Feeding Pets From Your Kitchen – Self Reliance Festival

Feeding Pets From Your Kitchen

Tracy Farley, CPCN, owner, IAS – Integrative Animal Solution

Our animal companions are natural hunters and carnivores – just look at their ancestry. The dog in your home has evolved from the wolf, and his digestive system is virtually the same despite thousands of years of domestication. They have very short intestinal tracts geared to the consumption and digestion of raw foods. Dogs are considered “omnivores” as they eat a variety of grasses, berries and vegetables in addition to prey. Cats are true or “obligate” carnivore (meat only diet) and is specially designed by nature to hunt small rodents and birds. Their digestive tracts is intended to assimilate raw meat best.


Diet is the foundation of health. The fresher the diet, the more nutrients are available for the animal’s system to utilize in building immunity, healing from illness and warding off disease. Raw food diets have been shown to help the body deal with many common ailments such as flea infestations, hot spots, continual shedding, poor dental & gum health, allergies, gastrointestinal problems such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, immune disorders and degenerative diseases.

Raw diets have been common practice in European countries for decades, especially Germany, where it is commonly recommended by veterinarians. The fear of feeding raw meat in this country seems to stem from a fear of salmonella, E. coli and parasites. In my 20 years of feeding raw food salmonella and E. coli have not been a problem, instead, they help create a diverse microbiome. Remember, pets’ digestive systems are designed to accommodate raw meat. Parasites coumeats butracted through eating wild, whole prey or game meats, but is much less likely to occur with properly handled human grade meats. Infection is more likely to occur through a pet’s ingestion of feces or soil, or from poorly handled meat. Most commercially prepared raw diets are pasteurized and therefore are no threat for contamination. The actual research sited in the US in support of a raw diet is rather convincing.

Some exceptions to “raw is better” are older, weaker animals who may not tolerate raw food, or animals with certain gastrointestinal problems where the gut has to be restored to a healthier state using herbs and/or supplements to support them. In these cases, a home prepared, cooked diet is a better substitute for a raw food diet.


Ideally, our companions would eat an all-raw diet that includes some organ meat and bones. Generally, the more raw food you can include in your companion’s diet, the better, some is better than none. Some pet owners 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 beef muscle and turkey necks or other parts 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 always, naturally raised, hormone- and antibiotic-free or organic meat is best but not always the most cost-effective option.

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 in a meat grinder until your dog becomes fully transitioned to a raw diet. 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 microwaving. Feeding raw at room temperature helps pets to digest better.


Although most people think of frozen formulas when they think of raw food for pets, there are convenient alternatives available in the form of dehydrated and freeze dried formulas. These formulas are made from raw meat, vegetables, and fruits and have the water removed from them through either dehydration or freeze-drying, so that all you need to do is add water before feeding your pet. These offer all the nutritional benefits of raw food but are easier to handle and prepare. Freeze-dried formulas are very light weight, and so are great for travelling, but tend to me more expensive than dehydrated, so they are used mostly for cats and small dogs. Dehydrated food is more expensive than dry kibble, but not by a lot (around a dollar per day for a 40 pound dog),

and it is much healthier than dry kibble. (Think of the difference between corn flakes and fresh salad.)


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.

We recommend supplementing with herbs and probiotics for at least the first two weeks to help your companion’s natural digestive processes kick back in after eating processed foods for so long. If your animal is resistant to the raw at first, you may want to use a bit of canned 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 food can help. Freeze dried treats work well for this. Transitioning a cat will most likely take some persistence on your part, but it is well worth it for the health of your pet.


Carnivores need muscle meat as a primary protein source. The diet should contain 65-75% muscle meat. There should be 5-10% bone content, 15-25% organ meat and 10-15% vegetable matter. Balancing this overtime insures that what may be lacking or in abundance one day, is balanced out over the next few days feeding. Vegetables and fruits should be ground, pureed or finely chopped. Pets do not make amylase in their saliva; therefore do not breakdown vegetable matter the same as humans but do need the refuge and vitamins they provide and can digest them is ground or chopped. Feeding at a ratio of 2-3% of dogs ideal body weight is a good place to start for adults but puppies and some seniors need up to 5% of their adult weight ratio on a daily basis. I recommend feeding dogs as individuals. The amount one 50# dog may need can be much too low for another of the same weight.

Any food that you raise for yourself or find in the grocery store will work for your pets. Beef, poultry, pork, fish, lamb etc. I tend to give my dogs any vegetable matter that I might otherwise discard such as carrot tops, the bruised apple slice or wilted lettuce. All

good for our pets but might not appeal to us. Organs that we might not want are extremely important to pets. Secreting organs such as liver, kidney and spleen are critical in pets diets and should comprise of 10-15% of their diets. Other organs like pancreas, brain and testicles provide vital nutrients for pets.

Cats tend to be a bit easier as far as dietary needs but still need organs and roughage for better digestion. I recommend using about the same ratios for muscle meat and organ but smaller amounts of vegetable matter. I add in chia seeds, psyllium or allow access to wheatgrass if possible. As for bone in a cat’s diet, the requirement is very small but still needed. Whole food prey or ground bone is best for most cats. Raw goats milk seems to be a preferred treat that also adds lots of nutrients to cat diets.

IAS is committed to keeping prices low and quality high. We are located at 19 W Maple St Sparta TN on Liberty Square. Our hrs are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 10-6 and Saturday 10-2. In addition to dietary recommendations and options, we have a large apothecary for herbal supplements, therapy rental devices, microbubble bath, a holistic vet center, animal chiropractic and wholesome treats.

Come see how we can help you and your pets!

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