By Eric Stenson
Raw diets for pets have been gaining in popularity in recent years, according to a Pets.WebMD. com article. The premise, as suggested by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst in 1993, was that adult dogs would thrive on an evolutionary diet based on what canines ate before they became domesticated: raw, meaty bones and vegetable scraps.
Dr. B’s Longevity of Little Falls, New Jersey, is definitely among the supporters touting many health benefits of raw feeding. The company’s website mentions:
• Healthier skin and the elimination of itchy skin conditions;
• Increased energy;
• Shinier fur with less shedding;
• Healthier teeth, gums and better breath;
• Firmer muscle tone with increased strength and mobility;
• Healthy digestion and smaller, firmer stools;
• Stronger immune system;
• Better weight management.
Nancy Peplinsky, managing director of Dr. B’s Longevity, said the company got its start when Dr. Gerald Buchoff, the eponymous Dr. B, a practicing veterinarian of 37 years, wanted to do something regarding nutrition and the prevention and treatment of disease.
“He’d gotten very tired of seeing dogs getting sick of diseases based on poor nutrition,” she said. “He spends countless hours pouring through data, targeting specific illnesses.”
For example, the selenium in its grass-fed beef benefits issues such as allergies, arthritis and heart disease, and the mushrooms used support anti-cancer and anti-viral efforts, according to Dr. B’s website.
Dr. B’s Longevity is available in patty packs as well as bulk bags, Peplinsky said.
“Patty packs are eight individually wrapped frozen burgers; they are so easy to manage if you are a raw feeder. Defrost in the fridge, then dump in the dog’s bowl,” she said. “Bulk bags, you can divide yourself for bigger dogs or multiple dogs. Some people do prefer that, even if they have only one dog, since it’s a more economical option.”
In addition to its duck, beef, chicken, rabbit and turkey varieties, Dr. B’s is unveiling a lamb formulation as well as raw, dehydrated treats.
The Options are Growing
The product line of Bravo Pet Foods of Manchester, Connecticut, includes frozen raw for cats as well as frozen raw and freeze-dried raw diets for dogs. The company takes a graduated approach to raw feeding, offering its frozen raw in four types: Boneless, Basics, Blends and Balance. The Boneless is strictly raw protein— salmon or venison—designed to provide a base to add supplements for feeding or as an intermittent food. Basics consists of chicken, duck, rabbit or turkey plus organs and ground bones for raw feeders who want to create their own custom diets. Blends combines poultry, meat, organs, ground bones and vegetables in beef, chicken, duck, lamb, pork or turkey varieties; while Balance is formulated with meat, bones, organs and garden vegetables plus essential vitamins and minerals to make up a complete meal without need for supplements.
“Our key formulas are kept super simple by design so that they can be customized to meet the specific nutritional needs of a dog or cat,” said Bette Schubert, Bravo’s co-founder and senior vice president of sales and education. “We don’t mix proteins, so if a dog or cat is sensitive to chicken, you don’t have to worry that you’ll find it mixed in with another protein.”
Bravo’s freeze-dried raw for dogs comes in three varieties: turkey, beef and pork.
“The nutritional benefits of fresh-frozen and freeze-dried closely mirror one another, so consumer lifestyle is a big differentiating factor,” Schubert said. “Our freeze-dried dinners appeal more to consumers who want a high-quality food with the convenience of feeding on demand.”
Nature’s Logic of Lincoln, Nebraska, offers raw, frozen patties for dogs in beef, chicken, pork, rabbit and venison varieties. Scott Freeman, CEO and managing partner, said his company sticks to whole-food formulas providing all essential nutrients from food only, without having to fortify them with added synthetic supplements.
“Unlike dry extruded or baked foods, raw foods do not need the added starches which kibble needs for binding. This makes raw diets more carnivore appropriate,” he said. “Also, raw diets still contain the moisture, which is extremely important for pets to achieve proper digestion and hydration.”
For the Cats, Too
Although Freeman’s company currently makes raw formulations only for dogs, he said they encourage customers to use Nature’s Logic’s raw diets with their cats on an intermittent basis. While they have not completed a feeding trial with the raw diets for cats, he said they plan to expand into raw feeding for felines once trials can be conducted.
One company that is definitely all in on raw diets for cats is Radagast Pet Foods of Portland, Oregon. Its frozen Rad Cat Raw Diet is offered in resealable tubs in free-range chicken or turkey, pasture-raised lamb or venison, grass-fed beef, or natural pork.
“When we formulated our products years ago, we studied as much information about raw feeding as we could,” said Tracey Hatch-Rizzi, vice president and co-founder. “We knew that we wanted to have nutrition provided by all whole-food ingredients, rather than supplements, so there was a period of trial and error until we found the right balance of ingredients.”
Hatch-Rizzi raves about the dermatologic and especially the digestive benefits of raw feeding, something people can see—and smell—where the rubber hits the road, at the litter box.
“Raw is more digestible and easier on the digestive system as a whole,” she said. “We have received countless testimonials from cat parents whose cats have a totally normalized bowel—no diarrhea or constipation—and how the litter box has also stopped smelling.”
From a retailer perspective, Bonnie Bitondo of Maxwell and Molly’s Pet Boutique, with store locations in Newton and Hamburg, New Jersey, is a big booster of raw diets for pets.
“I opened with raw back in 2007, so I could get it at wholesale,” she said. “I saw how much my pets loved it and how they blossomed.”
Her store started with Primal Raw and now also carries Steve’s Real Food, Vital Essentials, Dr. B’s Longevity, and Answers Detailed in frozen, as well as Vital Essentials, Stella & Chewy’s, Grandma Lucy’s, Honest Kitchen and Purpose in freeze-dried raw.
“I highly recommend raw. Will it take over kibble? I don’t see it, based on ease and price,” she said. “It’s an uphill battle, but one I am willing to fight.”