So many people think about transitioning their dogs to raw food but are afraid to do so.
It looks too complicated.
I don't have time.
I'm scared my dog will choke on a bone etc etc
But take a moment ... pause and have a think.
Sure it's easy to open a bag of premade processed dry food, but no matter how much you like McDonald's would you really want to eat it every meal, every day, week in and week out for your entire life? And if you did, how do you think that might affect your body, your health, your immune system?
So is raw feeding really that hard? I say NO!!
To make it easy though, why not start with a premade raw food product? It requires no more of your than a premade processed food. All it requires is the opening of a packet. Now how hard can that be? It's not right? It's ridiculously easy and will certainly give the beginner an easy way to take that first step into providing a healthier lifestyle for their dog.
Premade raw brands include BARF, Raw4Paws, Organic Paws, Big Dog ... well seriously there are too many to mention.
So let's say you take this first step, and wow, look how easy it is. But now you're feeling adventurous. Maybe you can do this on your own. How hard can it be? Well, as someone who has been feeding raw for over a decade (and believe me I wish I'd started long before that) I can tell you it's not difficult.
Really the most important things you need is discipline (and a deep freezer!).
Buy your meat and raw meaty bones, your offal, sardines, green tripe, eggs, fish & coconut oil, brewer's yeast, etc etc. It certainly may take you longer to prepare a meal but you will gain so much in satisfaction seeing your dog thrive on the best diet you can provide.
The most obvious – and perhaps most readily understandable by the general public – is the improvement that can be seen in dental hygiene when a dog is changed over to a diet of raw meaty bones. “The abrasion between bone and teeth when chewing is believed to scrape off dental plaque. Cartilage, ligaments, and tendons are thought to act as a natural dental floss. The chewing and tearing action is also believed to strengthen the jaw, neck and shoulder muscles, keep the digestive juice flowing and boost the neurological and immune system.” (Wikipedia, 2011). Basically, bones act as a natural toothbrush, they help prevent tooth and root decay as well as abscesses. (The Daily Puppy, 2008)
But dental hygiene aside, there are many other health benefits for animals switching to raw meaty bones. According to rawlearning.com, people who have changed their dog’s diet to raw have reported a number of improvements including more energy, allergies disappearing, arthritis reducing and in some cases disappearing, better weight management, dogs living longer, and bitches coping with pregnancy better along with a higher survival rate and better weight in puppies.
So let's break it down to what meat and why ...
According to Dr Ian Billinghurst, 1993, chicken is one of the best all-rounders in nutritional benefits when it comes to feeding raw meaty bones. Chicken is a great source of protein and has some great nutritional benefits, containing such minerals and vitamins as - thiamin, zinc and manganese, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Phosphorus, Copper and Selenium. “The inside of a chicken bone (marrow) is rich in nutrients and surprisingly porous. Raw meaty bones (RMB) are not only great for maintaining oral health, it also provides essential nutrients such as essential fatty acids (EFA's), fat soluble vitamins, enzymes, and the mineral content is in perfect balance (ie, Calcium to Phosphorous ratio).” (They Are What They Eat blog, 2009).
Basically, because bones are living tissue they are a complex source of nutrients, containing all sorts of goodness in the form of minerals, protein and fat soluble vitamins. According to The Daily Puppy, the marrow of these bones also contains a highly nutritious mix of blood forming elements, iron, anti-oxidants, anti-aging elements and enzymes, concluding that bones are full of natural minerals that a dog requires to function normally. In addition, poultry necks and wings also contain natural glucosamine.
Billinghurst asserts that beef, while still of benefit to an animal, contains less vitamin B and is lower in calcium than chicken. However, he says it is an excellent source of readily digestible protein (more so than sheep, chicken or pork) and has less fat, thereby lessening the risk of obesity.
While it has the lowest cholesterol levels, it is low in essential fatty acids. Beef bones are harder than chicken bones and are therefore of more use when it comes to dental hygiene.
According to website nutritiondata.self.com, beef is a good source of Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Potassium, Zinc and Copper, and a very good source of Protein, Vitamin C, Niacin, Vitamin B12, Iron, Phosphorus and Selenium.
Interestingly, when comparing kangaroo to beef we find that it is very low in fat and cholesterol but high in protein and iron. “This makes kangaroo meat a very healthy choice. Just as it’s important for humans to be careful of dietary fat intake, so too should be our pets. Too much fat can be just as great a problem for pets as it is for humans.” (www.lowchensaustralia.com, 2008-2009)
Website www.livestrong.com states pork is high in protein and contains each of the 10 amino acids essential to a healthy diet. “The meat contains several B-complex proteins, including vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6 and B-12, and it provides a rich source of niacin, or vitamin B-3. Pork also contains small amounts of vitamin E and choline, two other essential nutrients. Finally, pork loin provides a source of the minerals phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium and sodium, all of which contribute to a healthy diet.” (www.livestrong.com)
Different types of fish have different nutritional value. Livestrong.com states fatty coldwater fish, such as salmon and tuna, are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids which is good for the heart. It can decrease the risk of abnormal heart rhythm, lower blood cholesterol and slightly lower blood pressure.
Oily fish, such as sardines and salmon contain vitamins A and D – only present in white fish’s liver, says lowchenaustralia.com: “Fish contains most of the essential amino acids; arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threoline and valine. The only essential amino acid not found in significant amounts is tryptophan. Non essential amino acids are also present; cystenic, aspartic, serine, glumatic, proline, glycine, alanini, tyrosine and taurine. Minerals -Phosphorous, fluoride, magnesium, iodine, calcium and potassium are found, while trace elements of iron, zinc and selenium can also be found. Vitamins - Some of the B group is found in fish; thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. The liver of white fish contains vitamins A and D, while these vitamins can also be found in the flesh of oily fish.”
It’s hard to go past the benefits of feeding raw meaty bones. In this case the proof is not in the pudding, but rather the pooch or puss. Leaving the last word to Shamblin, 2010, most raw feeders report healthier dogs, full of energy and vitality: “Our dogs have less illnesses, clean white teeth and fresh breath. Visits to the vet for skin and ear infections and dental cleaning become a thing of the past. We see less year around shedding in our dogs, increased muscle tone and stamina and more mental and physical fitness.”
All The Best Pet Care, Raw Meaty Bones for Dogs (and even cats), 2010 (www.allthebestpetcare.com)
Aussie RMB, 2010 (www.aussiermb.org.au)
Billinghurst, Dr Ian 1993, Give Your Dog A Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs For A Long Healthy Life, Warrigal Publishing, Bathurst, NSW, Australia
Dog Health, 2008-2009 (www.lowchensaustralia.com/health/fish.htm)
5 Star Dog, Dog Food, 2011 (www.5stardog.com)
Hawthorne, Kimberly, 2008, What Bones Can Dogs Eat? (www.dailypuppy.com)
Livestrong.com, 2011 (www.livestrong.com/article/427309-nutrition-in-a-4-oz-raw-pork-loin/)
Pet Health Core, The Nutritional Value of a Raw Dog Food Diet, May 21, 2011, (www.pethealthcore.info)
Pet Synergy, Overview of Nutrition for Dogs and Cats, 2010 (www.petsynergy.com)
Raw Learning, 2009 (www.rawlearning.com)
Raw Meaty Bones, 2007 (www.rawmeatybones.com)
Self Nutrition Data, 2008 (nutritiondata.self.com/facts/poultry-products/666/2#ixzz1R08bPnYF)
Shalako, Schipperkes, The Raw Diet, 2006 (www.shalako.com)
Shamblin, Rooster, Feeding Your Dog A Raw Chicken Diet Like I Do, 2010 (roostershamblin.wordpress.com/2010/07/23/feeding-your-dog-a-raw-chicken-diet-like-i-do/)
They Are What They Eat, blog, 2009 (theyarewhattheyeat.blogspot.com/2009/05/raw-chicken.html)
United Kingdom Raw Meaty Bones Support and Action Group, Why Should You Feed Your Pet Raw Meaty Bones?, 2009 (ukrmb.co.uk)
Obesity and poor diet (lacking the correct nutritional elements) can contribute to the onset of arthritis in cats and dogs. Because poor nutrition affects all the cells in the body it has a detrimental effect on bone development and wear and tear which, in turn, causes arthritis.
The Pet Arthritis Resource Centre explains it this way: “Some of the most common are: Genetic malformation of bone structure that creates a misalignment of joint structures, trauma or infection to joint surfaces, torn supporting ligaments or, poor nutrition, overweight puppy during the growth process, and auto-immune disturbances”.
What this site fails to say is that many of these problems can be traced back to poor nutrition in the first place. To get a little bit technical – and discussing this on a more cellular level - Prostaglandins and Leukotrienes (in fact, an inbalance of them) contribute to arthritis. And this in turn comes back to diet, for example, via not ensuring there are EFAs in the animal’s diet.
“Bad prostaglandins are capable of attracting large numbers of leukocytes (white blood cells) to the site of inflammation, causing pain and tissue damage,” says website arthrix.com. Meanwhile, “Beneficial prostaglandins play an important role in reducing inflammation by improving cell permeability and blood flow, thereby reducing pain, tenderness and stiffness. Long-term daily intake of Essential Fatty Acids will regulate the arachidonic acid metabolism, supporting the formation of good prostaglandins and inhibiting the formation of bad prostaglandins.”
Hence, dogs and cats fed on commercially prepared foods will not receive the nutritional benefits of their cousins fed on a raw food diet which pays particular attention to the beneficial qualities of adding EFAs (among other things).
KIDNEY DISEASE & FAILURE:
Known as Chronic Renal Failure in cats and Canine Kidney Failure in dogs, it results when the kidneys are no longer able to function to their upmost ability in filtering and excreting toxins.
Healthy Pet Journal suggests an inappropriate diet is a major contributing factor to kidney disease and that dry processed foods is not recommended for those diagnosed.
As a small animal nutritionist, I recommend dry processed foods not be provided ever – diagnosis or not!
Providing plenty of fresh water is important too. According to the Healthy Pet Journal: “A low-protein, low-phosphorus and low-sodium diet may be recommended for a cat or dog with kidney disease. Some studies suggest that feeding a diet low in phosphorus may help slow the progression of kidney failure by reducing mineral deposits in the kidneys. Low-protein diets are a bit more controversial. Low-protein diets generate fewer nitrogenous wastes - high levels of which can cause nausea and vomiting. However, the diet for each cat or dog with kidney disease should be tailored to their own specific needs as indicated by the stage of the disease and the blood and urinalysis test results”.
It is important to provide a diet that is “scientifically prepared and properly balanced. Good quality commercial dry food diets are designed to reduce many diseases, including renal disease,” says website PetHealth.com.au. What this site does not bother to mention, unfortunately, is that many of these so-called ‘good quality commercial dry food diets’ are actually contributors in the first place to diseases such as kidney failure.
On a more scientific level, a cellular structure within the kidney, known as glomeruli, keep “normal blood proteins and cells in the bloodstream, while allowing extra fluid and wastes to pass through to end up in the pet’s urine … in chronic kidney disease these glomeruli are scarred and lost, or plugged up with proteins and inflammatory cells”. (Hines, 2011)
He goes on to add that once these glomeruli age and die they cannot be replaced. In other words, thanks to advances in medicine and therefore the prolonged life span of our pets, they may succumb to the disease simply because their glomeruli numbers are limited. Diet, however, still plays an important role in the contraction of this disease and having a nutritionally sound one will go a long way as a preventative measure. To finish, Billinghurst, 1998, asserts commercially produced foods with excesses of “protein, phosphorous, sodium and calcium” will eventually result in damaged kidneys.
Caroline Levin, author of the book Dogs, Diet, and Disease: An Owner’s Guide to Diabetes Mellitus, Pancreatitis, Cushing’s Disease and More, has written a fascinating article on the prevalence of autoimmune disease and how it is created.
Here is a snippet: “The phrase itself might be trite, but scientists continue to find intricate and amazing connections between diet, immune system and endocrine (hormone) function. Commercial pet food, completely processed and laden with grains and chemicals, is a chronic irritant to many dogs. In response, the body secretes cortisol – the stress hormone. Cortisol is secreted from the adrenal glands. It normally soothes inflammation and keeps the immune system in check. When irritation is excessive, however, so is cortisol release”.
She goes on to state that when the cortisol is released it causes major upset with the immune system. This can lead to a number of horrid symptoms and conditions including “increased thirst and appetite, incontinence, confusion, insomnia, seizures and chronic infection”.
She also states it can mean small animals predisposed to conditions such as cancer or autoimmune disease (where the body attacks its own tissue caused by production of auto-antibodies) will actually contract such diseases.
Levin suggests to ward off such diseases, or at least minimise their development, a raw food diet is best, and to avoid commercially processed foods. While autoimmune disease can be hereditary, other factors can include “side effects of medications, pollutants, food preservatives and pesticides” (buzzle.com) meaning society’s, in a sense, chemically toxic environment can play a significant role in its contraction. In addition, “Once a dog is affected with autoimmune disease, the susceptibility of the pet towards other dog health problems increases. For example, dog liver disease commonly occurs if the pet's immune responses are weakened. Hence, multiple autoimmune disease is often observed”. The same applies to cats who may present with more than one disease when their immune system is compromised.
Arthrix.com, 2010, What Causes Arthritis (www.arthrix.com)
Bilinghurst, Dr Ian 1993, Give Your Dog A Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs For A Long Healthy Life, Warrigal Publishing, Bathurst, NSW, Australia
Healthy Pet Journal, 2007, Dealing with Kidney Failure in Cats and Dogs (www.healthypetjournal.com)
Hines, Ronald, 2011, Kidney Disease In Dogs And Cats: Chronic Renal Problems - Chronic Renal Failure (CRF), Chronic Renal Insufficiency (CRI) (www.2ndchance.info/kidney)
Levin, Caroline, 2002, Dogs, Disease and Diet, viewed November 20, 2011 (www.b-naturals.com)
PetHealth.com.au, 2010, Kidney Disease in Dogs and Cats (www.PetHealth.com.au)
The Pet Arthritis Resource Centre, Arthritis, 2001, Arthritis in Dogs, Treatment and Causes (www.arthritis-cats-dogs.com)