet food, since she had received no useful nutrition training in vet school.

One of Dr. Klein’s first adventures in nutrition was learning just how important a species-appropriate, real food diet is. She quickly learned that this is the foundation of good health.

If You’re Upgrading Your Pet’s Diet, the Change Should Be Gradual

For an animal that is sensitive (GI tracts, skin, or other sensitivities), switching the diet to raw will take some time. Starting with a grain-free and potato-free kibble is the first step before adding in some cooked foods that are easy to digest. Gradually work toward less cooking of the food, understanding that a pet who is in an extreme state of sympathetic nervous system stimulation may have a difficult time with a raw diet.

It’s important to understand that if you or your pet can’t seem to tolerate a diet of fresh, whole foods, there’s a problem in the body. The answers as to “why” can be found in nutrigenomics, but it’s a fairly new concept and interested veterinarians are trying to learn it on the fly.

Most Treatment Protocols Should Start With a Food Change

In her practice, Dr. Klein has to learn which patients need to make dietary changes in baby steps, and which can make faster transitions. She usually begins a patient’s treatment protocol with a food change. Many veterinarians, especially conventional practitioners, never address the diet at all.

No number of supplements or probiotics will be effective if the diet is not also addressed. Supplements are not bad, but should be used for specific reasons. Feeding your furry companion, a diet that creates disease in his body and then trying to fix the problem with supplements is not a good approach.

How Pet Food Creates Disease

Dr. Klein explains to us how commercial pet food can create diseases. From a nutrigenomics perspective, everything in the body runs on a protein-based metabolism. This means it’s very important that the body is taking in proteins it can recognize and use in an efficient manner.

Dr. Klein tells mentions that commercial pet food is sourced from ingredients unfit for human consumption, including remains of dead, dying, diseased, and disabled animals. The process involved in making the average dry pet food involves heating ingredients at high temperatures, which causes the core nutrients to be destroyed. They are then added back in synthetically, and they are foreign to pets’ bodies.

The food is then dried, pressed into cute shapes, and placed in bags with shelf lives up to two years. From a nutritional perspective, there is nothing living in that food anymore, but we’re putting it into living bodies. If we want to transcribe for healthy genes, we have to have healthy, live proteins.

Pet food contains a number of byproducts as a result of the manufacturing process. The most significant is advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Simply put, this means there’s way too much sugar in the food that is coating the proteins in the in the food in such a way that the body doesn’t recognize it as a food source. It also coats the tissues of the body such that the immune system doesn’t recognize them, and we start down the path of autoimmune disease and cancer.

Pet Parents Must Continue to Push for Change

The veterinary profession is the only healthcare profession that advocates feeding entirely processed foods versus fresh foods. Veterinarians are also the only healthcare profession with practitioners that tell clients fresh food could be risky and harmful to animal companions.

Because this information is difficult to replicate in a research setting, it is unlikely it will be taught in vet school, because where would the funding come from? This is why pet parents should be the ones to push for change. If it’s good for human’s, why isn’t it good for pets?

Good Food Is Good Medicine! Pass It On!

The bad news is that most people rely 100 percent on what their veterinarian tells them. When it comes to nutrition, misinformation about processed pet food will be perpetuated. In addition, there’s a lot of money being made by the processed pet food industry.

For the foreseeable future, it looks as though information about the importance of a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet will have to continue to travel by word of mouth from people who have experienced the tremendous healing of fresh, whole food.

Click here to watch Dr. Becker and Dr. Klein’s full discussion on nutrigenomics.

Transitioning your cat to a new food: How to do it right!

There are lots of reasons you may desire or even need to change your cat’s food. Your cat may have developed a medical problem for which a special diet is recommended. You may not be able to obtain the food your cat has been eating any longer. Or you may simply want to change your cat to a higher quality food.

Whatever the reason for the change, transitioning a cat to a new food must be done carefully. If your cat is not particularly finicky and will eat anything, you should consider yourself lucky. If that’s the case, the transition will be relatively simple.

Importance of Gradually Changing Your Cat’s Food

If possible, your cat should be transitioned slowly from one food to another. Sudden changes in your cat’s diet can cause gastrointestinal upset and may result in diarrhea, vomiting, and even a reduced appetite for your cat.

Ideally, you should plan on taking at least a week to transition your cat from one food to another. If your cat is not finicky, start by adding a small amount of the new food in with old food. Gradually increase the amount of the new food and decrease the old food by a similar amount each day. Be sure your cat is eating the food. If the transition goes smoothly, you should be feeding only the new food at the end of a week.

Never try to starve your cat into eating a new diet. Cats that do not eat regularly can develop hepatic lipidosis, a health condition that can become life-threatening. If your cat goes longer than 24 hours without ingesting any food, you should be concerned. Cats that are eating an insufficient amount of food may take longer to become ill but can still develop hepatic lipidosis within a few days.

If your cat is finicky and refuses to accept the new food, you’ll need to start by feeding scheduled meals rather than feeding your cat free-choice. You should plan on feeding your cat a meal two to three times daily and removing any uneaten food after 20-30 minutes. Start this process while still feeding the old diet.

Once your cat is eating meals on a schedule, try mixing a small quantity of the new food in with old. Do not offer your cat more in one meal than he would normally eat in the 20-30 minutes during which the food is offered. Hopefully, your cat will be hungry enough to accept the new mixture. If successful, continue to increase the quantity of new food while simultaneously decreasing the quantity of the old food each day.

Go slow with the transition. This process may take much longer than a week, depending on your individual cat. If you go too fast (i.e., giving more new food and less old food), your cat may refuse the new mixture. If you need to feed the same mixture of foods without change for several consecutive days before increasing the quantity of the new food, do so.

Transitioning from Dry to Wet Cat Food

Transitioning a cat from a dry food to a wet food can be especially problematic. The taste and texture of the two types of food are quite different and many cats will find their new food quite strange. There are some tricks you can try to make the transition easier and the food more palatable. Try sprinkling the kibbles on top of the wet food until your cat is used to the smell of the wet food underneath. Then you can try mixing the dry food into the wet food. You can also try grinding some of the dry food into a powder and mixing it into the wet food to add flavor and make the food more palatable.

For cats that need to be transitioned from dry food to wet food quickly due to medical issues, adding a small quantity of Fortiflora, a probiotic, to the wet food can help improve the palatability. Warming the wet food to near body temperature can also help improve the palatability.

Watch your cat’s weight carefully during any food transition. If your cat loses weight or refuses to eat during the transition, consult your veterinarian for advice.

From PetMD