What is Raw Feeding ?
Raw feeding is the feeding of raw meat, offal, bones and vegetables to dogs and cats.
The raw feeding movement has been around for years; it was a veterinary student Juliette de Bairacli Levy in 1930 who first raised the notion that dogs were healthier if they were fed on a natural diet of raw food. Around sixty years later, another vet, Dr Ian Billinghurst published a book called ‘Give your dog a bone’ which is based on the same principles. He introduced ‘Biologically Appropriate Raw Feeding’ or BARF, which is feeding your dog the diet it has naturally evolved to eat over millions of years. This means feeding food that mimics what your dog’s ancestors ate in the wild and cutting out any cooked, processed or artificial food.
Raw feeding is associated with improved health and vitality. A dog that is raw fed can have healthy skin, a shiny coat, clean healthy teeth and breath, a strong immune system, increased energy, improved digestion, lean muscle tone, a longer life expectancy (up to 30%) and a reduced likelihood of illness. Changing to a raw food diet can also resolve or assist with existing health issues such as skin allergies, ear infections, bad breath and gingivitis, flatulence and soft stools, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis and diabetes and even anxiety.
Dr Fitzpatrick, or Adele, truly believes that prevention is better than cure, a philosophy which she has based her practice around. She feeds her own three dogs, Fidget, Fergie and Tig raw food and has experienced the benefits of it first-hand and wants you to too! As an advocate of raw feeding Adele has teamed up with several top quality raw pet food manufacturers to bring you an extensive range of raw food products.
If you are looking to start raw feeding and want to find out more, the internet can be a confusing place to start, this is because different feeders and raw food companies give different recommendations. For this reason, Adele has done the research for you and created a simple and easy to understand background to raw feeding and raw feeding guide. If you want any help and advice, then we are just at the end of the phone or computer! Any advice we give you is free, alternatively you can book in for a bespoke raw feeding consultation!
What did your dog’s ancestors eat?
Our dog’s ancestor, the wolf has been in existence for 40 million years! Dogs were only domesticated from wolves 15 000 years ago and since then humans have drastically changed their appearance and behavioural traits through breeding.
Wild dogs or wolves are carnivores; their diet consists of prey that they have caught individually or with the help of a pack. They eat the whole carcass including the internal organs and bones. Dogs can also eat vegetable matter such as berries, grasses and herbs, they are also natural scavengers and may find nutrients from leftover kills, vomit and even faeces. The faeces of some animals can be an excellent source of fibre, digestive enzymes, essential fatty acids, protein, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and therefore be of high nutritional value to a dog. A domestic dog may eat faeces (e.g. deer, rabbit, cow faeces) in order to compensate for a lack of nutrition from their processed food. Domestic dogs may also eat other dog and cat faeces but this is thought to be due to the undigested flavours they contain to make them palatable.
Due to the variability of their habitat and the prey within it wild dogs would tend to eat every 2-3 days rather than daily. They met their nutritional needs over time which is referred to as the ‘balance over time’ concept, seeking nutrients as they need them. Feeding our dogs a complete meal at every meal can actually lead to increased health issues such as obesity.
Wild dogs did not eat grain. Grain is a term for carbohydrates in the form of rice, wheat and corn that are used in high quantities to bulk out and bind processed dog food. Dogs find it very difficult to digest grain which is why dogs fed on these diets produce a lot of faeces; it is passes straight through their system offering no nutritional value. The presence of grain also weakens the digestive system by altering the pH of the stomach acid.
What is your dog’s digestive system telling you?
Animals produce three kinds of enzymes, protease, lipase and amylase to break down three food groups – protein, fat and carbohydrates. Most mammals such as humans produce amylase in their saliva but dogs and cats do not. This is a reflection of their expected diet of meat and organs from prey. Herbivores and omnivores have flat molars that crush and chew food but carnivore’s teeth are designed to catch and kill prey, and to rip and tear meat from the bone. Carnivores are not designed to chew, they swallow their food for digestion in the stomach and they do not consume carbohydrates so there is no need for amylase in the mouth. Nature is telling us that carbohydrates, which processed foods contain in high quantities, are not supposed to be a dog or cat’s primary source of nutrition.
The process of making commercial pet food also heats digestive enzymes which makes them non- functional. As no enzymes are provided in the food, our dogs have to rely on their pancreas and intestines to produce all the enzymes they need to digest their food. This, combined with the need to produce amylase to digest excess carbohydrate causes enlargement of the pancreas and stress on the hormone glands.
Research has shown that animals are biologically programmed to produce enzymes capable of digesting the food they are supposed to eat; they do not have the ability to change which enzymes they make in response to whatever food they are given. Palaeontologists believe it would take 100 000 years for a species to adapt to a new diet but we have only been feeding processed diets since 1860 (156 years)!
As we have just learnt, the digestive process starts in the stomach, not the mouth. To help with this digestive process the acid in a dog’s stomach is extremely strong and corrosive and can easily dissolve bone! A figure called pH is a measure of acidity from very acidic (pH 1-6), neutral (pH 7) to alkaline (pH 8-14). The lower the pH the stronger the acid. Human’s stomachs operate at pH 5 but a dog’s stomach acid can be as low as pH 1-2! Those enzymes we mentioned earlier need this environment to function properly so if we increase the pH with grain based foods we are reducing our dog’s ability to obtain any nutrients from their food.
Why is raw food better than manufactured food?
To answer this question, we first need to take a look at the origin and content of processed dog food. The first ‘complete’ dog food kibble was made by James Spratt in 1860, the recipe was a combination of wheat, blood and vegetables! Mill owners recognised a market for their by-products: mixing left over grain and low cost meat meal to sell on at a much higher cost in the form of convenient dog food. The first canned dog meat was launched after the first world war as a result of horse meat losing its value.
The government legislation surrounding pet food manufacturing is also very vague, ‘undesirable substances’ are allowed to be added to the food as long as the animals can ‘tolerate them.’ Pet food manufacturers are allowed to make pet food from material classed as animal by-products. Under EC regulations these are parts of an animal which are deemed surplus to human consumption or are not normally consumed by people in the UK and from animals passed as fit for human consumption prior to slaughter. These products could be any part of an animal including its lung, hoof, ear or testicles! Pet food labelling requirements are also much vaguer, rather than listing individual ingredients it is acceptable to list them in categories so the consumer is totally unaware of the actual ingredients used.
There are many reasons to choose raw food over processed food, we have listed the main disadvantages of processed food below:
1. They contain low quality ingredients of little nutritional value.
2. The cooking process heats the food, decreasing the nutritional value and denaturing the enzymes that digest food. This forces our dog’s digestive organs such as the pancreas to work harder which places stain on their digestive system.
3. Processed food has a high grain content (up to 65%) whereas wild dogs do not eat grain, we know that they cannot properly digest or store grain so it will pass straight through their digestive system.
4. Processed food has a high content of low quality ‘crude’ fibre which has no nutritional value.
5. Processed food contains preservatives, these are chemical substances used to preserve the food.
6. Processed food contains artificial colourings to make it look more appealing, these have been associated with hyperactivity and behavioural problems in dogs.
7. Poor quality fat may be added to improve the nutritional value or make the food taste more palatable.
8. Chemical binders are used to make the food form into kibble or meaty chunks.
9. Kibble is too dry; it contains 5-10% moisture compared to 70% moisture in a natural diet.
10. Processed food has been linked to health problems such as dry skin, allergies, bad breath, flatulence, liver, heart and kidney disease.