We are talking today about the importance of moisture in our pet’s foods. While this subject applies to both dogs and cats, moisture can have an even more pronounced effect on cats, so cats may get a bit more attention in this presentation. But moisture is critically important to both dogs and cats.
After oxygen, water is the next element animals (and humans) can’t live without.
Water makes up 60% of our dog’s and cat’s bodies.
Body fluids, cell walls and tissues are made up of mostly water.
Water is critical for the body to function and stay healthy.
Low fluid levels in our cars leads to mechanical problems. The same goes for our pets.
Dogs and cats are both carnivores. In the wild, dogs are “scavenging carnivores,” eating animals they catch, dead animals, and other foods. Cats in the wild evolved as “strict carnivores.” They got most of their nutrition from catching live prey. Carnivores also get lots of water from their foods – 60-75% of fresh foods is water.
Water makes up 60% of our dog’s and cat’s bodies
Most cats evolved in desert climates, where water was scarce. Cats don’t naturally drink a lot of water, even when dehydrated. As strict carnivores, they always got most of their water from their food – they are genetically programmed this way. I’ll repeat: foods carnivores eat are 60-75% water.
About 100 years ago, dry, kibble pet foods were created. Kibble is a mixture of meat, grains and other ingredients, heated and formed into dry, crunchy pieces. Dry foods are currently the most popular way to feed dogs and cats – in 2015, pet owners spent $3.8 billion dollars on dry pet foods! Dry foods are 5-10% moisture. Did you get that? 5-10% moisture. This is less than 1/10th the moisture content of fresh meat – a huge change in how cats and dogs used to eat. How would your car function on 1/10th the fluids it was meant to have? Imagine eating regular meals of beef jerky and granola.
Is kibble alone the best food for cats and dogs? NO. Could feeding only dry food be causing health problems? YES!!
Here are some problems with feeding only dry foods:
Dry, kibble foods are 5-10% moisture, a big change from fresh foods
In order to digest dry foods, the body has to give up moisture to soften the food before digestion can begin
These fluids have to come from other body areas, like the kidneys, liver and skin
Dry foods are high-carbohydrate foods, which can contribute to weight gain, inflammation and diabetes.
Cats eating dry foods have a higher risk of urinary infections and urinary crystal or stone formation
Remember that a carnivorous diet is a high-moisture diet, 60-75% water. Cats and dogs are genetically built to do best on high-moisture foods, like canned and raw meats, vegetables and fruits. These foods are easier to digest, and increase the amounts of water taken in every day. As high-moisture foods, they match cat and dog’s natural need for high quality protein and fat, low carbohydrate levels, and most importantly, plenty of water.
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Wei A, Fascetti AJ, Villaverde C, Wong RK, Ramsey JJ. “Effect of water content in a canned food on voluntary food intake and body weight in cats.” American Journal of Veterinary Research Vol. 72, No. 7, Pages 918-923
Zoran DL, Buffington CAT. “Effects of nutrition choices and lifestyle changes on the well-being of cats, a carnivore that has moved indoors.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association Vol. 239, No. 5, (September 1, 2011): Pages 596-606