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)
The ideal dog food would be a ration that tastes like a postman - Anonymous
Is this a true statement? Well, maybe, but only if the postman were served raw (uncooked) with a side helping of pulped green leafy, perhaps some organ meat, a kelp tablet and a small portion of brewer’s yeast! He probably couldn’t eat the whole postie in one sitting so providing a place he could bury him for later excavation – perhaps a midnight snack? - would be helpful!
Unfortunately, the law forbids us to feed posties to our dogs (nor is it appropriate to feed your cat the native wild bird population) so what can we give them to provide optimal health? Well, first and foremost, we must supply raw meaty bones, not just to ensure good dental health, but also to provide the correct nutrition in the diet. These raw meaty bones should make up the bulk of the animal’s diet as they supply all their energy, protein, mineral and, especially if chicken, essential fatty acid requirements (Billinghurst, 1993). Studies have found that dogs can actually tell when their food lacks a single amino acid and will avoid such a meal. According to the National Research Council of National Academies, “Dogs cannot survive without protein in their diets. Dietary protein contains 10 specific amino acids that dogs cannot make on their own. Known as essential amino acids, they provide the building blocks for many important biologically active compounds and proteins. In addition, they donate the carbon chains needed to make glucose for energy. High-quality proteins have a good balance of all of the essential amino acids”. It goes on to state that although dogs choose foods that are high in protein, it is not known whether this is a matter of taste or a biological response to their bodies’ needs for the 10 essential amino acids.
To ensure your dog’s health the next step is to provide a raw diet rich in variety that is certainly not set in stone but changeable and fed over a period of weeks so the nutrients are balanced out over this time rather than at one meal sitting. These items might include green vegies, offal, meat, eggs, yoghurt, brewer’s yeast (for B vitamins), kelp (iodine) and a small amount of grains and legumes (fed together). Pulped vegies and fruit ensure they mimic the contents of a prey animal and their nutrients are more available to the dog or cat. Table scraps can also be fed occasionally but preferably raw.
Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6, are beneficial to cell structure and function, and keep pets’ coats and skin healthy, eyesight and physiology. While these can be obtained from chicken, adding some good quality fish oil is another option. Other oils might include cod liver, corn, soyabean, wheat germ, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower and peanut, says Billinghurst, 1993.
For a cat I would also include taurine – an essential amino acid which plays an important role “including the formation of bile salts which aids the digestion of fats and absorption of fat soluble vitamins. It is necessary for cardiac function, brain and nervous system function, immune function and maintaining eye function, female reproduction and foetal growth” (Catworld).
“Calcium and phosphorus are crucial to strong bones and teeth. Dogs need magnesium, potassium, and sodium for nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction, and cell signalling. Many minerals that are present only in minute amounts in the body, including selenium, copper, and molybdenum, act as helpers in a wide variety of enzymatic reactions.” (National Research Council of National Academies) What does this mean? Well, feeding a correct diet as listed above will provide all of the nutrients and goodness a dog or cat needs to maintain health.
Dogs and cats that are not fed on a balanced nutritious diet are prone to a number of diseases. Studies in America have shown that cancer is the number one killer of dogs with one in three dying from the disease and 50% over the age of 10 contracting it. “Manufactured dry dog food does not provide the nutrients our dogs need and thus cause malnutrition; commercial foods also contain toxins that are over-burdening their bodies and compromising their immune systems, so they fall prey to disease”. (Omega-3-Fish-oil-Wonders.com).
After cancer, says Billinghurst, 1993, kidney and heart disease are the leading causes of death in dogs fed commercially processed foods. “The excesses of salt, phosphorus and protein commonly present in dog foods, when consumed over a lifetime are a major cause of both kidney and heart disease. In other words, commercial dog foods are known to be a direct cause of the leading killer diseases in older dogs”. The same can most certainly be said for cats.
Feeding a raw diet in the short term means “no dental problems, no skin problems, no ear problems, no eye problems, no bowel problems, in fact no health problems of any description, plus a dog that is full of energy, bright, alert, active etc” (Billinghurst, 1993). Long term, the results are just as good because you have a dog that is free from major disease and with good dental health.
Russell Swift believes that dogs and cats fed on a processed diet (one with grains containing a high carbohydrate content of cheap calories) “cannot maintain long-term production of the quantity of amylase enzyme necessary to properly digest and utilise the carbohydrates. In addition, the proteins in grains are less digestive than animal proteins. As a result, the immune system becomes irritated and weakened by the invasion of foreign, non-nutritive protein and carbohydrate particles. Allergies and other chronic immune problems may develop”. He goes on to state that while the animal’s pancreas will do its best to keep up with the demand for amylase it very likely suffers as a consequence, which may go a long way to explain the high number of pets diagnosed with pancreatic disorders.
Dogs can get too much or too little of a specific mineral in their diets. A deficiency of dietary calcium, for instance, (with animals fed mainly meat with no bones) causes secondary hyperparathyroidism and results in major bone loss, skeletal abnormalities, and pathological fractures. An excess of calcium, on the other hand, may also cause skeletal abnormalities, especially in growing large-breed puppies, and can predispose to bloat especially in deep-chested dogs. On the other hand too little phosphorous will cause reduced weight gain; poor appetite; bowing and swelling of forelimbs in puppies and too little magnesium, a reduction in weight gain, irritability, and convulsions in puppies; hyperextension of carpal joints and hind-leg paralysis later in life (National Research Council of National Academies).
In addition, a deficiency of zinc (usually caused by excessive calcium) will lead to skin problems, growth problems, reproductive problems and reduced resistance to disease which means all sorts of health issues. Billinghurst, 1993, lists some of these as delays in wound healing, loss of body protein, decreased nervous system function, decreased thyroid function and testicular degeneration in pups.
For cats, a taurine deficiency spells disaster in the form of feline central retinal degeneration which eventually leads to irreversible blindness, dilated cardiomyopathy and reduced fertility in queens.
There are plenty of other degenerative diseases caused by feeding a diet that fails to provide essential nutrients to the dog or cat and suppresses the immune system. These animals can present with autoimmune disease, renal or kidney failure, pancreatic and liver disease, heart problems, allergies, skeletal problems, arthritis, skin and coat problems, obesity and, of course, dental diseases.
“Dr. Kollath, of the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, headed a study done on animals. When young animals were fed cooked and processed foods they initially appeared to be healthy. However, as the animals reached adulthood, they began to age more quickly than normal and also developed chronic degenerative disease symptoms. A control group of animals raised on raw foods aged less quickly and were free of degenerative disease. In nature, we see another example of wild animals eating entirely enzyme-rich raw foods being free of the degenerative diseases that afflict humans” (Shirleys Wellness Café, 2010) In other words, all these can be avoided if the dog or cat is fed a nutritious raw food which contains all the necessary elements for good health. Throw in a postie or two and you’re done! And don’t forget:
A dog desires affection more than its dinner. Well, almost - Charlotte Gray