It’s not hard really! Dogs have carnivores’ teeth, they have a carnivore’s digestive system, they have a carnivore’s hunting behaviour – they are carnivores! So feed them like a carnivore, not like a seed-eater. Carnivores eat prey. So feed your dog on the closest thing to live prey as possible for optimal health: meat, bones and organs (e.g. heart)
A simple, easy and safe strategy is to feed a combination of a high quality minced ‘prey equivalent’ diet along with raw bones, providing all important nutrients with the added emotional and dental benefits of crunching through raw bone.
My personal route to enlightenment happened some 20 years ago when I attended a weekend course on rabbit medicine and diseases, when I learned that most rabbit disease is prevented simply by feeding the rabbit’s evolutionary diet – fibrous vegetation. I then wondered why things should be any different for our pet carnivores, and of course there is no difference – the best way to feed any animal is the diet to which it has evolved over millennia. So for a healthy pet blue whale, feed it on krill. For a sperm whale, feed it on giant squid – and feed a cow on grass not pork. Is it not strange then when we feed strict-carnivores such as cats on corn? Wild dogs and wolves are not quite so strictly carnivorous, especially during lean times, but the principle remains the same – they have not evolved to live off a diet containing 40% or more of highly processed carbohydrate or vegetable proteins like soya and maize gluten.
In an ideal world every carnivore would be fed on live prey. Clearly this is socially un-acceptable and impractical. As a practicing vet it I important I give my clients clear practical feeding strategies they can follow in their busy lives. There is always a trade-off between convenience, ideology, cost and practicalities. What is right for one pet owner may not work for another. So let’s not talk in ‘definites’ – there is no right or wrong, simply different ways of improving our pets (and our own) nutrition to greater or lesser degrees.
Perhaps the closest we can get to a carnivores diet is a ‘raw-meaty-bone diet, as espoused by Aussie vet Tom Lonsdale. Somewhat less demanding in terms of convenience, freezer space, and sheer hard work is to feed a quality meaty-mix such as Pro dog raw, supplemented by raw meaty bones on a regular basis.
What do I see as the main benefits of a raw meaty diet? The first thing you will notice is stool volume diminishes dramatically – poos are dry, almost crumbly with little odour – this can be a huge benefit of raw-feeding indoor cats too. Health-wise solid stools can help anal-gland-emptying problems.
Coat quality follows soon after – animal fats in the diet promote silky, shiny, odour-free fur. In particular dogs with a greasy musty smell and tacky coats take on a totally different appearance.
Many digestive upsets such as chronic diarrhoeas and colitis simply cease the moment your pet is switched.
Itchy skins can respond in a similar manner – though this can be a complicated disease where additional measures may be needed. Skin allergy tests on itchy dogs are so often positive for storage mites – yet the food is not contaminated by mites!? Most likely the food is made from cheap mite-contaminated grain, with the allergens persisting in the final diet – a good reason for avoiding any pet- food containing grain if you have an itchy dog.
A change of diet may promote a change in body shape with loss of fat and increased muscle.
Meaty diets give great ‘tummy satisfaction’ reducing hunger and promoting lean body form. Emotionally, chewing on bones provides further benefits, reducing boredom, and exercising teeth and gums for good dental health.
So what problems are associated with mainstream processed pet foods? Let me quote from a United Nations missive on human processed foods, explaining that they are “:formulations mostly of cheap industrial sources of dietary energy and nutrients plus additives, using a series of processes (hence ‘ultra-processed’). All together, they are energy-dense, high in unhealthy types of fat, refined starches, free sugars and salt, and poor sources of protein, dietary fibre and micronutrients. Ultra-processed products are made to be hyper-palatable and attractive, with long shelf-life, and able to be consumed anywhere, any time.
This description, in my opinion, applies perfectly to most dry pet-foods. Let’s see what their conclusions are:
“The ever-increasing production and consumption of these products is a world crisis, to be confronted, checked and reversed”
It’s never too late to switch your dog to raw. Learn how to do it properly and safely, and go for it!