[Article] Article: raw feeding

Raw feeding your cat or dog

Firstly, let’s dispel some myths or misconceptions many people have initially when you mention raw meat and dogs/cats.

1. ‘Bones will obstruct/choke/kill my dog.’ Not true. Cooked bones are dangerous as they splinter. Raw bones (with the exception of weight bearing bones from grazing animals like cows) are safe, soft enough to break up and are unlikely to cause a blockage/choking hazard. So long as your dog is used to eating raw bones the risk of choking is miniscule. Regardless of what food you feed, feeding should always be supervised, many dogs choke on kibble.
2. ‘Raw diets are expensive.’ Not generally so, but this depends on location and how much ground work you are willing to put in initially (this will be detailed more later on).
3. ‘My vet says raw feeding is wrong and I should buy whatever product they’re selling.’ I wonder why they’re pushing that certain product. Ever notice how many vets seem to advocate foods that aren’t even the best quality, or ones that have huge advertising and marketing campaigns behind them based on claims of healthiness, nutritional value etc? Don’t be conned, shop around for kibble if you really want to, look at the ingredients, if meat isn’t the first one mentioned don’t bother. And why should you trust your vets nutritional advice if they advocate a food where the main ingredient is cereal/wheat/filler/unnecessary? Here are some quotes from some widely respected vets on the subject of commercial diets:

Dr. Ian Billinghurst, B.V.Sc.(Hons), BSc.Agr., Dip.Ed.
‘As a veterinary student in the early seventies, I found it hard to understand why Aussie vets had fewer and simpler dog and cat diseases to deal with than the Americans. ---- There was a simple explanation. At that time, more than seventy percent of Aussie dogs were still fed raw bones and scraps. They were still pretty healthy. American dogs had been eating processed food and no bones for decades. They had developed a wide range of problems. Their vets had been forced to develop a complex set of diagnostic and therapeutic tools to deal with them. I need not have worried. Our dogs' disease problems are increasing on a par with their increasing consumption of processed and cooked foods. We Aussie vets now have to be as good as our American counterparts to deal with them. There are many reasons why the commercial pet foods have never been close to a dog's natural diet. Those reasons include the fact that they are based on grain, and that they are cooked.’

Dr. Denise Miller, DVM
‘The prevalence of cancer and autoimmune related diseases in our pets is directly correlated to the processed foods we are feeding them. We are literally starving them to death of nutrients while stuffing them to the point of obesity with garbage. ‘

Dr. Randy Wysong, DVM
‘Recent studies have shown processed foods to be a factor in increasing numbers of pets suffering from cancer, arthritis, obesity, dental disease and heart disease ‘

Dr. Jeffrey Levy DVM PCH
‘The benefits of a natural diet go beyond merely preventing disease. After only 3-4 weeks on the new diet, people usually notice a dramatic improvement in the skin and coat, less odor, fewer fleas, brighter eyes, and better energy and behavior. Not only can you see the signs of improved health, but you will also save money in the long run due to fewer and lower veterinary bills. The healthier your pet is, the less likely s/he will be to have fleas, skin problems, allergies, heartworms, feline leukemia, dental disease, and many other common disease problems. ‘

For more myth busting check out: http://rawfed.com/myths/

The pro’s of raw feeding:

- Improved coat
- Improved dental hygiene
- Improved digestion (raw food digests at a much quicker rate than kibble which is harder for a dogs system to break down)
- Less waste (average 2-3 small, firm poops per day)
- More relaxed dog, no sugars or additives in the raw food diet to send them hyperactive
- Increased wellbeing, a dog eating raw meat is generally a pretty happy dog where food is concerned
- Increased mental and physical stimulation = happier dog. Your dog or cat settling down to chow down for a long period not only mimics it’s natural environment of scavenging and hunting, it also stimulates them mentally, decreases stress (chewing) and improved jaw strength and teeth.
- Decreased chance of bloat in larger dogs. Kibble digests much slower than raw meat, and whilst the causes of bloat are not known exactly it is advised not to exercise an hour before or after feeding to minimise risks, raw meat digesting much quicker than kibble minimises the risk more.
- Can help control any allergies, many of which these days are down to the food we feed. If you know what is going into your dogs diet you can exclude if allergies occur.

The cons of raw feeding:

- Space. How much room do you have in your freezer? It is recommended if you are buying in bulk for a dog you have a chest freezer or whole freezer dedicated just for the food. (Currently due to my good supply of raw meat I use my normal freezer and restock every 2 weeks).
- Effort. It sure isn’t as quick and easy as pouring our processed commercial food from a box once or twice a day. You may have to butcher certain items. You have to portion, bag things up, weigh, freeze them, keep a vague track of how much of what they have had. But don’t worry, this gets much easier with time.
- Choking hazards. You can do many things to minimise any potential choking hazard such as not giving portions that can easily be wolfed down or are too small for your dogs mouth, don’t go giving chicken wings to a Great Dane for example, however a Bichon Frise or a cat would suit chicken wings perfectly. Once your dog is acclimatised to eating raw meat and bones the choking risk is almost zero, it virtually never happens, but it is still a risk to bear in mind so always supervise.
- It can be pretty scary to start with. Many of us are conditioned to believe that dogs will choke, die, get obstructions or many other things. Many people freak out the first few times they give their dog bones and meat, it’s unusual for them but it’s a hurdle you have to overcome in order to feed a good raw diet. It might be a good idea to check out raw feeding groups, look up the doggy Heimlich etc. to make you feel more at ease should anything untoward arise.

So after that long diatribe, lets talk the basics of raw feeding.

Essentially the guidelines for a raw diet are usually cited as 80:10:10 or 60:20:20. These ratios are Meat : Bone : Offal. Most raw feeders vary in the amounts they do percentage wise based on the particular dog, their likes and dislikes and their dogs person digestion (based on poop analysis haha). I personally feed 75:15:15 as this suits Kes best. A good guide to what your dog should have, based on poop is that offal (liver, kidneys) tends to make poop runnier, and bones firm up poop. If your dog struggles to poop feed more liver, if their poop is too runny, feed more bones. Easy! The guidelines are not for a daily allowance, they can be spread over a week or two, and so long as they are roughly adhered to over a period of a week or two then the diet is nutritionally balanced, i.e. if you feed 80:10:10 every 9th and 10th meal should be offal and bone.

What weights do I feed?

We all know depending on what food you have and the weight of your dog the weights vary as per daily allowance and raw is no different. The basic guide for raw is 2-3% of your dogs weight, or expected adult weight, per day. If your dog gets a lot of exercise then it should generally be more towards 3%, and if your dog does not exercise so much or retains weight more then more towards 2%. Most raw feeders start at 2-3% and then ‘go by eye’ based on what their dog looks like, with the guidance being that you should be able to feel your dogs ribs easily, with the last 2 ribs being visible by eye for a healthy weight. If your dog puts on weight, reduce the amount, if they lose weight increase. Some dogs do not need much for a maintenance diet, some big dogs are adequately maintained on just 1% of their body weight, it really does depend on the individual. Simples!

So what should I be feeding?

The following count as ‘meaty’ meals: Heart, tripe, oily fish, mince meat, chicken, lamb, anything that is obviously ‘just meat’. Some meals include a portion of bone such as chicken carcass, pigs trotters etc. but they are mainly meat so this counts. Offal should consist of at least half liver and the other half kidney and/or spleen, but liver is sufficient. I feed both liver and kidney for the sake of variation. Many raw feeders (including myself) also give raw eggs a few times a week, as well as natural pro-biotic yoghurt for digestion and ‘healthy’ bacteria. Remember that pieces should always be appropriate for your dog, and the bigger the better. Regarding bones preferably avoid weight bearing bones from large animals (cow leg bones etc) as they are dense and can chip a dogs tooth (rare, but not unheard of so better safe than sorry).

When should I feed?

Many people feed once a day, but it is recommended that you feed twice a day, 12 hours apart, in order to regulate your dogs blood sugar levels. This is especially pertinent in smaller dogs which is why free feeding is common in smaller breeds (although not actually recommended as this is not a natural way of eating for cats or dogs).

Where do I get raw food from?

I won’t lie, it can be tricky, and it can involve quite a bit of networking to start with. If you look around and have the space in your freezer buying from a raw food distributor can be advantageous time wise as you can order a few months worth of food at once, for quite a modest price. The other alternative, which usually works out cheaper although you have to find the right place, is buying from a local butcher or abattoir. Local butchers often have to pay for their waste to be removed, if you have a current butcher or gain a rapport with one or two different ones you can ask them for chicken carcass, livers, hearts, necks, trotters, whatever they might have around. Some may be for human consumption and already on display (many halal butchers have things great for dogs such as goat feet, lungs etc). I’m lucky that one butcher I buy from makes his own dog mince for me to buy, many people buy minces from distributors, and while minces are convenient and obviously lack the choking hazard they do not present a mental challenge (or clean your dogs teeth), so while you can feed mince, try to vary the diet up more so it’s interesting. It’s probably easier for many of you to purchase or get animals during hunting season in the US, which is advantageous, venison, rabbits, whatever, they’re all good. Rabbits in particular are very lean meat so are good for dogs that like to eat but gain weight easily.

How do I start raw feeding? (although I bet none of you try this anyway, but oh well)

Any time a dogs diet is changed they can have digestion problems as their body adapts. For this reason it is recommended that for the first week you feed chicken which is the blandest of meats. Kes’ first raw meat was a chicken thigh which took her almost an hour to work out how to eat. After 3 meals of this she was breaking them apart and eating them in less than a minute. Your dog may take longer, this isn’t a problem. Some people feel more comfortable to hand feed the first few meals, this isn’t a problem either. Simply hold the chicken wing or thigh and let your dog take bites out while you hold it to make sure they are taking it steady.

After your dog has settled on chicken you can introduce new meats one per week until your dog can eat anything given to him or her. Don’t worry about the ratios to begin with, liver can be hard for many dogs to stomach to begin with if they’re not used to it, so small chunks of it in a few meals a week to start with until they’re loving it and can have a liver meal once a week or so. Figure out what your dogs tolerance to offal is and work with that. If you feel your dog may be sensitive to wings and thighs (bone) then start off with just chicken breast meat.

NB: If you are switching over but still feeding kibble do not feed them together as kibble and raw digest at different speeds. If you want to keep your kibble meal to begin with, give raw in the morning or evening and kibble for the other meal.

Things to be cautious of:

Of course not everything is hunky dory, there are some things to be aware from a safety angle.

If you feed pork freeze for at least 48 hours beforehand just to ensure that any parasites will be killed. Also check if your country has a problem with Aujeszky's Disease in pork.

When feeding beef freeze for 48 hours at least as it can carry a parasite called neospora caninum.

If feeding salmon or trout (particularly pertinent for your Americans) this can potentially carry a deadly parasite so never feed raw and unfrozen. In fact just avoid it and feed sardines or other oily fish just to be on the safe side in the USA.

Additives/vegetables etc.
Some raw feeders follow a BARF diet rather than a raw meaty bones diet. The difference between BARF and raw is that BARFers include vegetables in their diet, as they believe dogs are not strict carnivores but can gain nutrition from vegetation as well. I personally try and feed one vegetable meal a week, just to cover my back, sort of like praying to Allah as well as Jesus.

Vegetables you can use: Anything really, root veg, leaves, pulses, fruit such as apples (with no pips) and bananas. If you feed raw veg chop it up and blend it, as dogs will not receive nutrition from whole, unblended raw veg. Nuts are always a good addition. Garlic is used by many raw feeders not only as a flea deterrent but also for its anti-biotic and anti-fungal properties. Once garlic is chopped these properties become active. It is also linked to improved blood circulation. Two other things I add to my dogs diet are Apple Cider Vinegar and Turmeric. ACV is linked to healthy bones, helps fight osteoporosis, and contains manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and silicon. It is also known to have anti-cancer properties. ACV must be unpasteurised and contain the ‘mother’ (cloudiness) in order to be effective. Turmeric has been linked to anti-inflammatory properties, anti-bacterial and liver and heart protection. It can be used to ease joint pains and arthritis. Just a note on garlic: Garlic in high doses can be toxic to dogs, feed in moderation, if you have a small dog one clove a week chopped up and spread out throughout the week is more than sufficient, if you have a medium dog 2 small cloves a week and a large-XL dog can handle multiple cloves a week, but don't overdo it, there's no need to give them garlic breath.

I believe that’s all, if you read it all bravo! I’d like to hear your thoughts, although I bet most are negative. Just as an ending statement this diet will not suit every dog, no diet suits every individual, so if you tried and had to give up thems just the breaks, some dogs have very sensitive stomachs due to whatever reason, and some are more able to eat anything you give them with no problems. I have not raw fed a cat, as I don’t have one, but there is a wealth of information out there on raw feeding cats and the raw feeding world is a lot less controversial regarding felines as there is no debate regarding whether they are omnivores or carnivores.

Hope this was informative.
The cons of raw feeding:

- Explosive diarrhea for several days as they adjust to life as a cavedog.
Carys, are you at all worried that you're basically running an experiment on your dog? There are apparently no long term studies going on for this kind of stuff. On the other hand, we have a large base of animals that live very healthy lives on manufactured food.
Carys, are you at all worried that you're basically running an experiment on your dog? There are apparently no long term studies going on for this kind of stuff. On the other hand, we have a large base of animals that live very healthy lives on manufactured food.

:lol: You know better than to ask.
Carys, are you at all worried that you're basically running an experiment on your dog? There are apparently no long term studies going on for this kind of stuff. On the other hand, we have a large base of animals that live very healthy lives on manufactured food.

Not at all, I know hundreds of people who have fed raw for a number of years. Furthermore: 'Dr Gerald Lippert and Bruno Sapy
Quote: Our study shows that for food, the animal fed with home made food (based on similar food as the family) reach an average of 13.1 years, as the animals fed with canned industrial food reach an average of 10.4 years. The animals fed with mixed food (home made plus canned food) reach an average of 11.4 years. The differences between the two extremes amounts to more than 32 months, ie: close to 3 years. This great difference shows that food is a major and determinant factor for the dogs’ life expectancy. Giving it home made food is a guarantee for better protection, well being and longer life expectancy.
The nature reasserts its rights and shows its value and importance. Taking into consideration the importance of the diet and its quality, shown as a dominant factor for the dogs’ life expectancy, we think that it is essential that all parties concerned, ie: labs’ researchers, manufacturers, veterinarians, proprietors, come together and talk in order to give complete satisfaction to the animals’ nutritional requirements and improve, this way its “WELL BEING”.'

I have no issue with high quality, high meat commercial foods and if raw didn't suit Kes then I would switch to one. Not every diet suits every dog, but it just makes perfect sense that a dog should eat meat, and it should not be cooked meat, this is their natural diet.
I mean, it seems logical, but not everything is what it appears. parking in a handicapped spot SEEMS logical cause its less of a walk...

I'm amazed at how logical it seems...and yet how brainwashed people are into not thinking about it as a diet choice at all 40, 50 years ago it was a no brainer and pretty much every dog in the UK would have scraps/raw meat and they were fine
Here's the thing as well; We all know how corrupt pharmaceutical companies are and how much sway they have over medical professionals, why don't people make the leap about animal food and veterinarians? I've visited many vets and not a single one had a good quality kibble on display, just ones that are made by big brands and have huge health claims yet the ingredients don't back it up at all.