The following article on raw feeding was written exclusively for Angel Dog Training by Jonathan Self -Trustee of The World Land Trust and Journalist. Jonathan has written extensively for the British media including Country Life Magazine, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Mail On Sunday. The opinions expressed in Jonathan Self’s article are those of the author based on his own extensive research. These have been confirmed as factually accurate by the acclaimed Veterinarian -Tom Farrington MVB MRCVS VetMFHom.
Why Dogs Are Best On A Natural Diet (Raw Feeding)
The connection between good health and diet is well established in humans. We know that if we eat fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, not too much dairy and moderate quantities of animal protein we will live longer, healthier lives. We also know that if we eat processed food or food containing chemical additives, too much fat and too much sugar we will live shorter, considerably less healthy lives.
In fact, it is well proven that everything from allergies to heart conditions and from skin complaints to cancer is caused by a poor diet. What holds good for humans and human food holds good for dogs and dog food. Dogs that eat a natural diet live longer, healthier lives. They are better-behaved and easier to train, too. The problem is that we have lost touch with what the natural, correct diet for a dog actually is. Instead, we feed them the canine equivalent of junk food. As a result we are seeing more and more illness in our dogs and they are leading shorter and shorter lives. The development of all sorts of genetic conditions may also be attributable to generations of dogs eating a harmful diet.
Happily, the situation can be quickly and effortlessly corrected. We know what dogs are biologically designed to eat and it couldn’t be easier to replicate a ‘wild’ diet using ‘tame’ ingredients. Furthermore, as those who have switched their dogs to a natural diet will testify, the results can be amazing.
Benefits include a glossy coat, healthy skin, lean muscle tone, robust immune system, sweet-smelling breath, healthy teeth and gums, increased energy, better digestion, a strong heart, lower levels of anxiety and higher levels of obedience.
Dogs eating a raw food diet can be expected to live longer and to suffer less illness and disease.
Indeed, if your dog has any health issues now (even minor problems such as allergies, dry skin, bad breath and what the Americans refer to, euphemistically, as ‘gas’) it is quite likely that a switch to a raw feeding will clear them up.
Dogs should be fed what they are biologically designed to eat
Every creature on earth must consume the diet it is biologically designed to eat; otherwise, it will get ill and may (if the diet is really inappropriate) die. For the first 40 million years of dogs’ existence on earth they certainly didn’t eat canned food or kibble. Forty million years? Yes, that’s how long wolves have been around, and dogs and wolves are classified as the same species. Canis Lupis Familiaris When wolves were domesticated (around 15,000 years ago), we humans changed their outer appearance through selective breeding, but not their internal organs or digestive systems.
In the wild, dogs eat prey and not much else
Dogs are carnivores (they do need a bit of herbage and if push comes to shove can survive on it) as even a cursory glance at their anatomy reveals. Like other predatory mammals they have powerful muscles, fused wrist bones and a cardiovascular system that supports both sprinting and endurance. And there’s a reason why you don’t want to get bitten by a dog: their mouths are positive Swiss Army knives, with five kinds of exceedingly sharp teeth. Leave them to their own devices and they will eat small birds and beasts (rabbits, mice, squirrels &c.) and a share of larger prey (sheep, deer, boar &c.). What’s more, they eat the whole animal, including its bones.
Canine digestion is nothing like human digestion
Dogs have no digestive enzymes in their saliva (unlike humans) and very large, expandable stomachs (they can eat 5% of their bodyweight at a single sitting, which would be like someone who weighs 10 stone eating seven pounds of food in one go) not to mention indescribably strong stomach acids (strong enough to burn your fingers). Their digestive system is designed so that they can tear off chunks of raw meat, crunch up raw bones and swallow the lot whole. The lack of digestive enzymes in their saliva and their inability to move their jaws from side to side (necessary to grinding food) is why they gulp everything down. The entire digestive process takes place in their stomach.
Give a dog a bone
In the wild up to a third of a dog’s nutrition (including calcium, magnesium, complex fats and vitamins) may come from bones. Bones keep their teeth and gums clean (it has been proven that dogs with healthy teeth live longer) and exercise their upper bodies and jaw. Providing the bones are raw (cooked bones can splinter), they are 100% safe for dogs to eat.
Dogs are extremely indifferent cooks
When food is cooked, its chemical structure is altered and most of the enzymes, amino acids and so forth are destroyed. From a dog’s perspective, about 70% of its nutritional value is thus lost. Dogs need their food served raw in order to digest it properly. There is a reason why dogs are extremely indifferent cooks.
Natural feeders talk a lot about poo. To the uninitiated it may seem like a thoroughly revolting subject, but for most of whom have made the switch, the colour and consistency of their four legged friend’s excrement is a thrilling subject, perfectly appropriate for dinner party conversations. The fact is that dogs fed on a natural diet produce very little poo, and what little there is, is firm, pale and chalky. The reason for this is the body is assymilating maximum nutrient value from what it is consuming, and therefore defecation or waste is kept to the most minimal volume. It stands to reason when you think about it.
Dogs don’t eat regular, balanced meals
Regular, balanced meals are fine for humans, but not for dogs. In the wild a healthy dog may not eat for up to a week at a time. When they come across an ingredient that their bodies tell them they need in order to stay healthy (for instance a particular grass containing useful trace minerals) they simply eat it. Dogs are designed to get the nutrition they require over time. This is called the ‘balance over time’ approach.
What is wrong with processed dog food?
It doesn’t matter which brand of dog food you use or how much it costs, it is never going to be as good for your dog as raw feeding. That is fresh meat, bone and vegetable.
The key problems with processed dog food are:
It is cooked. Cooking destroys 70% of the nutritional value of the food from a dog’s perspective and makes it exceedingly difficult to digest.
It can contain inappropriate and damaging chemicals (binders, colouring, preservatives and other additives). These may be absorbed through the bowel wall and transported to other organs, with a range of harmful effects.
The quality of the ingredients is usually poor. Even expensive dog food often has very, very low-quality ingredients.
Most dog foods contain a high percentage of grain (including rice), which is unsuitable for the canine digestive system and causes allergies.
It generally fails to clean the dog’s teeth and gums, allowing plaque to build up. This gives rise to periodontal disease and
Dogs can’t digest grain
Dogs must not be fed grain, because they can’t digest it properly. One of the main reasons why dogs fed on processed food produce so much – ahem – waste matter is because of the grain. Grain is also one of the main causes of skin allergies, diabetes and flatulence.
Natural, or raw feeders sometimes refer to the time they moved their dog onto raw food as ‘the switch’. The longer ago you made the switch, the more you will be respected in raw feeding circles. The switch itself can usually be made instantly. A very small percentage of dogs have to be weaned onto raw food but the vast majority take to it immediately. The only dogs that shouldn’t eat a 100% raw diet are those with a compromised immune system or those that have just undergone bowel surgery.
The BARF movement
If you are going to bluff your way in natural feeding, you will hear a great deal about the BARF diet, which is the same thing. BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food, a rather revolting acronym thought up by a brilliant Australian vet called Ian Billinghurst. The other big raw feeding hero is Tom Lonsdale (also a vet), who heads up the Raw Meaty Bones lobby.
Raw feeding couldn’t be easier
As a bluffer you will want a simple recipe. Try 80% raw, lean-ish meat and 20% grated or puréed raw vegetables (but not potato). The meat can be anything – chicken, lamb, beef, rabbit, pork, venison, squirrel, whatever – and you can mince it or serve it in chunks. Include a bit of offal. From time to time add in the odd egg, spoon of oil (cod liver, for instance), tin of pilchards, spoon of natural yoghurt &c. Make sure your dog gets plenty of raw bones – chicken wings will do if that’s easier for you.
Phillip Gazzard Disclaimer: This article ties in with my personal belief that mother nature knows best. Throughout my years as a dog behavioural therapist I have trained many hundreds of dogs and seen extraordinary results with my clients and my own dog’s health, wellbeing and behaviour by suggesting clients research the benefits of raw feeding or choose a more natural diet for their dogs. I am not a qualified Veterinarian, so the views expressed in the article above are in no way prescriptive on my part.
I never insist or coerce customers into choosing a specific method of feeding, however, in taking a holistic approach to resolving behavioural issues, nutrition does play a relevant part in producing and maintaining excellent results.
Ultimately diet is a personal choice, and before making any decisions on diet, the advice of a qualified canine nutritionist should be first sought.
[…] Hunger for nutrients due to poor quality food can trigger fights; driven by a desperate survival instinct as their prey drive becomes stronger. Sadly, most commercial pet foods contain high levels of grain and cereals instead of good quality muscle meat. […]