Why Do Dogs Need Tripe & Organ Meats
Tripe, the stomach lining of a ruminant, usually cattle or sheep, is a beautiful thing. Dogs love it. It’s nutritious, pre- and pro-biotic and it’s cheap. What’s not to like? But do they need it? Actually no, they don’t NEED it, but let me tell you why it is a wonder-food you should always have as part of your dog’s food rotation.
Green tripe (stained by grass eaten by the previous owner) from cows is the most common type. It’s hosed at the abattoir to remove most (not all) of the grassy contents but is layered with trillions of good bugs, as you can imagine. Lamb tripe (not necessarily from lambs, but definitely from a sheep), looks similar and is an excellent substitute if your dog is one of the few who cannot tolerate, or dislikes, the beefy variety.
First Raw Meat
It can be whiffy, but that’s why dogs like it! It’s excellent, either lamb or beef tripe, as a first meat if you’re transitioning from kibble on to raw. It’s great if your dog has a gut upset and really useful to encourage fussy dogs to eat – if you add a little tripe to almost any meal, success is almost always guaranteed! It is one of the few meats that is a good source of essential manganese (along with hair/fur). It also packs an impressive amount of essential vitamin B12, selenium and zinc.
In Europe, we don’t, generally, raise cattle in intensively farmed, grassless feedlots, as they do in the USA (but that may be changing – watch this space). Animals are fed large quantities of grain to encourage rapid growth and fattening. I disagree with this practice on welfare grounds; the poor beasts were meant to be out in the fields eating grass, not packed in lots of up to 3,000 head like battery hens. Tripe can have grain particles on it, but not if you source from grass-fed farms. If your dog is grain (wheat, oat or barley) sensitive, this is, perhaps, something to watch for.
Meat or Organ?
Is tripe an organ meat? Well, yes and no. It comes from the abdomen like liver and kidney but isn’t strictly considered an organ as it’s not as specialised as these detoxifying organs. In recent years we’re learning more and more of the importance of the microbiome. This is never more critical than in sheep and cattle who utterly depend on the bugs in their capacious four stomachs. Tripe contains and helps them regulate those bugs, so we should not look down our visceral noses at the humble stomach lining.
All the organs, including tripe, have a part to play in the health of the meat-producing animal and in turn our pet carnivores who consume them.
Why Do Dogs Need Organ Meats?
As we discussed in our blog on Tripe, all the internal organs that make up the ‘viscera’ or ‘offal’ contribute to a diet providing all the necessary nutrients for the long and healthy lives of our dogs. Let’s have a look at the main organs and the part they play in a balanced diet.
Liver is the supremo of the body organs (don’t let the brain and heart hear me say that!). In humans, it packs a whopping 1,386% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin B12, 730% RDI for copper and 522% RDI for vitamin A in a 100g serving. The B vitamins are water-soluble, so you can’t overdose on these, but you shouldn’t feed too much liver for too long because vitamin A and copper can build up. I usually say add organ meat up to 20% of the diet, but only 2-3 times a week. Alternatively, you can feed smaller amounts more regularly.
The kidney, the rock star filterer of blood and producer of urine to cleanse the body of toxins, is packed with goodness. For humans (dogs are similar) they contain, per 100g serving, 167% RDI of riboflavin, vitamin B2, essential for cellular metabolism, 458% of vitamin B12, cobalamin, which is used in the treatment of human cervical cancer, migraine headaches and even burning feet syndrome! Interestingly, it contains twice the amount of vitamin C compared to raw liver and is a huge source of omega-3 fatty acids for anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Because it is lower in copper and vitamin A than liver, it can be fed more generously.
Heart is rich in folate, iron, zinc and selenium. It is also a great source of vitamins B2, B6, B12 and essential choline, taurine and the antioxidant coenzyme Q10. When combined, they are known to have a ‘cardio-protective effect’ – they support and protect the heart from disease. Because the heart works so hard and so continuously, supplying organ-derived nutrients is really beneficial. In my practice, I always prescribe high levels of heart in the diet of my cardiac patients.
You’re probably familiar with how good liver, kidney and heart are. Their PR machines have been working overtime for centuries. Less well known is the wonderful nutrients and enzymes found in pancreas. In the body, the pancreas does two main jobs. It makes hormones (insulin to reduce blood sugar, glucagon to increase blood sugar and somatostatin, otherwise clunkily known as growth hormone inhibiting hormone (GHIH). It is also THE digestive enzyme factory of the intestine. Nutritionally, pancreas provides loads of vitamin B12, but otherwise a really nice range of all the other minerals and vitamins the dog needs. It doesn’t, interestingly, contain any vitamin A, but contain ten times as much vitamin C as raw liver.
Pancreas’s other super-power is its enzymes. If pancreas is fed to dogs who have difficulty digesting protein, fat and carbs, it can add to the enzymes produced by that dog’s pancreas. You can get digestive enzymes as powders or capsules. Feeding raw pancreas seems so much more natural for those dogs who need it.
If the liver is the supremo of the organs, which is the boss? Perhaps it’s the skin. Yes, an animal’s entire skin system, including hair, nails and glands are considered an organ. Not only that, the biggest organ of any body. I call the skin organ the boss because without it all the other organs would have nowhere to live! Skin is not often discussed in conversations about organs, unfortunately, because it’s packed with minerals, fats and vitamins. It’s also essential because it cleans teeth.
Many raw fed dogs have gleaming white molars and incisors, but often, even the very healthiest can have a trace of tartar on the outside of the canines, the big fangs at the front corners of the jaw. In the wild, dogs chew skin, as well as crunch bones. Chewing through leathery hide brushes this little niche. If feeding dried hide, complete with fur, is not part of your raw food routine, then you should make it so. Large, furry, leathery hide chews are available. I’m not talking about the knotted ‘raw hide’ nightmare chews – they are rubbish and should be avoided. I’m talking skin taken from deer, cattle or sheep that’s just been dried, sometimes rolled and dried. They make perfect chews, even for dogs whose owners can’t bring themselves to feed bones.
Why do dogs need organ meat? Because they’ve been eating them all, including skin and hooves and every other conceivable tissue for millions of years. A well thought out raw dog food diet cannot be without a broad rotating range of offal. And dogs love it.]]>