Feeding Your Pet Raw

By definition, raw feeding is the common practice of feeding domestic dogs and cats a diet consisting mainly, if not wholly, of raw meats, bones and organs. The practice is also often referred to as the BARF diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food or Bones and Raw Food), or the raw diet. Proponents of this practice believe that the raw diet contains a higher nutritional value to the commercially processed pet food sold in stores. It is also believed that dogs and cats are not able to properly digest grain and therefore, it is believed, feeding many commercial pet foods that containing grains can lead to several of the known degenerative diseases. It is widely believed by proponents of the raw diet that feeding heat-processed, human engineered foods and forcing dogs and cats to eat in a way that goes against their physiology in general leads to many ailments and lower energy levels.

Dr. Ian Billinghurst, owner of the trademarked BARF Diet (mentioned above), argues in his book that the dog, although now domesticated, is a descendant of the wild animal and was programmed to eat a raw carnivorous diet. Arguments have also been made that modern zoos have adapted to feeding raw meats, and even entire carcasses to their carnivorous captive animals. And, while this practice has been widespread throughout Europe, it remains somewhat a controversial topic in North America. Some opponents argue that there is a social impact to feeding raw meat, creating a more aggressive animal. There are also concerns about food contamination and dental impactions. However, some of the benefits of the raw diet include better oral health, higher energy levels and better overall health.

There are several different types of raw diets. One method, the BARF method as mentioned above, consists of approximately 60% to 80% raw meaty bones and the other 20% to 40% consists of fruit and vegetables, offal, dairy, eggs, or other meats. Another model, the Prey model, is made to follow an animal of prey’s diet more closely. Actual entire prey animals are fed as much as possible and there are almost no supplements added to the diet.

Although there are still controversies surrounding the raw diet versus commercial kibble debate, more and more studies are being done on the subject. One problem surrounding the raw diet, however, is how to better monitor the nutritional content of the varying diets. While one person may be offering his or her pet a diet consisting of high quality meats in a variety of formats, thereby offering the needed vitamins and minerals for a healthy lifestyle, another household may be simply offering whatever scraps from the butcher they were able to grab. This second instance may not provide the necessary balanced diet in order for the pet to thrive.

So, if you are thinking of going raw for your pet, make sure that you do the proper research and provide a wholesome, balanced diet from a reputable raw dog food supplier.

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Feeding Your Dog Well – A Lesson From Hippocrates

Hippocrates knew his stuff when he said: ‘Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.’ If I had to think of one of the least nutritious examples of sustenance for human consumption (although I don’t really consider it food) then I’d have to remember the first time I stopped drinking soda. I was sipping a can of TAB calorie free soda back on my porch. Perhaps it was out of boredom that I turned the soda can around to read it, but suddenly I found myself reading a list words I couldn’t pronounce. Were those the ingredients? I never drank soda again.

I can’t say I’ve changed much in the way of checking ingredients and eating naturally. In fact, I’ve gotten more diligent about it. And so it’s no surprise that another significant epiphany managed to overtake me years later when I read the ingredients on a package of commercial dog food. I was taken back to that moment in 1983 when I tossed that can of TAB forever and in all my consistency, I tossed the entire bag of food in the trash and never looked back. This is what I called my dog food epiphany.

Just for the record my ‘epiphany’ occurred before the major dog food recalls of 2007 and incidentally after my Viszla Fred developed a brain tumor. He, through my ignorance, was only fed a popular commercial brand of kibble his entire life. He died at 8 years young.

A day that stands out for me in Fred’s life was the day I took him to the neurologist for his seizures. The first question the Vet asked as he examined him was “What are you feeding him?” I knew right then that I didn’t do right by this animal and immediately I tried to correct it with a natural diet, hoping I would save the dog, but it was too late.

I’ve learned that many Veterinarians aren’t well versed in nutrition and the commercial dog food companies take advantage of this. It behooves me to think that many veterinarians know the ill effects of commercial dog food and yet because they profit from it simply because these foods cause conditions like ear infections, skin rashes, gastrointestinal infections, and ultimately cancer or a brain tumors, they only ask THE most enlightening question when you’re there for an emergency when obviously, it’s too late.

Well, you live and you learn. Like I said, I never looked back. Four years later, we acquired our re-homed pup Valentino, a spunky 7 month old, male, Golden Retriever who’d been brought up on Nutro, (which I immediately tossed into the trash). I switched him to a raw diet and noticed within days that my spunky golden together with chemical free diet and daily romps in the park began to settle down (by the way, this was the main reason his previous owners re-homed him – because he was to hyper). It became apparent to me that the Nutro Brand dog food actually made him more hyper and nervous.

On the Raw diet, Valentino ate 5-6 pounds of raw meat per day- and it didn’t travel well, so I set out to find an alternative. I discovered my happy medium, a human grade, chemical free, balanced and nutritious diet. I found this human-grade dehydrated raw food was easy to travel with, hypoallergenic, some were organic and all were human tested, (yes, taste tested by humans) and nutritionally balanced. This is what my dog and I needed — some integrity.

I literally felt myself exhale. My first sign of relief came from reading the ingredients. Yes! I could READ THE INGREDIENTS! The second, was that I didn’t have to prepare 5-6 pounds of raw meet each day to get the same benefits for Val. I could add my RAW meats as a bonus if I wanted to because THK is already a complete and balanced product and that was just fine with me. Valentino does really well on THK, he is lean, his coat shines, his teeth are pearly white and his ears show no signs of a food allergy.

Valentino loves his ball, plays a mean outfield and swims tirelessly in the lake. I often get comments about Val’s lean physique which often get me into the conversation of what Val eats. I’m always happy to talk food and I’m proud that my dog is living proof of good, honest, nutrition.

Perhaps, my next dog will be named Hippocrates.

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