Raw Feeding an Introduction
Dogs, Food and History For thousands of years dogs have roamed the plains, woods and savannahs of the ancient world. Packs of dogs or wolves live in every type of climate and environment in the world. They ate whatever they could find with food coming from 3 main sources: Prey, Scavenged items and Grazing. Prey is mainly herbivores such as rabbits or sheep. Scavenged food was that which dogs acting as natures cleaners they find left over from larger predators or carcases they come across which have died in other ways. Grazed food includes fruit, nuts and berries in season. They also eat significant quantities of faeces of other animals mainly herbivores which provide extra vitamins and ‘friendly bacteria’. Dogs hunt in packs. They devour their prey completely: nothing would remain of the carcase. The soft organs or viscera are the first to go followed by gut contents, which in most cases contained chewed and part digested vegetable material and small amount of cereal, but only a small proportion. Then the muscle meat would be eaten next with skin, bones and even hair to finish acting as natural teeth cleaning after a meal. Man has been living and hunting with dogs for some 40,000 years. The canines helping with the hunt and in return getting some of the leftovers including the bones, of course. Life was easier for both species in this symbiotic relationship.
Commercial diets In the 1950 food producers in the US and UK hit on the idea of selling the large amounts of left over poor quality meat, gristle viscera and cereal by products which they were not able to hide in sausages and pies. They put it in tins and called it dog food. For the first time in history, people could buy food specially made for their dogs and the idea soon caught on. Over time people have simply forgotten that they used to feed dogs on raw bones, meat scraps and vegetable left-overs – a wide variety of foods which being minimally processed retained their nutritional value.
Today we are bombarded with pet food advertising for this brand of tinned food, the other brand of dried food or that brand of chew to keep teeth in order. There are so many brands to choose from what should you should for your companion? If this food is as great as they say why don’t they give it to people to eat it might be idea for astronauts for example or more nutritious than Jamie’s school dinners may be? Would you eat it? So why do we feed processed food to our dogs in a word Convenience but how convenient is it when because of the diet your pet develops a persistent itch, eczema, dental problems and smelly breath. Atopy, colitis food allergy a dull, greasy or scurfy coat or possibly kidney disease are all in my opinion more common in dogs fed on processed foods.
Raw food: In my opinion dogs should eat as far as possible a raw food diet: Raw meat, liquidised raw fruit and vegetables and raw bones. It’s simple to feed and it what dogs have evolved to eat. Here are the basic rules for raw feeding:
Dogs should be fed on a variety of raw meats and bones as their staple diet. Just sticking to one type of meat or offal can deprive him of nutrients. Do not feed pork, Avoid beef if you dog has had skin or bowel allergy problems in the past. You can gradually introduce it under controlled conditions when you are confident he is doing OK on the new diet. Raw chicken wings and poultry necks or similar cuts of meat can be fed 2-3 times weekly and are ideal for smaller breeds and puppies. Never give COOKED BONES: they are prone to splinter and cause internal problems. Raw bones are easily chewed and digested and provide valuable minerals for dogs and raw bone marrow in and excellent source of vitamins. It is unlikely but possible that a large piece of bone becoming stuck in the intestines for this reason avoid ‘chop’ bones with a round piece of vertebrae at one end. It is however very likely that if you do not feed bones to clean teeth your companion will need and anaesthetic and to have teeth cleaned.
Here is a colleague of ours view on Raw Feeding
Quantities to feed This will vary depending on the amount of exercise, growth etc. but as a guide feed 100-150g per 10kg of body weight. If your pet is gaining in weight (and is not a growing dog) then reduce a little. The chicken wings are counted as part of this ration. In addition you should feed bones at least twice a week to keep teeth clean and to supply calcium. This is particularly important if you use ‘human’ mince or other cuts of meat. Pet minces with minced bone such as we sell from AMP or Forthglade are an excellent source of calcium.
Liquidised Raw fruit and Vegetables: For every handful of meat feed 2 handfuls of this. You can include most vegetables and fruit and can also add nuts, ground up seeds herbs and cooked beans and a little potato. If you don’t think you can feed this much then we advice you use the supplements Pet Plus or Missing Link which is freeze dried veg enzymes and oils. It is best to put it through a liquidiser or juicer so your companion gets maximum benefit from the veg and fruit. This simulates the ‘gut contents’ a wild dog would eat with natural prey.*
Offal: Feed fresh or frozen viscera once or twice a week (heart, liver, kidney and lungs) Vary which one you give. An egg including the shell weekly is a good protein and calcium source.
Treats: Freeze dried liver, meat or fish (Thrive or Burns) dried or fresh fruit but not raisins.
What to avoid: Do not feed cereal based foods such as biscuits or mixer. Raisins Rice is OK in small proportions.
Take any vegetables especially green leaves fruit and salad items and place in a liquidiser. You can use just one item or multiple but ensure a variety over a period of time. Blend to a rough broth if necessary adding a little water. Pour onto the meat ration until you have roughly a meat to veg ratio of 1:2. You can feed once or twice daily Some recommend giving veg and meat as separate meals.
How young? You can introduce puppies as young as 1 month to the BARF diet. Little and often 4 meals a day is the way to start off. Only the size of pieces is important and variety.
Cheats: How you may bend the rules:
- You can cook meat briefly by frying in olive oil briefly to seal the meat or brief immersion in boiling water. Meat however should in general be served rare.
- Liquidised veg will last for up to 48 hours in the fridge so can be prepared just 3 times a week. If you cannot find a wide variety of vegetables or are worried about your companion needing supplements then use one of the following: Pet Plus for Dogs, Missing Link for Dogs. These are available from Pilgrims
- An oven baked mixer can be used to fill out the diet once or twice weekly. This should be avoided if there is any possibility of wheat or gluten hypersensitivity which often shows as itching or chronic diarrhoea.
- If you cannot find bones from your butcher or do not wish to handle them then the AMP range of pet minces contain 4% ground bone as a source of calcium and phosphorus. We would then advice chews to help clean teeth. AMP supply poultry necks which are a good bony meat to start with
- An additive free complete food such as Burns. May not be as good but if you regularly feed raw bones and raw veg (or Pet Plus) with Burns it is a reasonable second best.
- Food Poisoning Scares: Some authorities are concerned that feeding dogs raw food may cause both them and their handlers to become infected with pathogens such as E. coli. In our hands this has not proved to be the case. The individuals feed on the diet are healthier than dogs fed on commercial foods and more able to cope with the occasional bug. You should always though when preparing foods wash hands after handling raw meats and in particular if you are next preparing food to be eaten raw by people. If any member of the household is very young, old or immuno-compromised then seek advice from your vet or other health professional
We also recommend one or both of these books as a source of information about raw feeding both by Tom Lonsdale:
- (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.