Getting to know…

Melanie Sainsbury, Veterinary Nurse, Natures Menu

Registered Veterinary Nurse, Melanie Sainsbury, lives in Suffolk with her husband, pet dog and collection of chickens, quails and rabbits. She has over 15 years’experience working in various small animal practices and has been Veterinary Education Manager since 2014 for Natures Menu, the UK’s number one for raw and natural pet food, where she helps to promote raw and natural feeding. Here, Melanie explains what raw feeding is and its benefits:

How can owners identify that their pet’s diet is poor?

All owners want to ensure their pets are happy and healthy, and one of the best ways to achieve this is through a balanced diet. A bad diet can manifest itself in several ways leading to digestion issues, unpleasant stools, skin allergies and irritations, serious weight gain leading to obesity and unstable energy levels.

Dogs and cats can thrive on a natural raw meat diet and nutritionally balanced, complete raw feeding aims to give them a diet appropriate to their digestive systems in a safe format. It has been shown to have a positive impact on a pet’s health and wellbeing on countless occasions.

The commonly reported benefits of switching to a healthy, raw diet include fresher breath, cleaner, whiter teeth, more stable energy levels, reduction of allergies and intolerances, increased palatability and less flatulence. For pets with sensitive stomachs, a raw diet has also been known in some cases to improve digestion.

What is RAW feeding?

Raw feeding aims to give dogs and cats a natural, unprocessed diet appropriate to their digestive systems and as close as possible to what they would have eaten in the wild. The stomach pH in dogs and cats is much lower than that of humans, meaning they are able to break down raw meat and bone.

Closer inspection of various pet foods has shown that many contain added sugars, salts, preservatives, meat meals and meat derivatives however, Natures Menu prides itself on using only natural ingredients and never using any additives, cheap fillers or meat substitutes in its products to provide the best food for your best friend.

What are the key benefits to feeding your dog a RAW diet?

More and more, pet owners are beginning to understand that what they put into their pets’ body reflects what they see on the outside with regards to overall health, vitality, energy and behavioural tendencies.

One of the most overlooked aspects of raw feeding is the ‘back-end’ benefits it provides for pets. A raw diet is close to what they would have eaten in the wild and can be easier to digest and much lighter on sensitive stomachs, meaning much firmer and easier to pick up stools that are noticeably less smelly. With firmer stools, many pets suffering from anal gland issues have found a raw diet can really help to naturally empty the glands, rather than an uncomfortable trip to the vet to have them manually expressed.

Personally, I find that feeding a raw diet to my own dog is an incredibly satisfying practice. I can see first-hand the benefits in my dog’s vitality, health and wonderful shiny coat. I know he is getting only the very best food which he absolutely loves and thrives on.

What advice or tips can you give to owners who are new to RAW feeding?

Switching your pet to a raw diet can seem like a daunting prospect, however, Natures Menu has a wealth of advice and guidance available on their website, explaining everything there is to know about raw and natural feeding. The main thing is to be patient; we always advise a slow and gradual transition to raw to avoid any tummy upsets.

Responsible raw and natural feeding is key. I would suggest pet parents do their homework, and choose a manufacturer that offers:

  1. Safe production and delivery – Raw manufacturers should follow strict government guidelines on manufacture, storage, sourcing and bacterial testing. Natures Menu leads the market with quality handling methods, Defra approved micro-biological testing, raw material traceability, leading in-house microbiological protocols with all deliveries supplied in refrigerated vans. When handling raw, we always advise the same hygiene rules apply when handling raw pet food as they would for handling your own raw meat for consumption at home.
  2. Complete and balanced – Responsible manufacturers will ensure their food is balanced with the correct amounts of vitamins and minerals. Natures Menu provides ready-made meals in an easy to portion ‘nugget’ format which means all owners need to do is count out the number of nuggets required for their pet, defrost over night in the fridge and feed!

If your dog is a fussy eater how can you encourage them to eat RAW?

The best way to encourage a fussy dog to eat a raw diet is to slowly make the transition from their current food.  This can be achieved over a period of seven days and is easy to implement. As a guide, from days one to seven, divide the daily ration of food into 50% raw for one meal and 50% previous food for the other meal (feeding one for breakfast and the other for dinner). On day eight, you’ll be able to feed 100% raw for both meals. We would advise you avoid mixing two types of food in the same bowl if possible, for easier digestion.

At Natures Menu, we have products that cater for all types of raw feeder. We firstly have our Natures Menu Original nuggets and 300g complete meals containing 60% meat and 40% fruits and vegetables. Some varieties also contain par-boiled brown rice for a healthy carbohydrate addition. We then have our Country Hunter range, which are all complete and balanced in 80% meat and 20% fruit and vegetable recipes. This range is available in single, novel protein options and offers more unusual meats such as venison, rabbit and duck. The whole Country Hunter range is also grain and gluten free which can be excellent for sensitive digestion.

What other tips can you offer to owners to ensure their pets lead a healthy life?

Understanding exactly what you are feeding your pet plays a big role in them having a healthy life style and my top tip would be to always check the back of your pet food packet to see what’s really contained inside, as first appearances are not always as they seem.

Mental stimulation through walks, exercise, play, toys and even grooming is a big part of any pet’s life and can really help form a bond between pet and owner. I highly recommend treat rewarding toys and puzzle bowls to add some excitement and stimulation to all meal times. And finally, never forget to give them the love and attention they deserve.

For more information about Natures Menu and advice raw feeding visit https://www.naturesmenu.co.uk/advice-centre