Balanced Canine Diets: The Big Misunderstanding PART II

The Incredible Raw Meaty Bones

Providing your dog with a nutrition plan that cultivates optimal health may not require a PhD or a medical degree, but it does require a good bit of knowledge and appreciation of biology and nutrition science. When we carefully consider the word balance, we must understand it in the correct perspective. As I wrote in Part I, balance is created by and through a biological system (the body) based on physiological need. We cannot create balance.  Balance is an internal process. We can provide a diet that is labeled “balanced” by the pet food industry standards, but I believe this is insufficient. What we must really focus our attention on is preventing an internal imbalance from occurring. Imbalance within the body can and does occur from an insufficient and poorly planned nutrition strategy if the diet is consistently and/or severely lacking in the essential nutrient-containing ingredients that your dog requires to cultivate health and maintain internal homeostasis.

Based upon my research and years of experience, I believe that a lack of a critical component in the modern canine diet is a reason why many pet parents are experiencing issues and conditions in their dogs despite carefully creating and providing a “balanced” diet. Dogs need bones. Bone is a food that I believe is not an option. Providing a substitute for bone creates a whole host of nutrient insufficiency. Most pet parents who are using their dog’s NRC, FEDIAF, or AAFCO nutrient requirements are on a mission to fulfill every one of the required nutrients. When the focus is on nutrient fulfillment rather than on balance and species-appropriate nutrition, sourcing food ingredients becomes a major problem. Fulfilling nutrients with ingredients that are not species-appropriate to hypothetically supply a nutrient or nutrients is to me taking a dangerous gamble with your pet’s health. Variety is essential, but reaching beyond species-appropriate foods is not the answer to creating internal harmony. Your dog needs to be able to easily and efficiently digest food ingredients in order to unlock the energy and nutritional building blocks contained within. If digestion is hampered or insufficient, your nutrition plan will never cultivate optimal health. If your dog’s intestinal microbiome is weak and not nurtured via species-appropriate foods, health will not be on his future radar. And if your dog’s intestinal walls are irritated and inflamed, nutrient absorption is insufficient to create the health your dog requires for longevity and a pain-free existence. This is what creates internal imbalance.

Remember what Dr. Jeannie wrote pertaining to diet? “Balance is nothing but an insufficient human term, a vague concept that pet food companies employ to make people buy processed foods for their pets.” It is a scare tactic. Your focus should be on providing a variety of species-appropriate foods in the correct proportions.

If we look at this from a biological point of view, it would look like this. Animals require food first and foremost to supply energy for metabolism and to maintain internal homeostasis. Homeostasis is balance. Internal balance (homeostasis) is your dog’s ability to maintain a stable internal environment despite changes to his external environment. This can include changes in diet, atmosphere, stressors, air quality, etc. Further, in order for your dog (and you) to build cellular material and tissues, he must receive organic molecules that can only be obtained from food. Your dog requires nitrogen, carbon, and fat. (Keep in mind that dogs have no use or need for carbohydrates.) Protein catabolism is your dog’s source of nitrogen and carbon. Proteins are made up of linked amino acids that when broken down via digestion, provide the building materials necessary for cellular function. Both nitrogen and carbon are the major components for the creation of nucleotides, nucleic acid, new proteins, cells, and all body tissues. Fat is the major source of energy (along with excess protein via gluconeogenesis) and is needed for hormone production and for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, among numerous other functions. The species-appropriate sources of protein and fat are meat and offal. Nothing more needs to be fed to a dog to supply these essential requirements.

Your dog also has a need for essential micronutrients that he cannot synthesize. Essential minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids can all be adequately obtained from species-appropriate foods. And yet, a major problem exists when focus goes to fulfilling pet food industry nutrient standards rather than providing an appropriate fresh raw diet complete with variety. Nutrient fulfillment becomes the game and common sense goes out the window. Please do not misunderstand me. Species-appropriate foods are thus called species-appropriate because the animal is perfectly able to thoroughly digest them to provide all the nutrients the animal requires to cultivate optimal health. Pet food industry nutrient standards are based on:

  • test studies using laboratory animals in atypical and unnatural settings [1]
  • adulterated processed food void of all nutrients
  • sprayed-on synthetic vitamin isolates and inorganic industrial chemicals added to adulterated processed pet foods

A species-appropriate raw food diet has nothing in common with foods produced by the commercial pet food industry. It is an illogical comparison.

Let’s go back to bone. I have thus far pointed out that dogs require meat and offal. The only other missing component is raw meaty bones. These three components can adequately supply all the nutrients a dog requires to cultivate radiant health. Recalling from Part I, I listed all the nutrients supplied in bone. Why not review it yet again?!

Hard bone contains:

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

Marrow contains [2]:

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

The connective tissue is a major source of:

  • glucosamine
  • chondroitin

Meat contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals. Organs contain even more. In fact, I consider organs a dog’s multi-vitamin/mineral. Offal is so rich in nutrients that we provide them in smaller amounts in a raw food diet [3]. With so many nutrients already to be found in meat and offal, bones provide the topping-off, if you will, of minerals and vitamins. Bones are the major source of minerals in a raw fed dog’s diet. Providing raw meaty bones as half of your dog’s diet assures an adequate amount of easily assimilated nutrients are being supplied. Yet, knowing what bones to offer is another key to creating balance.

If you are feeding whole prey, then your dog is receiving absolutely everything that he needs. Assuming most of us cannot supply whole prey at every meal, or even at all, knowing which bones to provide is critical to receiving an ideal amount of nutrients. It is best that your dog receives bone with ample marrow as often as you are able.

Marrow is the soft fatty tissue found inside bone. There are two types of marrow: yellow and red. All bone marrow creates stem cells which are responsible for producing white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. The function of these cells is to fight infections, carry oxygen throughout the body, and clot blood. Yellow bone marrow is found in the long bones of the legs while red marrow is found in ribs, hips, the skull, spinal vertebrae, shoulder blades, and the ends of long bones. Marrow is a source of amino acids, fat, minerals, and vitamins. Your dog must be supplied with both yellow and red marrow. Be sure to offer your dog all types of bones to ensure that a good range and percentage of marrow is being provided. For yellow marrow, I purchase “marrow” bones from the butcher with the marrow clearly accessible.

Thanks to the research of the Weston A. Price Foundation, we know that bone marrow is a powerful anti-inflammatory, boosts the immune system, and helps with weight management. A Swedish Oncologist, Dr. Astrid Brohult, gave her leukemia patients bone marrow broth. As a result, several of her patients had their white blood cell counts return to normal. Years later, Dr. Brohult’s biochemist husband discovered the alkyglycerol (AKG) compounds in bone marrow responsible for while blood cell production. Alkyglycerols are immune-boosting lipids now being used in cancer therapy that can also be found in human breast milk and cow’s milk. If this isn’t enough to excite you, bone marrow helps to seal the stomach lining, reduces discomfort and pain associated with intestinal inflammation, and improves overall gut health [4]. Even more, a University of Michigan study has shown significant amounts of the hormone adiponectin within marrow’s fat tissue. Adiponectin supports insulin sensitivity, breaks down fat, protects the heart, and decreases diabetes risk and obesity-associated cancer [5].

While these studies on bone marrow consumption are human studies, imagine the benefit to dogs. After all, bone marrow is a species-appropriate food perfectly suited to cultivate optimal health in canines. So, let’s now simply consider the nutrient value. As you can see from the nutrient list above, bone marrow is exceptionally nutrient-dense. While meat alone contains a wealth of nutrients, marrow is often richer in vitamins and minerals dependent upon which bone and from what animal. If you take a look at the reference provided for the bone marrow nutrients, you will note that the marrow is rich in Vitamin E, a nutrient that is nearly impossible to source from meat and organs alone. Couple this with the connective tissues rich in glucosamine and chondroitin and your dog will build and maintain a strong, resilient and disease-free body throughout the entirety of his life.

The most popular current recommendation for feeding bone comes from the 80/10/10 ratio which states to feed bone at approximately 10% of the diet. The bone percentage of whole prey, however, is slightly to significantly higher than 10%. The original recommendation for feeding a raw meaty bone (RMB) diet was to feed half to 60% of the diet comprising of RMBs. That equates to a range of 10% to 25% bone, marrow, and connective tissues with the remaining foods consisting of meat and offal. This is especially crucial for growing puppies. Dr. Ian Billinghurt, a leading authority on raw feeding and the originator of the BARF diet, recommends puppies receive RMBs with 50% bone, “Approximate biological balance is achieved so long as meat alone is not the principal dietary component. That job must be left to the raw meaty bones (RMBs). When a young and growing dog eats RMBs, if the bone to meat ratio of those RMBs is around 1:1, then the balance of calcium to phosphorus is appropriate for bone mineralization and formation.”

Balance is an ambiguous and even complex word that can take on many faces, meanings, and understandings. In the nutrition science realm, balance has always meant a wide variety of several types of nutrient-rich foods. If your desire is to provide a balanced diet, then offer your dog nutrient-rich species-appropriate foods that provide far more than just a nutrient that you are trying to source to fulfill a standard. In my practice I recommend feeding highest nutrient per bite ratio foods. These include foods that cover a broad spectrum of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, factors, co-factors, antioxidants, beneficial lipids, active constituents, and more. Bones fall under this category.

Nutrients are vital, but so is providing the correct foods that supply a plethora of vital nutrients and components for the cultivation of optimal health.

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

[1] If you are against animal testing, you might want to look into the early nutrient studies completed on caged dogs which were starved of nutrients in order to discover minimum requirements to prevent death. If this is not cruel enough, modern pet food testing laboratories are filled with lab animals bred in the lab to complete a lifetime of food trials. Sadly, they live their entire life in a lab and are disposed of when they die. Supporting commercial dog food is an ethical issue as well as being a poor nutrition choice for your dog. Visit https://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/pets/cruelty-free-pet-food/ & https://truthaboutpetfood.com/pet-food-animal-testing/ for more information.

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

[3] Secreting organs such as liver, kidney, and pancreas are supplied at approximately 10% of the diet. Muscle organs such as heart, lungs, and gizzard are supplied at approximately 15% of the diet. Offal can make up a total of approximately 25% of the diet.

[4] Results seen in patients of functional medical doctor, Dr. Auer. https://www.doctorauer.com/

[5] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140703125216.htm


Balanced Canine Diets: The Big Misunderstanding

PART I: Creating Balance with Raw Meaty Bones

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

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

Hard bone contains:

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

Marrow contains [1]:

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

The connective tissue is a major source of:

  • glucosamine
  • chondroitin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Welcome to The Holistic Canine

Welcome! The Holistic Canine was created to provide
biologically-accurate and species-appropriate raw feeding, naturopathic, and natural therapy information, educational resources, and personalized services to pet parents who desire to provide their beloved canines with the absolute best of care from the holistic realm. Raw feeding and naturopathic information abounds in published literature and on the world-wide web. Much of that information is pretty darn on-point, while some is missing the mark in big ways. How to sort through the plethora of information almost requires a how-to guide in and of itself. This is where The Holistic Canine comes in. It is my goal to provide the most current scientifically-accurate information from both the world of science research and my own education and experiences as a naturopath, orthomolecular nutritionist, and canine raw food nutritionist.

Science-based information means that it is based on test studies and trials that are either conclusive (factual) or highly reliable or a strongly supported theory regarded as correct. While the former certainly wins for authenticity, factual surety, and/or is near absolute, the latter can actually be based on a completely erroneous perception, concept, or idea that is propagated to push a strongly held viewpoint. Unfortunately, the internet is filled with this type of information along with a plethora of conjecture and speculation. When well-meaning pet parents excitedly or frantically search for needed information and guidance to commence on a new raw feeding and/or naturopathic journey, there is often no easy way to know or determine whether the information that sounds “scientific” is actually based on well-researched and reliable test trials that led to certainty. Providing raw feeding and natural health care information via the internet and books is a essential to furthering a better path to dog care. It is an admirable and vital service to give to the public especially when the motive it to inform and assist for the betterment of overall health and well-being for our pets. And yet, still the advice is not always safe or the best approach. One way we can conclude if “science-based” information is accurate or hypothetically-based is if it is in-line with the harmonious “real-life” functioning of a biological system or if it is inconsistent with that reality.

Here, yet, is another quandary to consider. While “science” is the study of what we can observe and test, it does not mean that scientists and doctors always come up with correct conclusions. Much of science begins with end-points. It is necessary to accurately reverse-engineer an observed end-point to discover the true map or path that led to the end point. Many times, the conclusions are 100% erroneous. Unless we observe from beginning to end with all variables clearly considered, a conclusion leading to an absolute fact cannot truly be discovered. Science must see it “in action.” Scientists and doctors are left with making educated guesses. They can test the validity of their conclusions, but because biological systems are so individualized, and factors leading up to end-points are rarely known to a greater extent, we are left with their hypotheticals or everyone’s best guess. Much of the time, science proves that man’s conclusions are incorrect and we must begin again. We see this in the countless studies that tell us to eat this or that, or this is good for us, or be sure to practice “such-and-such,” or avoid that like the plague, when out of nowhere and often years later we learn those “truths” and warnings were erroneous, some even completely invalid. Such is the system we call “science,” a dynamic and ever growing, ever progressing method of discovering truths.

When it comes to biological systems, they are so complex that we are only just beginning to understand the true paths to health and wellness; especially when it comes to our animals. Ultimately each one of us is left with the responsibility to make crucial decisions for each of our pet’s nutritional and health care needs. Our dogs are completely in the fate of our discretion and understanding. Sometimes our research and strategy proves advantageous, and we celebrate a long life filled with vitality and joy. Then we repeat the same strategy with a our next fur-babies and something goes wrong. It is for this reason I have stepped up to the plate to offer guidance, encouragement, and best of all, real life answers and solutions.

Let’s join together is this wonder-filled and amazing world of furry and not so furry, tongue-lolling, balls of energy and affection which we lovingly call “man’s best friend.” Bring on a long lifetime of wet kisses and hair-filled houses!

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