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Raw feeding - as easy as 123!

In spite of being aware of all the dangers of processed foods,  many pet owners are under the impression that raw feeding is something complicated, time consuming and difficult.  In fact it couldn't be easier...

WHY ?

The necessity to switch our carnivorous companions from processed foods to raw food post-haste is one of my favourite subjects which has been covered in many articles across this website. For in depth information please check the natural diet section as well as Daily Pet archive. Here are some basic facts:

1. Although they have been living with humans for thousands of years,  the biological makeup of of our canine and feline companions is still the same as the biological makeup of their wild relatives. Only by close observation of nutritional habits of wild canids and felids we can come close to formulating balanced diet for our pets.

2. Only nature knows what is balanced and complete. Therefore, claims that commercial and processed food is balanced and complete are pretentious to say the least. We can never accomplish  to achieve complete balance in one meal, balance can occur over time: every meal does not need to be completely balanced as long as the nutritional needs of the animal are met over the long run. You don’t calculate the exact percentages of protein and carbohydrates, and the exact amount of vitamins and minerals in each of your meals, and you don’t have to do it with your pet’s meals. If you are prudent, then it will balance out over time.

3. Dogs are considered “facultative” carnivores, meaning that they are true carnivores (flesh eaters), but being very adaptable  they  can survive on other sources of food, such as plants  and insects, for a limited time or as a supplement when meat is scarce.Even so, it’s important to understand that dogs are designed to get most of their nutritional needs from animal matter, not from plant matter. Cats are described as “obligate” carnivores, meaning that they are designed to rely solely on animal matter to meet all of their nutritional needs. In a word, they are obligated to eat other animals in order to survive or thrive. In fact, they lack the digestive anatomy and physiology needed to make good use of much plant material.

4. No matter how cleverly  disguised most processed food are composed predominately of grains or vegetable starches. This means their main content are carbohydrates. There is no minimal dietary carbohydrate requirement for either the dog or the cat. Feeding them diet based on carbohydrates will wreck havoc on their metabolism causing serious health problems in the long run. apart from high carbohydrates content grains contain gluten, a powerful  allergen that leads to inflammation and leaky gut syndrome. Even the grain or gluten free foods are normally based on other vegetable sources which contain a host of anti-nutrients with inflammatory effect such as lectins and solanine.

5. Chances are the corn or soy products in your pet's food are genetically modified (GM). Growing number of  vets todays believes the high number of skin and food allergies, and other allergies associated with GI disorders in dogs and cats are caused or aggravated by novel proteins and other contaminants found in genetically modified crops. To fully grasp dangers from genetically modified organisms please watch this video.

6. Last but not least processed foods usually contain large quantities of different chemicals and additives which can have cumulative detrimental effect on your pets health.

Here are 10 most commonly encountered myths about raw feeding.

HOW?

1. Commit to change. Make the decision to switch and stick to it. Remember that you are doing this because it IS the best thing that you could ever do for your four legged companions. If you are conscious about your own diet and avoid processed food why would you feed such food to your pets?

2.  Make the switch cold turkey - no pun intended. You do not want to start your dog on raw feeding while still eating kibble. The two do not mix well together because it "confuses" the body about what it's digesting.  The acidity of the stomach in raw fed dogs is completely different then acidity of the stomach in kibble fed dog,  mixing raw food with kibble or switching repeatedly from one to other can cause digestive upset and it is not recommended.

3. Cultivate good relationship with your butcher. Most butchers will be happy to get rid of  hearts, throats, lungs and other not often sought parts for a nominal fee.  

4. I recommend getting at least one small dedicated freezer even if only feeding one dog. This way you can keep stock of a bunch of different types of meat at any given point in time. Some people do just fine using the space in the freezer it also depends on how often you wish to visit the butcher and how big is your dog.

 WHAT?

1. The calcium and phosphorus ratio should be 1:1. Meats are high in phosphorus, bones are high in calcium. One of the most common mistakes is to understand raw feeding as feeding  meat only. This is strongly discouraged.  
The majority of  dogs’ diet (about 40%) should be raw, meaty bones (RMB). This can include chicken backs, wings and necks (or even whole carcasses), lamb necks, pork necks, turkey necks, ox tails, beef or pork ribs, turkey tails; any meaty bone that can be completely consumed by your dog. A good rule for picking out pieces of meat to feed, is that your dog should never be able to swallow anything whole without at least crunching down on it a few times to make it small enough. Dogs don't chew like us, their jaws are not designed for lateral motion, they will crunch the bone until the piece is small enough to pass through their throat.So don't panic if you see your dog crunch a chicken quarter 3 or 4 times and then swallow it.  Never feed cooked bones.

2. Raw offal (organ meat including heart and liver) from a variety of meat sources is most complete source of  vitamins and micronutrients for dogs. It should be fed for  two meals per week or 10-15 %  of the diet. Some dogs do not tolerate raw offal well, so it may be best to divide it up and feed a little each day to avoid loose stools.

3. Raw muscle meat from a variety of sources should be fed several times per week. You can feed heart as a muscle meat but not exclusively.

4. Raw green tripe should be fed two or more meals per week (try to find green tripe, not the bleached human stuff: it is very stinky, but very nutritious). Tripe is a perfect balance of calcium to phosphorus (1:1), is rich in digestive enzymes and Lactobacillus Acidophilus, vitamin B, and contains the essential fatty acids. Tripe from grass-fed animals is preferred.

5. Raw fish (preferable whole) can be fed for one or two meals per week. Farmed fish should be avoided. You may also opt to feed fish oil instead. This supplementation is necessary if the meat you feed is not grass-fed, because grain-fed animals lack Omega-3 fatty acids which protect the dog’s joints and immune system. Flax seed oil also contains a good amount of Omega 3 but it is plant based and some dogs do not do well on it. It has also been linked to reproductive issues. Grass fed butter or Omega-3 eggs might be a good, safe alternative to the above if the wild fish is not available or mercury and toxin levels in fish are a concern (and they should be).

6. Raw eggs with shells (a perfect ratio of phosphorous to calcium) should be fed about two or three times per week. Whole eggs have a balanced ratio of calcium and phosphorus. You might have heard that raw egg whites contain a protein that binds with biotin and that is true, but this effect would be significant only if we fed raw eggs every day.  To avoid deficiencies, feed the entire egg, yolk and all.  Egg yolks are an excellent source of magnesium, calcium, iron, folate, vitamins A, E and B6.  It is best to feed Omega-3 or free-range eggs. If you buy your eggs commercially, they are likely sprayed with wax and other chemicals to improve their appearance.  These chemicals are harmful for your dog so if you can not find fresh farm eggs, feed commercial eggs without the shell and count them as a meat meal.

7. Fruits and vegetables can be beneficial as supplemental feeding.  Vegetables must first be run through food processor or lightly steamed. Dogs will not get the entire nutritional value from the vegetables if they are not  physically broken down. Dark green leafy vegetables are high in vitamin B. Ripened fruits are more easily digested by dogs and are also packed with vitamins. Many people choose to forego fruits and vegetables as the dog is most closely related to the grey wolf which does not typically eat vegetables. The wolf does have a significant amount of berries in his scat in the summer months (often around 25%),  and for this reason, many raw feeders feed fruit on a fairly regular basis. Instead of vegetables  you can feed nutritional herbs such as dandelion leaf, nettle, spirulina and alfalfa which are high in vitamins and minerals.

8. Grains are not a natural part of the dog’s diet and should never be fed. Most dogs are lactose intolerant so feeding dairy products except butter is not recommended.

WHEN?

Most people feed their dogs twice per day. Some raw feeders  feed once a day,  and some days not at all. Dogs are carnivores and are built for periods of gorging and fasting. Immune function is heavily dependant on healthy and fully functional gut. If the dog’s digestive system is continually digesting meals, there is no time for house cleaning and the dog’s immune system will suffer. On their weekly fast day dogs can be given recreational bone or some fruit. The exception are  puppies under six months of age who should eat three times per day .


HOW MUCH?

General rule of a thumb is to give two to three percent of dogs ideal adult weight per day. If your dog is very active, you may need to feed a little more and if your dog is more of a couch potato, you may need to feed a little less.

Puppies should also receive about two to three percent of their ideal ADULT weight.  When puppies are four to six months old, they will require a great deal of food and a good amount of calcium as they are building their adult teeth. If there is not enough calcium in the diet, they will take it out of their growing bones, so make certain that they are getting a good 60% RMB at this age. Do not let puppies get too thin at this important age.

 

 KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • Balance over time, you can never achive complete balance in one meal.
  • The calcium and phosphorus ratio should be 1:1. Meats are high in phosphorus, bones are high in calcium and whole prey, fish, eggs and tripe have a balanced ratio.
  • Organ meat should not exceed 15% of the diet. Feed liver once a week (or several small servings per week) and try to find an organic source if possible because the liver is responsible for filtering toxins out of the body.
  • Feel free to feed ‘weird things’ such as chicken feet, pork trotters, trachea, tails, lung, kidney, testicles.  Trachea, as well as  chicken and turkey feet or pork trotters are loaded in natural chondroitin and glucosamine which help to build healthy joints.
  • If feeding pork or salmon, be certain to freeze the meat for two weeks before feeding to reduce the small risk of parasites.
  • NEVER feed cooked bones of any type. Raw bones are fully digestable and once exposed to dog's stomach acid will immediately soften and bend easily. For optimal safety, meal times should always be supervised.

 

 

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