WHY FEED DOGS THEIR NATURAL DIET?
The natural diet is what nature intended...
There's many a passionate debate on raw feeding dogs and sometimes that passion isn't backed by facts, so let's have a look at some...
Dogs evolved from the Grey Wolf out of the 'Order Carnivora' which makes them Carnivores.
In 1993 the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) reclassified the dog from Canis lupus familiaris to simply Canis lupus that made it the same species as the Wolf and not a sub-species, further reinforcing the dog as a carnivore.
Dogs are genetically identical to Wolves, sharing 99.9% of the DNA (as a comparison, Humans and chimps share 96%). The only thing that has changed over time is their phenotype which is how they look i.e. all the different breeds we now have. Even with differences in appearance, we have not bred out of them their Canine lupus DNA - their nutritional requirements remain the same, for example, you are still a human species regardless of the colour of your skin, eyes, hair and your physical shape.
Check out Rawfed.com for some excellent articles on the subject with references to studies.
So, now that we are on the same page that a dog is a carnivore, like the Wolf, let's have a look at what they would eat if we weren't here to fill their food bowls:
'Even as Carnivores, wolves eat other foods as well. Their diet ranges from big game, such as elk and moose, to earthworms, berries and grasshoppers.
To avoid using too much energy catching their food, wolves prey on weaker members of a herd, such as old, young or sick animals. In summer, when the herds migrate, wolves eat mice, birds and even fish'. (1)
Should Fruit & Veg be included?
There is often much argument in raw feeding communities about whether to feed fruit & veggies to dogs because apparently wolves would not have eaten this, this raw feeding model is called PREY model, we can see that the information is flawed and that wolves do indeed eat fruit and veg and they would also get small amounts of grains and other non-meat matter from the stomach of their prey - it simply would not be in any large amounts. The raw feeding model that includes fruit and veg is called B.A.R.F which stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
If raw is best, why does Kibble exist?
By 1941 canned dog food was pretty standard but then WWII began and those tinned cans were used as artillery and there was rationing of meat so dog food companies started making a dog food that could be kept in paper bags...so became kibble.
"In 1950 the Ralston Purina Company started using a cooking extruder to make their Chex cereal. Here's how it worked: ingredients were pushed through a tube, cooked under high pressure, and puffed up with air. This allowed Chex to stay crisp when milk was added.
At about the same time, manufacturers were getting complaints about the appearance, texture, and digestibility of dry dog food. Purina's pet food division borrowed an extruder from the cereal division and experimented with it in secret for three years. The result: Purina Dog Chow. Dogs loved it, it digested well, and it quickly became the number one dog food in America.
In 1964 the Pet Food Institute, a lobbying group for the now-gigantic pet food industry, began a campaign to get people to stop feeding their dogs anything but packaged dog food. They funded "reports" that appeared in magazines, detailing the benefits of processed dog food, and even produced a radio spot about "the dangers of table scraps."
The dog food industry was spending an incredible $50 million a year on advertising. Commercials centered around the "beef wars," with competing companies all claiming to have the most pure beef. (Bonanza star Lorne Greene did a TV commercial for Alpo …holding a sirloin steak.) (2)
And now we are here, some 50+ years later our society through advertising, branding and front of package claims believe that kibble is the best and most appropriate food they should feed their dogs and many Vets informing loving pet owners that raw is dangerous. We could spend a lot more time talking about kibble, but we're here to learn about raw feeding, so let's continue...
Is raw feeding dangerous?
I think we can agree that if raw feeding was dangerous and was killing our dogs then dogs would not have evolved to sitting on our couches and sleeping in our beds, however, there are ways we can make things unsafe for our dogs.
We know that raw food materials can be problematic in terms pathogens and bacteria and this is why it is important to handle raw ingredients appropriate...no different than you would when feeding your human family. Defrost your meats in your fridge vs overnight in the kitchen sink, avoid cross-contamination, be hygienic, wash your hands, use different chopping boards etc. where necc.
Do not allow your dog to graze (leave food out for them to eat whenever they want), that is unhygienic and unsafe especially when we are in the hot Australian climate where flies and roaches are pretty common.
Dogs have incredibly successful stomach acid, with a pH of 1, they neutrilise pathogens pretty well by themselves so if we take all the necessary steps to provide them hygienic clean food they shouldn't have an issue.
But what about higher bacteria levels recorded in raw fed dogs poos? Come on, dogs are gross, I don't know about yours but mine will eat poo of different animals when given the chance, lick their bum, lick other dogs genitals and bums....shall we move on?
Didn't a study recently find dogs have adapted to eating starch?
Yes, the study did find that dogs can now digest starch unlike their ancestors, learn more about this complex topic here.
What about those bones?
You'll often hear Vets suggesting that dog owners do not feed bones because they cause obstructions, get stuck in their mouths etc.
These are great valid points! There are some bones you should not feed your dog or not unsupervised. The average pet owner may be surprised to learn that weight-bearing bones such as marrow bones are not that great for dogs, they are not included in raw feeding plans but they are considered somewhat suitable as recreational bones BUT you should remove them as soon as the knuckle has been chewed off. Why are recreational bones not recommended?
The marrow is high in fat and can make dogs sick
The extremely hard bone can wear down dogs teeth
The knuckle can cause constipation and intestinal blockages
Dogs may chew chunks of the bone off that can get wedged in teeth or stuck in the digestive system
So what bones can they eat that are safe? They are referred to as edible bones and are bones such as:
Chicken & Turkey Necks
Chicken & rabbit frames
Lamb & Beef Brisket
Salmon & other fish frames and/or heads
Sheep & Goat heads (cut in half or whole)
Ox Tails (Beef)
Crocodile bones (from Prime 100)
The size of the edible bone should be relevant to the size of the dog. When first starting out in bones you should always supervise your dog to see what they can chew properly and what the gulp. Anything they gulp should not be given to them again as it can be a choking/obstruction hazard.
Some squishy-face dogs such as French Bulldogs, Boxers, Bulldogs, Shih Tzu's etc. may need you to hold onto the bone whilst they gnaw at it, the structure of their faces aren't always helpful for feeding bones but once they get used to how to manage them they're often fine but you should always supervise initially.
Is Raw feeding low in any nutrients?
Our dogs live in a very different environment to the wolves they evolved from, they have so many environmental stresses to deal with (as do we), that it is recommended that dogs fed any diet whether that be kibble or raw, should be given a supplement and we recommend Digestive Plus from NAS
The worst thing an owner can feed their dog is an unbalanced raw diet. Now in saying this, raw balances over time when done correctly, not every meal is necessarily balanced as you may feed offal every day or just once a week. Owners should not just simply chuck raw ingredients in a bowl and think they're doing a good thing - they could be doing a fate worse than kibble.
There are a variety of supplements that raw feeders like to include, these are personal preferences by the feeder, a feeder may only feed 1 or 2 of those listed or more. It's important not to over-do supplements, more is not better and always have an actual reason as to why you're adding it. The links below link through to more information or our product recommendations.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Omega Oil - Link given is for an equine product which is the same as their canine product but bigger & more affordable.
Augustine Approved Super Boost
Augustine Approved Faith
Making your own Raw diet
All you have to do is type in your dog's weight and the raw feeding calculator does the rest for you, head here. You don't have to use human grade if you can't afford it, you'll find local slaughter houses and raw pet food companies on Google that can you purchase from, many deliver.
Buy pre-made raw
You can buy pre-made raw from a number of vendors if it's in your budget. Below, I'll list the big names, however, use Google to find local businesses.
Prime 100 - ideal for sensitive & allergic dogs (includes novel proteins)
NZ K9 Naturals
Big Dog Pet Foods & Leading Edge BARF
Dr Billinghurst BARF
Vets All Natural
Raw feeding for Giant Breed puppies
A balanced raw diet is species appropriate and far better for your dog than a kibble, however at this time we do not know enough about how to correct growth challenges such as bowing, knuckling over, east-west, cow hocking etc. through raw feeding, for instance, if your dog started to knuckle over you would need to know how to amend your raw diet to reverse this.
We have spent a lot of time in raw feeding groups, even Great Dane international raw feeding groups and have not yet found one person who is confident enough to provide this information who have dogs who look like they grew well on raw. We're sure large/giant breed pups can grow great on raw but we just don't know how to guide you through growth challenges at this time so we would ask you to wait until 12 months of age to switch your dog over to raw unless you can find someone to guide you through any challenges.
Introducing Raw Feeding
It is generally recommended that you slowly change your dog over a period of 10 days. If your dog is really quite funny about raw food, many raw feeders find that by offering frozen ingredients to the dog, the dog is more happy to participate and some continue to give frozen ingredients simply because it takes the dog longer and they have to chew more. Remember, you're effectively going from McDonald's to Meat and Salad so the dog may be apprehensive....a hungry dog will eat if there are no other health concerns. Put the food down and give them 15 minutes, if they refuse then put it back in the fridge and offer it again at their next meal time.
Facebook Raw Feeding Communities
These are great places to ask questions, get support & ideas but like any online community, not all advice is factual or safe so be sure to take the information you're given and do further research or ask for them to provide further information to back up their point.
Scientific Studies on the values of raw feeding
Discussion on Dogs evolution - Pets Fooled Documentary 2017.