Natural Feeding of Pets an Introduction
There is evidence that many of the problems we see in the veterinary clinic (as well as the human clinic) are caused by poor diet. Modern processed diets may provide what in theory is a balanced diet for our companions but so many dogs and cats thrive very much better on a natural diet that we recommend a natural raw meat based diet for most pets at least in part. However there are individuals and cases were cooked meats may be better, See later; but always avoid processed foods where possible. For more information on what processing does to pet foods see our processed food page. This page outlines the approach we recommend and suggests an improved diet that is easy to prepare and tasty. It is by necessity brief, if you wish to know more about the subject or would like some recipes then you can find this more on our other pages in this section of the web-site and in the following books: Recommended Books Dr Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by R.H. and S. H. Pitcairn. Give your Dog a Bone by Ian Billinghurst
K9 Kitchen: Yours dogs diet the truth behind the hype Monica Segal
Optimal Nutrition by Monica Segal The best-documented research article is that conducted by a Dr Pottenger with groups of cats.(2) One group was fed raw meat; bones, milk and cod liver oil and other groups fed the same foods cooked. The raw feed group was much healthier not needing veterinary care but the more cooked the food the more problems were seen. The problems are exactly those seen at our clinics:
- Mouth and gum problems
- Thyroid disorders
- bladder inflammation
- skin problems
In the human field, there is an enormous amount of evidence to show that the more raw food is included in the diet, the less disease is suffered, particularly cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, skin disease and digestive problems.
All animals (including people!) evolved to function on raw food. There were no cookers or fires at that time, and certainly no tin-openers!
The basic energy currency for the body is enzymes, which are only present in raw food. They are destroyed by heat and most other forms of food processing.
In the wild, dogs and cats would eat herbivores, like rabbits, so they would be consuming raw meat, bones and the guts. This combination is important because :
• Raw meat and bone together provide the right balance of minerals, especially calcium and phosphorous.
• The guts contain well-chewed partially digested grass and vegetation, full of enzymes, minerals and vitamins — a highly nutritious raw grass soup!
They also eat eggs, bark, herbs, roots, soil, ripe fruit, droppings and insects.
How can I do this for my pet?
Most pet shops sell packets of frozen minced raw meat and bone mixtures; Prize Choice is a very good quality make of minced rabbit, lamb or chicken which contains raw meat and bone together, from a reputable source. This makes feeding raw food so easy!! Frozen food should be allowed to defrost at room temperature to preserve its enzyme activity. Do not defrost it in a microwave as this will damage those precious enzymes. Organic meat is to be preferred were possible. There are more and more suppliers of raw meat on the market now as word spreads of how good raw feeding is, you can get deliveries from Natural Instinct, Darlings and some local suppliers
Carnivores also need raw fruits and vegetables (mostly liquidised) mixed with the meat and bone. Greens, like spinach, celery, parsley and broccoli are excellent. Avocado is easy to mix in once or twice a week and helps the skin as it provides many essential fats. Dogs need about a third of their meal as pulverised vegetation, while cats need about a quarter. If you have a compost heap, they'll help themselves to extras too! Beware of corn-on-the-cob; do not throw it on your compost heap and do not feed it to your dogs as it seems to be indigestible and can block the gut.
Once your pet has got used to eating raw food, you could offer some raw meaty bones. They love them!
Chewing raw meaty bones (like chicken wings, necks and drumsticks, RAW ) and fibrous vegetables (like broccoli stalks and carrots) helps to clean their teeth and provides entertainment and satisfaction for carnivores. Cooked bones cause lots of problems because they splinter and are relatively indigestible so never give cooked bones.
Other suitable bones include lamb breast, Turkey drumsticks , etc. Large marrow bones are not as good as these softer bones but good for larger dogs. Some bones such as chop bones are best avoided as the large lump of the backbone may be swallowed whole and cause a blockage,
The important points of a natural diet for carnivores are raw meaty bones, raw pulverised vegetables, lots of variety and fresh, chemical-free water (i.e., filtered or bottled).
Human grade mince or meat without bone does not contain enough Calcium so always supplement it with Raw bones or bone meal like supplements .
Both cats and dogs do better if the meat is fed raw and we rarely if ever see problems with food poisoning with Salmonella, E.coli and the like among our patients. Light cooking will not reduce the nutritional value much though if you wish and can kill surface germs. But use fresh meat and take sensible precautions with hygiene while preparing pet and human foods.
Cereals and Potatoes can form a small proportion of a dog's diet. The more natural the better without additives. But this is the part of the diet that causes most health problems and is found in much too high a proportion in most commercial foods. This part of the diet should of course be cooked
A civilised version of the 'grass soup' is available, called Pet Plus for Cats or for Dogs. This complements the natural raw food diet beautifully, and is given in addition to the minced or juiced raw vegetation.
When added to a processed food diet, this powdered raw food concentrate helps to improve its digestibility and hence its availability to the body. So if changing your dog or cat onto a raw food diet is too hard for some reason, at least adding the Pet Plus will provide those much needed enzymes, vitamins and minerals
We recommend the following supplements to the diet to ensure optimal health of your companion and to be doubly sure no vitamins are in short supply:
Vegetable oil. About 1 teaspoon per day per 10 kg (20lb) weight. Corn, Sunflower, or Soy are all good. Oils are particularly in short supply in dried food.
Vitamin A about 1,000 international units per 10 kg per day. For dogs less is required the more vegetables are feed. (1 cup of raw vegetables is about the same as 1000 i.u.)
The richest source is fish oils such as cod liver oil Vitamin A & D capsules or liquid or a mixed vitamin supplement are alternatives. A teaspoonful of cod liver oil weekly is about right for a 10 kilo dog if having fresh veggies.
Vitamin E around 50 i.u. per 10 kg per day. Wheat germ oil or vitamin capsules are good sources.
Bonemeal powder 1 teaspoonful per 10 kg per day. or 'Pet Cal' tablets or Canine Mineral Supplement from our shop or ground eggshells can be used instead as a Calcium supplement. If you are feeding bones or poultry pet mince this can be reduced or eliminated.
Other vitamins and minerals: There is evidence that additional vitamin C can help prevent disease and you may supplement this at the rate of 100 mg per 10 kg per day. Additional B vitamins can be given in the form of brewers yeast.
Kelp powder is a very good source of trace minerals and will help dull coats.
Taurine is an additional problem in cats, if meats are cooked this amino acid can be deficient in cat's diets so if you cook the meats add a little. It is found in most cat vitamin tablets and cat versions of the powders, Pet Plus etc.
There is no need to worry exactly about these figures or to feed these amounts every day, but these are a meant as a guide.
If you vary the meats, feed eggs and/or liver once a week and give regular meaty bones you will have enough Vitamins A, B, C, D and E for most dogs and cats.
However a multivitamin tablet or better a spoonful of one of the mixtures 'Pet Plus', Udo's' Pet Essentials' or 'Missing Link' will make doubly sure nothing is missing they contain kelp, yeast and flax seed and other ingredients to aid optimal health.
See our Dog Recipe page and also the Cat Recipe page
for some example meals.
So to summarise
Dogs: At least 50% raw meat with bone with raw pulverised vegetables and a small amount of cereal. Offal once a week. Eggs (raw again) once a week, give with the shell. And a spoonful of Pet Plus or similar that's it.
Cats: At least 80% meat with some bone, a teaspoon of raw liquidised vegetable or Pet Plus/Udo's/Missing Link, cereal best avoided. Again vary the meat source to include fish, eggs and dairy products and you have a healthy happy companion.
Quantities: The best way is to weigh your pet regularly and make sure he or she stays at much the same weight, vary the quantity of food to suit. Animals have such different needs it is impossible to give a figure.
Obese animals: Change them to this diet and you will find the weight should come off automatically
You can buy a leaner meat and increase vegetables to encourage weight loss if need be. If you use very low fat meat ensure you supplement Vitamins A and D.
You will have heard of the Atkins diet, does not this sound similar? Try it.
Dogs and especially cats are not meant to have carbohydrates I believe the amount they get in commercial diets is the main reason for the number of fat animals we seen. Exercise would do no harm though!
The recipes will give you an idea of quantities to feed.
Always introduce a new diet gradually to avoid diarrhoea problems.
If you wish you can add raw or home cooked meat, raw minced/ground vegetables, a little oil and the supplement powders to a kibble (dried food) to produce a better diet, always add some bonemeal/calcium to this unless feeding mince with bone. Best to feed a raw bone every day or so though. See our recipes for details.
What do I feed my dog Trevor and Cat Lucy?
Well I am lazy and a little hap-hazard with the regime
Raw minced meat different types every day
Odd turkey neck and other bones
Some kibble when there is other else or we are on holiday
(1)Lonsdale, T. (1995). Periodontal disease and leucopenia. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 36, p542-546.
(2)Pottenger, F.M. Jnr. (1995). Pottenger's Cats. Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, San Diego, California
(3) Susanna McIntyre BVSc MRCVS: 'What's best to feed my pets'; Personal communication and www.petplus.info