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Feeding

FEEDING

Dry Food or Raw?

If you want to transfer to raw feeding or to understand more about what is in the dry food you are feeding to their dog some of this may be useful.

I am not a qualified nutritionist so if you want to pick this apart, be gentle ?, but I am a great advocate for feeding non-processed foods where preferable just as in humans, so this is a guide only to what I feed, and what works well for my dogs.

I feed my dogs on a natural raw diet although I start puppies on dry food. There are three main options for feeding a dog. Dry/dry food in a sack, natural; bones and raw meat (BARF – or Biologically Appropriate Raw Feeding), and tinned/wet.

The advantages and disadvantages

  • Preservatives and Additives
  • Different bone types
  • Example quantities
  • Feeding puppies raw

The eating and digestion process of the modern dog is identical to wolves. Research at Uppsala from a few years ago – “The Genomic Signature of Dog Domestication Reveals Adaptation to a Starch-Rich Diet”, found evolved DNA changes to allow dogs to adapt better to digesting starch from carbohydrate based meals:

“Our results indicate that novel adaptations allowing the early ancestors of modern dogs to thrive on a diet rich in starch, relative to the carnivorous diet of wolves, constituted a crucial step in the early domestication of dogs.”

Just because novel adaptations have occurred, doesn’t mean it is natural or better to feed in any way different to the ancestors of dogs; just that dogs have allegedly adapted to being able to eat starch based carbohydrates better than their ancestors did.

Marketing Millions

Dogs have historically been fed on leftovers or what they could scavenge; scraps from the butchers, the occasional kill they found whilst out walking or hunting and later on tinned food. Then came……….. the Men from Marketing who succeeded in persuading an entire generation of dog owners worldwide, to feeding dry food from of a sack. They are certainly worth their fees.

22% of the UK population own at least one dog, and there are around 9 million dogs in the UK. Marketing budgets are enormous and company profits are vast. It is interestingly often the younger generation of vets who scorn raw feeding. Not that I am at all cynical, but could they be at all influenced by the generous sponsorship of their classes through vet schools, free gifts, marketing budgets, practice equipment and overseas conventions?! The raw food market has no such marketing budgets and it is very easy for dog food manufacturers to slam raw feeding as unbalanced/too difficult for the average owner/dangerous etc. Some vets, including mine are fortunately much in favour of raw feeding, but most are guilty of following the money and warn owners away from raw feeding with terrible tales of infections and blockages. Yes these can occur, but the most recent case of campylobacter I heard about was on a bitch fed on dry food, and part of a plastic toy in the intestine of another.

A book published by Australian vet Ian Billingshurst in 1993 called Give Your Dog a Bone, prompted a massive shift to return to raw feeding as owners and breeders wanted a more natural way of feeding their dogs. I have no idea how many dogs are now raw fed, but judging by the furious backlash from the PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers Association trade organisation), they all seem very worried about the dent to their profits.

Dogs are Primarily Carnivores NOT Herbivores

Dogs are primarily carnivores and occasional omnivores being designed to eat meat and bones. Their teeth are carnassial (meat tearing) not flat grain grinding teeth as a herbivore. They do use carbohydrate, but only around 15% primarily from the gut contents of their prey and that is mostly veg not all grain. If you are considering converting to raw feeding and your vet scorns the idea, ask him to explain what the dog’s tearing teeth are for and why he recommends you feed grain to a dog?

 

White Dog Pooh!

Do you ever wonder – ‘where white dog pooh has gone?!’ (Then again maybe you didn’t ? !) White pooh is the result of digested bones. Dogs today are generally fed on complete food with no bones and consequently have sloppy, wet plops of pooh. The stools are so large because the majority of complete food is cereal or filler based which dogs don’t digest. You’re paying for that to end up on the floor.

 

Scared of change?

Some owners are scared at a) the thought of bones getting stuck, and b) the thought of not giving enough nutrients and ‘upsetting the balance’.

a) bones can get stuck but more likely in the mouth or back of the throat than internally. If the dog chews properly the risk is eliminated. Sharp bits getting stuck or piercing the bowel is another fear. I have never experienced this but have heard many owners experience dogs having had surgery from eating various other foreign objects such as rawhide chews. One of my friend’s Dianne Burree’s bitches did have a lamb rib bone caught at the back of the throat, and she since feeds ground bones I prefer carcasses as the bone is so relatively soft, but still enough to clean teeth. Do allow your dog to eat grass, and if you can feed whole animals – rabbit for instance, you will find furry poohs wrapped around any sharp bits of bone in their pooh. *See bone types below.

b) ‘Balanced’ is a term bandied about by dry food manufacturers, but dogs do not naturally have a balanced diet over a period as short as a day; they balance and vary their requirements over a longer period. A wild dog or wolf survives on a diet of grains, grasses, seeds, berries etc until making a kill. If it is a medium sized kill, he will first empty the stomach contents of its pre-digested carbohydrates, then the digestive tract. He then eats the organs – liver, kidney, heart etc. He will then eat the muscles and remaining soft tissue, then later, the skin and hair to wrap around the bones. A balanced meal to a dog is a rabbit with jacket (the coat) on one day, perhaps seeds, berries, carbohydrate meal the next, a mouse if they’re lucky the next day and maybe a bird’s egg etc. If you feed enough variety in the home prepared meal – see below for examples, you will more than adequately fulfil the natural requirements of your dog.

 

Dry Food VS Raw
Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages of Dry

 

  • Convenient
  • Low hygiene risk (usually)
  • Clean
  • Easy storage

Disadvantages of Dry

  • 70-75% grain = huge gassy stools
  • Proven increased risk of bloat
  • Expensive and wasteful
  • Preservatives, synthetics and colours.
  • More skin and coat problems and allergies
  • Questionable ingredients
  • Cooking process kills natural enzymes, vitamins and minerals
  • Tartar and scale on teeth 

Advantages of Raw

 

  • Biologically appropriate
  • Appetising
  • Better skin and muscle condition
  • Small stools poos
  • Super clean teeth
  • Proper anal gland function
  • Full content knowledge
  • Calmer with better focus

Disdvantages of Raw

 

  • Buying spare freezer (try ebay)
  • Learning different nutritional values of meats
  • Increased hygiene standards
  • Handling raw meat

COMBINING BOTH?

Despite dire warnings from manufacturers not to ‘unbalance’ their so called ‘finely tuned’ complete food, many owners do mix complete with meat, but do be aware that raw and processed foods digest at different rates so there may be fermentation from the dry food. Some owners feed a complete food in the morning and a chicken carcass at night or some meat with their complete. Don’t feed a complete food straight after a big bone, but halfway to fresh is better than nothing at all.

Learn to read Labels

AVOID any food that contains ‘derivatives of vegetable origin’ any ‘derivative’ and ‘by products’. Protein is found in shoe leather, but nutritionally your dog wouldn’t survive on it. Ensure the source of protein is usable. Ground corn, barley, feathers, beaks or chicken heads, feet or intestines are barely digestible protein. Superior digestibility means that your dog will have smaller, more compact stools and a reduction in stool volume.

Grain is cheaper than protein…. Learning to read labels is fundamental to good dog health. The labels on an average sack of dry food show that it contains maybe between 15-30% meat meal or worse – meat from animal ‘derivatives’. The remaining 70% -80% will be grains and fillers which dogs can’t digest, hence why dogs fed on dry food do such large stools. It is also very wasteful financially as the dog can’t digest that filler. Owners have been convinced to turn dogs into herbivores, omnivores at worst, but certainly not carnivores, by feeding a grain based dried food. When rice is cheap on the commodities markets it is heavily promoted, when potatoes are cheap, they are promoted and so on..

The most expensive is not necessarily the best. However, the cheapest is most certainly not the best. Cheap foods are packed with cereal ‘fillers’ which can’t be digested. They exist to make you think you’re giving your dog a nice big meal, whereas what you end up with is a lot of pooh. There should be no more than 2 grains in the first 5 ingredients and the grains should not be corn of any kind. Beet pulp etc are purely fillers – comes out as it goes in with no nutritional benefit.

 

Avoid any food which does not have an animal protein in its first 3 ingredients.

By law the largest ingredient must be listed first, so you see chicken as the first ingredient, however, water contributes up to 65% of the weight of fresh chicken or lamb. After water is removed during processing, the amount of actual chicken or lamb is far lower than the cereal, so choose a food listing a ‘meat meal’, rather than ‘meat’.

This (Nutro complete food) graph shows why a ‘chicken meat meal’ (ie the dry weight) contains more than ‘chicken’ on a list of ingredients.

 

Specifically Avoid:
Additives, Preservatives, Synthetic Antioxidants

Complete foods are preserved either chemically or naturally. Antioxidant means preventing oxidisation – preventing something naturally ‘going off’. Natural Anti-oxidants are usually Vitamins E and C. The shelf life is shorter – so buy a smaller bag. Generally foods using vitamins as preservatives will last up to 6 months.

If a food is synthetically preserved, Burns Pet Foods calculate that a small 25lb dog will consume between 6 and 9 pounds of chemical preservatives a year. (25lb is 11kg, so double/triple that for Dobes!!). Listed below are some common food additives in a range of cheap to ‘premium’ cost foods. They are not always listed individually; the label may say ‘contains EU approved antioxidant’ or ‘contains EEC permitted preservatives’. If a food says ‘no added synthetic antioxidants….etc’, the food may have had those included before processing. Note how many synthetic ingredients are banned in human food but not in dog food.

Ethoxyquin is a preservative and is thought to be one of the compounds most likely to cause damage to animal health. Ethoxyquin was developed as a rubber stabiliser. The Department of Agriculture in America lists it as a pesticide. It has been implicated as a cause of many problems including cancer of the kidneys. US Studies of kittens found a wide range of birth deformities caused by Ethoxyquin.

Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) used as a preservative to stop fat going rancid. It has been implicated as a cause of bladder and thyroid cancer and damage to the liver. However, it is not as offensive to the system as

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) also used as a preservative to prevent fat rancidity. Has been implicated as a cause of stomach cancer. Feingold (1975) found that BHA and BHT contributed to learning difficulties and hyperactivity in humans.

Propylene glycol is very closely related to antifreeze. It is usually found in semi-moist foods to maintain the water content and texture. It has been suggested that it causes the destruction of red blood cells. Studies suggest that cats can become addicted to food containing Propylene glycol.

Propyl Gallate (E310) is an antioxidant used to prevent fats and oils going rancid. It is found in chewing gum and meat products. It is banned from children’s foods in the US because it is thought to cause the blood disorder methemoglobinemia.

In Dr. Pitcairn’s (DVM, PhD) Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, he examines some of the artificial colourings in pet foods and states that similar dyes where banned from human foods in the 1970’s! The example given is Red No.2 and Violet No.1, which appeared to be linked to cancer, birth defects and skin lesions respectively.

The Asthma and Allergy Research Centre on the Isle of Wight looked at the effects of food additives and colourings and behaviour. In children significant behavioural changes were seen when the additives (E102, E110, E122, E124 and E211) were removed from the diet for as little as 2 weeks. If your pet food contain brightly coloured piece, you may want to ditch it!

Other ingredients

Soya and other vegetable proteins are difficult to digest.

Sugars are sometimes added to cat foods as a flavour enhancer.

Avoid foods stating ‘cereals’ as a product, not stating which cereal it is. Cereal content changes with the season depending on which is cheapest at the time. Brown rice, oats, barley as unprocessed whole grains are high in nutrients and more easily digested.

Wheat is much harder to digest than rice. Many dogs seem to be intolerant to wheat and gluten. Some foods are now wheat gluten free.

If it sounds dodgy, it probably is.

Chicken meal, Lamb meal etc. fresh clean meat which has been cooked, dried and ground. Refer to the Nutro example of wet to dry weight.

Choices of Dry Food Types?

Large Breed, Medium Breed, Puppy, Lamb, Chicken, Fish etc

Large Breed was formulated for breeds like Great Danes, Wolfhounds, Mastiffs etc . I strongly dislike Large Breed for Dobermanns which are a medium sized breed. It is important to grow these fast-maturing breeds slowly but with plenty of fats from which dogs derive their primary energy source. If feeding dry to puppies, I feed Medium.

If your dog is prone to being overweight despite plenty of exercise(check thyroid levels), feed a fish or chicken based meal rather than lamb or beef which is more fattening.

What types of Bones?
NEVER Feed a dog cooked bones!

Recreational bones – weight supporting thick marrow bones and knuckle bones; good for gnawing/recreational, but essentially inedible. Never for puppies as the bone is harder than their teeth. I limit the dogs to around 1- 2 hours per session on these bones as the ground off bone will turn cement like in the stomach and be very tough to expel.

Nutritional bones – fully edible bones – chicken carcass, lamb ribs, chicken backs, wings quarters, necks etc on the chicken. Nutritional bones also keep their teeth clean; give one or two depending on size, as a meal.

Whichever you decide, just never ever feed roast, sprayed with pesticide to stop it going rancid, bones from the pet shop – they smell strange for a reason – that yummy pesticide DDT!

Portion Examples

My dogs are fed on raw meat, a small amount of carbohydrate (in the form of pulped veg, cooked oats, wheatmeal biscuit. I also use couscous, millet, spirulina etc or whatever leftovers I have), and their evening meal is a chicken carcass five nights pw.

I used TPMS to supply all my dog food. Their quality meats come in 1lb bags, so once defrosted it’s straight out of the bag into the bowl. The carcasses come in bags of 5-7 depending on the size of carcass. Take off the neck if it’s too big, or feed two if they’re too small for one dog.

Which meat to feed?

Chicken – high protein, low fat

Beef – high protein, medium fat

Lamb – high fat, high protein

Heart – high protein, high fat

Liver – high protein, medium fat

Kidney – high protein, medium fat

Tripe – low protein, high fats

 

Example Meal Quantities

Asia
Sprightly 12 year old bitch.

Breakfast
1 lb lamb and tripe mixed, handful of wheatmeal biscuit or ground veg.

Evening
1 small/med chicken carcass.

 

Jagger
Energetic 5yr old dog, in sport work.

Breakfast
2 lb lamb and tripe mixed, handful of wheatmeal biscuit or ground veg.

Evening
1 large chicken carcass. 

Jenna
Very energetic 6 year old bitch.

Breakfast
1 lb lamb and tripe, handful of wheatmeal biscuit or ground veg.

Evening
1 large chicken carcass.

Kalina
Lean, muscular, 8 year old highly energetic bitch.

Breakfast
1 lb lamb and tripe, handful of ground veg/wheatmeal biscuit..

Evening
1 carcass

Falk
Lean, muscular 8 year old, energetic dog in sport work.

Breakfast
2.5 lb lamb and tripe. Bit of beef and liver mix, handful of ground veg/wheatmeal biscuit

Evening
1 large carcass or 2 if they’re smaller.

Bracco
Big, muscular 10 yr old, retired from sport work.

Breakfast
1 lb tripe, 1 lb lamb and tripe, handful of veg/wheatmeal biscuit or ground veg.

When not in work (working weight is lighter), so for show, 1 lb tripe, 1 lb lamb and tripe with ground veg.

Evening
1 large carcass or 2 if they’re smaller.

Once every 10 days/fortnight dogs may have a whole rabbit. It will have been frozen for a few weeks to kill parasites but will be fed as it comes – whole. Feeding bones without any covering (jacket) makes it more difficult for the dog to digest. Let your dog eat plenty of grass to aid digestion for the same reason.

Occasionally the dogs all have a fish (entire) – either a salmon head (frozen in summer makes tasty frozen lollies – yard smells like Billingsgate!), or 5/6 mackerel each. Sometimes they have a pigs trotter each.

All dogs have table scraps and any bits and bobs going. My friend Di doesn’t feed carcasses, and gives her dogs minced chicken with minced bone, so they are still getting their bone content. I don’t like to feed that much chicken meat especially on a ‘fizzy’ dog, and prefer to have the teeth cleaning quality from carcasses.

I feed supplements sparingly – Omega 3, 6, 9. Hokamix (like a keepers mix), Flax seed oil, occasional Vit C, Chondroitin, Glucosamine, MSM and Cod Liver Oilfor the oldies. Dried or fresh garlic. We get a lot of our supplements from the local country stores for horse feeds which is a lot cheaper. Easy Greens from Dorwest is excellent.

Once a week dogs have a meat and bone free day. The kidney’s need a day off to rest from producing nitrogen from processing meat.

Millet (cooked), Eggs, Live Yoghurt, Cottage Cheese, Pulped tomatoes, Pulped veg – whatever’s available – broccoli, cauliflower, greens, carrots, parsnips etc, Pesto – had an old jar to finish off and they loved it, too expensive to give them a whole new jar! Oats, Spinach (covered in yoghurt), Baked beans etc. Avoid onions, raisins/currants and the eyes from potato peelings which are all apparently toxic – in large quantities.

 

Feeding Puppies Naturally

I wean puppies onto complete and then move them over to raw food from 8 weeks. All young puppies need 4 meals a day up to age 12 weeks, then 3 meals daily up to 5-6 months.

An 8 week old puppy would be on 4 meals a day. Three meals of around 3 or 4 oz (1/4 lb) lamb and tripe per meal, with a small amount of mixed veg/biscuit for carbs. Or just tripe with a raw egg, or a little piece of fish with some leftover couscous/rice, for three of the meals a day, with a chicken wing or two for the evening meal.

At 12 week pup may be on around 1lb meat a day split into 2 meals with veg or biscuit above for carbs, plus 3 or 4 chicken wings in the evening.

15 weeks pup would be on around 1.5lb meat daily split over two meals and 6/7 wings. The wing sizes are not the size from the supermarket, but are what TPMS supply – each fitting flat in the palm of the hand.

 

I’d avoid table scraps of anything really spicy with a puppy, but all other things are fine, especially yoghurt and cottage cheese (watch the salt content in cottage cheese).

Weight wise, don’t follow the guide on the side of the pack and learn to judge your own dog. If you can easily feel the ribs and the waist is defined, he is too lean. Pups should have some covering but not be too roly poly. Around 5 months pups will shoot up on the leg and all their energy will go into growing their legs, so you will need to increase their food at this time. Beware from this time onwards of Panosteitis (growing pains) see above. To reduce the effects of Pano’, drop the protein levels on the floor and stick to tripe (high fats – needed for energy, low protein), carbs, and a carcass or wings with not too much meat on the bone – chicken meat is a high energy food.

Growing Pains (Panosteitis)

From 5 months on, you may find your young dog becomes intermittently lame perhaps shifting lameness from one leg to another. This is usually Panosteitis (growing pains) and is a temporary condition caused by inflammation in the fast growing ‘long bone’s’ (shin and thigh). Reduce the protein intake immediately to slow growth down. Cut any additional meat out and use something else tasty like fish stock or yoghurt if needed. There is no cure except rest and a low protein intake, but puppy will grow out of it. Rubbing their legs is often comforting for them and keep them warm and dry. In severe cases, your vet may prescribe Metacam – an anti-inflammatory. This will alleviate the worst symptoms, but some vets will recommend cage rest;– I can’t think of much worse than caging a youngster and Pano’ will pass when the growing is over. If you can slow growth and keep exercise to a minimum of short lead walks, it will help greatly. Be aware that if you consult your vet, they may tell you your puppy has a serious illness – OCD (Osteochondrosis), Hip Dysplasia or other disease which they believe is causing the problem. If a vet did not first suspect Pano’ in a Dobe of 5-10 months on a high protein diet and if he doesn’t ask you what pup is eating and about his exercise or enquire why he has not considered Pano’ rather than something more serious, don’t pay your bill, sack him and change vets. A healthy dog with growing pains is not commercially viable. Vets don’t make money from healthy dogs. To anaesthetise a youngster to examine causes of lameness without considering Pano’, verges on malpractice. Notably since feeding naturally, I have seen only very minor occasions of growing pains.

At 12 week pup may be on around 1lb meat a day split into 2 meals with veg or biscuit above for carbs, plus 3 or 4 chicken wings in the evening.

15 weeks pup would be on around 1.5lb meat daily split over two meals and 6/7 wings. The wing sizes are not the size from the supermarket, but are what TPMS supply – each fitting flat in the palm of the hand.

Finally, feeding raw is about getting back to how dogs should be fed – holistic in the true sense of the word – considering the whole animal. I do not buy meat for human consumption (which I think is morally wrong when there are children starving in the world and unnecessary for a canine). Dogs fed on a raw diet have a very healthy gut with strong hydrochloric acid capable of digesting raw bones. Do freeze meat even if it’s from the supermarket for at least a couple of days to minimise salmonella/e-coli etc, but dogs fed raw will cope with eating all sorts of vile things which turn our stomachs, far better than those dogs fed on a dry complete diet which are devoid of enzymes.