est. Dec 1999

Fresh raw food to optimise dog health

pyr pup and friends sharing dinner

Nutrition is a science and it is beyond the scope of this site to discuss the various elements of foods, eg, proteins, carbohydrates etc. etc. Most of us have a broad understanding of which foods provide the best protein, carbohydrate and fats, and realise that fresh fruit and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals. The idea here is to feed your dog a wide variety of foods to ensure that his diet contains all the elements necessary for good health. After all, isnít this what you do with your own diet ?
As a general guide to deciding the best foods for your dog, remember, even though dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, they were once a wild animal, catching prey, scavenging and eating whatever would supply some nutrients. Though they are carnivores and their main diet is meat and bone, they are also omnivores and scavengers, equipped with digestive systems which enable them to utilise a wide range of material. They are also equipped with a marvelous set of teeth and powerful jaws, which do a great job of tearing, stripping and crunching raw, tough foods.

Should each individual meal be complete and balanced?
Using a wide variety of foods, with the emphasis on meat and bone, will create the balanced diet that supplies all the essential nutrition. But it is not necessary to provide complete, balanced meals every time you feed your dog. The balance will be achieved over several meals. Nature has a marvelous way of adapting !

What about feeding bones ?
This is a personal choice. Many owners feed bones because they believe that bones are a natural food for dogs. Dogs have the correct type of teeth and digestive system to cope with raw meaty bones. Chewing bone keeps the teeth clean and supplies calcium and minerals.
Some owners are worried that the dog may damage the gut with sharp bone fragments and prefer to feed only ground bone. The dog stomach produces highly acid digestive juice will helps dissolve the bones safely.
While it is true that the dog may very occasionally get a bit of bone stuck in the gut, causing damage and even peritonitis, similar events can happen with dogs that swallow any sharp objects or foreign bodies and dogs have been known to choke while swallowing dry foods. Feeding large pieces of bones, which the dog has to chew before he can swallow them, provides an additional safeguard. But be sensible with bone and do not feed sawn pieces of very hard leg bone of larger animals, which are extremely dense bone designed to support the greater bodyweight, and will prove difficult to digest. These bones, when left whole, make excellent recreational chew bones. Another type of bone to avoid is the bone that is scraped bare of meat.

Repeat these three words ; they are important.
Raw Meaty Bones.
The bones must be fed raw, as cooking them will detract from the nutritional value and make them more difficult for your dog to digest. They tend to splinter if they are cooked. Never feed cooked bone to your dog, as this is not what nature intended.
And the meaty part ? If bones have a reasonable covering of meat, this helps to protect the lining of the gut, as the meat covering the bone acts as padding while both meat and bone are digested together. Nutritionally, it also makes a more complete meal, because the bone contains minerals which are not supplied in sufficient amounts in the meat. When your dog has digested as much of the bone as it can, he may regurgitate any remaining pieces. Donít regard this as a reason to stop feeding bones, this is a perfectly natural process.

What about fruit and vegetables?
Dogs are scavengers and will eat almost anything. Many dogs enjoy soft fruits such as apricots, bananas, figs, pear, plum and will crunch pieces of apples. Fruit may be fed processed as per veggies. Most dogs will probably draw the line at oranges or grapefruit, which are more acid, though some dogs do eat them.
Leafy green vegetables can be fed raw, well shredded, grated or processed. e.g. lettuce, spinach, a little broccoli, cauliflower, kale, also green vegetables such as cucumber, courgettes. Root veg.- potato, parsnip, carrot, swede, pumpkin, also need either grating or processing to break down some of the cellulose, making the nutrients more accessible to the dog. Cooking to soften them and increase digestibility may better suit some dogs, but also means that some of the nutrients may be lost.

What else can my dog eat?
Eggs are fantastic protein food for dogs. Fish is good for your dog, raw is best but canned fish such as tuna is fine.
Many dogs enjoy milk, cheese, yoghurt, a little cream ! Again, raw milk is best if you can get it, but otherwise pasteurised has to do, but remember this is a cooked food.
Cooked grains are not considered a necessary part of the dogs natural diet, but may be fed if you wish, preferably in small amounts only. Rolled and flaked grains such as rolled oats or flaked rice have already been heat processed so require minimum cooking, -- rolled oats can be soaked in hot water instead of cooking them, before feeding to the dog.
Not all dogs tolerate dairy and grains and some owners prefer not to use these foods, though many dogs enjoy and benefit from them, but be aware that they may cause or accentuate allergies in some dogs.
Lentils and pulses are nourishing foods but again, not necessary for the average dog and require cooking, though if used raw and grown as sprouting seeds and processed with veggies, they are extra nutritious.
The addition of a little powdered kelp will provide essential minerals, including iodine. Other additives, sometimes used in very small amounts to provide additional nutrients : honey, molasses, brewers yeast, cold pressed vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar.

What if my dog is allergic to something?
When offering a new food, introduce only one new food at a time and give only a small amount the first time, so you can assess any allergic reaction. If you notice any obvious allergies, eg, itchy skin, sloppy stool, stop the food. Be certain that it is the food that is causing the allergy, though in many cases where dogs have allergies, it is difficult to relate the allergic symptoms to particular foods, unless some form of testing is carried out, and it may be a combination flea-food allergy. However many dogs with allergies seem to do better on fresh foods.

What foods are NOT good for dogs?
Commercially produced foods are not good for your dog because of the various processes they are subjected to during their manufacture and because the source of the basic ingredients may be questionable. (see links)

Cooked grains, pasta and bread are not good in large amounts. They would not be the dogís own choice of food if he could select his own, are high in starch but low in protein, and because they need to be cooked, much of the nutritional value is lost. If used, they should be fed in small amounts only.

Cooked foods: a word of caution. If you choose to cook any foods for your dog, we strongly recommend cooking in saucepans, rather than using a microwave. Microwaving causes the creation of cancer causing agents in the food, increases the foods ability to absorb radiation from the atmosphere, chemically alters the food, which is thought to cause a lowering of immune system function and may cause digestive system disorders, due to the unstable breakdown of foods.(see links)

! Chocolate should be avoided, as it can be fatal if your dog happens to have an allergy to the theobromine in chocolate.

! Green potato skin

! Fruit stones from soft fruit such as peach, plum,

! Raisins (seriously toxic) and Grapes

! Avocado is ok for many dogs but some dogs do react badly to the fruit, and the stone should never be given to the dog to chew

! Corn husks both cooked and raw

! Garlic or onion should be used in quite small amounts.

Supplements (mineral & vitamin capsules) are not really necessary in most cases, if you feed a well balanced, varied raw food diet. A dog that is unwell, recovering from an illness or has a chronic health problem, may benefit from supplements. The geriatric dog may also benefit from some supplementation, but most dogs will get all the nutrition they need from a good raw food diet.
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who feed or want to learn more about a raw meaty bones and fresh food diet.
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