Common Mistakes Pet Parents Make When New to Raw Feeding

Feeding your dog a raw diet of fresh meats, nutrient-rich organs, raw meaty bones, and other nourishing whole-foods is the most natural and species-appropriate option available. When offered and provided correctly, dogs indisputably thrive. Notice the key word here… correctly. As raw feeding becomes more and more commonplace and the internet fills with information, many pet parents are taking the switch to raw into their own hands. And thanks to the Pet Fooled documentary (available of Netflix), the raw food movement is exploding not just within the United States, but has been across the world.

When it comes to taking the responsibility to provide for your dog’s nutritional needs, research and knowledge are not optional. Even for me, being a board certified practitioner and nutrition professional since the 1990s, I did not take the switch from commercial food to homemade lightly. Dogs have very specific nutrient requirements that must be provided or health will inevitably suffer. In my practice, I have observed “common mistake” trends made by pet parents who are new and newish to raw feeding. Here are some common mistakes as well as suggestions for how to avoid and/or make amendments to be sure your dog will flourish on a raw diet.

1. Failure to do adequate research                

Face it, research can be an arduous and laborious process especially when there can be steep consequences to not doing enough. When it comes to a basic need that can spell health or harm (quite literally), research is not to be scrimped upon. Nutrition is vital to life and all processes that sustain and maintain life. I would very much doubt that any pet parent is not hoping for many, many years of health and joy with their beloved companions. Thus, getting your dog’s nutritional needs adequately met is a vital step toward that goal of long ages and stellar health.

Switching to raw is more than simply providing raw ground beef and broccoli with an occasional marrow bone or a bunch of chicken quarters or backs day in and day out. Dogs have a need for a variety of meats, organs, bones, and other foods in varying quantities in order to create a truly complete and balanced nutrition plan. There is the need to know how much food to provide and how much of each ingredient is going to be required to provide all of the essential amino acids, fats, vitamins, and minerals.

A situation in my practice that often needs addressing is the exclusive feeding of the popular commercially and locally prepared 80/10/10 grinds. Most of these products are not “complete and balanced.” While the ingredients may be exceptional quality, most of these products offer only a good dietary base with the need for added ingredients and sometimes supplementation. If you are feeding a commercial or locally created 80/10/10 pet food product that does not come with a “complete and balanced” label or guarantee, chances are you are feeding a significantly deficient product.

You must determine if what you are feeding your dog is either providing all of your dog’s nutrient needs or is deficient or imbalanced and in need of amending. This is where research pays off in a big way. While you can pay a professional do all the work for you, such as myself who would be happy to analyze your pet’s diet, most pet parents are perfectly capable of discovering what nutrients are being supplied and which nutrients are lacking in their dog’s meals.

If you are not sure where to begin, start here. Every pet parent who is or will be raw feeding must have their dog’s specific daily nutrient requirements. You can determine this by using our free NRC nutrient requirement calculator here. Once you know your dog’s nutrient needs, begin to source ingredients that contain the nutrients your dog requires. You will need to use a spreadsheet calculator to audit the nutrients in the meals you create. You can find free spreadsheet calculators in The Holistic Canine Facebook community group. If you do not mind purchasing a low-cost program, you might consider the Pet Diet Designer (PDD) software (not available for Mac users) for your laptop or PC. This software can help you determine deficiencies and imbalances in your pet’s meals (DISCLAIMER, the PDD software does not account for bone and can be very frustrating for pet parents who do not have assistance knowing how to account for missing information in the program). If none of these are a possibility, you can use the USDA Food Composition Database to learn the nutrient profiles of what you are feeding to calculate your nutrient totals.

2. Believing that feeding a ratio means you are providing a “balanced” diet

Ratios are a great guideline for creating meals. The 80/10/10 ratio (80% meat, 10% organs, 10% bone) is the approximate ratio of whole prey. Because most pet parents who choose raw want to provide a species-appropriate diet that most closely resembles a natural carnivorous diet, following the 80/10/10 ratio (or one similar) just seems to make so much sense. And while it does make sense, providing meals based only on the ratio without any regard for nutrients is the most common cause for nutrient deficient meals. While nutrient toxicities are less common, they can occur especially with a consistent amount of liver, other secreting organs, and supplements in every meal. Ratios must be balanced properly if your goal is to cultivate optimal health and promote healing.

Consistently providing your dog with meals that are unbalanced greatly increases the very real possibility for nutrient-deficient or nutrient-toxic pathologies and conditions. Understand that conditions do not occur over night. It takes months and sometimes years for unbalanced nutrition to create problems or damage. Early symptoms are often overlooked and dismissed as sensitivities and allergies whether to food or the environment. Other signs include skin that won’t heal, hot spots, excessive licking, other skin conditions, thinning coat, difficulty maintaining weight, joint injuries, ligament damage, hip problems, poor eyesight, ear conditions, behavioral changes including anxiety or aggression, excessive hunger or thirst, skipping meals, lack of energy, withdrawn or depression, hyperactivity, scatterbrained, increased thirst with an inability to urinate, and more. 

If you are unsure if the meals you are providing for your dog are balanced, refer to number 1 above to audit nutrients.

3. Neglecting to balance the fats

This is a biggie in my practice. It is also a big concern in human nutrition as well. Not all fats are created equally and each fatty acid has its own specific function and purpose. Dogs need to receive each essential fatty acid in the correct balance. The two categories of essential fatty acids that dog must receive from their diet are omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Getting enough of the essential omega-6 fatty acids is easy to do, in fact so easy that this is usually the cause for the fat imbalance.

Farm animals raised for food are primarily fed grains, especially conventionally farmed animals that end up for sale in grocery and food store meat cases across the country to nourish the general public. These meats are regulated by agencies that ensure quality and safety. More often than not, pet parents are feeding their dogs this same meat from conventionally farmed animals. Due to the type of feed that is consumed by livestock during their life, the end result is a meat product high in omega-6 fatty acids. This applies to poultry, beef, pork, goat, lamb, and eggs. Omega-6 fatty acids also happen to be inflammatory fats. Balancing the fatty acids is crucial to prevent an inflammatory environment within your dog’s body. This is done by feeding a balance of omega-3 fatty acids along with omega-6 rich meats in a ratio of 2:1 or 3:1 omega-6 to omega-3. The key word here is balance. Dogs with certain health concerns and chronic disease may be better with a 1:1 ratio.

Livestock that are raised out on pasture and free-ranged will have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The meat and eggs from these animals unfortunately also tend to be very costly. The cost is often so high that many families cannot afford these meats even for themselves much less their dog. Feeding fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, and mackerel can easily provide the needed omega-3 fatty acids. But the safety of fish is often questioned as well as sourcing and pricing. Farmed fish is not ideal and wild-caught can be very pricey and is generally available seasonally. This is an example where supplementation may prove a better option for some pet parents over more costly omega-3 rich foods. Be sure to choose a source to balance the fats in your dog’s diet as this is essential for overall health.

As a word of caution, the trend for a supplemental omega-3 source is fish oil. And as with most things, there are a few concerns about utilizing fish oil. Fish oils have the unfortunate problem of rancidity. No matter how wonderful the quality, rancidity is a major problem. As soon as the extracted oil hits the air, oxidation occurs even through gelcaps. Refrigeration is helpful, but I have my doubts. Rancid fish oils will contribute to a highly inflammatory environment within your dog’s body. Additionally, if you’re not spending a good bit of money on a natural supplement with a purity guarantee, you are likely buying a contaminated product containing mercury and PCBs (among others) with the bonus of extraction chemicals. And lastly, the very high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can actually create health concerns. Just like too many omega-6 fatty acids can lead to a potential disease state, so too, omega-3 fatty acids in amounts well over what is needed can create health concerns.

My first choice for omega-3 fatty acids is food. Wild-caught sardines and mackerel are excellent, relatively low in contaminants, and are also superb sources of protein, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin D. Canned fish is also acceptable. My choices for supplements are krill oil and marine phytoplankton. The omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil are more readily and easily absorbed because krill contains astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant. This is also what makes krill oil safer and less prone to oxidation. The lesser amounts of fatty acids also make krill oil innocuous. Marine phytoplankton is high in omega-3s and rich in protein, minerals, and vitamins.

Again, balance is critical. More is not better! Balance is everything.

4. Expecting or holding on to unrealistic results

While raw feeding has a plethora of benefits, switching your dog to raw and holding on to unrealistic goals is not only frustrating, but creates a stigma that can deter other pet parents from transitioning to a species-appropriate diet and providing their best for their pets. It is unfortunate that many pet parents do not learn about raw feeding until after their dog has been suffering or is diagnosed with a chronic condition; the worst case, cancer. It is often the pet parent’s desperate research to learn ways to help their chronically damaged or ill dog that leads them to discovering that diet plays a major and critical role in health and healing, and that a raw diet just may be the answer. While there is no doubt that transitioning a suffering or chronically ill dog to a species-appropriate raw diet can help, how much help is dependent solely upon how badly damaged a dog’s body, immune, and organ function is at the time of transition. Sadly, for many dogs, it is simply too late for their compromised system to recover. Irreversible damage is the sad and heartbreaking case with many cancers. Dogs do not generally show symptoms of cancer until it has already advanced. This is exactly the reason why prevention is critical.

While many dogs have in fact reversed conditions, disease, and even cancer by being transitioned to a raw diet, not every dog is so fortunate. Pet parents would be wise to hold on to the fact that by choosing a raw diet in their dog’s final months, weeks, or even days has provided them with the absolute best nutrition plan possible and likely the most enjoyable meals of their dog’s life. Many dogs transitioned to raw in their golden years or at the tail end of disease end up passing peacefully and in very little pain. As with everything in this world, nothing is a guarantee except that all living beings have their time that must eventually come to an end. A raw diet can and most often does create a platform for reduced pain, decreased symptoms, and enjoyable meal times.

Transitioning to raw can be a wonderfully amazing journey for both dog and pet parent. But be realistic and hold on to the joy and peace that raw feeding can bring to a suffering and ill animal.   

5. Over supplementing (or ignoring supplementing altogether)

Taking your dog’s nutritional needs into your own hands can be a very daunting and frightening task. To help ease concerns, many well-intentioned pet parents turn to excessive supplementation, or what I call bottled insurance policies. While supplements may be indicated in certain circumstances, supplements used wrongly can create a serious imbalance that may put your dog at an increased risk for harm. To know whether or not a supplement may be required, you must first know if a deficiency exists consistently within meals, if anti-nutrients need to be countered, or if you require a synergistic nutrient to assist absorption. Only an audit of your meals will accurately determine this. You can use a spreadsheet calculator or a diet designer software as referred to in number 1 above.

For example, if your meals are consistently low in zinc and you are unable to feed enough beef, oysters, or gizzard to meet your dog’s zinc requirement, adding a LOW dose organic (chelated to an amino acid ONLY) zinc supplement may be indicated. Be mindful that consistent use of zinc can create a copper and manganese deficiency especially if levels of these antagonistic nutrients are also low. I am not a fan of nutrient isolates as it is quite easy to create imbalances thus becoming potentially harmful.

If you are using a multi vitamin and mineral supplement, my best advice is to seek the help of a nutrition professional such as myself to determine if the addition is advantageous or is potentially setting your dog up for a health crisis. To be certain that any supplement is needed, I also suggest consulting with me especially if you are unsure.  

I do advocate the use of food-source supplements. These food supplements can be added to meals just as a food without the calorie load and the benefit of nutrient saturation. I love to add and rotate among barley grass and wheat grass powders, spirulina, alfalfa, green lipped mussel powder, phytoplankton, kelp (WATCH the iodine content and feed with CAUTION!), whole fruit powders, krill oil, mushroom powders, colostrum, and more. However, you must know why you are adding these supplemental foods. These concentrated food sources are rich in nutrients and, while not as likely, could potentially create an imbalance if used excessively.

6. Not sourcing enough ingredients

Animals, like us humans, need a variety of foods to meet nutrient needs and to create an ideal platform for optimizing nutrient uptake and assimilation. Consistently feeding a limited amount of ingredients or neglecting to feed a variety of proteins can create serious deficiencies. Each protein and organ source contains its own unique nutrient profile. Both macro (proteins and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) vary greatly among and within foods. Some foods are richer in certain nutrients than others and thus should be fed to supply those particular nutrients. Unless you are feeding whole prey, limited protein sources will not be sufficient without numerous additional ingredients or supplements to create balance, and supplements are not ideal.

What is of most concern is the nutrient antagonism and synergism. Feeding a limited amount of food ingredients consistently subjects your dog to similar antagonism and synergism. This can eventually lead to an imbalance and reduced nutrient absorption. Nutrient uptake is optimal with variety.                

Ideally, you will want to feed your dog foods from poultry, mammals, and fish. This includes muscle meat along with a variety of organ meat. Organ meat is heavily saturated in nutrients and is therefore fed in smaller quantities. Eggs are nature’s “perfect food” and are an ideal addition to meals as well. Many pet parents also add vegetables, fruits, and seeds to further increase nutrient saturation. The more variety you can offer to your dog, the easier it is to feed balanced meals.

Remember to feed only those foods that are species-appropriate for dogs. This ensures ease of digestion and optimal nutrient absorption. Your dog is a facultative carnivore that must have meat, organs, and bones to cultivate optimal health.    

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


Simplifying the Raw Food Models

Which model is best? Let your dog be the judge of that!

If you are newer to raw feeding, undoubtedly you have encountered the well-established raw food vernacular, and if you have been raw feeding for some time, then likely you are quite fluent in all the terminology and raw food model specifics. Clearly, the raw food movement is branching out into numerous directions, many of which differ immensely. Which method should you choose? Or better yet, which method is best?

Many canine nutrition professionals claim their chosen model is the correct choice. But I have news for you; what you choose for your dog must be in-line with what is best for him/her. As with anything in life, there is not just one way or one path. Biological life is highly adaptable. Cells will adapt to the best of their capacity to function both efficiently and effectively to achieve the result that is required. When it comes to dogs, they are incredibly adaptable. Thus, there are many ways that you can provide your dog with fresh, raw, whole-food meals that are both balanced and health-promoting. Which is best for your dog is up to you to discover. This requires careful observation. Consider the following…

The interesting thing about science is the massive misunderstanding surrounding it. Science is about discovery, observation, and learned outcome. It is not speculative or hypothetical. That is best left in the realm of philosophy. Science is a vehicle to learning truths by way of observation and testing. No matter what man observes, examines, and tests, there will be a result. Whether that result was the expected outcome or something entirely different, knowledge is gained by what is clearly demonstrated before observing eyes. Whenever we embark on a new journey, especially one with our dogs who lack the capacity of verbal language, we are at the mercy of observation and discovery. It is up to us, the pet parent, to be cognizant and mindful of any and all outcomes, whether beneficial or detrimental, when providing for our pets’ most basic needs. Taking our dog’s nutritional needs into our own hands requires vigilant observation of what is working and what may not be.

Pet parenting is a journey of discovery and experience. Before you can truly discover what is best for your dog, having a basic knowledge of the different raw feeding models will prove advantageous. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of some of the common raw food methods. Deciding where to start may be one of convenience or ability. But we all need to start somewhere. Do your best to decide what may be best for your dog (and you!) and then observe as many details as is possible. Keep a journal if need be, but let’s journey together to discovering the best for your dog.

BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods, formerly Bones And Raw Food)

Dr. Ian Billinghurst started this model back in the late 1980s. He published his book, Give Your Dog a Bone, in 1992 and the rest is history. BARF began as a raw meaty bones (RMB) feeding plan. Dr. Tom Lonsdale was also a huge proponent for RMBs after his observations of the severely declining tooth and gum health of clients’ dogs. This led him to researching and discovering a way to resolve this serious and growing concern. He too discovered the obvious: give the dogs RMBs and observe the extraordinary changes in not only tooth and gum health, but overall health coupled with a rapid decline in chronic disease. Nine years after Dr. Billinghurst, Dr. Lonsdale released Raw Meaty Bones Promote Health.

This model was created to center around the RMBs. From 40% to as much as 60% of a dog’s daily food needs come from RMBs. The remaining dietary needs come from additional boneless meat and organs. Further, 5% to 10% of the diet consists of vegetables and fruit. The standard ratio guideline to follow is 70/10/10/10 which are the ratios closest to whole prey with the addition of vegetables and fruits. This equates to meat at a rate of 70% of the diet, organs at 10%, bone 10%, and vegetables and fruit 10%. It takes a little bit of math to figure the 10% bone requirement when feeding RMBs, but simply put, the standard recommendation of 40% to 60% RMBs averages out to 10% to 15% bone. This is an ideal representation of whole prey. While Dr. Lonsdale does not promote a heavy emphasis on vegetables and fruits, Dr. Billinghurst does. BARF, however, has evolved.

There exists several concerns with the current BARF model. Today’s BARF, in addition to vegetables and fruit, now includes nuts, seeds, yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, goat milk products, and fermented vegetables. These foods are more in line with omnivores. And that is just it. Some BARF feeders understand dogs to be omnivores; therefore, including 25% (and sometimes more) plant matter along with other foods is of no concern. So the 70/10/10/10 ratio is no longer followed by many BARF feeders. Additionally, BARF can allow for a high carbohydrate and fiber percentage due to the enormous percentage of the meals coming from vegetables and fruit. High carbohydrate and fiber diets, even from fresh wholesome fruit and vegetables, are not always conducive to a facultative carnivore’s physiological processes.

On the other hand, the variety of vegetables and fruit that can be offered in the BARF model allows for ease in meeting nutrient requirements. Just how beneficial these varietal offerings are is yet to be fully determined as many dogs simply do not do well on plant matter. Additionally, BARF model proponents also tend to be heavy handed on the supplementation.

What is most troublesome, however, is the fact that whole RMBs are being removed entirely and replaced with grinds. Grinds are meat, organ, bone, vegetables, fruits, and seeds ground together. This defeats the whole point and purpose of BARF’s original intention: to give dogs bones to chew! Dogs absolutely need to chew or dental health will decline even on a raw diet. Grinds are only ever needed for dogs without teeth to chew. And even then, giving toothless dogs recreational bones massages the gums and provides them with a pacifying and satisfying activity.

The original BARF model has tremendous value. One would be wise to go back to the original idea.

Pros:

  • There is no doubt that feeding RMBs promotes exceptional dental health as well as healthy bodies. Chronic disease rates dropped dramatically in RMB-fed dogs. Observation over several decades has shown this to be true.
  • Some vegetables and fruit have been proven in a study to be highly beneficial to many dogs; however, the study was completed on kibble fed dogs that were offered fresh vegetation as a supplement to their kibble. There was a 90% reduction in chronic disease among the kibble fed dogs offered fresh foods.
  • BARF is flexible and allows for a variety of foods to be offered to your dog.

Cons:

  • The variety of foods now being offered under the BARF model is going a tad bit beyond what is considered species-appropriate. An enormous percentage of vegetables and fruits along with nuts, seeds, and dairy/goat products are now considered BARF appropriate food choices.
  • Vegetables need to be pureed or cooked for a carnivore to benefit. The most nutritious vegetables contain oxalates which are damaging to the gut, joints, and nerves as well as reducing the absorption of calcium and iron.
  • Fruit and starchy vegetables can cause yeast proliferation in many dogs.
  • Nuts and seeds contain anti-nutrients and must be ground. They require the addition of vitamin C to counter the effects of phytates. They are also high in fat and add a tremendous amount of calories, thus can only be fed in small amounts.
  • BARF can be far too high in fiber and carbohydrates. High fiber can create gut irritation among other concerns. Numerous studies show the increased risk for disease and obesity when high carbohydrate diets are consumed.
  • If one steers too far away from the original RMB BARF model and feeds grinds, the advantages of BARF are no longer applicable. Dental health is key to a healthy body and chewing is critical for mental poise.

PMR (Prey Model Raw)

PMR is based on the understanding that dogs are domesticated wolves. It has been determined that the modern domestic dog’s DNA is a mere 0.2% different from the wolf. Anatomically, domestic dogs are clearly carnivorous. Physiologically, it is also taught that our dogs are indeed carnivores. Thus, this model feeds whole prey or a variation of prey that includes only meat, organs, and bones in a ratio of 80/10/10. The ratio is the approximate percentages of what a dog would consume if eating a whole animal. This equates to meat being 80% of the diet, secreting organs as 10% (5% liver and 5% other), and 10% bone. In reality, whole prey has an average of 12% bone, thus the idea is that the ratio is a guideline which can and should vary. No vegetation or carbohydrates of any kind are fed in this model.

There exist several arguments against PMR. For one, studies have determined that domestic dogs not only produce pancreatic amylase*, but it has also been measured in their saliva. BMC Veterinary Research has identified salivary amylase in Beagles. It has also been discovered that domestic dogs contain four to thirty copies of the AMY2B gene that codes for amylase enzyme while the wolf contains a mere two copies. So what does this prove? While it might appear that these finding indicate that dogs are omnivores, especially if one was to interpret the data through a biased mind-frame, in reality, it does not prove or suggest the evolution to omnivore. After all, anatomically, dogs are clearly carnivorous. A conclusion can only be correctly drawn by seeing the whole picture. And, one must also have a good understanding of genetics to see this accurately. What these finding show is that dogs have adapted to life with humans and their foods. Clearly, dogs have flourished. What we see here is an example of adaptation within the genes. Gene expression is turned on or off dependent upon environment and available food. It is thus clear that dogs can digest some carbohydrates with no ill effects, while some dogs may even thrive with the addition of minimal carbs. However, their carnivorous anatomy and physiology remains predominant.

PMR can appear to be very difficult to balance if whole prey is not being offered. And yet, the variety of protein options may provide the optimal platform for maximum nutrient uptake due to the consistently varying nutrient profiles and the high bioavailability of the macro and micronutrients. Nevertheless, many opponents of PMR criticize the assumed nutrient deficient meals. Trace minerals are richest in vegetables and seeds and are extremely difficult to maximize with meat, organs, and bone alone; or so it is thought. It cannot, however, be denied that many dogs are living to long ages disease-free on PMR.

Pros:

  • Simple to feed, especially if feeding whole prey.
  • The 80/10/10 ratio is a straightforward guideline that allows for easy meal creations.
  • Easily digestible with very little waste in terms of poop.
  • High bioavailability with no anti-nutrients which quite possibly allows for maximum nutrient uptake.
  • PMR is flexible allowing for a variety of protein sources or very few if whole prey can be sourced.
  • Ideal for dogs with sensitivities and limited proteins.

Cons:

  • It is difficult to meet the NRC recommended allowance (RA) for nutrients. In fact, it is often even difficult to meet the AAFCO and NRC minimum nutrient requirements if using a diet designer software. However, many pet parents using spreadsheets are able to provide balanced meals with careful planning and ingredient sourcing.
  • Nutrient profiles for animal parts that are not edible for humans are generally unknown. This often causes audited PMR meals to reflect low in nutrients. Aside from calcium and phosphorus, it is also unknown to what extent bone minerals contribute to fulfilling nutrient requirements. Further, it is unknown to what extent blood contributes to nutrient needs.
  • Whole prey can be very difficult to source and is often very challenging to feed to toy and small breeds.
  • Feeding whole prey is not for the squeamish and can be very messy.

Frankenprey (generally follows PMR, but can also be used with BARF)

Frankenprey can be very simple or very complicated. The idea is that you create a semi-whole animal out of various parts from either one animal or various animals to mimic whole prey. For example, a meal may include a chicken drumstick with skin (RMB), ground chicken, chicken liver, chicken hearts, chicken gizzard, chicken lung, chicken paw, and feathers. Or, a meal may include a chicken thigh with skin (RMB), grass-fed ground beef and beef tongue, sardines along with beef heart, turkey gizzard, calf liver and pork kidney, a duck neck or chicken paw, and a bonus of chicken feathers or a furry rabbit ear. Many pet parents are also able to source blood and will add beef or chicken blood, for example. Quail, chicken, and duck eggs may also be added.

Meals are created by following the PMR 80/10/10 ratio guideline. Or the BARF variation ratio of 70/10/10/10 with the option of adding vegetables, fruit, seeds, apple cider vinegar, and/or fermented dairy/goat products for additional nutrients and value in a small percentage generally around 5% to 10%. The idea is to mimic prey so the addition of vegetables, fruit, etc. is meant to replicate stomach contents for nutrient purposes.

Because many pet parents use additional ingredients, this model can easily meet nutrient requirements.

Pros:

  • Frankenprey, like PMR, can be nutritionally accurate to whole prey when done correctly. This model can be an exceptional choice because it provides variety and varying nutrient profiles which provides the correct platform for optimal nutrient absorption.
  • It can be very simple to create if planned properly as ratios are easy to follow.
  • Frankenprey can allow for highly digestible meals with good nutrient ratios often exceeding NRC’s RA.
  • This model can source all meat and organs from one animal protein to “create” a whole animal which is ideal for dogs with sensitivities who are limited to few proteins. Or a variety of proteins can be sourced to “create” an animal from multiple animal parts. Thus, it is very flexible.
  • These meals can be fun to create…really!

Cons:

  • Frankenprey requires careful planning and the ability to source many hard-to-find ingredients.
  • Determining the nutrients in each meal requires quite a bit of research searching for food nutrient values along with math. Or a spreadsheet calculator can be used to simplify the nutrient findings.
  • Can be very, very time consuming and takes a dedicated pet parent.

Ratio Diet

This model is just another name for following the PMR 80/10/10 ratio or another ratio such as the 70/10/10/10 ratio belonging to BARF. Ratios can vary greatly yet they are all meant to be guidelines for creating meals that most accurately represent the percentages of whole prey. Popular ratios include:

80/10/10 (80% meat, 10% organs, 10% bone)

70/10/10/10 (70% meat, 10% organs, 10% bone, 10% veg/fruit/other)

65/15/10/5/5 (65% muscle meat, 15% organ muscle, 10% bone, 5% liver, 5% secreting organ). This is an exceptional ratio to follow to maximize nutrient potential.

75/10/5/5/5 (75% meat, 10% bone, 5% liver, 5% secreting, 5% other). This is also an excellent ratio for meeting nutrient requirements and to maximize nutrient absorption.

The pros and cons for this model are all dependent upon exactly how the meals are created and can include any of the above listed for each model.

Homemade DIY Meals

This model is an anything-goes type of dietary plan. Proponents of this plan are generally focused on sourcing nutrients and meeting NRC recommended allowance (RA) requirements while paying little to no attention to ratios or modeling whole prey. Meals can have both raw and cooked foods and include everything from meat and organs to oatmeal, kidney beans, fruits, lentils, vegetables, quinoa, soy, cottage cheese, nuts, seeds, peas, sweet potatoes, and on and on. Many of the pet parents subscribing to this philosophy assert that they feed a science-based diet plan. This idea is touted because they follow the nutrient guideline chart from the NRC’s book Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats which was compiled for the purpose of setting updated standards for processed commercial dog foods. However, there are numerous concerns with this free-for-all approach to choosing and sourcing foods.

For one, it is obvious that many of the above listed foods are in no way species-appropriate. Choosing specific foods simply to provide a required nutrient or two without any concern for the fact that the foods are not appropriate for dogs can be highly unfavorable or even injurious in the long run. Foods must be biologically-appropriate to be advantageous and health-promoting.

Many of the pet parents following this plan tend to be recipe driven, thus there is the concern over following the same recipe or two over and over without variation. This subjects dogs to the same nutrient profile with the same antagonism and synergism thereby greatly increasing the chance for nutrient deficiencies and toxicities and potential chronic conditions. This is the opposite of the very reason a pet parent would choose to follow this plan. Following a minimum of five recipes in a rotation is a much better option.

A major concern with following this plan, however, is the use of grains and legumes. These foods are not only inappropriate for dogs, but are not even appropriate for humans. Grains and legumes contain anti-nutrients, toxins, enzyme inhibitors, are gut irritants, increase inflammation, erode joints, greatly increase the rate of arthritis and crippling disease, and are cause for poor gut mineral absorption, among others. Legumes notably are implicated in the rapid rise in the incidences of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Proponents of this plan tend to rely heavily upon auditing programs and software diet designer programs to create meals. Unfortunately, most, if not all, diet auditing and meal creation programs do not include or account for bone. As a result, most of these pet parents are either creating or receiving recipes (from dog nutrition professionals) void completely of bone with the addition of a calcium supplement. That is an enormous step away from what is natural and species-appropriate. Having to rely upon supplementation to meet needs is completely contrary to nature. Bone is perfectly balanced and essential. Since some well-meaning pet parents understand this, they turn to bone meal as their calcium source. Bone meal is a less-than-ideal (to put it lightly) source of minerals. The high heat needed to create the product causes the minerals to be poorly absorbed with the added concern for the potential of creating an inappropriate calcium to phosphorus ratio. It is necessary for a dog, and especially puppies, to receive the proper calcium to phosphorous ratio for optimal nutrient absorption and synergy. Even worse, bone meal contains contaminants that can poison your dog and could potentially be fatal.

Because the main focus of this model is meeting NRC nutrient requirements and not bioavailable species-appropriate foods and whole-prey ratios, supplementation can be very heavy-handed. Supplements are never an ideal nutrient source. When supplements are needed, food-source nutrients (whole-food supplements) should be chosen.

And finally, due to the high percentage of inappropriate food sourcing, pet parents who are not nutritionally educated may be unaware that their meal plans do not provide the ideal platform for adequate nutrient absorption and assimilation. Dogs consuming meals following this model on a long-term basis can be similar to the unfavorable ramifications to health as seen in dogs consuming commercially produced dog food. Poor skin, yeast proliferation, chronic ear irritation and infection, weight gain, poor oral/dental health, allergies and sensitivities, joint deterioration, inflammation, hip concerns in larger breeds, hypothyroidism, tumor formation, chronic disease, and cancer are more common with this method especially if species-inappropriate foods are part of the regular diet. Feeding meals under this model requires careful observation and costly yearly blood work from a licensed veterinarian.

Pros:

  • When the sky is the limit, meeting nutrient requirements is a breeze.

Cons:

  • Feeding foods with no regard to the inappropriateness and unsuitability to a dog’s physiology is reckless and potentially harmful. Meeting nutrient requirements with foods not suitable gains no benefit. The hypothetical fulfillment of nutrients on a software program provides more benefit to the pet parent’s psyche than to their dog’s health.
  • Providing meals with no regard for the ratios of wild prey leads to meals that are unbalanced and potentially deficient in amino acids from animal flesh and organs. Dogs have a high requirement for amino acids. Adding a percentage, even small, of a cooked grain or legume reduces the species-appropriate bioavailable protein needs that dogs must receive from meat and organs. It also reduces iron requirements and reduces gut absorption of the little iron that the meals contain.
  • Vegetables need to be pureed or cooked for a carnivore to benefit. The most nutritious vegetables contain oxalates which are damaging to the gut, joints, and nerves as well as reducing the absorption of calcium and iron.
  • Fruit and starchy vegetables can cause yeast proliferation in many dogs.
  • Nuts and seeds contain anti-nutrients and must be ground. They require the addition of vitamin C to counter the effects of phytates. They are also high in fat and add a tremendous amount of calories, thus can only be fed in small amounts.
  • Numerous studies have shown the damaging effects of grain and legume consumption in both humans and animals. Grains contain anti-nutrients and toxins and must be soaked, germinated or sprouted, then cooked in a pressure cooker until mush. Legumes are simply inappropriate, period. Aside from the anti-nutrients, they are toxic, not digestible, block absorption of minerals and taurine (leading to the rapid increase in dilated cardiomyopathy or DCM), cause gut irritation, sensitivities, joint destruction, gassiness, a condition known as bloat, and so much more.
  • High carbohydrate diets have been shown over and over to have damaging effects on a dog. It puts them at an increased risk for chronic disease, obesity, cellular damage, and cancer.
  • Meals created and generated from a software program with no regard for actual nutrition science, nutrient antagonism and synergy, species-appropriate food choices, and what nature dictates as suitable for facultative carnivores will in no wise promote or cultivate optimal health, healing, or prevent disease.

In conclusion, taking your dog’s nutritional needs into your own hands requires dedication, in fact, a great deal of dedication, education, time, and determination. What it comes down to is providing the best nutrition plan that you are able. This requires observation and watchfulness. Any adverse changes in your dog must be taken into consideration and analyzed to discover the cause in order to remove it promptly. Making amendments to your chosen dietary plan or model is a necessity as your dog’s requirements will change with age, environment, stress, health conditions, changes in family dynamic, and so forth.

Understand that there is no rule that says you must follow a particular model exactly, or even that you need to follow only one. Variety is the spice of life. Be creative!

*amylase is the enzyme needed for carbohydrate digestion

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


Nutrient Balance

What a Balanced Diet Truly Means for Your Canine

I believe the single most important piece of nutritional information that all pet parents must understand is the proper meaning of the word balanced. And this goes for us humans as well. Providing your dog with a balanced diet should be correctly understood as offering a varied diet from the wide array of nutrient saturated, highly digestible, species-appropriate, whole foods that are essential, high value, and cultivate optimal health in order to receive required nutrients in proportions that will allow for optimal absorption. When focus goes toward individual nutrients, problems begin to arise.

Foods are more than simply sources of protein, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals. Foods, whether from an animal or plant, are complex molecular structures (cellular) that were once living organisms. These structures contain networks of components that once functioned as a whole unit. Food possesses potential energy that originates in the sun, and in a complex and miraculous process, inorganic minerals from the earth are taken up by plants and together with the energy from the sun, water, and gases, are converted by the plant into biological organic matter. Animals and people consume the plants, and carnivores consume the herbivorous animals; thus all receive what began with plants and originated in the sun and earth. Just like the plants, in an intricately complex process, biologically-appropriate foods become one with the consumer leaving behind very little waste. What was once life gives life; life begets and sustains life. It is an undeniable intimate relationship.

Life is complex. Thus it comes as no surprise that nutrition is no different. The scientific focus on individual nutrients has helped us to understand the function and purpose of each amino acid, saccharide, fatty acid, vitamin, mineral, and so many others. And with that understanding came the awareness that nutrients function either synergistically or antagonistically. Thus, it is not enough to simply learn or recognize the value and necessity of each life-sustaining nutritional requirement on their individual basis. Nutrients function inter-relationally and are never found individually. Rather, nutrients exist among numerous others in a complex unit of various vitamins, minerals, enzymes, cofactors, and other factors within food. Publicized studies on individual nutrients create difficulties causing many misunderstandings and confusion. Learning about a specific nutrient’s function and benefit is the reason why people flock to bottled supplements. This drives the supplement industry to mass produce bottled nutrients. Sadly, most bottled nutrients are laboratory produced synthetic and inorganic pseudo-nutrient isolates. Individuals and pet parents purchase nutritional supplements believing that these bottled “insurance policies” are boosting their own and their pet’s nutritional needs. And heck, if a little is good, more is better, right? Wrong. And this is a WRONG in a big way. Synergy and antagonism are the reasons why picking and choosing nutrients on an individual basis creates problems. Some of which can be fatal.

Nutrients require careful balance that only a variety of food choices can provide. The bodies of all humans and animals receive their nutritional requirements through the digestive process. Foods contain a complex of nutrients that differ even among the same foods. This is a result of where and how plants were grown and their soil and weather conditions during the growing season, and for feed animals, what the animals were fed and how and where they were raised. These are all determining factors for nutrient levels, composition, and saturation or deficiency. For omnivorous humans, it is far easier to consume a wide range of foods (often times an enormous range of food types) than it is for our animals who are under our direct care. The pets that are stuck eating the same commercial food over a lifetime is the reason why the vast majority have numerous health complaints throughout their entire life. These complaints can range from seemingly minor issues such as doggie odor, gum disease, dry flakey skin, troublesome chronic ear infections, and physical signs of premature aging to the more serious conditions such as hair loss, allergies, chronic intestinal issues, severe infections, tooth loss, ligament and joint destruction, chronic disease, and cancer. Consuming the same food with the same ingredients, sourced from often the same place, with the same nutrient profile, with the same formulation of synthetic nutrient isolates and inorganic mineral compounds is the direct cause for the vast health conditions we are seeing in the modern canine. Many of these conditions are resultant of deficiencies and toxicities. Just because a food hypothetically meets all the scientifically determined nutrient requirements, it does not mean the consistent consumption of the same food with the same nutrient profile is going to be sufficient. Here is why.

Nutrient absorption occurs mostly in the small intestine and, to a smaller extent, the large intestine where water, sodium, and potassium are absorbed. The small intestine is comprised of three sections, the duodenum, jejunun, and ileum. Most of the nutrients are absorbed in the duodenum and jejunum. It all sounds very straight forward, but that is not the reality of what happens on the physiological level. There are very specific nutrient interrelationships that must be considered if all required nutrients are to be adequately absorbed. There must be a homeostatic equilibrium among and between the nutrients. This is most easily achieved by varying the diet which in turns varies the nutrient profiles. If nutrient equilibrium is lost, adverse effects occur upon health. Balance is vital! A loss of nutrient balance leads to subclinical deficiencies followed by illness and disease, and worst case scenario, death.    

Through hair tissue mineral analysis (which I offer through The Holistic Canine), mineral interrelationship understanding has advanced. It is understood that a mineral cannot be affected without also affecting two or more other minerals, and further, each of which will then affect two others. One mineral will affect another mineral, but how much of an effect is dependent upon mineral quantity and the number of enzymes or biochemical reactions in which the mineral is involved. Not so simple, is it? And this is why providing a stagnant diet to your dog is ineffective at creating overall nutrient saturation within their body tissues.

Two relationships exist among nutrients, and as already expressed above, these are synergy and antagonism. The biggest concern is the trace minerals. These include iron, cobalt, chromium, copper, iodine, manganese, selenium, zinc, and molybdenum. Inhibited absorption of a trace mineral is due to an excess intake of a single mineral. One example was the craze over zinc. Many people jumped on the supplemental zinc bandwagon more than a decade ago and a host of problems resulted. For one, copper deficiency occurred. This is due to zinc depressing intestinal copper absorption. Many others were experiencing mild zinc toxicity symptoms. High intake of one trace mineral decreases the intestinal absorption of another mineral. And this is not simply among the trace minerals. For example, a high intake of calcium blocks intestinal absorption of zinc. So even among macro minerals, consuming high doses of any mineral creates disrupt in balance. Further complications then follow at the metabolic level. Antagonism is experienced with an excess of one element. The excess interferes metabolically with the functions of another mineral. Even more, excesses contribute to disproportionate excretion of another mineral due to what is known as compartmental displacement. This occurs with zinc and copper, iron and copper, cadmium and zinc, and calcium, magnesium and phosphorus [1].

Antagonism also exists among the vitamins. Vitamins A and D are naturally antagonistic while thiamine (B1) often creates an antagonistic action on cobalamin (B12). Some antagonism is indirect. One such example is iron’s antagonism on cobalt which is a vital component in B12, thus adversely affecting B12.[2] If this is not complicated enough; hormones have an influence on nutrient absorption, excretion, transport, and storage. And conversely, nutrients have an influence on hormones. Thus it can be easily understood why homeostasis is vital for optimal nutrient absorption and the cultivation of optimal health. In terms of our dogs, what, then, is the best approach to nutrition? Variety.

Offering your dog a variety of species-appropriate foods that are nutrient saturated and rotated regularly in differing combinations and quantities offers the best approach to optimizing nutrient absorption. One of the reasons I never recommend creating or purchasing a single raw dog food recipe is due to the antagonistic relationship among nutrients, notably the trace minerals which often come up deficient in audited homemade meals. The same foods in the same combination and amounts day in and day out will in time create deficiencies. And if a pet parent has decided to include supplements in the same dosages with every meal, both deficiencies and toxicities are likely.

Another difficulty that creates antagonism is offering foods that are not species-appropriate. Many foods contain anti-nutrients to species that have not adapted physiological processes to counteract the antagonists. Anti-nutrients are mineral and enzyme antagonists such as oxalates, phytates, lectins, and enzyme-inhibitors. Offering your dog anti-nutrient-containing foods coupled with a diet that is not rotated regularly is a surefire way to initiate deficiency pathologies leading to chronic conditions and disease, organ damage, joint deterioration, heart conditions, and cancer.

Below is an example of a mere few nutrient antagonism:

  • Vitamin A + Vitamin D + Vitamin E
  • Zinc + Copper + Manganese + Iron
  • Calcium + Iron
  • Calcium + Zinc
  • Calcium + Vitamin E + Vitamin A + Potassium
  • Vitamin C + Copper
  • Vitamin D + Magnesium + Potassium

Below is an example a nutrient synergy:

  • Vitamin D + Calcium + Vitamin K + Boron
  • Iron + Vitamin C
  • Fat + Vitamin A, D, E, & K
  • Vitamin B6 + vitamin B12 + folate
  • Vitamin C + Vitamin E
  • Potassium + Magnesium + Calcium

Creating and providing meals with synergy is vital, but it is also necessary to know when antagonism may be beneficial. For example, many raw feeding pet parents are offering Vitamin A-rich liver on a daily basis. This can cause Vitamin D levels to suffer. To create balance, providing a Vitamin D-rich meal in rotation while significantly reducing or eliminating liver will give Vitamin D levels a chance to rise. Feeding copper-rich beef liver with inadequate zinc levels will eventually lead to a zinc deficiency; thus providing a zinc-rich meal with a lower copper meal aids zinc absorption. Adding Vitamin C-rich foods or a food-source Vitamin C supplement assists the absorption of iron and is also beneficial with meals too rich in copper. Conversely, antagonism helps to prevent hypervitaminosis if a balance exists between antagonistic vitamins and minerals. Likewise, mineral antagonism also helps to prevent mineral toxicity.

While this may sound bewildering or even frustrating, I want to assure you that there is a straightforward solution. True balance can only be attained by varying meal ingredients, food combinations, and quantities of ingredients. This is why The Holistic Canine creates at least three recipes for our clients, especially for growing puppies who require precise nutrients daily. If you have a spreadsheet calculator, pay close attention to antagonistic nutrients and vary your amounts over several meals. Many raw feeding proponents teach and advocate balance over time, and in fact, they are quite correct. This is because balance is factually achieved over time. Nutrient balance is achieved in biological perfection over several meals. For dogs who consume one meal a day, this is achieved over several days. For dogs consuming two meals, this can be perfected in two days. No matter how perfectly balanced you believe a single meal to be, understand there will always be antagonism.

Welcome to orthomolecular nutrition!

Knowing how and when to supplement for optimal nutrient absorption is for another post. Stay tuned!     

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

[1] Davies I: The Clinical Significance of the Essential Biological Metals. M.B. London, 1921.

[2] Forth W, Rummel W: Absorption of Iron and Chemically Related Metals in vitro and in vivo: Specificity of Iron Binding System in the Mucosa of the Jejunum. Intestinal Absorption of Metal Ions, Trace Elements and Radionuclides. Skoryna SC, Waldron-Edward D., Eds. Pergamon Press, N.Y., 1971.


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/


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART IV

In Parts I through III, I briefly discussed the anatomy and physiology of the canine to show what a dog is designed and meant to consume as well as the specific nutrients that dogs must receive from those foods in order to prevent nutrient-deficient pathologies and premature death. I also touched on the work of the NRC and AAFCO in determining nutrient minimums that have prevented nutrient-deficient pathologies in dogs consuming commercial foods. Thus we have a baseline, and in the instance of a few nutrients, we know the safe upper limits (SUL). And yet of all the information I have provided, what may possibly be the most important is the understanding that nutrients obtained from synthetic and inorganic laboratory produced isolates do not and cannot produce optimal health. I would like to briefly recap.

Nutrients perform synergistically. Some are antagonistic; others are dependent upon other nutrients, cofactors, and enzymes for absorption and/or function. Separating nutrients from their sources removes them from the web of interaction and cooperation. Man’s attempt at copying what nature has provided in her perfection via the creation of synthetic isolated pseudo-nutrients has created a host of difficulties. For one, synthetic nutrients are in no way similar to the biological process by which plants and animals manufacture, utilize, and/or store them. The nutrient structures that are reproduced in the laboratory, despite being similar, do not equate to a biological system recognizing, utilizing, processing, and storing them in the same manner as naturally occurring food nutrients. In fact, because of their isolated form, imbalances are far more probable creating the increased likelihood for deficiencies and toxicities. We know this to be true because studies on supplemental nutrients have been underway for decades. Sadly, of the thousands of studies performed most of the objectively unbiased studies are still concluding that synthetic nutrient supplements have no positive effect on the body. According to multiple articles found on The National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website, multivitamin supplementation use has led to an increased risk for cancer. It is unfortunate that there still exists no demonstrable evidence suggesting that synthetic nutrients are beneficial, especially in an already healthy body that does not require them.

The majority of commercially prepared processed dog foods are laden with synthetic and inorganic nutrient isolates. Not only are the adulterated and rendered ingredients (complete with copious amounts of carbohydrate and fiber fillers) biologically inappropriate for a dog, so too are the laboratory-produced nutrients added to make them comply with AAFCO’s “complete and balanced” nutrient standards. Dogs who are consuming these commercially processed foods are hit with this destructive double whammy. And yet, as mentioned in the previous parts of this blog series, dogs are extremely hardy, and as a result, many dogs ARE living long lives despite consuming these less-than-ideal foods. Nevertheless, the remaining higher percentage of pets are stricken with a life of suffering from minor to major health conditions and finally succumbing to chronic disease and cancer. Now imagine, if pets are able to survive while being nutritionally abused through the consumption of these processed and synthetic foods and nutrients, how much more will they thrive when switched to a biologically-appropriate fresh-foods diet teeming with naturally occurring food-sourced nutrients. And so, we have now come back to our focus: food-sourced, naturally occurring, organic nutrients. How can we be sure to provide our pets with a balanced diet that not only meets AAFCOs “complete and balanced” standards and the NRCs nutrient minimums, but exceeds them through nature’s biologically-appropriate nutrients? You will do this by following my HN/Br plan for creating nutrient-rich meals.

For the informed and educated pet parent motivated to provide their pet with the highest-quality biologically-appropriate nutrition plan, feeding my highest nutrient per bite ratio (HN/Br) is the easiest way to ensure your dog will meet their nutrient needs without having to rely heavily upon supplementation. Before embarking on a homemade raw-food journey, you will have homework to do. You must first determine your dog’s baseline nutrient requirements. You will find a complimentary nutrient calculator on my business website that will determine your dog’s NRC minimum nutrient requirements based on your dog’s weight. This will be your baseline (be sure to print or record them so you have these values handy.). Once you have received your nutrient minimums, it is highly recommended that you further research your dog’s breed to discover common health problems and conditions, common gene mutations, and breed disease-predispositions. Also look into his/her pedigree (or parents) for any conditions that may have been genetically passed on. If you have a dog with an unknown breeder and pedigree, you may want to consider using a DNA test to check for any possible conditions. Embark Dog DNA Test checks for 165 genetic conditions. This is highly advised if your dog’s ancestry is unknown and you desire to cultivate optimal health and longevity. The reason for checking into your dog’s background is for the purpose of raising specific nutrients that support the body and assist in the prevention of potential predisposed conditions. For all the information you will discover, follow that up by looking into preventative measures and what is advised and recommended by either The Holistic Canine, your holistic veterinarian, or another nutrition/naturopathic pet professional. Once you have your nutrient baseline and all necessary information for preventing possible conditions or disease in the future, you are ready to begin creating meals. This may all sound overwhelming, but really it is not. Start with your breeder or the internet and do as much research as you are able without assistance. If you require a nutritionist or holistic veterinarian, especially one who specializes in food therapy, you have one right here. The Holistic Canine can be contacted for further support. Simply use our contact page, visit our Facebook page, or email us at wellnessforlife18@yahoo.com.

The highest nutrient per bite ratio (HN/Br) is a simple way of choosing foods that are nutrient saturated. You will need to discover and then source the biologically-appropriate foods and meal ingredients that are most nutrient saturated in order to cover a large portion of your dog’s nutritional requirements with those foods. I call these broad spectrum foods. Ingredients you will be sourcing are muscle meats and fish, muscle organs, secreting organs, eggs, and bone. You may also wish to add vegetation, seeds, and a variety of other foods or ingredients that are nutrient-rich and specifically beneficial to your dog. You may find as you begin offering more and more foods that your dog may occasionally have loose stools or diarrhea (rare is constipation an issue unless you are feeding far too much bone). Pay close attention to your dog’s stools. Stools are a key to informing you which foods are beneficial, which foods may be causing issues, foods that are not being tolerated well, or that the meals you are providing may be unbalanced.

To learn what nutrients are in the foods and ingredients that you will be including in meals, you will need to refer to nutrition apps, nutrition websites, and/or meal designer programs that have databases of the hypothetical nutrient profiles of most foods. I prefer to use Cronometer. While the macronutrient food values are generally accurate (proteins, fat, and carbohydrates), please understand that the micronutrient (vitamins and minerals) nutritional profiles are averages and hypothetical values ONLY. What this means is that the ingredients you purchase may not actually contain the nutrients that are hypothetically in the average same-food. The databases are simply reference guides. To ensure that the foods you purchase and feed to your dog are actually nutrient-rich, you will need to purchase the highest quality possible. Choose quality ingredients that you are able to source and afford then look-up their nutritional profiles in the database(s). Compare these profiles to your dog’s nutrient needs. You will then need to discover which foods fall under the HN/Br and put those at the top of your list to be fed as priority foods (more on this coming up). Organ meats consistently fall under HN/Br. Organs are nature’s multi-vitamins and -minerals! To begin creating meals, refer to the following ratio guideline.

The following percentage ratio is a GUIDELINE to creating a meal:

80/10/10

80% = muscle meats. This category is further broken down to 65/15: 65% = superficial muscle, 15% = organ muscle.

10% = bone. This is an approximate. Prey, on the average, contains 12% bone. Puppies require 15% bone. Some dogs do better with 12% bone rather than 10%. You will need to discover what is best for YOUR dog.

10% = secreting organs. This category is further broken down to 5/5: 5% liver, 5% other secreting organ.

80/10/10 is the simplified version of this more accurate ratio 65/15/10/5/5.

I emphasize guideline because many pet parents mistakenly believe that this ratio means “nutrient balanced” and/or that it must be exactly followed; however, nothing could be further from the truth. A pet parent may follow the ratio perfectly and have provided meals that yield next to no micronutrients that their dog must have to be healthy and prevent disease, and/or may be supplying unbalanced macronutrients. The ingredients and foods you choose is first and foremost the most important factor in creating adequate nutrient-balanced meals. Once you have determined your HN/Br foods (those nutrient saturated foods that will more than cover your dog’s nutrient requirements), place those into the ratio guideline above to create the actual meals. To receive The Holistic Canine’s Raw Feeding Guide resource, please join our Facebook community or contact us to receive the pdf copy. The following is a list of ingredients from which you will find HN/Br foods and create meals. Note these are not exhaustive lists, merely easiest-to-source ingredients.

Muscle meats (superficial): 65%              Muscle organs: 15%

  • Beef (grass-fed is best)                             Heart
  • Goat (pasture-raised is best)                   Gizzards
  • Lamb (pasture-raised is best)                 Lung
  • Rabbit                                                          Green tripe
  • Pork (pasture-raised is best)                   Tongue
  • Chicken (free-range is best)                    Trachea*
  • Turkey (free-range is best)                     Cheek (not technically an organ)
  • Quail
  • Duck
  • Sardines
  • Salmon (wild-caught only)
  • Whiting (wild-caught)
  • Herring, mackerel (wild-caught)
  • Smelts
  • Trout
  • Oysters
  • Off-cuts, briskets, and fillets Eggs (chicken, duck, quail, etc. from pasture-raised birds)

Bone: 10%

  • Chicken quarters (thighs, drumsticks)                       
  • Chicken feet
  • Chicken necks                                                           
  • Chicken wings
  • Chicken backs                                                           
  • Poultry carcass
  • Turkey necks                                                             
  • Turkey wings
  • Turkey backs                                                             
  • Duck wings
  • Duck head                                                                 
  • Quail, whole                           
  • Cornish hen, whole                                                    
  • Rabbit thigh, ribs, feet            
  • Goat/lamb neck                                                         
  • Goat/lamb rib
  • Pork rib                                                                      
  • Pig feet
  • Ox tail                                                                         
  • Eggshell**

Organs, secreting: 10%

  • Liver 5%: beef, calf, chicken, pork, duck, rabbit, goat, lamb, venison
  • Kidney: beef, pork, rabbit, goat, lamb, venison, poultry/fowl
  • Spleen
  • Pancreas
  • Brain
  • Testicles* (not recommended for an intact male, but excellent if neutered!)
  • Ovaries* (not recommended for an intact female, but excellent if spayed!)
  • Thymus (sweetbreads)

Look specifically for foods that will also cover the more difficult to meet nutrients. These include manganese, zinc, copper, iron, magnesium, iodine, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E. Unfortunately, when we are relying on nutritional information for human foods we are not always able to find nutrient information on foods that people would not commonly eat, yet foods that we do feed to our dogs. For example, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and iron commonly come up low when we are trying to source for these nutrients. One of the reasons this happens is because human nutritional data does not provide information on bones. Wild dogs do not seem to have a problem sourcing all of their nutrients. One of the reasons is likely because bone and marrow contains those hard-to-source nutrients. Bone contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, sulfur, potassium, and silica, while marrow contains iron, zinc, selenium, manganese, boron, Vitamins A & K, and fatty acids. Another major source of manganese is fur and feathers, specifically the reds. Humans certainly do not consume bones, fur and feathers or many of the organs that we can feed to our dogs, thus nutritional information is not provided for these important foods. This is a major problem with relying on human nutritional information. Note that even the pet diet designer programs are limited to the same human nutrition information. If you are feeding bones, none of your meal recipes will come up accurate in these programs. Dogs Naturally Magazine has developed a calculator that accounts for bone. Please join our Facebook community to have access to this free resource.

One of the most important tips that I give to my clients is also one that will help keep you out of the dark when it comes to unknown nutritional information. If you want your dog’s organs, muscles, eyes, vessels, bones, etc. to be healthy, FEED THOSE PARTS. Those same nutrients that each part of your dog’s body requires for health are found in the food parts. This is one way to know what is in some of the foods we offer to our dogs. Again, if we are aware of which nutrients are needed for the health of each organ, bones, eyes, blood, muscles, joints, and ligaments, for example, we can conclude that many of those nutrients are found in those parts that we can offer as food to our dogs. Organs store a wealth of nutrients. Because organs are so rich in nutrients, we can only feed so much without the possibility of hypervitaminosis, a toxicity condition from too much Vitamins A, D, and B (especially B12).

When sourcing for particular nutrients, for the same reason I mentioned above, many foods which we are feeding to our dogs are not listed in human nutrition databases. As a result, it appears that some of those audited meals are coming up short in several nutrients. As a warning, please do not fall for the same mistakes many raw feeders are making under the guise of “science-based” meal planning. Many of these pet parents who are relying solely on human nutrition databases and programs will then turn to inappropriate food sources to meet a nutrient need. Inappropriate food sources commonly used by so-called “science-based” food database groupies are oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, potatoes, legumes, beans, peas, and others. These foods are in direct opposition to my HN/Br. Not only do they not have a broad spectrum nutrient profile, but they are only hypothetically filling a mere one, maybe two, nutrient gap(s) while also creating an issue with empty calorie space. I emphasize hypothetically because firstly, these foods are biologically-inappropriate to a canine; secondly, every one of those species-inappropriate foods contains health-destroying anti-nutrients which bind other minerals from being absorbed, and thirdly, they all require the necessity of first soaking, then sprouting, then cooking, and then cooking some more as well as the addition of the enzyme phytase which is destroyed by cooking. This is also in direct opposition to raw feeding. (More on grains in Part V.) These foods should not a have place in your dog’s diet.

How you will choose HN/Br foods to be added to meals is through nutritional comparison. Use cronometer to find nutrient values for the foods you will offer your dog. As an example, grass-fed ground beef contains far more iron than chicken, while the beef heart contains more than double the iron than the ground beef, yet chicken hearts have more than double the iron found in beef heart. So for iron we can look to chicken hearts. But what else do chicken hearts contain to make it worth feeding? Remember, we want broad spectrum foods, not foods that cover a mere one or two nutrient(s). Chicken hearts are rich in taurine, an amino acid that helps prevent taurine-deficient dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), they are one of the richest animal sources of folate (needed for DNA methylation1), they contain more zinc than ground beef and beef heart, they are an excellent source of B vitamins, and coenzyme Q10. We can conclude that chicken hearts would classify as a HN/Br food. However, that does not mean that you don’t also feed the comparison foods. We will simply rely on the HN/Br foods to cover a broad spectrum of nutrients while also feeding the other ingredients to further meet nutrient requirements. It all adds up, but when you feed HN/Br foods in every meal, you can more than meet nutrient minimums. Let me give another example, beef liver is a rich source of copper, chicken liver contains only trace amounts. Chicken liver is slightly higher in iron; however, beef liver also wins for Vitamin A and all of the B vitamins. So beef liver comes under the HN/Br foods. You can rotate beef liver with pork liver which contains huge amounts of iron, equally high B vitamins, but next to no copper, and chicken liver which is higher in iron than beef liver but also contains huge amounts of folate. What I do is I rely on beef liver but also occasionally feed other liver or feed two different types of liver in one meal. Do the same for nutrient saturated vegetables and seeds.

Look up each of the more difficult to source nutrients by doing a web search for “richest food sources of [nutrient name].” Keep in mind that you will only pay attention to those foods that are biologically-appropriate and safe for a dog to consume. Discovering and adding these foods makes it even easier to fill all nutrient requirements. Once you have your list of HN/Br foods, you can begin to create meals with your meat and organ sources, vegetables, and other foods. You want to rely heavily of naturally occurring food nutrients and not on bottled supplements (and never ever on laboratory produced synthetic pseudo-nutrients).

It is also necessary to remember that you will need to balance fats. Feeding too much of the omega-6 fatty acids, such as from relying too heavily on chicken, can create an inflammatory environment in your dog’s body. Be sure to balance omega-6 foods with omega-3 containing foods. I find that offering chicken along with grass-fed beef and fatty fish, two sources of omega-3 fatty acids, balances the fat in the meal beautifully. If you are feeding oils, only offer those oils that will balance out the fats in your meats.

Another key to covering nutrient requirements is to use a vast variety of foods. And, do not remain stagnant with one or two recipes. Would this be beneficial for you to eat the same meal over and over? No. Neither would it be for your dog. Rotate where you source for foods as well. Every farm and every area of the world has different soils and weather patterns. You want to source locally as much as possible while also sourcing out. Feeding four or more protein sources in a meal is adequate and provides a broad spectrum of nutrient profiles.

Having learned how to create nutrient-rich meals, now is the time to determine where you need to supplement. I do use many supplements, most of which are whole-food sources of nutrients. I do not want to simply meet minimums, I want to provide the best possible nutrition plan that I am able. This most often requires adding “extras” to meals. Extras include vegetables, fruits, seeds, algae and phytoplanktons, medicinal mushrooms, oils, fermented foods, herbs, spices, and natural nutrients that are not synthetically manufactured. Always purchase natural or food sources of vitamins and minerals. If you need to boost minerals, food-source minerals are best followed by organic mineral chelates. Do not purchase inorganic minerals! Supplements can be very expensive, especially since you will want to purchase supplements for people unless you have found an excellent natural source of supplements for dogs (these are often more costly than human-grade). To keep cost at a minimum, be sure to meet nutrient needs through food ingredients first and foremost and add supplements where you absolutely must. Adding additional “superfood” supplements for disease prevention is a necessary secondary must if you are being proactive in preventing future disease in your dog. As a precaution, if you are purchasing individual vitamin and mineral isolates, purchase LOW doses. You do not want to mega-dose your dog. More is not better. Mega-doses are used for therapeutic purposes only.

Do your research and be sure that you are prepared and confident to begin a raw food nutrition program. You have valuable resources available through The Holistic Canine!

©2019 The Holistic Canine Written by Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Food Nutritionist

*hormone exposure is likely! This is NOT necessarily advantageous and may actually lead to hormone imbalance in intact dogs or dogs prone to thyroid disorder.

**eggshell is not a substitute for bones when feeding puppies. Puppies must have bone for proper calcium to phosphorous balance.

1 DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism used by cells that controls gene expression. DNA methylation is a commonly used epigenetic signaling tool that can fix genes in the “off” position.


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART III

In my practice, I teach and promote what I have coined the highest nutrient per bite ratio or HN/Br. This is taught and promoted to my human clients as well as to pet parents who are learning to feed a biologically appropriate diet to their dog. This principle ensures nutrient needs are being met in each and every bite. Dogs, like us, have very real and specific nutrient requirements, but not every dog has the same needs. Many factors define and determine which nutrients are needed in which amounts. Unfortunately, this is not so cut and dry. Further, there has to be a starting point upon which we build and hone nutrient requirements for each dog. Thanks to canine nutritional research furthered in the 1970s and 1980s and later improved upon in the early 2000s, we have standards that can guide pet parents to safeguard pets against nutrient-deficient pathologies.

Pet parents caring for the modern dog have the National Research Council (NRC) to thank. The NRC complied and condensed animal nutrition research from the mid-1970s through the 1980s. These more detailed findings enabled them to create separate nutrient recommendations for the maintenance of healthy adult dogs, for puppies, and for pregnant and lactating dams, something that was lacking in the earlier publications from 1974. Despite the vast improvement in nutritional recommendations for various life cycles, the newer recommendations also came with a disclaimer. The NRC made clear that “caution is advised in the use of these requirements without demonstration of nutrient availability, because in some cases requirements have been established on the basis of studies in which nutrients were supplied in highly purified ingredients where digestibility and availability are not compromised.” This made it nearly impossible for dog food manufacturers to set nutrient standards in their processed foods as their ingredients were clearly not in a “highly purified” form guaranteeing nutrient “digestibility and availability,” and as a result, the industry and its regulators declared that the NRC recommendations were not suitable for standardizing pet foods. Clearly the NRC was in need of yet another updated publication. This moved AAFCO to organize the “Canine Nutrition Expert and the Feline Nutrition Expert subcommittee.” The committee was established to interpret and transform NRC recommendations into a set of guidelines for pet food manufacturers to follow. These standards are still being used by the pet food industry to-date despite the fact that the NRC did publish an updated and lengthy report in 2006. And yet, the newer report is still limited in many ways.

In a Cambridge University Press article entitled Challenges in Developing Nutrient Guidelines for Companion Animals, we learn, “The [NRC] recommendations give minimum and maximum amounts or concentrations for each nutrient to facilitate formulating complete and balanced diets for healthy animals. The committee resisted extending the scope beyond the maintenance of health and prevention of disease, and did not address nutrient requirements for animals with disease. Theoretically, any diet formulated to contain more than a minimum and less than a maximum amount or concentration of each nutrient provided in the tables should be complete and balanced for healthy animals. However, making pet food is a complex process, and animals are not uniform. Thus, there are many factors that can affect nutrient requirements, and it is important to recognize the limitations of these NRC recommendations.” The report further states, “For many nutrients, a MR [minimum requirement] cannot be established because gradually increasing amounts of nutrient have not been fed to dogs and cats while measuring performance. As a result, the tables, especially those for adult maintenance, have many blank values for MR. However, where an MR has not been established, a pet food has often been fed to dogs and cats without resulting in signs of deficiency. This allows an adequate intake (AI) to be established, defined as a concentration or amount of a nutrient that had been demonstrated to support a defined physiological state. Because the AI is established using pet food ingredients, a safety factor is not included when an RA [recommended allowance] is established based on an AI. Thus, it is possible that a diet containing lower concentrations than an RA established from an MR but made from bioavailable ingredients, or a diet containing lower concentrations than an RA established using an AI, may still support a given physiological state. These important possibilities are sometimes not appreciated by the public or regulators1.” This notation is important for the raw feeding pet parents to bear in mind.

We see there are several limitations with using and following the NRCs nutrient recommendations, not to mention the rather steep price tag to purchase the publication and somewhat obscure and difficult content. The latter is greatly unfortunate because it reduces any possibility of getting the publication into the hands of the general pet parent community, especially to those in the homemade dog food and raw feeding circles, the very people with the most to gain from its content. The Challenges article further points out, however, that the publication contains “many gaps in the tables listing MR, because there has been little research performed during the last 20 years…Most requirements have been established using growth rate as the criterion of adequacy, and there remains little information on the MR for maintenance and reproduction or any other physiological state. There is also comparatively little information on bioavailability; consequently, safety factors are in many instances an educated estimate. As a result, some RA may be higher than needed, e.g. Cu [copper] or Zn [zinc]1.” But despite the limitations, we nevertheless have a guideline by which to refer.

We have learned from the Challenges article that the NRC has resisted extending the scope of nutrient requirements beyond the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease. In other words, we are looking at minimum requirements that will prevent deficiency-pathologies, not requirements to cultivate optimal health; most notably in dogs with predispositions to conditions and disease states, dogs with existing conditions, and seniors with higher nutrient needs. What is also greatly lacking is a safe upper limit for all vital nutrients that are being sourced from highly bioavailable ingredients such as raw foods. And if this is not enough, the article also notated the possibility that bioavailable ingredients may actually have lower requirements due to being in their natural organic state surrounded by cofactors, enzymes, and associating nutrients. So what we are left with is a hodge-podge of possibilities and what-ifs. In all honestly, science is still light years behind when it comes to biological systems and their intricate and intimate connection with nutrients and environment.

Using AAFCOs and some of the NRCs guidelines and standards, the dog food industry has thus far managed to prevent the extermination of pets consuming their products, so we know that even when being fed highly adulterated, rendered, synthetic, highly processed, biologically inappropriate foods, dogs are surviving, some even well into their golden years. We can conclude that something is moving in the correct direction. But, we also know that the modern dog is stricken with chronic and debilitating disease conditions and many more are facing high mortality rates. We can also conclude, then, that something is moving in the wrong direction. For all practical purposes, we can suffice it to say that the nutrient minimums are working in the favor of pets consuming commercial foods while the highly processed, low bioavailable, low quality ingredients, and excessive processing is not. This is not to say that raw fed dogs are immune from conditions and chronic disease because, quickly frankly, many raw fed dogs are suffering with conditions and dying from cancer, albeit the risk and rate is much lower than in dogs on a lifetime of processed dog food.

When we are considering nutrient requirements and quantities in dogs, it should be the goal of the raw feeding pet parent to cultivate optimal health, and where dogs are suffering with any number of conditions, to cultivate healing as well. For the healthy dog, taking into account those influencing factors that might affect health adversely in the future ought to be a priority when designing a better-than-satisfactory nutrition plan. In all of the situations where dogs have needs that go beyond NRCs “standard adult,” “standard puppy,” and “standard pregnant and lactating dam” requirements, it is vital to take into consideration the current state of health, all possible genetic hurdles, impeding and relating factors, lifestyle and environmental factors, and breed predispositions affecting, whether directly or indirectly, each individual dog and thereby increase (or decrease) the necessary nutrient baselines where needed. Because of these complex and highly varying considerations, the NRC would have quite the undertaking to work out the nutrient requirements for the most common scenarios and conditions in dogs. Since this is highly unlikely to be produced anytime in the near future or at all, it would be a great value to pet parents for the NRC to discover safe upper limits for all the essential nutrients (rather than the few they have determined) in order that nutrient adjustments can be safely made by pet parents where needed. Increasing the nutrient baselines for those that are known to be advantageous in common health crises would be immensely beneficial, especially the needs of cancer victims where therapeutic nutrient dosing needs to be quite high.

It is necessary to here point out that while diet plays a vital and fundamental role in health, it is but one factor in many that play major roles in the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease conditions and premature death. Health is in the cells. Cellular health and epigenetic gene expression are influenced primarily by diet and environment which directly affect internal and external influencing factors that can lead to or prevent disease. These dietary and environmental influences determine how blueprints within the DNA are read and then expressed (turned on) or stored (turned off). Thus, disease potential within a cell is turned on or off based on these outside influencing factors. Despite a dog being offered a lifetime of raw meals consisting of what is thought to be the most nutrient-dense, perfectly sourced ingredients, he or she can still end up with a chronic condition or fatal disease. This often happens when environmental interaction coupled with external and internal influences are ignored. These influences are pivotal and play a major role in a gene expressing (turning on) a predisposed potential for disease. This world is far from safe for us and our animals. But having a working knowledge of what can lead to disease gives us a head-start in its prevention. Taking critical steps to prevent disease in our dogs goes a long way in greatly reducing the chances of suffering and disease fatality. With this knowledge, we can use nutrients through a raw diet as an arsenal to affect life-saving gene expression while removing environmental factors and being cognizant of internal risk factors.

Chronic Disease Influencing Risk Factors

  • Breed disease-predispositions
  • Genetic/pedigree disease potential
  • Vaccinations (even one can be lethal, but here I refer to unnecessary repeat vaccines)
  • Early spay and neuter
  • Chemical exposure:
  • Flea/tick/heartworm/worming chemicals
  • Cigarette/cigar smoke
  • Air fresheners
  • Hair and body aerosols
  • Lawn and garden chemicals, weed killers (esp. glyphosate), pest control
  • Pool/hot tub chemicals
  • Farm and garden chemicals (pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.)
  • Household pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, rodent poisons, ant baits, etc.
  • Acetone exposure
  • Nail product and paint fumes
  • Carpet and floor cleaners
  • Construction and automobile chemicals and oils
  • Fabric softener
  • Cleaning solutions
  • Drugs, veterinary prescriptions
  • Growth hormones
  • Processed food diet, kibble
  • Excessive consumption of a single recipe/diet (homemade and commercial)
  • Excessive consumption of same-source ingredients (homemade and commercial)
  • Unbalanced/unvaried diet
  • Excessive supplementation
  • High carbohydrates/fiber diet (commercial and homemade)
  • Species inappropriate diet (commercial and homemade)
  • Consumption of rancid fats and fish oils
  • Nutrient deficient meals
  • Nutrient toxic meals and supplementation
  • Tap water (chlorine, fluoride, pharmaceutical contaminants, heavy metals, pesticides, etc.)
  • Poor dental and gum health
  • Parasite induced disease condition
  • Stress/anxiety/loneliness
  • Lengthy crating and confinement
  • Obesity
  • Lack of outdoor time
  • Lack of sunlight
  • Lack of fresh air
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of purpose (esp. in working breeds)
  • Tight fitting collar
  • Excessive heat or cold exposure
  • Excessive breeding of bitch

I would like to here end Part III. Part IV will discuss my highest nutrient per bite ratio (HN/Br) diet plan.

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

1 RF Butterwick, JW Erdman Jr, RC Hill, AJ Lewis and CT Whittemore, “Challenges in Developing Nutrient Guidelines for Companion Animals,” British Journal of Nutrition, no. 106, Oct 12, 2011, S24-S31. (Italics and underline mine)


Feeding the Modern Canine: PART I

Over the ages carefully selected breeding has brought out both physical and instinctive character traits in dogs for the purpose and benefit of the needs of mankind. Dogs were selectively bred for function, intelligence, protection, loyalty, submissiveness, trainability, friendliness, companionship, sport, size, appearance, strength, their acute senses, and for the their natural hunting, herding, working, and guarding abilities. As a result of the carefully selected breeding, these specific genetic traits have been funneled down to limited gene pools to create the hundreds of “pure” breeds of dogs we see today. But despite the incredible variation in appearance and characteristics within canis lupus familiaris, what has remained virtually unchanged is the domestic canine’s internal physiology.

For likely millennia, domestic dogs have been consuming food found in nature as well as food provided by their human caretakers. While many domestic dogs where fortunate (or not so fortunate) to rely on hunting and foraging instincts for their nutrition needs, many more were thrown and fed table scrapes from home prepared foods and meals. Processed foods were not a part of our history until the Industrial Revolution boomed. As early as 1860, commercially prepared and sold dog biscuits were introduced to the public. Englishman James Spratt is credited with inventing the first commercial dog biscuit. It is reported that his idea to create a commercial dog food was inspired by his observation of sailors throwing hardtack to dogs at the ship docks. The biscuits were made from vegetables, beef blood, wheat, and beet root. This simple way to feed dogs became so popular that by 1890, commercial pet foods spread to the United States. And the rest is history. Unfortunately, chronic illnesses and premature death rates started to soar and many people who were relying on commercial feeds were losing not just their dogs to malnutrition, but other livestock also consuming commercially prepared diets. Thanks to AAFCO, we now know what nutrients our dogs require to live healthy lives. And this now begs the question, while we know what nutrients our beloved dogs require, what are the best foods to provide those essential nutrients? One way to answer this question is to observe and analyze the canine anatomy and physiology to deduce and determine what a dog is designed to consume.

Beginning with the head, the dog’s frontal eye placement gives them the advantage of a peripheral view of their surroundings. The hinged canine jaw is equipped with reasonably large and powerful muscles to grab, hold, and crush. The mandibular hinge joint enables a dog to open their mouths impressively and dangerously wide. Their forty-two teeth consist of four long pointed canines for grabbing and holding prey, twenty-six sharp serrated-like molars for cutting, tearing, chopping, and shredding hide, skin, feathers, fur, muscles, flesh and sinew as well as crushing and breaking bone, and twelve front incisors to gnaw and pull sinew from bones. Because the canine’s teeth do not meet or line up, they are not able to grind and chew food into pulp. Equally muscled and powerful is the thick canine neck. The entire canine anatomical structure makes them natural athletes. Their bodies are perfectly suited for running, jumping, and changing direction in a split second. This beautiful design allows them to efficiently chase down prey. We can determine further what a dog is designed to eat by examining their digestive faculties.

Mouth: When food enters the dog’s mouth (as well as at the sight or smell of food), salivary glands begin to secrete saliva consisting of water, bicarbonate, and proteins (enzymes) to moisten food for swallowing. Dogs do not have lateral movement in their jaw and, as noted above, do not have flat molars that are in-line or meet, thus they do not chew or grind their food into pulp. In general, they use their teeth to break down their food small enough to swallow. Many people erroneously point out that dogs do not produce or secrete salivary amylase, the enzyme which initiates carbohydrate digestion. Part of this confusion comes from statements made by veterinarians such as Dr. Colin Harvey, emeritus professor of surgery and dentistry at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is noted as stating, “There are no digestive enzymes present in the saliva of dogs. It is purely designed to get the food down into the stomach so the digestive process can start.” However, a recent groundbreaking research study that was published online August 22, 2017 on BMC Veterinary Research website may have just dispelled a long held belief about canine saliva. The study is found under the headline, “Detection and measurement of alpha-amylase in canine saliva and changes after an experimentally induced sympathetic activation.” The conclusion of the study states, “This study demonstrates that there is alpha-amylase in saliva of dogs and validates a reliable spectrophotometric assay to measure this enzyme in this species with a good precision, sensitivity and accuracy. In addition, it reports a sAA [salivary alpha-amylase] activity increase after an experimental model of sympathetic activation in the dog and suggests that sAA could be potentially used as non-invasive biomarkers of sympathetic activation in this species.1” Notably, salivary amylase is found mostly in omnivores, only few herbivores, and absent in obligate carnivores. What is interesting regarding herbivores is that the three domestic carbohydrate-consuming animals, cows, sheep, and goats, were not found to produce salivary amylase. Therefore, pointing to salivary amylase clearly cannot tell us for certain what a dog is designed or not designed to consume. Dog saliva is, however, antibacterial containing simple proteins called histatins which is suitable when consuming raw and often rotting flesh to prevent against infection. Carbohydrate-consuming cattle, on the other hand, have highly alkaline saliva specifically designed to keep bacteria alive. For the canine, an additional protein in their saliva known as nerve growth factor (NGF) serves to help with healing wounds as dogs lick to self-treat their wounds.

Stomach, small intestine, large intestine: Dogs have a relatively short digestive tract. This allows for food to pass quickly through the system preventing the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria yet also inhibiting the thorough breakdown of whole plant matter. A domestic canine’s stomach has the ability to adjust pH from extreme acid with a pH of 1 up to a pH of 5 in the presence of carbohydrates. The ideal stomach pH range for digestion is 1-2. A dog’s stomach has the ability to stretch to accept very large meals. The stomach secretes the enzyme pepsin to break down protein molecules by separating the peptide bonds that hold the amino acids together. It also secretes gastric lipase, the enzyme that initiates the breakdown of fats. The stomach initiates the digestion of carbohydrates as well. Whether or not gastric amylase is produced is not documented; however, the low pH of the stomach stimulates the pancreas to secrete pancreatic enzymes into the small intestine which includes amylase for carbohydrate digestion. The food is churned together inside the stomach creating a mass called chyme. The chyme then passes through the pyloric valve and enters into the small intestine.   

The small intestine of a dog has a length of three times their body length. Comparatively, a cow’s intestine is twenty times its body length (about 120-150 feet) while a human’s small intestine is about four times their height. This is where the majority of digestion takes place. The chyme is mixed with bile and enzymes secreted by the pancreas to begin unlocking nutrients from the food. The lining of the small intestine is covered with hair-like structures called villi on which are found microvilli. This increases the surface area of the intestinal wall for the purpose of optimal nutrient uptake and absorption. It is through these microvilli where the nutrients pass through the intestinal wall, via passive or active transport, and enter into the bloodstream where the nutrients are dispersed throughout the body.

From the small intestine, undigested food moves into the large intestine. The large intestine has two main functions: 1) water, electrolyte, and vitamin B12 absorption and 2) short chain fatty acid and vitamin production via the microbiome. From here, waste is eliminated from the body via the rectum.

Pancreas and liver: The pancreas has a two-fold purpose. It is both an endocrine organ and a digestive organ. Its vital purpose is to produce and secrete digestive enzymes and the hormones insulin, glucagon, and gastrin. The pancreas also contains bile ducts throughout its length that connect to bile ducts from the liver.

The liver has 500 roles in the dog’s body. Some of the liver’s roles include detoxification, protein metabolism, the production of digestive chemicals, the production of bile, the breakdown of fats, and it acts as a storehouse for glycogen (sugar for energy), Vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12, iron, and copper.

Thus, we can deduce and conclude that the canine digestive faculties are best suited to consume whole prey. However, while the canine teeth and digestive tract are in fact most suited for the purpose of consuming and digesting animal flesh and bone, dogs are not obligate carnivores. An obligate carnivore must consume prey or death will occur in a short time. Physiologically, dogs are what are known as facultative carnivores, or versatile carnivores. Facultative carnivores do best on a prey diet; however, they have the ability to survive on an omnivorous diet for extended periods in the absence of prey. This does not mean that a dog can thrive on an omnivorous diet, what it tells us is dogs have an ability to keep death at bay by turning on gene expression to switch, if you will, to an omnivore for extended lengths such as for a season in the absence of prey, but certainly not for years as indicated by observed cellular damage that begins to surface in dogs fed high-carbohydrate diets. It is well known and documented that dogs thrive on a prey diet that is low in or even absent of carbohydrates. In fact, is has been determined that dogs have no need for carbohydrates in order to thrive. When dogs do consume a carbohydrate-based diet they are often stricken with obesity and chronic conditions and disease. Dogs who consume kibble, dehydrated high-carb commercial foods, and often homemade diets containing large amounts of oatmeal, potatoes, peas, legumes, quinoa, and other grains and starches are generally the unfortunate victims who suffer most.

We can also learn what is best to feed our domestic canine by looking at the diet of the wolf. It has been established that wolves are nearly identical in DNA to our domestic dogs differing only by a mere 0.2%. Thankfully, the Department of Environmental & Natural Resources conducted such a study. The 2002 to 2013 research study evaluated the contents of collected stomachs and scat from wolves that had been hunted in the North West Territories. While whole prey was the most frequently found stomach contents, garbage followed closely behind. According to the manuscript written by Nicholas C. Larter in 2016, “Counting human garbage, there were 24 different distinguishable items recorded including ungulates (caribou), moose, wood bison and deer, furbearers and small mammals, snowshoe hare, beaver, voles, birds, fish, vegetation, and one domestic dog. Most items were found in both stomach contents and scats with the exception of garbage, fish, lynx, porcupine, raptor, and domestic dog being reported only from stomach contents and deer, ants, and mink only being reported from scat contents.2” What was interesting was the fact that vegetation was found at a 14.6% frequency while all individual prey was lower than a 15% frequency with the one exception being caribou which was found at a 34% frequency. Human garbage was a whopping 23.6% frequency. Birds, hares, marten, and rodents, were the next most frequently found prey ranging from 12% rodents to a collective total of various birds at 19% (ranging individually from 7% to 12%).

This is a mere one study from one location, but we can see from this collection of data that wolves are prey driven as well as opportunistic. The frequency of garbage and vegetation consumption shows just how opportunistic and versatile wolves truly are. And, the same holds true for our domestic canines. We can see quite clearly that over the past one hundred fifty years, most dogs consumed commercial dog food. Kibble gained popularity for its simplicity and affordability. Kibble also proved the facultative nature of our canine companions. Since kibble was and still is primarily carbohydrates with low quality protein sources, the fact that domestic dogs have not been exterminated by the pet food industry speaks volumes. Let’s look at this further.

Over the past one hundred fifty years of commercial dog food production, scientific study and the nutritional analyses of canine needs and requirements has increased and improved. One such recent scientific study looked at the DNA of wolves and domestic dogs comparing the genes that code for pancreatic amylase. Pancreatic amylase is the enzyme required for carbohydrate digestion and assimilation. What the study showed us is wolf DNA contains a mere two gene copies that code for amylase while the domestic dog’s DNA contains anywhere from four to thirty gene copies that code for amylase. This is a possible twenty-eight fold increase in this gene expression in some of our domestic breeds compared with their near-identical DNA counter-part the wolf. Carol Beuchat, PhD wrote an article outlining the AMY2B amylase gene code in an article entitled, “A Key Genetic Innovation in Dogs: Diet3” where she outlines the specific findings. So what does this mean? These findings show the canine’s ability to turn gene expression on and off as a direct result of carbohydrate consumption, hence their facultative ability. Additionally, this shows us that nutrition plays a major role in influencing DNA. It should be clearly understood that this adaptation in the absence of prey is a survival mechanism. It allows for the dog to survive, yet not necessarily thrive. For our domestic companions, the gene expression has been turned on and thus passed along to the next generations as a result of their consistent (long-term) consumption of commercially produced pet foods.

Long before studies such as this provided DNA based findings, observation alone proved the facultative nature of the dog. As noted above, the fact that dogs have not been exterminated as a result of their consumption of high-carbohydrate processed foods is proof enough. It is unfortunate, however, that this adaptive trait has been abused by dog food companies in an attempt to promote their kibbles and claims that dogs are omnivorous and not true carnivores. As clearly discussed above, nothing could be further from the truth and is clearly indicated by the rapid increase in chronic disease and mortality among domestic dogs. Just because a dog can be nutritionally abused without dying immediately does not make it right to subject them to a lifetime of cellular onslaught and the increased potential for chronic disease and reduced longevity.

On account of the increase in chronic disease and mortality among pets, a return to homemade meals for the family dog began to surface and regain popularity. This sudden new wave of feeding the four-legged family member demanded that we take a critical look at how and what we feed our dogs. Dr. Ian Billinghurst, an Australian veterinarian, was one such person who understood that a dog’s health and wellness was dependent upon consuming a species-appropriate diet. His now famous book, “Give Your Dog a Bone,” released at a Bichon Frise convention in Sydney on November 17th in 1993, gained tremendous attention, both good and bad. Worldwide, people began to slowly gain the confidence and take the responsibility to feed their dogs a fresh, whole food diet. Unfortunately, this was bad news for the dog food industry. This nutritional plan became known as the BARF diet; initially Bones and Raw Food, it is now known as Biologically-Appropriate Raw Food. Due to Dr. Billinghurst’s effort, several more raw food models began to develop along with clever advertising from the pet food industry and the promotion of false studies and claims in order to convince pet parents that they alone, the giants of the pet nutrition world, knew how best to feed our beloved pets. However, this also led to the production of commercially prepared raw food diets.

Enter the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the National Research Council (NRC). AAFCO was established to discover which nutrients needed to be added to commercial feed to prevent the death of dogs consuming the commercial pet foods. Just as the United States Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) was established during WWII to prevent disease and malnourishment in soldiers overseas and in combat zones, AAFCO was established for a similar purpose: to prevent malnourishment and death in pets consuming commercial feed. Understand that the USRDA was established to set standards that prevented disease and death, not to keep people well long-term, and so too, AAFCOs minimum nutrient requirements are not meant to necessarily produce optimal health, but to provide a standard that prevented nutrient-deficient pathologies and death in pets consuming commercially processed foods. Since 1930, AAFCO’s established Proficiency Testing Program has supported feed-testing laboratories utilizing their four unique proficiency testing schemes to ensure pets receive the nutrients they need. Like AAFCO, the NRC serves to review published research followed by generating nutrition reports based upon said research. This research is completed to set a standard and to serve as a guide that establishes minimum and maximum nutrient requirements for processed foods. Minimums are necessary to set the floor or baseline requirements in order that pet foods not fall below.

Taking this a step further, it must be understood that the levels of nutrients that AAFCO and the NRC recommend is for processed pet foods that contain synthetics and inorganic compounds, not naturally occurring whole-food nutrients. Synthetic nutrients and inorganic mineral compounds are not as well absorbed or assimilated. Many of these synthetics even create imbalance and can possibly lead to a disease condition as some studies are now proving. Thus, the nutrient recommendations are not based on a diet consisting of fresh raw proteins and fats and naturally occurring co-factors, enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals found in whole foods such as prey and plants. This makes all the difference in the world because nutrition is meant for one purpose: to provide and deliver synergistically balanced nutrients that results in a harmonious metabolic dance of chemistry with the biological systems. Synthetics are man-made isolates that do not work harmoniously and naturally in physical bodies, and this includes so-called “natural” isolates. Biological systems must adjust for the synthetics, while inorganic minerals hardly mimic the minerals that are found in whole foods. Literally and simply, inorganic mineral supplements are industrial rock known as mineral salts. Since 1947, naturopathy “does not make use of synthetic or inorganic vitamins or minerals.” And neither should our companion pets.

What does all this translate to for the pet parent wanting to feed a homemade raw meal? AAFCO and the NRC were established for processed pet foods…period. If anything, AAFCO and the NRC have determined the minimum requirements for adulterated protein and rendered fat along with synthetic vitamin and inorganic mineral needs to prevent death in dogs. What we really need to ask is, how does this equate to fresh whole foods that are not void of enzymes and co-factors and contain fresh unadulterated proteins, raw fats, and naturally occurring nutrients working synergistically and in balance?  The answer is, it does not and cannot because we are considering completely different chemistry and biochemical action. What we can do is use NRCs minimum nutrient recommendations as a reference only. With that, let us move onto the macro and micronutrients that need to be included in your dog’s daily meals.

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

1 Maria Doloras Contreras-Aguilar, Fernando Tecles, Silvia Martínez-Subiela, Damián Escribano, Luis Jesús Bernal, and José Joaquín Cerón, BMC Veterinary Research, August 22, 2017, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5568211/#__ffn_sectitle

2 “Potential Food Items Ingested by Wolves in the Dehcho,” written by Nicholas C. Larter, 2016; Manuscript Report No. 251: https://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/sites/enr/files/wildlife_manuscript_report_251.pdf

3 Carol Beuchat, PhD, “A Key Genetic Innovation in Dogs: Diet,” 5/31/2018. http://www.instituteofcaninebiology.org


Manganese: Trace Mineral

Manganese is essential for the proper use of proteins and carbohydrates, for reproductive health, and the action of enzymes responsible for energy production and the creation of vital fatty acids. In dogs, most ligament injuries, especially cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) disease, can be traced back to a deficiency in the vital trace mineral manganese. A dog has a fairly high requirement of this trace nutrient and it is unfortunately far too low in many homemade raw meals. Manganese is especially low in commercial kibbles that do not contain bioavailable forms of this nutrient. If we are examining homemade diets for a medium size dog, many analyzed diets are coming in at an incredibly low 0.25 mg or less per day. A medium sized dog needs at least 7 times that amount per day, and that is a conservative minimum. Goat hair, chicken feathers (notably the red feathers from pullets), red fur, and lamb’s wool contain large amount of manganese, as well as organs and bone marrow which provide a fair amount. These are the manganese sources for wild canines. Unfortunately, not many of us are providing hair and feathers. I am one of the few who actually does raise chickens and ducks, so my dogs do receive feathers (red feathers from pullets) in their meals.

When it comes to feeding our pets, liver and bone contain a fair amount of highly bioavailable manganese, but at a yield of 0.2 mg/100 g in bone and 0.4 mg/100 g in liver, it is not sufficient to meet daily needs because liver and bone are not fed in large amounts. Green tripe provides ten times the manganese of liver, mussels provide sixteen times, and hemp seeds nineteen times the manganese! And, comparingly manganese in lean beef to spinach, spinach contains 40 times the amount of manganese than lean ground beef. You would need to feed almost 17,000 calories of beef or 418 calories of beef liver to meet the same manganese level as a mere 23 calories of spinach. Mussels, green tripe, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, spinach, blackberries, turmeric, ginger, and lettuce are all excellent sources of manganese that are bioavailable to dogs. If you are not one to feed green tripe because of the smell or lack of sourcing-availability, adding a scoop of green lipped mussel powder will meet daily manganese requirements, along with other minerals. If you are adding seeds to boost manganese needs (and other nutrients), add Vitamin C rich foods. Seeds contain anti-nutrients that bind with minerals in the gut. One such anti-nutrient is phytic acid. Since seeds are fed in such small quantities (teaspoons), the small amount of phytic acid can be “deactivated” by adding Vitamin C rich foods. Vitamin C will also increases iron absorption as an added bonus!

If your dog’s meals are lacking in vital manganese and you absolutely cannot add enough food sources of this nutrient, a supplement would be wise to consider or your dog’s health may suffer. But not all supplements are created equally! Do not supplement with this or any nutrient until you first research the antagonistic nutrients and the partner nutrients. Read my post entitled Commonly Deficient Nutrients and Supplementation before purchasing a supplement.

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


Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a vitally important nutrient that can often be deficient in a dog’s homemade diet. Unlike us humans and many other animals, dogs do not convert the sun’s radiation into adequate Vitamin D needs. This is likely because wild dogs can easily receive Vitamin D through the skin and organs of their wild prey. Our domestic dogs do not generally feast on wild prey or whole animals at meal time. This can pose a problem with meeting Vitamin D needs. Without an adequate source of this essential fat-soluble vitamin, dogs are at risk for heart disease, bone disease (especially puppies who have rapidly growing bones), osteomalacia, bone fractures, dental problems including broken teeth, and periodontal disease. A dog’s muscles and nerves require Vitamin D to function properly. Vitamin D transports calcium and phosphorus across the intestinal wall and aids in regulating their absorption. It also prevents diabetes by stimulating the production of insulin, and regulates inflammation and immune function.

If you are in the habit of daily feeding your dog skin, fatty fish, beef liver, and/or pasture-raised chicken eggs, you are on the right track. However, if you are not providing these Vitamin D-rich foods, it’s time to start adding them to meals. A medium size dog requires at least 4.3 mcg (about 175 IU) of Vitamin D daily with a top shelf need of 25 mcg (1,000 IU). This lower requirement is not easy to meet if foods are not chosen specifically for their vitamin D content and added to daily meals. Because cod liver oil is an excellent source of Vitamin D, many people make the mistake of adding cod liver oil to a meal that also includes liver (and kidney!). Cod liver oil is a rich source of Vitamins A and D. Vitamin A is easily met by feeding liver and can raise to toxic levels when cod liver oil is also added. Vitamins A and D are fat-soluble and are stored in the liver. Too much can cause serious toxicities, a condition known as hypervitaminosis. You will want to avoid cod liver oil altogether if you feed organs daily.

Foods to add to meals that are rich in Vitamin D and meet a medium dog’s needs are 1-2 oz. wildcaught salmon, 2 oz. mackerel, or 2 oz. sardines in ADDITION to a pasture-raised egg yolk and beef liver. This will meet daily needs. Or, adding these foods in larger amounts (3-4 oz.) three times per week will still meet Vitamin D levels because D is stored in the liver.

Supplementation is needed if you cannot meet Vitamin D needs. Because Vitamin D is stored in the liver, you need only add a boost of vitamin D two to three times per week. Be aware, however, that while plants contain some Vitamin D know as ergocalciferol (D2), dogs cannot utilize this form and must receive the animal source of vitamin D known as cholecalciferol (D3). So if you’re purchasing a low dose supplement, make sure you purchase Vitamin D3!

©2018 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Nutritionist


Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates or no carbohydrates? Commercial dog foods contain upwards of 64% carbohydrates. But is this healthy for a carnivore? While pet food companies would have you believe that dogs are omnivores, a dog’s anatomy and physiology certainly speaks otherwise. Carbohydrates such as wheat, corn, rice, quinoa, potatoes, oats, barley, soybeans, chick peas, lentils, bran, peas, peanut hulls, plant gums, and cellulose are actually quite dangerous. This does not mean that dogs cannot digest SOME carbohydrates. The truth is, they absolutely can and do. But for this article, we are discussing the issue with the high carbohydrate diets too many pets are consuming. So, when and where did feeding high carbohydrate diets to dogs begin? It began pre-World War II.

In 1860, a man named James Spratt happened upon dogs scavenging for food in a shipyard. What the dogs were eating was hardtack that Navy sailors threw from the ships into the shipyard. This one incident gave Spratt the idea to create dog cakes and sell them as pet food. He partnered with Charles Cruft, founder of Cruft’s Dog Shows, to market and promote his invention. And the rest is history. And still today, Purina, Pedigree, Hill’s, and others sponsor all major dog shows around the world. These dog food manufacturers also do a great job of convincing young veterinary students (who do not receive any or very little education in nutrition) that their commercially created foods are complete diets for dogs; in fact, they insist, the only diets a dog should recieve. Consider this: what if your child’s pediatrician told you to feed your precious kiddo a bag of human kibble, adding nothing else to the diet ever, for life? You would likely run. At least I hope you would! And yet, why do pet parents not do the same when processed dog food is recommended for their beloved pet, for life?

Not all carbohydrates are created equally. The problem with carbohydrates in the form of the above grains, legumes, and gums is that they block the gut absorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc, and iron, critically and vitally important nutrients your dog must assimilate for cellular uptake and bodily function. These sources of carbs are not what are considered bioavailable, and as a result, bleeding bowels, colon and rectal problems and disease, gastrointestinal tumors, arthritis, allergies, skin conditions, hair loss, seizures, obsesity, joint destruction, and cancer are other conditions that develop in many dogs who consume too many of these inappropriate carbohydrates.

One way to check if your dog is consuming too many carbohydrates is to check his/her stools. If your dog’s stools are large, have a terrible odor, either too much moisture or are hard and look like bricks, and have not biodegraded in just over a week’s time, you can rest assured your dog’s digestive faculties are under stress and health crises may be just around the corner. We call these stools “big smelly dog logs.” These are the stools that must be picked up and disposed of because they spread disease and do not biodegrade quickly and cleanly like an animal’s feces on a biologically appropriate diet.

What do you do now? Remove 90% of the carbohydrates from your dog’s diet. Even better, remove 100% of all inappropriate carbohydrate sources and add fresh fruits and vegetables as a healthful alternative. If your dog is on a kibble diet, switching to a grain-free kibble will do little to reduce carbohydrates. In fact, grain-free kibbles contain higher amounts of inappropriate fibers and low-bioavailable legume proteins. It is no surprise that the incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a deadly heart condition, has risen since the introduction of grain-free kibble. Rather consider that you are perfectly able to and capable of providing your dog a fresh, low-carb, whole food diet. You will see incredible results when you provide your dog what he/she needs in the form of fresh meat, organs, raw bones, fresh berries and vegetables, yogurt, and high quality fish and oils. Where do you begin? Right here! The Holistic Canine is your first source for canine nutrition. Let’s get your dog started on an incredible journey to health and healing.

©2018 Kimberly Lloyd, PhD, BCHHP, Cert Raw Dog Nutritionist