Transitioning Your Pet To A Raw Diet With Nicole Erickson
As I’m still quarantined, I’ve been taking this time to get some of my favorite people on our podcast, “It’s A Dog’s Life”—one of these people being Nicole Erickson.
I met Nicole during The Healing Naturally Tour and immediately fell in love with her passion for pets and her knowledge of the holistic pet industry. Nicole is part of the amazing team at Small Batch – a family-owned company that sources locally to make premium quality, species-appropriate food for our pets!
About Nicole Erickson
“It was one of my own animals that really spurred the deep dive down the rabbit hole of animal nutrition.” – Nicole Erickson
Originally from San Diego, Nicole now resides in Southern California. Nicole has always had a love for animals. Even when she was tiny, she was convinced she would be a veterinarian when she grew up. Her future would consist of healing and helping creatures of all kinds one day.
Nicole then got the opportunity to study nutrition in college. This is when she started to familiarize herself with holistic alternative modalities. This is also when Nicole found her true passion for wellness for both herself and the animals around her.
Nicole ended up rescuing her first fur baby – Nala. Nala is Chocolate Labrador who is now 12-years-old. When Nala first came to Nicole, she was only 10-months-old and already had tons of health issues! The previous owner was feeding her grocery store kibble, her hair was falling out and she was 15 different shades of brown.
She then brought Nala to a holistic trainer to start helping her fur baby heal. And by no surprise, the first question the holistic trainer asked was “what is she eating?” This is when Nicole realized nutrition was the core of rebuilding Nala’s health and balance.
Why aren’t we looking at the diet?
Unfortunately, a lot of pet parents (myself included, back in the day) look right past what we’re feeding our pets when health issues arise. Just like us, our pets need a variety of fresh, whole foods to take care of their bodies.
Marketing has made many pet parents accustomed to believing the heavily processed, little brown pellets that come in a bag are what we need to feed our cats and dogs. At some point, we’ve been convinced that this is the only good option.
“Don’t feed your dog human food.”
“Only give 2 scoops a day of the same food, EVERY DAY”
Could you imagine eating the same exact food, at the same portion, every single day? That’s what it’s like for most of the pets in today’s world. We need to look at our pet’s diet almost the same way we look at our own. Let’s take care of their bodies and their immune system.
Take Nicole’s dog, Nala, for example—even at the young age of 10-months-old, Nala had already developed so many health issues from not taking care of her body and diet.
Is it Allergies?
So many pets are fed kibble, with loads of allergy-inducing ingredients, generation after generation. As a result, some are born with an incredibly diminished natural microbiome which can be easily misdiagnosed as an allergy.
We tend to forget that just like us, our pets should have a healthy population of good bacteria in the gut. When this is out of balance, there is usually a lot of behavioral issues in our pets. Chemical imbalance and atypical hormonal activity, passed down through hereditary lines is a common cause for issues like anxiety.
The Transition To Raw
Before Nicole transitioned into the pet nutrition world, she was a middle school teacher. But with that little voice in the back of her head always reminding her of Nala’s struggles and all the other dogs out there with the same issues going unaddressed – she then made the decision to change her focus to educating in pet nutrition.
To start, Nicole connected with a local holistic pet retailer in San Diego, where she lived at the time—and found her new journey started at a store called Pupologie.
She started part-time at the store to learn the ins and outs of the business. From dry food to raw food, Nicole started learning and experiencing it all. As she started to learn more, she also started prepping her game plan for Nala.
Since Nala’s gut was so unbalanced, it took around 3 months for Nicole to fully transition her over to raw food. Now, she has been on a raw diet for 10 years and doing amazing!
I asked Nicole if she saw all of Nala’s health issues disappear or go away, and her response was “Absolutely, just about everything.”
From the inside out, throughout her lifetime, Nala’s now become one of the happiest and healthiest dogs I know. Nala just had her 12th birthday and is thriving. Even though most Labradors suffer from arthritis at an older age, Nala hasn’t even suffered from inflammation conditions. It’s amazing!
The Bad Before The Good
One interesting thing Nicole experienced when transitioning Nala from kibble to a raw diet – things started to get worse before they got better.
It’s just like cleansing your body. Our pet’s body will reach homeostasis and then start to heal itself. Nicole’s dog, Nala, lost all of her coat through the cleansing process but came back with healthier skin and full fur.
I, myself have a 14-year-old Shih Tzu who is covered with little papilloma all over her body. After feeding her a raw diet, giving her CBD, and giving her the natural healing experience – her tumors started exploding. It’s gross, but after, the tumors are gone and she is healthy and happy.
Nicole describes it as running molasses through a car engine and now switching to a premium grade gasoline. You have to clean the system.
Some of the most common things pet parents will see when they’re cleansing their pet or going through this process is:
- Shedding (sometimes the whole coat)
- Excessive discharge (could be through the ears or eyes)
- Discolored poop
The Importance Of Rotation
Just like us, as our pets get older, things start to not work as well as they use too. And unfortunately, this is when most pet parents run to the vet and start popping their pet full of prescription drugs.
There are natural options!
Just like Nicole’s dog, Nala, with the right food and some supplements – her 12-year-old Labrador has no inflammation issues. That is extremely rare compared to the Labrador population.
Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of rotation in your pet’s diet.
For example, if you start seeing your dog experiencing allergies – look at the proteins you’re feeding him or her. Are they ‘hot proteins’ like chicken? If so, switch it to a ‘cool protein’ like turkey to reduce the inflammatory response. Yes, just switching your pet’s protein can do that!
Rotation is key! There are different nutrients our pet’s need in different foods and supplements. Always try mixing these proteins, vegetables, fruits and supplements up for your dog so you’re also rotating the nutrients.
The most important thing to look for when deciding on food for your pet is which one has the least deviation from the ingredients’ most natural form. The less processing it has to go through, the greater the quantity of intrinsic nutritional value. The most minimally processed is raw, next would be freeze-dried, then lightly cooked.
Nicole works for Small Batch, who are leaders in the industry for their whole food, fresh, and natural diets for pets. At Small Batch, they offer raw diets, freeze-dried, and lightly cooked meals for our pets. (The best options mentioned above).
Small Batch is now coming up to 15 years in the business of fresh food. Starting in Northern California, David Vogel and his wife, Diana started the hunt for natural and local sourced ingredients. David’s brother then came on board and realized they had something going here! They all knew fresh food was fantastic and was driven on holistic wellness.
What really makes Small Batch different, though, is even after 15 years of business they’ve continued to source every single one of their raw materials themselves. David has made sure he personally knows every single one of the farmers, knows their process, and has watched it—before they source an ingredient. Some of these farming processes include making sure the animals have been humanely raised, including no hormones or antibiotics.
About Angela Ardolino
Angela Ardolino is passionate about animals and has dedicated her life to providing all-natural relief to pets of all ages and breeds. Ardolino has worked with animals for over 20 years and operates Fire Flake Farm, a rescue farm in Lutz, FL. A medical cannabis expert, Ardolino holds a degree in the therapeutic uses of cannabis from the University of Vermont School of Medicine and is the founder of CBD Dog Health. Combining her background in broadcast journalism and her passion for pets, Ardolino is the host of a pet-centric podcast, “It’s a Dog’s Life” on Cannabis Radio. Additionally, she is the owner of Beautify the Beast, a natural pet salon and spa. Ardolino cares for anywhere from 5 to 20 dogs, 9 geese, 12 chickens, 12 ducks, 2 rabbits, and 1 pig at any given time on her farm. Visit www.AngelaArdolino.com and www.CBDDogHealth.com to learn more.
About Nicole Erickson
Originally from San Diego, Nicole now resides in Southern California. Nicole has always had a love for animals. Even when she was tiny, she was convinced she would be a veterinarian when she grew up. Nicole then got the opportunity to study nutrition in college. This is when she started to familiarize herself with holistic alternative modalities. This is also when Nicole found her true passion for wellness in herself and the animals around her. Nicole ended up rescuing her first fur baby – Nala. Nala is Chocolate Labrador who is now 12-years-old. After switching to a raw diet, Nala was a whole new dog. Nicole first started learning about the business when she worked for a company called Pupologie. Now, Nicole works for the amazing company Small Batch and continues to help pet parents find the best options for their pets.