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/


The Importance of Species-appropriate Foods for the Cultivation of Optimal Health

Energy is Everything! Your Dog’s Life Depends On It

When it comes to fueling our canines’ bodies, there has to be the consideration of which foods are species-appropriate and which are not. Our dogs have very specific energy needs and nutrient requirements that must be supplied by the diet. This requires careful thought and planning. Energy and nutrients cannot come from just any food. The foods must be digestible, void of anti-nutrients that a dog cannot counter or neutralize, and have the correct cells and molecules that a dog’s digestive capabilities are designed to effortlessly and adequately breakdown to unlock potential energy and the nutritional components that are vital to health and life. These foods are what are known as species-appropriate. There are no other foods that need to be or should be added to the canine diet. Let’s discuss why that is imperative if your goal is to cultivate optimal health. Optimal health can only be realized with ideal nerve energy and peak cellular function.

Every biological organism and living being requires food. Food supplies the energy needed for metabolism. Quantum physics has shown us that energy is everything, everything is energy. Our dogs, like us, are energy beings. Energy, therefore, is first and foremost the most crucial factor in nourishing and sustaining the body. Physiological processes cannot be adequately maintained without the consistent supply of energy nourishment replete within species-appropriate foods. When food is not supplied, the body will utilize all stored potential energy located within the muscles and liver for basic metabolic functions and physical work (movement). This first fuel source is glycogen (in carnivores, amino acids are turned into a fuel source via a process known as gluconeogenesis). When glycogen is exhausted, the body then turns to stored body fat, a stored energy source. Fat is utilized by being converted into ketone bodies which are then burned as fuel. When fat stores deplete, the body will cannibalize itself to create an energy source by breaking down muscle and organ tissue to release amino acids that are then burned as fuel (again, via gluconeogenesis). Thus, potential energy is primary in maintaining metabolism and thus sustaining life. Potential energy must be supplied via adequate food intake for physiological processes to be optimal for the cultivation and maintenance of health. Any shortage of potential energy from food will result in the body drawing upon its own reserves. (Note, obese animals must be allowed to draw on stored body reserves for fuel in order to drop to an ideal body fat percentage; however, food intake must still be supplied to prevent malnourishment and fatigue.)

It is thus clear that energy is the foundation for everything to exist. Food for both our dogs and us revolves around energy. While food is also the vehicle for vital nutrients, it is the energy that fuels metabolism and bodily processes that allow for the breakdown and release of the nutrients that are necessary for further physiological function, maintenance, and repair. For optimal health to be realized and maintained, energy cannot be in short supply. And yet this is just what we are seeing in the modern canine as too many dogs are clearly suffering the ill effects. Understanding energy in the correct context is first necessary.

It is essential to recognize body energy in its two forms,

  1. potential energy that is produced within the mitochondria (cellular organelles where the biochemical processes of respiration and energy production occur), and
  2. nerve energy for the functioning powers of the body.

Food provides potential energy that is converted and burned (consumed) as fuel. Nerves control every part of the body including muscular action, digestion, functions of the organs, circulation, and emotions. The nerves are the grand conductors of motive power and sensory impulses. Having adequate energy for both metabolism and vital nerve function is the only way to ensure optimal health and vitality.

The holistic approach to nutrition looks for all possible sources of unnecessary energy expenditure (energy waste), most notably as a result of the diet, but also in every facet of dynamic life. The body will divert vital energy to the elimination of excessive toxin build-up (from both metabolic function and exposure via diet and environment) and to areas that require repair to damaged tissues caused by inappropriate, adulterated, and contaminated foods, excessive stress, chemical exposures, environment, and so forth. By removing these energy wasting sources, energy will be freed to allow for peak motive power available to the maintenance of optimal health, and most importantly, in crises when health is threatened by illness, injury, or trauma. This is the single most important detail for multiplying the likelihood for longevity.

Freeing-up your dog’s essential nerve energy is achieved by,

  1. providing a fresh raw species-appropriate diet (unadulterated and non-GMO) that is easily digestible, nutrient balanced (achieved by offering a variety of differing meals), and free from chemicals and naturally-occurring toxins and anti-nutrients,
  2. providing pure water that has been filtered via reverse osmosis,
  3. eliminating harmful chemical, toxin and stress exposure, and
  4. providing your dog with a safe environment complete with daily exercise in the fresh air and sunlight.

Let’s look at this another way. Excessive toxin build-up and tissue damage occur as a result of:

  • inappropriate, processed, adulterated, contaminated, nutrient-deficient, nutrient-toxic, and anti-nutrient rich diets
  • contaminated water consumption, especially tap water which contains fluoride, chlorine, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, farming chemicals, flocculants, spores, cysts, and parasites
  • environmental stress and chemical exposure
  • physical stress and over-demand
  • lack of exercise
  • polluted indoor and outdoor air, lack of fresh clean air
  • mental stress, anxiety, confinement, loneliness, and depression (YES, animals get depressed!)
  • over-vaccination and the use of flea, tick, and heartworm chemicals and preventatives
  • pharmaceutical drugs
  • parasite infestation

In light of the above, it is not difficult to understand why providing only quality species-appropriate foods is vital to the adequate supply of potential metabolic energy and to assuring that ample nerve energy is available for all bodily functions and in the event of crisis. Because what you put into your dog’s body by way of food choices is so vitally important, I want to again stress what is not species-appropriate for a canine. Anything other than species-appropriate foods lead to motive energy shortage which may mean the deterioration of health and a decreased chance for longevity.

Foods that put a direct damper on overall energy output and nerve conduction are:

  • processed commercial foods full of adulterated proteins, rendered fats, contaminants, and synthetic and inorganic nutrient isolates
  • moisture-deficient dry kibble
  • diets high in carbohydrates and insoluble fibers (dogs have absolutely no need for either of these)
  • grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds (seeds may have some value if ground into a powder and if anti-nutrients are strategically counteracted)
  • plant fats and diets high in plant-based proteins (especially legume and pea protein) or vegetarian diets
  • vegetables that are fibrous and stalky, oxalate and lectin-rich, and from the deadly-nightshade group
  • cooked proteins, fats, and carbohydrates
  • raw fish containing heavy metal contaminants (as well as thiaminase)
  • high sugar fruits and fruit fed in meals with protein. Protein needs an acid bath. When proteins are consumed alongside fruit, it can potentially turn fruit into an alcohol ferment creating a toxin that must be metabolized in the liver.

Any foods that create an unnecessary need for increased energy out-put reduces over-all available energy needed for the optimal functioning of organs, systems, and immunity and daily maintenance, repair, and toxin elimination from metabolic processes and stress. Species-inappropriate and contaminated foods create an undue need for toxin removal, cause or create an inflammatory response, create an increase in pancreatic enzyme out-put (grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds) and pancreatic hormone out-put (insulin in the presence of carbohydrates and sugars), tax and overburden the liver, dehydrate the cells, block or disrupt nutrient absorption via anti-nutrients (phytates, lectins, oxalates, thiaminase, insoluble fiber), create digestive difficulty and reduced nutrient assimilation, and are cause for indigestion, gassiness, constipation, diarrhea, increased mucous production, and the potential for bloat.

Energy is essential. In reality, it is everything. When energy is optimal, functioning is optimal. When we provide our dogs with species-appropriate foods that are easy to digest, nutrient uptake is also optimal and energy is abundant and reserved rather than wasted. Feeding your dog food that is inappropriate for convenience, simplicity, or for the mere reason that it contains a nutrient molecule that your dog requires is ineffective and futile. If energy and nutrients cannot be unlocked or assimilated and it further inhibits the absorption of other vital nutrients, where is the value? The truth is, there is no value. Let’s consider some examples.

Species-appropriate foods can only be of value to those species that are specifically designed to unlock the vital potential energy and nutrients within those foods. Grass contains a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. Does this mean that grass is a suitable source of vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids for a dog? Obviously no, and I am quite sure most of us know what happens when dogs eat grass. And yet grass is a vitally important food for grazing ungulates. Grass is species-appropriate food for cattle, horses, deer, and buffalo that are able to create massive bodies with rippling muscles and strong bones from grasses. Consider grains. Grains contain very few nutrients, but are rich in anti-predation chemicals and toxins that are counter-productive to health. Do grains contain any useable nutrients for carnivores such as canines? In their raw natural state they are deadly. The only known species created for grain consumption are birds which have the correct digestive capacity to counter the anti-nutrients and natural toxins while also breaking down the tough cell walls in their gizzard. Since dogs, like ALL other animals, are designed to consume their food in a raw state, grains are not, therefore, species-appropriate. But what if grains were allowed to ferment or sprout, were subjected to milling, cooking, and more cooking? Would these be appropriate even then? According to the National Research Counsil (NRC) as recorded in their massive research compilation Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats, the holy grail of canine nutrition research, “there appears to be no requirement for digestible carbohydrate in dogs provided enough protein is given to supply the precursors for glucogenesis.”

Despite these above facts, man feels the need to offer their beloved canines these inappropriate foods, including feeding foods that are cooked. No other animal, besides man, consumes cooked foods. Dr. Francis M. Pottinger’s cat study [1, 2] speaks volumes as to this massive error made by man. Dogs are not people…period. (Sometimes our dogs may feel like our children, but they are not our species!) The results of this error is clearly realized by the chronic ailments afflicting the modern dog, ailments they share with their human companions. Diabetes, joint destruction and arthritis, obesity, heart disease, macular degeneration, cancer and more are common among nearly every breed. Coincidence? Hardly.

What are species-appropriate foods for your dog? Whole raw prey or fresh raw meat, raw meaty bones, organs, offal, and very little, if any, plant material. Providing your beloved canine with a diet that is perfectly suited for their anatomy and physiology is the first step in providing nourishment that effectively and almost effortlessly delivers the vital potential energy and thereby the vital nutrients that are perfectly intended to flawlessly sustain life and, above all else, cultivate the coveted optimal health and longevity that we likely all desire for our beloved pets. Energy is everything…and not to be squandered and wasted.

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

[1] https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/nutrition-greats/francis-m-pottenger-md/

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Pottengers-Cats-Francis-Marion-Pottenger/dp/0916764060/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?crid=Q4TXFN7EUE4T&keywords=dr+pottinger+cat+study&qid=1551383777&s=gateway&sprefix=Dr+pottinger%2Caps%2C146&sr=8-1-fkmrnull