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Raw Feeding FAQ

 

Why should I feed raw food to my dog?
Dogs are carnivores that evolved eating raw foods. Commercial foods are generally heat processed which alters or destroys nutrients and essential enzymes, so dog food companies try to add back what they destroyed, but they donít always know whatís missing and what proportion is best. For example, cats were developing problems and dying when fed commercial food until it was discovered that taurine was needed. Although itís abundant in raw meat, they didnít know until recently to add it to commercial food. Itís only in the last 50 years or so that people started feeding dogs commercial foods. And itís quite a coincidence that during this time dogs have developed more cancer, heart disease, and allergies Ė just like people who also eat processed foods. 

Wonít raw food make my dog sick?
Dogs have a short digestive system that is designed to eat raw food. Cooked, commercial dog food takes longer for dogs to digest and often ferments before it is digested.

What about bacteria?
Bacteria is present almost everywhere. It only causes problems when the immune system is stressed. If youíre still worried, consider Salmonella: infection is usually acquired by ingestion of food contaminated by Salmonella-laden feces. Which is more likely to be contaminated by feces, bags of kibble stored in a warehouse or chicken parts wrapped in plastic for display at your local grocery?

Dogs, and their wild ancestors, have survived eons by eating raw meat. Because they have survived by eating raw meat (sometimes rotting, dead things) it clearly shows that nature has adapted dogs to deal with the bacteria found on their food. People, however, may be at some risk when handling raw meat. Just like you would do when preparing food for yourself, be sure to thoroughly clean your hands, counters, and any utensils that come in contact with raw meat.

Shouldn't I cook the meat?
No, and there are several reasons. First, dogs evolved to eat raw meat. Second, cooking causes bones to become brittle and dangerous. NEVER feed cooked bones to your dog! Third, cooking will destroy enzymes and anti-oxidants essential to your dogís health. Many years ago Francis Pottenger M.D. did an experiment with cats. He fed one group of cats a raw diet and a different group a cooked diet. Soon, the cats eating a cooked diet developed problems such as tooth loss, skeletal deformities, behavioral problems, paralysis, heart lesions, and arthritis. By the third generation, these cats could no longer reproduce. Fortunately when these cats were later feed raw food, many were restored to health.

What is the best type of raw food?
The best food for your dog may vary depending on his individual needs. The basic diet, however, should consist of mostly succulent, raw, meaty bones with the addition of some organ meat, plus a little muscle meat. Some people feel that vegetables can provide additional nutrition. However because of the design of the dogís teeth and his digestive system he probably wonít be able to derive much nutrition from fruits and vegetables unless they are cut very fine, mashed or lightly cooked.

What are RMBs?
RMB stands for "raw, meaty bone" and includes any meaty bone that can be completely, or almost completely, consumed by a dog. The appropriate RMB will vary by individual dog; for example, a chicken wing may be an RMB for a Dachshund, but barely a gulp for a Rottweiler. RMBs are NOT the large, weight-bearing bones such as beef marrow bones and knuckle bones. These are generally too big and hard for a dog to consume. Sometimes these large bones can be given as a recreational bone and taken away when the meat has been stripped. However many people prefer not to give these types of bones because they can cause chipped and broken teeth.

How do I make sure my dog gets a complete and balanced diet?
By feeding a varied diet based on raw, meaty bones you will achieve a balance over time. Because chicken is widely available and fairly inexpensive, many people feed mostly chicken. However you should feed as wide a variety of foods as your dog will eat (and as your wallet can handle). For example, chicken backs, necks and quarters, rabbit parts, turkey, pork necks and feet, beef, goat, fish, eggs (whole, including the shell), deer, elk, buffalo, kangaroo, and the list goes on...

Canít my dog choke on a bone?
Yes, dogs can (and have) choked on many things including bones, kibble, tennis balls, sticks, socks, etc. Dogs can also break their teeth on bones. Therefore it is best to feed bones of a manageable size, which generally includes poultry, rabbits, and non-weight bearing bones of larger animals. Although the bones should be of a manageable size, the pieces should be large enough so that the dog has to tear and chew rather than gulping it whole which could cause choking.

If you're still worried about feeding bones to your dog - thanks to the propaganda that dog food companies have spewed for the past 50 years - you can still get most of the benefits of a raw diet by feeding ground meat. Don't just buy hamburger or even ground turkey, because neither contains the necessary bone. Although they may be fine for an occasional muscle meal, your dog needs the additional nutrients found in bones. You can buy a raw diet, ground and specially prepared for dogs, however you can never be sure what ingredients are actually in these packages. You can ask your butcher to grind for you, however he will probably decline because of the extra wear on his equipment caused by grinding bones. You can buy your own grinder and do it yourself, however you will probably be limited to the softer poultry bones. In a pinch, you can add some ground egg shells, however this isn't the best long-term solution.

Are there any foods that I should not feed my dog?
Other than poor quality commercial ďdog foodĒ you should NEVER FEED your dog cooked bones or chocolate. Cooking makes bones brittle and dangerous. Sugars, grains and dairy products should also be avoided. Sugars provide no nutrition and may increase your dogís chance of developing diabetes or cancer. Some dogs can tolerate grains, but they break down into sugars and may also contribute to allergies. Except for puppies nursing their mother, dogs should rarely (if ever) eat dairy products as it is not a natural food for them and may contribute to digestive upsets and allergies.

Can you give me some recipes?
You don't really need any recipes, as such, just remember to give your dog a varied diet. You can relax and stop obsessing. You don't calculate the exact percentages of protein and carbohydrates or the amount of each vitamin and mineral that you eat, do you? Feeding your dog a healthy diet isn't difficult. The majority of his diet should be raw, meaty bones. Add some organ meat (e.g. heart, liver, etc), plus a little boneless (muscle) meat, and maybe some mashed up vegetables. You can throw in some eggs (whole, including the shell), some fish (again, whole, if possible), and perhaps some yogurt (with active cultures to help digestion). If you feel more comfortable with some structure when you're first starting out try giving 9 meals of RMBs, 2 meals of muscle meat, and 3 veggie meals during one week (provided you feed twice daily). If you look in the 'fridge and there are only packages of muscle meat when you're supposed to be feeding an RMB, don't worry! Give an extra meal of muscle meat and relax. Your dog won't care. Just remember you're striving for balance over time. 

Another way to help you visualize what to feed is called the prey model. Think of a chicken or rabbit, the whole thing, before it gets cut and wrapped for display in the meat section. Try to feed your dog the proportions found in that whole prey animal - a percentage is bone, a percentage is meat, and a percentage is organ meat. 

Also be sure to feed a variety of meats, not just different parts of a chicken - also try turkey, lamb, pork, rabbit, fish, goat, beef, deer, and any other meat that might be available in your area.

How do I determine how much to feed my dog?
As a starting point give your dog about 2 to 3 percent of his ideal adult weight. If your dog is very active, you may need to feed a little more. If your dog is more of a couch-potato, you may need to feed a little less. A good way to tell if you are feeding the right amount is to run your hands over your dogís ribs. If you can feel the ribs, but not see them, your dog is at a good weight. It is healthier for him to be lean rather than fat or skinny. Puppies should also receive about 2 to 3 percent, but not of his current weight, rather 2 to 3 percent of his ideal ADULT weight. Also, you donít have to give your dog the same amount every day. You donít eat exactly the same amount every day, do you?

What about supplements?
A varied diet of raw meaty bones with a little organ meat and occasional muscle met will provide all the nutrition the average dog needs. Some people feel that meat from commercially-raised animals may not provide the same amount of nutrients as meat from wild animals, therefore they supplement with salmon or fish-body oil. These oils contain high amounts of Omega-3s that may be deficient in the commercially-raised animals. Also some dogs, particularly dogs with health issues, may have greater requirements for certain nutrients.

How do I start?
It's usually best to start simply: one type of RMB for the first week or two. Don't add any supplements or try several RMBs for a little while, at least. Give your dog some time to adjust to this new food. Some dogs do best on a cold turkey switch rather than half-kibble and half-raw, others may need to be eased into the new diet. Remember to keep it bland in the beginning. You might start with chicken or turkey and feed wings, necks or backs for the first few days. Some dogs may take a little while to adjust, and you may see some diarrhea. If so, you can try adding a little canned pumpkin (not the pie filling) or increase the amount of bone as compared to meat. You may also see a little vomiting. Sometimes it's bits of bone that he just couldn't digest, other times it's a yellow foam that means his stomach is empty. Raw meat usually digests faster than kibble, so you may need to feed more often. For a beginning dog, you may want to add some yogurt with active cultures or some digestive enzymes to help his digestive system handle this new food.

As your dog adjusts, you can add another type of RMB (not just a different body part, but a different species of meat). Feed just those two meat types for several days to a few weeks until your dog seems comfortable with his new diet. Then gradually try different foods. See what your dog likes. Some love fish, some hate it. Some love veggies, some won't touch it. Wait to add the richer foods, such as liver, heart or eggs, until you're sure that your dog is handling the basic raw diet.

My vet says there have been no studies to determine whether raw feeding is better for dogs. How come?
And who would pay for these studies? Dog food companies? Most of the evidence that raw food is better will probably always be anecdotal. But what a body of evidence it is, considering dogs have been eating raw for thousands of years and only started eating commercial food within the last 50 years or so. By the way, ask your vet how many hours he or she spent studying nutrition in school. In all the years of veterinary school, most vets only receive about 4 hours instruction on nutrition. And those 4 hours are often presented by representatives of dog food companies!

Do you have any other advice?
Be sure to research all you can about feeding a raw diet. Give your dog the kind of food that you feel comfortable feeding. If you can't feed whole "prey" animals, feed parts bought from a store. If you can't feed whole bones, try feeding ground meat with bone included. If you can't feed raw, try cooked food. There are no guarantees, but feeding a fresh, wholesome diet (however you serve it) has got to be better for your dog than the chemicals and fillers found in most commercial dog foods.

The information given here is to help you learn more about your pet and not to replace your veterinarian's advice.


 


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