Author Archives: Cecilia Smith

We work a lot with myths in the pet industry, and in a lot of ways it’s no different from the human food industry. Apparently food lobbying brought into existence the grain-heavy food pyramid, which has now been changed into the food plate. Studies come out all the time about this food or that food, and I’ve seen red meats demonized, breakfast cereals recommended, and the benefits of veganism vs. paleo vs. keto debates, and, ultimately, it’s obvious the unfortunate reality of what the American diet is doing to a lot of us.

It’s a lot to navigate. This is especially true when there’s industry interest in promoting one thing or another. It’s the same thing with pet health - likely you want to do what’s best for your pet, but there’s so much information out there it’s hard to know what exactly is best. Often even the “watchdogs” of pet health spread misinformation or don’t completely do their research.

I’m ruminating on this after Raw Month has ended because likely you’ve been left with questions on raw foods. I’ve addressed some issues such as cleanliness and given some options for pet owners with various concerns with our partial brand lists, but I think there is still more to note.

The first is there may be some surprising ingredients in some of our foods. You’ll notice some raw foods, for example, contain garlic. What’s this about? Isn’t garlic supposed to be toxic for dogs and cats?

While, yes, garlic does belong to the allium family, which is the same family as onions, leeks, shallots, and chives. Onion is most resoundingly toxic for dogs and cats, and to many other mammals. When I started reading about garlic, I came across repeated anecdotal evidence of horses and cows and other animals eating wild onions back in the day, and then showing signs of being poisoned. And, yes, garlic does contain thiosulphate, n-propyldisulfide, and other sulfides referenced that I don’t completely understand. These combinations and alterations of sulfur can impact the blood, possibly causing Heinz body anemia.

Definitely don’t feed your pets onions in any form or quantity.

So this doesn't look good for garlic. But, as always, there’s a twist. Apparently the main study cited when discussing the dangers of garlic was a small sample size (four dogs taking the garlic, four dogs as a control). Furthermore, each dog was fed an excessive amount of garlic for almost two weeks. For some dogs that meant several heads of garlic, while for others it meant several cloves. At the end of the study, the dogs had shown changes in their blood and some had developed Heinz bodies, but no dog had yet developed anemia.

This is a really extreme study, and it goes to show how our bodies can differ from our pets in ways we don’t expect. But does this mean that garlic truly has the potential to kill our furry companions?

The advice I’ve found on the internet (so, legit) says, yes, treat giving your pets garlic with care. For example, puppies should absolutely not be eating garlic, as their bodies don’t regenerate blood cells as frequently. Of course, take care with any pregnant animals, and those that already have anemia or blood issues. Cats are more sensitive than dogs, reportedly, so be more cautious with the amounts you give them. Finally, the frequency with which you feed them garlic should be changed according to health and season; this is because garlic apparently does build up in the system, and so feeding too consistently may cause problems. You may want to feed it seasonally because garlic is a touted natural remedy for making blood less appealing to fleas and ticks!

Recommended doses of garlic for dogs, according to Dogs Naturally. Try smaller proportions for cats.

The type of garlic you feed and how you prepare it also matters. One thing I’ve learned in my admittedly sparse discoveries of food chemistry is that chopping vegetables can cause certain compounds to mix and become even more beneficial for health. This is true for garlic. Mincing fresh garlic releases more of those healthful properties. That being said, using garlic powder or garlic from the jar might not cut it (pun not intended). Many of our customers at HPNW, for example, are worried about feeding their pets food or treats that come from China, as China doesn’t have the best track record in this area. The same principle applies to garlic - we can’t always be sure where it comes from in some forms, so fresh, organic, garlic you can get in the produce section at the grocery store might be your best bet.

Overall, my personal belief is that there are some benefits to eating garlic in small doses. But, as a precaution, please find your own sources and consult a vet if you have any further questions. Here is a more comprehensive article about foods dogs and cats can’t eat, and there are some cases of garlic poisoning on the list for those who are curious.

One final note for those families that grow herbs inside: if your cat enjoys nibbling on chives, as mine does, keep in mind that chives are a part of the same family as onions, and your cat might run the risk of getting sick. Try hanging them away from other surfaces, or put them in a hard-to-reach place. If your cat eats small quantities, it’s probably fine, but there just isn’t the same amount of research there, so be safe!

What do you think of feeding garlic to pets? Have you ever tried one of our foods with garlic in them?

I last wrote about the benefits of going raw for pets. If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead and click on over to see why we at Healthy Pets NW support feeding raw.

Otherwise, I’m starting the first of my lists regarding raw brands we love. Today we’re talking about the fun, mildly frivolous but incredibly important, realm of treats!

You may be skeptical. They’re just treats, right? Dogs will mostly eat anything and cats are so notoriously picky, so why bother?

Well. There are actually a couple of convincing reasons to invest in raw treats for your pet.

Freeze-dried duck hearts from Momentum

The first is for training. We all know the importance of training a dog properly in its first years, and even old dogs are willing to learn new tricks - for a price. Sure, your dog may sit for that biscuit, but trainers these days will share the importance of using high-value treats for the best results. Raw foods, especially those novel proteins, can be very persuasive for teaching your dog to behave a certain way, or for inspiring them to associate, say, a trip to the vet with something less painful.

The same goes for cats who are, rumor has it, trainable, but need the right kind of enticements.

The impact of high-value raw treats has been exemplified with my dogs. My little gremlin refused to be trained for much - she’d sit there staring as my big black dog learned to play dead, army crawl, and the basics. It wasn’t until we brought home some nice, stinky, salmon that she laid her head on her paws in an approximation of playing dead. Success? We’ll take it.

Animals really can be a lot easier to train when you have something they want. Furthermore, even feeding a small bit of raw can have health benefits; we sell some beef hearts that are a great source of taurine for cats, as well as fish rolls that clean teeth, and any raw food could also be used as a high value treat.

With no more delay, here are some of my favorite raw options for cats and dogs.

Vital Essential freeze-dried minnow

Anything from the Vital Essentials Raw Bar

This is both gruesome and exciting stuff. The contents of our raw bars vary across stores, but generally you may be able to find bully sticks, pig ears, fish skins, and any other variety of body parts. They are freeze-dried, chewy, and can be gross, but they are great snacks and distractions for your pets. They’re marketed as being for dogs, but I’ve known a few cat owners who really like feeding them to their kitty. I also especially like Vital Essentials’ packaged minnows, which have that strong scent but are less likely to be contaminated by mercury or other toxic chemicals in the ocean.

Sojos Simply Wild freeze-dried boar treats

Sojos Freeze-Dried Simply Wild Treats

Sojos was the first raw food on the market, if I’m remembering my facts correctly. While Healthy Pets NW generally sells the turkey and chicken freeze-dried foods, the Simply Wild treats have great novel protein options. You can find goat, wild boar, and venison among their offerings, as well as the more conventional proteins like beef and salmon. The treats themselves aren’t too large and are delightfully crunchy. Personally, I get really excited about the goat option - my dogs go crazy for it!

Primal raw meaty bones, also look for NWN Naturals bones

Primal Meaty Bones

At the Woodstock store, we keep in our freezer a lot of raw bones. I’m recommending Primal, but they’re not the only brand we carry. In general, raw bones can be quite good for animals - there are of course the benefits animals get from the meat on the bone, but the bones themselves provide calcium, and the scraping of your pet’s teeth against said bones can help with dental health! We always recommend feeding bones under supervision, just to be safe. Askour sales associates which bones could be right for your pet!

Momentum freeze-dried beef hearts

Momentum Freeze-Dried Treats

We were so excited when we got this stuff in stock. The heart and tripe options are a fantastic way to get additional essential nutrients into your pets - taurine for cats, probiotics, iron, the works. Often I wish that people in our culture ate more organ meats to get more nutritional benefits - seriously, eating diversely is a great way to guarantee health - but I’ve tried to cook heart and lungs here in Peru and haven’t been able to make myself accustomed to it. Your animals though? They’ll eat this stuff without any issues.

Answers Raw Goat Milk and Cheese

I used to love goat products before I discovered my lactose intolerance extended to goat lactose. Utterly tragic. But for dogs and cats, this stuff can be really good. Answers ferments their goat products, and so there are additional probiotics in their milk and cheese - if pumpkin isn’t doing it for your pet, Answers could be the answer. In addition to the fermentation, their products have anti-inflammatory herbs such as ginger and cinnamon, and anti-inflammatory and antibacterial raw honey. This stuff is so good, some of the staff eat it themselves.

These are five of some incredible raw treats we have on hand at Healthy Pets NW, but there are so many more options than that. If you’re thinking of dipping your toes in the raw pool, have a picky pet, or need your animal to behave a little better, these are great choices - but you can always ask our sales associates for their favorite products as well. We at Healthy Pets NW are happy to help!

Which treats on the list have you tried for your pet?

June is Raw Food Month at Healthy Pets Northwest, and so I’ve been commissioned to write about the benefits of a raw diet for your animal, and to share the experiences of feeding our dogs raw.

I should say outright that, here at Healthy Pets Northwest, we will always tout the benefits of going raw. Our fridges and shelves are stocked with an array of raw items, such as dehydrated treats, freeze-dried and frozen foods, meaty bones, and fermented goat’s milk. However, while we believe in the raw diet, we don’t judge pet parents who are doing the best they can within budget and time constraints.

There are a lot of reasons we advocate raw. For one, if you think about pet diets, it’s only recently that kibble has become a standard meal for cats and dogs. Before, dogs and cats might have eaten table scraps and leftovers (as they still do in many parts of the world!), and often they would have hunted for small prey. Cats in particular are much closer to their evolutionary forebears in terms of diet; there’s a reason there are so many anecdotes about cats dropping off “gifts” for their owners.

And, really, I’ve always been confused about some of the logic as to why kibble is considered the nutritional default. For example, cats are obligate carnivores. It is a necessity that their diet consists mainly of meat. Cats also need more moisture from their food because their tongue is literally not made for lapping up water - it doesn’t cup liquid like a dog’s tongue does, and thus dry food doesn’t provide the needed moisture. This is why a lot of cats, especially males, have so many urinary tract issues. Finally, the idea that dry food is good for a cat’s teeth because they have to chew it also does not make sense to me. Here’s why: carbs are the quickest to go in the digestive process, and as the saliva breaks down the kibble in the mouth, the sugary bits can coat the teeth and in fact cause more dental problems later.

(Quick side note: for those who want to avoid many of these problems, but can’t afford or are skeptical of going raw, here are some solutions: try mixing warm water, bone broth without sodium, pumpkin, or other liquids into kibble to give more moisture, protein, or whatever nutritional content you feel your cat is lacking. Additionally, many brands are coming out with foods with smaller kibble sizes to avoid allowing carbs to build up in the mouth from too much chewing.)

For dogs, although their systems can handle more variety than cats, the reasoning is much the same. Kibble often lacks the nutrition that dogs need, can contain a lot of fillers, and there have been quite a few controversies in recent years regarding even the best kibbles (Healthy Pets Northwest does our best to stay on top of these issues and maintain a quality stock of products). Many customers will remember a popular brand covering up pentobarbital in its red meat kibble, while another brand was recently under fire for bad meat illegally making its way into their food via a third-party vendor. While there is a large cry on the internet about the danger of raw foods, the reality is that the pet industry as a whole has a lot of problems with regulations, transparency, and quality control.

So far I’m throwing a lot of negativity at you, but, because we’re celebrating the raw diet here, of course there are many good things to say.

The raw diet, if done right, can do amazing things for pets’ health. A higher protein content can cure those cravings, make a more active animal, and provide some of those lovely aesthetic benefits such as a silkier coat and better breath. Furthermore, if your pet has problems with yeast infections, food allergies, or UTI's, many raw foods provide complex and complete meals without a lot of the filler and with the moisture needed. Many of the foods we carry in store have high certifications in areas like food quality, sustainability, and treating animals humanely. Finally, raw food makers often use novel proteins such as quail, rabbit, or bison - perfect for the pet with a lot of allergies.

We’ve seen a huge difference in our own dogs when we switched them from kibble to raw. They stopped counter-surfing or digging through the trash - we could leave food out for a bit if we needed, without risk that it would go down the gullet of an enterprising pooch. One of my dogs, who can’t eat chicken in kibble (except for that of the brand Open Farms, which does really good work in the pet food industry) is able to eat chicken from our raw brands without getting hot spots. They really do have softer fur, smaller and less pungent stools, and more energy. My little gremlin in particular has retained her energy, even as her muzzle has been turning white.

It’s amazing seeing such a difference with the change in diet, especially in regards to the counter-surfing behavior. And, indeed, whenever I hear about a cat or dog who eats random things like toilet paper rolls or pokes through the garbage, that’s always a huge sign that something isn’t right in their nutritional content. If you find your animal doing these things, consider examining their diet, whatever it is, and trying out something new.

If you’re interested in making raw food yourself, there are many recommendations online for recipes. Whole Dog Journal and have good pieces on the raw diet, with information for feeding it to puppies and kittens, and transitioning pets from kibble or canned to raw. It’s good stuff.

Of course, we’d also love to sell you the food we have in the store. If you’re like me at all, which is constantly exhausted and short on time, I’d definitely consider checking out some of our brands (click here for a list). Our foods take into account the percentage needed of protein, fat, and bones, and many include mindful fruits and vegetables for added nutrition, and to target specific health problems. Raw treats can be very persuasive indeed, especially with dogs. Again, because cats may be a bit more difficult, I’d recommend checking out some of the articles on Raw meaty bones can be good for the dental aspect as well as strengthening important muscles - we at Healthy Pets Northwest have our preferences for which bones are best, and which are safest. I would recommend asking one of our sales associates the next time you stop in.

As to some of the common concerns floating around the internet, I’ll confess, I don’t get the logic of some of them. One is the bevy of articles about feeding raw food being dangerous for households. I understand the concern, but feeding your pets raw is really no different than preparing a hamburger or chicken from scratch. Sanitize surfaces, and wash your hands. But, what is more, our brands in store either test for pathogens in every batch they produce, or they have an additional kill-step built into the process. Many of our brands are produced in human-grade facilities, contain hormone-free meat, and are actually cleaner than a lot of meat you’ll find in supermarkets. When there have been problems, we’ve been notified right away and been able to recall the contaminated products. And, finally, the reality is that cats and dogs have evolved to handle certain kinds of bacteria better. E. coli? Less of a threat to their shorter and more acidic digestive tracts. For immunocompromised animals, of course check with your veterinarian, but I hope I’ve assuaged some fears.

All in all, I am a huge believer in feeding pets raw. Even adding some raw elements can be really good for your pet’s health - so think about making those first steps.

We’d love to hear from you! What have been your experiences feeding raw? Do you prefer to make it yourself, or buy premade food?

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