What your pet eats is the most important choice you can make for their health
Good morning, and welcome to the first in a series of articles requested by you, the lovely people who are part of The Healing Vet community. I’d love to hear what you think in the comments, and please ask any questions you have. I’ll answer them all.
“Can you explain about the raw food diet please?”
Raw food is simply the best. This is what our dogs and cats have evolved to eat, as is clearly shown by their teeth, and also by the anatomy and function of their digestive system. One important measure that shows how dogs (and especially cats) are essentially carnivores is the ‘coefficient of fermentation’.
Herbivores have large guts – the rumen in cows, goats etc, and the hindgut in horses are very large chambers in their gut, and teeming with bacteria that ferment the cellulose in vegetation. The bacteria in their gut do most of the breaking down of the plant matter. They have a high coefficient of fermentation.
Carnivores have a much shorter gut and are lacking the huge fermentation chambers in the gut that are found in herbivores. Dogs have a low coefficient of fermentation, as do cats. This is probably the most important way we can measure how suited given animals are to a particular diet – i.e. herbivorous, carnivorous, or omnivorous.
It’s worth noting here that cats are ‘obligate carnivores’. This means that they are very strongly carnivorous indeed, and need a very high percentage of raw meat and bone (at least 90%) to maintain good health. It’s important to start cats on a raw diet as early as possible, when they are kittens, otherwise they often get totally addicted to commercial foods (kibble, tinned etc). It is sometimes impossible to get them to eat anything else when this happens,
There is a lot of talk in the pet wellness world that argues that dogs are omnivores. I don’t agree with this. What I believe is that dogs have been village scavengers for thousands and thousands of years, and so they have adapted to be able to survive on just about any sort of food. They will eat human waste of all sorts, from food scraps through to faeces etc. It’s worth remembering that surviving is a long way from thriving, which is what dogs and cats do on a complete raw diet.
Another story I hear is that dogs will eat the gut contents of their pray, and so have a significant portion of vegetable matter in their natural diet as predators. If they are well fed, they are not at all interested in eating the grass etc out of the prey’s gut. I have seen this myself with our farm dogs when we used to kill cows when I was a kid.
They eat the offal (sweetbreads, liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc)and fat but seldom the gut and tripes. If they were very hungry they would eat the gut and tripes, but they would leave the grassy contents behind. They do get very important probiotic bacteria from eating the tripes, though – and green tripe (if you can get it) is a fantastic thing to add into your pet’s diet.
I don’t agree with the contention that wild dogs eat a significant amount of vegetable matter when consuming prey. I do believe that the small amounts of gut contents they do eat are very important in supporting the gut flora to be healthy. I believe that they do eat wild grasses and herbs in small amounts, and that doing so can be medicinal for them. (I often see my own dogs and cats eating grass and herbs in our garden.)
In their natural state, dogs will eat meat, offal and bone before anything else if they can. It is their food of choice, and this is for a reason. Why? Because this is what their body knows is best for them. Simple as that!
Domesticated pets will often eat commercial foods instead of raw food when offered both at the same time. This is because the commercial foods are carefully formulated to be highly addictive (I’ll be telling you how commercial pet foods harm your pets at length in the next article of this series).
Raw food is high in protein and fat, and carnivores have a metabolism that is finely tuned to burn this for fuel. Commercial pet foods are high in carbs, and putting carbs into a carnivores engine is like putting deisel into a petrol engine (more on this in the next article). Raw food is alive food, commercial food is dead food.
I have seen hundreds of pets show visible improvements in general health and well being after being transitioned to a raw diet by their owners. You are likely to see a shiner coat, increased vitality, weight loss, reduced stinky farts, and smaller and firmer poos. Hot and itchy dogs with allergies also often show a great improvement on raw as compared to commercial foods.
If your pet is on commercial food, change them over to a complete raw diet over a week or so. If your pet has a sensitive digestive system, you may need to take more time, and you may have to try several different meat sources to find the one that works best for your pet.
I recommend the BARF diet. (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) You can buy this commercially – the best brand I have yet found is Raw 4 Paws. Or you can make your own – buy good quality fairly lean meat (the meat must be lean if your pet has ever had pancreatitis) and bones. With the bones, make them the right size for your pet, and please don’t give them weight bearing bones as they are too hard and can cause harm. It’s important to add in some offal – maybe 10-20%. Be careful with liver, it’s very rich.
The mix is 25% veggies for dogs, 10% veggies for cats. Avoid starchy veggies (though cooked pumpkin can be a help for constipated pets). Use raw leafy greens, zucchini, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower – and you can use small amounts of apple or pear. Add some kelp meal for minerals, and some cold pressed coconut oil. There are a whole variety of herbs that can be added for supporting vibrant health, more about that in an upcoming article. You can add eggs now and then.
It’s important to use all organic if you possibly can, though i know that this is more expensive, and may not be affordable. Even if you only use organic veggies, this will make a big difference to the vitality of the food. If you can’t afford organic meat, look for grass fed or wild such as kangaroo or rabbit. You can make up a heap, and freeze it in portions. Or buy it, keep it in the freezer (this is what we do).
“Exactly what nutrients, and in what percentages should a canine’s diet comprise of, please.”
The BARF diet will cover everything your pet needs, nearly always. Adding a multivitamin may sometimes be of use, but I generally don’t recommend it. One thing cats will need added to their diet is Thiamine – you can find that online – search for ‘Vitamin B1 supplement’.
I hope you’ve found this helpful! As I said- ask any questions you may have in the comments. And if you’d like to join The Healing vet family, click here to sign up for our newsletter.
Warmest regards, Dr Edward