You're not the only one who could benefit from eating a species-specific diet.  Your pets could too.  Again, as if on cue, another feature article in the New York Times demonstrates that you, wise reader, are at the epicenter of the health revolution.  (It also demonstrates that the New York Times is completely idiotic in predictable ways — more on that later.)

  • Pet-owners are starting to feed their pets less processed food.  Why?

"Many of them say they made the switch out of desperation after their animals had lingering illnesses that resisted medicine and other remedies. With home-cooked meals, they say, those health problems cleared up."

"Many converts said their new food choices quickly resulted in healthier animals that no longer required endless trips to the vet. Charlene Smith, a project manager in publishing who attended Ms. Laino’s workshop last year, said that one of her two cats, Polly, had been on a steady diet of antibiotics to treat urinary tract problems before the switch to home cooking. Ms. Smith said that her other cat, Esther, “was angry most of the time” when she ate commercial food, and has a much better temperament now."

Sound familiar?  Yeah, it's become a bit of a refrain around here.

  • Dogs and cats should not have diabetes and heart disease.  If they do, you're feeding them wrong.  But it's because they have such unnaturally long lifespans!  It's because they eat too much red meat!  It's because I don't exercise them enough!  No, it is because you are feeding them processed garbage that they are not adapted to eat.  Full stop.
  • Cats are carnivores, dogs are a bit more omnivorous…but still mostly carnivores.  Is that concept really so hard to grasp?  There is all this concern in the article about how hard it is to formulate a balanced diet for your pet.  Bullshit.  Complete and utter bullshit.  FEED THEM DEAD ANIMALS.  Unless, of course, your pet is an iguana, and then you feed it plants.  Or if your pet is a bird, and then you feed it insects and seeds.  Or if your pet is a cow, and then you feed it grass.  

This dog-owner is worried about her dog getting enough calcium:

"When she began cooking for her beagle, Maddie-Sue, two years ago, she researched dogs’ dietary needs before coming up with a recipe of brown rice, cooked ground beef or chicken, peas, green beans, yams, dry milk and Tums tablets for calcium. Most of the ingredients are organic. All are bought at a food co-op nearby."

Tums tablets?  Are you kidding me?  FEED THE DOG BONES!  BONES ARE MADE OF CALCIUM!  DOGS LOVE BONES!  There is not a large enough, bold enough font size in the world to express how I feel right now.  Tums is giving me heartburn.

  • Organic should only be of secondary concern.  Of course, the New York Times gets this dead wrong.  They dramatically over-emphasize the role of organic.  From a health perspective, if given the choice between feeding a dog organic kale and Tyson chicken, you feed the dog a Tyson chicken every time.
  • Enter the crazy vegan ideologue.  Predictably, the story ends with a vegan imposing her crazy ideology on her poor, defenseless pet:

Though Dr. Wakshlag said that protein should come from animal meat, some pet owners apply their personal dietary choices to their pet’s food.

Anastasia St. John, a vegan in Ithaca, N.Y., who works as an administrative manager, makes vegan food for Hazel, a 15-year-old greyhound, and Dixie, a 16-year-old beagle.  “The important thing for me is feeling good about giving my dogs the best thing I can,” said Ms. St. John, 38. “And it’s in line with my values, as well as being healthy.”  She feeds a mix of lentils, rice, kale, carrots, apples, oats, tofu, vegetable oil, a textured vegetable protein (a soy-based dehydrated product used as a meat substitute) and mineral and vitamin supplements. The dogs, fed on this diet since 1999, appear to be thriving.

“No one would think they are as old as they are,” she said. “The beagle — we call her the Tank because she is so energetic.”  With dogs, veganism may be a fairly new occurrence. But the care and attention of animal lovers like Ms. St. John have been going on for ages.

Notice Ms. St. John's priorities: "The important thing for me is feeling good about giving my dogs the best thing I can".  Her goal is TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT HERSELF, not to actually have a healthy dog.  Again, a familiar refrain.  Anyhow, it's a good article overall and moving things in the right direction.

But here's my question: how many billion dollar industries do we have to upturn?  Running shoes, podiatry, human food, and now, pet food.  This is getting a little ridiculous.  (If you are a company that would like to get ahead of the game, you can contact me for consulting services at john [at] hunter-gatherer [dot] com.  I charge $500 an hour, my billing rate from management consulting a few years ago.  I have done work for most of the largest CPG and financial services firms.)

And if you read the pet food article, then you'll enjoy this New York Times spoof article even more.  Note the Deuteronomy Diet.  Yeah, that's me getting lampooned.

UPDATE: Here's what I learned about health at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

48 Responses to “Feed your pet a species-specific diet”

  1. Alex Good says:

     Why would I pay for a consultation when I can just read the blog? Common sense.

  2. mike says:

    I read an article a while back about what to feed cats for ultimate health. It seems that mice and small birds are ideal, with the occassional plant matter thrown in – I guess this explains why cats sometimes eat certain house plants. Anyway, there are companies out there that sell WHOLE ground mice that you can buy in bulk for your cats. Told my wife about it and she said "No Way!"  Mice and small birds do make sense!!

    • J says:

      Can you please post a link to the ground mice you can buy in bulk? I would love to try it on my cats. I have switched to feeding them an all cooked meat diet (introducing raw now but they won’t touch it) because one does have diabetes and requires insulin shots. He is fairing much better with just meat although he still requires insulin. However he is back to running around the house and playing a lot and not eating so much or drinking so much water. I want to see if he will eat the mice. Thanks!

      • mike says: is the site. They sell ground mouse for $6.99 a pound. There is also a site called, but they state that they are closed for business. I am letting you about them because they have nutritional info about the ground mice that is not contained in the hare-today site. Good Luck – Mike.   


  3. DajM says:

     Dogs are NOT omnivores.  That is complete bull.  Do some research.  Jeez.

    If anyone is really interested in prey model feeding for their pets, check out this invaluable link:

    It’s a yahoo group, so you need to be a yahoo user to access the info but it is by far the best resource for raw feeding online.




    • Jeanmarie says:

       Cats are obligate carnivores, dogs are scavenging carnivores. They can and do eat  more broadly than cats — a survival strategy in their partnership with humans, whereas cats historically were kept as mousers —  but they thrive on meat, including organ meat, bones, muscle meat and fat. And yes a few veggies. Grains are much less desirable.

      What are most supermarket pet foods full of? Corn, soy, wheat, rendered animal fat and processed animal protein like poultry feathers, etc etc. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t benefit the animals as much as their biologically appropriate meat-centered diet.

    • Anonymous says:

      I have more pictures of coyotes than I can count taken under my apple tree eating apples, not just waiting for some other potential meal to show up.  Dogs and coyotes can interbreed and have viable offspring.  Therefore for  practical purposes they are the same critter.  Coyotes eat apples, apples are fruit of plants, conculsion is that coyotes and dogs are omnivores.  No scientific studies needed. 

  4. AB Smith says:


    great article on the history of dog food

  5. Dreaming Robot says:

     This is a subject that’s very close to my heart. Just over a year ago, my cat was hospitalized with severe diabetes and pancreatitis. We were told she’d need daily injections of insulin and a special rx diet for life. After we got her home, I decided to abandon the insulin and the rx food and put her on an all raw diet.  Within days she turned around and started to heal. Now my cat is lean and gorgeous and very very heathy, and I try to talk everyone I know into putting their animals on similar diets. My vet didn’t even recognize my cat when I took her in for an annual checkup she’s so much better, and now he is also an advocate for feeding his patients raw and evolution based diets.


    The bonus from this experience is, at the time she got sick, I was eating a "healthy" standard american diet, and as I watched my cat come back from the brink of death on her new raw food, I began to wonder: if this is what is supposed to be eating, then what would happen if I ate what humans are evolved to eat? If it weren’t for my cat I wouldn’t have gone paleo and turned around a chronic and very sever health condition. My diet isn’t that much different from my cat’s, now i think about it.



    • John says:

      Amazing…awesome story. Seeing is believing. I wonder how many people out there would give paleo a try if they tried it on their pets first!

  6. Heather says:

     We just rescued a cat from the shelter last year.  The shelter had him on Science Diet.  It took a little while, but I transitioned him to a grain-free dry food, supplemented with (all organic when possible) raw chicken liver, raw wild Alaska salmon, raw egg yolk, tuna, raw beef, et cet — and I chase that with an herbal pest preventer in his water.

    I buy 95% organic for my husband and myself at great cost; so it only made sense to treat the cat to the same leg up for his health and wellness and longevity.  I would rather spend my money at the health food store than the vet.

  7. David says:

    Great article. The Wife and I have been feeding our two dogs a raw diet for many years.

    It kinda occured to us one day that our dogs should be eating ‘what a wild dog would eat’. Seems simple enough.

    Thankfully we also transferred our dog diet to our human diet!! Seeing John on Colbert was my ultimate breakthrough.

    We feed the "fur-kids" a simple diet of turkey burger, spinach, carrots, apples/bananas, peppers, eggs (whole egg, just toss it in), olive oil, etc., etc. Side note, buying the turkey bruger from Aldi or walmart (approx. $1.29/lb) and thawing some a couple days before is the easiest method. We split the 1lb about 30/70 between the dogs, mixed with blended vegis (food processor is the most used machine in our house!). This is a twice-a-day feeding. Grand total it’s about $2 a feeding, $4 a day. In every way I can say, it’s worth it.

    My favorite thing is when I cook, the dogs are at my heels, waiting for the scrap of zucchini or pepper to be tossed their way. The trimmings from fish, lamb, pork also are a house favorite. Point is, our dogs are amazingly heatlhy. No problems. Very fit, lean, and energetic. Their shit is small and doesn’t stick. They require no meds. Skin/coat shiney and thick.

    For an owner looking to switch to a raw/paleo diet here’s a tip: Start slow. We got our poodle mix who was addicted to pet food. He abandoned the raw turkey burger at first. My Wife would lightly brown half of his portion and mix it up. Slowly (bout a weeks feeding), the cooked portion turned into straight raw. As stated, the "kids" are raw junkies.

    • John says:

      Nice. Glad Colbert helped! Learning about these raw diets has made we want to get a dog even more. Damn Manhattan apartment.

  8. Binki says:

    Our guinea pig ladies get hay, salad, cucumber peal, carrots, broccoli and apples now in winter. Come spring, it will be all dandelion leaves and grass – free and they love it. They need no grain or pellets whatsoever. When they were expecting, they ate the whole lawn…

  9. Achiles says:

    We’ve been feeding our giant stupid dog raw chicken patties that they actually specifically manufacture and sell for dogs for the last year, and he’s doing very well.  He actually hesitates at his dish when all we can give him is dry food, which we only keep for emergencies.

  10. prin says:

     Agreed, but for those of us on a tight budget with dogs who require more meat per day than we can afford, there are always foods like Orijen out there that are a not-so-terrible compromise (in my opinion).

  11. Sid says:

    Good post. I was just noticing the other day how rarely paleo people talk about what they feed their pets. Pathetically, my pets were paleo before I was.

    I’ve been raw feeding my dogs for around 5 years. They have cleaner teeth, they shit less, they stay healthy, etc. Shocking, I know.  Cooking pet food yourself is technically better than feeding kibble but it destroys many of the nutrients and thus ends up being a waste of time and money. Raw feeding is not expensive or difficult at all. Also, you don’t need to "wean" them off the corn-filled crap that is kibble. Go to an ethnic grocery and buy a raw chicken carcass (I get 2 for $1 CDN), chop it into a couple of pieces (for a bigger dog you can skip this part), hand it to the dog. It may take them a couple of days to figure out what they’re supposed to do but they’ll get it eventually when the instincts kick in. A little hunger is an excellent motivator. An excellent site is:

  12. Lori says:

     My dog’s incessant anal gland problems have disappeared now that I’m giving her chicken liver a few times a week.  Just a few days ago, I cut her kibble ration in half and started giving her more meat, eggs, coconut oil, etc. And she loves vegetables. After her kibble is gone, I don’t think I’ll buy any more of it.

    My last dog lived a year with oral melanoma after I switched him to a grain-free diet on the advice of a holistic vet. (I also gave him herbal supplements.) My regular vet said she told everyone about my amazing dog–most dogs live only a few months with oral melanoma.

  13. AL Primal says:

    Well done John, my dog has to endure a mix of natural and store bought food, but it loves the fresh deer meat it gets and the bones always seem to disappear, they do love them. Next comes a couple good hog hunts to put more in the freezer for me and bones for her. Keep it my friend


  14. Tristan says:

    Great article! My dog has been on raw paleo since 8 weeks! I have a 3 year old Doberman names Ronin and he is in fantastic health! I get comments from everyone who meets him on how beautiful he is and how shiny his coat is! His tempermant is amazing, he is a big suck, and has never been aggressive towards anyone.

    I feed his a diet consisting of ; 1 raw chicken carcass per week(divided amongst his daily meals), 1lb or organic  grass fed beef heart, 1 pound of organic grass fed ground beef, 2 raw fertile eggs, and 2oz of liver per day! I source all my meat from my local butcher. Treats are nothing but all natural duck jerky, where the only ingredient is natural duck meat. On occasion I give him come clabbered raw milk as a treat, or raw yogurt, and he absolutely loves that!!!


  15. Anonymous says:

    When I lived in a village in Ukraine, there was no vet for miles. Cats and dogs ate what they are supposed to eat, and died only of old age and accidents. No one would even think about feeding them some pet food from a store. 

    But here in the states it seems all pets have no balls and eating some dried soy-filled crap. 

    You’ve gotta be kidding me about the Tums tablets…




  16. Liz says:
    • I keep wishing I weren’t so squeamish so I could let my dog eat all the groundhogs and squirrels who meet a bitter end after crossing his path.   I have been told by several people that I am killing my dog by feeding him "people" food.   I think it was a brilliant marketing ploy by pet food companies and I am sure they have some crap science to back up their claims of pet-food-induced longevity.  And I have to laugh at people who extol the virtues of Nylabones (what are those things?) and organic dog treats that look like cookies.  But I will confess my dog has had a cupcake (and he sleeps in bed with me) – it really did improve both of our lives when I went paleo.
  17. Cheryl White says:

    Great post, John!   Within weeks of going Paleo I was feeding my chihuahua one day and thought, "Hey, I don’t know what’s in this crap either."  She is now full paleo, but she won’t eat raw yet.  I also recently adopted two puppies and started them off right from the beginning: a mixture of raw grass-fed beef and liver, beef and pork bones, and the occasional egg.  They are voracious!  They love their raw meat and it goes FAST.  I refuse to feed my dogs anything that I wouldn’t eat or feed my daughters.  I want ALL of us to live as long as humanly (and caninely!) possible.  It blows my mind that any pet owner could "feel good" about feeding an animal a diet that they aren’t designed to eat and will more than likely shorten their lives.  My dogs, my children, and myself eat foods that we evolved eating and THAT’S something to feel good about.

  18. darciecal says:

    My mom kept a dachshundt for many years on a diet of boiled chicken livers and a daily carrot.  The dog loved carrots, and would beg for one each morning.  She also got meat scraps.  I’m not sure how good the carrot was for her, but at least she didn’t live on the grain-filled chemical swill that passes for pet "food."  

  19. Weston says:

    Love the post. Feeding my dog raw meat, bones and organs is what eventually lead me to paleo. Doing this also helps with nose to tail eating.

  20. Kat says:

    I actually just wrote a post last week about switching my cats to a grain free diet.  Their health has flourished since the change and I plan to go raw food soon too.  My eldest really perked up and has a much happier disposition since eliminating the grains.  She also had problem dandruff which is now gone and replaced with super soft shiny fur :)

  21. Nessie says:

    Thanks John! I’ve done field observations of wild animals and oddly I don’t recall any of the species ever eating brown rice, green beans or tums. I’ve been really concerned lately about what I feed my 2 cats and 1 dog. They’re carnivores, they should be eating meat! My husband actually thinks their food is designed for their dietary needs like the bag says. So I read the igredients to him and asked if these are things wolves and lions eat. He’s coming around, last time he went grocery shopping he brought back some meat just for the animals. Yay. I also give my animals bones. The cats get the bird bones and the dog gets the beef bones. They love it. I also grow grass specifically for the cats to eat when they feel like it- it keeps them away from houseplants.

    • AJ says:

      "I’ve done field observations of wild animals and oddly I don’t recall any of the species ever eating brown rice, green beans or tums."- HAHA

  22. Cara says:

     John, you’re right! Most pet owners today are completely nuts… my dad is a dog trainer and has always recommended a raw meat diet. Owners often project onto their dogs, poor pets are subjected to all kinds of nonsense. Then there’s sleeping in the bed or doggie prozac, yikes! My dad has a new book being released, "Your Dog is Your Mirror" published by New World Library that you might enjoy. Great post as usual… 



  23. Tuck says:

    Great post, John. 

    They’re starting to do some suitably knuckle-headed studies on the "problem" of animal obesity:

    "Animals getting fatter, also"

    Unfortunately this will frustrate you even more, so perhaps you shouldn’t read it. ;)

  24. Adah says:

    You beat me to this post!  I just got a cat and I’m in the very early process of converting her to a prey-model diet from the kibble that the shelter fed her.  If I’m eating a diet my species evolved on, so are my pets.

    (By the way, parrots, arguably the most commonly-kept pet birds, should be eating a variety of vegetables and grains, and limited fruits, with seeds and insects as treats.  Seed-and-protein-only is comparable to SAD in humans.  I’ve had birds who stopped plucking themselves and lost excess weight after a diet overhaul.  I say this only because so many parrots are on seed, and the results are pretty tragic sometimes.)

    • Elliot says:

      Just to add to this, while many lizards are insectivores, iguanas are actually herbivorous.  They should be eating the same fruits and vegetables we are – lots of dark leafy greens, some other veggies, and the occasional bit of fruit. 

    • John says:

      Yes, but I didn’t beat you to your post about your cat. Good insight on parrots — I didn’t know that.

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