Holistic Veterinary care


Diet is everything

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

Comments (11)

  1. 12/12
    By mandy

    Really great information Dr Edward! I was just wondering, should dogs have a wide variety of different meats? I can’t feed lamb (pancreatitis) and rabbit is quite hard to come by as well as expensive, I generally feed beef and kangaroo meat with veggies and bones too, and once a week give some pilchards in food also is that enough variety of meats? Thanks for the great info!

    • 20/12

      It doesn’t matter too much – they can do well on only one meat source. You’re giving plenty of variety 🙂

  2. 13/12
    By bron

    My dog Lucy has been raw fed all her life using chicken and beef but the vet just told me to change her to a single protein diet because she believes she might have a protein allergy as she gets recurrent ear infections. She suggested avoiding chicken and beef and switching to kangaroo or crocodile. When Ive given her kangaroo in the past she has got diarrhoea and the only roo I can find is pet food with preservatives in it and crocodile is very hard to source. So the vet suggested prime one crocodile and tapioca roll but since I started her on that she seems to have gone crazy …. barking food obsessed high energy …its awful

    • 20/12

      Hi Bron – I’d suggest trying fish – the starch (tapioca) in the prime one may be a problem. You could maybe try lamb, too. If you want more help, I’d need to have a phone or skype consult with you.

  3. 15/12
    By Kate

    HI Dr Ed, our dog Zena 13 has been needing to drag her butt a lot lately, obviously because of discomfort. She is on raw meat/chicken & neck bones for diet. She was constipated awhile ago so started adding psyllium husk in her morning meal which seemed to help. I have stopped now. She had her worm tablets 1 month ago. You saw her here at Crystal Creek just before you moved. She had a nail taken out that was sore & growing in wrong direction. Vet stated she has an autoimmune disease. Is there something we can give her – add to her diet to help her? Fish oil or coconut oil? Thanks so much, Kate

    • 20/12

      Hi Kate. Mashed pumpkin can help if they get constipated. If you want more advice for diet with autoimmune etc, I’d really need you to organise a phone or skype consult. Adding some blueberries to her diet can help, great anti-oxidants.

  4. 23/12
    By meg smart

    could you send me the complete article frm 2003, journal published, authors title pg numbers.
    Thank -you

    • 08/01

      Which article do you mean? I did not reference any in this post

  5. 07/01
    By Deneace

    I had been feeding my two dogs, a German Shepherd bitch and a Hungarian Vizsla bitch a natural diet from when they were puppies. I had tremendous results such as they never put on weight, teeth were always clean, eyes bright, coat glossy, recovered from a snake bite without any medical intervention, never got sick and rarely required worming preparations. I fed raw pureed vegetables, raw egg, some fruit and whole raw meat on the bone (including fat). In the prime of their life, my dogs ate every three days and that was their choice.The diet is easy to prepare, could be frozen into meal size amounts, was cheap and the dogs loved it. I recorded every step of this procedure and the outcomes – a total of 12 years.

    • 08/01

      Thanks for sharing, and great work!

  6. 19/03
    By Fab

    I started feeding my boys a raw diet about 4 years ago when they were 6 and 7..i also stopped all vaccines and stopped flea and tick pesiticies resorting to natural spray and daily checks ..they are now 11 and 10 and are in the prime of life. people cannot believe they are not puppies..i have a new puppy now and he dives headfirst into his dish..loves the raw…I’m so glad I can start him off on the right food day 1…everyone should watch the documentary Petfooled..they’d never feed kibble.

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