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Is HPP Bad?

One question I get a lot from new raw feeders is about HPP (high pressure pasteurization). They want to know if it's good or bad for dogs because there is a lot of demonizing of this process and I think HPP is getting a bad rap. Sort of.

What is HPP?

HPP or High-Pressure Pasteurization is a process used by several commercial raw food brands (Stella & Chewy's, Vital Essentials Raw, Primal Pet, to name a few) to sterilize raw pet food, which some feel reduces the bacteria in the food, making it safe for humans and pets. The food is sealed in a package and then subjected to high levels of pressure and it ends up looking like unappealing mush, in my opinion. But I doubt many dogs care.

Is HPP Bad for Dogs?

There are many opinions out there about HPP and if you bring up the topic in raw feeding groups, people will tell you that they aren't fans of HPP for several reasons.

  • HPP is a process and raw feeders are trying to get away from processed food.
  • Some feel that once the food is subjected to HPP, it's no longer raw dog food because the process of removing bad bacteria is also removing beneficial bacteria.
  • Sterilizing food (HPP) also slightly diminishes the nutrients in raw dog food.
  • HPP food doesn't look like fresh, raw dog food.

Despite the not so positive opinions of HPP, it does have a place in the pet food world.

Benefits of HPP Dog Food

If you're reading this, please don't race back to the pet store with your food. Although HPP isn't popular in some segments of the raw feeding community, HPP raw pet food isn't all bad. One of the critiques of raw dog food is that it's dangerous for humans and dogs, especially those living with a compromised immune system. I'm not 100% behind this argument, however, I can see that HPP makes raw feeding more appealing and accessible to more dogs.

But is HPP right and should more raw brands go this route?

Darwin's Pet Food

HPP Raw Dog Food vs. A Healthy Gut

In my opinion – keeping in mind that I'm not a veterinarian, nutritionist, or a raw dog food manufacturer – although HPP may be safer for some dogs (and humans), I worry about the loss of healthy bacteria. A healthy gut biome is key when raising healthy dogs and cats.

I'm a DIY raw feeder who tosses in a few commercial raw brands into the mix for convenience, one of which is Darwin's Natural Pet Products.

The following was written by Gary Tashjian, owner, and founder of Darwin's Natural Pet Products. I received permission from Darwin's Pet to republish this for you.

When most people think about the benefits of feeding raw pet food, what often springs to mind are the nutritional benefits of feeding high-quality ingredients that are consistent with a pet’s ancestral diet. And those are certainly important benefits.

However, another frequently overlooked benefit that is exclusive to raw food is that it provides the good bacteria, or microbes, that prove crucial to maintaining your pet’s gut health and immune system, and that help build up your pet’s digestive system to defend against invading pathogens.

Your pet (along with all living creatures), have an entire world of tiny, microscopic organisms flourishing inside them. These microbes are essential to curating a diverse ecosystem of bacteria (or microbiome) within your pet’s gut.

According to nutrition expert Steve Brown , “The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in processing nutrients. Our microbes process foods that we can’t and extend our digestive capabilities to:

  • Prime the immune system
  • Influence brain development
  • Produce vitamins
  • Degrade xenobiotics (a chemical compound not naturally found in the body)

Another benefit of these good bacteria is that they protect your pet against pathogens (i.e., “bad” bacteria) that exist everywhere. Good bacteria can thrive and out-compete bad bacteria, essentially starving them of nutrients. Some good bacteria even proactively target and kill certain pathogens.

In sterile environments devoid of any bacteria, pathogens that invade have no competition and can take over the entire ecosystem in your pet’s digestive track. This is one of the main reasons to ensure your pet is getting the microbes it needs to out-compete any bad bacteria. This is also the main reason Darwin’s doesn’t use High Pressure Pasteurization or other “kill steps” to sterilize our food, which eliminate both good bacteria as well as pathogens.

Unsurprisingly, we find the best way to build a healthy microbiome is with a fresh, truly raw diet. Raw diets with live cultures of microbes build up your pet’s gut health and immune system to fight off infection. They also out-compete and starve out the bad bacteria that may invade.

Although virtually any diet can be supplemented to provide the bacteria needed to cultivate a healthy microbiome and fight off bad bacteria, only truly raw, unpasteurized pet food contains all the good bacteria needed to improve your pet’s gut health and immune system.

That’s why, despite the suggestions that we pasteurize our food or implement other kill steps to control pathogens, we’ve made the conscious decision to avoid doing so, and to continue to do everything we can to assure that pet owners can continue to feed a safe, healthy – and truly raw diet to their pets.

Final Thoughts on HPP Raw Pet Food

The topic of HPP is a tough one for me because of public opinion. Although I have no plans to feed my dogs food that has been sterilized, I won't get on a high horse and say “NEVER WILL I EVER FEED HPP!!!” There are too many unknowns for me.

Thankfully, I'm in a position where DIY raw feeding is simple. I also have access to some great brands that don't sterilize their food. I do believe that HPP is better than dry dog food, I don't think it's the right food for my dogs.

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