I have become increasingly interested in feeding raw.
Heronbank’s consultant canine nuritionist, Kim, from the Dogmum Bakery has turned canine nutrition into her life’s work, so I asked her to write a series of articles for me. Very kindly, she agreed.
Kimmi is happy to give advice on canine nutrition and behaviour, and will be pleased to hear from you if you have a problem.
Here is her first article –
Why Real Meat?
BARF! No, I wasn’t just sick! BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. And it is by far and large the best diet you can have your dog on. The benefits of a BARF diet are numerous, from health, behaviour and even financial.
Why do I feed raw? Simply because I have dogs and that’s what dogs eat!
Dogs are carnivores. Simple as.
Sure they can adapt to eating pretty much whatever (and will eat pretty much whatever, even if it’s bad for them! As shown by the picture of my dog Hugo (left) with the evidence all over his face that he ate a box of icing sugar, cardboard included) but that doesn’t mean they should settle for less.
Biology tells us so if nothing else!
Dogs have no flat teeth for grinding, they have teeth for chomping, and for ripping, and for crunching. But no flat teeth. Therefore they need a diet that matches their teeth. Pretty hard to chomp and tear and crunch through a tin of processed meat. Even kibble requires grinding, and dogs do not have the capability for that.
Many people choose to use fruits and vegetables in their dog’s raw diet. But this is not strictly necessary as dogs do not produce amylase in their saliva. Amylase is the enzyme which breaks down starches and carbohydrates and sugars into simpler sugars. These are herbivorous traits, which a dog just does not share. Of course dogs can break down vegetables and fruits, but it’s not a necessary addition to their diet, which is biologically backed by their enzyme productions.
Instead, dogs have a higher concentrated stomach acid which breaks down animal proteins. Ever wonder why pooch retches in the morning before breakfast and brings up yellow sick? He’s got a tummy full of acid and a gallbladder full of bile just waiting to break down fat and protein and he’s asking you to feed him and feed him delicious meat.
“But hang on Kim, I just saw him eat grass. Grass is a plant not an animal! He clearly can eat plant matter!” You did indeed see him eat that, and why did he eat that? To make himself sick. He needed something in his stomach to bring up with the bile and acid, and he ate something not within his usual dietary requirements to do so. It’s not a common human concept to make ourselves sick, we just take things to stop ourselves being sick, or ride it out (and writhe in bed moaning for our mums/partners to make us comfort food!). But this is the canine equivalent of activated charcoal. Of course, not every time a dog eats grass or any form of plant, he will be sick, but he knows that it’s what he needs to be able to retch up the bile and acid collecting in him. As grass is entirely cellulose and water (with of course chlorophyll) this essentially means it is fibre and water. Dogs do not have the necessary digestive process to break down lots of fibre. For example, my dummydog would eat the rabbit hay out of the hutch, and it would come out the other end whole, just as it had gone in because
- he could not grind it as his teeth are not capable of doing so and
- he could not digest it.
We all know that cows have 4 stomachs, yes? And we pretty much all know why – because it takes a long time to digest and break down that grass that they constantly graze on into beneficial nutrients for their biological make up. A dog, on the other hand, has a very short digestive tract, designed for fast breakdown of food, and particularly, of proteins.
Compare the diagrams of the digestive systems of cows, humans and dogs and you will see how much shorter a human’s digestive system is than a cow’s and then yet again how much shorter it is in dogs. This explains herbivore > omnivore > carnivore eating habits.
Another clue as to their dietary needs is often overlooked, but quite simple once you think about it. Ever notice how a dog will podge him or herself out whenever food is in front of them, regardless of when he or she last ate? Also, you must have noticed that even the best behaved dog will scavenge opportunistically whenever possible! If you haven’t, and your dog doesn’t, please can we switch dogs?!
Let’s go back to our lovely bovine friend – she (or he!) grazes constantly in the field. They have constant access to their food, because it is always there, because it is growing in the ground they live on continually. Dogs however have a stomach which shrinks and expands, as they are not (in the wild) guaranteed a meal at 8am and 6pm every day. When you are reliant on feeding on other (wild) animals, you don’t know when you are next going to be successful in your hunting. Therefore when a wild dog is successful in catching prey, they will gorge, and their stomach will expand so that they get enough nutrients to last them a while. This is the same for our domestic dogs and their stomachs and gorging habits!
The feeding of fruits and vegetables is disregarded by some BARF practitioners and encouraged by others. Don’t let this indecision on the matter put you off, this is much the same as people choosing whether or not to be a vegetarian (but the reverse!) I personally do use fruits and vegetables (and grains) which are good for them (I have come to research and learn which fruits and vegetables have maximum health benefits), and I use it as part of a balanced diet for my dogs.
However, some would argue it is not strictly necessary provided you give them the correct amounts and types of animal product. Whilst I agree that this is true, this requires a much more thorough investigation and research, and a higher amount of meat and a higher cost. It is entirely up to you if you want to take this route, but for me I do prefer using APPROPRIATE fruits and vegetables.
It is important that you use vegetables and fruits appropriately, they must not be the main part of the diet, they must be easy to digest, and provide maximum nutrition for their weight. Also, there are fruits and vegetables which are unfit for dogs and can cause diarrhoea, or even be poisonous to the point of fatal in some cases. Thankfully the internet exists, and websites such as this should alleviate any anxieties you may have before you feed Fido!
Part 2: Why you should go raw not cooked
Part 3: Why I distrust generic dog food, and you should too
Part 4: The relationship between canine behaviour and nutrition
Part 5: What I feed my dogs and how to feed
Part 6: How to source the food to make the most of your money
Part 7: A list of great foods and a sample meal.