Paleo food plans for today’s pets

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Domesticated dogs and cats are descendents from their wild ancestors, who did not wait around for their owners to use openers to crack open cans of processed food. Wild animals’ eating habits are much different from the dietary routines of household pets, and that disparity has helped fuel a movement promoting paleo diets for pets.

Advocates of the paleo diet for pets say that the number of pets struggling with obesity and chronic disease could be a byproduct of unhealthy eating habits. Household pets tend to spend ample time indoors and are subjected to many of the same stressors as their owners, many of whom feed their pets processed foods out of convenience. Owners who want to exercise greater control over their pets’ diets and see their furry friends eat healthier are increasingly turning to paleo diets for their pets.

According to Dr. Jean Hofve, author of “Paleo Dog: Give Your Best Friend a Long Life, Healthy Weight, and Freedom from Illness by Nurturing His Inner Wolf,” the paleo diet traces its origins to the Paleolithic Era, when a hunter-gatherer society was predominant. Some refer to paleo diets as “Caveman” diets. Paleo diets focus largely on items that were available before agriculture was widely available. Such foods include meat, fish, eggs, mushrooms, nuts, fruits, and occasionally honey. Grains, dairy and processed foods are not. Paleo diets include raw, unprocessed foods.

While there are many advocates of paleo diets, some people take issue with raw pet food diets, warn public health veterinarians, like those at the Minnesota Department of Health in St. Paul. Some may not be balanced for pets, and raw foods may contain pathogens, such as salmonella and others. That’s why many vets advise cooking pets’ foods. Even if dogs or cats themselves do not get sick from raw foods, they may pass pathogens on to their owners through their waste.

Pet owners may find that a combination of the paleo diet and more traditional pet foods works best for their pets. Dogs and cats have evolved and may be adept at eating a more varied diet. Include grain-free options and supplement with meats that have been grilled or poached so that pathogens are killed. This can strike a balance that serves pets and their owners well.  

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