The Dangers of a Dry Diet

Why is it that the top medical professionals in the world recommend a diet rich with fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods while the veterinarian community is one of the last groups of health and wellness professionals suggesting just the opposite? Traditional vets are taught to only recommend highly processed foods for the animals entire life. To never promote fresh foods as a means of a healthy life. But cats and dogs have NEVER eaten this way. Until now.

The domestic cat, Felis catus, has been in existence for over 4,000 years and you’re trying to tell me that their biological requirements have changed so much within the past 100 years since kibble has been invented that they can ONLY eat the same flavor of starch balls for every meal for every day of their entire life?

I’m sure.


Cats have evolved eating a diet primarily of small rodents, birds, and some insects. Therefore, their diet is mostly meat, bone, organ, and whatever was in their prey stomach, mostly consisting of small amounts of pre-digested starches. Most importantly for today’s house cats, this prey had a natural moisture content of 60-70%. It is logical to assume then, to maintain proper organ function, and optimum health, that the food we feed our pets should be around 60-70% moisture.


Dry food has a maximum moisture content of 12%.



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Not only do dry cat foods have extremely low moisture content, but they are extremely high in carbohydrates. Compared to a raw diet, which is almost no carbohydrates, its no wonder why 1 in 2 cats in the U.S. suffer from obesity.

If there is one thing that could prevent a multitude of ailments for your cat in the long run, providing a moisture rich diet is one of them.

Here is just a short list of ailments that can be eased by pumping up the moisture:

  • Obesity

  • IBD

  • Periodontal Disease

  • Hairballs

  • Urinary Tract Infections

  • Kidney Stones

  • Crystals

  • Chronic Vomiting

  • Kidney Failure

Cats are desert animals. Thriving on a meat-based diet, they naturally have a low-thirst drive. As there was little evolutionary pressure to develop such a drive, cats that do not receive this moisture in their food are therefore chronically dehydrated. Cats on a dry diet will consume half the amount of water as those on a wet or raw diet. The amount of water that needs to be ingested to make up for that loss in hydration is 7-9 ounces per day.

It takes a cat 2,200 licks to drink just 2 ounces of water.



Urinary tract problems are some of the most prevalent issues facing chronically dehydrated cats. They are painful, sometimes hard to diagnose early on, and can be life threatening if left undiagnosed. Cats fed a low moisture diet forces the kidneys to concentrate urine to retain as much moisture as possible for proper hydration of the body. This concentrated urine contains minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and ammonium, the components in struvite crystals. Crystals can build up in the urinary tract causing pain, discomfort, and eventually, blockages.

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The urinary tract designed dry foods you see on the shelf are one of the most harmful marketing ploys conducted by a major institution facing cats today. These foods have added acidifiers to decrease the pH of the urine (DL-methionine or ammonium chloride). Also, the amount of magnesium is reduced in the hope that struvite crystals won’t be able to form without it. Besides the fact that this will increase the chances of calcium oxalate stones forming, magnesium is critical for forming bones, teeth, and other metabolic processes.

Having a male cat, I also feel obliged to point out that male cats are prone to urinary tract issues due to the small diameter of their urethras. Fortunately, balanced raw diets provide a natural pH of 6.5 without compromising on magnesium.

Not only are urinary tract problems something to splash about, but 70% of cats will develop periodontal disease by the age of 3. If kibble “cleans their teeth” then I am throwing away my toothbrush and my floss and binging this bag of cheetos. High levels of simple sugars provide easy dinner for biofilm-forming bacteria causing plaque and eventually, tartar. Dental cleaning under anesthesia or tooth pulling have become the norm. Am I to assume that cats went to the dentist once a year for a check up before kibible was invented?


Cats are obligate carnivores, and should be treated as such. A diet high in moisture is more than crucial for a healthy lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, a commercial raw diet is 150% cheaper than an all human-grade canned food diet (calculations made with specific natural brands for a 10 lb cat - message me for deets). The smallest amount counts. More info to come regarding the deets of an affordable raw diet!





Disclaimer: This post is meant to educate on the topic of cat nutritional requirements. This is not intended to offend or belittle pet owners that feed a dry or lower quality food. Whatever is within your means is good enough! There are many ways to make small improvements in your cats nutrition! If your limits are extreme but you would still like to make a difference, feel free to contact me or your local integrative veterinarian.

What Are Enzymes and Why Should You Care?

*Flashback to 8th grade science class*

One of the biggest components in digestion are enzymes.

Enzymes are large chains of amino acids that speed up the rate of chemical reactions within the body. They are especially important in metabolism and digestion as they are the only substance that can digest food small enough to pass through the gastrointestinal wall so the body can use it.

You are probably familiar with a lot of them already! Lipases break down fats, proteases breakdown protein, and carbohydrases break down starches and sugars. No matter what we eat, enzymes are there to help us through (sorry about that WHOLE PIZZA last night, gut).

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There are three kinds of enzymes

  1. Food enzymes: occur naturally in foods. They basically give you a head start

  2. Digestive enzymes: produced by the body to break food particles apart small enough to be usable

  3. Metabolic enzymes: produced by the body for biochemical reactions (go cells, go!)

Now.. here’s the thing:

Enzymes are deactivated or destroyed at temperatures above 118 to 170 degrees F.

(In reality, it is actually the physical shape of the enzyme that changes with the change of bonds promoted by the increase in energy (heat). This changes that puzzle piece rendering it non-functional.)

All kibble and canned food is cooked at or above this temperature range. Extruded kibble is a whopping 500 degrees!

There are no enzymes in processed cat and dog foods.

This is what made me set on raw feeding.

This processing creates a deficiency for some amino acids AND forces the digestive enzymes to do all the work, putting strain on the pancreas to make essential amino acids and other enzymes. This can lead to inflammation of the pancreas, pancreatitis. Improper diet such as a kibble high in starch already creates a low-grade chronic inflammatory response and poor gut health.

With inhibited ability to properly absorb nutrients through the gut wall, how can one attempt to thrive? To heal?

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pH Matters

A meat based diet stimulates chemoreceptors in the stomach to release the gastric juices keeping the stomach environment around 1-2 pH. Digestive enzymes function better within this range meaning you get more nutrients from the food! When a high carbohydrate meal is introduced, these receptors aren’t stimulated and do not produce that acidic environment. The food/acid mix that leaves the stomach is known as chyme, and triggers another response in the small intestine for the flow of pancreatic enzymes continuing the digestive process. This snowball effect is essential in your cats efficient digestion process. Improper pH from the start can impair absorption throughout the whole process!

 

It is also important to note that not all processing is created equal.

In an effort to combat bacterial contamination, many raw companies have initiated the use of High Pressure Pasteurization (HPP). During this process, high hydrostatic pressure (think, surrounded by a ton of water) is uniformily applied to all sides of the product. The process successfully eliminates pathogenic microbes including Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli. Depending on the amount of pressure, research has demonstrated that enzymes denature and good bacteria can be destroyed during this process. HPP-adulterated food is essentially sterile; void of natural bacteria essential for a healthy gut microbiome. Your cat has the ability to consume “bad bacteria” without any issues for the most part (count how many times your kitty licks his butt every day). Bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli already exist within their digestive tracts aiding in digestion. High Pressure Pasteurized food is an adulteration to the naturally occuring enzymes and bacteria present in the food. Contrary to popular belief, unadulterated raw pet food is safer than canned food and kibble when it comes to contamination. More to come on this topic!

It is important to note that HPP is not always the enemy. HPP raw food is a great place to start if you are hesitant about the safety of raw food or your household contains immunocompromised individuals (very young, very old, and the sick). Although, I would not worry about any contamination through feeding a raw diet as long as you are exhibiting safe food handling and sourcing your food from organic, human grade ingredients.


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Evidence of an enzyme deficiency include chronic inflammation, indigestion, leaky gut, and inflammatory bowel disease. On a more day to day basis, common signs include digestive upset, gas, diarrhea, bloating, and excess fat or grease in stool. If you have a young animal, you may not notice any change in vitality immediately upon switching to raw. Conversely, elderly animals’ ability to secrete enzymes gradually reduces. Therefore, adding fresh, whole foods into the diet will be extremely beneficial, to the point of immediate improvement.

What are some ways to get me more enzymes?

I’m so glad you asked!

  1. Eat a fresh, raw, whole foods diet!

  2. Add a digestive enzyme supplement, I like this one!

  3. Use non-HPP foods (or rotate between HPP and not HPP!)

  4. Raw Goat’s Milk like this and this

  5. Supplement with raw treats - I have found that these and these work for picky cats!


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Gut Queen

There are many ways to increase your babies ability to reap the benefits of their food! Enzymes are sometimes a long forgotton friend. Everyone has the ability to make a difference whether its adding goats milk to kibble, sprinkling on some enzymes, or rotating your brand! Healthy gut, here we come!

https://www.foodenzymeinstitute.com/content/Why-Food-Enzymes-are-Important.aspx