Meat protein stimulates strong stomach acidity (by triggering the production of hydrochloric acid in acid-secreting cells within the stomach). Carbohydrates do not stimulate strong stomach acidity. A complex cascade takes place when a dog or cat ingests food, put simply: 80% of the gastric juices secreted are a direct result of chemoreceptors in the stomach detecting the presence of meat-based proteins. This keeps the stomach at a very low pH of around 1-2 (a low pH means high acidity). This low stomach pH is important because:
When a dog or cat swallows a commercial pet food (high carbohydrate, high plant protein, low meat protein diet), acid-secreting cells in the stomach are not stimulated to produce as much hydrochloric acid, thus the pH does not drop as low. The acidic chyme (food mixed with gastric juices) leaving the stomach is the trigger for the next stage of digestion in the small intestine. The acidity encourages the flow of bile and the flow of pancreatic enzymes necessary to continue the digestive process. If the stomach contents are not sitting at a pH of around 1-2, then digestion is impaired throughout the rest of the digestive tract as well.
A diet high in carbohydrates is not optimal for promoting adequate stomach acidity. A raw meaty bones diet requires a highly acidic stomach for digestion. Dogs and cats should not be fed a combination of processed and raw diets. If they are fed a combination, they can experience a range of problems:
Meat protein is the most expensive component in pet food. As a result there is a lot of commercial pressure to keep meat proteins levels to a minimum in processed pet food: keeping production costs low, while maximising profit.
How do processors minimise meat protein?
Dogs and cats eating these processed foods struggle to properly digest it. There is a very simple reason for this: Dogs and cats need a highly acidic stomach in order to properly digest their food BUT... the carbohydrates in processed foods make the stomach less acidic.
Dogs and cats are carnivores; their digestive tract is geared to respond to meat based proteins. A species-appropriate diet is the first step in optimising digestion, and ensuring the availability and absorption of essential nutrients. A well-nourished pet is a healthy pet! Because at Raw Essentials we obtain our meat-based diets directly from our hunters, farmers and processors; and because we are sourcing NZ product and not paying huge global shipping fees; and because we donʼt have secret recipes or the need for expensive marketing campaigns – we can bring you the highest quality meat-based protein diets for your cats and dogs.
Carnivores ingesting their evolutionary diet of prey have naturally high gastric acidity.(1,2) High dietary protein is the most significant stimulatory factor of acid within the stomach.(3,4,5,6,7) Additionally, protein provides the best buffering capacity as food enters the small intestine.(4) Diets with high carbohydrate content do not stimulate adequate gastric acidity.(7) This is unsurprising given Raubenheimer’s(12) work on the established macronutrient preferences for cats and dogs.(12,13) He states that commercially available cat foods will put cats into a “chronic state of nutritional imbalance” which “raises welfare concerns, and will also in the long term likely affect cat metabolism and health.”
Palatability has also been shown to promote the production of acid within the stomach.(6) Foods which require a high level of mastication (and thus production of saliva), such as raw meaty bones, have higher buffering capacity.(4)
The stimulation of high levels of gastric acidity is important for digestion and absorption of nutrients, as well as protection from potentially pathogenic organisms.
Gastric acid (HCL) enhances the absorption of nutrients (such as calcium and iron).(8) It promotes protein digestion by activating pepsin.(8)
Gastric acid is a very important line of defence against food/water-borne pathogens.(8,1,9,2,10,11) Potentially pathogenic bacteria are regularly found on many popular brands of processed pet foods, pet treats. These processed foods have a well established link to illness in humans. Although the link between contaminated raw food and human illness is currently tenuous at best(14), common sense dictates that contaminated raw food be considered as a potential source of food-borne illness – raw food should be carefully sourced and stored, and appropriate hygiene measures implemented in the home.
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