I’m probably going to raise some eyebrows when I talk about why it’s not possible to offer a balanced diet to your dog, cat, horse, goat, or whatever other animals you have in your guardianship. We’ve been taught all along that we need to feed a “100% nutritionally balanced diet” or your pet will suffer and develop life-threatening nutritional deficiencies.
Now sometimes pet guardians (with good intentions) try to make their carnivorous dog or cat vegetarians. But we know that cats are STRICT carnivores and MUST have meat to survive. That’s an example of making sure you feed a “species-appropriate” diet (SAP) but an SAP is not necessarily balanced. In fact, it can’t be.
Now I’ve got you scratching your head. Let me explain. Body systems change constantly: cells die, cells are replaced. (In the human body alone, there are 40 trillion cells!). There are an estimated 37 billion biochemical reactions happening in the body every second!! What one animal requires for calorie intake differs greatly from the next. Animals (and people) absorb nutrients and utilize them at different rates.
A sled dog has different nutritional requirements than a sedentary lap dog. A human marathoner will need additional carbohydrates and electrolytes along the way to be able to finish the race. An endurance horse will require various micronutrients than a horse who is ridden lightly once a week. But how much of a particular nutrient do we know will actually balance the diet? We don’t.
So now does it make sense that it’s impossible to have a balanced diet? That is, the “right” amount of (for example) calcium, magnesium, chloride, Vitamin E, etc.? There are just too many variables.
Still don’t believe this? Let’s use a coyote as an example. It’s just killed a young deer. It will obtain living enzymes from the intestines, liver, kidney, or heart of its prey. The organ meat will also provide a good source of Vitamin A, the B-complex vitamins, folic acid, iron, chromium, copper, zinc, and omega fatty acids. It will get phosphorus from the deer’s muscles. When the coyote chomps down and ingests raw bones, it will receive calcium and other nutrients. Fur, tendons, and ligaments provide dietary fiber as well as a host of important amino acids. Has the coyote read a textbook saying just how much calcium he should be ingesting? NO!
Balance happens over time. The body has an amazing way of adapting to changes in nutrient intake. Just because an animal or person didn’t get the necessary amounts of a nutrient(s) on a particular day, doesn’t mean that health will immediately decline.
So the processed food that you’re feeding your pet isn’t balanced, even though the label claims to be “100% nutritionally complete and balanced”. It can’t be, if you know anything about how pet food is placed under high pressure and heat. Vital enzymes and nutrients are often destroyed during the process, rendering the food deficient in what it claims to have. Pet food is not regulated like the human food industry, so our pets are oftentimes given substandard or tainted food unbeknownst to the pet parent.
I encourage you to check out my online courses, “Purely Simple Pet Nutrition” and “Making Your Own Pet Food” by clicking on the “courses” link on the home page of this site. I teach you the pros and cons of all types of pet food (including prescription and designer / fad diets), why feeding cats differs from feeding dogs, how to effectively manage weight in your pets, what “leaky gut” is and how it relates to itchy skin and stinky ears, and how to feed the dog with a touchy stomach. I also guide you through two videos on making a very simple homemade recipe for your cat and for your dog, along with downloadable recipes for each.