Furchild claims its meal plans, treats and bones use only ethically sourced halal meats, besides organic fruit Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: When Maximus was adopted by Canadian expat Katherine Cebrowski in 2013, it was a happy homecoming. But not long after, the English bulldog became lethargic and sick, his fur started falling out and his weight shot up. Trips to the vet cost money as they covered check-ups, skin treatments, eye drops, antibiotics and commercial foods. But nothing seemed to provide relief.

In 2015, another English Bulldog Simon, whom Cebrowski brought home, showed signs of poor nutrition. “His fur was dull, coarse, wiry and falling out. He was overweight, his breath was smelly, he had frequent gas and a build-up of tartar and plaque along his gums.”

Concern for Maximus’ well-being motivated his owners to research into the possible reasons behind his health problems. Cebrowski realised his diet was to blame and transitioned him to fresh, raw ingredients, following which his health dramatically improved. Encouraged by a similar experience with Simon, Cebrowski and her South African partner Robert Kelly reached out to international pet nutritionists and learnt all they needed to know about raw meals. Keen to share the benefits with other pet lovers, they set up Furchild, the region’s first and only licensed raw and healthy pet food delivery service.

Elsewhere in Dubai, Anita Day, a Dutchwoman with two Labradors Misty and Jessie, struggled with their constant allergies six years ago. Many vet visits and tests later, it emerged that they were hypersensitive to preservatives and additives used in most dog products. Subsequently, Day and her daughters Selina and Georgina started making their treats, minus the chemicals, at home. And as word about their “crazy mutts” got around, demand for their handcrafted goodies, which came to be known as Mutt Madness, grew and soon made their way to the RIPE market.

Maximum benefit

Not surprisingly then, dogs and cats in the UAE can now enjoy tailored diets, as their owners choose from healthy meal plans, chemical-free biscuits, jerkies and chews, even custom-made birthday cakes that address their specific allergies and nutritional requirements.

Cebrowski said, “Our meal plans are personalised based on the pet’s breed, size and eating habits, this ensures they receive the maximum benefit from going raw. For example, a puppy will have a different feeding amount than an adult. An overweight pet will be fed less than a highly active pet. A toy breed will be fed differently than a medium-sized breed etc.”

She said, “Furchild meals for dogs contain 85 per cent high quality meat protein (cage-free, grass-fed, no hormones and no antibiotics), 14 per cent organic vegetables, organic oils to balance the Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids, as well as a small nutrient mix of important trace minerals. Our meals for cats contain 99 per cent high quality meats (cage-free, grass-fed, no hormones and no antibiotics) with a balanced portion of Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids. Furchild’s dog and cat meals are grain-free, gluten-free and 100 per cent complete and balanced and formulated by leading experts in pet nutrition and approved by board certified veterinary nutritionists.

“We pride ourselves on being the only suppliers in the UAE of Green Tripe, Raw Bones and Himalayan Dog Chews – our most popular treats. Our Green Tripe is 100 per cent organic and grass fed, it’s considered to be the “super food” for pets as it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, probiotics and aids in digestion.”

Benefits of formulated foods include increased energy, a healthy weight loss, a shinier coat, cleaner teeth and improved temperament. All of this also results in fewer visits to vets and lower pet bills.

At Mutt Madness too, Selina said the ingredients that go into the bakery’s products are carefully chosen for their health benefits.

“We sell over 70 types of products, each carrying its own benefits. For example, our banana and peamut butter cookies are popular because banana is good for the dog’s muscular system, bowels, skin and fur and energy levels while peanut butter is an antioxidant, keeps the dog’s coat shiny, strengthens their nails and boosts their immune system. Similarly, our lucky clovers are good for getting rid of parasites like tapeworms and roundworms and helps a dog keep a healthy coat.”

Selina said Mutt Madness makes ice-creams in six flavours. “We also sell birthday cakes with gluten free options too,” she said. And the cost? “They range from Dh5 for a chicken lollilop to Dh100 for a bone-shaped cake. The average price of our products is around Dh20,” said Selina.

At Furchild too, the costs vary depending on the requirement. Subscribers to the online service can avail a limited period starter pack offer for two weeks worth of assorted meals for Dh99.