Animal Nutrition

Pet nutrition books you should know about

In our ever more-automated lives, books seem to be less of a factor than ever. Time was, when you wanted to know something, you looked in a book, you went to the library or, if you were lucky, used the family encyclopedia. Reference books have become a rarity.  

Today, if you want an answer, you Google it and you get the most current information (once you weed through the nonsense clickbait). My current passion for pet nutrition, though, has made me purchase several actual books recently and I’d like to share some of them with you.

The first one is Your Urban Carnivore: The definitive guide to feeding your pet a raw food diet, by Brenda Hagel, whose quest in species-appropriate diets began in 1982 when she purchased Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.

While not an animal nutritionist, Hagel is an avid researcher, and the book is chock-full of information relating to getting our pets what they need, naturally. With her husband Dennis, Hagel started Carnivora, one of my favourite raw food manufacturing companies, in 2003.  

You would think a book written by a company owner would be basically an advertorial for their products, but this is far from it. It is easy to read, well laid-out, and full of very specific information on nutritional needs based on life-stage and situation. It explains the roles of various nutrients and how to acquire them, and the roles of bacteria, good and bad. A great reference book for any raw feeder.

The second book I picked up is Feeding Dogs: Dry or Raw?, by Dr. Conor Brady. In it, Brady delves into the discussion of whether our pets are carnivores or omnivores, using strong scientific arguments to makes his points. When discussing dental concerns, for instance, he quotes from numerous studies, and I love that the term “hassle factor” is centred on the idea that a pet needs to work for its food and  for its teeth to do their jobs, just swallowing processed foods can’t be good for teeth, they need to gnash and gnaw.  

He talks about processed pet foods (kibbles) and the issues they present. He goes over why there is confusion about what foods are appropriate for our pets, including veterinary training, corporate and human food and drug industry influences. He also discusses the raw market, and how to navigate the options there, including do-it-yourself meal prep.

The most recent purchase I made is The Forever Dog, by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Becker. I was fortunate enough to meet these two rock stars of the pet nutrition world a few years ago at an industry event. Rodney was the presentation which eventually evolved into this book. His talk centred on a number of people he had met who were having remarkable success in having long-lived companion animals.

While I am but a short way into the book, it is well-written and an easy read. It discusses why our pets are living shorter, less healthy lives than their predecessors, and how lifestyle choices factor into longevity.

As with humans, making wise nutrition choices can be the cornerstone for long-term improvement. Habib and Becker show the little things and the big things you can do, referring to real-world examples of people who have made a difference, as well as scientific studies that prove them out. (For many of the references, you may need to access their website; they did not want to weigh the book down and kill more trees, so those resources are available online.)

Working through books such as these results in daily new insights. It’s nice to know there are tools like these for everyone to use on their pet nutrition journeys. 

Jeff McFarlane

Jeff McFarlane
Pets Are People, Too

Jeff McFarlane is the owner of Thrive Pet Food Market. Contact him with your questions or ideas [email protected] or visit

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