by: Shawnda McCollum
On our site and others that promote raw diets, you will often find a list of benefits such as increased hydration, no fillers, species appropriate, improved dental health from chewing bones, and decreased chances of or delayed onset of insulinoma. While all of these benefits are incredibly important, my own experience with my 4 year old baby, Bubby, recently reminded me of another: Ingredient control.
If you have ever had a pet with allergies or dietary intolerance on a commercially prepared diet, you may understand the nightmare of standing in a store with ALL of the bags flipped over so you can read and compare ingredients. You have NO idea which one is causing the problem, so you’re looking for a common culprit. Once you figure out what the offending ingredient is, finding a food that DOESN’T contain it is your next challenge.
A balanced raw diet allows you to be in complete control of the ingredients your pet is ingesting. My Bubby began having some digestive issues this spring. He was also showing signs of adrenal disease and I got him into our vet for a Suprelorin implant. While he was there, our vet did a comprehensive blood panel. The results were troubling. The diarrhea that Bubby had been experiencing was indicative of IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease). His blood work showed low protein and albumin levels, which, considering that protein was ALL he was eating had us concerned. These results can be caused by liver issues, or food traveling so quickly through the gut due to IBD that the body doesn’t have time to absorb all of the nutrients before they exit. In our case, after discussing with my vet, we decided to do a protein elimination diet.
I started with lamb. He ate lamb chunks with ground eggshells sprinkled on it for calcium, for two weeks. His stools firmed up and he started having more energy. We then added beef, which he also tolerated well. I added quail, then mice, then duck, and turkey. Each step took several weeks. His energy levels continued to improve and his stools were still about as consistent as can be expected from a raw diet. Then I offered him some Cornish game hen. Yep. His diarrhea returned with a vengeance. Each and every time I have tried a form of chicken meat in his diet, we have the same result.
The good news is, having single ingredients allowed me to identify the issue and still allows him to have a varied, balanced diet without exposing him to the one that was causing all the problems. I took Bubby to the vet yesterday for a follow-up. He has gained back the 1/3 lb. that he had lost while he was ill and his protein and albumin levels are back up. I’m so grateful to the Holistic Ferret Forum for giving me the tools to manage the health of my little ones.