It is not only humans that thrive on a diet that they evolved to eat. Domestic pets do too. Today’s Sunday Star Times profiled local Auckland Vet Dr Lyn Thomson, (Raw Essentials) and her drive to encourage cat and dog owners to feed them food like they would eat in the wild, rather than processed pet food. Not surprisingly pets too suffer similar health issues to our own when fed pet food that contain grains, high carbohydrates, fatty acid deficiencies, flavour enhancers and preservatives, that that they are ill-equipped to digest. The result: problems such as leaky gut, food allergies, itchy skin, malabsorption, immune dysfunction, autoimmune disease, behavioral disorders, joint pain and urinary tract disease.
By Greg Ninness
AN AUCKLAND vet is taking on the giants of the pet food industry with a range of uncooked foods designed to replicate the natural diet of cats and dogs.
Dr Lyn Thomson’s company, Raw Essentials, has just opened its second shop, selling its range of uncooked cat and dog foods, mainly made from rabbit, hare, possum, chicken, sheep and fish.
The theory is that, in the wild, cats and dogs eat all of their prey – the offal, bones and skin, as well as the meat – and their digestive systems have developed to process that mix of ingredients in their food.
However, many of the processed pet foods sold in supermarkets contain high levels of grain and vegetable-based products, as well as additives such as flavour enhancers and preservatives, which cats and dogs would not normally eat in the wild, and which they may find difficult to digest, Thomson said.
“Dogs and cats, our pet carnivores, need to rip and tear at their food,” she said.
That is the animal equivalent of humans brushing and flossing their teeth.
“Raw, real food provides all the nutrients our pets need, is easy for them to digest, keeps teeth healthy and improves mental wellbeing,” she said.
Thomson developed her own range of raw pet foods because so many of her veterinary clients questioned the nutritional value of processed pet foods.
She would give them fact sheets, which listed a mix of raw ingredients to feed their pets, with instructions on how to prepare them. But most people found the preparation of raw food time consuming and some of the ingredients, such as green tripe, were hard to find. Green tripe is unwashed tripe and is not normally sold by butchers, but it’s an important ingredient in pet food, Thomson said.
That’s because cats and dogs would normally prey on animals that are vegetarians, such as birds and rabbits, and the partially digested plant matter in those animals’ gut would supply the cats and dogs with the plant nutrients they needed.
Because it was pre-digested by their prey, their own digestive systems could handle it more easily, Thomson said.
Including green tripe in the food was the best way of providing pre-digested nutrients, she said.
She had the idea of packaging up a balanced mix of raw foods for her clients but, like them, also had difficulty sourcing the ingredients until she approached the staff at Auckland Zoo and asked them where they got the food for their carnivores from.
She then started sourcing ingredients from the same South Island abattoir.
Initially, it was her veterinary customers who were buying the packs, but their popularity grew by word of mouth and sales increased, and a specialist Raw Essentials shop was opened in the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn.
A second, bigger shop, was opened at Glenfield on the North Shore just before Christmas and Thomson is also supplying the packs to a handful of vet clinics and pet outlets.
Thomson said feeding pets Raw Essentials food cost about the same as feeding them a top-end pet food from a supermarket, about $1.50 to $1.80 a day for a cat, and $3 a day for a large dog.
Although Raw Essentials is tiny compared to the multinational companies that dominate the pet food trade, Thomson believes her company will continue to expand because the market is so large and she is operating in a growing niche. According to market research organisation The Nielsen Company, supermarkets in this country sold $327 million of pet food in the year to February.
So, even if Raw Essentials eventually captures only 1% of that market, it would be turning over nearly $3.3m a year.
– Sunday Star Times
Raw Essentials Website: http://www.rawessentials.co.nz/index.php
Update June 2011: Pet Lab’s health improves in just one week on Paleo diet
Be sure to read the articles on the website: http://www.rawessentials.co.nz/content/page38/Articles.html