Blog : Hungry Like the Wolf; Natural Pet Store Offers Healthy and Raw Alternatives

By Katelyn | Dec 12, 2015 | in

By Craig Robert Brown

Not long ago many pet owners purchased whatever food was affordable, often in economy packs of cans or large bags. The thought being, especially with dogs, that they’ll eat anything, with little consideration given to ingredients.

But as humans reconsider their own dietary habits, it’s apparent that pets should also eat a varied diet of healthy foods and not just kibble stuffed with filler by-products. For dogs especially, consuming foods rich in protein harkens back to their ancestral habits.

“Just like how we encourage ourselves to eat, or our families to eat, for our pets we want to look for foods that are less processed, that are free from chemicals and additives and colorings and artificial ingredients,” says Dawn Price, a registered dietician who has worked in the pet food industry since 2002. “Unfortunately, when foods get in the hands of these large companies that use those [artificial] ingredients, that’s what ends up getting put into some foods.”

This fall, Price has introduced a few new lines of raw organic and natural food selections for dogs at her store The Natural Dog and Holistic Cat. Though some of the choices come with a slightly higher price tag, these foods are considered significantly better products when compared to the ingredients of standard options.

“If it’s a bag of food from a grocery store that says chicken on it, or if it’s a bag of food from a specialty store, you can guarantee it’s not the same chicken,” says Price. “There’s different varieties of chicken in the pet food industry just like there is in the human industry. The cheaper brands are probably using -- which is legal to use -- dead, dying or diseased chicken, which costs 10 cents a pound versus the specialty brands that are using human grade, free-range chicken that costs closer to $1 to $2 a pound.”

Standing beside a bank of refrigerators along the wall opposite a bazaar of leashes, collars and toys at her Islington Street store, Price says that food quality plays a large role in a dogs’ health as well as its physical attributes including increased energy and a better coat of fur.

“We see the difference in health for dogs and cats that rotate more [food], decrease kibble and add more types of fresh food or less processed food, or a higher meat content such as in cans, raw, or dehydrated,” says Price.

Price opens the refrigerator doors to reveal a trove of different types of raw and dehydrated dog food. Some of the foods, almost all of which contain either all-natural or organic ingredients, come in patties or in forms like the thick sausages found in a butcher shop.

According to Price, a dog’s diet shouldn’t just be about healthy ingredients, but also variety. She equates feeding a dog the same kibble each morning and evening to humans eating the same meal for breakfast and dinner. By adding variety to a dog’s diet, it receives essential nutrients that are often removed or artificially added to traditional kibble. Price does sell kibble and says it is not a bad option, but if pet owners do incorporate kibble it should be of high quality.

“We definitely do our research as to where it’s being manufactured, where the ingredients are being sourced for kibble,” she says. “But kibble is a highly processed food, so its not the most nutritious thing to feed dogs and cats. We really try to find a good quality but affordable kibble that allows for other additions to the diet.”

Raw foods, which are to be defrosted, as well as dehydrated food recall a dog’s ancestral instincts by incorporating ingredients such as meats and vegetables as they’re found in nature, without additives or modifications.

While the topic of raw food diets is debatable amongst veterinarians (with conventional vets both for and not for raw food diets), Price says raw foods are species appropriate and don’t lose nutrients during the heating process, like kibble and canned foods do. That’s why Price says with raw diets, it’s important not to cook the food, though they can be warmed for a dog’s taste. The vegetables and fruits in the raw foods that Price sells are all organic, with humanely raised ground meats.

As co-owner of The Natural Dog and Holistic Cat, Price, along with her husband Jeff, opened the first Natural Dog store in Newburyport in 2005. After receiving a number of customers coming from the seacoast of New Hampshire, the Prices opened a second store on Islington Street in Portsmouth in 2013.

Price does warn that pet owners shouldn’t change food on their dog, or cat, cold turkey. Doing so could also disrupt the pet’s digestion. Change in food should be integrated slowly and over a period of time, mixing in the new food with a portion of what the animal is already accustomed to eating. The more the food is changed, however, according to Price, the more they can build up a tolerance to these variations.

“The first time you change it’s always tough, but the more time you do it, the stronger their gut integrity gets and they can handle transitions over a shorter period of time,” she says.