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Raw Meat Feeding your DOG is the most natural & healthy dog diet


Dog eating emu stickIs this the holy grail of natural healthy dog diets? Yes.

I have been a strong proponent of raw meat diets for dogs for many years and most people are familiar with the BARF diet. However Dr B is in fact a manufacturer of dog food products and he has a vested interest in selling you his books.

While his ideas are a vast improvement on ALL corporate dog food manufacturers, I have found a source that tweaks the diet even further with great specific examples of what you can personally purchase and create for your dogs.

But first it is important to understand the difference between the BARF diet and the raw bones diet.

History of the BARF DIET

In Australia many people are familiar with the Raw food diet known as BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food Diet). This was created and registered by proponent Dr Ian Billinghurst. His specific solution uses fresh frozen meat and bones with no sulphur dioxide, but added Thiamin. His website states: "This is the hypothesis accepted by most modern zoos or any zoologist concerned with preserving a species of endangered animal. It is not the theory endorsed by pet food companies or the people they train - and that includes unfortunately - most vets.”

He believes that domestic dogs have the same food requirement of their ancestors the grey wolf and that “modern processed pet foods are responsible for most of that ill health”. He suggests that you need to find a “source of raw meaty bones, offal and vegetables plus whatever supplements are appropriate to balance the diet or treat particular disease problems. (Offal consists of fresh and raw internal organs including liver, kidneys, heart and green tripe.)”  ref 3

While I consider this essentially correct, I am still not convinced of the value of vegetables in a dogs diet. In other articles I have discussed this at length and will continue to do so. Also the commercial aspect of the pre packaged foods that are sold by Barf sites seems to take away from this whole 'raw from the butcher do it yourself approach'.

That is where this raw meat and bones diet comes in. This is based on Tom Lonsdale’s ‘Raw Meaty Bones (RMB)’ or prey model style feeding.  And the majority of this HDT article is based on this model and information found in a UK pet forum post by Katie Franke (ref 1)

Essentially it means that like the BARF diet you try and replicate the wild diet or whole raw prey – but for practically this usually means the diet is composed of small parts of the animal obtained from the market or a butchers.

The best thing about the raw diet is that the author doesn’t try and keep any secrets or attempt to lure you into buying their patented manufactured food. They also give very practical explanations of how to wean your dog onto this more appropriate and healthy diet as well as how you can modify it to your exact dogs needs. I have syndicated this later in this article.

The other divergence point is that this diet DOES NOT INCLUDE VEGETABLES. The reality is that either by eating sausages at a friend’s house or scavenging pellets, a dog will inadvertently ingest some vegetable matter anyway. An interesting note here is that many people will tell you how much their dogs love veggies or veggie table scraps. One day when I went dog walking with my meat fed dog and another 'can and pellet' fed dog we went to a park where someone had left out a whole loaf of white bread for birds (which in itself is discouraged). My dog ran straight past this as he was not taught to recognize it as food. Meanwhile the other dog would not be distracted from eating every single slice of bread. It then proceeded to do giant sized columns of whitish poo, while mine did economical little brown ones (dark colour from blood in the red meat he eats). Dogs will learn many things from their owners including what they should consider food to be. This often over rides there natural instincts to eat what is best for them.

One proponent of the raw diet suggests that while many people will want to feed their dogs vegetables or fruit, and they can do so in moderation, that they are “not a NECESSARY part of the diet, and there is currently no known nutritional requirement for them, as everything can be found within the raw meat/bones/offal etc components.” (ref 1)

AMOUNT OF MEAT FOR YOUR DOG PER MEAL

The rule of thumb is 2-3% of their expected full adult body weight is to be fed to a dog each day. If a dog is still growing, or is small and well exercised (with high metabolism) it may need more than this. If a dog is old, not exercised much or large with a low metabolism, the amount may be more like 2% of their weight.

beef-jerky-500g-FEB17
AUS-CHICKEN-BREAST-500G
Beef-Liver-Dog-Treat-Kg
green-lipped-mussels-500g

THE DOG FOOD COMPOSITION

This is the crux of the whole diet. Through studies of what wolves and wild dogs consume, the ideal compision is sait to be: “80:10:10 ratio – which is approx 70-80% muscle meat (incl. heart, tripe and oily fish), 10-20% bone (within some of that meat), 10% offal (this should be ½ liver and half other offal such as kidney, spleen etc.” You may like to vary this guide such as providing 15-20% bone and only 5% offal. (ref 1)

It is noted that this is an approximate guide as to the exact proportions and types of food to include. What you are looking at doing is providing as many different species of animal as possible with a wide variety of organs. The wide variety of species will provide different proteins which can help vary the nutrients and proteins and boost immunity.

The practical way that you will achieve this is giving your dog 50-70% of the diet as lumps of meat and bone (such as lamb ribs) with the remainder being boneless chunks of muscle meat including heart and tripe. It is recommended that you also regularly provide small amounts of offal such as liver & kidney. The restrictions on these organs are because they tend to be very rich. For example liver is high in iron which can lead to diahreah, and the liver and kidneys are also the filter organs of the animal which potentially may have higher toxin levels than the rest of the body. Other animal supplements are animal by products such as puppy milk (lactose free) and chicken eggs – preferably raw.

At this point many owners quickly understand how the dog food industry has been so successful in selling their low nutrition man made concoctions. Cans and packets are sterile, clean and convenient. This has nothing to do with the dog’s world where they would normally tear their prey apart and eat everything that they could rip into small enough chunks to eat. This is not a pretty diet, it is however a natural healthy diet that will improve every aspect of your dog's health.

The exact proportion of bone and meat as well as type of animal you purchase will have to do with availability, cost, your dog breed, age and personal preferences. Some dogs cant chew bones very well or don’t like offal that much. However bear in mind that what dogs seem to prefer may mostly be due to what you or their previous owner fed them as a puppy. You essentially encoded your preferences on their mind as what is appropriate food. And so this is where the very important topic of the transition process comes into play.

Again non-toxic fruit and vegetables are OK to feed your dog, if they have a natural preference for them. However as their systems are not geared (have the appropriate enzyme) to digest these exotics, the purposeful introduction of them in their diet should be kept to a minimum.

What type of meat

In the wild, packs of dogs would hunt for whatever local prey they could catch. They would prefer medium to large size animals, however if the pack was small or times were difficult (winter seasons or illness) they may eat a lot of smaller animals such as rat or beaver etc. This is the authors recommendation for moderately easily accessible meats “beef, lamb, pork, chicken, rabbit, turkey, venison, oily fish such as salmon, mackeral, herring, sardines, a bone-in meal of rabbit/chicken quarter or pork/lamb ribs etc...heart from any of the above animals, beef/venison tripe

Dog Meal Portion sizes

Again this is to match the type of dog and their jaw pressure. The chunks of meat should typically be larger than a dog can swallow whole to encourage ripping and a little chewing before swallowing. Retrievers and many sporting dogs have very soft jaws for retrieving game so very tough and large chunks may not be appropriate. For very large dogs small portions such as chicken wings should be swapped for chicken carcasses or half birds to avoid them trying to swallow portions whole and choking.

Dog Meal Bone Types

While raw bones are usually preferred, smoked bones that have been softened in the process are also acceptable. It is not recommended to use large load bearing bones such as cow leg bones as these are highly dense and hard and can chip your dogs teeth. It is suggested that if you can easily penetrate the bone surface with a knife then it is probably of the recommended softness for the dog to chew down and consume. Example of this are pork and lamb rib bones, chicken, duck and rabbit bones, kangaroo (not leg bones). Be aware that bones contain marrow which is a very rich/ fatty material which can initially cause digestion issues or weight gain if fed in large amounts.

Dog feeding frequency

The same rules apply as for any dog diet. Puppies up to six months old typically are fed at least three times per day and they are fed more meat and softer bones under supervision. Adult dogs are usually fed one main meal at night and a lighter meal in the morning after their morning walk.

Raw meat feeding concerns

When transitioning to a raw diet some owners have concerns over dog safety due to bacteria levels etc. It should be remembered that in the wild dogs hunt down prey and scavenge dead animals, they do what they have to survive. This MO allows them to build up a strong resistance to many forms of bacteria that would make humans very sick.

Because our domestic dogs have many been feed a sanitised diet they don’t initially have as strong a resistance as their wild cousins. That doesn’t stop them burying bones in the back yard for later, however if a dog has not been feed a specific type of meat or bone, it may take some time to adjust. You may initially hear some stomach gurgling as their stomach and intestine bacteria learn to adjust to digesting new meals.

However if you buy meat from a reputable source and refrigerate or freeze it as you do your own meat, there should be no issue.

..... Dog With a bone
  Archie after the marrow

TRANSITION TO A RAW DOG DIET

This is the same as whether you are going from one type of pellet to another type, pellet to wet canned dog food or proper meat. You need to take the transition slow. While dogs can and often will eat anything, because of their inherent scavenger nature, rapidly changing main diets can make them considerably sick. The most obvious sign is usually diarrhoea as their digestive system becomes accustomed to the new food.

When changing to meat and bones as the primary source of food your dog may for the first time in its life be flooded with real meat proteins (as opposed to vegetable proteins) and raw fats. While these meat products are natural and incredibly good for them, their system (and gut bacteria) will have to adjust to processing the new proteins. It is recommended that you transition from the original diet to the new diet over a full week or two. If your dog shows any severe sickness or itching or any skin or health problems, you may need to check if it is allergic to some species of meat. While this is quite rare, there are certain breeds such as the Dalmatian that require a very low protein diet (due to poor original breeding design).

One raw meat proponent suggests transitioning to one species of meat at a time. They also suggest that as part of the transition you should feed it its regular meal, such as 90% pellets then 10% chicken and keep adjusting the meat percentage upwards over a week or so. They also suggest that due to different digestion rates you should feed your dog in two separate meals during the transition process. Even though chicken is often one of the easier meats to transition to, you may have to start transitioning from cooked chicken and then to raw chicken breast, then to raw chicken breast with bone or supplemented by chicken wings or chicken necks.

Once your dog has made the full transition to raw chicken meat and bone, you may try and introduce 10% beef or rabbit and increase the percentage of this over a week. This way your dog will slowly be learning to digest different meats, will benefit from the different protein mixes and its digestive and immunity systems will not be overloaded.

After your dog has gotten used to eating two animal meat and bone (such as chicken and beef) in one meal, you can try and introduce small amounts of liver and other offal. You might want to start with a piece the size of a coin, however another method is to introduce these meats to your dog via oven dried dog treats. Beef liver is the main training treat, but you can also get beef lung, tendons, and dog treats that include the whole of the animal (all meat and offal).

DOG TREAT OPTIONS for a raw or commercial dog food feeder

I will continue throughout this artile to give a very thorough basis for raw feeding, but if you want the short cut here it is.

If you want to continue with your commerical dog food diet (mostly non meat), then many owners find that a 'similar meat' transition to what their dog already eats, but in a more chewy form provides many benefits. Besides primal and jaw strengthening and teeth cleaning jerkies provide the animal proteins and fats that your dog craves and needs.  The easy option for the familiar is beef and chicken jerkies.

Your dog also needs offal, but not unidentiried over cooked waste products that often end up in the commercial dog food chain. Offal treats range from heart, to kidneys, liver and lung, basically any organ found in the animal that often has much higher nutrients (certain vitamins) than muscle meat.  The most obvious offal options in our range are Beef liver and Roo liver, Lamb puff (lung), beef cube and beef puff (lung).

Bones can be more problematic if a dog is not careful with how it eats them, and assuming that it can actually break down the whole large bone safely. If it can we have an extensive range of bones.  The hardest option is Kangaroo clod bone, The meatiest options are lamb neck and roo tail peices. The most exotic are the Crocodile bone dog treats.

DOG MEAT MEAL COMBINATIONS

What you are generally doing is looking at staying in the 2.5% of body weight zone for an average exercise adult dog. The type of meat, bone and offal you use will be dependent on availability, cost, dog preference, dog tolerance etc.

Once you have sufficiently introduced all the meat types to your dog, you can work out a balanced feeding schedule, perhaps in one week blocks. Remember to adjust the total weight and types of meats to match your dogs exercise and metabolism. You want to feed them so they remain in the ‘sweet spot’ of weight. That means so that they are not so skinny that you see ribs, but not so fat that you don’t see a waist.

If feeding two meals you may like to make one the more bone meal, and the other the more meat orientated. For instance with our dog we give him the bonier meal after his big morning run when he is fully awake and hungry from the night time fast. He relishes chomping down on the bones. If your dog does not like fish or it is too expensive to get them the oily fish, you may like to supplement them with Omega 3 capsules as described elsewhere on this site. You should be aware that besides all of the miraculous benefits that Omega 3 will provide your dog, that a dogs main energy source is extracted from animal proteins and fat, not carbohydrates. Cheese, eggs and varied meat dog treats may also be added.

The following is an example weekly diet for a 20 Kg relatively active middle aged dog (ref 1)

Day 1
Breakfast: turkey steak
Dinner: skin-on duck leg & thigh quarter
Day 2
Breakfast: lump of pork meat
Dinner: skin-on duck breast & wing quarter + a raw egg
Day 3
Breakfast: whole lambs heart
Dinner: slab of meaty pork ribs + a small amount of kidney/pancreas/lungs
Day 4
Breakfast: lump of beef meat (usually brisket)
Dinner: skin-on chicken breast & wing quarter
Day 5
Breakfast: chunks/strips of tripe + a raw egg (shell and all)
Dinner: slab of lamb ribs
Day 6
Breakfast: turkey steak
Dinner: skin-on chicken breast & wing quarter
Day 7
Breakfast: lump of beef meat
Dinner: slab of meaty pork ribs + a small amount of lamb or ox liver

CONCLUSION

There is a lot of information available on the 'Raw Meaty Bones'/prey model'. The vast majority of dogs will be much healthier for eating a diversity of raw meats, offal and bones. Their internal organs, coats, teeth, immune responses etc may noticeably improve. When buying meats from markets you will probably find the feed cost comparable if not better than the much less healthy manufactured options.

The main reasons that owners do not stick to this method is that is less convenient to deal with raw meat. There may be more cleaning up and you may have to come up with a method of separating out the meals and freezing them to make bulk savings. The advice is to stick with it.

The immediate benefit for your dogs will be that they stools will be much smaller and they will not refuse meals as often as they can easily get bored from the same dry or wet food concoctions. They will also have the challenge of how to eat each different type of meat and bone, not just inhaling the same size pellet or homogenous soy (made to look like meat) chunk.

As a health precaution some owners like to freeze all their meats from 48 hours to one week before defrosting and feeding. It is believed that this will most likely kill any parasites that may be in the meat. Other people don’t believe that this is necessary as if you are feeding human grade meat, no parasites should be in the meat, and dogs in the wild would learn how to cope with these parasites. As long as you continue with a thorough worming regime the majority of the dangerous parasites that you get in the developed world should be covered.

The main meats that you may want to concentrate on extended freezing are: pork, salmon and wild game.

Some people still feed their dog’s vegetables and vitamin supplements. If these are a relatively small proportion compared to the meat, then that is probably unnecessary but acceptable. I personally find the feeding example above quite demanding and know that my dog has refused several of the more exotic meats and offal. The reality is that I may not have exercised him enough before the meals, and the new meats where not introduced in small enough amounts, regularly enough.

Also note that while raw feeding is about using 100% meat, even though it is often suggested that it should be frozen first. This suggests that supplementing this diet with 100% meat oven dried dog treats (particularly more exotic animals or organs that you may not want to deal with or find it hard to purchase) could be a good alternative. At night for instance feeding your dog a smoke bone or kangaroo stick, duck or emu treats will be a lot less messy in your house than letting them eat raw meat in your living room!

 

Article by Bruce Dwyer. If you wish to use any of this information please refer to the article as a reference and provide a link to http://www.healthydogtreats.com.au

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Resources

Ref 1 - http://www.petforums.co.uk/dog-health-nutrition/111437-raw-feeding-everything-you-need-know.html

Ref 2 – Raw diet. Tom Lonsdale -  http://www.rawmeatybones.com/

Ref 3 - BARF -  See information on Dr Ian Billinghurst

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