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Raw for Pets

Why Feed Raw?

An Article by Mary Straus


Why Raw?


To have a happier, healthier pet with cleaner teeth, better coat, and fewer medical problems. So you can spend more time with your furry friend and less time grooming, scooping the yard, and visiting the vet to address problems caused by poor diet.


Because you want your pet to live the longest, healthiest life possible.


It's what our pet carnivores evolved to eat. No man-made diet can hope to compare to fresh natural whole food. The benefits of a whole natural diet include improvements in multiple areas. Most people report significant improvements in all areas after switching to a whole natural diet. One of the simplest but most profound improvements is in dental health. Chewing whole raw meaty bones scrubs teeth better than brushing and flossing. The periodontal disease suffered by most commercially-fed animals leads to heart, kidney, and liver disease, in addition to the painful gingivitis and tooth root abscesses typical of the kibble-fed pet. Studies have shown that over 80% of pets have periodontal disease by the age of 2. Foul breath is one of the outward symptoms of this deadly disease from which millions of commercially-fed pets suffer and die.


Raw fed pets typically have shiny teeth and healthy mouths. Because of this, they are at a lower risk of heart, liver, and kidney disease, to name but a few.

People who switch to raw feeding are often amazed at the difference in their pets' coats. The require less frequent bathing, smell better, and have softer thicker fur. Dogs and cats that had terrible skin issues before raw feeding often regrow their hair and heal from the chronic hot spots and infections.


Improved temperament and attitude is another reason to switch to raw. Inappropriate diets in dogs can lead to hyperactivity, difficulty in focusing, and other behavioral and training problems. Dogs switched to raw typically have more energy and endurance than before, but are calmer and easier to train.

Info and facts about the raw fed pet

Dangers of Raw Meat?

Many people are concerned about the dangers of bacteria and parasites when feeding raw meat, eggs and dairy to our dogs. Remember that wolves and dogs evolved to be able to cope with bacteria found in carrion and meat that has been buried for long periods. Their digestive systems are designed to move food through quickly, before bacteria has a chance to proliferate or cause problems. Bacteria such as salmonella are found in the digestive systems of as many as 40 percent of healthy dogs, including those fed only commercial foods. While these bacteria can affect dogs, it would be unusual for a healthy dog to have any problems with the bacteria found in raw meat and other products considered fit for human consumption.


There are a few parasites that might be a cause for concern, though freezing meat for a period of three weeks will destroy most of them (freezing has no effect on bacteria).


You may want to consider feeding a cooked diet to your dog if you’re concerned about the possibility of problems from raw meat, your dog's immune system is compromised due to illness or medication, or your dog just doesn’t seem to do well on a raw diet.  

Raw feeding myths

Many questions arise when we consider the idea of feeding raw meat, eggs and bones to our dogs. What about the bacteria in raw meat and eggs? Isn’t it dangerous to feed whole bones? Is too much protein harmful? We'll address these issues briefly below; if you like, you can refer to entire articles we have devoted to each topics in the past.


Bacteria


Dogs’ systems were designed to handle bacteria. It’s generally thought that their stomachs contain a stronger concentration of stomach acid than ours, making their digestive systems more efficient at killing most bacteria. Also, in relation to our digestive system, their digestive tracts are shorter and simpler, which helps move food through quickly, without giving bacteria a chance to proliferate.


Consider the fact that, in the wild, wolves eat carrion, and bury food to eat days or weeks later, with no harmful effect. Our own dogs even eat stool without becoming ill. While it is possible for dogs to be affected by bacteria found in raw food and elsewhere, it is unusual.


Many of the bacteria we worry about, such as salmonella and E. coli, are commonly found in the intestines of healthy dogs. Dogs who are stressed, ill, or immune-compromised may be more susceptible to problems from bacteria. While many dogs on chemotherapy and with other serious health problems have no problems with raw meat, you may want to cook their food instead. You can also soak raw meat in food-grade hydrogen peroxide, though this will not work for ground meat, which is also likely to have a higher bacterial load.


Keep in mind that commercial foods are also often contaminated with bacteria.


Raw pork, which can be a source of trichinosis and Aujeszky’s Disease (pseudorabies), often causes particular anxiety. Both of these diseases, however, have been just about completely eradicated from USDA-inspected products in this country, though they may still be a concern elsewhere, or if you obtain meat from a local farm that has not been inspected. Freezing for three weeks should make the meat safe. Note that trichinosis is also found in carnivorous wild game, including bear and wild boar, and in that case, freezing will not kill it.


Freezing will also kill certain other parasites, such as tapeworms and toxoplasma, but it does not kill bacteria.


DOGS ARE OMNIVORES


This is false. Dogs are carnivores, not omnivores. Dogs ARE very adaptable, but just because they can survive on an omnivorous diet does not mean it is the best diet for them. The assumption that dogs are natural omnivores remains to be proven, whereas the truth about dogs being natural carnivores is very well-supported by the evidence available to us.


WOLVES INGEST THE STOMACH CONTENTS OF THEIR PREY


This claim is repeated over and over as evidence that wolves and therefore dogs are omnivores. However, this assumption is just that--an assumption. It is not supported by the evidence available to us, and is therefore false!


Wolves do NOT eat the stomach contents of their prey. Only if the prey is small enough (like the size of a rabbit) will they eat the stomach contents, which just happen to get consumed along with the entire animal. Otherwise, wolves will shake out the stomach contents of their large herbivorous prey before sometimes eating the stomach wall.


DOGS ARE TOO FAR REMOVED FROM WOLVES/HAVE BEEN CHANGED TOO MUCH, AND THEREFORE CANNOT HANDLE A RAW DIET


This is MOSTLY false. The only truth found in this statement is that humans have changed dogs. BUT, we have only changed their external appearance and temperament, NOT their internal anatomy and physiology. The claim that dogs cannot handle a raw diet because they are so domesticated is only true in that we have been feeding them commercial diets for so long that a dog's system is not running up to par. The result of feeding dogs a highly processed, grain-based food is a suppressed immune system and the underproduction of the enzymes necessary to thoroughly digest raw meaty bones. This does NOT mean, however, that the dog does not "have" those enzymes. Those enzymes are present, and once the dog is taken off the grain-based, plant matter-filled food those enzymes quickly return to the proper working level that allows for optimal digestion of raw meaty bones.


DOGS ARE LIVING LONGER LIVES BECAUSE OF THE BETTER NUTRITION PROVIDED BY KIBBLE


This is false logic. Dogs are living longer today because of improved social status and advances in medical care. "Back in the day" dogs were not considered the valuable family members and companions they are now. Dogs were left outside to brave the elements. They were guardians of house, possessions, and livestock. Dogs had a purpose, a job, and when they could not do that job, they were retired or disposed of. Medical care for dogs was scant and typically unimportant, as more prestige was gained from being a livestock vet than a canine vet. Very little notice was given to the dog's health as long as it could still do what was asked of it.


MY DOG WILL ACQUIRE PARASITES FROM THE RAW MEAT IN A RAW DIET


Yes, there can be parasites in raw meat. But if you are getting meaty bones and carcasses from places fit for human consumption, the parasite factor is negligible. Most parasites are a non-issue and can be safely dealt with by your dog if it is healthy.


The parasite issue is something than non-raw folk use as a scare tactic, telling you that your dog is going to die if it eats raw meat because it will get a weird parasite. They neglect to tell you the very low incidence of these parasites in meat deemed safe for human consumption; nor do they tell you the most "deadly" of these parasites come from things like infected sheep placentas or stillborn calves. Simple solution—do not feed those things to your dog. If the dog looks like it has parasites, simply get a stool sample or blood sample taken. A dog can be wormed holistically or allopathically (the chemical insecticide dewormers). But generally speaking, if your dog has a healthy immune system, it can deal with the parasites before they even get a chance to establish themselves. Parasites hate a very healthy host.


Freezing meat can help kill many parasites (such as the parasite present in salmon that CAN cause a deadly disease in dogs; freezing fresh raw salmon, steelhead, trout, and other salmonids for at least 24 hours before feeding effectively disposes of the parasite. Cooked salmon does not carry the parasite.). As long as one exercises caution in obtaining their meat, parasites are a non-issue. If feeding fresh salmonids or wild game, it is recommended that the meat be deep frozen for at least 24 hours before feeding for salmonids and one month for wild game.


Do not give in to the bacteria and parasite scare tactics. The suggestion of cooking your dog's food is actually quite harmful! It is the cooked food that causes problems with the dog's digestive system and that can result in the nutritional deficiencies vets claim they see from raw diets (in reality, most of these nutritional deficiencies arise primarily from home-cooked diets, since cooking destroys many valuable nutrients.).


RAW-FED ANIMALS POSE A SIGNIFICANT HEALTH RISK TO HUMANS


This is a myth made possible by our society's pathological fear of bacteria. Of the millions of bacteria on this earth, it is estimated that less than 1% are harmful. Media and society as a whole have played up bacteria, painting it as an evil nemesis that must be stomped out with disinfectants, antibacterial everything, and unnecessary vaccination. This has resulted in the emergence of super-bacteria and "super-viruses", no thanks to the improper use of antibiotics and the plethora of antibacterial soaps and products. Developmental biologists have recently learned that bacterial exposure is absolutely necessary for the development of a healthy immune system, among other things. Humans and dogs have evolved in the presence of bacteria, and insisting on a sterile environment has created more damage than good. So where does this intersect with raw feeding?


VETS ARE THOROUGHLY QUALIFIED TO DISPENSE NUTRITIONAL ADVICE.


This is a difficult issue that is guaranteed to offend some people, particularly those in the profession. Nevertheless, the harsh reality must be discussed. Should people fully trust the nutritional advice dispensed by their vets?


This myth is quite false. While veterinarians perform much-needed services for our pets, these services should not include a) selling pet food, and b) administering nutritional advice. Veterinarians receive very little nutritional training. The training they do receive is often advocated by or even administered by the pet food companies. Their nutritional training comes from the incorrect view that dogs are omnivores and can safely be maintained on a grain-based diet, even when scientific research has proven that canines and felines have no evolved need for carbohydrates and fiber That's right: dogs and cats do not need the carbohydrates that form the bulk of their processed foods. Perhaps that is why pets today are soft, doughy, and suffering from a variety of ailments linked to carbohydrate-rich, processed food (cancer, diabetes, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, hyperactivity, seizures, etc.


Veterinarians are invariably linked to the commercial pet food industry. They advocate and even market commercial foods, receiving substantial revenue and kickbacks. The pet food companies make sure of this by promoting programs in the universities and by giving FREE FOOD to the up-and-coming vets to sell at their practices.


The very profession is tied closely with commercial pet food companies at every turn. A tour of veterinary teaching hospitals or vet clinics shows equipment, products, and posters sponsored by and endorsing commercial foods and pharmaceutical companies. Vets are, in essence, paid for by the pet food and pharmaceutical companies, and are hardly in a position to offer sound nutritional advice. They are in direct violation of the oath and creed they swore to uphold: "First do no harm." In spite of this oath they are promoting foods detrimental to animals' health, advocating a product that will harm their patients and ensure a returning clientele and source of revenue. But remember: this is due in large part to the great lack in the education the universities have administered to them! Nothing but commercial pet food dogma is being repeated in university after university after university; these are institutions of higher learning where people are supposed to be thinking critically and evaluating things analytically, yet in reality are being told to shut off their common sense and ignore the overwhelming amount of evidence against commercial pet foods.


Raw Meaty Bones


RMBs that are commonly fed include chicken necks, backs, and leg quarters; turkey necks; lamb breast and necks; pork breast (riblets) and necks; and canned fish with bones, such as jack mackerel, pink salmon, and sardines (preferably packed in water rather than oil). Raw fish can also be fed, though some may harbor parasites (freshwater fish are more likely to have problems than saltwater fish). Never feed raw salmon or trout from the Pacific Northwest (California to Alaska), as this can cause a fatal disease called salmon poisoning in dogs. Cooking makes salmon safe to eat; canned fish is cooked, so there’s no concern about salmon poisoning from canned salmon.


RMBs should make up 30 to 50 percent (one third to one half) of the total diet, or possibly a little more if the parts you feed have a great deal more meat than bone (e.g., whole chickens or rabbits). The natural diet of the wolf in the wild contains 15 percent bone or less, based on the amount of edible bone in the large prey they feed upon. While a reasonable amount more won’t harm an adult dog, it’s not needed and reduces the amount of other valuable foods that can be fed.

Too much bone can also cause constipation, and the excess calcium can block the absorption of certain minerals. The stools of raw fed dogs are naturally smaller and harder than those fed commercial foods, and often turn white and crumble to dust after a few days. If the stools come out white and crumbly, or if your dog has to strain to eliminate feces, you should reduce the amount of bone in his diet.

Organ meat

Organs are an important part of a raw diet. Liver and kidney in particular are nutrient-dense and provide a great deal of nutritional value. These foods should make up 5 to 10 percent of the total diet. Note that they may cause loose stools if too much is fed at one time. It’s better to feed smaller amounts daily or every other day than to feed larger amounts once or twice a week. This also spreads out the nutritional value, allowing your dog to receive more benefit.

Heart is nutritionally more like muscle meat than organ meat, but it is rich in taurine and other nutrients. If possible, make heart another 5 to 10 percent of the diet. More can be fed; just remember that too much can lead to loose stools in some dogs.

Muscle meat, eggs, and more

The rest of the diet will be made up of muscle meat and eggs, along with dairy products and other healthy foods.


Muscle meat consists of all meat that is not considered organ meat. Feed muscle meat from a variety of sources, such as beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and turkey. Muscle meat can be fed ground or in chunks. If you have difficulty feeding much variety in your raw meaty bones, you can make up for it in this category. For example, if your raw meaty bones are mostly poultry, then you can feed beef, lamb, and pork muscle meat. Never feed more than half the total diet from a single protein source, such as chicken.


Eggs are an excellent source of nutrition. They can be fed raw or cooked; cooking actually makes the whites more digestible. You can feed as many eggs as you want, as long as you still feed lots of variety.

Dairy products, such as yogurt, kefir, and cottage cheese, are well tolerated by most dogs and offer good nutritional value. Yogurt and kefir have the added advantage of providing beneficial bacteria (probiotics). Dairy fat is a source of medium-chain triglycerides, a form of fat that is easier to digest for dogs with pancreatic disorders and other forms of fat intolerance.


Green tripe, which is the stomach lining from cows and other animals, is an excellent food for dogs, but be warned that it smells awful – at least to us; dogs love it. Nutritionally, it is similar to muscle meat. Green tripe can be purchased only from sources that sell food for dogs; it cannot be sold for human consumption. The tripe that you find in your grocery store has been bleached and treated, and does not provide the same nutritional value as green tripe.

It is also fine to feed healthy leftovers (food you would eat yourself, not the scraps you would throw away) to your dog as long as they are not too great a percentage of the diet – 10 to 20 percent of the diet should be okay.

Amounts to feed

As a general rule of thumb, dogs will eat around 2 to 3 percent of their body weight in fresh food daily, but remember that each dog is an individual, and the amounts they eat can vary considerably.