The Many Faces of Raw Feeding

Choosing your method of DIY raw feeding

There are several models and methods of feeding your dog a raw diet. However, following one specific model can be too limiting making if difficult to meet nutritional requirements without having to resort to heavy supplementation. Becoming familiar with the various raw models is an important step for knowing how best to provide for your dog’s nutrient needs.

How Should You Feed Your Dog? Carnivore vs. Omnivore

There are several models and methods of DIY raw feeding that can be followed. And behind those models and methods lie some pretty convincing philosophies and interpretations of what science has shown us about our canine companions. There are two extreme views that exist; and from my own research and education, both extremes have several shady areas that do not stand as factual. Before you can decide how and what to feed your dog, you must understand what dogs are designed to consume. Let’s take a look at these two extreme views.

Pure Carnivore
One philosophy that is hugely popular in the UK and Australia and has spread throughout Europe and to the USA is the strict carnivore model. This philosophy interprets a dog’s anatomy as purely carnivore and sees the physiology as strictly carnivore as well. While you cannot ignore the fact that a dog’s anatomy is undeniably carnivore, it isn’t quite so cut-and-dry when we examine the physiology.

Many adherents to the strict carnivore model teach that dogs do not produce salivary amylase; therefore, they conclude, dogs are strict carnivores as only omnivores produce salivary amylase. Now, in their defense, I am only part of a minute handful of people who are actually aware of the study that detected tiny amounts of salivary amylase in Beagles[1]. Herbivores, you may be surprised to learn, do not produce salivary amylase either, and yet sensitive tests have also detected it in lambs. So take both those findings for what their worth. So, yes, this is true in a sense. However, their teaching starts to go south when proponents of this view start to make claims that are clearly not proven.

It is taught that a dog’s pancreas is “strained” when carbohydrates of any kind are ingested as this requires that the pancreas must produce amylase enzyme. Carbohydrates are defined as vegetables, fruits, starches, sugars, grains, and legumes. While any organ can be strained from overwork, the function of the pancreas is to produce hormones and enzymes; therefore, normal function would not “strain” an organ. However, just like in humans, when the organ is abused (key word here) by excessive consumption of inappropriate foods, then yes, the organ will be overburdened and damage often occurs. Both the NRC and AAFCO do not list carbohydrate requirements because both know that dogs have absolutely no requirement for carbohydrates. So are the carnivore purists correct?

If this were a fact, then the high-carbohydrate commercial diets over the past one hundred years would have mass murdered millions of dogs. And since this wasn’t or isn’t the case, that in itself is proof that their claim in not entirely true. However, dogs have developed numerous health conditions, chronic disease, joint deterioration, cancer, and increased mortality at an alarming rate. So maybe there is some credibility to their claim? The answer is yes. Let’s look at the other extreme view to see why.

There is a large group of raw feeders and proponents of homemade cooked dog food that claim dogs are omnivores. This is the view held by the major commercial dog food manufacturers and even many veterinarians. However, the dog food companies have an agenda: dog food sales. When an agenda enters the equation, you know darn well that agendas and philosophies start to be touted as fact.

The omnivore theorists point to the fact that dogs do in fact produce pancreatic amylase. Recently, many have groped at the exhaustingly misinterpreted AMY2B gene in domestic dogs that codes for amylase enzyme. It is taught that because dogs have anywhere from four to thirty copies of the AMY2B gene, unlike their close cousin the wolf who has a mere two copies (dog DNA is only 0.2% different from the wolf), dogs, therefore, have evolved to life with humans and have turned into omnivores. Sounds factual since dogs can in fact eat high carbohydrate diets without immediate consequence (other than obesity) and dying immediately. Yet, how can we explain the rapid rise in chronic disease that just so happens to parallel human disease and the increased mortality rate in the modern canine?

The answer lies in the correct understanding of epigenetic gene expression and adaption. Dogs have simply adapted through epigenetic gene expression to survive with humans. This adaptation potential is within the DNA of ALL canines, including wolves. (Adaptation potential is actually encoded in every living being.) The exposure to high carbohydrate diets with humans turned “ON” the gene expression within dogs that codes for amylase enzyme. Each consecutive generation of domestic dog, therefore, passed the code onto their offspring until a select few breeds developed higher numbers of the gene than others. Epigenetic gene expression is common knowledge within the scientific community, but not among lay people who misinterpet scientific papers and articles (not to mention read with a biased eye). Gene expression is directly affected by diet and environment. Dogs simply adapted to life with humans. Understand that adaptation is a survival mechanism that in no way equates to thriving.

So, what was it exactly that drove the raw food movement initially? Sadly, canine disease and the increasing mortality rate. So how did this happen if dogs evolved into omnivores? Let’s be real here. Dogs are clearly anatomically NOT omnivores. This simply cannot be denied. Their teeth, jaw and jaw movement, neck, body structure, and digestive tract are in no wise omnivorous. If adaptation changed canines into omnivores, then their anatomy would have followed suit. And clearly, that is not the case. Physical (anatomical) changes are absolutely essential if something as serious as food sources has changed. One has only to look at Charles Darwin’s Galapagos Island finch study [2, 3]. The finch has coded within its DNA a genome that codes for beak shape. The finch has the adaptation ability to change beak shape entirely as a direct result of available food source and environmental conditions. The gene expression is turned “on” depend upon outside conditions. And conversely, the gene expression can be turned “off” and the beak returns to the original shape. This is observed in the offspring of the following generations as gene code expression is passed on to future generations.

Have dogs changed anatomically? Not in the least. While selective breeding plays a role in appearance and size, dogs are still structurally carnivores. They have simply adapted and increased a mere ONE gene code as a direct result of the diet offered to them by their human companions, nothing further. So what is the verdict?

Dogs are neither obligate carnivores nor are they omnivores.


What does this mean? Biology states that facultative carnivores are “able to live under a range of external conditions” for survival purposes in the absence of their species-appropriate diet and environmental conditions.

How should you feed your dog? Like the facultative carnivore that they are!




Should You Follow a Raw Model or Ratio?

There are several models for canine raw feeding as well as helpful ratios that can be used as guidelines for creating balanced meals. The two most popular models are Prey Model Raw (PMR) and BARF (biologically appropriate raw food). The most popular ratio guideline is 80/10/10 or 80/10/5/5 which pertains to the ratio of flesh to organ and bone in whole prey. From these original models and ratios, raw feeding has evolved. To learn more about models and ratios, read my article “Simplifying the Raw Food Models.”…/simplifying-the-raw-food…/

Many people tend to follow trends, the advice of friends or people close to them, or stick with what is popular. But when it comes to feeding your dog, trends, well-meaning advice, and popularity is not necessarily on the table as a good option. Nutrition is serious business. Knowing and understanding how to create meals using a model or ratio as your guide is essential to the health and wellbeing of your dog that may just have a serious impact on longevity.

While some dogs do exceptionally well on a BARF model diet, some just plain don’t. Simple as that. And where many so-called canine “nutritionists” make extremist statements such as “PMR is an unbalanced diet plan,” you absolutely cannot deny that there are generations of dogs doing exceptionally well on PMR and living to incredible ages. Also, simple as that. And, have you noticed that some dogs live to an impressively old age on kibble? As hard as that may be to swallow, it is true. Sadly, others do not and their lives are one suffering experience after another. The truth is, dogs are facultative.

Dogs are undoubtedly (and impressively) nutritionally-versatile creatures. But it is for this reason that dogs are among the most nutritionally abused animals on the planet (next to humans). The most critical question to ask is: just because dogs can be nutritionally abused without immediate consequence, does this mean they should be? I pray your answer is wholeheartedly NO.

Let me go back to the question I have posed in the section title: “Should you follow a raw food model or ratio?” What is your answer? Is there an answer? Being that my expertise is orthomolecular nutrition science coupled with my doctoral research on species-appropriate diets in humans and animals, I believe there is a definitive answer.


Species-appropriate Raw Diet

I won’t lie, I used to be a BARF model purist. As a human nutritionist, I see the value in plant-based diets (this does not mean vegetarian) and have witnessed health return to people of all ages and conditions, including stage 4 cancer. Naturally, I see incredible value in organically grown produce. How can we not share that value with our canine companions? But as time went by and my experience, research, and education expanded, I could no longer deny that PMR feeders were experiencing exceptional results and producing offspring that lived to almost unbelievable ages. Just take a look at Thomas Sandberg’s results in his own dogs and in his Long Living Pets Research Project (which, btw, my six dogs are a part of). Thomas, like myself, is a board certified holistic health practitioner and practicing naturopath…and also a PMR feeder and teacher. And he is reversing cancer! Results are results, they can’t be denied.

So what am I saying? No, I did not cross the street to the PMR purists, but nor do I adhere to BARF. I have realized that nutrition is based on each individual dog and blending the two models has produced incredible results…including cancer therapy (more on that in the future as I have an on-going study). My stance is strictly species-appropriate nutrition plans.

After reviewing the many research results on zero and low-carbohydrate diets in endurance dogs that the NRC reported on in their work “Nutrition Requirements of Dogs and Cats,” I realized that carbohydrates really do not have much value. Nor do they for humans. Since I am known as the “weight loss guru” in my human nutrition practice, I realized that I should take that same strategy to the dogs. What strategy? Low-carb nutrition plans. Since dogs have no requirement for carbohydrates, as is stated by the NRC and AAFCO, why would we need to add them when the studies showed that the zero and lowest carb diets produced the better athletic performance in the test dogs? Unlike protein and fats that have multiple vital purposes and functions, carbohydrates have but one…energy, something that fat supplies as well as protein (via gluconeogenesis in carnivores). Nothing else, no other need, and non-vital.

What do facultative carnivores eat? Prey. And when prey is in short supply, their incredible facultative adaptability allows them to survive (intended for short periods, mind you) on scavenged food, human garbage, berries and other fruit, grasses, and not much else. We need to focus on species-appropriate foods that are easy to digest, offer the highest nutrient absorption rate, and the absence of anti-nutrients that prevent nutrient absorption.

The focus of your dog’s nutrition should be species appropriate foods. Not a model, not a ratio, but foods that are best for dogs. See my article entitled “The Importance of Species-appropriate Foods for the Cultivation of Optimal Health.”…/the-importance-of-specie…/

Focus on your dog’s NRC nutrient requirements (which does not include carbohydrates) and create meals around those needs. Protein and fat from fresh raw mammal and poultry flesh, organs and offal, and raw meaty bones (and don’t forget fish and crustaceans!) should be your main focus. And if your dog can adequately digest, without ANY difficulties, some vegetables, seaweeds, and ground seeds in small percentages, these can offer additional value. Note, I emphasize SMALL. Fruit can be an option, but is not always appropriate. I have had enough experience to know that fruit tends to be the main cause of itching, ear conditions, and yeast overgrowth, among other issues. Fruit, like in human nutrition, needs to be offered and consumed apart from mealtime. Again, fruit should not be fed in meals, but as treats.

Never force your dog to eat vegetables and fruits. These are optional and often your dog knows that he or she cannot digest them and/or they are making them feel yucky. Be observant and examine stools. Stools are your window into the internal workings of your dog’s digestion. My six dogs do eat vegetables on occasion and once in awhile they will get berries for treats. But all in all, they don’t want them. Your dog can help you to learn quite a bit about canine nutrition. Pay attention! And when in doubt, ask a professional.

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

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,

2 “Potential Food Items Ingested by Wolves in the Dehcho,” written by Nicholas C. Larter, 2016; Manuscript Report No. 251:

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