The Why’s and How’s of Feeding Raw!

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The main reasons why we recommend a raw diet are:

• Dogs and cats are carnivores, so their entire body from nose to tail is designed to eat raw meat

• They should get hydration from the food they eat, through digestion. They get the benefit of this from raw meat

• The enzymes and bioavailability of nutrients in raw are essential to their optimal health

• It helps their bodies become more acidic, creating a naturally unfriendly environment for parasites and bacteria

• It helps promote healthier teeth and gums

• It is one of the best preventions against disease and promotes a healthier, longer life

If your dog or cat is currently on a dry diet, we recommend first transitioning them to a grain free, human grade canned food. We advise our clients to feed dry in the morning and canned in the evening or vice versa for a few days, then remove the dry food and replace it with canned. Always ensure they are eating adequate amounts of food, especially cats who can get very sick, very quickly if they don’t eat. For animals really addicted to dry food, you can also mix a little canned into the dry and gradually increase the amount of canned and decrease the dry. Do this for as long as it takes to get them onto canned food.

Once on canned food, you can mix a little raw (dehydrated raw is also a good option) into the canned and again gradually increase the raw and decrease the canned. A caution NEVER to mix raw with dry food! It can cause serious gastrointestinal upset as it requires two very different digestive processes. The transitioning process can actually be pretty quick, depending on how much your dog or cat likes raw and whether they have any underlying health issues (especially GI problems). If they are experiencing any GI reaction (runny stool or vomiting) then slow down to let their bodies adjust to the change.

What to feed?

A raw diet for dogs should contain 50% muscle meat, 15% ground bone, 10% organs (kidney, liver and heart) and 25% veggies. For dogs you can choose beef, chicken, turkey, lamb or some of the more exotic meats like buffalo, ostrich, venison etc. Fish, like salmon, herring and sole can also be fed periodically but keep in mind fish has less caloric value so you need to feed more. We do not recommend feeding pork (difficult to digest and prone to parasites). Salmon must not be fed fresh! Freeze it in a fridge freezer for at least 14 days or in a deep freezer for 7 days. The freezing process kills a dangerous parasite called Flukes, which is common in Salmon.

Cats can have higher protein and have a higher organ requirement. Feline raw diets should contain 60% muscle meat, 15% bone, 20% organs and 5% veggies. Cat should not be fed red meat exclusively. They should have some kind of poultry like chicken, turkey or quail at least 50% of the time (if they will eat it!) Good veggies include: Yam, sweet potato, chard, bok choy, kale, zucchini, and a variety of greens (spinach is OK but in small amounts as it is high in calcium). Veggies can be pureed or cooked and mashed. Fruit can also be included like apples, pears and blueberries.

DO NOT FEED: tomato, peppers, eggplant, onions, grapes, raisins, (broccoli is not recommended for hypothyroid dogs but OK in small amounts if that is not a concern) Raw bones (turkey necks, chicken necks, lamb necks, beef or buffalo shank and marrow) are an essential part of the diet but NEVER feed raw bones until your animal has been on a fully raw diet for at least 3-4 weeks, so they build up the digestive enzymes to digest bone. If you are not feeding bones, or if the diet does not have ground bone added, you must be sure to add bone meal. If you are feeding turkey, chicken or lamb necks, be sure to include that in their total food volume as they will eat the whole thing! Many dogs and cats can only handle a bone every other day or every 3 days. A bone every 3 days is a good place to start and if stools are too hard or dry cut back on the bones. Too much bone can lead to constipation! Hard, dry, crumbly stools mean too much too.

Feeding guidelines in general are 100-200 grams (3.5-7 ounces) of food per 10 pounds of body weight, 100 gr. for a less active animal, 200 gr. for active or higher strung animals. It is a very general guideline, you feed based on their hunger level and where they are maintaining a good weight. A note that puppies and kittens can eat up to 4 times the amount of an adult as they are growing and can be fed up to 4 times a day. They need to be weighed regularly to make sure they are gaining weight appropriately. Many companies are making prepared raw food for dogs and cats. In choosing a brand, it is ideal to feed hormone and antibiotic free meat. We prefer free range and ethically raised animals.

Supplements: We recommend a good fish oil for EFA’s (look for small, short lived, fast moving fish like sardines and anchovy-lessoning the buildup of heavy metals – recommend Ascenta Oil for Dogs and Cats), a good Multi Vitamin/ mineral like Canine Plus and NuCat from Vetri Science and a Probiotic for gut health (Olie Naturals, PB8, Udo’s Super 8)

Warning: Following the above recommendations may result in fresher breath, a shinier coat, healthier stools, less body odor and a decrease in water consumption (which is perfectly normal as your pet will be absorbing moisture from the food they eat!), more energy and increased health and longevity!

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Kibble – 101

How is it that kibble diets became the norm in how we feed our dogs and cats? To fully answer this question, we must look at the history of how manufactured pet food originated.

In the late 1850’s, a young electrician from Cincinnatti named James Spratt went to London to sell lightning rods. When his ship arrived, crew members threw left over ship biscuits onto the dock, where they were devoured by hordes of waiting dogs. Spratt had the idea to make cheap, easy to serve biscuits made of wheat, beet root, vegetables and beef blood and sell them to urban dog owners. They sold like hotcakes….and in 1870 he took his business to New York and began the American pet food industry. The FH Bennet Biscuit company starting making bone shaped biscuits in 1908. The first canned dog food in the US was introduced in 1922, using horse meat. It became so successful that horses were bred just for dog food….at a slaughter rate of 50,000 a year. In 1931 Nabisco bought Bennets’ company and renamed the biscuits “Milkbones”, and a massive sales campaign got Milkbones onto store shelves. By 1941 canned dog food had 90% of the market but then the US entered World War 2. Tin and meat were rationed and dry dog food became popular again. In 1950, Ralston Purina started using a cooking extruder to puff air into its’ Chex cereal to keep it crisp in milk. Fuelled by complaints about the appearance, texture and digestibility of dry dog food, Purina’s pet food division used the extruder to experiment with dog food and the result was Purina Dog Chow. The Pet Food Institute began lobbying for the pet food industry in the mid 1960’s, to get people to stop feeding their dogs anything but packaged dog food, funding reports, supported by veterinarians, detailing its’ benefits and running radio ads with celebrities warning of the “dangers of table scraps”.

The dog food industry was spending 50 million dollars a year in advertising and by 1975 there were more than 1,500 dog foods on the market. For anyone born since about 1950 the notion of feeding a dog or cat “people food” seems absurd. Yet the truth is, we have been feeding dog and cat food that is actually highly processed people food for the purpose of long shelf life, economy and convenience. A basic understanding of nutrition and physiological function tells us that this may not be the most nutritious diet, even for a human being, let alone an animal. It is akin to us eating only cereal and taking vitamins for our entire lives and thinking we will be healthy.

There are many reasons why kibble is not an optimum, healthy diet for a dog and cat. One simple truth is that their digestive system is not designed to handle processed food. Here are some other key points:

• Kibble usually contains grains (wheat, corn, rice, barley, oats) in higher amounts than the meat content. Dogs and cats do not have long enough digestive tracts (unlike humans) to process grains and also do not have adequate enzymes to digest starch.

• Kibble contains cooked meat and meat by-products which are digestible but how much nutrition they absorb is questionable. Meat sources are often of poor quality and cooking destroys valuable enzymes and nutrients. • Kibble can be dehydrating. Dogs and cats are designed to absorb a majority of their hydration (moisture) from the blood of their prey. When eating dry food, they must compensate by drinking a lot of water yet because of the length of a carnivores’ GI system, the dry food often does not have time to become adequately moistened. Instead of giving vital fluid that contains not only hydration but nutrients, the dry food draws moisture from the animals’ body, leading to chronic dehydration. As a result, the kidneys are not often able to function correctly which may lead to renal disease. The absorption of essential water and nutrients via the GI system also comes into question.

• Kibble and canned foods often contain toxic fillers, preservatives, dyes and flavor enhancers.

• Synthetic vitamins and minerals are often used, which are neither molecularly nor nutritionally equal to the natural source nutrients in raw food and can be detrimental if not in appropriate amounts and in proper ratio to each other.

• A dog and cats system should be acidic (as opposed to humans who should be alkaline). Processed diets can lead to a PH that is too high (alkaline) leaving the animal more susceptible to parasites and bacteria.

• Kibble is one of the worst contributors to tartar. This is contrary to what we have been told for eons but independent studies of kibble, canned and raw diets proved kibble to be the worst as far as tartar was concerned. Particles of hard, dry food works its way under the gum line as the animal crunches, and combine with saliva into a paste that forms the basis for tartar. We don’t floss our animals’ teeth, so it sits there and also leads to decay. Think of it like the difference between you eating an apple and a cookie. (the cookie leaves a lot more crud behind!)

• Kibble has only been fed for 100 years. Evolution on the anatomical and physiological level takes hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years. More and more veterinarians, holistic and conventional, are coming to the understanding that our dogs and cats are carnivores and therefore should be eating what is natural for them. The Canadian Food Guide (for people) is advising to stop consuming processed food and eat live food to be healthier. Why would we not apply the same logic to our animals? The principles of common sense should be used, to turn the clock back to what we used to feed before processed diets became popular and when dogs and cats were living healthier, longer. They were not considered geriatric at age 7 and they often didn’t spend half their lives on medication.

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