When it comes to doggie dinnertime, Katherine Heigl maintains that different dogs require different nutrients. And she should know: she has several mouths to feed and needs to consider.
“I’m actually fostering two Rottweiler puppies right now. So I have nine at the house,” she tells PEOPLE of her growing pet brood. Heigl’s is a diverse pack, from her large shepherd mixes who need nutritional boosts for poor hips to her smaller, older dogs who can only eat wet food due to missing teeth.
In an effort to meet her dogs’ various needs, the Firefly Lane star, 43, expended her time, energy and money hoping to meet her pets’ various health demands. She tried cooking their food herself and buying “human-grade” fancy food plans. But Heigl needed a catch-all solution that was convenient without sacrificing “as much healthy healing nutrition as possible,” she says.
Taking matters into her own hands, the actress created Badlands Ranch, a premium dog food brand named after her family ranch in Utah. In designing the air-dried food and single-ingredient treats, she approached canine health with the same holistic perspective from which she views her own wellness.
Heigl, who shares three children with husband Josh Kelley, says that over the years, she’s become “more and more aware of gut healing and nutrition, and the connection between our guts and our brains … and I thought, ‘Well, why is it different? How different is it for our animals?’ ”
Partnering with an animal nutritionist, Heigl was able to safely add wholesome ingredients to her Badlands Ranch food. The formula includes chia seeds and flax seeds for gut health, and it even uses some of the more popular, “trendy” herbal supplements, like lion’s mane mushrooms, which aid the brain and the immune system, she shares.
“People are adding it to their coffee, adding it to their smoothies,” she explains of the plant-based adaptogens included in the food. “We can give the dog some of that added help as well.”
Heigl emphasizes the importance of following her brand’s feeding instructions in order to get the most practical, nourishing benefits.
“It’s just really rich food and very full of protein. So you don’t want to overfeed it because you don’t need to,” she explains. “And that’s the beauty of it, too. A bag should last you a good bit.”
Badlands Ranch is hardly Heigl’s first foray into animal activism. In 2008, the Emmy Award-winner joined forces with her mother to establish the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, named in memory of her late brother. The foundation provides and supports pet education, adoption and health programs to battle widespread pet mistreatment — “a massive problem in our country for these companion animals,” as Heigl says.
Since launching the foundation, the actress says that she and her mother have been “pouring” their own money into stopping animal overpopulation and pulling dogs out of kill shelters. Heigl is excited by the funding possibilities of having Badlands Ranch as an official sponsor of the foundation.
“The food is this beacon of hope for us financially to try to continue to do the work that we’re doing,” she explains. “A lot of it is about the spay/neuter programs, about transporting animals out of high kill shelters to areas where they’re readily adopted, providing medical care for the ones that are in need of it.”
Badlands Ranch is currently offering Superfood Complete Dog Food and Superfood Bites treats, but dog owners can look forward to more pet wellness products soon: Heigl hopes to include more holistic treatments in the upcoming superfood supplement expected later this year.
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“I’d like to see us have added supplements for things like anxiousness. We see … a lot of these dogs coming out of a shelter or kennel situation where their anxiety is way up there,” says Heigl, who can relate to the need for natural stress reducers. “For me, personally, I use lemon balm or ashwagandha. So now I’ve got to work with the nutritionist for the pet food and figure out what version of that we can use for the animals.”