Balanced Canine Diets: The Big Misunderstanding

PART I: Creating Balance with Raw Meaty Bones

If you know me, then you know how insistent I am about feeding raw meaty bones (RMBs) with an abundance of marrow and connective tissues. One of the most influential books on my raw journey was Dr. Tom Lonsdale’s Raw Meaty Bones Promote Health. My three dogs’ early diet was missing the most critical component (back in 2002 through 2010 I was making my own home cooked dog food). I cannot express enough how much I wish I had known then what I know now. While my homemade diet appeared successful, it was missing the bones, bone marrow, and connective tissues that my dogs absolutely required. I did regularly give my dogs marrow bones for recreational chewing, but this was not sufficient to supply the plethora of minerals and even vitamins found in whole bones. I was fortunate to have healthy dogs, but then again even kibble can produce “healthy” dogs. The goal should always be to achieve optimal health and disease resilience.

Bones with marrow and connective tissues are critical to the cultivation of overall optimal health. Bone is a major source of minerals in the raw diet. I have written and taught about bone numerous times and its importance cannot be understated. Let’s review the nutritional value of bone before I discuss balance.

Hard bone contains:

  • calcium
  • phosphorus
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • sodium
  • chloride
  • sulfur
  • silica

Marrow contains [1]:

  • calcium
  • iron
  • zinc
  • manganese
  • selenium
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin E
  • vitamin K
  • B vitamins ( B1, B2, B5, B7, B12)
  • Boron
  • fatty acids

The connective tissue is a major source of:

  • glucosamine
  • chondroitin

If you took the time to really review the nutrient list, then I bet you are as impressed as I am. When I began researching species-appropriate foods for our modern canine, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that bone holds the key to many of the hard-to-source nutrients that too many pet parents are struggling to adequately supply in their dog’s diet. In my earliest years of raw feeding, I never considered these nutrients difficult to source. As a result of this growing concern among pet parents, I began to take a closer look at what and how many pet parents were feeding their dogs. Needless to say, I created The Holistic Canine in 2016 and just recently started a Learning resource group on Facebook due to what I observed. (Be sure to join our NEW group for free education units and personalized answers to questions.)

Dr. Ian Billinghurst and Dr. Tom Lonsdale were already teaching how to feed dogs back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. So why were so many pet parents suddenly turning to a new method of feeding their pets? Much of this new method of raw meal creation had to do with the growing popularity in raw feeding and the NRC’s release of their updated work Nutrients Requirements of Dogs and Cats. This ushered in numerous canine nutrition courses offered over the internet. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe education is critical and I insist that all of my clients consult with me to learn canine nutrition. The problem is many people tend to complicate what they learn, especially from online courses that give people a “stamp of approval,” and in turn cause confusion creating a lack of confidence in well intentioned pet parents fearful of making life threatening mistakes. And, this is also a business strategy to get frightened pet parents to hire the “certified professional” to create “complete and balanced” recipes at an often steep price.

One of my favorite quotes is from veterinarian Dr. Jeannie Thomason. She wrote, “‘Balance’ is nothing but an insufficient human term, a vague concept that pet food companies employ to make people buy processed foods for their pets.” And now raw food “professionals” have adopted the “complete and balanced” motto.

While there is no doubt that our pets need specific nutrients, the problem is that there is no possible way to know how much of each nutrient each individual dog actually requires. We can balance a diet in accordance with the NRC, FEDIAF, or AAFCO standards, but then the diet is not balanced to a dog’s individual needs. It is, rather, balanced to standards created for the pet food industry. I do, however, encourage every pet parent to learn what nutrients their dog requires in accordance with the NRC standards. This is then used as a reference.

I would like for you to consider this important fact. Have you ever thought about the concept of balance? If in fact balance is critical in every meal as is suggested by the pet food industry (and some pet nutrition buffs), then if your dog received a meal that was not balanced, his cells, tissues, organs, endocrine system, digestive faculties, and so forth would show signs of something missing. Symptoms, immediate acute conditions, and eventually nutrient-imbalanced pathologies would develop or follow within days. How can we verify this? We can verify this by the fact that true balance is established via the body (biological system) based on physiological need that is affected by internal and external influences. It can be confidently stated that nutritional needs are met over a period of days or even weeks, while balance is achieved by the biological system via what is consumed. This is also understood by the fact that nutrients are stored within the body tissues. When a nutrient need arises, that specific nutrient is drawn out of storage to be utilized as needed. We can take this even further to show that this is the very reason why humans and animals can fast for long periods and suffer no ill effect. If anything, fasting is used to balance the body to help create (or return to) homeostasis. Being a board certified nutrition professional, I am highly versed in fasting and the benefits that fasting has on biological systems. I am 100% confident that balance is achieved by and through the body while nutritional balance occurs over a period of time.

Based on all of the above, how to provide a nutrition plan that will allow for your dog to efficiently create and maintain balance is the real question we should be concerned with. How is this achieved? This is achieved by feeding your dog a diet that most closely mimics what nature has provided for canis lupis familiaris. I call this a species-appropriate diet. We may have domesticated a wild carnivore, but our modern canines remain anatomically carnivorous. And despite the fact that physiologically several breeds of the modern canine may show signs of DNA adaptation as a result of generations of exposure to human food (via epigenetic gene expression), the thousands upon thousands of generations of domestic dog remain physiologically carnivores, albeit adapted and classified as facultative.

Again, how does one provide a diet that can create balance? I believe Dr. Lonsdale has it correct. RMBs should be the foundation of the canine diet. Several veterinarians recommend feeding RMBs as 40% to 60% of the diet. I simply cannot disagree. Dr. Lonsdale wrote, “Healthy animals living and breeding in the wild depend on the correct quality of food in the right quantity at a correct frequency.” That is what we must mimic. Varying the diet that you offer to your dog with quality meats, organs, and bones in the correct quantity and at an appropriate frequency offers the best platform for balance creation. While many pet parents have a need or feel a need to feed their dog at the same time daily, I vary the time. I feed one meal per day with occasional RMB treats and snacks opposite mealtime. I also implement fasting several times per year.

With this understanding, let’s now take a closer look at bone, marrow, and connective tissue to see why these are foundational to a species-appropriate balanced diet. See Part II!

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Food Nutritionist

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3417664/


DIY Raw Dog Food: Creating a Meal with Fresh, Raw, Whole-foods

Balanced Meal EXAMPLE

Creating a balanced raw meal can be very daunting, especially for the pet parent new to DIY raw feeding. I have created an example meal plan guideline to assist raw feeders on their journey to creating nutrient-balanced meals. I chose easy-to-source grocery store ingredients to make it even more user-friendly for those just starting out in the world of DIY raw pet foods.

To get started you will need:

  • your dog’s daily nutrient requirements
  • food scale
  • food nutrient profile database (I use this one)
  • calculator (unless you are a math wiz)
  • spreadsheet for auditing nutrients (join our community to get one free)
  • ingredients!

According to the NRC’s minimum nutrient requirements, a 45 pound dog must have the following nutrient minimums per day.

  • Protein: 31.5 g
  • Fat: 17.3 g
  •                 Linoleic acid (omega-6): 3.3 g
  •                 Alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3): 0.13 g
  •                 EPA & DHA (omega-3): 0.3 g
  • Calcium: 1.3 g (1,300 mg)
  • Phosphorus: 1 g (1,000 mg)
  • Iron: 9.6 mg
  • Magnesium: 189 mg
  • Potassium: 1.34 g (1,340 mg)
  • Sodium: 251.5 mg
  • Zinc: 19.2 mg
  • Copper: 2 mg
  • Manganese: 1.5 mg
  • Selenium: 113.3 mcg
  • Chloride: 384 mg
  • Iodine: 284.1 mcg
  • Vitamin A: 480 RE
  • Vitamin D: 4.3 mcg
  • Vitamin E: 9.6 mg*
  • Vitamin K: 0.52 mg
  • Thiamine (B1): 0.7 mg
  • Riboflavin (B2): 1.6 mg
  • Niacin (B3): 5.5 mg
  • Pantothenic acid (B5): 4.7 mg
  • Pyridoxine (B6): 0.47 mg
  • Folate: 85.4 mcg **
  • Cobalamin (B12): 11 mcg
  • Choline: 357.5 mg

*this is the alpha only, unfortunately. Vitamin E must be supplied as the complex of tocopherols.

**this is the folic acid (poorly absorbed synthetic version of folate) calculation, unfortunately

For a 45 pound dog that requires approximately 3% (of body weight) per day, I am going to calculate 2.5% to save room for my extras. 2.5% of 45 pounds =

                1.125 pounds (18 ounces) of meat, organs, and bone (per DAY)

For beginner raw feeders, follow the 80/10/10 guideline. This is the easiest ratio to follow. If I were to follow the 80/10/10 guideline exactly, this is how it would look:

An 80/10/10 ratio for 18 ounces would be as follows:

                80%: 14.4 ounces

                10%: 1.8 ounces

                10%: 1.8 ounces

Breaking this down further:

80% meat should be fed approximately 65% muscle + 15% organ muscle:

                65%: 11.7 ounces

                15%: 2.7 ounces

10% organs should be fed 5% liver + 5% other secreting organ:

                5%: 0.9 ounces

                5%: 0.9 ounces

10% bone remains the same

As a guideline you will feed approximately:

                11.7 oz. muscle meat

                2.7 oz. organ muscle

                1.8 oz. bone

                0.9 oz. liver

                0.9 oz. other secreting organ

Total      18 oz.

Now let’s create a meal! I will notate the more hard-to-source nutrients as well as those that are richest in each food ingredient. Vitamins A, D, K, and the B complex vitamins are fairly easy to source; therefore, I will not be concerned with those unless noted due to their nutrient-saturation in the ingredient. Be sure to check what nutrients are in each food you are adding by referring to the nutrient-database you have chosen to use. You need to adjust the ingredients and amounts in order to meet nutrient requirements. Use highest nutrient per bite ratio foods!

11.7 oz. meat

  • 5 oz. grass-fed beef (zinc, selenium, iron, magnesium)
  • 5 oz. pork rib1 (selenium, magnesium, zinc, iron)
  • 1.7 oz. sardines (vitamin D, selenium, magnesium, potassium, omega-3)

2.7 oz. muscle organ

  • 1.5 oz. chicken hearts (zinc, iron, folate, taurine)
  • 1.2 oz. chicken gizzard (potassium, magnesium)

1.8 oz. organs

  • 0.9 oz. beef liver (copper, vitamin A, iron, zinc, folate, vitamin D, B vitamins)
  • 0.9 oz. beef kidney (vitamin A, selenium, B12)

1.8 oz. bone

  • Pork rib
  • Chicken paw (extra, see below)

1 21% bone, this gives me 1.05 oz. bone

Now, since I need 3%, I have left room for all the extras to meet nutrients. Since the vegetables and fruits I use yield very little calories, I do not need to account for these. But I have room for the fat calories from seeds. I will add:

  • 1 oz. blueberries (various vitamins and phytonutrients)
  • 1 oz. kale (magnesium)
  • 1 oz. spinach (magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium)
  • 0.5 oz. ground pumpkin seeds (magnesium, manganese, zinc)
  • 1 pasture-raised chicken egg2 (selenium, choline, vitamin D, vitamin E, B vitamins, iodine)
  • 0.5 oz. oysters (zinc, B12, copper)
  • 1 chicken paw3 (zinc, selenium, iron, folate, B vitamins)
  • ½ tbsp. coconut oil

2 eggshell boosts calcium for bone %

3 this fulfills bone/calcium percentage/requirement

Details to consider:

  • This meal contains highly bioavailable nutrients with enzymes and cofactors making nutrient absorption optimal. However, naturally occurring nutrients will have antagonists within the same foods.
  • This meal contains oxalates that bind iron.
  • This meal contains an egg. Eggs contain phosvitin which binds iron.
  • This meal will reflect low in magnesium in auditing programs that do not account for bone (see below)

How to correct:

Add a food source vitamin C supplement to increase iron and magnesium absorption. Vitamin C reduces the binding effect of oxalates (found in kale and spinach) and phosvitin (found in egg) that bind iron, while also boosting absorption of magnesium. Add a minimum of 100 mg. Do NOT use a synthetic isolate!4 Although dogs produce their own vitamin C, studies show it is insufficient to cultivate optimal health and prevent disease especially in the absence of whole prey coupled with exposure to the toxins and chemicals of modern life.

Keeping in mind that bones contain nutrients, all but one of the dog food auditing programs and spreadsheets that I have encountered do not account for bone minerals. Bones contain a wealth of minerals besides calcium and phosphorus. Bones also contain magnesium, sodium, chloride, sulfur, potassium, silica, iron, zinc, manganese, selenium, boron, and vitamins A & K. If you are using an auditing program, your values will not reflect correctly where you feed bone in a meal. Thus, the above meal will reflect low in magnesium. 60% of the body’s magnesium is stored in bones with 38% being in the muscles and liver. The highest food sources of magnesium are seeds, nuts, leafy greens, and bones. In the wild, dogs eat very little vegetation and tiny amounts of seeds (which come out whole as noted in wolf studies that examine stomach and scat contents), and yet there exists no recorded incidences of magnesium deficiency among wild dogs. In fact, magnesium deficiency in domestic dogs is extremely rare and only seen in severely malnourished dogs and in dogs exposed to nephrotoxic drugs. Magnesium is poorly absorbed to begin with and supplementation is nearly useless. I personally do not feel adding a magnesium supplement is necessary. This is because there are ways to boost magnesium absorption just as boosting iron absorption is possible. Your dog will receive sufficient magnesium from the diet especially if you are feeding bones, magnesium-rich seeds (ground), leafy greens, and avocados. If you do not feed bones, you will have magnesium deficient meals.

For optimal magnesium absorption, be sure meals contain the following nutrients that assist magnesium assimilation:

  1. Food-source vitamin C (you are already doing this for iron absorption).
  2. Calcium (you are already doing this if feeding bones and eggshells).
  3. Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), found in virgin coconut oil (already added to meal).
  4. Soluble fiber from veggies and fruits (you are already adding these as extras).

4 Synthetic vitamin C, known as ascorbic acid, is made from corn syrup and hydrochloric acid, has a mere 10% absorption rate, and has been implicated in gallstones, arterial disease, and many other conditions.

Finally, log all of your ingredients and amounts into a spreadsheet to audit your nutrient totals. If you are hitting any minimums or missing nutrients, adjust your amounts, switch ingredients, or add a whole-foods supplement to more than cover the requirement. Don’t simply hit minimums, create meals that will cultivate optimal health by utilizing highest nutrient per bite ratio foods that cover a broad spectrum of nutrients. Correct any antagonistic nutrient competition by creating synergy such as in the example above (adding vitamin C).

And finally…

Supplements to add:

  • 100 to 150 mg food-source vitamin C such as Nature’s Way® Alive! Vitamin C
  • 15 to 30 mg mixed tocopherols (Vitamin E oil or dry)
  • 1/4 to 1 tsp. spirulina, phytoplankton, or wheatgrass/barley grass powder (for additional minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, phytochemicals, and/or omega-3 fatty acids)
  • kelp to provide no more than 200 mcg iodine
  • 500 mg Krill oil (contains astaxanthin)
  • Other supplement(s) specific to your dog’s needs (medicinal mushrooms, golden paste, colostrum, taurine, coenzyme Q10, cell salts, etc.)

As a final note, I puree my fresh fruits and vegetables in a Ninja blender. This helps to unlock nutrients so your dog can easily benefit. Add the mixture to a silicon mold(s) and freeze. Add the frozen molds to meals.

You now have a complete and balanced meal with easy-to-source ingredients!

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Food Nutritionist


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART V

Grains

Let’s talk grains. Grains are grass seeds. They differ from other seeds in that grains do not “go to” fruit, vegetable, or flower such as pumpkin seeds, apricot kernels, and sunflower seeds that are commonly consumed as foods. (Nuts and beans are also considered seeds.) The most commonly consumed grains are wheat, rice, oats, barley, rye, corn and the pseudo-grain quinoa which have been at the forefront of the canine nutrition debate for decades. Grains have been used in commercial dog foods since the dawn of James Spratt’s dog cakes in 1870 and F.H. Bennett Biscuits Co.’s bone shaped ‘Milk-Bone’ dog biscuits in 1907. Since that time, the health of our dogs has declined right along with that of man’s, and this just so happens to parallel the rise in grain consumption. We can see that the modern canine has developed the very same chronic conditions, obesity, and diet-induced diseases and cancers as his fellow man. While we certainly cannot blame the decline in health entirely on the consumption of grains, we do need to ask, should grains continue to be used as a dietary option in canine nutrition? After all, the grain-free dog food craze has boomed. Since FirstMate introduced the very first grain-free commercial feed option in 1995, nearly every other pet food company has followed suit and their sales have exploded. However, since kibble requires something to hold it together and boost protein percentages, the pet food industry simply swapped out the grains for legumes, peas, and potatoes. Are these better alternatives? Sadly, it doesn’t appear that way. As if the health crisis of the modern canine could not get any worse, the grain-free alternatives have appeared to have contributed to another threat to dogs known as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). As a result, nutritionally uninformed veterinarians are warning pet parents to go back to feeding grain inclusive foods. Thus, feeding grains to dogs is being revisited in a big way; and in my opinion, the wrong way. Let’s take a look.

I discussed canine anatomy and physiology in Part I of this series. Clearly, dogs are not designed to consume grains. You may be surprised to learn, neither are nearly all the herbivores or mammals for that matter. One common example is the feeding of grains to ungulates which are designed to graze and forage. Feeding grains are, unfortunately, a cheaper way to supply the volumes of food that these animals require to meet the demands of consumers for their meat and milk products. But at what cost? The nutritionally-lacking final food products are evidence enough. But like dogs fed foods that are not species-appropriate, feeding grains to animals not designed to properly digest them results in poorer health and disease, and more often than not, the reliance on drugs to prevent them from succumbing to illness. Simply because we can offer grains to dogs and many farm animals without immediate life-threatening consequences does not mean that this equates to an adequate substitute for those foods that the animals are designed to consume. Species-appropriate foods create and cultivate optimal health, something grains are clearly not noted for. The fact of the matter is grains are only species-appropriate to granivores, and granivores are birds.

Birds are anatomically and physiologically equipped to consume grains. They contain a crop and a gizzard which allows them to safely and adequately digest grains. The crop is in the throat where grains and seeds can germinate before entering the two-chamber stomach. The first chamber of the stomach is like ours. The second chamber, however, is the gizzard which holds grit, stone, and sand picked up with food the birds eat from the ground. The grit is held in the gizzard where it is ground into the grains and seeds by the strong muscular contractions of the gizzard wall. This breaks down the grains and unlocks nutrients. In a nut shell (no pun intended), grains are for the birds…period. But what is it that makes grains so contrary to those species-appropriate foods that do cultivate and sustain health? I am glad you asked.

Grains, as noted above, are grass seeds that contain anti-predation proteins (anti-nutrient chemicals) including lectins, phytic acid (phytates), enzyme inhibitors, cyanide, and prolamins. Some of these chemicals are bitter tasting (as many of us have experienced). In fact, grains in their natural raw state are actually quite toxic. Grains are not meant to be eaten; rather their purpose is to fall to the ground and reproduce. Aside from the evidentiary chemicals produced by the plant, the physical indications also speak volumes. Grass seeds have hard outer shells as well as spikes, fuzz, and mucus and oil coatings. But for the sake of this article, it is the anti-nutrient chemicals that I am here most concerned with. These anti-nutrients serve the purposes of preventing predators from consuming them, preventing premature germination (sprouting) in the absence of adequate conditions for growth, and to protect them from the destructive acids and enzyme of the digestive process in order to preserve them for their true purpose: new life. The human and animal (except for birds) who consumes whole grains (grass seeds) also consumes these anti-nutrient chemicals. Anti-nutrients interfere with and inhibit mineral absorption in the gut, inhibit the pancreatic enzymes from adequately digesting food, irritate the immune system, and irritate the gut lining creating an inflammatory environment. The inflammation causes the intestinal wall to produce an abundance of mucus (you will often see this in your dog’s stools) which further reduces nutrient absorption in the small intestine. Add to this the fact that parasites (intestinal worms) typically consume mucus, one reason we commonly see grain-laden kibble-fed dogs regularly needing preventative chemical worming protocols. Thus, it is clearly apparent why the consumption of grains is posing a major health threat to not just our dogs, but also to people who consume them and grain-fed farm animals.

It can be argued that people and animals have been consuming grains for a very long time. And while this is true, a simple research of historical records will show the unfortunate decline in the health of humans and animals following the advent of grain-cultivating agriculture. Malnutrition and infectious disease were the major consequences of grain consumption. Of the studies that do show a possible positive link to grain consumption, the fact is that these studies were observational only and cannot prove that whole grains caused a reduction in disease risk. In fact, the opposite shows more prominently: disease-risk increased. Post-Industrial Revolution and the mass production of grains and grain-based foods brought with it the rapid ascension of chronic disease and cancer in humans, livestock, and pets. Despite the fact that grains were prepared and consumed much differently in the past than they are in this technologically advanced world, grains were not then nor are now an adequate food source as indicated, for one, by the anti-predation measures grasses have adapted and the decline in health that followed. Add to this the high carbohydrate and fiber content and you have another major issue for a carnivore.

Understand, firstly, that both whole grains (containing the bran, endosperm, and germ) and refined grains (endosperm only) come with risks. Whole grains come with the anti-predation chemicals along with the issues of the fiber. The bran is the outer layer on the endosperm and is composed of insoluble fiber. Especially in the carnivore, insoluble fibers from grains pose problems. Dogs do not have need for more than a small amount of fiber from foraging and the consumption of species-appropriate fur and feather fiber. Insoluble fiber from grains inhibits proper digestion and reduces nutrient absorption where it is already poor in the presence of the anti-nutrients. Even more, Dr. John Briffa, writing on human nutrition, expressed, “Do bear in mind though that insoluble fiber has been show to induce tiny rips and tears in the lining of the bowel. These will need repairing of course, requiring proliferation of cells. Uncontrolled cell proliferation, by the way, is the hallmark of cancerous tumors. While doctors, dieticians and cereal manufacturers often extol the virtues of bran, my opinion is that such foods should be flushed (straight) down the toilet.” Now take this information and apply this to a carnivore that should be consuming species-appropriate meats, organs, bones, and small amounts of vegetation. Imagine what grains are doing to a canine’s digestive system especially where they are a regular part of the diet. It is also possible that the high fiber coupled with the low-quality protein in commercially prepared foods may be implicated in the increased rate of heart disease in dogs. So, what happens if you remove the fiber-rich bran and the germ such as in the refining process of grains? You have nothing but low-nutrient carbohydrates. Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Oncology concluded that high carbohydrate diets create favorable conditions for the growth of tumors in dogs and cats, especially in those animals already fighting cancer. Their recommendation is a diet high in protein and fat which is exactly what carnivores should be consuming to begin with. Additionally, there exists the issue of glucose (sugar) spiking from the high carbohydrate content along with the greatly increased risk for obesity, diabetes, and all the chronic conditions that follow. The processed grain is no longer a whole food and lacks the partnering constituents to balance the carbohydrates that would reduce the increased risk for disease conditions. Thus, it matters not whether you feed whole grains or refined grains; the negatives of both far outweigh any benefits.

Since research on the negative value of grain consumption is fairly well-known, as well as the consequences experienced by countless people and animals, many health-savvy individuals have brought back some of the older methods of grain preparation to help make the consumption of grains safer and more beneficial. The Weston A. Price Foundation and many other nutrition professionals have published educational articles and videos on proper grain preparation techniques that serve to reduce and eliminate dangerous anti-nutrients; I happened to have been one of them. As a result, germinated, sprouted, and fermented grains have risen in popularity. Many of these health-savvy pet parents have also taken these measures to their dogs. But is there really any benefit in adding even sprouted and fermented grains to a dog’s diet? (Just to notate, both sprouting and fermenting would be necessary!) For one, grains must be heavily cooked to a near indistinguishable mush for a dog to even benefit slightly as a carnivore’s digestive tract can in no way break down unprocessed grains, period. Let’s consider the well-meaning pet parent who is feeding oatmeal, a grain which cannot be sprouted nor has been shown to benefit from soaking in an acid or fermented medium over-night prior to cooking. Grains contain the enzyme phytase that helps to breakdown the anti-nutrient phytic acid for the purpose of sprouting and growing into a new grass. However, phytase is heat sensitive and is destroyed easily by heat. Oatmeal (either rolled or instant) is a common addition to homemade dog food. In order to create oatmeal from whole grain oats, the oats are subjected to steam and then toasted or are precooked. The heat destroys the naturally-occurring phytase in the oats and therefore leaves the anti-nutrient phytic acid in the oatmeal. As a result, oatmeal does not benefit from presoaking even in an acid medium because there exists no phytase to “activate.” Oatmeal requires the addition of phytase or the homemade meal is sabotaged by the anti-nutrients. As noted above, the anti-predation chemicals in grains are meant to withstand the digestive tract in order to come out whole in feces for its purpose of creating new life. Unless the grains are sprouted or fermented before cooking, the anti-nutrients remain and will bind with minerals and pancreatic enzymes creating a possible mineral deficiency condition. And if this isn’t problematic enough, you must still contend with the lectin toxins and prolamin. Most lectins are proinflammatory, immunotoxic, neurotoxic, and cytotoxic. Some lectins may also increase blood viscosity, can interfere with gene expression, and act as endocrine disruptors. According to the world expert on plant anti-nutrients, Dr. Steven Gundry explains, “lectins are like little barnacles that look for specific sugar molecules in our blood, the lining of our gut, and on our nerves. When they find a good spot to land, they cling to those cells, breaking down their ability to communicate with our immune systems. Then, they literally tear open little holes between the cells that line our intestines. This perforation is the cause of Leaky Gut Syndrome, which we’re learning can cause a great deal of unpleasant symptoms and autoimmune issues or symptoms similar to those of food poisoning…. For the most part, grains are a relatively new food to us. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t search for grains. Plus, most grains are lectin bombs, as well as gluten-free grain substitutes. It’s best to limit grain intake. If you must, eat white flour over wheat.1” Reducing lectins requires sprouting, fermenting, and pressure cooking the grains. And finally, grains contain prolamins. Prolamins are known to be especially irritating to immune function. In the presence of these anti-nutrients, adequate mineral absorption and proper digestion is not possible. Adding grains are, therefore, counter-productive, not to mention time-consuming. Most of the time, the reason a pet parent is adding oatmeal or another grain is for the purpose of meeting one nutrient requirement such as magnesium. Going through the long and arduous preparation process just to hypothetically meet one nutrient requirement, while likely reducing the gut-absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, is anything but beneficial.

If you have read Part IV of this series, you will know that my highest nutrient per bite ratio recommendation would cancel out grains completely. Grains are not nutrient-saturated and contain a valueless macronutrient (carbohydrate) that is unbalanced for a carnivore. Carnivores have no need for carbohydrates and grains are primarily carbohydrates with low-bioavailable proteins. This then creates a domino effect in the canine’s diet that 1) reduces or radically alters bioavailable essential amino acid proportions and levels, 2) reduces the potential for enzyme and cofactor saturation that can only be supplied with fresh raw foods, 3) which then creates a need for anti-inflammatory fats (along with Vitamin E) to be added to the meal, 4) which then raises calories, 5) which then requires a reduction in the vital animal protein sources, essential animal fat, or the grain (which lowers the already low nutrient-value of the grain) to avoid too many calories, 6) which would then require the addition of supplemental nutrients, and thus you are left with an over-all reduction in nutrient saturation in the total diet. Barely meeting minimum nutrient requirements is not adequate to prevent disease and cultivate optimal health. Optimal health is never built on minimums or just above. Optimal health requires an abundance of nutrients that can be found in highest nutrient per bite ratio foods saturated and teeming with life giving nutrition.  

There is also the concern with the rise in dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) among many breeds of dogs. While I am not a veterinarian and am unqualified to write on the specifics of this devastating condition, I do know that most DCM conditions are dietary related and are a direct result of a taurine deficiency. This is a newer epidemic among dogs as the amino acid taurine is not an essential (required) amino acid that must be added to a dog’s diet. However, it is possible that the low quality, plant-based proteins that dominate commercial pet foods is leading to a deficiency of this important amino acid. Grains do not contain taurine; therefore, providing your dog with a grain inclusive kibble (as is being recommended by veterinarians) will not solve the issue. Taurine is abundant in meat, heart, fish, eggs, seaweed, and dairy foods, ingredients that lack in commercially processed dog foods. Taurine-deficient DCM can be avoided altogether by providing your dog with a taurine-rich, nutrient-saturated raw food diet.

Should you feed your dog grains? I hope that your answer is no. I have even recommended to many of my humans clients to remove grains from their diet as well. The health benefits of grains are nil. Feeding a carnivore grains is even more-so problematic. Leave the grains to the birds and focus rather on providing your dog with biologically-appropriate foods that are bioavailable, easily digested, saturated with nutrients, enzymes and cofactors, and rich in amino acids such as taurine. Why take a chance with your dog’s health when we have them for such a short time? Offer your fur-baby the best you can provide. The Holistic Canine is here to support you.

©2019 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Certified Raw Dog Food Nutritionist

1 https://gundrymd.com/reduce-lectins-diet/