With a growing awareness of the importance of dietary changes for optimal health in pets, many owners have tried to make the switch from store-bought, mass-produced extruded kibble to the raw diet now seen as the most species-appropriate way to nurture the beloved, furry members of the family. But on busy weeknights, chopping extra broccoli and scouring markets for meaty bones is simply too much, even if a diet of meats, grains, fruit and vegetables is an all-natural route to improved pet health.

Try whole foods

Maria Ringo, Co-Founder and Director of Healthcare for Carna4 Handcrafted Pet Food, has heard that lament time and again. A lifelong “health food nut,” she started one of North America’s first raw pet food brands in the 1980s while raising bull mastiffs and working at a health food co-op. She wanted to feed her dogs the same quality food she desired for herself and saw raw feeding as the answer. A few decades later, Ringo now realizes that although many people believe raw feeding is ideal, it’s also expensive, complex, and time-consuming.

“We came up with Carna4, a perfect solution for busy people who want whole foods that are synthetic-free and real, natural diets for their dogs and cats,” she says. Carna4 pet foods are quick-baked and air-dried to preserve nutrients, and contain no animal by-products, “meat meals” or powdered vitamin-mineral mixes that are made in labs overseas.

“Our ingredients are 100 percent real food you’d recognize,” Ringo says. For example, a bag of Carna4 Grain-Free Duck dog food contains duck, pork liver, eggs, organic sprouted seed, herring, fava beans, kelp, sweet potato, and organic sprouted flax seed, among other produce, all grown in North America. Because anything can be labelled “natural,” it’s important for owners to read the list of ingredients and look for chemicals, additives, and synthetics.

Read the ingredients!

At her clinic in Guelph, holistic veterinarian Dr. Bianca Ferenczy often sees patients who want to start or continue raw or whole-foods based diets for their pets. After making the switch from an overly-processed diet to a whole foods-based diet, she sees improvement in coat lustre, energy, and overall fat and muscle distribution. Anecdotally, she sees animals with a whole foods diet thrive into old age.

“It’s like the difference between eating fast food or boxed food, or going to the market and buying fresh fruit and vegetables and meats,” Dr. Ferenczy says. Where appropriate and feasible, she recommends a raw or slightly-cooked whole foods diet “made from wholesome ingredients and properly prepared.”

With many so-called natural products on the market, consumers need to be savvy.

Fortunately, companies like Carna4 are able to provide convenience in addition to ingredients that are recognizable and minimally-processed, meaning animals can absorb the available nutrition for optimal pet health and improved bodily function, just like their human companions.

“I love seeing people and animals thrive through proper nutrition,” Ringo says.