Updated: Dec 16, 2021
A freeze dried raw company called Stella and Chewy’s is a popular food for those wishing to add raw into their companion’s diet. Founded in 2003 the company proudly displays “a little raw goes a long way” on their packaging. Although their intentions are good in helping to introduce the idea of raw to the average pet owner and consumer, this statement is extremely misguiding unfortunately. On a standard commercial diet of dry kibble or canned food we find the pH levels of the stomach acid are greatly reduced to about 4-5 pH reaching an alkaline level (this meaning the acid is more basic than acidic) (1). This is caused by the high quantities of carbohydrates in commercial pet foods. This isn’t just grains, but fruits and veggies too. So even your grain free brands aren’t safe from these alkalizing affects.
Furthermore, this “traditional” diet, being made of ingredient’s not suitable for our carnivore friends, lowers their immune system (2). Just imagine if you ate McDonald’s all day every day, you probably would not be the healthiest person. You probably get sick more often and feel icky compared to if you ate a balanced diet primarily of fruits and veggies (which are suitable for an omnivorous diet). It works the same for our companions. If they are constantly spending tons of energy on ingredients that are taxing to digest, then the body’s focus isn’t on health or a quality immune system.
On a diet of raw meats, organs and bone, the pH of the stomach is at a normal level for a carnivore, around 1-2 pH (3). Unlike fruits, veggies and other plant matter, meat is acidic so that when it is consumed the stomach acid becomes acidic (3). Unlike commercial, overly heated and over processed diets, a raw diet is a natural diet that these animals would consume in the wild, heck even as feral animals on our domestic streets would seek raw foods. This diet being species appropriate is conducive for maintaining a high immune system that can fight most illness and disease and deal with other stresses (3,4,5).
So what does this mean for your companion? An alkaline stomach acid has a lessened ability to neutralize and destroy bad bacteria. This is why so many pet foods are removed from the shelf when a recall of listeria or salmonella is announced. Normally, if that animal were on a raw diet they would be able to handle the bacteria load, neutralize it and destroy it often never being affected by the actual bacteria (3, 4). When one feeds a mixture of raw and kibble, the stomach acid can never reach that very acidic level that could kill the bacteria. Instead the body is still in a depressed state actually making them more susceptible to illness and disease. Furthermore, because the commercial kibble contains inappropriate ingredients that do not digest as well and takes more effort for the body, digestion rates differ between raw and kibble. Kibble can slow the elimination of waste as well as cause digestive upset which can include vomiting and diarrhea (6, 7, 8).
Long story short DO NOT MIX RAW AND KIBBLE. Transitioning to raw can be quite easy and cost effective. Not only that but even if your companion has been on kibble it’s whole life it only takes 7-10 days for their stomach acid to reach a level that is normal for a carnivore. AMAZING!
Saint-Hilaire, S.,Lavers, M.K., Kennedy, J. & Code, C.F. (1960). Gastric acid secretory value of different foods. Gastroenterology, 39(1)
Myles, I A. “Fast Food Fever: Reviewing the Impacts of the Western Diet on Immunity.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 17 June 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2493923
Beasley DE, Koltz AM, Lambert JE, Fierer N, Dunn RR. (2015) The Evolution of Stomach Acidity and Its Relevance to the Human Microbiome. PLoS ONE 10(7): e0134116. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0134116
Smith, J.L. (2003). The role of gastric acid in preventing foodborne disease and how bacteria oversome acid conditions. Journal of Food Protection, 66(7):1292-1303
Sandri, M., Dal Monego, S., Conte, G., Sgorlon, S., & Stefanon, B. (2016). Raw meat based diet influences faecal microbiome and end products of fermentation in healthy dogs. BMC Veterinary Research, 13, 65. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12917-017-0981-z
Claudia Ugarte, W. Grant Guilford, Peter Markwell, Evelyn Lupton; Carbohydrate Malabsorption Is a Feature of Feline Inflammatory Bowel Disease but Does Not Increase Clinical Gastrointestinal Signs, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 134, Issue 8, 1 August 2004, Pages 2068S–2071S, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/134.8.2068S
Bardin, Stefani. “2011 TEDxManhattan Fellow: Artist Stefani Bardin.” YouTube, YouTube, 19 Sept. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLPfCfdQfPY.
Chassaing, Benoit, et al. “Dietary Emulsifiers Impact the Mouse Gut Microbiota Promoting Colitis and Metabolic Syndrome.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 25 Feb. 2015, www.nature.com/articles/nature14232.