Nutrition for you pets
The upside of all the pet food recalls (see http://tedeboy.tripod.com/drmichaelwfox/id74.html) for the most detailed analysis) is that more and more people are taking a much closer look at what they are feeding their cherished companions.
With so many of the foods, what rules is cheapness of ingredients which leads to
very low quality not only of the rice bran that led to the recalls, but of the meat
products, too. Far too frequently those are from diseased animals loaded with
chemicals and much, much worse. Additionally, they tend to be nutritionally
unbalanced with indigestible minerals and artificial vitamins. And even some of the
brands that health-conscious individuals purchased, have been shown by the recalls
to use some marginal ingredients. Read my article What's in YOUR pet food? for more
The simplicity of feeding grain-based kibbles, plus massive advertising and cheap, low- grade ingredients, has made kibbles the "accepted" pet food route. However, in reality, grains are neither natural nor particularly healthful for dogs, although certainly some are far better than others. I consider the Dynamite Dog Diet to be an excellently balanced (Dynamite's forte is exceptional bio-available mineral balance) kibble, but for grain-sensitive animals, it does contain grain. The newer Ultimate Dog Food is a raw, dehydrated meal based on human-grade beef. The Natura Company does offer a grain- free product called Evo ( www.naturapet.com/brands/evo.asp), but the ingredients are only human-grade meaning animal products will still contain grain-fed meat products from agri-business animals rather than organic, or ideally, pastured-
What do those terms mean?
- Human-grade - usually agri-business grown beef, chicken, etc.
- Organic - usually no hormones/preservatives, organically grain-fed
- Free Range - living in usually larger areas than small confinement but can also be
- Pastured-Only - born and raised strictly on naturally fertilized pastures and
humanely "harvested" for meat
In truth, NO kibble comes the least bit close to a good, raw, meat-based omnivorous diet for your dog or a virtually all-meat carnivorous diet for your cat (cats are obligate carnivores). It's just that simple. Those are the diets these animals evolved upon and those are the diets they should continue to receive. People are so skewed in their thinking that one checker at the store was aghast when John explained much of the meat he was purchasing was for our dogs. She actually exclaimed: “Can dogs eat meat?” Do you find that as incredible as I do?
Actually, the best food for dogs (and cats) is what they would eat in nature: viscera, meat, stomach contents, and bones. Dr. Ian Billingsly, an early proponent, calls it the BARF Diet or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. Another proponent is Richard Pitcairn, DVM, who suggests the raw, BARF diet in his book, Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, 3rd Edition, www.drpitcairn.com.
The BARF diet, or Ultimate diet as some say, tends to result in healthier animals. Many owners feeding the BARF diet observe:
- Exceptional muscle tone
- Shiny luxurious coat
- Healthy skin & bones
- Shiny, white teeth & clean breath
- Clear, bright eyes
- Small, firm stools
- A happy, healthy attitude
- The clock turned back for older dogs.
The diet consists of the following 4 food groups, plus a fifth consisting of "extras", each of which is essential if feeding this way. Cats, being "obligate carnivores", require mainly the first two items, with just a bit of the last three:
1. Raw Meats
Here we have protein foods including beef, fish, poultry, lamb, rabbit, game, etc. By far the best is from free-range, natural animals and includes both muscle and organ meat including the valuable stomach lining known as green tripe. Meat can and should have a high fat content consisting of Omega 3 fats which alkalize the natural acidity of meat. If the possible bacteria content in raw meat alarms you, remember what species you are feeding it to. Canine and feline digestive systems have evolved over millions of years to obtain the nutrients necessary for good health from raw meat. They are short and acidic, perfect for handling bacteria. And you know how much some of them relish
something old and really gross! Canus lupus eats not only fresh prey, but also old buried meat that is teeming with bacteria and that stinky, but vital, raw green tripe. Also remember that there are NO chefs cooking up gourmet foods in the wild!
2. Raw Bone
Dogs have relied on eating raw meaty bones as a superior source of nutrients for millions of years. A prey animal's body consists of about 25% bone. Remember always feed bones raw. Cooking the bone changes its molecular structure, making it splinter and difficult to digest. However, raw edible bones offer wonderful nutrition in a form that is very natural and usable for your dog plus they help keep teeth clean.They are full of edible cartilage and provide nutritious marrow, amino acids/protein, essential fatty acids, fibre, enzymes, antioxidants, and a vast array of species-appropriate minerals and vitamins, all in soluble form. Bonemeal is not a substitute for raw bone: it is a cooked and processed product, often high in lead content and cannot match the nutrients found in raw, edible, meaty bones. Edible bone is bone that your dog can consume completely. Raw poultry bones, such as chicken and turkey, are lunched and crunched up quite easily. Raw poultry necks, backs, head or feet are great for this. Longer marrow bones and rounded knuckle bones can keep them occupied for hours and can be thrown away once the nutrition is gleaned from them.
Vegetables include plants that grow above and below the ground such as: green leafy vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, dandelion greens, dark leaf lettuce, kale, okra, parsley, sprouts, squash, pumpkin, etc. (above) and: sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, etc. (below). However, they must be in a digestable form, similar to what would be in a prey animal's stomach. We can mimic this by chopping in a food processor or blender or chopping with a knife and lightly steaming them. It is best to leave out potatoes, onions and rhubarb. Limit or avoid raw legumes (peas and beans), but do use their sprouted seeds. Make sure that there is only a low
level of the starchy vegetables like pumpkin (although sweet potatoes do tend to be extremely digestible especially for those with allergies), and not a preponderance of the sugary vegetables such as carrots.
4. Raw Fruit
Use whatever fruit is in season and as wide a range as possible. The fruit hould be well ripened to over-ripe, but not rotten. Use raw whole apples, oranges, pears, bananas, grapes, berries, papaya, apricots, or plums (without the stone), mangoes, and kiwi fruit. Raw fruits are chock-full of essential nutrients such as: enzymes; phytochemicals; anti-oxidants; vitamins (C); minerals; and essential fatty acids.
5. Extras include:
Kelp and Alfalfa - A combination of these two green foods is a powerful addition to the BARF diet, due to their impressive nutrient and medical value.
Alfalfa contains an antibiotic action against gram-negative bacteria such as salmonella. It also contains a protein with anti-tumor activity. Alfalfa is often used as a general tonic to detoxify the body and it is very high in chlorophyll. Most of us have seen our dogs "grazing" occasionally, and the alfalfa takes care of this need healthfully. Kelp also contains anti-cancer, anti-rheumatic and ant-inflammatory properties plus a wide variety of trace minerals. It is good for the glands and organs. Kelp is also used for protection against hair loss, obesity, arthritis, heart and circular disorders, mineral deficiency and as a general tonic. Quality is extremely important. Use fit-for-human-consumption alfalfa and kelp. Equal parts of alfalfa and kelp in your dog's food provide a vast array of health- enhancing nutrients and act as a complete vitamin and mineral supplement. The quantity in tablet or powder form is the same as for humans.
Essential fatty acids - Every living cell in your dog's body needs essential fatty acids (EFA's), among which are the Omega 3s,which help support healthy skin, hair, joints and hearts. EFA's must be fed raw and unheated. Good food sources of EFA's include wild fish (salmon, anchovies, sardines), fish oil, pastured-only meats and poultry, pastured-only animal fat and eggs. Fats are the best source of species-appropriated energy (body fuel) and are used like carbohydrates by dogs. Raw meat contains useful fat, and the fattiest cuts of meat are good for most dogs, unless they have a liver or pancreas impairment.
Vitamin C - Dogs do make vitamin C in their bodies, but large breeds especially can use some extra for joint health. Vitamin C is found in raw foods such as fruits, vegetables and organ meats.
Feeding the BARF diet . . .
Puppies - Feed three times per day from three weeks until four to six months old, then twice daily from four to six months old until one year of age, and once daily after one year of age. Large and giant breeds may need to be fed twice daily during growth spurts from one to three years of age. Feed approximately 6% of the puppy's body weight per day and include raw, meaty bones daily. Fast puppies over 4 months of age 1/2 day per week
Over 1 yr - Feed between 2-4% of a mature dog's body weight and include raw, meaty bones daily. Fast most mature dogs one day per week.
Condition - Most dogs are healthiest if kept "healthy lean." This means there is about 1/8" fat covering the ribs.
IMPORTANT: Carnivore digestion requires a lot of their body energy, and an
adequate break between meals is necessary to utilize that energy for healing and other body functions. Do not feed so much that the stomach becomes over extended. Do not let your pup become obese. You will quickly learn how much to feed your dog. If your dog is large and obese feed less. If your dog is skinny and feeble feed more. If your dog is pregnant or has a litter she will obviously need more food.
PERSONAL NOTE: Interestingly enough, when I was little, our 2 Boston Terriers received raw hamburger (yes, purchased especially for them and back then, it was all pastured-no additives), vegetable leavings from our plates, and weekly raw knuckle bones. They were so very healthy and shiny with bright eyes and clean teeth. John has told me that his Boston and later his English bulldogs all received essentially the same thing as this was prior to the big dry food push. His dogs were all equally healthy. We currently are feeding our 4 year old, very allergic (almost fatally so) GSD (German Shepherd Dog) and 2 geriatric cats raw meat pet-mix from Slanker's, some daily canned green tripe (Tripett), a weekly raw egg plus shells plus their individual supplements (additionally, the cats both get Dynamite Purrrformance while Carl, the
GSD, gets fish oil caps and human Dynamite regular). They are doing the best ever. Carl also get some veggies but no bones since they're included in the Slanker's meat but he does get some marrow broth. We, as well as other individuals who have followed this methodology, have found skin and coats to become shiny and healthy, eyes become bright and matter-free and teeth become totally tartar-free. All of these result in an odor-free pet which is a special added, and delightful, bonus! And, by the way, neither Carl nor Dette and Kiri (the ancient cats) EVER receive vaccinations. The cats are too old and healthy to be concerned about and Carl would probably die. See my vaccination article for more information on vaccines and their inherent dangers.
RAW FOOD CHART scroll down for chart
Many people have been hesitant to feed the BARF diet because of the difficulty of obtaining the raw meat products. However, with increased demand, more options are now available than ever before. In order to present you with different possibilities, I have prepared a chart, which you’ll find below (just scroll on down), of those prepared/ground, or plain meats,raw diets (most frozen, some freeze-dried) I have located with doing web searches. Personally I prefer those that offer pastured-only animal meat/bones/viscera as a base because of the Omega 3 benefits. After that would come the organic followed by human-grade; see the description of each above. Do remember that viscera and bones are vital for healthful raw food diets. None of these companies offers "green tripe" or the stomach lining of prey animals which carnivores eat voraciously in order to receive all the beneficial enzymes; white tripe is
bleached and is deleterious. However, green tripe is very difficult for most humans to feed their dogs due to the odor which is why we are feeding the Tripett. In place of this, do consider adding pro-biotics to your "extras"; we choose the Dynamite DynaPro.
Also, I prefer formulas without supplementation thus leaving room for Dynamite
Showdown for dogs or Purrrformance for cats, especially if you do not want to give the separate extras mentioned above. Some have veggies and fruit added; for those that do not, it is relatively simple to add fresh or frozen raw berries or other fruit and steamed fresh (or processed raw in a blender) or frozen veggies (just thaw and chop large ones; the freezing breaks down the cellulose enough for canine digestion) to add to the meat base. However, choices may depend on local availability and the status of your checkbook.
Please let me know if you find changes that should be made to the chart.
Although not as optimal as raw food, home cooking might be appropriate for you and is certainly better by far for your pet than standard prepared foods. Use the freshest, most toxin-free ingredients possible limiting grains to those known to be gluten-free. My personal preference is no grains at all, rather using sweet potatoes as a base. Dogs who are very allergic may need variety in the toxin/grain-free meat source as well.
You might want to consider these proportions as generally suggested by Martin
Goldstein, DVM, www.drmarty.com, whose book, The Nature of Animal Healing: The Definitive Holistic Medicine Guide to Caring for Your Dog and Cat, all pet owners should have. It is interesting to note that Dr. Goldstein, in recent years and following the publication of the book, supports the BARF diet:
- DOGS: 1/2 meats including some organ meats, 1/4 cooked brown rice or other
gluten-free grain or sweet potato/white potato mix; 1/4 steamed organic
- CATS: 3/4 organic meats including some organ meats, 1/4 @ steamed veggies
Some veterinarians warn against feeding rawhide and pig ears because they can contain chemical residues (from chemicals used to remove the fur) that can be harmful to your dog's health. Also, larger pieces can break off and be swallowed, getting stuck in the intestines and causing blockages. When the rawhide gets wet from the stomach juices, it swells to twice its normal size causing serious stomach blockage. Soft and slick rawhide can also become a choking hazard. And most baked treats are grain based. Best to stick with jerky from the companies on the chart.
- Dairy products - although some raw, free-range is OK
- Grain - Carbohydrates or energy from grains is not required by dogs. Fats are
their best, species-appropiate source of energy, and they are also able to derive
energy needs from protein.
- Yeast - it is a fungus, and most dogs cannot tolerate it. It can unbalance your dog's calcium/phosphorus ratio and can also lead to many health problems
Nutrition is only the start of having healthy, happy pets.
- Always remember your pet is first and foremost an ANIMAL and NOT a "furry
human" - respecting and honoring the differences is what will make your pet
- An excellent source of information for this is Cesar Millan, the "Dog Whisperer" on National Geographic, Friday nights. Cesar truthfully claims that he "Rehabilitates dogs and trains people." All previous episodes are available on DVD
and his recent book actually gives "how-to's" to help guide you into becoming a
Pack Leader. And yes, his concepts of calm assertiveness and energy also work
for other animals including cats and horses. www.nationalgeographic.
- Be very wary of ANY flea/tick repellent! We ourselves use none of it. Truly healthy
pets do not tend to draw fleas/ticks to them, but we also spray with DynaShield coat conditioner.
- Locate a good holistic vet in your area and include alternative-type care rather
than always reaching first for a drug...
www.ahvma.org .... locate a holistic vet near you
www.theavh.org ... The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy
www.aava.org ...The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture
www.ivas.org ... International Veterinary Acupuncture Society
www.animalacupressure.com .... offers books, videos, charts, seminars, etc
www.909shot.com.... National Vaccine Information Center
www.homeopathyworks.com .... Washington Homeopathic Products
www.lightsoundtechnology.com ... offer affordable light/sound machines for home or breeder use
www.animalaccupressure.com ... acupressure seminars, books & charts for horses, dogs & cats
As Dr. Goldstein says: Advocates of holistic medicine believe that by treating the root of a health problem instead of its symptoms, you can help your animal regain and maintain its own health, as nature intended. So, as an example, if we see an animal who developed symptoms of chronic colitis after receiving unnecessary vaccines, we don’t give antibiotics and steroids to mask the symptom of bloody diarrhea. Instead, we’ll use acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal remedies, vitamin/mineral supplementation and other non-toxic, alternative options to restore metabolic balance and true health.