A few weeks after getting my new puppy, Winnie, she started having diarrhea — the type of diarrhea that kept us up all night.

Most people told us the best remedy for diarrhea is to feed her rice and cooked meat, which sounded simple enough. As soon as she started feeling better, we put her back on her kibble, but frustratingly enough, the diarrhea was back with a vengeance.

Naturally, as a nutritionist, I have learned the importance of digestion and nutrition, and how it can impact our immune system, mood, behaviour and overall wellbeing. I constantly preach eating nutritious foods as prevention of disease and having optimal digestion. So why don’t we care as much about our pets’ diets and digestion?

Now I’ll stop going on about diarrhea — but there was something telling me that I needed to dig deeper. So I did a ton of research (like the helicopter fur mama I am) and heard about a local holistic pet food store that specializes in raw food, supplements and holistic alternatives — right up my alley.

Dogs are true carnivores. They do not have the same salivary enzymes that humans do, in addition to having a higher stomach acid content, which allows them to digest meat and kill off bacteria. Dogs are able to digest some carbohydrates, but looking from an ancestral perspective, they are meant to eat meat and very little carbs. Starches, grains and fillers found in kibble are extremely hard for them to digest, therefore they don’t absorb most of it. They can start to have reactions such as diarrhea, allergies, constipation and irritability.

When dogs are having reactions and their immune system is compromised, eating a raw food diet is actually easiest for them to digest. Which makes sense because in the ideal world, we would want to be consuming mostly natural whole foods that our bodies are able to recognize. Ultimately, I came to the decision that raw meat with added vegetables, berries, and fruits was the best diet for Winnie.

Alongside the dietary changes, we have since added in probiotics, digestive enzymes and a good quality omega-3 fish oil. These will help to regulate bowel movements, increase absorption of nutrients, support growth, brain health and immunity. Those are all things I suggest to my human clients, so it makes so much sense to give it to our dogs as well. When it comes to our health and dog’s health, it is all about prevention and ensuring they are eating the most natural foods, free from chemicals and additives.

You should always do your own research, make informed decisions for yourself and your pets. Treat them exactly how you would yourself or your own children — after all, they need your care to stay healthy.

Gabby Borgerink is a Holistic Nutritionist living in Kitchener.