Your Wolf in Dog's Clothing: The Benefits of a Raw and Natural Diet

So you have sourced a new freezer, sharp knives, plastic containers, scales, scissors, mixing bowls and a meat grinder! Don't worry, you haven't turned into a serial killer . . . . . you have decided to feed a raw natural diet to your dog. Probably one of the best decisions you could make. 

After cleansing your mind of the dog food manufacturer's propaganda claiming to be 'complete and balanced' (some are and are very good of course), you can now revert back to an ancient diet for your dog that is as relevant today as it has ever been.

Our dogs are all wolves of course! Little wolves, medium wolves, big wolves, hairy wolves, fat wolves, thin wolves, and curly wolves. There is a large variety of man and woman's best friend, but they are all just different kinds of wolves. And they all share one thing in common. Their digestive system. Don't worry feeding dogs raw meat is not going to turn them into vicious wild animals, they are just going to be a whole lot healthier!  Can my dog become ill from eating raw meat? All I will say is, you should use the same care and attention to cleanliness and hand washing as you would if you were handling raw meat to prepare a meal for yourself or someone else. Studies have been carried out by leading vets into E. Coli and Salmonella poisoning from feeding raw meat to dogs and cases are rare. You should only buy fresh meat and freeze the portions that are not going to be eat straight away. Your dog's stomach is very different from yours and they contain a lot of different bacteria to deal with the threat of food poisoning. Dog food manufacturers are not always transparent about ingredients and more importantly the preparation process and the impact that has on the vitamins and minerals they claim to include. As consumers we believe we are doing our best for our dog by buying known brands who claim to be filled with all of the vitamins and minerals a dog needs to lead a full and active life. Unfortunately the vitamins and minerals required to keep a dog healthy and prevent disease are often cost prohibitive to include in regular dog food at the levels needed, so are added in at token levels or not at all. The balance of vitamins, minerals and amino acids is very important to produce the desired effect, too low levels are completely counter- productive. Some of the ingredients that claim to be included are useless without a binding agent and often these are not included as they are too expensive. To put it simply…one ingredient without the necessary bind agent/amino acid…will simply be excreted by the dog and all goodness wasted. The process of producing commercial pet food, wet or dry involves heating to extreme temperatures to meet the preservative requirements and mass production. This practice destroys most if not all of the vitamins and minerals that may have been naturally occurring or added in to the product. As a result the original recipe is very much changed in terms of nutritional content from the start of production to the end product. Many of the amino acids, vitamins and minerals are lost in the intense heat or are rendered useless to the dog. Many companies are afraid of being explicit about the ingredients included in their products for fear of being exposed or having their formulation copied, but where does that leave you as the consumer, trying to make an informed decision about the nutritional welfare of your dog?  Dogs need 37 essential vitamins and minerals for optimum health and many of the commercially produced foods do not come anywhere near this amount. Even a raw food diet is unlikely to achieve the optimum amount of vitamins and minerals in the correct amounts but is as close as you will get. However, making the change from commercial to the raw way is a good move. If you feel that your dog will not get what they need from a raw food diet then you can always feed them a top quality supplement to make up the difference. Protein is what the majority of a dog's diet should be made up of, and the staple diet of a carnivore. The benefits include good tissue health, strong immune system and healthy coat and skin. Proteins are mainly found in meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Some proteins are also found in seeds, vegetables and grain. Best complete Protein is found in:

  • · Red Meat

  • · Poultry

  • · Organ Meat

  • · Cultured dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese)

  • · Eggs

Types of meat Muscle meat  This is basically flesh and does not include bone, such as Beef heart, Lamb heart, Ground turkey, Ground lamb, Rabbit, Chicken hearts and gizzards, Fish (fillet), Turkey hearts, Tongue, Wild game (venison, goat, Ostrich), Ground chicken and Ground beef. Organ Meat Beef liver and kidney, Chicken liver, Lamb liver and kidney, Turkey liver and Pork liver Muscle and organ meats should be included in your dog’s diet, raw or cooked. You can also include Raw Meaty Bones, and these should always be raw (not cooked) as it is dangerous to feed cooked bones. Weights and Feeding You should feed according to the weight of your dog. I would start by feeding about two to three per cent of his or her weight, split over two meals. Remember, larger dogs may need less than this and smaller dogs may need a bit more as smaller dogs tend to have faster metabolisms. Please do not overfeed, as we all know it can have a negative impact on their digestive systems and is the main cause of dog obesity.

Here is a sample diet to start you off, and get you into the swing of things!

Morning 6 ounces (3/4 cup) beef heart 2 ounces (1/4 cup) beef kidney 1 egg

Evening 8-12 ounces of (1-1 and a half cups) chicken necks or backs

You may be wondering the best place to buy your raw diet ingredients. Supermarkets are pretty good for most of the meat but you might want to strike up a relationship with your local butcher too. I'm a big believer in helping local businesses and the service and price will probably be better with the butcher in the long run anyway.

So, Good Luck and I'm sure your dog will thank you in ways you probably can't imagine.

Devin McManus Winston & Porter ®

References: Raw & Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals, L Olson, 2010.