When it comes to the stuff that goes into our pet’s food bowl, we want what’s best for them. But with the dizzying array of food options and information on the Internet, it can quickly become confusing. Is commercial kibble good enough for our pets? What about homecooked food?
We directed our questions to the team behind PetCubes, a local company that makes fresh, human-grade meals for dogs and cats. CEO Desmond Ng was initially a customer of the brand, before taking over its reins in early 2020. He later roped in Dr. Francis Cabana, a wildlife nutritionist as well as a former advisor at the Singapore Zoo, as the company’s Director of Nutrition. Together, they create food formulas that they deem biologically appropriate for pets, including a nasi lemak-inspired pack that was launched for National Day.
Below, the duo shares with us how they started at PetCubes, common feeding mistakes made by pet owners, the safety of a raw diet for pets, and more.
Desmond Ng (DN): I quickly noticed the difference in my dog’s health once my dog started to embark on an all-natural diet after being on kibbles for years. I felt strongly about the benefits of fresh pet food and this feeling came on so strong from the inside that I took the leap to lead PetCubes when the opportunity came. There was this higher purpose in playing a part to help more pets eat better and live a higher quality of life than before.
Dr. Francis Cabana (FC): Working in an established fresh pet food company has been a great experience as it has allowed the team and I to be agile and make quick decisions, which includes events and product launches. Desmond and I have seen what true nutrition can achieve in dogs and cats, and we want all pet owners to witness this change as well.
DN: We are strong advocates of believing that we are what we eat, and the same applies to our pets. Delivering optimum nutrition day in, day out, is critical in providing a strong foundation for health. It reduces the odds of diseases and frequent vet visits, which can be both financially and emotionally
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FC: So many things slowly degrade in your pet’s body. DNA becomes shorter and less expressive. Oxidation slowly whittles away at cellular integrity, organs become less functional, and the body finds it harder and harder to repair itself and to fight off infections. A truly balanced and biologically appropriate diet is the only way to slow this down. And it does.
FC: The most common mistake is falling prey to the marketing gimmicks on commercial kibble packaging. Only about five per cent of the content of the labelling is regulated, the rest is just trying to get you to think this is the best food, which it usually isn’t. Focus on the nutrient analysis and the ingredient list. If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t feed it to your pet.
FC: There are, but unfortunately, these signs are quite slow to show. If your dog starts to slow down or look or act “old” at anything younger than 10 years old… that’s proof that your dog has not been receiving optimal nutrition. Dogs can live up to 20 years old, but not when fed highly processed diets and treats. Shorter-term signs include yellowish, seemingly soft poo. You’ll want it to be dark coloured, firm, and dense.
FC: Any diet that is high in carbohydrates (more than 25 per cent) should be avoided for dogs and anything more than five per cent should be avoided for cats. Diets should be mostly high-quality fresh proteins, natural fats, and some beneficial fruits, vegetables, or herbs. Anything that is highly processed like kibbles should be avoided.
FC: It depends on what your starting point is. If the pet is already on a kibble diet, then the addition of some healthy cooked proteins is fantastic. If the diet only consists of some cooked meat, then the pet will suffer from malnutrition because the diet lacks many vital nutrients.
Owners can add in more fresh ingredients to help balance the diet such as organs, liver, vegetables, herbs and seeds, and raw meaty bones for calcium (or a calcium supplement). The addition of kibbles is an easy fix to prevent malnutrition but it will not support their long-term health.
DC: We use only human-grade meats in all our products, no less. We have also invested in industrial-grade blast freezers that are designed specifically to rapidly bring down the temperatures to ward against bacteria contamination and to preserve the nutritional values and taste.
FC: The possible health issues people are concerned with raw dog food are the same as when handling raw meat for humans. Hygiene and proper sanitary procedures are essential. It is important to realize that foods that test positive for salmonella are recalled because there is a zero-tolerance policy – not because any dogs actually got sick. If you look at all of the pet recalls worldwide, kibble is still the vast majority. Yup, that’s right, kibble can also have salmonella (and data shows it’s more prominent than in fresh diets). For anyone very worried about this, try the PetCubes gently cooked range.
DC: PetCubes is constantly innovating through nutrition with our pets’ health and quality of life at the forefront in everything that we do with revamped formulas. Most recently, we have also added a repertoire of superfoods including ashwagandha root and spirulina to our gently cooked and raw range. We have some other exciting new products in the works that are coming right up so watch this space!
FC: Stay tuned!
This article was first published in The Singapore Women’s Weekly.