Congrats! You have now nearly completed more dog nutrition education than many vet's. You are now able to spot gimmicky and misleading marketing and can decifer a pet food label like a pro. I would imagine you are now seeing some impressive results with your pooch if you are feeding them more nutritiously and more in line with the way nature intended them to eat.
Speaking of ancestorial diets, today I will be discussing another big trend in dog food: A RAW foods diet. Every night I see commercials for a popular brand of dog food showing an Alaskan Husky running through the wilderness looking for prey. The ad asks you to feed your pet like their ancestors ate in the wild. While this made perfect sense to me for those herding and working dogs, I questioned its effectiveness with my little moppet snuggled up in a fancy, pink, sherpa-lined sweater, snoring on a designer Temper-Pedic heated doggie bed. A dog that would last all of 10 minutes out in the wild before they succumbed to freezing temps, gobbled up something toxic, or ended up as dinner for one of those " wolves".
Did you know the Pug is one of the oldest breeds of dogs dating back to around 400 BC. They originated in China and were designed for one purpose: To serve as a companion dog and sit on the lap of Chinese royalty. (Certainly not to roam in the wilderness and hunt for prey.) Still, their DNA closely matches even "wolves" and larger working dogs 🐶 and it seemed logical to try some of these RAW WILDERNESS foods.
Although I am a brand ambassador for Nulo pet foods, I work with numerous shelters and rescues. I do many special events and am given samples of a variety of foods and treats for pets. Nulo is my favorite, but I like to offer some options to meet specific needs of pet parents. The first thing I do is toss anything containing harmful ingredients or from companies I don't trust. Everything else will be sampled. Pugs for the most part LOVE ❤️ food above all else and my Olive is no exception. So I have yet to offer anything to her that wasn't devoured in a NY minute with sheer delight. However, the next day I am often faced with a stinky, messy problem. As was the case with several RAW foods I let her sample. All the samples were from top ranked reputable companies. They all contained human-grade, ingredients and none had ever had recalls. Still, I had everything from a pug with horrible bloody diarrhea to a deathly ill dog with a terrible gastrointestinal infection. My trusted vet's know how I feel about pet nutrition and when I showed them these impressive raw food samples I heard several comments.
The vets weigh-in:
My most trusted vet's who work with many flat-nosed breeds seem to recommend a raw or lightly cooked human-grade diet. However, they understand not every pet parent has the time or resources to feed this way and they recommend, human-grade high protein, low glycemic carb pet foods like Nulo, Wellness, Acana, Nature's Variety, Orijen and Fromm, sold at specialty pet retailers or the premium sections of big box pet retail stores. They also recommend supplementing these diets with fresh living foods and treats.
Some vets I work with, like Dr. Pablo Etchemendy (goes by Dr. Pablo) with Banfield http://www.banfield.com/our-hospitals/hospital-locations/location-pages/coa/staff/dr-pablo-etchemendy, feed their own pets a RAW diet, but those who do strangely enough, agreed with with Dr. Pablo, "If you live on a farm or if you know a local butcher so you can be sure about where your meat is sourced, and you have the time and energy to safely prepare raw meats and then sterilize your kitchen, I would say by-all-means feed a fresh, RAW diet. However, I wouldn't recommend it for your average pet parent. There can be too many serious risks when you are dealing with RAW meats. Not just for the pet but for humans at risk for exposure to harmful bacteria. It is extremely important a pet has a balanced diet. I have seen a lot of pets get very sick and even die from proliferated bones, contamination, or unbalanced RAW diets. Because of the risk-reward, I recommend several commercial pet foods depending on the specific needs of the animal and the budget of the pet parents."
Another major concern for me is when RAW food reps are doing store demos of raw foods, they wear gloves and set timers to discard food before bacteria settles in. Although dogs have resistance to many strains of bacteria, humans do not. That scares me. It isn't practical for me to be this diligent and cautious if it's not necessary. Therefore, I stick to high-end, human grade dog food and suppliment with fresh sardines, chicken, salmon and small amounts of organic fruits and veggies. I do caution you, a big part of my problem with RAW foods was that I made too quick a change for a sensitive dog. New foods should always be introduced very slowly, in small amounts on an individual bases to avoid problems. If you are considering a raw diet or a home-made, "do-it-yourself" diet, I applaud you but recommend you work closely with a holistic veterinarian or one with a background in pet nutrition to avoid problems.
One size does not fit all. Although it isn't brain-surgery, it also isn't a "no-brainer"! Ideal levels of proteins, fats and minerals for an active, agility Alaskan Husky pup, can be much different than a senior Maltese who's only exercise is wandering over to your lap for a nap. Working with Pugs, and flat-nose breeds, I have seenp how sensitive they can be. They don't seem to metabolize foods with the ease of some other breeds and frequently end up with horrible skin allergies, rashes, mast-cell tumors, yeast infections, kidney stones and UTI's. For me, Nulo is simple, cost effective and WORKS! Everyday I get texts from happy pet parents about how much their dogs and cats love the food and how well they are doing on it.
For me personally, I have been slowly introducing foods and now I can give Olive a variety of Nulo foods as her main-staple diet but I can add some fresh fish, chicken, turkey, and/or organic fruits and veggies I have at home. This way she has some variety in her diet, gets some fresh, raw, living, foods, but still has well-balanced, nutritious daily meals.
The following article by holistic Veterinarian Dr. Laura Becker states the benefits of a raw diet:
A Homemade Diet is Best – IF You Do it Right!
Your veterinarian may try to discourage you from cooking whole foods for your pet, or feeding raw foods, but if done properly, this is almost always the healthiest way to nourish your pet (just as it's the healthiest food for you, too). The whole debate about feeding pets raw food (and many veterinarians will discourage you from feeding raw) doesn't make a lot of sense considering dogs and cats have consumed living, raw meats for thousands of years; it's what they're designed for.
"I'm a big proponent of people home cooking or home preparing food for their pets," Dr. Becker said."And really, homemade food's the best and worst food you could possibly feed your pet."
What Dr. Becker means by best AND worst is… you must remember that simply feeding your pet some raw beef or chicken will in no way meet his nutritional requirements. And if that's all you feed him, it can be even more dangerous than offering an inexpensive commercial pet food. Skeletal issues, organ degeneration and endocrine abnormalities are just a few examples of what can occur due to dietary deficiencies of essential fatty acids, calcium, trace minerals and other nutrients from an improperly prepared homemade diet. Well-meaning pet parents are trying to feed species-appropriate food to their dogs and cats, but what many are missing is the need for nutritional balance.In the wild, animals do not just eat the muscle meat of their prey – they consume organs, glands, bones and other body parts that provide for their nutritional needs
According to Dr. Becker:
"Wild dogs – wolves, coyotes, dingoes, and African wild dogs – have all been documented to sample their environment. They may eat some berries and some grasses. Kitties, certainly, will occasionally nibble on grasses. But hands down, 95 percent of their diet is whole prey. That means skin and fur for fiber; tendons, muscles, and ligaments for additional fiber; whole protein in terms of muscle for energy source. The contents of the GI tract of prey provides predigested vegetable sources, as well as an abundant source of gastric juices, plus vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. But also remember the head is consumed… They eat the pineal gland, pituitary, liver, spleen, heart, and kidneys. All of those glands provide a whole food source that makes a perfect nutritional package for that particular species. Canis lupus, the wolf, is 99.9 percent genetically identical to the domestic dog. There really is no genetic differentiation between a wild wolf and a domestic dog… That gives us some idea how we should be nourishing our pets."
If you're interested in preparing a homemade diet for your pets, see Dr. Becker's cookbook Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats. Based on the ancestral diets of canines and felines, this book provides a rotational feeding plan and recipes for a meat-based diet that include appropriate levels of vegetables, fruits, and supplements to complete the diet, analyzed to ensure nutritional needs are met. It will closely mimic what your dog or cat would be eating in the wild, if given the choice, but using ingredients that are easy to source and prepare in your own kitchen.
For example, to mimic the gut contents of prey animals, Dr. Becker recommends adding a mixture of pureed vegetables and probiotics to your dog's or cat's meals. This mixture provides highly beneficial antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and phytonutrients not found in muscle meats. There are actually four main categories of balanced nutrition for pets. These are:
"Home cooking is the best thing you can do. Second best is to know the company you're purchasing from really well so you're able to discern that the ingredients it uses are U.S.-sourced, human-grade, preferably organic, and of course, species-appropriate.
…Needless to say, you've got to really read the labels very, very well.
I'm a vegetarian and get weak in the knees thinking about preparing raw organs and whatnot but if you're interested you can find some great home-made raw diets to prepare. But whether you're adventurous or not, I encourage you to stop feeding your dog the same chicken kibble every night and have some fun. Sample and experiment with fresh foods. Just remember, SLOWLY, and one-at-a-time, in small amounts. By adding some fresh, human-grade ingredients to a regular, balanced healthy diet you will surely see a happier, healthier dog. And while upgrading to fresh, human-grade healthier foods might be slightly more time-consuming or expensive, in the long run you will save thousands in vet bills as well as offer better health and longevity of your pets.
And that.concludes my pet-food series. Next week the Runt will have a "Paw-liday" gift guide with amazing products for both you and your pooch. Bone Appetite 🐾🍲