I have started many series over the years only to see them fizzle out and vanish – sigh – and I'm here to start one again. My trip to SuperZoo to connect with other content creators and brands inspired me to find new ways to not only reach aspiring raw feeders but to help build a stronger Fresh Food community, and that's when I came up with this new series that I plan to publish once a month.
The Wednesday Word is a new series where I choose a word (or phrase) and ask small pet stores around the world to weigh in with their thoughts. The purpose of this is to give you exposure to opinions other than my own and to share a perspective that will serve to shift preconceived beliefs about dog health and nutrition.
August's Word: Balance
Question: What comes to mind when someone asks you about a balanced, raw diet for pets? Does balance exist in commercial or DIY raw pet food? Should we be looking to AAFCO for what should be “complete and balanced?” Is feeding a variety of proteins and balancing over time enough?
Keep the Tail Wagging (that's me!)
I remember someone stating on social media that most home-prepared raw diets weren't balanced. I agree. Despite the amount of time and research I put into my dogs' nutrition and health, I can't compete with someone who has the budget to have their food analyzed for nutritional balance, but I do the best that I can, and I know that my “best” is better than kibble because Rodrigo is thriving despite his first veterinarian's predictions.
Often I get emails from people new to raw feeding and terrified that they won't get the balance right. I remember when I felt the same and then I started watching people's meals and realized that there was no way many of these meals were “balanced,” and that's when I learned about balancing over time. Balancing over time allows me to relax, it gives me a reprieve when I forget to thaw or when I'm low on food, and it's a lot less expensive when I focus so much on creating a balanced meal for four dogs on a daily basis.
Balance, to me, is making sure that my dogs get what they need over a period of a week while not killing myself by stressing about the minute details of macro and micronutrients. Instead, annual (or bi-annual) wellness checks where I can speak with my pro-raw veterinarian team work best for my crew.
Rotation and variety come to mind! I think commercial foods do the best that they can. It's ultimately up to us to choose to rotate and add variety. My preferred is Answers Pet Food because of the fermentation. And by adding the Raw goat's milk, I supplement lots of things naturally. I also add other fresh foods to my dog's raw diet. Pretty much any fresh food that I have at home that is safe for them. I don't think it's ever a good idea to do anything all the time. From fasting to switching up supplements. ~ Tonya Christenson
Personally, I don't like the word balanced. Feels like the pet food industry has co-opted it. I like complete and/or adequate, meaning meeting the nutritional needs of the animal. And I would apply that to a feeding plan, not a meal. So yes, balance over the week, meeting all nutritional needs relevant to the species. And I would consider AAFCO, NRC, and ancestral diets to decide what I considered adequate/complete.
I think every dog/cat is different and mixing up what protein you feed and when is key as well as rotation. The why…I do not enjoy eating the same meal every day why would my pets? When I first started raw I was alone and had no clue what I was doing and feared I was killing my animals…after blood work and realizing that my research had paid off…they were the healthiest they have ever been. Ancestral diet to me is very important to healthy pets.
We talk with our clients about Fresh food! Our premise is always variety, proteins, vegetables, and herbs. Balance over time. If feeding a commercial(kibble) augment with fresh food when able. Always address the microbiome, again variety, goats milk, goats cheese(answers we find to be the best) bone broth and kefir! We've been feeding a raw diet to our personal pets for 10 years, some who came to us with varying degree of medical issues. Overall conditions improved vastly with fresh food! ~ Karen Bowman Fredenhagen
No meal is ever perfectly balanced. Balance happens over time and requires wide variety, constant rotation and a mix of ingredients. Sorry, but there’s no such thing as a balanced kibble or canned for a number of reasons…
- people tend to feed the same brand/flavor/base/protein repeatedly,
- AAFCO is a self-serving, self-policing (meaning not at all) group of brand-bought blowhards with control issues, and…
- exactly how do you balance a bag of carbohydrates and sugar anyway? By spraying on a palatant and adding a vitamin pack?
Real food with real ingredients in their real state is the basis of starting to feed with any hope of working towards balance over time. ~ Lorin Grow
We all hope to achieve balance but I do not think anyone knows absolutely what a balanced meal is for a dog. When I think of “balance” it means having all of the nutrients in proper percentages. This may not be every meal, but over a period of time, keeping age, any health conditions, activity level, environmental conditions, etc. I do not think any commercial food is 100% balanced and I think it is difficult to achieve via homemade because we do not know what balanced really is, just look at the taurine/legume issue. It is showing everyone how little we do know about feeding dogs. I would certainly not go by AAFCO alone by any means. There needs to be much more research. I recommend rotational feeding- proteins and brand if feeding commercial. ~ Dr. Josie Beug
As a Store Manager, I stress to my customers to add fresh to their pets food. I tell them I have been in the pet field of work since I was 18 and I have seen lots of fads come and go. The worst one of all was NO PEOPLE food. Also being a house dog. Less time being a dog and only dead foods. I do my best to share about greens and lean raw foods are best, but if you don’t have time to feed raw then do the best you can. Our sales on frozen and freeze-dried food have soared and I’m told every day that pets feel better. “Balanced” diets are a marketing ploy to control your purchases. Heck, our meals are not balanced! ~ Marty Wilson
For me, balance would be a variety of everything that one can do. The more variety in the diet, the more balanced it will be. The more variety in training and enrichment, the more balanced a Pet will be. The more variety of educational sources, the More balance one will have…Variety in every aspect. ~ Janelle Peters Pitula