Raw Food Diets, What they are and SHOULD we feed it to our dogs?
Firstly we need to set the record straight on what is a raw food diet.
The question, I suppose is raw meat good for them?
"BARFers," as they call themselves, feed their dogs a combination of raw meat, eggs, meaty bones, some vegetables, and a small amount of regular kibble. The point of BARF—unlike human diet fads—isn’t to slim down.
The eating program was created by Dr. Ian Billinghurst, a veterinary surgeon from Australia who observed that the canine patients in his clinic that seemed the healthiest were those that weren’t munching Pedigree Chum or indeed Iams, but raw meat and bones.
"Raw meaty bone-eating dogs lived much longer than their commercially fed counterparts," Dr. Billinghurst said. "Bone-eating dogs have the wonderful benefits of clean teeth with no periodontal disease, wonderfully improved digestion, a reduction in obesity, fabulous eating exercise, healthy stools, no anal sac problems, and the wonderful psychological, emotional, and immune system benefits that eating raw meaty bones has conferred on dogs for millions of years."
But many veterinary specialists warn against the diet, arguing that Dr. Billinghurst’s claims aren’t substantiated with adequate medical research, and that the BARF diet actually has the potential to be life-threateningly dangerous. Well after 15 years of working with dogs, Cats and small animals holistically I can honestly say I have seen a variety of dogs develop allergies and this is on the rise, tooth decay is now a major concern for many dogs, obesity is a serious problem and in the UK and the USA, as such the Animal Welfare Act 2007 has been enacted and can enforce owners to feed their dogs more healthier diets, something many have not even considered would be legislated for. Dogs now resemble their fat friends, (humans) and quite frankly it’s wrong, its unnecessary and it should be illegal.
Many people reading this will start by saying that pet food companies spend millions researching healthy options for our pets, well to some degree this is true, They do spend money on telling us all that they research for healthy options and , well , actually they spend an awful lot of money researching what owners feel their pets would like. After all there must be a profit in it for any company , and profits far outweigh all health concerns. There are several high-quality kibbles on the market today, but there are still several significant issues that set raw diets apart from these premium kibble.
Let us look at several of the issues posed by premium kibble. It is still a processed food. This means it has still been rendered, overly cooked, overly processed, and still has artificial vitamins and supplements added to it. Despite the claims of what went into this food at the start, this means the ingredients are still of a poorer quality when compared to fresh, whole, raw foods, and that problems associated with artificial vitamins and minerals still exist: erratic growth patterns, growth occurring too fast, the body not utilizing the nutrients as well, etc. While the better quality foods certainly do start with better materials, after processing these 'food' materials are still of a lesser quality compared to the fresh, raw, real thing. Why do they meddle, comes down again to profit.
Premium kibble or dried food as they are also known are often more expensive than natural, fresh, raw food. If you are dishing out that much money for a 'premium' processed pet food, why not feed fresh, whole, raw food sources for less?
Now I am not stupid enough or arrogant enough to say. That there is no risk associated with using a raw food diet, that would be fundamentally wrong and misleading. The risks are clear and need to be considered but they also need to be placed in a whole scenario.
Regardless of the possible benefits of raw food diets, dogs that consume them are at some risk of Salmonella infection. Raw meat used for the production of these diets can originate from several sources, including human-food grade processing plants, rendering plants, and products no longer deemed suitable for human consumption so its imperative to know your sources, personally I buy my own whole lambs, whole organic chickens, half beef , the list is endless. I also use organic vegetables and heat treated eggs. As many of these diets do not undergo any type of heat processing or sterilization, existing bacteria and parasites can be present at the time of consumption. To minimize the risk of canine and human salmonellosis, regulations governing the manufacture and sale of commercial raw food diets should be established and enforced. Better labels should be placed on packages containing commercial raw food diets warning dog owners of the probability of the products being contaminated with harmful bacteria.
Feeding your Dog.
To get your pet started it is important to learn as much as possible about preparing balanced raw food meals to make sure your pet is getting everything that they need. Its also necessary to ensure good hygiene, no pet wants to kill his or her owner simply because they want the best for them!
Depending on the size of your animal and any specific health problems they may have, the diet may have to be adjusted. When feeding your dog raw meaty bones, for example, some dogs who tend to “gobble”/ not chew their foods, may do better with the bones ground up with the meat. This goes for smaller / toy dogs, as well. Every animal is different, though their basic natural diet is the same. There are many ways to transition even the most finicky eaters to a raw diet and this, too, is a matter of finding out what works best for your animal. I often recommend adding small amount of the new food to the old canned/kibbles, gradually decreasing the amount of the old food over time. It will take a minimum of 3 weeks to have a successful transfer to a Raw food diet. Though, there are some animals for which fasting is necessary to make the transition and some who take to the new food right away.
I recommend supplementing your pet’s diet. There are a few supplements that I consider absolutely essential when making any pet food recipes, which include: a quality calcium supplement (if using meats ground without bone) such as human-grade purified bone-meal powder, Essential Oils (olive, flax, Omega 3-6-9 Oils, fish oils or hemp), Buffered Vitamin C powder and Vitamin E (antioxidants and natural preservatives), kelp powder (for minerals) and B-Vitamins. Cod liver oil once weekly, super-foods (greens), wheat or barley grass powders, MSN powder are great additions to your pets diet, as well. Mine are also given cranberry tablets daily to aid the urinary tract.
People always ask “How much should I give the dog to eat”
Then what inevitably follows is, “Where do I buy this from”?
People always hate the answer which is: it depends. When you think about it, the answer actually makes a lot of sense. How much food to feed depends on:
- the age of your dog - puppies need comparatively more food than adult dogs
- the activity level of your dog - active dogs need more calories than less active dogs
- the current weight of your dog - heavier dogs need to eat fewer calories, skinny dogs need to eat more
- your dog's metabolism - for example, spayed bitches may have slower metabolisms, dogs with a sluggish thyroid might also have a slower metabolism
- the size of your dog - all things being equal, very small dogs might eat comparatively more food per body weight than very large dogs
So really, it just depends. For adult dogs, begin by offering food in the amount of 2% of the dog's body weight per day. So, for example, if your dog weighs 25 lbs, 2% of 25 lbs is .5 lbs (or 8 ounces of food per day). You would feed your 25 lb dog one-half a pound of food per day total - either one meal that weighs one-half of a pound or as two meals weighing a quarter of a pound each. If your dog weighs 50 lbs, you would then feed him 2% of 50 lbs which is one pound of total food per day. If your dog weighs 100 pounds you would begin by feeding 2% of 100 lbs which is two pounds of food per day.
Continue feeding your adult dog 2% of his body weight for a couple of weeks and then assess his progress. From there, you can adjust the amount of food up or down if necessary. The "2% guideline" is roughly the amount of food that many adult dogs need; however, because of the factors listed above and because your dog is an individual, it may be necessary to adjust the amount of food up or down just in the same way that most adult humans need a different number of calories to maintain a constant weight. Please note: when using the "2% guideline" it is important to calculate 2% of your pet's ideal body weight. If your dog is currently at his ideal body weight, great! You can calculate the amount of food according to 2% of his current weight. However, if your dog is too thin or if he needs to lose some weight you will need to calculate 2% of his ideal body weight. This will give you a more accurate representation of what your pet needs to eat based on his current caloric need.
For those of you who are feeding puppies over 12 weeks of age, the 2% guideline does not apply. Puppies are growing little bundles of love and they need more calories in order to grow into big bundles of love. Begin feeding puppies approximately 4 - 8% of their current body weights and then adjusting their caloric needs as they grow up. Again, it's easy enough to assess the amount of food needed as time goes on simply by looking and feeling the dog. If the puppies seem too pudgy, feed a little less. If they seem to be on the thin side, feed a little more. Puppies go mental for real food so you will have no trouble at all in this department.
In the USA Bravo Foods http://www.bravorawdiet.com/ are a superb starting point for your raw food diet, in the UK http://www.prizechoice.co.uk is who I recommend for those with only one or two dogs. Alternatively attend your local meat auction and bid for the best. You know what is going into your own food, and thus you will know what is coming out!