All The Farm That Is Fit To Print

Monday, July 2, 2012

Raw Food Diet--Health for Pets

From Raw Food Diet

Nutrition is finally being recognized as a legitimate treatment modality in mainstream medicine. Many of our modern medical complaints can be directly linked to our poor eating habits; cancer, heart disease, hypertension and adult onset diabetes to name the more prominent concerns. Our society has become dependant on processed foods that are loaded with preservatives to extend their shelf life. Our dogs are no less affected by this lifestyle trend than we are. Our dogs are developing the same health problems we have. Because our dogs generational turnover is shorter than ours, we can see our future in our dogs' health today.
Commercially prepared dog food is a relatively new concept. Processed pet food has only been available a mere few decades. How did our dogs survive so many centuries without it? They ate the same home grown and home cooked meals our forbears did.

If you knew what was in the high priced and over-hyped product you faithfully feed your dog you would be appalled. Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Naural Health for Dogs and Cats (Rodale) gives a detailed description of the pet food process. The meat source can include diseased carcasses that are declared unfit for human consumption by the USDA. A percentage of indigestible body parts, such as feathers, beaks and bills is allowed to be included. Hormones and antibiotics that have been fed and injected into these meat animals to promote greater muscle development are passed on to our pets. This meat meal is then cooked down thus denaturing the protein and destroying most of the nutritive content remaining. Cooking also destroys the vitamins and enzymes which must then be replaced. Fat becomes rancid, so preservatives are added to prolong the shelf life of the food. The cheaper foods are more grain than meat. Read your label, a meat source should be one of the first two ingredients listed. Dyes are added to make the food appear more palatable to our eyes. I could go on and on, read Dr. Pitcairn's book.

I first became nutritionally aware in nursing school. We learned of all the diseases that can result from a deficient diet, but the concept of optimizing our health through diet had not quite caught on. My mother is a health food enthusiast, she began preaching good nutrition before it became the politically correct thing to do. She introduced me to Dr. Pitcairn through his column in Prevention magazine. I bought his book about twelve years ago and fed my dogs his fresh food recipes for several months, then fell off the wagon and fed it sporadically. I tried to feed a "natural" commercial food preserved with vitamins E and C. The dogs did reasonably well, although one dog was definitively diagnosed as hypothyroid, and another had a deteriorating coat with dark skin pigmentation. According to MSU he had normal (though low end) thyroid levels. My vet agreed to try thyroid supplementation and my dog slowly began to grow new coat. I then switched to a new commercial food made with human consumption quality ingredients and preserved with tocopherols (vitamin E). He also received an oil supplement containing the essential fatty acids and zinc. His coat improved even more.

Chris Lynch (Westwind) sparked a new determination to feed fresh food after I heard her presentation on alternative medicine at the Boston National in 1995. The recipe for a 20-25# dog, based on Pat McKay's (Reigning Cats and Dogs) follows:

1/2 cup raw meat (ground poultry, beef, lamb, organ meats)
1/2 cup raw pureed vegetables (variety!)
1/4 cup cooked whole grains
1 teaspoon bonemeal powder (double for puppies and pregnancy)
1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid powder with bioflavinoids (vitamin C)
1/4 teaspoon kelp powder
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic (not powder)
1 teaspoon oil mixture (2 teaspoons with poutlry)

Oil mixture:
11 oz. canola oil (cold pressed)
2 oz. wheat germ oil
2 oz. flax oil
Keep refridgerated in an opaque container.

I spoke with Chris at the Chicago National (1997) and she told me that Pat McKay has refined the recipe. She now eliminates the grains and increases the meat and vegetables proportionately, and only adds the oil if poultry is fed.

The meat must be fed RAW. Many people are squeamish at the idea, but we must realize that our dogs digestive systems are radically different from ours. They are carnivores, their digestive tracts are much shorter and their stomach acids much stronger. Dogs should be fed raw bones (cooked bones will splinter). The vegetables must be pureed or they will come out looking pretty much the same way they did going in. Wild canines get their vegetable matter by eating the digested intestinal contents of their vegetarian prey. Variety is essential to deliver the correct mix of vitamins and minerals.

I now feed Dr. Billinghurst's evolutionary or biologically appropriate raw food diet (AKA as the BARF diet). It consists mainly of raw meaty bones (approximately 50% bone/50% meat) and pulped vegetables and fruits mixed with organ meats (liver, heart and kidneys), yoghurt, garlic and whole raw eggs. Supplements are added to supply the essential fatty acids. These oil supplements consist of cod liver oil (source of vitamin A), fish body oil and/or flax seed oil or ground flax seed meal (sources of omega 3 EFA's), olive oil, and oil of evening primrose (only once a week). Other supplements include vitamins C and E, alfalfa powder, kelp powder, brewers yeast (source of vitamin B's) and apple cider vinegar. The dogs are fed their meat/veggie patties every third day and are fed whole raw meaty bones (chicken backs, necks and wings, turkey necks, pork and lamb neck bones) the other two days. The first advantage to feeding raw meaty bones that I was able to witness was sparkling clean white teeth and fresh breath within a week of starting the diet.

A fresh food diet can be more costly, but if you search for bargains or know someone that raises their own meat animals it does not need to be prohibitive. I know I am paying much less in vet bills as my dogs are in vibrant good health. Their coats are lush and glossy; the fur feels supple and alive, not dead and dry. If a dog is in less than optimal condition it will show in his coat first as the body will sacrifice skin and coat to preserve the more vital organs. Be aware too that skin and coat will look worse when you first begin feeding a fresh food diet as the skin functions as an excretory organ and slowly purges the body of accumulated toxins. Be also aware that you will not have an overnight improvement, it will take several weeks to complete the detoxification process and several months to grow a completely new coat. You should, however, see an immediate improvement in your dog's vitality and zest for life.

Diet is one of the most important things we can change to maximize our dogs health. Our dogs have additional requirements, such as free exercise with room to race and leap and turn to properly condition all of the muscle groups. My fenced back yard is large enough to allow my dogs room to run with many natural obstacles and a gentle slope to build strong muscles. The older dogs are less inclined to exercise themselves so they are walked several times a week. Fresh untainted water is becoming a luxury as our ground water becomes increasingly contaminated. The role injectable vaccines has played in stressing our dogs immune systems and the rising incidence of autoimmune disorders is becoming more recognized. It is frightening how we abuse our puppies immature immune systems by injecting them with multiple watered down diseases.

Indeed, many of the things we currently do to protect our dogs health may be compromising their ability to successfully fight off infection or infestation. Germs and parasites are opportunists, weaker animals are more likely to be affected. By routinely poisoning our animals internally and externally, we are weakening our pets' overall health and positively inviting the pests to take over. I see an occasional flea from time to time, but I have not been overrun with fleas in years. I do not bomb the house or spray my dogs. Flea combing the cats is the only direct approach I take to undermine the fleas. Carpets are ideal breeding grounds for fleas, so I stick with wood, linoleum and ceramic floors. I do use a monthly heartworm preventative, but am uneasy about poisoning my dogs on a monthly basis.

The body's ability to protect us and our dogs is amazing. We should do all we can to assist it and as little as possible to hinder it.

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