Raw food has been the staple for millennia, but dehydrated food is becoming popular–for good reasons.
Raw foods have been popularized by human diet fads and are often the preferred diet choice for holistic veterinarians and pet owners. Dehydrated foods may be an even better option, since they offer all the benefits of raw food with much fewer risks.
Raw Pet Food Benefits
Raw offers many benefits including fresh, non-processed foods that are rich in vitamins, enzymes and bio-nutrients. Traditional kibble is processed at very high temperatures, often exceeding 5000 F, and this can destroy many vital nutrients, particularly enzymes, proteins, and other essential nutrients such as anti-oxidants. As a consequence of the high temperature processing, all foods lose their naturally rich color and become dark brown.
By contrast, raw vegetables maintain colors of red, yellow, green and orange that are naturally full of vitamins. In addition, raw foods lack the preservatives commonly found in kibble including BHA and BHT, which could potentially lead to cancer if consumed in excess quantities.
Raw Pet Food Risks
Raw food, however, is not without its own risks and counter benefits. Raw food is unprocessed, which means the meats and vegetables are in their whole form. Raw foods are much harder for the body to “break down” and digest than their cooked counterpart. This can be beneficial for building a strong digestive tract in a young or otherwise healthy pet, however, for certain pets this may present a considerable challenge.
Also, raw meats purchased at a grocery store are not intended to be fed raw and may contain dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and other pathogens that could pose serious health problems for certain pets. Particularly for older pets, immune-suppressed animals or pets with dental problems (for whom chewing raw foods can be painful), other options may be better.
Dehydrated Pet Food Benefits
Dehydrated pet foods offer all the benefits of raw, including minimal processing and high bioavailability of nutrients. The gentle heating slowly cooks proteins without compromising their nutrient value, yet eliminates the dangerous pathogens commonly found in raw meats. The dehydration process also helps to begin the digestive process, which makes it far easier on the digestive tract of a pet that is older or managing other health problems.
In addition, dehydrated foods are not messy like raw, nor do they pose the environmental and public health risks of raw foods. Finally, dehydrated foods are compact, can be packed easily for a summer vacation trip and do not require refrigeration.
In short, dehydrated pet foods are a healthy and safe alternative to raw with all the benefits and fewer risks.
Dr. Leilani Alvarez
Leilani Alvarez, DVM, CVA, CCRT, CVCHM is an integrative veterinarian, utilizing both conventional and holistic modalities and is employed at the renowned Animal Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Alvarez is the director of The Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation & Fitness Service at NYC’s Animal Medical Center. She practices Integrative Medicine, which includes therapies such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, homeopathy and physical rehabilitation, which help to increase the overall health of a patient and can often increase the success of conventional treatments.