Guest Contributor— Answers Pet Food Nutrition Science Director, Billy Hoekman, is involved in Answers diet formulation, research, product development, as well as working with farms and fermented raw feeding science education. Leading Answers Executive Veterinary Program, Billy specializes in developing fermented raw diets that pertain to specific health conditions.
We’re busting the anti-fat myths to help our furry best friends.
Forget the “fat facts” you think you know, read somewhere, or that you applied from your own human diet perspective. Because the truth is, a balance of fats is actually crucial to canine and feline good health. Read that again: it’s crucial.
Offer fats for your beloved pet? Yes. Really, yes. And science tells us why.
So, it’s time to break down the anti-fat myths that can actually be harming your trusty companion and show you a better, healthier way to feed the fuzzy faces you love best.
Big Fat mistakes that can harm your dog’s or cat’s health
Largely due to misinformation, people have turned dietary fat into a scary bogeyman in canine and feline nutrition.
Maybe you’re committed to making your own diet at home for your pet, following what you thought was a good “prey model” diet recipe. Unfortunately, these homemade “prey diets” are actually often problematic interpretations of what is needed, resulting in a diet that’s going to be too high in protein in relation to the amount of fat.
So, okay, maybe you use a commercially prepared diet in your quest for a better choice. There are many out there vying for your attention with good intentions, and great promises. But is your commercial choice using carnivore-inappropriate vegetable oils? Oops. That’s actually another big “no” for your pet’s health.
You can see how easy it is for anyone to make mistakes with the best intentions while trying to create a healthily balanced diet for their furry companion. We read information that may seem solid and reasonable, but that is based more on myth, assumptions and hearsay than real science.
Unfortunately for the misinformed pet owner, and their pets, the cost of believing these myths, in health terms, is much too high.
That’s why we rely on science.
The Big Fat Truth, from the wolf’s mouth
Wolves are carnivores. They eat large animals. They eat small animals. In the wild, wolves’ diets vary by location, by season, by what’s available to them and by other environmental factors. But whatever animal prey they manage to catch and eat, that animal has skin plus a layer of subcutaneous tissue. This is a layer of fat that helps regulate the animal’s body temperature and helps protect bones and muscles from injuries.
Since the hungry wolf is going to eat as much of its prey as it can, skin included, the fat content of what they are eating is dramatically raised. That’s Mother Nature’s plan.
This works out well for the wolf.
And as life would have it, it works well for their canine ancestor (your dog’s!) body too.
What we know from evolutionary diets of cats
Like the domesticated dog, cats have dental and biological characteristics that conclude they are carnivores. Unlike dogs, cats are actually obligate carnivores which takes it a step further— cats diets require nutrients found only in animal flesh. Animal tissue, unlike food from plants, is low in carbohydrates and contains an excess of protein and fat. Their essential biological need for high protein, fat, and essential amino acids such as arginine and taurine, is a requirement for them to live and thrive.
Pets big fat needs
Domestic dogs and cats use protein to rebuild muscle. They use fat for energy. That’s simple biology.
What they don’t have, though, is a biological need for carbohydrates. Carbs aren’t found in the natural wild diet of dogs or wolves: there are no dog biscuit bushes in the wild. There’s no kibble field along the river. Cats don’t stalk corn (see what we did there?).
Nature also gives dogs and cats a built-in propensity to store energy. If you have an active fun-loving pet, you know this storehouse is a serious thing. Fat gives pets what it needs to have and store energy.
But when a dog’s or cat’s diet doesn’t have enough fat but does contain carbohydrates, guess what happens? Their body will store carbohydrates for energy. To get the right amount of energy takes twice as many carbs, weight-wise, compared to fat. That’s a lot of carbs.
What’s important is this: storing the right amount of good fat doesn’t make the pet fat. But storing that big double-load of carbohydrates does make your pet obese.
The recent upswing in pet obesity is directly related to the increase in carbohydrate-rich plant ingredients in modern pet foods. It all sounds good on the label, but…
The other end of the doggy and kitty danger zone: many of the incorrectly designed “prey model” diets relay on lean meats are actually deficient in both fats and carbohydrates. This is a big negative for your pet’s health, because now their body is forced to try to use protein to create energy, creating extra nitrogen that has to be processed by the kidneys, and that’s extremely tough on the kidneys.
Starting to get the picture? The big fat myths about fat are a dangerous thing for our beloved pets.
British Journal of Nutrition, Volume 113, Issue S1. January 2015 , pp. S40-S54.
Guido Bosch (a1). Esther A. Hagen-Plantinga (a2). Wouter H. Hendriks (a1) (a2)
(a1) 1 Animal Nutrition Group, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands. (a2) 2 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, PO Box 80.151, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands
James G. Morris. Idiosyncratic nutrient requirements of cats appear to be diet-induced evolutionary adaptations. Nutrition Research Reviews (2002), 15, 153–168 DOI: 10.1079/NRR200238. Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA