What's the Best Food to Feed My Pet?! Should My Pets All Eat the Same Food?! What About a Raw Diet?!
Updated: Nov 20
I understand how confusing the pet food market is. Then again, this entire industry is mind-boggling. Especially for new pet owners.
It's obvious that you're here looking for answers because you've felt lost, confused, let down, maybe even betrayed by your veterinary team and you aren't quite sure what to feed or where to turn for support. Or, maybe you're just curious to see if there's something more out there that could be providing your pet with better health.
I Have a Confession....
I have people come up to me all the time asking how old Maddie is.... And they're utterly shocked when I say: "She's 10!"
Truth is, she doesn't show her age much. But as of recently, she has slowed down a bit and tends to be more tired after strenuous play with Jerry (8 months old).
I also hear: "Wow she's so fit and healthy!"
She definitely is.
But it hasn't always been that way.
I must confess:
Maddie used to have quite a bit of imbalance in her system.
She would break out in hives from eggs, and get diarrhea from peas. Think of how difficult it was for me to find a diet free of those 2 food products. I never let anyone give her treats, and she had a sign on her kennel at puppy daycare for employees not to feed her certain things. It caused me a great deal of anxiety, and it wasn't fair to her.
▪️Urinary incontinence, high pH & crystals
Constant dribbling. Sometimes full puddles on her bed while she slept. She even had an episode in my bed at one point during the night and I woke up covered in urine... True story. She also developed urinary crystals a few years back.
▪️Anal gland problems
Between impacted and leaking anal glands plus urinary problems... I was washing her bedding almost daily, and giving her baths about 2x a week... Maddie's ears would be pulled back in shame. As I tried to keep my cool in the frustration because I knew she couldn't help it.
A minor skin problem from impacted hair follicles. She was getting these quite a bit a few years ago.
Mostly to thunderstorms, which we have worked on pretty heavily with desensitization techniques.
▪️......and even a slight allergic reaction to a bee sting (she is obsessed with eating bees 🤦♀️)
While the mild anxiety remains (with thunderstorms) all the rest have vanished into thin air.
And you might not believe it: but Maddie has had zero pharmaceuticals for any of this.
❌ No pills.
❌ No creams
❌ No sprays.
❌ No prescription diets.
Could you imagine a life where you avoided expensive veterinary visits?
What if you never had to give toxic pharmaceutical products again?
Do you dream of the day that you see lasting results?
Ever wish there was a solution to the endless cycle of medications and side effects?
Think about the money you would save on prescription diets.
Just picture: your dog or cat living a healthy lifestyle, free if dis-ease and imbalance. And YOU being free of anxiety from no longer having to avoid triggers and walk on egg shells with their care.
All because YOU made a choice to wander down a path of alternative health care modalities and proper nutrition.
🧐 Does this all sound too good to be true?
Well, here we are. Living proof that this can all be possible.
Peace of mind and good health for your furry companion is a lot closer than you think!
If you're ready to open your mind to the idea that natural healthcare is the way to lasting results...
I want you to know: I'm here for you.
And I'm ready to support you on this difficult journey.
Unlike some pet health bloggers, and even veterinary professionals... It might surprise you to know, that (as a Certified Veterinary Technician) I'm neither anti-kibble or anti-raw.
You do you... And do what works well with your pets.
Just know: there are over 5 different diet styles you could be feeding. This post is not limited to kibble or raw food diets (keep reading to learn more about what these are)!
No matter what you choose:
🌟 Be informed to make the best decision possible and give them the highest quality nutrition with what you can afford, what you have available, and what you prefer to feed.
Nothing is a one-size-fits-all. And I will say this over and over again.
Not nutrition, exercise regimens, nor medical care.
One of my biggest pet peeves is the fact that people get SO high and mighty thinking a raw food diet will fix everything.
❌ It can't.
Let it be known: not all pets do well on raw diets.
Just like not all pets do well on kibble/ processed food diets.
Bashing and degrading people on their style of feeding will not change anything.
Same goes for the use of certain allergy medications and 'prescription diets.'
These are not a cure-all... In fact, I've seen them do more harm than good. And more often than not, they only work a short while before proving ineffective in long-term allergy management.
Education is key. In either department.
Some Thoughts As I Scroll The Web...
Have you ever seen articles/ blog posts that say something like:
"Best foods for a Golden Retriever!"
"Top brands of food for cats with sensitive stomachs!"
Take these with a grain of salt.
I personally think that breed specific foods are a gimmick.
Yes, certain breeds have a different body structures and lifestyles such as high muscle mass or more activity level (working breeds), but even so... No one single food can fit a single breed perfectly across the board.
Same for pets with sensitive stomachs. Each dog or cat has their own reasoning for not being tolerant of certain ingredients. And this must be evaluated, narrowed down and managed at different levels.
Every animal is an individual. Just as we are. They have different lifestyles, activity levels, genetics, body build, medical history, environmental factors, etc.
It's SO important to get an in-depth look at each of these important areas to determine an appropriate diet for your pet. Especially when there are signs of imbalance.
This is what I love to do.
I help pet owners, like you, discover new ways to improve their pet's health and assist in making alternative & educated decisions with nutritional care, dietary support, natural remedies & lifestyle changes to achieve optimal vitality!
What I call Whole Body Wellness!
With this information, you are able to take full control of your pet's health.
Does your dog or cat suffer from any of the following:
Obesity or inability to gain weight
Chronic ear infections
Dry skin & coat
Food & environmental allergies
Maybe they are getting older and you want to support their aging body.
Got a new puppy or kitten? Perhaps you want to be sure they are getting the best quality nutrition possible.
Concerned that you could be feeding better diet?
I've been there. And you're not alone in this journey.
The vast majority of today's pets are plagued by disease. And we must start asking: "Why?"
Perhaps the underlying cause of disease is:
Poor gut health caused by an inadequate diet and toxic environment. Now, before you jump to supplements, and detox, and even a raw food diet... Please be sure to read this post!
*Be advised that I ALWAYS recommend a veterinary visit to rule out medical conditions first. Things like thyroid imbalance, intestinal parasites, yeast or bacterial infections, etc. can all be causes of the above listed ailments. At the very least, blood work and a fecal test is highly recommended. Sometimes a skin scrape is warranted as well.
GI Upset & Skin Issues are the 2 Biggest Complaints I Hear About
While kibble isn't always the best diet for pets with these complaints, I do understand the limitation that many pet owners face in why they choose to feed a commercially prepared, processed food diet to thier pets.
The downside is, most kibble contains toxic and inflammatory ingredients, is often stored improperly (contributing to dust mite buildup & oxidation), and amounts to around 50% carbohydrates on average.
Grains in particular are huge source of inflammation & illness in pets. Grains are simply used to allow the kibble to hold its shape (starch) and some companies will go as far as artificially inflating protein levels with a mass amount of grains and gluten (wheat gluten is 80% protein).
In fact, it wasn't until after WWII that grains were even used in pet food.
No matter what, though, we need to accept that this is what society has been accustomed to, and most do not know any differently.
First off, I'll ask: "Have you visited a veterinarian to rule out any medical conditions? And what are you currently feeding?!"
Then: "Have you tried changing your pet's diet?"
🌟 Pro Tip:
Switching up protein types doesn't matter if you're still feeding a low-quality brand that uses adulterated and inflammatory ingredients. No matter if that is dry food, wet, etc.
For instance.... If I hear "Well, we switched a bunch of brands and and it didn't help!"
I'll ask: "What specifically have you tried?"
And usually it's something like this:
You're basically rotating one low-quality food for another, still not providing a fully nutritious diet for your pet.
What's worse is that pet owners often will continue to feed this food through a laundry list of health ailments and simply start throwing in any and all medications & supplements thinking it will help. It won't.
"But my vet said those are the best brands of food!"
....if they were, would your dog/ cat be dealing with such a plethora of health issues?
If these feed products were truly nourishing to dogs and cats, would we have an all time high of chronic illness in our pets?
54% of the US pet population is obese.
Countless pets are suffering from various ailments and disease.
Here's a few from that list again that we discussed above:
Have you given any of the feed brands listed here?
Does your pet suffer from any of the above mentioned ailments or diseases?
....Don't worry: new medications, supplements, and grain-filled 'prescription diets' are constantly coming to market with zero regard to the underlying issue of poor nutrition, a toxic environment and lowered immune systems.
*insert sarcastic eye-roll here*
Which Food Is Best For My Pet?!
I know this question has been burning inside you.
🤔 Maybe you've been wondering:
"Should each dog/ cat in the household eat the same food?!"
Or should they all eat something different?
That depends on quite a few factors.
It's not uncommon to have to feed different foods. But it's also not uncommon for each pet in the household to do well on the same diet.
Maddie & Jerry eat similar, yet very different diets.
Both get kibble and raw, along with fresh whole foods and added moisture.
Maddie is a medium breed, highly active senior and does best on a chicken-free & grain-free diet. Her diet gets rotated with every meal. She has a history of elevated urinary pH with crystals and anal gland problems, so she receives a variety of supplements to keep this at bay and also to help her joints and immune system in top shape as she gracefully ages!
Jerry is a large breed, active puppy who currently has no dietary restrictions or past/ present health issues. His diet rotates every few weeks and is occasionally inclusive of chicken and rice.
You might be wondering:
"Wait, you mix kibble and raw?"
Yes! Feeding a high-quality diet doesn't have to be an all or nothing ordeal. Many dogs do wonderful on kibble diets with raw or whole food toppers.
Maddie has a very high metabolism and raw food digests too quickly for her, leaving her with a rumbling tummy. Therefore she does do best with some dry kibble.
Some pet owners feed mostly raw with a little bit of kibble. There is not a single way that is the best to feed every animal.
Now you might also be asking:
"Are 'breed specific' diets legit & beneficial?"
"What about seniors? Would it be wise to give them a 'senior food?"
It might be shocking to know that the answer to these questions rests solely upon marketing claims.
I'd bet you would surprised if I told you that:
The AAFCO statement that most people will tell you to look for, doesn't mean what you think it does. Common misconceptions surrounding this include 'feeding trials.'
AAFCO does not regulate pet food, and feeding trials don't really mean a damn thing.
There are also no formal regulations for what is to be considered or marketed as breed specific, or even senior pet foods. Nor active, or lazy. Just growth, and adult.
Each of of these ingredient lists is from the SAME BRAND of pet food... But a different product.
Nearly the same ingredient base for all.
Chicken and grains.
Please don't be fooled by marketing claims, false advertisements and uninformed recommendations.
As I've said above: nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all. Most people will feed whatever the breeder or veterinarian feed/ recommend without a second thought. In fact, many professionals fail to recognize the seriousness of recalls and lawsuits of the brands they so often recommend.
Truth be told: veterinary recommended Rx brand diets have recently faced a smashing lawsuit all their own....
“After learning that Hill’s prescription pet food has no medicine or drug, that no prescription is legally required to purchase it, and that it is not tested and approved for medicinal purposes by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Kucharski-Berger sued Hill’s alleging that Hill’s and other pet food manufacturers conspired to monopolize the prescription pet food market and to artificially inflate prices by self-imposing the prescription requirement.”
Many veterinary professionals will readily discourage the feeding of grain-free diets, but there is ZERO evidence (150+ studies) to say grain-free diets are harmful.... in fact, there's far more evidence that grains are the real problem and create loads of health issues.
Needless to say, pet owners are not being provided the information needed to make an informed decision! Most often, they are blatantly lied to.
So, What Do You Recommend?!
I've been getting SO many messages lately about dogs with GI upset, allergies and other nutritional related issues.
And the question that I routinely get asked is:
"So what do you recommend feeding?"
Are you desperate to find out?!
You probably wouldn't have read this far if you weren't curious to learn how to do better.
👉 Here's my answer:
"I don't know."
And truthfully, it's not that I don't really know what would help that pet.... Because I could make a blanket suggestion of a guess.... But that's not how I operate.
My answer depends on MANY things.
What you prefer to feed (raw, kibble, canned, etc.)
....and MUCH more.
It's a pretty loaded question to ask:
"What's the best food for my dog?!"
"What will help my cat's hairballs?!"
"What's the best brand out there?!"
You probably remember above that our dogs get a mix of kibble and a variety of other foods. Did you know that there are such huge variations in feeding styles?!
Some options include:
Canned/ pouched wet food
Fresh homemade raw
That sure is a lot of options to choose from!
A few people have gotten frustrated with me saying that what they are currently feeding is very low-quality and they should consider doing some research and possibly switch to a better diet that may help improve their pet's overall health.
These folks usually are being told by their vet (or breeder) that the food they are feeding is a really good food.... *cough* and there's no reason to switch.
Well, ask yourself this:
Why is EVERY vet across the country recommending the SAME 3 brands of food, to every patient, of every age and lifestyle, without a second thought.
Are they being paid to market these brands?
Were they taught in school by these companies that it's the best?
What connection is there, really?
*Unknown source, not sure if this is even real.. but I hope so!
It truly is a jungle out there.
So here's the opposite that I tell people to get the ball rolling:
❌ Top brands that I do NOT recommend!
Purina, Hill's, Iams, Pedigree, Royal Canin... To name a few!
*You can view the full list here.
When feeding commercially made diets (kibble, raw or wet/ canned), you MUST do your research on the brand, company recalls, where they source their ingredients, etc. and also add other whole foods and other supplements/ nutrients to feel any gaps.
💖 As a Veterinary Technician and Pet Health Consultant, I have worked with dogs and cats for over 10+ years now. And I've done SO much research regarding pet food and nutrition after I had a very sick dog in college with IBD.
Most pets that I work with & that we see in clinic for chronic health issues like UTI, ear infections, allergies, obesity, etc.... Eat very low-quality, grain-based diets, which undoubtedly leaves them at risk for deficiencies and disease.
Think you got all the answers to your food related questions?!
Busting Up the More of the Largest Pet Food Myths
I'm here to keep slapping down some cold hard facts down:
Meat first doesn't mean much. In fact, it's a tricky marketing tactic that can actually save the company a lot of money and leave your pet's health at risk.
"All natural" also doesn't mean what you think it does.... Many natural things should not be ingested.
Your vet may have told you to never switch your pet's food, but that's a lie.
Fact is: You SHOULD be rotating food. Frequently!
Not many people know that feeding the same food every single day can contribute to the development of health problems.
My dog gets her food rotated between 5 different brands and 12 different proteins!
What Do I Do if My Pet Has Allergies?!
As for food allergies, there's a TON of misinformation out there on the cause, diagnosis, and treatment options.
Veterinary professionals will often tell you that diet related allergies are a myth & that your pet is most likely allergic to their environment.
If they DO suggest or agree that the allergy could be food related, they'll likely prescribe your pet something for 'relief.'
The most common treatments include hypoallergenic corn-based diets and prescription medications that ultimately destroy the immune system even further.
Getting to the root cause and healing the gut will be your best bet at possibly eliminating food allergies all together. My dog no longer reacts to eggs, peas, or chicken (she used to get hives and diarrhea). Though, chicken still contributes to anal gland flare-ups, so I just don't feed it. Not a big deal, as she still gets 12 other proteins on rotation.
After working with pet owners about nutrition and allergies for so many years... I've definitely seen varying degrees of allergy symptoms...
It can be very tricky to get to the bottom of any allergy. Whether it be food, or environmental.
Most will mistake paw licking in particular for food allergies, but it actually has many causes.
Unfortunately, the western medicine way of dealing with any type of allergy is to suppress the immune system and erase the symptoms... So the pet 'feels better.'
This is often times accompanied by only short-term relief.
Common treatments involve 'hypoallergenic' diets, creams, steroids, CytoPoint injections, medicated shampoos, APOQUEL, etc.
Hypoallergenic diets are very toxic and definitely don't promote healing. They are actually a huge source of MSG and other additives like PHO & BHT which can make allergies WORSE.
With the use of medications comes a great risk for a plethora of other health issues such as increased susceptibility to other infections, and it can worsen, or even cause demodex mange and neoplasia... Also known as cancer. The APOQUEL drug insert specifically states that humans handling the pills are at an increased risk for cancer. It's downright crazy that pet owners are NOT being told this information. But, I get it... As a veterinary, I was never taught this stuff. Just that "APOQUEL is not a steroid, so it's safer." *FACE PALM. But, one day I got fed up with filling these prescriptions daily and decided to look into what the drug really was.
Whether an allergy is labeled as food or environmental, I would highly encourage the first step to be addressing the diet further, preferably with an experienced professional. Next would come the addition of tailored supportive supplements to boost the immune system, encourage liver detox, and a protocol to heal the gut.
Diet, gut health and proper detoxing play a huge role in managing allergies. When the liver is sluggish, detox pathways do not function well and junk builds up in the system.
Cleansing and cleaning up the body lessens the load on the liver and all other organs and decreases the overstimulated immune reaction. Certain herbs can be of great help to decrease the histamine load in the body.
I've had 2 allergy dogs since going to veterinary school and have since been studying the holistic side of wellness and care, especially when traditional methods failed my first dog who had severe IBD.
Stress and anxiety also trigger the sympathetic nervous system (fight for flight response) and can trigger a cascade of other events such us upset stomach and diarrhea. Something I have loved to study throughout the years, is how diet affects mood and behavior. So although we may be addressing more environmental factors with this category of wellness... diet plays a major role, too!
Should I feed My Pet A Raw Food or Homemade Diet?
Well, that depends. Raw diets can be absolutely wonderful. But they are not right for every pet, or every owner.
They are expensive, time consuming, and it takes quite a bit of space.
Why would someone feed raw or homemade meals to their pet??
Many pet owners have dogs and cats who struggle with on-going allergies or other health conditions, this gives more control over the diet and can help eliminate any potential allergens that are commonly found in commercial diets. Pet owners may also not trust commercial pet food companies anymore (and rightfully so). They have taken their dog or cat's diet into their own hands by preparing homemade meals. Whether that be cooked, or fully raw.
This can be a great option for some, when done correctly.
But, be advised that I've seen many unbalanced diets. Both home prepared and commercially.
A big mistake I see is the complete lack of micronutrients and an imbalance of macros.
The 80/10/10 model (muscle meat, none and organs), for example, is an old school method of raw feeding that leaves MANY nutritional gaps. A few things that lack may include vitamin E, manganese, vitamin D, omega ratio, etc. All very important!
Many pets that have health issues (especially GI issues, skin problems, and allergies) can actually benefit greatly from fresh produce as it provides trace mineralsz antioxidents and beneficial fiber!
Here is an example I made of a common DIY homemade diet. You may think you're doing well, providing a healthy diet... Meat, vegetables, fruit, and a few supplements... But this is heavily lacking in essential nutrients. Everything to the right in BLUE is deficient.
Please be sure to do some deep research in balancing a raw or homemade diet.
Most professionals, and even pet owners themselves, will scream from the rooftops that raw diets are dangerous, unbalanced (they can be), and scientifically unfounded as to any potential benefit.
*I was recently going to apply for a new certification through a veterinary organization for nutrition coaching... But after hearing one of the 'experts stumble around trying to explain and convince people why raw food has zero research and only provided anecdotal benefit.. I decided, to heck with that!
Have you ever heard:
"There is ZERO scientific evidence to prove that fresh or whole foods are beneficial to pets!"
This is insanity. Why do we need a multi-million dollar, double-blind placebo study to prove that fresh food is healthier than processed diets?
If you're doctor said this to you, you would wonder where they heck they got their nutrition training & education.
Studies have ACTUALLY shown the benefit to the pet's microbiome when given a raw vs processed diet.
"These results suggest that the diet composition modifies faecal microbial composition and end products of fermentation. The administration of MD diet promoted a more balanced growth of bacterial communities and a positive change in the readouts of healthy gut functions in comparison to RD diet."
*MD= raw diet. RD= commercial extruded (kibble)
Contrary to popular belief, raw food diets can actually be SAFER to feed than kibble!
"Based on FDA Enforcement Reports, (and not including the recent Salmonella recall from Midwestern Pet Food) – almost 150 million pounds of kibble has been recalled for containing a pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella since 2012 when in the same time frame a little more than 2 million pounds of raw pet food has been recalled for the same cause."
"One hundred fifty million pounds to two million pounds…it’s not even close, kibble is much “more likely to be contaminated with bacteria” and kibble is more of a risk to sicken at risk individuals."
If you're a nerd for information and want to learn more about the microbiome and how raw food impacts overall health, please visit this link.
"But Pet Food is So Expensive, I Can't Afford to Feed Raw or a Really High End Food."
That's okay. I've got you covered.
If you're like me, feeding a solely raw food diet isn't an option.
Maybe you're a busy mom with a full time job.
Maybe you're on a fixed income.
Maybe you don't have the time, space, energy OR finances to feed a raw food diet.
That. Is. Okay.
Unlike other pet health bloggers, I'm not here to judge your style of feeding.
What I AM here to do is educate you on how to make that bowl more nutritious! No matter what you feed, you should always be enhancing your pet's diet to the best of your ability.
What you may not know... Is that switching to a higher quality food can actually be CHEAPER. Not only long-term because they'll spend less time and money at the vet... But short-term as well when we discuss a monthly budget. When your pet is eating a nutrient sense food, they will need to eat less. Therefore saving you money!
You can make that kibble more nutritious by following a few steps daily to enhance the bowl:
*This handout is available in the The Wellness Library!
Alright, now that we've covered a few topics.... Can you see why there's no one right answer to any condition?....
Do you understand why I don't make guesses on food recommendations?!
This is the beauty of individualized care & support.
Ready to take full control of your pet's health?!
We've got this!
Are You Ready For Individualized Support?!
💕 If you're wanting to do better, and provide a healthier diet and lifestyle...
I encourage you to visit some of the links in this post to read more and make informed decisions in your pet's care.
If you are confused about your pet's diet, have questions about brands, want to learn more about your pet's health condition or what supplements could help them: I'd be happy to join you on this journey to better health and wellness!
Want More Health & Wellness Tips?!
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