Are Complex Diets Good or Bad?

Are Complex Diets Good or Bad?

You can’t help running across videos or posts of a raw feeding DIY expert putting together their pet’s meal.  You know, something along the lines of kangaroo tail with green tripe, pork brain, oysters, moose pancreas, opossum spleen, water buffalo tongue, and sardines.  

As you’re watching the video or reading the post you wonder does my dog or cat need that kind of exotic diet with all of those ingredients?

I’m a fan of Billy Shakes who wrote “brevity is the soul of wit”.  You know, less is more. That’s true not just for writing but about everything in life, including diet.  Typically less is more. A simple diet with a handful of the right ingredients is usually best.

Believe it or not, we have several customers who are DIY feeders that followed “the more exotic the better” and “more is better” philosophies.  The problem with these diets is they may not be properly balanced despite having a raft of ingredients, including exotic items.  Their pets have developed a nutrition issue and they reach out to us for help.  We revert their pet to a simpler, balanced diet, customized to their pet of course.

I cringe watching some of those DIY videos, how they pour this or that in a bowl, adding without much measuring, one exotic ingredient after another.  You’ll hear them say cheerfully, reminiscent of Julia Childs, “I’m adding this one for Omegas, and this one for B12, this for zinc, and this for antioxidants.”  

While it may be true those nutrients are in the ingredients, what isn’t considered are interactions, amounts, and counter-effects.  Food science is chemistry. Biochemistry actually. For example, some nutrients cancel others (limit or block nutrient uptake), and some nutrients have a maximum absorption amounts, wasting those expensive ingredients.  The more that’s added into a meal, the more complex the chemistry gets. This is where lab testing comes in.  Once you know the quantities of all nutrients, you can start to match those to the biologies and conditions you’re addressing. In other words, tossing a bunch of ingredients into a bowl and hoping it all works together isn’t the best strategy for a balanced diet.

Exotic foods aren’t bad.  There are some good reasons to use them, like an elimination diet to find food allergies.  Feeding exotic proteins won’t prevent food allergies – they are no more or less allergenic than more common foods; allergies to them are just less common. Your pet can develop allergies/sensitivities to exotic foods too, given enough servings of it. For example, in Australia kangaroo is a common protein, but in the USA, it’s exotic. Some dogs in Australia are sensitive to kangaroo, but I’d bet there are virtually none in the USA.

Exotic meats can be expensive and are no more nutritious than conventional meats.  You can save yourself money and time by using more common ingredients.  Unless there’s a clear reason for using exotic foods, you can safely stick to more common ingredients without fear of malnutrition.

Then there’s the part about biological nutritional requirements. Like all animals, we evolved to thrive off of the food that was available to us. Humans are generalists, omnivores, which means we can eat about anything and thrive. Dogs are carnivores that are closer to the omnivore end of the spectrum, making them mostly generalists, while cats are specialists. Their nutritional needs are narrow and specific. Cats evolved in the middle east where, for example, kangaroo didn’t exist in their diet, so their bodies aren’t adapted to the nutritional profile of that protein. While kangaroo or other exotic meats may not be bad for your dog or cat, it’s not ideal either. (It’s why feeding a cat a solid fish diet will likely result in severe nutritional issues.)

With any diet, the paramount concerns are balance and minimal processing, not the novelty of the proteins or the number of ingredients. Usually, keeping it simple works best.

Fetching Foods is a top quality, nutritionally rich food for dogs and cats.  It’s made entirely with high-end, human-grade ingredients and lab tested.  We offer raw, cooked, and custom options.  We are trained pet nutritionists, chefs, and herbalists.

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