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The Dangers Of Dry Pet Food

Updated on August 1, 2012

Cats depend mostly on their food for their water. If your cat was living in the wild its normal prey would contain around 70% water. However dry cat food contains only 5-10% water. Now you would expect the cat to get thirsty and simply drink more water to counteract for the lack of water in the dry food, but cats have a low thirst drive and simply will not attempt to make up any deficit that it needs at the water bowl. It is extremely important that you monitor your cat and make sure that it is consuming plenty of water on a regular basis. If you’re feeding your cat dry food and you’re not doing this, it could very well result in the death of the cat.

Dry VS. Canned

Canned food typically contains 78% water. It has been shown that when cats consume canned cat food that they also consume at least double the amount of water as compared to consuming dry food. This is very important for your cats health because their kidneys are so very fragile. There are two other things unhealthy about dry cat food, first, the carbohydrate load is too high. Second, they use the wrong type of protein - it is too high in a plant-based protein versus animal-based protein.

There is another point to consider about dry pet food, it almost always contains potentially deadly fungal mycotoxins, chemicals, storage mites, and it also contains a great deal of bacteria. There are countless instances of mold toxin-related deaths of pets after eating contaminated commercial dry food. These calamities are simply too high in number to list all of them.

But fungal mycotoxins, chemicals, storage mites, and bacteria are not your only worries when it comes to dry pet food. They also contain fats that become dangerously rancid over time, and at some point even preservatives do not help (nor do preservatives help your pets health). Oxygen is a big factor in why the fats become rancid, and without costly and extreme measures, you are not going to remove the oxygen issue. Some pet foods even contain a dangerous ethanol by-product. Simply stated, what your pet eats will determine how long it lives, or how quickly it dies.

Enzymes? What Enzymes?

For the most part, everyone reading this understands how important it is for humans to consume grains, fruits and vegetables. For us humans fruits and vegetables are essential for our good health. However this article is not about food for human consumption, it is about cat and dog dietary needs, and their needs are vastly different from our own, even though the pet food industry is trying to convince you otherwise.

You'll see dry pet food packaged in such a way that it advertises how it contains grains and vegetables like tomatoes and spinach, and you may say to yourself as you're reading that bag of dog/cat food "Hmm.... that sounds healthy" but to your pet is really isn't. When was the last time you saw a cat eating a piece of bread or spinach in the wild? Their digestive system is much different from a humans, and marketing campaigns geared to get you to buy their brand of dog/cat food won't make your pet healthy. If you want to make your pet healthy, you need to mimic what it would eat in the wild.

You wouldn't feed a goldfish hot dogs and pizza, and there's a logical reason for that. In the natural environment of a goldfish there are no sources for pizza or hotdogs. It would not meet their dietary needs in any case. For the same reason you need to feed your cat and/or dog an environmentally appropriate diet. It should mimic what they would find and eat in the wild. It may feel counterintuitive but cats do not normally eat grains, fruits or vegetables. If we were feeding horses or cows we might be able to get away with this type of a diet, but it would be inappropriate to feed this type of a diet to your feline.

More times than not feeding our little friends grains, fruits or vegetables would cause problems in the their digestive tract. This is because they do not have the digestive enzymes necessary to break down these type of foods and process vegetables and/or fruits into any usable form. This is why they regurgitate when they eat grass. If they feel sick they will instinctively know that eating something like grass will cause them to purge whatever is in their digestive tract. Since they have no enzymes the grass will also act as a natural laxative, counteracting whatever gave them indigestion.

Their Needs Are Different

Pet food manufacturers are now starting to add vegetables, fruits and grains to pet food, but they are doing it for the most part due to marketing and because they know all to well that most people are not aware that pets simply do not have the enzymes necessary to break down grains, fruits and vegetables in their digestive tract. Your cat is designed to be a carnivore, not a vegetarian. To keep them healthy they need to eat an environmentally appropriate diet.

Your best alternative (health wise for your pet) is to simply make your own pet food. However this is a very detailed process because a pets nutrition is very different from a humans. I will outline and detail this process in a future article, but for now the safest and easiest thing for pet owners to do is to simply switch from dry to a reputable canned pet food. For cat owners this may be a difficult process, especially if your cat is used to dry food. Here are some things to keep in mind while you are transitioning your cat from unhealthy dry cat food to the healthier canned.

Be patient, it can take over 3 months to complete the dry to canned food transition, so roll your sleeves up and be prepared to out stubborn your feline friend. Your single biggest tool in accomplishing the transition will be your patience. Some cats can be incredibly ‘set in their ways’ when it comes to their food. The key is to do it very slowly and with a lot of patience on your part. You can incorporate various tricks mentioned below for the extra special stubborn cat. What is most important is that actually making the change over to canned food, not how fast you can accomplish it. This is not a race. You should be doing this for one reason only, which is to help your beloved cats health.

Helping The Transition Along

Keep in mind that this is stressful for your cat. After all, he or she may be worried because you are tampering with their known food source. Many times cats do not see canned food as food. It is your job to teach them that it is. Always make sure that the food is at room temperature when you feed them. Cats do not like cold food, so your ice cream is safe. They don’t like hot food either. Body temperature/room temperature is what they prefer. An easy way to remember this is by the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Remember when she tasted the porridge from the first bowl and said "This porridge is too hot!" Then she tasted the porridge from the second bowl and said. "This porridge is too cold,". Then she tasted the last bowl of room temperature porridge. "Ahhh, this porridge is just right," she said happily… and she ate it all up. When it comes to the temperature of the food, your cat could easily play the part of Goldilocks.

Some cats develop diarrhea whenever there is a diet change. This should not be seen as an excuse to just put them back on dry food. Instead try crushing up a little (just a little) dry cat food and sprinkling it over their new canned cat food. This trick works good for most cats. An average cat should eat 1 1/2 - 2 ounces of canned food, two or three times a day (for a total of 4-6 ounces).

You will need to use the cats normal sensation of hunger and use it to your advantage during the transition. Exercising your cat with a toy can also help you to stimulate his appetite. You will also need to establish specific set mealtimes, for example; feed them at noon and at 12 midnight. They need to get into the habit of eating at only set mealtimes. If your cat is stubborn do NOT try to starve them into eating the new canned food. All cats need food on a regular basis, and if they go without it for longer than 24 hours it could be dangerous and may result in Hepatic Lipidosis. Another way that a cat can develop Hepatic Lipidosis is by eating 50% or less of their normal amount of food over a period of several days.

Except for the occasional treat, do not give your cat a predominantly fish-based diet. Doing so could cause a health problem. When choosing a canned food for your cat stay away from any “light" varieties, since typically they are very high in carbohydrates (which are bad for your cat). Several tricks that you can use to help you during the transition period are:

  • Mix the canned food with a little bit of flavored waters such as beef or chicken broth, or clam juice.
  • If you still have any dry food in the house just remember that their sense of smell is incredible and they can probably still smell it, thus they will try to hold out for it instead of eating the canned food. Try keeping the dry food in your refrigerator instead.
  • Believe it or not most cats love parmesan cheese. Try sprinkling some on the new canned food. This will also help them to think of the canned food as a treat.
  • Try using a product called FortiFlora. It can be purchased from most veterinarians or online. Most cats love FortiFlora because it smells tasty to them. It is also incredibly healthy for them but they don’t have to know that.
  • A good source for canned cat food nutritional information can be found on these two web pages;


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    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 6 years ago from Texas

      Great info! Voted up and useful! :)

    • daisynicolas profile image

      daisynicolas 6 years ago from Alaska

      Good to encourage people to homecook your "child's" food. Just imagine, we humans consume these processed foods for us and suffer from obesity and other related-food factors. Pets are not immune to this. Look up in my hubpages for homecook meals and treats for dogs. Cats would love them too. They are actually easy to prepare and if you have a reliable freezer, your cat will be fed safe natural homestyle meals.


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