Do you trust your pet’s food enough to eat it yourself? We do. But we don’t just stop there….
Tom&Sawyer takes fresh food nutrition for cats and dogs seriously. Pets are our family after all. We are constantly questioning the relatively minimal amount of research that exists on pet nutrition and overall pet health globally. We are also questioning and debunking with our own research many of the common deceptive marketing messages that have been used in the pet space (both pet food and pet health) for decades. We think our pets deserve the latest thinking and proven outcomes – starting with food and beyond into their overall pet health.
Most pet parents just want to make the best decisions for their pet’s health. Our pets rely on us for ALL of these decisions. So, at Tom&Sawyer, we channel the relentless investigative skills of our Co-Founder Kristin Matthews, honed from years of her being a top forensic accountant uncovering the most deceptive of business practices and fraud, to bring some truth and clarity to help us all be better pet parents. Her approach to get beyond marketing language and to ask common sense questions surprisingly is a real departure for most people when it comes to caring for their pets.
Beyond nutrition, we are engaged in innovative research and thinking to improve the lives of pets. Some of our current work includes:
Research on the dosing and effectiveness of CBD to improve health outcomes for pets.
- Working with leaders in the Canadian medical cannabis industry, we are better determining the efficacy of CBD for treating health issues ranging from anxiety to inflammation and pain management in dogs. Surprisingly the research in understanding the efficacy of CBD in humans is very limited, where the industry is still not sure exactly what impacts our human health in using cannabis for medical purposes, and the latest research is now focusing more on specific Terpene profiles and individual human’s ability to react to these terpenes. This makes it even more important that we understand how CBD can affect pets.
- We do know that THC is very dangerous for pets, even in small amounts. Looking at CBD, we are assessing sourcing from industrial hemp and from cannabis (both sativa and indica strains of plants). Industrial hemp has very low THC inclusion, but right now in Canada and the US industrial hemp stalks and seeds are the only parts of the plants that are legal to be used for any product without a medical prescription. CBD, however, is really only found in the flowers and leaves of the plant, and needs to be processed extensively to concentrate levels of CBD for medicinal oils etc. So, any products currently found on pet store shelves are either falsely labelled and have no meaningful amount of CBD, or are illegal. The other issue is that given the demand for CBD for humans, effectively no CBD makes it into the stream for pets, which leads us to all wonder exactly what is in those products at pet stores and found online. In Canada, illegal cannabis stores are being closed by authorities to ensure that only a trusted, regulated product is available to consumers. In these stores research shows that most anti-inflammatory properties of CBD are completely negated by the terribly low quality oil it is diluted with, so just imagine how bad it is in products for pets!
- Industrial hemp is also a “sponge” in that it absorbs chemicals, toxins and other compounds while growing. These then get passed along in the concentrated oil, which is why more companies are opening to control the growing environment of cannabis and industrial hemp. Again, these concerns affect the human chain of products, so it makes us worry even more about what is being offered to pets.
- Also, in Canada, CBD is strictly regulated (whether from Hemp or Cannabis). Most people do not understand this. Only licensed producers can make it, and only registered retailers can sell it. In Ontario, Canada, after the first wave of marijuana legalization on October 17, 2018, this means that CBD products are still only to be sold by recognized retailers (the Ontario Cannabis Store is the ONLY current retailer in Ontario, apart from individual retailers serving patients with medical cannabis status), and soon 25 new retailers entering the market in April 2019. However, this means that all CBD products on the market for pets is not only illegal, but completely unregulated (and we know how sick an unregulated pet food market has made our pets). In 2019, it is still illegal in Canada to use CBD for pets, in any form. This includes getting CBD from your veterinarian, although some vets are circumventing these rules to treat their patients, however with an unregualted product with no assurance that the product even contains CBD or is safe.
- We are also trying to determine the difference between CBD derived from industrial hemp vs cannabis and how it affects pets. While THC is dangerous to pets, it may prove to be the “magic” element (along with specific terpenes) that “activates” CBD absorption in the body, so it may be both required and deemed safe in small amounts (under 1%). The research will provide more insight.
- Once we have determined safe dosing and a better understanding of how it affects pet health and optimal product sourcing, we will then assess the efficacy of incorporating it into our nutritional wellness products and will lobby the government for its regulated production and retail in Canada for pets.
Pet Gut Microbiome
- One outcome we have found in our Tom&Sawyer customers is not only a drastic improvement in overall health, and resolution of many health conditions, but also a strengthening of dog and cat resistance to illness and an ability to recover very rapidly from illness. We are doing more research around how switching to our high quality fresh cooked meals dramatically changes the complex colonies of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in our pet’s digestive system (as well as ears, skin, lungs and mouth) to promote enhanced internal health.
- We are working with veterinarians to test pet digestive microbiome markers prior to starting our fresh cooked diet, and after being on our diet for periods of time, and are looking to come to market with a pet microbiome test and tailored feeding guide based on the results.
- We have found that our own little yorkie poo Sawyer just radiates health (he has always eaten our Tom&Sawyer meals exclusively) and while he does get sick the odd time (picking up something while out on a walk etc), he fully recovers from the sickness in record time, and his symptoms are not as bad as they would be if he did not have such a health digestive microbiome.
- Microbiome is becoming a huge health trend for humans, which helps prove that our ground-breaking work in this area for pets is poised to become an important health marker to improve overall pet health.
Alternative Forms of Fresh Pet Meals
- We are committed to nourishing our pets with real food meals, leveraging science for optimal nutrition but not for product shelf life extension. We are committed to being completely natural. This is why we flash freeze our pet meals to preserve them. We do understand that this is complicated for people travelling etc.
- We have assessed doing a shelf stable version of some of our pet meals and broths using innovative packaging. Similar to canning, you need to cook your product and the container in such high heat, and under such high pressure for a long period of time for sealing and sterilization that it significantly reduces the nutritional quality of our meals. It’s similar to the kibble industry, who would never use high quality ingredients because they then push the mixture through a high heat extruder (from cereal making) and it completely changes the state of the underlying ingredients. Our customers want a high quality product, so current canning or other similar heat/pressure packaging methods are ruled out as options for us. We are always searching for new ways to package our meals to provide quality assurance and convenience to our customers.
- Freeze Dried versions of our meals – we have done extensive research on providing some of our meals in “freeze dried” versions, where pet parents add water to reconstitute the meals for serving. Again, with our focus on quality, we have not been able to achieve our high quality standards using this method.
- Dehydration – there are new dehydration technologies introduced in 2018 that demonstrated that we could provide shelf stability by eliminating the moisture from our food (similar outcome to freeze drying). In our research, we found that the food does not reconstitute sufficiently to maintain our high quality standards, and all of the research around kibble demonstrates how dogs and cats rarely drink enough water to fully hydrate the food in the digestive tract, meaning that they don’t properly extract nutrients from their food and experience health problems related to chronic dehydration.
- We continue to work with leading packagers globally to find an innovative way to move our meals from the freezer.
- Most research shows that dogs do not chew enough to ever achieve any kind of “teeth cleaning” effect by eating hard food. In fact, hard food (kibble) is so much higher in carbohydrates in order to pass through the heat extruding machines in manufacturing that it is a leading cause of tartar build-up itself. Yet entire brands have been built around this marketing myth of hard food cleaning teeth. Just ask any dentist if eating hard carbohydrate laden food is an effective way to clean your own teeth.
- We are engaged in research to assess how to most effectively reduce tartar build up in dogs and cats, including the inclusion of an enzymatic teeth cleaning compound that we use on Sawyer in other product forms (treats, meals etc).
These are some of the examples of where we are pushing innovation in the pet health space. Stay tuned for even more innovative ideas and products from Tom&Sawyer.