Dogs have been domesticated as early as the age of the Dinosaurs as proven by an archaeological find in the Czech Republic: the remains of a Paleolithic dog with a mammoth bone still in its mouth unearthed in an archaeological site in Předmostí, Czech Republic.¹ This indicates the already close relationship between the early canids and humans. They served as beasts of burden and companions at the same time. The mammoth bone in the skull’s mouth is an indication that the creature had raw meaty bones as its diet.
Our ancient ancestors provided the companion dog whole carcasses when available, raw meaty bones, offal and leftover scraps. 2 The dog would then supplement what little food it received by foraging and scavenging on its own, or hunting small prey animals.3 As carnivores, they are just doing what Nature has intended for them. The human masters of these carnivores were also guided by Nature unlike today, wherein we are conditioned and influenced by the words of so called experts who discuss feeding in terms of calories, proteins, fats and a host of other scientific concepts.2
Dogs are carnivores because their external and internal anatomy and physiology are designed for meat eating. If you look at the dentition of the dog, the mouth is equipped with sharp incisors, canines, premolars and molars. The incisors are positioned and designed to be used for pulling and chewing meat off the bone, for holding food, grooming, and nibbling at skin parasites. The canines are designed for puncturing and ripping meat from the bone. Premolars are triangular and knife-like in shape so that it could cut through hide, tendons, meat and bones. The molars are the ones located way back in the mouth near the joint of the jaw bone. They are designed to crush meat and bone in the up-and-down motion of the jaws. This straight forward up and down motion facilitates simple dicing and crushing of food before it is swallowed in large pieces. They never allow movement from side to side which would allow more chewing and grinding action on the food such as those observed with humans and animals that have plant material in their diet. The muscles of the jaw and neck are even powerful and assist in capturing and subjugating prey besides the mechanical function of cutting and chewing into meat, bone and hide of the carcass.4 Ripping, tearing, and chewing raw meat, bones and carcasses not only bestow nutritional benefits but also
contribute to the animal’s physiological and psychological wellbeing. It is not enough that they get fed everyday; the time and effort that they expend in chewing and tearing into meat and bones exercises the muscles of the body especially the jaws and neck and tones the other body systems (digestive, nervous, hormonal, and immune systems). Eating tough, chewy carcasses or large pieces of raw meaty bones even cleans the teeth and gums and clean teeth and gums are an essential part of what it means to be healthy.
Internally, dogs have a simple and elastic stomach that can hold large quantities of meat, bone, organs, and hide.5 The foregut and colon are both short with the latter even having a smooth, and unsacculated architecture facilitating a quicker passage of food.6 Their digestive system is not designed to break down and digest food of plant origin. They don’t normally have the necessary enzymes and bacteria to break-down starches, cellulose, and carbohydrates from plant sources.6 The world’s leading authority on pet care and nutrition, Waltham®, have even determined through their own research into pet nutrition that dogs are indeed carnivores as mentioned from the above anatomical and physiological attributes. Despite this characteristic digestive anatomy, dogs are erroneously claimed to be plant eaters
(omnivores) because of the wrong assumption that they ingest the stomach contents of their prey just like their close ancestor the wolf; however, this is just an assumption since studies and observations from wolf experts themselves indicate that wolves do not eat the contents of the intestinal tract but they do eat the intestinal tract itself. 6 In David Mech’s book, “Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation,” he states that wolves would tear and puncture the body cavity of their prey consuming the internal organs and spilling the content of the stomach and intestines. They have no interest in eating the contents of the digestive tract. Dogs are not too far removed from wolves, on the contrary, they are close genetic cousins sharing almost 100% mitochondrial DNA; therefore, a dog’s digestive system does not differ from the wolf.7 They have the same physiological and nutritional needs as those of their carnivorous cousins: they also need to ingest all of the flesh and major organs of other animals for growth and maintenance and leave out the ingested plant material inside the guts of their kill.
Left to their own devices in the wild, dogs will form packs and hunt other
animals just like wolves.7 They could even interbreed with them and produce fertile offspring because of their close genetic relationship.7
Dogs, therefore, should be fed a carnivorous diet similar to what their wild cousins have been eating for thousands, if not millions of years. That diet consists of a whole carcass or the whole prey itself (organs, edible bones, muscle meat, skin, hide, hair, feathers, fat and other body tissues). This is Nature’s design of providing proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins and trace elements to carnivores in a raw, tough, and chewy form and texture. Commercial pet food, therefore, whether in kibble or canned form, is not a natural and appropriate diet
for our carnivore companions. Besides the carbohydrates from plant sources, waste materials of the human food industry are also utilized as ingredients. Its consumption, therefore, has even brought about a
myriad of diseases that were once non-existent: dermatitis, cancer, joint problems, heart problems, kidney problems, digestive problems, liver problems, pancreas problems, coat problems, tooth problems, anal gland problems, glandular disorders, allergies, and others.8 Pet-food companies even admit that after three years of consuming such a diet, dogs suffer from periodontal and gums diseases due to the fact that canned food and kibble does not clean teeth. Food particles stick to the teeth and serves as nutrients for oral bacteria leading to teeth and gum disease.2
Susan Thixton, a pet food safety advocate, says that we need to question the manufacturers on the kind of raw materials that they use in producing
pet food products. Government regulations on raw materials such as meat (beef, chicken, lamb, venison, etc.), meat by-products, meat meal, animal by-products, meat and bone meal, fish meal, and egg product allows for variation in implementation depending on the regulatory definition of the material. Just as long as it is suitable for use in animal food, these materials can be sourced either from slaughtered, 4D (dead, dying, diseased or disabled) animals, or both.9 Quality and whatever component of the animal is included in the material is not strictly monitored. The rise of the “Salvage Food” industry has even taken advantage of this situation — selling food waste generated by other industries to the pet food companies.
Other raw materials being utilized together with the meat ingredients are vegetable and fruit ingredients,vegetable protein, vegetable flour, vegetable fiber, vegetable oil (canola oil, etc.), flavor additives (idacetyl, 2,3-pentanedion, etc.), thickeners, and various preservatives. Vegetable and fruit ingredients, vegetable protein, flour, fiber, and oil are also unnatural for carnivores. Just like meat products, they can be sourced either from fresh produce, waste material or both. Flavor additives, thickeners, and various preservatives obviously have no nutritional value and are even harmful to the animal.
Further advances in food manufacturing in the late 1950s led to the development of the extrusion process wherein meat, fat, and grain scraps are cooked at high temperatures and passed through a die to form the familiar pelleted feed.10 Unfortunately, this process also creates all sorts of toxic reactions including advanced glycation end products and heterocyclic amines in the food product.10 Glycation end products causes inflammatory disease conditions and is carcinogenic.11 Heterocyclic amines are also carcinogenic.11
For most people, however, feeding whole carcasses or whole prey might be difficult and expensive. Canned and packaged food is much more convenient compared to sourcing and preparing a prey model diet that requires work and dedication. Commercial pet food is indeed convenient but you are feeding unnatural food and toxic additives which cause a whole lot of health problems and shortens the lifespan of the animal. Rather than thinking of convenience, we should be more concerned of the health and well-being of our pets. You would not feed unhealthy food to your own human companions if you know full well that it would be detrimental to their health and well-being. Yes, admittedly, it requires work and dedication but in the long run future cost are reduced since your pet being at its peak of health have minimal need for medical expenses and purchases of pet supplements and supplies. Pet owners are also spared from the stress and guilt of having to deal with a diseased and/or dying animal. As time goes by and your dog’s diet diversifies from one raw carcass to another, you have already found ways to cut cost and time and established relationships with reliable suppliers of meat and carcasses.
How about a home-made, home-cooked diet and the so-called BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food) diet advocated by Dr. Billinghurst? Are these appropriate enough? The answer would still be no since there is no better alternative to raw feeding. Cooking food, just like extrusion, would alter the proteins, vitamins, fats, minerals and enzymes in food. The bioavailability of these nutrients is decreased. Proteins become less digestible, are abrasive on the intestines, and causes allergy in animals that eat them.¹² Fats become toxic and the balance of short and long chain fatty acids are changed.¹² BARF, on the other hand, is a wrong approach to raw feeding due to the fact that Dr. Billinghurst had a history of being involved with the Raw Meaty Bones Lobby, a Sydney veterinary doctors’ lobby group advocating raw diet for pets, and then later on resigned to promote his own take on raw feeding with the erroneous belief that dogs are omnivores so that his diet also consists of vegetables, fruit, milk products, high priced bottled supplements and grain.¹³ He even advocates giving grounded meat and bone in order to avoid the risk of choking on bones; however, this type of food preparation can still cause choking especially if the dog tends to gulp down or swallow its food without thorough chewing and the benefit of dental health is lost as well as the psychological and physiological good that the animal gets in ripping, tearing, and chewing its food. But how do you switch your pet to a raw diet? What are the basic guidelines that people could follow to get their pets to eat raw food without any hitches? It all depends on you and how your pet would respond to the change. You could try to stop feeding commercial dog food right away and start feeding raw meaty bones or you could fast the animal for a day to detox your pet from the commercial pet food.14 You could also try to tempt the animal by rattling the bowl and tossing small pieces of meat, mixing chopped meat and commercial pet food or coating the raw meaty bones with dog food. The important thing is to start off slowly, picking out one type of meat and feeding that for about a week or more. Whole chickens or chicken backs and frames is a good start for all sizes of dogs.2 According to Tom Lonsdale’s book, “Work Wonders – Feed Your Dog Raw Meaty Bones,” quality raw meaty bones and carcasses are as follows:
1. Chicken and turkey backs and frames
2. Poultry heads, feet, necks and wings
3. Whole fish and fish heads
4. Carcasses of goat, sheep, lamb, calf, deer and kangaroo sawn into large pieces
5. Pigs’ trotters, pigs’ heads, sheep heads, brisket, tail bones and rib bones
Once your pet is used to eating raw meaty bones for a period of time (a week or more), try adding something new: a little organ meat (heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, intestines, etc.), or a new meat type (beef, pork, lamb, venison, etc.).14 Take your time, allow a week or so and let your pet adjust slowly to the change in food before adding another new food item.
When feeding wild game like quail, pheasant, dove, duck, goose, deer, elk, bison, etc., check the carcass thoroughly for lead shots or pellets to prevent its ingestion and freeze the meat or carcass (preferably at – 20 °C) for at least 24 hours prior to feeding to kill any parasites; however, if the carcass comes from a reliable source then you don’t need to freeze it.15
Do not feed fish everyday and it should not be the main component of the diet since certain species of fish like carp, smelt, herring and catfish can cause thiamine deficiency.15 Fish, also, carry parasites so you need to freeze it first for at least 24 hours to kill them.15 Fresh fish caught using fishing hooks should be inspected to ensure that there are no fish hooks left inside the belly, stomach, throat, and mouth. Sharp spines or dorsal fins on certain fish (catfish, bass, etc.) should be cut off.
Wild rodents like squirrels, rats, mice, etc., and rabbits should be acquired from reliable sources, if possible, since they not only carry parasites but, also infectious diseases like the plague.15 They must be frozen first for one month or more before feeding.15
Do not feed weight-bearing bones of large herbivores like femurs, knuckle bones, etc.15 They can break a dog’s teeth.
Do not feed too much organ meats (heart, lung, kidneys, intestines, etc.) to prevent bouts of diarrhea.15
Liver can be fed once every two weeks in addition to the raw meaty bones and should not be more frequent than this to prevent an excess of vitamin A.
Pancreas can supply needed digestive enzymes and can help dogs that have pancreatic insufficiency.
Sick animals, who are unable to eat raw meaty bones, can be given chopped or grounded meat and offal instead.2 This should be done until the animal has regained its health.
Sensitivity or allergy to a specific type of meat can be alleviated by changing to a different meat type (from beef to rabbit, turkey, etc.).
Raw meaty bones should make up 70% of the diet, the rest are offal or organ meat. However, if offal is not available, 100% of the diet can be solely composed of raw meaty bones.2
You can feed raw meaty bones and whole carcasses partially frozen, totally frozen, or totally thawed.15 It all depends on your pet’s preference. Giving frozen raw meaty bones would train your dog to thoroughly chew their food and really work at it and not gulp it down resulting to possible choking or digestive problems. Feed raw meaty bones in as large of a piece as possible.
Rule of thumb: feed something bigger than the dog’s head.15 A whole slab of ribs joined together can be given to big dogs; chicken quarters can be given to smaller dogs. If there are leftovers, simply pick them up, refrigerate or refreeze them, and feed it the next day.
A dish or food container is usually not needed when feeding unless you want to add other items together with the RMBs (raw meaty bones) like whole eggs, organ meat, or fish.
You can feed the animal outside, in its cage or crate, corner of the kitchen, garage, or laundry area. If fed outside, the carcass or RMBs can be thrown on the ground. Partly-eaten bones can be left for further nibbling. You can also train the animal to eat in a specific spot inside the house using a towel or plastic table cloth.15 If the dog wanders off the cloth or towel, pick up the food and place it back on the cloth or towel and at the same time give verbal commands such as “Stay” to reinforce the idea that he/she is supposed to stay on that specific spot.15 After feeding you can clean the plastic cloth with regular soap and water or have the towel laundered.
You can feed in the morning, afternoon, or evening. It all depends on the time that is convenient for you and your dog. You can also make feeding times random if your pet becomes familiar with the routine and annoys you. Let the dog spend at least 10 – 30 minutes on eating.
The general guidelines for frequency of feeding is: 3 times a day feeding for puppies 4 -5 months of age, 2 times a day feeding for dogs over 6 months of age, and once a day feeding for mature dogs from one year of age and up. These are general guidelines and can be adjusted or modified depending on the feeding behavior of your pet.
Dogs can also be fasted for a day to cleanse and tone the body and to rest the digestive system.15 This copies what wild canids experience in the wild. Food is not readily available everyday so most of the time, the dog’s cousin, the wolf, would go on days without food.
Raw feeders even employ a technique wherein the dog receives a huge meal the night before the fast and then fasted the next day.15 A light meal can be given in the morning after the fast or a huge meal (a whole carcass or half of a huge animal carcass) is given in the evening. Often dog owners complain of their pets not being consistent with their appetites. The dog will have a healthy appetite one day and then become picky the next day. This situation would be a perfect time to fast your pet during times when he/she becomes sporadic in their appetite.
The recommended amount of food to be given to your pet per day is 2-3% of the desired body weight and is adjusted depending on the animal’s age, body condition and level of activity.15 Big dogs, on the other hand, need less (1% of their body weight).
Puppies under 4 months of age normally regulate their food intake and tend not to overeat; however, there are certain individuals that tend to gorge themselves until their belly get distended. In this case, regulate the food intake at the 2-3% level to prevent obesity. If, on the other hand, the dog does not put on any weight despite a healthy appetite, have a veterinarian perform a fecal examination to find out if the animal harbors any worms or other parasites.
A paradigm shift from commercial pet food back to the natural way of feeding our pets can help us in our global advocacy of protecting the environment. We would do away with the manufacturing and use of junk pet-food. Essential resources like land, cereal crops, processing materials, and others can be utilized for other useful purposes. There would also be a lesser need for harmful products (pharmaceuticals, shampoos, insecticides, etc.) produced by harmful industries. People who naturally raise other animals for food purposes will be supported and will serve as a structure for a more environmental friendly industry.
In retrospect, I would like to quote a statement from Dr. Lonsdale book, “Work Wonders – Feed Your Dog Raw Meaty Bones,” where he states that we should let our minds travel back to a time when Nature’s teachings were the first and only set of instructions. Rightly so, we should get back to Nature, get back to the basics. Nature can never go wrong only our cultural conditioning and programming is the one that is flawed.
1 Jennifer Viegas, “Prehistoric Dog Found with Mammoth Bone in Mouth,” news.discovery.com, http://news. discovery.com/animals/zoo-animals/paleolithic-dogs-111007.htm (accessed July 5, 2014).
2 Tom Lonsdale, Work Wonders – Feed Your Dog Raw Meaty Bones, Rivetco P/L, 2005.
3 Myths About Raw Feeding – Myth: Dogs Have Been Domesticated so Long That They Have Adapted to Cooked Diets, rawfed.com, http://rawfed.com/myths /cooked.html (accessed July 7, 2014).
4 G.A. Feldhamer, Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology, (McGraw-Hill, 1999), pp. 258-259.
5 G.A. Feldhamer, Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology, (McGraw-Hill, 1999), p. 260.
6 Myths About Raw Feeding – Myth: Dogs Are Ominivores, rawfed.com, http://rawfed.com/myths/
omnivores.html (accessed July 7, 2014).
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8 Myths About Raw Feeding – Myth: Millions of Dogs are Safely Eating ‘Complete and Balanced’ Commercial Foods Each Day, rawfed.com, http://rawfed.com/myths/kibble.html (accessed July 7, 2014).
9 Susan Thixton, “It’s All Chicken to Pet Food,” TruthaboutPetFood.com, http://truthaboutpetfood.com/its-all-chicken-to-pet-food/ (accessed July 7, 2014).
10 Dr. Karen Becker, “The Best “Pet” Food Money Can Buy… And the Absolute Worst,” healthypets.mercola.com, http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2013/11/13/pet-food-industry.aspx (accessed July 7, 2014).
11 Dr. Karen Becker, “Did You Know a Raw Diet Can Literally Feed Your Pet Into Good Health?,” healthypets.mercola.com, http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2013/03/11/pet-holistic-medicine.aspx (accessed August 14, 2014).
12 Myths About raw Feeding — Rebuttal to Second Chance Ranch/My Blue Dog Raw Meat Page, rawfed.com, http://rawfed.com/myths/rebuttal.html (accessed August 14, 2014).
13 Tom Lonsdale, Why Not ‘BARF’?, Rawmeatybones.com, http://www.rawmeatybones.com/
petowners/whynotBARF.php (accessed August 14, 2014).
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myths/switch.html (accessed July 7, 2014).
15 Myths About Raw Feeding – Feeding Dogs A Raw Diet: Practical Answers to Practical Questions, rawfed.com, http://rawfed.com/myths/feedraw.html (accessed July 7, 2014).