Food is Not Simply Nutrition. It is also Information!
The single greatest disservice to our pets was the invention of commercial pet food and the demolition of their ancestral roots. Following at a close second was the increased belief in the need for unnecessary conventional veterinary practices and intervention along with the creation and extensive distribution of chemical “preventatives.” It is no wonder that disease runs rampant among pets or why canine and feline genetics have deteriorated exponentially. Too many beloved pets are dying of disease before they even reach their senior years. Moreover, it is easily observed that pets are rapidly aging. How utterly sad it is to look into hazy and cloudy eyes; or to watch a middle-aged pet stiff and struggling to stand up due to damaged and painful joints; or to see the greying muzzle of a mere six year old; or to smell the stench of periodontal disease that began at the age of two and has now resulted in missing teeth already at the age of seven; or to feel utter pity for the pet that looks like a log of sausage due to their obesity, barely able to walk five feet without panting; or to recoil at the stink of yeasty or rotting ears, skin, and paws; or to stroke the fur of a pet and feel greasy and lumpy skin; or to experience the emotions of sympathy for the enormous percentage of seniors suffering from debilitating chronic disease and disorders. So widespread are the signs of rapid aging and health decline. Should we not be questioning why more pet parents are not putting a stop to this widespread, yet preventable epidemic among dogs and cats?
Preventing degeneration, rapid aging, and chronic disease in pets starts with learning what choices are available and thus making health-promoting decisions. By offering a species-appropriate ancestral prey-based diet and avoiding all unnecessary conventional veterinary treatments, practices, and chemical preventatives, pets can and do live a much healthier, happier, and longer life. While avoiding unnecessary and dangerous veterinary intervention is as simple as choosing not to, feeding a species-appropriate ancestral prey-based diet requires the willingness and motivation to consistently provide your pet with the best nutrition plan possible over the course of their life. This begins with education in this key and critical health strategy. Food must beget life, not disease and death.
Why Food Choice Matters
Food is far more than simply a source of energy and nutrient building blocks. This ancient and outdated ideology is reminiscent of the mechanistic Cartesian-Newtonian “atomism” paradigm. Food is not simply a source of potential energy and small material components that we all know to be “calories” and “macro and micronutrients.” Food goes far beyond physical matter. Food is information. It is the carrier of biological information that bodily cells are dependent upon for health and longevity. The source of this information is microRNAs that are found in all fresh foods. MicroRNA is responsible for gene expression, more specifically turning gene expression on and off. This has profound implications on the health and longevity of our pets (and us!!). The importance of feeding pets species-appropriate fresh whole foods cannot be overstated. It is imperative.
Epigenetic science over the past decade has shown us that gene expression is directly impacted by two factors: 1) diet, and 2) environment. This is good news because it means that gene expression is not solely dependent on genetic predispositions; great news, in fact, for heavily diseased-predisposed breeds. Thanks to modern epigenetic science, we now understand why food directly impacts gene expression and it is found within the microRNAs. These gene-regulatory wonders easily survive the digestive faculties when consumed, thus microRNAs enter the body via food choices and then act in a way similar to a software download thereby impacting and altering gene expression. Now imagine if a pet is consuming processed “dead1” commercial food or food from 3D/4D2 animal products. MicroRNAs establish a connection and thus communicate directly with our pet’s genes thereby having a direct and lasting impact on their health and potential longevity. If poor food choices are made, it will not take long before degeneration, rapid aging, and disease manifests.
Food must nourish the body not only nutritionally, but informationally to reach into the deepest biological needs of each and every pet. What we choose to feed our pets determines the information they will receive and thereby what will be downloaded into their genes. Chemical-laden, GMO, processed, industrial-farmed, glyphosate-contaminated, hormone- and antibiotic-polluted, vaccine-poisoned, diseased/downed/dying (3D) and dead (4D) meats, nutrient-absent, agrochemical-sprayed foods are all the same: deadly. MicroRNA from these foods will not contribute to a positive gene expression, but will turn on gene expression for disease and cellular death. Food is an epigenetic modifier. It is a conductor of sorts orchestrating which genes will express (turn on) and which will not (turn off). It is not hard to understand the impact that dietary choices have on a pet’s physiological potential. It matters immensely what you feed your pet.
Providing your pet with a nose-to-tail species-appropriate prey-based diet while utilizing the best quality ingredients that you can afford is the best strategy for delivering microRNAs that will have the most positive impact for preventing disease and increasing longevity. Choose ingredients from grass-fed and finished ungulates, pastured poultry and pigs, humanely raised rabbits, eggs from free-ranged birds, wild-caught fish and seafood, wild crafted and organically grown herbs and spices, algae and sea plants from pristine waters, and wild or organically grown berries. In purchasing these ingredients you are also supporting the farmers and growers who choose ethical, humane, and species-appropriate farming methods that are best for the animals they raise and the environment in which we and our pets live.
There is no better time than now to make the decision to transition your pet to a species-appropriate prey-based diet. Age does not matter because microRNAs are also in the business of regeneration. As stated above, microRNAs are gene expression regulators and the conduits for information exchange between food and the consumer. In fact, microRNAs are instruments of cross-species communication. Providing pets with food ingredients that come from healthy farm animals raised on their own species-appropriate foods and without chemical and hormone contamination may actually provide information that corrects a pet’s deleterious genetic biology. MicroRNA information is single-handedly able to communicate to genes when to express and when to remain silent thereby offering protection from disease conditions and possibly even allowing a pet’s body to reverse damage through the silencing of adverse gene expression.
Offering a species-appropriate diet and choosing to refuse unnecessary conventional veterinary services and chemicals is your ticket to preventing disease conditions in your pet. To learn how to offer a fresh-food raw diet to your pet, consider purchasing a copy of Canine Raw Feeding Explained and/or contacting us for customized assistance and services to get your pet on the path to healing, health, and longevity.
1 The word “dead” refers to processed food devoid of any nutritional value (other than providing “empty calories”) with the need for additional nutrient isolates to be added to the food product, most of which are poorly absorbed synthetic vitamins and industrial mineral salts.
2 Meat, organs, and bone from animals that are diseased/downed/dying (3D) and dead (4/D).
The Importance of Cartilage in the Canine (and Feline) Diet
Cartilage is made up of highly specialized cells and a matrix of proteins. It is more matrix than cells because cartilage does not contain blood vessels to receive oxygen which creates a low-oxygen tissue that is not an ideal environment for cells. The matrix of cartilage is made up of proteins known as collagen and proteoglycans as well as other minor proteins. The wealth of value found in feeding cartilage to pets is in the matrix where we find the collagen, hyaluronic acid, and chondroitin. Because collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, it is vitally important that your pet receives an abundance of collagen from cartilage in their daily meals. As our pets age, their collagen production decreases in the same way as ours. This can lead to an increased risk for tendon and ligament injury and damage, joint injury and destruction, muscle soreness after exercise, and even muscle atrophy. Hyaluronic acid acts as a lubricant and a cushion for the joints and tissues assisting in preventing injury. Couple these with chondroitin, a chemical found primarily within joint cartilage that creates elasticity and the ability to retain water, and you have a cocktail of nutrients that, according to numerous studies, are twice as effective as using glucosamine supplements for joint health. If this is not beneficial enough, cartilage also contains micronutrients that include manganese, copper, and even some vitamin C. Thus it is vital to feed your pet all types of cartilage-rich raw meaty bones (RMB) such as joints, rib cages, and vertebrae as well as cartilage structures such as trachea, ears, and bronchial tubes.
This begs the question, what or how is the best way to feed cartilage to your pet? Since many pet parents follow the popular 80/10/10 meal-formulation guide [80/10/10 is a ratio formula used to create raw meals that translates into 80% muscle meat, 10% secreting organs (5% liver + 5% other), and 10% bone], I am often asked, which category would non-bone cartilage such as trachea or ears fall into; bone or meat? It certainly seems to be a reasonable question, but is applicable only if a pet parent is following a ratio too strictly. In all honesty, it is an irrelevant and futile question in that in the attempt to categorize every tissue and body part ingredient into the 80/10/10 formula, pet parents tend to lose sight of an important fact . All parts of a prey animal’s carcass is simply a part of one WHOLE. Now don’t get me wrong, the 80/10/10 formula is a great guide to reining-in and limiting ingredient amounts to avoid an improperly “balanced” meal. So, let’s consider this more deeply by more closely examining bone and meat.
Cartilage is an integral part of all joints and has a close resemblance to bone in that they both contain a collagen protein matrix. Bone, however, also contains specialized cells and minerals that create the hard outer tissue, soft spongy marrow, the periosteum and endosteum as well as containing a network of nerves and blood vessels. Bone also functions to create blood cells within the bone marrow. Bone is the best and most vital source of macro-minerals in the diet, not to mention also being a great source of trace minerals and vitamin E (which is stored within the marrow). Muscle meat, on the other hand, is made up of excitable cells constituting skeletal, cardiac, and visceral muscle tissues. Muscle cell fibers contain a mere 1% to up to 10% collagen protein which is much lower and very different from cartilage. Muscle is mostly protein filaments known as actin and myosin (which allow for movement) with varying percentages of fat along with facia, nerves, blood vessels, blood, and more. Muscle is a major source of multiple vitamins and minerals that contributes a great deal to nutrient-requirement fulfillment in meals.
Living beings are not merely made up of muscle, organs, and bones as is inferred by the 80/10/10 ratio. Animals, like us, are comprised of four types of tissues: epithelial tissue, connective tissue, muscle tissue, and nervous tissue as well as fluids. Epithelial tissue includes the lining of the intestines (hollow organs) and surface skin. Connective tissue includes bone, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and fat. Muscle tissue includes skeletal muscles, cardiac muscle, and internal organ muscle (any organ that produces movement). Nervous tissue includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. You may note that feeding only muscle, bone, and secreting organs does not create a proper “whole” and leaves out many body structures. Thus following a ratio is unrealistic and can, overtime, create deficiencies and/or toxicities if followed too strictly. This is why it is imperative to feed a species-appropriate diet (following what I call a Frankenprey model) that contains ALL parts of the whole. Whole prey would be ideal, but is not within the grasp of many DIY of raw feeders. Thus for those pet parents who cannot source whole prey, the goal should be to create the likeness or resemblance of whole prey on the plate or in the bowl.
How then do we feed cartilage? ANSWER: As part of the WHOLE. It is not bone and it is not meat. However, cartilage IS connective tissue which is in the same category as bone. Cartilage is easiest to feed as part of raw meaty bones in the daily diet. Adding in cartilage structures such as trachea and ears does not require a category as these types of structures should be fed in smaller amounts to be sure to not decrease the muscle protein being fed. Keep in mind that raw meaty bones contain bone, muscle, and cartilage! Focus on the RMBs in the diet and use the remaining vital ingredients (boneless meat, muscle organs, and secreting organs) to “fill in the blanks.” In fact, if you want to create a truly complete raw meal, feeding the more yucky parts is essential. By this I mean large vessel structures, connective tubes, glands, hide, ears, hoofs, feet with nails, and all the stuff I see most pet parents trimming off of their meal ingredients! Leave it on. Add in blood and myoglobin as well for a truly complete and nutritious meal. Raw feeding isn’t for the squeamish. We are feeding carnivores, after all.
The Holistic Canine started 2020 off at a lightning pace. Business was booming and I was having some concerns about keeping up with the pace. With COVID-19 now at the forefront of our lives, pet parents have turned their focus to their own health and public safety. During this difficult time, The Holistic Canine will continue to work full-time to help pet parents to continue serving their dogs’ needs in an economy that is becoming more difficult to navigate.
Also, I have completed my book entitled Canine Raw Feeding Explained: A Practical How-To Guide to Feeding Your Dog a Balanced Nutrition Plan. The book is in the hands of the publisher; however, as a result of the world crisis, all new projects recently submitted to the publisher are on hold until further notice. I will continue to give updates as to the status of my important book.
In the meantime, I would like to refer all pet parents to my Facebook group. It is an opportunity to meet like-minded pet parents and to engage in discussion with myself, our knowledgeable moderators, and our members (numbering in the thousands). Please come join us in The Holistic Canine: Raw Feeding & Natural Health Care Facebook group. The group also contains a free comprehensive raw feeding course and information on natural health care strategies that I invite you to read through and complete.
The Holistic Canine is fully available throughout COVID-19 to assist you via our numerous services, in our Facebook group, and through our Facebook business page. You are not alone on your journey. Become a part of The Holistic Canine family! We are a practice that does not simply create recipes and then send you on your way. We are a nutrition and health care service that partners with you and that continues to walk with you throughout your dog’s lifetime.
Naturopathic medicine recognizes several “doctors” that are vital for health. These “doctors” (also known as needs) are what I have coined facets of health. When it comes to both our health needs and the health needs of our dogs, there are specific requirements that are essential for the prevention of disease. These requirements contribute to the maintenance of optimal health and the consistent healing, repair, and detoxification of cells and body tissues. Depending upon the source, Naturopathy can have seven to ten facets of health. Over the many decades, I have formulated my own list of requirements for canine health based upon my decades of experience in the field of animal care and husbandry, education, and work as a holistic practitioner. I practice and teach ten facets of canine health that have proven to:
prevent chronic disease in healthy animals
assist in the healing and repair of disease and injury
ameliorate conditions in senior dogs
aid in the correction and mental balance of behavioral and emotional disorders
produce and develop puppies into physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy, stable, and secure adult dogs
produce healthier and genetically stronger offspring via naturally-reared breeding dams and sires
palliate symptoms (significantly) of terminal disease that assist a dog to pass peacefully into eternity
My Ten Facets (doctors) of Canine Health are:
Sun & Earth grounding
Passive activity: mental poise
Diet plays an integral role in the health and function of the cells and body systems; cellular signaling, detoxification, and methylation; epigenetic expression; the health of the gut microbiome; and energy generation, output, and expenditure. Diet also directly impacts the health of the mind and emotions greatly influencing behavior.
A highly processed diet consisting of already unhealthy and inappropriate ingredients is a “dead” and dangerous food-product void of all moisture and nearly all vital micronutrients. Add to this the need for extreme heat to create a dried product and you now have the addition of cancer-causing carcinogens. Synthetically produced nutrients must then be sprayed onto the completed food-product to replace all that was already missing and those few nutrients then lost during the extreme processing of the ingredients. If these synthetic nutrients were not added, a dog consuming this food would die of a deficiency or disease condition within a very short period of time.
If this is not enough, processed food damages the gut while also carrying the risk of causing extreme injury to the wall of the intestines. This prevents the flourishing of a healthy gut microbiome. A damaged intestinal wall with a poor gut microbiome is a major driver of food sensitivities, poor digestion, reduced nutrient uptake, cellular damage, allergies, itching, poor immune health, autoimmune disorders, cellular inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, tumor growth, chronic disease, reduced cell signaling, emotional and behavioral problems, and so much more.
Since all kibble requires a starch to hold it together, most kibbles are laden with disease-causing carbohydrates, or worse, legumes and vegetable fibers that are not only causing damage to the gut and blocking the absorption of nutrients, but are also implicated in the rise in dilated cardio myopathy (DCM).
A fresh food diet, on the other hand, is a nutrition plan that is abundant in life-sustaining water to hydrate cells and alive and teeming with naturally-occurring nutrients, enzymes, factors, co-factors, and many other constituents not found in processed foods. A raw diet has the added benefit of being void of dangerous carcinogenic chemicals that would be produced from cooking proteins. Even more, raw foods feed and nourish the gut microbiome creating a near perfect symbiotic relationship that allows for optimal nutrient absorption and assimilation, increased cellular signaling, strengthened immunity, reduced inflammation, the prevention chronic disease, mental and emotional stability and poise, and the list goes on and on. The benefits of a stellar whole-food nutrition plan are incalculable!
When properly balanced by a nutrition professional such as myself, a home-prepared canine diet tops the list for cultivating and maintaining optimal health. Couple this with reducing meal and food frequency and you have an exceptional plan for increased longevity.
Water is an essential component of life and is best received through food. While dogs should always have access to a fresh, clean, pure source of water (preferably in a glass bowl), their food should be their main water source. A kibble diet is the leading cause of chronic dehydration which damages the kidneys and cells and causes cell death.
If your dog is on a kibble diet, he/she will be missing out on the most important source of hydration- their food. The water within food is called gel water (also known as structured or crystalline water) and is structured differently than simply H2O. Gel water has a chemical composition of H3O2 and is most similar to plasma. Since cells contain this same water structure, providing your dog with foods that are abundant in gel water ensures proper cellular hydration. Two of the best sources of gel water are collagen and bone broth. Collagen is found in proteins such as meat, skin, bones, marrow, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, the main components of a canine diet. Adding in a homemade or high quality commercial bone broth is another excellent source of gel water.
Raw foods, as mentioned above, contain H3O2 water which is the same water contained within cells. Cells require a consistent source of water for adequate cellular function. If your goal is to produce optimal health, then you want to shoot for optimal cellular function, not simply adequate. Because cellular cytoplasm is composed mainly of water, this alone is ample reason to ensure your dog is properly hydrated. Additionally, the cellular plasma membranes made from fatty acids would not combine as the fatty membrane that houses and protects the cell without sufficient water. Water is also required to:
transport nutrients from one cell to another,
remove waste products from the body via urine, feces, and respiration (panting),
transfer electrons such as in the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which provides the energy to power other cellular reactions,
perform enzymatic reactions,
balance a cell via osmosis.
While drinking water is essential, it is not the most effective strategy to getting water into the cells. Most of the water your dog (and you!) drink is urinated out. Drinking water is effective for flushing the kidneys and diluting waste. But the water found within food is most effective for cellular hydration and therefore cellular function. Even more, the health of the cell membranes determine your dog’s ability to properly hydrate. Healthy cell membranes are produced by taking appropriate health care strategies most notably suppling a fresh food diet that is not inflammatory or laden with chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics.
Be sure to supply your dog with a consistent fresh clean source of drinking water. I recommend water filtered via reverse osmosis (RO) and supplied to your dog in a glass bowl (that is for a whole other article!). I highly recommend avoiding tap water. Even a simple carbon filter such as PUR® or Brita® is a MUCH better option than offering tap water.
Allowing your dog regular access to fresh clean air in the outdoors is essential for reducing toxin exposure. Be aware that walking and exercising your dog along roadways increases their exposure to toxic fumes such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, polycyclic hydrocarbons, benzene, and formaldehyde.
Many years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rated indoor air pollution as one of the top environmental risks to public health. In fact, indoor air pollution is one of the world’s largest environmental problems leading to a staggering 1.6 million premature deaths per year. Many pets are kept indoors for the majority of their lives. They may be being exposed to more pollutants in their indoor air than via exposure to everything else combined. If your pet does not have a ventilated area with fresh air, you must take immediate action to purify the air you breath inside your home for their health and for your own.
Reducing indoor air pollution begins with locating and knowing all sources of toxins. According to the EPA, the most common sources include asbestos, biological pollutants, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde & pressed wood products, lead, nitrogen dioxide, pesticides, radon, particulate matter, smoke/tobacco, stoves/heaters/fireplaces/chimneys, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs include air fresheners, fabric softeners, aerosols, beauty products, perfumes, mattresses, wood glues, paints/stain, nail polishes/removers, cleaning supplies, repellants, cooking fumes, etc. And we cannot leave electromagnetic fields (EMFs) off the list. Wi-Fi, Smart Meters, electronics, numerous appliances, nearby cell towers and powerlines, etc. are all a growing concern and a leading contributor to creating a sick and unhealthy home.
Reduce, remove, and eliminate as many sources of indoor air pollution as you are able. Allow fresh clean air to regularly ventilate your home especially in the winter and summer months when heating and air conditioning systems are running 24/7. Change heating and AC filters regularly and use the most expensive filters you can afford. Open at least one window in sleeping areas and allow fresh air to circulate while you sleep (open windows a crack in the winter and summer to allow just enough air to circulate). Look into and purchase quality air purifiers and place them in areas where your pet sleeps, areas where your home sees the most activity from family members, and in bedrooms. Place live plants strategically around the home, but make sure they are either non-toxic or completely out-of-reach from your dog. Use genuine Himalayan salt lamps in all rooms of your home. And lastly, get yourself and your dog outside into nature as often as possible. Pre-dawn air has the highest saturation of oxygen. Take advantage of this healing air regularly. If you’re not a morning person (I’m not!), keep a window opened (or cracked) closest to your dog’s and your bed to take advantage of pre-dawn air while you both sleep!
Like water, without the sun, no life can exist. The sun is our planet’s main source of energy and is vital for the creation of food. Without sunlight, plants would not be able to create nutrients via photosynthesis. Herbivores consume the plants relying upon photosynthesis for their own nutrient needs. Omnivores and carnivores then depend upon the herbivores for their needs.
The sun is also required for vitamin D. While us humans and other animals can create adequate amounts of vitamin D from the sun’s radiation on the skin (provided exposure is sufficient), dogs create only a fraction of their daily nutrient need from sun exposure. They must rely upon the consumption of animals that can create a wealth of vitamin D.
The sun’s light energy is also essential for the stimulation and proper functioning of the pineal gland which is located in the brain. This gland is responsive to the sunlight via the eyes and modulates healthy sleep patterns. The gland’s primary function is the production of the hormone melatonin. While melatonin is the main hormone responsible for sleep, it also has various other functions in the central nervous system. One such role is protecting the health of the heart. There is also evidence that decreased pineal gland function increases risk for cancer in both animals and humans. Regular sun exposure is necessary for healthy pineal gland function which translates into health in the whole being.
While you and your dog are enjoying soaking up the rays, taking advantage of earth grounding is another benefit to getting outside. The earth is like an enormous electron-enriched battery that emits a delicate electrical charge. This charge is why electronics should always be grounded to the earth to prevent and protect against power surges and malfunctioning injury thus directing the power into the earth. The earth’s energy field is the world’s most powerful antioxidant! Allowing your dog to ground to the earth via their paws (and for you, your bare feet) on the grass, soil, sand, or shorelines allows the earth’s electrons to penetrate the pads of their feet. This balances their energy field (which is damaged by positively charged indoor and outdoor pollution and EMF exposure), gives them a huge dose of antioxidant protection, reduces pain and inflammations, lowers stress levels, encourages healthy sleep, and improves circulation.
Exercise comes naturally for dogs. Their bodies are perfectly designed for incredible feats of speed, strength, and endurance. Coupled with a species-appropriate diet, daily exercise creates a vibrantly healthy body that is free from disease and injury. Dogs experience euphoria when running and playing which encourages mental and behavioral balance.
One of the greatest benefits of exercise is the prevention of disease. Studies have shown that daily exercise prevents obesity, digestive issues, diabetes, and can help prevent the onset of arthritis and arthritic symptoms as well as cancer in dogs. Like humans, heart disease is a leading cause of premature death in dogs. In fact, nearly 8 million dogs in the United States have heart disease. Most canine heart disease is acquired, and sadly, studies have not shown that exercise is effective in preventing this devastating disease. However, exercise does strengthen the heart and lungs giving dogs a much greater fighting chance if heart disease becomes a reality. In the end, exercise does have tremendous value for strengthening the heart muscle and oxygenating body tissues.
Observation alone clearly shows how exercise increases lean muscle mass and reduces body fat percentage. Additionally, exercise prevents behavioral issues by giving dogs something to do that they enjoy thus preventing boredom and destructive behaviors and habits. Because exercise burns quite a bit of energy, it discourages hyperactivity giving dogs a sense of peace and mental calm which encourages deeper sleep patterns.
Probably the greatest benefit of exercise is increased longevity. The benefits of disease prevention, increased oxygenation of body tissues, and mental stability all serve to encourage and produce overall optimal health thus increasing the life expectancy rate of many dogs. And if you are out exercising with your dog, the benefits extend to yourself as well!
In the 1970’s, Dr. Herbert Shelton wrote his book, Fasting Can Save Your Life. This is one of the greatest health books I have had the privilege to read. Dr. Shelton fasted over 40,000 patients, one being Mahatma Ghandi, observing and recording the multitudinous benefits. Animals, knowing this by instinct, fast when their health requires it.
A domestic dog’s nutritional needs are controlled by their guardians, and unfortunately, many pets are the victims of premature death as a result. Dogs are not humans and do not require multiple feedings per day, especially when their food is processed commercial foods laden with chemicals, impurities, carcinogens, toxins, molds, pathogens, carbohydrates & starches, and synthetic nutrients. This is reason alone to rest your dog’s digestive faculties and allow for their body to detox, repair tissues, and eliminate damaged cells. Feeding one meal in a 24 hour period is an ideal plan.
Depriving your dog of nutrients for 48 hours initiates a process known as autophagy. Autophagy is the process that can save lives. During autophagy, the body consumes or removes dysfunctional, damaged, and redundant cellular components and recycles the cellular materials that are still functional. It is the body’s ultimate house cleaning process. Autophagy boosts immunity, reduces and prevents inflammation, and has proven to protect against cancer including stopping cancer growth, infections, neurodegenerative disorders, insulin resistance, inflammatory disease, and aging. Autophagy is the ultimate fountain of youth. If you’re not fasting your dog, it is time to start.
Refining mental poise is in no wise limited to humans alone. Animals experience emotions just as we do and can act impulsively and intensely when their mental and emotional needs are not being met properly and in a healthy manner. Like us, dogs need to engage in daily activities and feel they have a sense of purpose.
Boredom can be a very real problem for the modern canine who spends most of his or her day inside, cooped up, and left alone for long hours. Dogs need to have things to do and engage in just as we do or mental, emotional, and behavioral issues may manifest. Dogs need to engage in those activities that are unique to canines. Our dogs are not human children, they are animals that have specific needs, behaviors, conducts, interests, and pursuits, all of which need to be respected and/or met to some degree or another. Because dogs experience the very same pleasure hormones as humans, they require opportunities to experience the release of these hormones on a regular basis. It is not only the respectable thing to do, it is humane.
Domestic dogs are closely related to their wild counterparts and their needs are no less similar. Behavior may have adapted to life with humans, yet our pets still enjoy engaging in the same canis lupus activities as their wild cousins. Chewing, chasing, hunting, digging, barking, howling, herding, guarding, watching, protecting, searching, and so much more can be observed to some degree in every domestic dog. Expecting your dog to act like a human is unreasonable and preventing them from being a dog is downright cruel. It is for this reason many dogs are mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally unstable.
Dogs have a physiological need to chew. Providing your dog with raw meaty bones is the best option as this is what they are designed for. Studies show that chewing releases powerful neurotransmitters that stimulate brain function and increase blood flow to the brain. Chewing also stimulates the trigeminal nerve responsible for movement of the jaw muscles and transmitting sensory information to your dog’s skin, sinuses, and mucous membranes. As a result of chewing, behavioral problems are prevented, or in the very least reduced if a behavioral concern exists.
While some doggie activities may not mesh with our lifestyles or household rules and expectations, such as digging craters in the yard and unearthing your garden shrubs, giving your dog opportunities to engage in agreeable activities on a daily basis is necessary for a mentally and behaviorally healthy and happy dog.
Recognizing and then respecting that your dog was born with innate abilities, known as instincts, facilitates in your dog a sense of confidence and security especially when you are sympathetic to certain behaviors that may not be agreeable or amusing to you as their guardian. Dogs are animals and that needs to be respected and appreciated.
Most instincts in nearly all animals are centered in survival. Your dog is no different. Your dog may demonstrate powerful drives that are triggered by outside circumstances. These behaviors are innate, however, they can also be shaped and intensified through experience. Unreasonable fear is often the result of experiences that have intensified their innate fight or flight response. Strong territorial behavior and overly protectiveness are other examples of instincts that have not been shaped in a healthy manner. These can often be produced by owners naively punishing behaviors rather than gently correcting an instinct with the goal of tempering the innate reaction or response.
Negative instinctive behaviors and reactions can also be the result of an imbalanced home environment or one filled with stressful stimuli. A stable, respectful, and peaceful environment allows your dog’s innate natural abilities to produce strong mental and behavioral harmony, confidence, and poise that brings both joy and benefit to you as their guardian and to your dog’s overall health and wellbeing.
Adequate rest is essential for re-centering and rebalancing and is not limited to the physical body alone. True rest involves the relaxation of the body, mind, emotions, and the soul. Our dogs are not exempt from needing proper rest for their entire being. Resting the physical body is straight- forward, but the resting of the remainder may not be so obvious.
Physical rest is no challenge for dogs who sleep most of their day. Even a dog who is active and engaged in work and play knows when it is time for a nap. However, physical rest alone is only part of your dog’s whole being. Resting your dog mentally is also just as vital. Training, socialization, competition, and performance work require your dog’s mental attention and engaged thought processes. Overly training, socializing, and working your dog can create mental strain and fatigue leading to emotional and behavioral issues. A mentally imbalanced dog is an unhealthy dog.
Resting your dog’s emotions and soul involves knowing their stimulus. Stressors and over stimulation from young family members or younger pets such as puppies and kittens can be emotionally draining to your pet. This effects the heart of your dog’s very being, his or her soul. This type of overstimulation can result in depression and anxiety or even a lack of will. Removing or limiting stressors and disturbances is a considerate act while providing a private place for retreat and sanctuary is essential for emotional wellbeing for the benefit of your canine’s soul.
Dogs are experts at sleeping! According to Dr. William Thomas, “dogs sleep 48% to 58% of the time.” Dogs can sleep anytime and anywhere making sleep an effortless feat. Despite this fact, dogs still require periods of undisturbed sleep and the ability to develop and abide by their body’s natural circadian rhythm.
A natural circadian rhythm is established by the sun and your dog’s exposure to it. If your dog resides indoors, be sure to allow sunlight to fill the interior of your home. Reduce yours and your dog’s exposure to LED lighting at night in your home. Use incandescent bulbs or yellow light rather than white light. This will keep the pineal gland healthy and ample amounts of melatonin will be produced. It is also a very good strategy plan for all family members and pets to turn off Wi-Fi at night during sleep. Remove all electronics from sleeping areas and turn cell phones to airplane mode. Reducing electromagnetic fields (EMFs) to a minimum is an important step in reducing exposure and maintaining a healthy home and sleep pattern.
Like us, dogs experience different stages of sleep. If you watch your dog while they sleep you will likely observe moments of deep sleep where they experience Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and dream. Many dogs act out their dreams by moving their limbs and even barking. These deep periods of sleep are necessary. During sleep, a dog’s heart rate drops and their breathing slows down. This is to conserve energy and is vital for the maintenance and repair of body tissues. Undisturbed nighttime sleep is an essential component for a healthy, well mannered, and happy dog.
A plea to correctly meeting your dog’s nutritional needs and more
The strength of the bond between a dog and his guardian never ceases to amaze me. It is a beautiful and harmonious relationship between two species remarkably entwined in an intimate connection surpassing the language barrier, the physical dissimilarities, and the purpose that drives life and intention. Both are united ultimately by need. A need to nurture and for companionship or assistance on the part of the human, and a requirement for mere basic necessities on the part of the dog that trickles into the fierce desire to give his loyalty, devotion, protection, companionship, service, adoration, and affection. It is this that translates into pure love. How better to express the bond we have with our canine companions?
With this loving bond comes the need for mutual agreement and trust. Dogs are not people. If you expect your canine companion to adhere to the basic rules of your life and household, then should you not also give and allow your dog the opportunity to be a dog? He obeys your rules by respecting your house and environment, but the outside world is a dog’s first home. It is his birthright to have territory upon this earth to call his own. A mutual agreement between man and canine strengthens the bonds of love and loyalty, trust and affection. Let him be a dog by giving him a safe piece of your yard and your house that he can call his own. Let him dig and explore, eat grass and roots, chew on bones and sticks, roll on the earth, run to his heart’s content, chase birds and squirrels, bark at the world, snuggle up in a blanket on the sofa or a bed, retreat to his own spot, lie in his favorite place on your floor (even if you have to step over him), sleep in undisturbed peace, and have the right to go outside when he asks. He is, after all, a dog and not a person; a being who is under your rule.
Canis lupus familiaris had (and many dogs still do have) the ability to perfectly care for their own needs. Instinct guides them to survive, driving them toward the proper nourishment and care that their bodies require. But under the care of a human, basic needs are left to the mercy of their guardian’s knowledge and decisions. When we take the responsibility to make decisions for another living being, there comes with that choice a great responsibility. For our dogs, we are making decisions for beings that know what they require and know how to get it. Yet we become the master of their provisions. Can you see how great an obligation this is?
A dog is designed for specific food and they are driven to hunt. Even the cutest of the toy breeds can be seen chasing squirrels, digging up mice and moles, and chasing “prey.” Yet we humans have decided what is best for our loyal companions. Man has a drive for convenience, creating simplicity, money and gain, and approval. And so he takes from the wild a beautiful creature and makes him more convenient for himself. Worse yet, he decides for the canine what he will eat and offers him food his body is not designed to consume. Once free and thriving in the wild, domestic dog succumbed to man’s need for convenience and monetary gain, and worse yet, his disease-ridden state. Dogs do not create disease within themselves, man does this for him. Humans have a habit of believing that they know best, like gods directing and deciding for others. Nature alone knows best. Instinct drives the animal to seek and acquire what he needs.
Food is a vital need. Yet, should your dog not also enjoy what he eats and get pleasure from breaking, crushing, and chewing food? Food should never create dis-ease. Food is meant only for nourishment of the body to provide energy and to build, maintain, defend, and heal cells and tissues, and to create internal harmony and produce optimal health. Do we not have, then, the highest obligation to provide for our beloved canines the food that they were designed to consume? Food that makes their bodies thrive in a state of abundant health and wellness? You are the master of your dog’s needs. You are the sole provider of his basic requirements that will either nourish health or feed dis-ease. He gives you his love, his loyalty, his companionship, his trust, his heart and soul. Can you not provide, in-return, for his basic needs exactly what he is designed to consume that will reward his life with health, comfort, and longevity? He needs nourishment from foods that are appropriate for his species. He needs the pleasure of breaking, crushing, and chewing food as this stimulates his trigeminal nerve and releases potent neurotransmitters to create mental poise and reduce behavioral problems. He is not a human, he is a canine.
This is my plea to you: MUTUAL TRUST. Your dog trusts you. You are his provider. He loves and obeys you, he respects your lifestyle, your home, and even your heart. He seeks your approval. Give to him the best that you are able. Throw away the convenience food. You made a decision to care for a life. Hold this decision as your highest responsibility. Your dog requires a diet of fresh whole foods, not dead dried-up processed balls, pellets, and bits from a bag with artificial nutrients sprayed on top to “meet” a standard set by an organization that was created because man was killing animals with improper diets. Man does not know best! Nature knows best. Science studies nature, the natural world, in order to learn facts and truths about our world, our environment, our bodies, animals and their bodies, and all life in general. It is not the other way around. We do not teach nature, nature teaches man. The only scientific canine diet is the diet nature provided. NATURE IS SCIENCE and SCIENCE IS NATURE AWAITING DISCOVERY.
Ask yourself this: Does science support commercial man-made nutrition in a bag? No scientific endeavor or discovery will ever find commercial kibble for dogs. Nature provides for her canines. Man simply chooses to rape nature with unscientific ideas. Give your dog the best. He deserves to have his basic needs met with what nature has provided for her creatures. Your dog requires fresh meat, fish, poultry, organs, bones, eggs, and water from his fresh food. A homemade fresh raw or lightly cooked diet is an ideal nutrition plan. Many commercial raw foods are now also available for convenience and simplicity. Doesn’t your dog deserve the best? Give him the best of what nature has provided. You owe it to him for all he gives to you. Love is action!
The Holistic Canine is here to help you meet your dog’s needs…all of them. If you would like to learn how to provide your dog with the best scientific diet, please join our Facebook group for a FREE online course in raw feeding and naturopathy. Also contact The Holistic Canine to set up a consultation or to request a custom recipe or nutrition plan. We also have recipes available for immediate purchase. No matter what your need, we are here to assist you!
Supplementing and Balancing a DIY Canine Meal Plan the Correct Way
If you have made the decision to feed your dog a species-appropriate raw diet, then you have chosen to move into the direction of providing your dog with the best possible nutrition plan. With that resolve comes the need for research and learning. After all, we all want what is best for our dogs. In order to know whether or not your dog is getting all of his or her essential nutrients, both macro and micronutrients, you must first know exactly what you are feeding to your dog.
DIY raw diets are the best way to know for sure what you are feeding to your dog. You choose the ingredients and the amounts. Auditing your DIY meals via a dog food software program or nutrient spreadsheet calculator will make you aware of the nutrient values and percentages in the meals you are creating. You will learn, for example, where your meals are nutritionally insufficient, nutritionally too rich, nutrient imbalanced, and nutritionally appropriate. Auditing is the best way (really, the only way) to know exactly where amendments need to be made and where supplements should be added.
Pet parents opting to follow the 80/10/10 formula will discover upon auditing that it is very difficult to appropriately balance meals if the formula is followed too closely. See my article How to Properly Use a Ratio: The Raw Fed Dog to discover a better formula to meet nutrient needs.
On that note, with the rise in popularity of raw feeding, numerous raw food companies, businesses, and local raw food suppliers create and sell what are known as 80/10/10 grinds. These grinds offer pet parent’s convenience and simplicity when it comes to feeding their dogs. However, unless a product is clearly labeled, analyzed, and sold as an AAFCO or NRC complete and nutritionally balanced diet option, these raw food ratio conveniences are anything but complete meal plans that provide all of your dog’s essential nutrient requirements. Unlabeled and unknown grind products should never be fed to your dog, worse yet as an exclusive diet option (in my professional opinion, I highly recommend that you completely avoid feeding any and all unknown products). Grind options that are clearly labeled, however, can be balanced IF and only IF they are labeled with the exact ingredients and percentages of each ingredient in the grind.
There are several ways in which DIY raw food diet plans and 80/10/10 grind options (that are labeled with each ingredient and their percentages) can be balanced and enriched. Start with an audit of your meal(s) or grind. If you do not have a dog food software program or a nutrient spreadsheet calculator, The Holistic Canine will do an analysis of your recipes/meals with the option of amendment suggestions for a low cost. Once you have determined the nutrient values of your meal, you can begin to choose your plan of action.
Protein and fat requirements, the macronutrients that supply both functional need and calories (potential energy), are quite easy to meet and supply in meals. Your fat will require balancing, but we will hold off on that for a moment. Thus, your first step is to note each of your micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) values. The easiest method is to look at the percentages of nutrient fulfillment. These percentages reflect how much of the NRC recommended allowance (RA) for each nutrient is being met. (Some programs have both AAFCO and NRC values. I recommend focusing on the NRC percentages.) You will see that some nutrients will be well over 100% and others will be below or are just hovering around 100%. Note the high and low extremes. For example, of the hundreds of recipes/meals that I have analyzed, vitamin A on average is around 300% up to more than 700% while manganese will be around 18% up to 30%. These are both extremes that must be amended and properly brought into balance in relation to all the other micronutrients.
While your goal is to achieve meeting all the nutrient requirements as recommended by the NRC, you will also want to achieve a balance among the nutrients. Nutrients are synergistic. Some nutrients act as partners and co-factors that increase nutrient absorption while some directly antagonize other nutrients decreasing absorption potential. For instance, all of the trace minerals are antagonistic among each other. Balance here is critical to avoid deficiencies. Vitamins A and D are antagonistic as well. Of these nutrients, the trace minerals and vitamin D can be challenging to meet. Thus we have a potential problem if meals and recipes are not being audited for potential nutrient values. Additionally, calcium and phosphorous need to be in the correct ratio for proper absorption and use. If phosphorous is too high and calcium is too low, your dog’s homeostatic mechanism will draw calcium out of storage (bones and teeth) to balance the phosphorous. High phosphorus can cause potential calcium deposits to form in soft tissues as well as malabsorption issues among iron, zinc, and magnesium. Also take note of your omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid values. You will want to achieve a 2 to 1, or better yet, a 1 to 1 ratio among these two families of fatty acids to avoid creating an internal inflammatory environment. Balance matters! You really MUST know what you are feeding your dog.
After noting your nutrient fulfillment values, it is time to focus on creating balance. You will need to bring up low values into the correct proportions as well as lower extreme highs that can potentially cause toxicity as well as deficiency elsewhere. While the NRC has maximum nutrient levels for a few nutrients, that does not mean, for example, that you should have your vitamin A level at 650% just because it is within the RA and the maximum! That is far too high to be feeding vitamin A at that level. Further, providing meals with extreme vitamin A levels while having the vitamin D value at 90% or even hypothetically “fulfilled” at 105% is not balanced. You will need to bring down the amount of vitamin A and raise vitamin D.
Calcium to phosphorous (Ca:P)- your goal is to achieve a 1.1:1 up to a 1.2:1 ratio.
Zinc to copper (Zn:Cu)- I like to see this around 15:2.
Vitamin A to vitamin D- I recommend a minimum of 5:1 up to 2:1 to ensure adequate absorption of D.
Magnesium in relation to calcium- the NRC requires a mere 150 mg of Mg per 1,000 kcal. For optimal absorption and proper utilization of calcium, dietary magnesium and vitamin D levels must be optimal. This is critical. Having Mg at 100% to 200% is minimal. You can safely go upwards of 600% especially if your calcium is near or over 200%.
Manganese in relation to Zn, Cu, and Fe- I prefer to maintain manganese levels around the same as copper and iron in relation to zinc.
Selenium value (this will do the work of vitamin E)- selenium levels can be around 200% to 300%.
Omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids- ideally, I like to see a 2:1 up to a 1:1 ratio.
Having this information, your next step is to begin reducing or increading your ingredients. You will also likely need to add additional ingredients or supplements that will supply the lacking and required balancing nutrients. The following list contains commonly low nutrients and what to add to create a balanced dietary plan in order to cultivate optimal health within your dog.
Zinc: Zinc is almost always too low on audited meals. While grass-fed beef and lamb and chicken hearts and gizzards contain a good amount of zinc, it is not enough. Adding oysters to meals will supply a wealth of zinc and a good amount of copper. Feeding seeds, which contain zinc and other minerals, is NOT a bioavailable source for dogs. Worse, if you are not buying and feeding sprouted/germinated seeds or soaking and germinating them yourself to reduce phytates, then the anti-nutrients are counter-productive and minerals are being lost. Feeding seeds will require double the amount of zinc to make up for the loss to phytates. If you cannot feed oysters, my recommendation is to have a bottle of an amino acid chelated zinc such as L-OptiZinc in a 15 mg dose for small dogs and a 30 mg dose for medium to large dogs. I do not recommend a zinc that has an acid chelate such as zinc picolinate. Stick with my recommendation above for optimal absorption potential.
Zinc:Copper: If you are not feeding a liver that is high in copper, then you will need a zinc/copper combination supplement. Chicken, turkey, and pork liver do not contain adequate amounts of copper. Adding oysters will provide both zinc and copper, but if your dog has an issue with shellfish or you cannot feed oysters, you must have a zinc/copper combination supplement. Like the recommendation above, purchase an amino acid chelated product in the same doses as above.
Manganese: This trace mineral is just plain difficult to supply in sufficient amounts with species-appropriate ingredients if you are not feeding whole prey. Mussels (blue or green lipped) added to the diet will provide a plethora of manganese. However, mussels can be difficult for many pet parents to source, they can be quite pricey, and some dogs may not do well with shellfish. And as mentioned above under the “zinc,” seeds contain zinc, manganese, and magnesium, but these will NOT supply your dog with bioavailable minerals. If you cannot add mussels to your dog’s meals, I highly recommend purchasing a bottle of an amino acid chelated manganese in a dose of 8 mg. Give smaller to medium dogs 1/4 of a tablet and larger to giant dogs 1/2 a tablet.
Krill oil or marine phytoplankton: Brain, grass-fed/grass-finished ungulates, and fatty fish contain a wealth of bioavailable omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). Unfortunately, every other meat is teeming with inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Poultry, pork, and factory farmed, grain-fed ungulates will not supply your dog with their vital EPA and DHA fatty acid requirements. Fatty fish is an excellent source of EPA and DHA that can be fed daily in small amounts. Fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon, and herring provide these as well as essential Vitamin D. If you cannot regularly provide your dog with brain, grass-fed/grass-finished ungulate meat/organs, and/or fatty fish, you must add a krill oil or marine phytoplankton supplement to daily meals to meet omega-3 fatty acids requirements.
Vitamin D: As indicated above, vitamin D needs to be balanced with vitamin A. Free-range eggs and fatty fish provide vitamin D, but if you are feeding 5% liver every day, you will not be providing sufficient amounts of vitamin D. Keep in mind, it is about balance, not just meeting requirements. Coming up short or barely hitting vitamin D needs in the presence of huge amounts of vitamin A from liver can create a vitamin D deficiency. My favorite alternative source is an infant vitamin D drop supplement (400IU). All your dog requires is a single drop one to three times per week in accordance with your dog’s size and need. If you have a toy breed, you can purchase a vitamin D drop supplement specifically for dogs, but it costs 2 to 3 times the amount of natural infant vitamin D. Since vitamin D is stored, you can give a toy dog a single boost of vitamin D once per week or once every other week (if you have a dog under 6 pounds).
Calcium/phosphorus/magnesium: If you do not feed bones, then you need a bioavailable source of bone minerals. Bone meal, eggshells, calcium from algae, and canine mineral supplements are a good start. My favorite supplement to meet calcium needs that also provides a perfect amount of magnesium is a product made specifically for dogs by Mezotrace. Be sure to ask me or another professional for appropriate dosing.
Thiamin: This water soluble vitamin comes up short more times than not! Thiamin can be easily met with pork, but if you do not feed pork, thiamin will be dangerously teetering on the “just barely making it” mark or falling short. Being a water soluble vitamin, this vitamin needs to be supplied daily in more-than-sufficient amounts. Something else to consider: if you are feeding raw fish and shellfish (mussels and oysters) then you should be made aware that raw fish contains an enzyme known as thiaminase which renders all the thiamin in the meal useless. Cooking fish and shellfish will destroy the thiaminase and prevent a dangerous and potentially fatal thiamin deficiency. The best and easiest source of thiamin is nutritional yeast. This is a must-have supplement that can be purchased in grocery stores. You can buy a fortified or a non-fortified product. My preference is Bragg brand.
Choline: Choline requirements can be met with eggs, and that means feeding eggs DAILY. And even with a daily egg for a medium size dog, choline will still be low. My recommendation is to have a supplement to fulfill this requirement. The most bioavailable source is sunflower lecithin. 1,200 mg of sunflower lecithin will provide just the right amount of choline per 1,000 kcal of food (420 mg) along WITH an egg!
Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols): This fat soluble vitamin will never be met in meals from bioavailable foods. A supplement should be purchased and added to all meals. I prefer liquid E rather than softgels or dry form tablets. Make sure the vitamin E supplement you purchase is a natural mixed-tocopherol supplement, not just the alpha. On a side note, having sufficient amounts of selenium in the meals voids the need for vitamin E. Selenium does the work of vitamin E!
Iodine: Kelp is a whole-food source of iodine and many other nutrients. However, kelp should be added to meals with great caution. Do not ever fall for the idea that you must feed your dog more than 220 mcg of iodine per day from kelp if you feed more than 1,000 kcal. Humans requires only 150 mcg per day and a dog is much smaller. Even giant dogs do not need more than 220 mcg. (See Dr. Jean Dodd’s research). Even more, if you feed eggs, fish, shellfish, kefir, and/or goat’s milk, your dog is getting iodine! So feed kelp that provides LESS iodine than the NRC’s 220 mcg per 1,000 kcal requirement. Too much iodine can over stimulate the thyroid gland and create thyroid disease. Make sure you use a kelp product that has the iodine amount clearly analyzed and labeled on the product.
Multi-Vitamin/Mineral: I like to offer a canine multivitamin every few days. There are numerous wonderful products that you can choose from. I like Buddy & Lola Multivit as well as brands such as Dr. Harvey’s, kin + kind, Animal Essentials, Dr. Mercola, Earthvet, Pet’s Friend, and Dog Greens. All are great companies with exceptional products.
often the most difficult aspect of raw feeding. Quality and affordability are generally
the two most important factors and considerations when searching for nourishing
ingredients that will be used to fulfill your dog’s energy and nutritional
requirements. I place quality at the top of my list while affordability is
often a necessity rather than a choice.
Purchasing meats, fish, organs, bones, and various other ingredients from the human food market is my recommendation, hands down. Even better, partnering with a local farmer or raising your own livestock for food products is ideal. In this way, you know exactly what and how much of each ingredient is going into your dog’s body. You have full control and can offer a variety of high quality nourishing ingredients that will produce optimal health and wellbeing in your dog.
Premade “complete and balanced” commercial raw products are extremely convenient and are becoming increasingly more popular. However, with that popularity many new raw food companies and sourcing businesses are popping up in nearly every state in this nation as well as abroad. Sadly, I am finding that as more people enter into the raw food business market, money often becomes the game and quality can suffer. Unless a premade is AAFCO “complete and balanced,” is clearly labeled with the exact percentages of every ingredient in the mix, lists the guaranteed analysis, and the company or business can verify the source of each ingredient in the product, you will be left wondering whether or not you are providing a quality food that fulfills all of your dog’s nutritional needs. Quality and nutritional value need to be the first and highest priority of every commercial and raw food supplier.
Which leads me to my biggest concern: 80/10/10 grinds. Unless clearly stated, these products are not complete and balanced diet options. I am seeing these options becoming far more popular than commercial premade completes due to their affordability and ease of creating. Unfortunately, too many pet parents are feeding these grinds exclusively (as complete diets) not realizing that their dogs may very well be missing vital nutrients that can lead to serious deficiency conditions or chronic disease down the road.
80/10/10 grinds come labeled or unlabeled and follow a basic 80/10/10 rule of 80% meat, 10% organs, and 10% bone. They most often contain muscle meat, heart, liver, kidney, and bone. I highly recommend questioning whether the supplier or manufacturer has consulted with a canine nutritionist or if they have the proper knowledge to create an 80/10/10 that is as nutritionally sound as is possible, as well as safe. Keep in mind also that if a supplier is obtaining cheap or even free meat to create a grind it will produce a poor quality, nutritionally unsound, and potentially dangerous product.
The most pressing concern you should be aware of if you are purchasing premades or a grind mix is the sourcing. 3D and 4D product use is becoming very popular in raw grinds. This creates raw food products that are affordable and competitive, but also potentially fatal.
3D animal products are taken from animals that are still alive before
processing. The three “Ds” stand for:
Downed (as from lameness, illness, weakness, etc.)
4D animal products are all of the above with the addition of the animal being dead before the opportunity to slaughter and process hygienically. The forth “D” is:
Dead (or Destroyed).
According to the publication An Overview of the Rendering Industry , “Approximately 49 percent of the live weight of cattle, 44 percent of the live weight of pigs, 37 percent of the live weight of broilers, and 57 percent of the live weight of most fish species are materials not consumed by humans.” To avoid waste, these “inedible” products are sent to plants for animal feed and rendering. “The most important and valuable use for these animal by-products is as feed ingredients for livestock, poultry, aquaculture, and companion animals.”
While most of the inedible products discussed in the publication above come from animals that are fit for human consumption (known as human-grade), there is the other side of the industry. Often during processing in USDA regulated plants, some of the animals are found to be diseased, dying, unable to walk off transport vehicles (down), or may even die (3D/4D). These animals/products are identified as unfit for the human food market and must be marked to avoid entering into the human food chain. How is this done?
During processing, if an animal product has been identified as unfit for the human market, staining the meat or products with charcoal, fish meal, or adding bone or a chemical agent(s) to produce an easily identifiable color, odor, or taste is necessary to avoid these unfit products from entering into the human food market. This is called denaturing. Denatured products are what are known as feed-grade.
The pet food industry obtains denatured feed-grade products at extremely low costs to be used in the manufacture of commercial kibble, canned, dehydrated, and raw pet food products. While using these animal products for pet foods may seem like a viable solution to avoid wasting valuable feed animals, denatured products can and do cause harm to pets when they are consumed. While charcoal, fish meal, and bone denaturing may be safe for pets to consume, chemical denaturing can be potentially lethal. You also have to consider the additional impact of your pet consuming diseased or dead animals which may pose a whole host of risks on its own. Keep in mind that 3D/4D animal products can also be obtained by smaller pet food manufacturers and local raw food suppliers for use in raw food grinds such as 80/10/10. The USDA warns that the handling of 4D meat that is served raw to pets can be a serious health hazard to both the pet parents and their pets.
Take a look at the list of denaturing agents approved by the USDA:
4% coarsely ground hard bone
6% coarsely ground hard bone
6 % tannic acid solution exposure for 1 minute followed by water bath immersion, followed by a 1 minute immersion of 0.022 percent FD&C yellow No. 5 coloring solution
1 part FD&C green No. 3 coloring + 40 parts water + 40 parts liquid detergent + 40 parts oil of citronella
0.0625 percent tannic acid exposure followed by immersion in a water bath, followed by 0.0625 percent ferric acid dipping solution
phenolic disinfectant conforming to commercial standards CS 70-41 or CS 71-41
Crude carbolic acid
FD&C blue No. 1 coloring
FD&C blue No. 2 coloring
FD&C green No. 3 coloring
Finely powdered charcoal or black dyes
Kerosene, fuel oil, or used crankcase oil
No. 2 fuel oil, brucine dissolved in a mixture of alcohol and pine oil or oil of rosemary, finely powdered charcoal
Any ‘other proprietary substance’ approved by the USDA
What are some other concerns you should be made aware of when sourcing your raw ingredients? Always be leery of and question:
Products sold for $1 per pound and lower (especially grinds)
Meats marked “trim”
Grinds containing 1% or 2% bone
Grinds without guaranteed analysis
Products with unknown or undisclosed origin
Meat from animals fed GMO feed
Meat from animals injected with hormones/antibiotics
Unknown tissue found in bulk meat products
Meat with a strong or offensive odor
Meat with an odd color
Products that cause your dog to suddenly become picky
Products that cause your dog to vomit
Overly fatty or greasy grinds
Meats that are brown when thawed
Meat or organs containing spots or unknown attached tissue
Grinds sold for racing dogs
Freezer burned product (may indicate the product being very old)
Expired products or frozen products with a package date that exceeds 1 year
Products with air in sealed bags
Poultry feet with black spots on the bottom of foot pad and toes
All fish grinds (especially salmon)
A company or business unwilling to disclose information about products
The only way to be absolutely sure of what you are feeding your pet is to either feed a DIY nutrition plan from only human-grade USDA inspected ingredients sold in stores and Farmer’s Markets or to find a reputable raw food company/supplier that is 100% transparent about their ingredients, recipes/formulas, and sourcing. When it comes to your pet’s nutrition needs and health, you are at the helm. Choose your path wisely!
Creating a nutrient balanced meal with a “better” ratio
Let’s talk ratios. Ratios provide a super simple outline or guideline for feeding our dogs species-appropriate foods. The most common ratio is still 80/10/10. What that means is…
10% organs (secreting)
Simple, right?! The problem with the above ratio is that many pet parents, and especially those new to raw feeding, do not understand that the 80/10/10 ratio is only a guideline and not an absolute set-in-stone plan to follow. Following the ratio too closely almost ALWAYS results in vitally important nutrients coming in consistently too low. This then increases the risk for health concerns down the road and often contributes to the disapproval that raw feeding has within the veterinary community. Feeding variety does help, but when a dog has protein sensitivities and limited proteins are being offered, providing nutrient balanced meals can become quite the challenge.
In my profession, I have the unfortunate job of seeing the bad side of raw feeding on a regular basis. Many pet parents come to me seeking “desperate” help. From my vantage point, raw feeding can look scary! Thus I created this blog and our Facebook group to be a resource and educational platform to help pet parents feed a more balanced (varietal and rotational) nutrition plan. I have mulled over a better ratio that will help pet parents feed a more nutrient balanced diet and still be able to follow a ratio. Let’s take a look…
55% to 65% skeletal muscle + 15% to 25% organ muscle
10% secreting organ
3% to 5% liver + 5% to 7% other secreting organ (Don’t fall for the misconception that you can’t feed more than 10% secreting organs! Of course you can!)
MINIMUM bone 12% Whole prey has an average bone % of 12%. 10% bone is too low for most dogs and MUCH TOO LOW for puppies.
Did you notice the percentage variation on the liver? This is important to discuss. Most pet parents feed chicken liver, beef liver, turkey liver, or pork liver. Chicken and beef livers are easiest to source. The problem with liver is that some have a very high amount (saturation) of copper and others have next to none. If you are feeding a full 5% of a high copper liver, then you are likely exposing your dog to too high an amount of the trace mineral copper. Worse yet, if your zinc levels are too low, which is very common in raw meals, then a zinc deficiency is a very real possibility. Zinc and copper need to be in the correct ratio. Let me reemphasize this. Even if you are just hitting your dog’s zinc requirements (at around 90% to 110%), but the copper is coming in at around 200% to even 250% of their copper needs (which can easily be achieved with 5% liver), then the zinc is TOO LOW.
1) If you are feeding a
high copper liver, 5% liver is going to be too high if you are not adding a
zinc supplement, and even then, the copper is still a bit too high to be fed at
2) If you are feeding a low copper liver, then 5% will not meet copper needs, thus adding oysters or a zinc/copper combination supplement will be necessary. (Oysters are naturally high in zinc and copper!)
3) Rotating with a high copper and low copper liver every other day is also an option as long as you pay attention to zinc in the daily meals.
Some raw feeding “professionals” recommend feeding liver even higher if you do not have another secreting organ to feed a full 10% secreting organs. The recommendation is to feed liver at a dangerous 10%. Please do not ever fall for this ill-advised recommendation. Your dog may be being exposed to copper at a dangerously high level as well as getting far too much vitamin A. The main concern is a nutrient imbalance leading first and foremost to a zinc and vitamin D deficiency as well as a possible forthcoming toxicity condition. Keep liver at 5% maximum or lower.
As for the 80% meat, if you feed only skeletal meat without any organ muscle, you will not hit nutrient requirements unless you are feeding your dog grossly too much food. Of that 80%, a MINIMUM of 15% should come from muscle organs such as heart, lung, gizzard, and tripe. In my opinion, that should be upwards of 20% as often as possible. I feed my dogs a combination total (muscle organs plus secreting organs) of a near 40% organs in most of their daily meals. The remaining is RMBs and a small percentage of boneless meat. This way I am not just barely meeting nutrient requirements, I am exceeding them in a balanced, well-thought out plan.
For bone, the 10% general recommendation is too low for most dogs. Whole prey has an average bone percentage of 12%. You can safely feed your dog 12% to 15% daily even up to 20%. I would not, however, exceed 25% bone. If you have a growing pup then you will need to feed a minimum of 15% up to, but not exceeding, 25%. Bone contains the base of minerals in the diet as well as bone marrow (where white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are made) and connective tissues (rich in glucosamine, chondroitin, and minerals) that contain a gold mine of value and nutritional components that are vital if optimal health and maintenance is your plan.
Ratio Quick view:
Skeletal muscle = 55% up to 65%
Organ muscle = 15% up to 25%
Secreting organs = 10% up to 12%
Bone = 12% to 18%
Work your dog up gradually to a higher overall organ percentage while also increasing bone percentage. Take it slowly and be patient!
Did I get your attention? Good! There is raw feeding purism and then there is raw feeding done correctly and safely. The truth is, not all foods should be fed raw. While meat, organs, bones, and eggs should be fed raw, foods such as fish, shellfish, and most vegetables should not. In this article we will take a closer look at why this is true.
Fish and Thiaminase
Thiaminase, also known as aneurinase, is an enzyme contained within the flesh and viscera (organs) of numerous species of fish and shellfish which has the uncooperative job of metabolizing (breaking down) the B-vitamin thiamin or thiamine (Vitamin B1) into two molecular parts. While this may seem innocent at the surface, it can spell danger in a big way for your dog (and you) if raw fish is being consumed.
Enzymes are essential for metabolism and digestion. They speed up the rate of all biological chemical reactions and enable the breakdown of food. Digestive enzymes are needed to breakdown foods allowing your dog’s body to unlock the nutrients within the foods that his body requires for maintenance, health, metabolism, and life. However, when your dog consumes an enzyme that targets a vital nutrient, we call these “disobliging” enzymes anti-nutrients because they destroy the very nutrients your dog requires to maintain his health and crucial bodily functions. Thiaminase destroys thiamin before your dog’s body has a chance to absorb this essential vitamin.
Thiamin is part of the B-vitamin complex. It is named B1 because it was the very first scientifically discovered vitamin (1897 to be exact, although Vitamins C and D were previously known nutrients that had yet to be “scientifically” isolated) and gave way to the use of the word “vitamin.” Thiamin is an essential nutrient component for energy metabolism. All cells require thiamin to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main energy-carrying molecule. The heart in particular requires a large amount of thiamin! According to Cornell University, without a sufficient absorption of thiamin, “animals [will] have impaired pyruvate utilization, causing increased plasma pyruvate levels and a shortage of cellular ATP. Thiamin deficient animals also have below normal transketolase activity .”
The active form of thiamin is known as the coenzyme pyrophosphate (TPP) and is necessary for the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl-CoA, the conversion of alpha-ketogluterate to succinyl-CoA, the conversion of branched-chain alpha-keto acids to acyl-CoA, and the transfer of a 2C fragment from alpha-keto sugars to aldose acceptors in the pentose-phosphate shunt. If you have no idea what this means, just understand that it is vital for energy! If your dog has any shortage of thiamin in the diet and/or is consuming thiaminase via raw fish, this can become a serious health situation.
When your dog (and you) ingests thiaminase, this enzyme cleaves or splits a thiamin (Vitamin B1) molecule into two parts rendering it inactive and unfortunately unable to be restored. Significant ingestion of thiaminase can obviously induce a thiamin deficiency quite quickly causing thiamin-deficiency related conditions to manifest. One of the first signs of deficiency is weight loss and the inability of your dog to maintain a healthy weight. The symptoms of Beriberi in humans are similar to the symptoms your dog could experience, one serious result being an enlarged heart which can be fatal.
According to PetMD, “As described in a controlled study and a retrospective report, the induction stage generally develops within 1 week after animals begin eating a diet severely deficient in thiamine and is characterized by hyporexia (poor appetite), vomiting, or both (neurologic and cardiac dysfunction develop as the condition progresses). Typically, an animal must be thiamine deficient for slightly more than 1 month before the terminal stage is reached. However, once the terminal stage has started, an animal will die within a few days if the deficiency is not corrected immediately…Typically, it can take weeks to months for the development of clinical signs, which are attributable to subchronic deficiency because most diets are not entirely devoid of thiamine. Mitigating factors include the amount of thiamine in the food, nutrient composition of the diet, whether the animal eats a consistent diet, and species and health status of the animal .”
What if your dog is only ingesting a small percentage of raw fish? This is a good question! Having audited countless nutrition plans and pet-parent-generated recipes, I can tell you for certain that most meal plans come up short or barely hit vital thiamin requirements especially if following too closely to a ratio such as 80/10/10 or 80/10/5/5. Because thiamin is water-soluble, it must be provided daily in the diet in sufficient amounts. Any hindrances such as from even small amounts of thiaminase can potentially lead to a deficiency condition.
The following list comprises of fish species known to contain thiaminase. For a further list, see note at the bottom .
Mackerel, Pacific (Chub)
Menhaden, Atlantic M
Fish without thiaminase:
Bass, smallmouth, largemouth, and rock
Mackerel, species Scomber scombrus
Trout, brown, lake, rainbow, & white
How to Avoid Thiaminase
Avoiding fish altogether is not a wise strategy plan. Fish contains a wealth of essential nutrients and fatty acids that your dog needs. Thankfully, test studies show that subjecting thiaminases to heat via the cooking processes will inactive the thiaminase sufficiently to prevent your dog from developing a thiamin-deficiency condition. My recommendation, especially if feeding whole fish with all the viscera, is to lightly poach or steam the fish until it is completely heated through to be sure the viscera are cooked. You can poach or steam fish on the stove or in the oven to safely feed fish to your dog.
Salmon & all Anadromous Fish
You likely noticed that salmon is a fish that does not contain thiaminase. While this may seem all well and good to feed raw, I have more bad news. Salmon should never be fed raw. Feeding raw salmon to your dog can lead to a condition known as salmon poisoning disease (SPD). SPD is a potentially fatal condition caused by a parasite known as Nanophyetus salmincola that itself is infected by a rickettsial organism known as Neorickettsia helminthoeca. This rickettsial organism is what causes SPD in dogs consuming infected raw salmon and anadromous (upstream swimming) fish. Cooking all salmon and anadromous fish will destroy the organism-infected parasite. While freezing the fish in a deep freezer for an extended period of time is an option, my preferred method is to err on the side of caution and lightly poach all salmon.
Symptoms of SPD includevomiting, lack of appetite, fever, diarrhea, weakness, swollen lymph nodes, and dehydration. If your dog shows signs of SPD and is not treated, death can occur within two weeks. Statistically, 90% of untreated dogs with SPD die. It can be treated successfully if caught immediately at the first sign of symptoms. My opinion is to never take a chance of your dog coming down with SPD. Cook all salmon before feeding it to your dog.
In fact, cook ALL fish before feeding. Why take a chance with your dog’s health?
The Ugly Side of Vegetables & Plants
Plants are not exempt from the “bad” list when it comes to a healthful diet and nutrition plan for both our dogs and us. For people, plants can provide extraordinary health benefits as they are often abundant in nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals. But when it comes to our dogs, canines are unfortunately not designed nor equipped to benefit from the plant world as we humans do.
Animals that are designed and equipped to live exclusively on plants are known as herbivores, frugivores, and granivores. Animals that can consume both plants and animal flesh are known as omnivores. We humans are technically omnivores as we are able to perfectly digest and benefit from both plants and animal foods. Why do I bring this up? I do so because many people believe that our dogs are omnivorous rather than the facultative carnivores that they are. This impression was perpetrated by the pet food industry many, many decades ago.
When the pet food manufacturing process known as extrusion was invented in the 1950’s, starch was an essential ingredient that was needed to hold dog food into a dry shape that could be bagged and stored on a shelf. Later, a 1964 lobbying group known as the Pet Food Institute began a campaign to convince pet-parents that commercially manufactured and packaged or canned pet foods were not only the best option for dogs, but the only option a pet needed to provide all of his or her nutritional needs. This lobbying group was also successful at convincing well-meaning pet-parents that table scrapes were dangerous, a dog’s nutritional needs were too complicated, and canine nutrition should be left in the hands of the professionals only. So of course, further convincing the pet-parenting world that dogs are omnivores was all too easy. After all, dogs weren’t dropping dead from the starch-based commercial foods they were now being exclusively fed. (As an FYI, grains were the main starches being used.) And why?
All biological life has the potential to adapt. As a result of decades and thus generations of dogs consuming a high starch diet, some breeds have developed an increased number of gene copies that code for the creation of the amylase enzyme responsible for starch digestion (AMY2B). This discovery has been the modern foundation on which the pet food industry and veterinarians stand to support their belief or claim that dogs are omnivorous. However, a much closer look at a recent study shows this argument has no real foundation. If dogs in general “evolved” from carnivores into omnivores, then ALL dogs would show this evolutionary marker. But this is clearly not the case.
According to an article issued by the National Center for Biotechnology Information , “AMY2B copy numbers vary in individuals from 20 dog breeds and find strong breed-dependent patterns, indicating that the ability to digest starch varies both at the breed and individual level…. AMY2Bcopy numbers also varied considerably in a larger set of 171 dogs from 20 different breeds. Mean copy numbers still varied significantly among breeds.” This is a critical finding.
The article goes on to further explain, “Although these observations argue that dogs in general digest starch more efficiently than do wolves, considerable variation in AMY2B copy numbers within the dog population, with diploid copy numbers ranging from 4 to 30, indicates that the ability to handle starch may vary significantly among dogs. In support of this idea, wide reference values for serum amylase activity in blood biochemistry panels indicate strong variability in amylase activity among dogs. Based on the simultaneous increase in AMY2Bcopy number and amylase activity in dogs relative to in wolves, it is reasonable to hypothesize that amylase activity is associated with AMY2Bcopy number within the dog population. Yet, a previous analysis within the dog population did not support this hypothesis (Axelsson et al. 2013).”
Thus, are dogs actually omnivores with the ability to consume and benefit from plant matter? The conclusion to the above article puts it this way, “Increased amylase activity in dogs relative to wolves is associated with high AMY2B copy numbers in dogs, arguing that efficient starch digestion is linked to high copy numbers at this locus. However, this association has so far not been confirmed within the dog population. A lack of association may potentially question a causal link between copy number and amylase activity.”
I believe the most telling proof in this whole argument is the fact that after dogs began consuming a high starch diet, they in general began developing the very same conditions as we humans began to develop when carbohydrates became the foundation of the diet. These conditions include exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic skin conditions, and obesity. Not surprisingly, when dogs are taken off of starches, the conditions improve or rectify.
Unnatural foods = unnatural diseases. In other words, species-inappropriate foods lead to avoidable disease conditions.
What does this have to do with vegetables? Everything! Vegetables are carbohydrates and amylase enzymes are required to breakdown all carbohydrates. Having been in the dog profession since 1994, I have seen a LOT of dog stools and many, many health conditions. I have yet to meet a dog that can digest a vegetable given in its whole raw form. If you feed a dog a raw carrot, it comes out the way it was swallowed. I have even seen spinach pieces and lettuce leaves in dog stools! The point is this: the majority of dogs cannot breakdown plant matter (dare I even say, none?!). Thus, it must be mechanically processed via a blender before being offered to your dog in order for the plant matter to provide any benefit whatsoever. (Something to also consider, dogs do not “chew” as their jaws have no lateral movement, nor do they have molars that meet for grinding food!)
If we go back to commercially produced dog food, you will note that all commercial foods are processed. Processed foods are already broken down with the nutrients readily available (albeit synthetic nutrient isolates and inorganic chemicals). Feeding your dog a whole-foods diet requires a more extensive digestive process. Whole-foods require a lot more time (and energy) to break them down to release the nutrients for absorption. If we process vegetables such as through a blender, your dog will be able to better benefit from the nutrients in the same manner as processed foods, HOWEVER this also makes the anti-nutrients readily available and easily absorbed. Here comes the bad news.
Plants contain natural toxins. These toxins are insecticides and pesticides produced by the plant to protect itself from the overconsumption by insects found in its environment and natural habitat. The natural toxins produced in the plants maintain balance within the ecosystem. What these toxins do to insects is disrupt cellular function which translates to also having an accumulative impact on the animals and humans consuming them. The most notable plant toxins are phytates, oxalates, lectins, and saponins.
Phytates have the nasty reputation of binding with minerals in the gut and preventing their absorption. The concern with canine phytate consumption is that phytates bind with key and critical minerals that your dog must have in an abundance. These minerals are calcium, zinc, iron, and phosphorus. This can lead to a mineral deficiency condition if phytates are fed to your dog regularly. Phytates are found in seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes, legumes being the greatest perpetrators. Dogs should NEVER consume grains or beans. These are inappropriate and can cause more problems than any possible benefit. Phytase can be reduced by soaking, sprouting, and fermenting, but they can never be removed completely.
Oxalates are found in the most nutritional powerhouses. Oxalates not only bind with calcium, but they interfere causing a potential risk for crystal formation within the tissues leading to arthritis-type symptoms as well as the formation of kidney stones. Oxalates are abundant in dark green leafy vegetables with kale and spinach leading the list, as well as collard greens, mustard greens, chard, beet greens, okra, carrots, celery, broccoli, grains, beans, nuts and more. Cooking reduces the oxalates. Consuming a large amount of calcium and magnesium with foods containing oxalates is helpful as the calcium and magnesium will bind with the oxalates in the stomach to prevent their absorption. However, then your dog has a reduced amount of absorbable calcium and magnesium. High oxalate veggies are best left to a bare bone minimum and should be cooked before feeding them to your dog. Make sure to discard the cooking water.
Lectins have the nasty drawback of creating a disruption in the functioning of the cells lining the gut layer known as the epithelium. These cells have the vital role of preventing undigested food particles from passing through the gut wall and into the bloodstream. Undigested food particles in the bloodstream can trigger an immune response leading to systemic inflammation. And if this is not enough, research has shown that lectins interfere with the gut microbiome. Foods high in lectins are wheat germ, legumes, and grains as the highest followed by tomatoes, peanuts, potatoes, bell peppers, garlic, peas, nuts, and seeds. Cooking and fermenting reduces lectins. Since these foods are not species-appropriate, I recommend they not be fed to your dog.
Saponins, like lectins, disrupt epithelial function along with creating additional digestive dysfunction. Worse, a connection has been found between saponins and red blood cell damage, enzyme inhibition, and thyroid disruption. Quinoa is thus far the highest food-source of saponins followed by oats and legumes. Saponins cannot be removed. Avoid feeding any foods containing saponins to your dog. These are not worth the risk!
It can be clearly seen that a raw diet doesn’t necessarily mean that every single food offered to your dog should be in its raw state. Plants pose a wealth of issues for animals not developed to consume them. Cooking helps with reducing anti-nutrients and increasing digestibility. My recommendation is to lightly steam vegetables* followed by mashing or pureeing them to make them more bioavailable. Secondly, never feed your dog grains or legumes. And lastly, soaking seeds and nuts is helpful to reducing anti-nutrients. However, almost every dog will pass seeds and nuts into the stools the same way they consumed them. They simply are not digestible to any animals except granivores (birds).
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Your dog has several requirements that are necessary for health, health maintenance, healing, and disease prevention. If you are feeding a puppy, his or her needs are even greater and more important for proper growth and development. These are critical requirements that need your special attention.
First and foremost your dog requires food for energy. Energy is primary. Without energy there is no function, without function life ceases. So food must first provide energy. Secondly, food contains vital nutrients that your dog requires for physiological and cellular function. Your dog’s digestive system is perfectly able to release nutrients from species-appropriate foods by mechanically and chemically breaking it down into its smallest components. Once these components are released, the nutrients are then absorbed into the bloodstream via the intestinal wall where they are carried and distributed throughout the body as and where needed. Others that are in abundance are either stored in tissues or later excreted.
Your dog requires:
Protein and fats both supply calories and therefore potential energy (calories). Fat should be your dog’s main fuel source with protein as secondary.
Keep in mind: These above nutrients are the known and studied essential nutrients. There are many more nutrients that science has not yet studied fully or even discovered. This is why feeding species-appropriate foods is so vital for making sure your dog is receiving an abundance of nutrients, both the known, the new and indefinite, and the yet-to-be-discovered.
Protein is needed for:
building, repairing, and maintaining tissues such as muscles, bones, organs, blood, cartilage, skin, and nails
the building, repair, and maintenance of cells
the production of enzymes
the production of hormones
the production of antibodies
the production of signaling proteins
the production of bodily chemicals
Fat is needed for:
the structural components of cells and cell wall integrity
carrying fat-soluble vitamins for absorption
physiological processes such as blood clotting, inflammatory response, and tissue healing
Vitamins and minerals are needed by every cell, tissue, organ, and muscle and for every physiological function of the body. They are required for hundreds of functions and roles throughout your dog’s body.
SPECIES-APPROPRIATE FOOD SOURCES:
Protein → meat, poultry, fish, organs, eggs, milk products
Fats → meat, poultry with skin, oily fish, organs, egg yolks, bone marrow, milk products, oils
You have already learned that your dog not only requires energy from food, but also protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Proteins and fats are pretty simple to source with the added bonus of also being the main energy providers. Meat and organs deliver ample amounts of amino acids, fats, and calories making providing these nutritional necessities a simple task. Now here comes the worrisome part.
What about all those vitamins and minerals?
This is where DIY raw feeding gets scary and many pet parents rightfully get uncomfortable. I want to assure you, it is not all that difficult once you learn the basics.
Let’s start with the easy part. The NRC has compiled their research into a library of books for animal health and nutrition. One such book is the “Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats.” In this work is a list of the known vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) required in the diet of dogs along with their recommended daily amounts. The following is the list of vitamins and minerals recommended daily by the NRC:
The question that we must now ask is HOW MUCH of each nutrient needs to be provided. So, how much of each individual micronutrient does your dog need in daily meals? Before I answer that, take a look at the following list. This will give you an idea of the daily recommended requirements per 1,000 kcal in accordance with the NRC, AAFCO, FEDIAF, and my own research.
Vitamin A Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Pantothenic acid Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Choline Vitamin D Vitamin E Vitamin K Calcium Phosphorous Magnesium Potassium Sodium Chloride Iron Copper Zinc Manganese Iodine Selenium
380 RE to 16,000 RE 0.56 mg 1.4 mg 4.25 mg 4 mg 0.4 mg 68 mcg 8.75 mcg 425 mg 3.4 mcg to 20 mcg 7.5 mg 410 mcg 1,200 mg 1,000 mg 190 mg 1,250 mg 250 mg 400 mg 9 mg 1.8 mg 20 mg 1.5 mg 220 mcg 90 mcg
Looks daunting, doesn’t it? The single greatest concern I hear from pet parents is their fear that they are not or will not be able to provide all of these nutrients. And yes, it is a sensible fear. After all, your dog’s health is relying on your knowledge, efforts, and meal prep skills.
Can you just wing it? You want my honest answer? My answer is this…of course not! So now what?
Let’s start with the easy part. Of all those nutrients listed above, most of them are really quite easy to get into the diet daily. Here are the easy nutrients:
Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folate
The following are not too difficult, but do take a little know-how:
And finally, the difficult nutrients:
Does it still look difficult now? It shouldn’t! You just have to focus on a few nutrients and have the confidence that the remainder of the essential nutrients are being provided with a properly planned and balanced diet. This is best done by rotating ingredients and providing several meat, organ, and bone options. Variety and rotation is the key.
Let’s go back to the HOW to be sure your dog is receiving all they require. For starters, the easy-to-source nutrients will almost always be in meals provided you are feeding at least:
two skeletal proteins per meal
at least one internal muscle organ such as heart
you have included liver
you have one other secreting organ And…
a minimum of 10%, preferably 12%, bone. You can even go as high as 15% bone per day.
How easy is that?! Now let’s move on to the more challenging nutrients.
Choline is richest in eggs. If you are feeding eggs, you have met choline needs. And if you are providing free-range eggs, you are also providing a source of vitamin D and possibly even vitamin E if the chickens are fed flaxseeds. On top of that, eggs are rich in B vitamins, calcium, selenium, iron, and zinc. Duck, quail, and even turkey eggs also provide a wealth of nutrients and benefits.
Vitamin D, besides egg yolks, is also found in fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon. Only a small amount of fish is needed in meals. You get the benefit of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids among a wealth of other nutrients.
Vitamin K may seem tricky especially if you’re using a nutrient auditing program or spreadsheet and are not feeding vegetables, but I have news for you. There are two forms of vitamin K and dogs only require one of them. Dogs need vitamin K2 known as menaquinone. Vitamin K1 is phylloquinone, a plant form of vitamin K. In humans, the absorption rate of K1 is less than 10%. What do you think absorption rate is in dogs who have a different digestive tract from humans? You guessed it…next to none! Your dog does not need vitamin K1 which they cannot absorb. The highest sources of K2 are found in goose liver, milk products, egg yolks, and beef. Of course other meats and organs contain K2, so don’t be concerned if you are feeding in rotation.
Magnesium is really not all that difficult. It may look difficult on auditing programs due to the programs’ lack of account for bone minerals. Magnesium is found in a good amount in bones. In fact, 60% of body magnesium is stored in bones. That’s a lot of magnesium in bones! If you are feeding an ample bone percentage, your dog is getting a wealth of bioavailable magnesium along with other nutrients. Magnesium is also found in impressive amounts in salmon, mackerel, and halibut (even tuna, but I don’t recommend feeding tuna due to its mercury content). And if you’re feeling brave standing up to the myths circulating within the dog community, avocados are an excellent source of magnesium and a whole host of other nutrients. And guess what? Avocado flesh is NOT toxic to dogs. Don’t be shy, add a small amount to meals!
Iron is also quite easy to source if you are regularly feeding red meats, organs, and adding myoglobin. Myoglobin is the red juice drippings from meat and organs that many people mistake for blood. It is a very rich source of iron and amino acids. And guess where else iron is found? BONES!
Copper is actually TOO easy to source and that can be a problem because too much is NOT a good thing. If you are feeding beef/calf liver and/or lamb liver, be careful not to feed too much. Copper can cause toxicity and zinc deficiency. BUT, if you’re not feeding beef or lamb liver, your copper will be too low. So be sure to feed beef, calf, and/or lamb liver as a regular part of meals in just the right amount for your dog’s needs.
Do you see the common denominators in the above? They are:
You should already be adding these to your dog’s diet anyway. Let’s move on to the hardest to source nutrients which you are about to find out are just as simple as all the rest.
Vitamin E is rich in flax-fed free-range egg yolks. It is even found in the bone marrow of mammals. Yet, is it enough to meet requirements? What if I told you that selenium does the job of vitamin E? If you are feeding ample amounts of selenium (which is not at all hard to do) then vitamin E is not essential. It is just an extra bonus in meals. Many pet parents purchase a natural vitamin E oil supplement and add a few drops of oil to meals. Easy peasy!
Zinc is also not difficult. In fact, zinc is quite easy to source. Bone is an excellent source of zinc as are oysters. Oysters are extremely high in zinc, so much so that you need only add small amounts to meals. And the best part is you can buy them just about anywhere in the canned fish aisle. (Psst…Walmart!)
Manganese is actually a tough one if you are not feeding large amount of RMBs with connective tissues. Manganese is rich in joint tissue, ligaments, cartilage, trachea, and bone marrow. It is also found in green tripe. These ingredients are not always feasible, so another rich source is mussels. If you can source mussels, you have your manganese requirement met well over what your dog requires.
Iodine is also not difficult. Nearly all foods contain trace amounts of iodine. Iodine is found in free-range eggs and dairy products. The easiest source of iodine is the seaweed kelp. But because kelp is so high in iodine, you must take great caution to be sure you only ever use a supplement that is analyzed for iodine levels. NEVER exceed the recommended dose for your dog. And if you have a large breed, do NOT exceed 300 mcg.To discover how much of each nutrient your dog needs, use the information in the previous lesson to determine your dog’s estimated calorie requirements per day.
To discover how much of each nutrient your dog needs, use the information in the previous lesson to determine your dog’s estimated calorie requirements per day.
If your dog needs more than 1,000 calories, multiply the NRC (et all) recommended nutrient amounts listed above by your dog’s calorie need. This is how is it done.
Magnesium requirement per 1,000 kcal = 190 mg
If your dog requires 1,575 calories per day, you will multiply by 1.575.
190 mg x 1.575 = 299.25 mg magnesium / day
If your dog requires less than 1,000 calories per day, also multiply in the same manner.
Folate requirement per 1,000 kcal = 68 mcg
If your dog requires 430 calories per day, you will multiply by 0.43.
68 mcg x 0.43 = 29.24 mcg folate / day
Do the exact same math for every nutrient and you will have all of your dog’s daily requirements. Make sure you keep them in a safe spot to save you from doing the math all over again!