Raw Feeding… Should I? Shouldn’t I?
Hi, I’m Beth, an owner of a small pet sitting and dog walking business in Berkshire. This is my first piece for a blog, so I hope it’s super informative for all you wonderful readers and does Louise proud!
So… A bit about me
In the past I have worked for 8 years at a local rescue centre (4 years voluntary, 4 years part time paid, the rest voluntary) and for 2 years at a small independent pet shop in Egham whilst I was at uni studying BSc Zoology, with a year or so stint of volunteering at Beale Park in between after enjoying 3 weeks there on work experience during my Animal Management extended diploma!
During my time at the rescue centre, I witnessed a post-vet-visit seizure – the animals were all vaccinated and given flea treatment during these visits, which first sparked my interest in researching natural alternatives with no warnings on the labels, and no potential for serious side effects. Furthermore, a client of mine, little Gracie, had a severe reaction to the L4 ‘booster’ and is incredibly lucky to be with us; and years later, is still under the care of a fantastic alternative vet called Christopher Day to help her with the ongoing repercussions of her ordeal. Numerous clients of mine who have been under his care for various reasons, have been put on a raw diet. That, alongside working in the industry at the pet shop where we only sold the healthier kibble/wet food brands, and my work with exotic animals in captivity made me want to learn about a more natural, healthier way of feeding; and so I did – I went on to study a diploma in canine nutrition!
If you haven’t worked, it out yet…. The optimum health (both mentally and physically) of pets is my passion! I hope to release a small, cited handbook about optimum health to help pet owners make an informed decision with regards to many aspects of healthcare – watch this space!
Raw Feeding Myths
Salmonella risk … did you know, salmonella is naturally present in both dogs and cats? According to alternative vet Dr Karen Becker’s research, salmonella is present in around 36% of healthy dogs and 18% of healthy cats regardless of what diet they’re being fed! Also, all meat used in ready made raw diets goes through strict preparations, testing and storage before being sold, all in compliance with DEFRA regulations! When feeding raw, treat it like you would meat for human consumption – wash surfaces and bowls with hot soapy water and… don’t lick them!
But raw is so expensive?! … nope ... not always! There are some expensive complete raw diets on the market, yes … but there’s also some cheaper ones, and once you’re experienced enough in balancing the diet, DIY raw feeding can be pennies per meal!
Raw diets are unbalanced … ONLY if fed wrong! See the ‘How To’ section!
Raw bones are dangerous! … incorrect! COOKED bones are dangerous – raw bones are generally safer. As with any chew item, never leave a dog unsupervised with it – but feeding raw bones isn’t any more dangerous than a plush toy (even safer as any larger parts swallowed will be digested)! They help keep teeth clean, provide great mental stimulation, and are essential as part of a raw diet as they supply the body with a good amount of calcium. I always advise avoiding weight baring bones, however. Ribs, spine, wings amongst others are fab though, as there’s no risk of splintering.
But my vet says not to! … vets have very little nutrition training during their degree – often taught by large kibble companies (of which one popular veterinary brand is preserved with known carcinogenic chemicals BHA and BHT which also preserve antifreeze spray, and another popular veterinary brand which has had numerous recalls in recent years due to the foods containing dangerously high levels of Vitamin D). There are some vets who recommend a raw diet – some are not allowed as per practice rules … quote from an anonymous person I stumbled upon on Facebook one evening; “my vet told me he’s not allowed to recommend a raw diet but that he wouldn’t feed anything else!”. When looking at the short canine digestive system, and canine dentition, we can see that dogs are facultative carnivores, proving a biologically appropriate raw diet is perfect.
When feeding raw, one can feed either raw completes, or DIY raw. Raw completes are balanced (though some dogs require less or more bone than others so extra can be added, or a bone-free mince can be fed every few days to help this) and just require defrosting, weighing out and serving! DIY feeding requires a little more attention to the bowl. The bowl should consist of 80% muscle meat (include some heart for a good level of taurine), 10% raw bone (egg shell can also be added to this), 5% liver (contains: Copper for good formation of bone, collagen and connection tissues, and absorption of iron. Vitamin B12 for good cognitive function, a healthy nervous system and blood cell formation. Vitamin A for healthy skin, coat and muscles. Riboflavin for healthy development as a puppy, and healthy eyes in adult years. Iron for good blood health) and 5% other excreting organ such as kidney, testicle, brain, spleen and lung. Protein sources should be varied regularly for a wider variety of vitamins and minerals.
Adult dogs need 2-3% of their ideal bodyweight (if very obese, then a little more than 3% of their target weight, slowly reduced as the weight comes off as to not shock the body), whereas puppies need roughly 5-8% of their bodyweight (increase portion as weight of dog increases) fed over 3-4 meals per day. Adults food can be balanced over the course of a week, but puppies food needs to be balanced daily.
Supplements can be added for optimum health, joint care, pest control etc, but I won’t go into that here! If there’s enough interest, let Louise know and ill write a post on supplements!
Raw food and behaviour
So, now for the main reason I’m here, on a training blog… does the food you feed have an impact on behaviour? Yes, in many cases!
Many kibbles, particularly low-end brands, as well as some veterinary brands are preserved with chemicals. These chemicals can lead to hyper-activity. What I consider a ‘hyperactive’ dog, is very different to an ‘energetic’ dog. Energetic dogs have a good stamina, usually better focus, and are often much calmer in the home. Hyperactive dogs often lack focus/concentration, stamina and can be much more destructive in the home – as if they’re ‘wired’. The chemicals used often trigger an allergic reaction too, which can cause many more health problems such as hair-loss, itching etc which vets often treat with immune suppressing drugs such as Apoquel and Cytopoint often triggering existing, but previously dormant cancer cells. You can heal from within, starting with the diet, before resorting to drugs!
What about carbs? Many commercial kibble brands contain a huge amount of carbohydrates! A diet which is high in carbohydrate and lower in protein can be very detrimental to mental health, which can lead to aggression, ‘mood swings’ and sometimes even lethargy. A raw diet doesn’t have to contain carbs – in fact the only carbs it should contain, if any, would be in the form of a little veg, however there is a lot of veg which is low carb, and great as part of a raw diet. There is an old wives tale you may have heard of, which states high protein diets lead to hyperactivity … this has been debunked! Raw is actually higher in moisture than protein anyway.
Other chemical additives have been linked with lethargy and unwillingness to work. Those on raw often have more energy and ability to focus on the task at hand than those on commercially prepared kibble due to the ease in the ability to metabolise the fresh food, the lack of chemicals, the high moisture content, and the significant lack of carbs and cheap fillers when compared to kibble diets.
A huge host of health and behavioural problems can be eased through feeding a healthier, raw diet. If raw feeding is impossible for you or your dog (I understand it does take up a lot of freezer space, and doesn’t always work for every dog), look at a higher end wet food such as Forthglade (fab for raw feeders when on holiday too!), or Natures Menu Country Hunter tins.
I really hope this blog post helps someone struggling to flatten out a behavioural or health problem!
Hugs to your pets!
Review of Royal Canin, Hills and Burns: https://www.doglistener.co.uk/dog-food-review-royal-canin-hills-and-burns
Review of Pedigree and Bakers: https://www.doglistener.co.uk/bakers-pedigree-dogfood
More Myths: http://rawfed.com/myths/ and https://www.doglistener.co.uk/high-protein-myth-regarding-dog-food