Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance. George Bernard Shaw
BUSTING THE MYTHS
Written and Compiled by Carissa Kuehn
But as for raw diets: one million years of evolution apparently is not enough evidence for those citing lack of research and lack of studies in scientific literature. Neither the anatomical and physiological evidence of dogs, nor mtDNA evidence, nor circumstantial and statistical evidence of diseases in processed food-fed pets, nor anecdotal evidence are enough from those becrying the lack of “studies” and “research”. Anecdotal, eyewitness evidence is dismissed because it is scientifically “unfounded” and anecdotal, even when the evidence is standing right before their eyes in easily seen, wonderful health (It is interesting to note that eyewitness evidence is enough to help condemn a man in a court of law, but is not enough for the “scientific” community composed of pet food manufacturers and their affiliates—which include vet universities and most vets.). People then expect raw feeders to take their anecdotal and eyewitness evidence as truth when they have already dismissed the evidence offered by the raw feeder as anecdotal. “I’ve seen so many dogs come into my clinic with nutritional problems because of raw diets!” (What about all the sick commercially fed pets that come into your office?) “Bones are going to kill your dog” (Oh yeah? Says who? Prove it!). This distinct bias has been used in veterinary literature to “prove” raw diets are not as good as commercial:
“Although there are numerous claims to the health benefits of raw food diets, all are anecdotal…The raw bones included in many of these diets carry risks, and although the actual incidence of complications resulting from ingestion of raw bones is unknown, there are reports of intestinal obstruction, gastrointestinal perforation, gastroenteritis, and fractured teeth…” pg 706, emphasis added (Freeman, L.M. and K.E. Michel. Evaluation of raw food diets for dogs. JAVMA. 218(5): 705-709)
The claims of raw food diets are dismissed as anecdotal, and then the readers are later asked to consider the similarly anecdotal, undocumented “reports” against raw food diets! This is nothing but a head-in-the-sand approach that attempts to maintain the status quo.
There is a lack of “scientific” evidence in the form of research studies on raw diets. Why? Well, who is going to pay for an extensive research study on raw diets when the evidence may be damning? People point to all the studies done by commercial pet food companies and cite the lack of similar studies done on raw diets as evidence that raw diets are bad and inferior. But let us look at how studies actually come about.
First, you must come up with a hypothesis and a purpose. What are you studying? Why are you studying it? What do you expect to prove? After you figure this out you design your study, including methods, control groups, and variables. You draw out everything in great detail, and then you incorporate this into a grant; after all, you need a large amount of money to run your study. So where do you get the money? You look at individuals, corporations, and companies that might be interested in your project. Some of the bigger companies and corporations already have pre-existing grant monies for which you can apply. Other times you have to present the grant to a company and ask for funds that have not already been set aside into a specific grant. How do you ensure the receipt of this money? You appeal to people who will have a great interest in what you are doing. You appeal to the companies that in some way have a financial interest in what you are studying (for example, a biomedical company that wishes to branch out from artificial joints into artificial menisci and artificial vertebral discs—which happen to be what you are studying!), and will therefore fund your project so as to find out more; it just might pay off for them in some way. That is the key: you are approaching companies that may offer you money because there will be something in it for them.
But what happens if the results actually reflect unfavorably upon the product you are testing or the method you are studying, and therefore reflect unfavorably upon the company that makes said product or endorses said method? It depends on how much is at stake. If there was very little at stake initially—perhaps it was a small pilot study with the company looking to see if artificial menisci might even be worth their time—then there should not be a problem. It tells them what they wanted to know and it was not a big loss (Some would argue that perhaps pet food companies did this with raw diets. But if that was the case, they would have all the facts and figures reflecting negatively on raw food readily available; they could simply parade out the results of that study to prove once and for all that raw diets are worthless. But, they do not do this. Why? Because they do not have these results.). But what if billions of dollars and an entire existing superstructure were at stake? What will happen to the results? In human medicine, this has led to the suppression of information, such as the suppression of information regarding the dangers of Vioxx (To read more about how this happens in industry, visit Mercola.com.).
Now let us apply this to the pet food manufacturers and to studies into raw diets. Almost every single study performed on commercial pet foods has been partially or fully funded by pet food companies. An example would be Purina’s own study on extending the life of your pet; they discovered that by feeding smaller amounts of their Purina dog food and thus keeping the dog from getting fat, you could extend the life of your dog by two years. This, of course, supports the already well-known thought that keeping your pets trim is better for their health (once again, scientific “studies” being used to prove what is common sense.). But by using only their food in the study, they can then insinuate that it is Purina dog food that extends the life of your pet—and the little asterisk on the ad or the fine print on the TV tells you that this is only if you feed less than the recommended amount on the bag, thereby keeping your pet trim and not fat. But who reads the fine print?
Let us look at raw diets. Who would support a good, solid study into raw diets? What would happen if the results reflect negatively on commercial diets and positively on raw diets? Think of how much they have to lose!! Personally, I feel the lack of studies and the lack of willingness to do studies on raw diets indicates a desire to hide something, to cover something up that people do not want to be found. And I know of no pet food company that will pay for a raw diet research study. None of their control groups in their own studies are even fed a raw diet! The studies are performed under false assumptions that dogs are omnivores and can be maintained healthfully on grain-based, processed diets. Interestingly enough, it was the scientific research of the pet food companies that helped prove that dogs have no need for carbohydrates. The research in their own files (and in the Waltham Book of Dog and Cat Nutrition) demonstrates perfectly well that they know dogs are carnivorous animals. And yet they continue to mislead the public, the veterinarians, and the vets-to-be.
There have been “studies” done on bacterial content, nutritional analysis (according to AAFCO standards), and parasites in raw meat (using only the old, pre-existing literature on what kind of parasites could possibly be found in raw meat), but there are no studies that go in depth and objectively study the health effects of raw diets. Why would there be? This would involve a long, intense study requiring collaboration of vets nationwide and of multiple pet owners, or undue suffering to hundreds of “test” dogs who must be fed improper raw diets in the name of “scientific objectivity” (and there is the possibility that these poor results would then be used to show that ALL raw diets are bad). Indeed, funding is a huge issue as well, but I feel there are underlying issues: a fear of what may be found, that raw diets will indeed be proven better, that commercial diets will be proven unhealthy. This drastically cuts against the status quo and would destroy pet food companies and the veterinarians who depend on them to provide a clientele.
If raw diets were proven better and commercial diets were proven harmful, there would be a tremendous backlash against the pet food industries and the veterinary profession that is so entrenched with it. Legal rammifications would be a highly probable option: people suing vets for recommending a product that harms their pets; people suing the pet food companies for creating a harmful product without warning consumers of its dangers, for falsely advertising that product as healthy, and for lying and covering up the information that indicated otherwise; and vets suing the universities for providing an inadequate, faulty education. Thousands of people would be laid off, a multi-billion dollar industry would crumble, hundreds of veterinarians would find themselves jobless, and society would no longer have an ‘acceptable’ outlet for disposing of its dead, dying, and diseased meat, its grain waste, and the some 40% of euthanized pets that find their way into rendering plants and kibble, barbituates and all (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones.; Martin, A. Foods Pets Die For.). All of this is what they have to lose if the results of a raw diet study reflect unfavorably on commercial foods. Can one see the incentive in never performing or publishing a proper study that objectively looks at raw diets and their effects on the overall health of the dog? Note: if you are a pet owner, veterinarian, or veterinary student who feels wronged by the pet food companies or their close ties to veterinary universities, please visit the Raw Meaty Bones website to get information on your legal options (click on the “Legal Remedies” link). Additionally, in the UK an organization known as UKRMB has helped spearhead an Early Day Motion against the alliance between pet food companies and the veterinary profession. To read about it, please click here.
This is not the only consideration when it comes to raw food research. To perform an adequate study that would satisfy all the critics, hundreds of dogs would need to suffer needlessly on improperly prepared raw diets, because in the name of ‘science’ all the major variations of the diets would be tested. That means dogs will be fed all meat diets, all chicken-back and neck diets, veggie glop and some meat and mostly bone diets, all beef-heart diets, etc. when all the researchers need to do is look to nature, who got it right a million years ago. It is just needless suffering. Next time someone bemoans the lack of scientific studies about raw, ask them if they would like to volunteer their dog for the study.
Instead of pushing for, funding, and advocating an unbiased study (which is a good thing in the sense it spares animals from unnecessary suffering in the name of science), vets and other “scientifically minded” people point out the lack of studies and retreat behind that facade in an effort to save face while ignoring a million years’ worth of scientific studies performed in nature’s laboratory. But there are some cruelty-free studies that could be performed; for example, researchers could start looking at the incidence of periodontal disease in raw-fed and commercially-fed pets. However, even something this simple-sounding can be a difficult thing to do correctly, as there are many variables that must either be minimized/weaned out of the study or that will have to be included. Plus, it requires a large sample size and great collaboration among pet owners, the vets, and the researchers. Once again, though, we come to the main impetus behind the study: who will pay for it, and why?
Believe it or not some pet owners think feeding a healthy raw diet is obtained by purchasing store bought organic hamburger meat or organic chicken and throwing that into a bowl for fide. Not quite.
The “Prey Model Raw Diet” must include the correct ratio’s of meat, organs, muscle meat and bone. That is why we have handcrafted our raw dog food blends. We have taken the guess work out of the equation for our customers.
You must also take into consideration that your vet either hasn’t been exposed to the raw diet or hasn’t been trained in the area of raw nutrition. We tend to think that our own doctors are are taking into consideration our nutritional needs when they give a diagnosis or prescribe medication. But think about it. When was the last time your doctor sat down with you and asked, “What foods you are putting in your mouth?” And then looked to see how those foods might be contributing to your allergies, inflammation or aches and pains? I would guess hardly ever to never. Vets are trained much in the same way as our human doctors.
Veterinarians are highly qualified individuals and provide much value and needed care for our pets. Our daughter Amanda Moffett is a Vet in Moab Utah. However she didn’t come out of vet school being a raw dog food advocate. It took her seeing the results in our pets and then seeing the positive results in her own pets before she could confidently recommend the raw diet.
The majority of training that vets receive in vet school centers around surgery, conventional disease diagnosis/treatment, and conventional drug prescription.
Nutrition is a smaller portion of their training but many times those nutrition courses are underwritten by the big pet food manufactures.
Again, we do want to emphasis not all vets are against the raw diet. More and more vets, especially holistic vets are becoming aware of the value and importance of fresh raw foods in keeping animals healthy.
It is true, some of our Raw Dog Food customers have vets who are totally against feeding raw. So what did they do? They educated themselves and then made a decision. They same goes for you. Educate yourself first and then evaluate the results.
If you google “Prey Model Raw Diet for Dogs” you will read the many testimonials of pet owners who decided to buck the system and challenge the status quo in order to achieve optimal health for their beloved pets.
One of the ways we evaluated the raw diet is by doing blood work on our German Shepard. We had blood drawn before starting the raw diet and then took more blood samples 6 months, one year, two years and each year thereafter. The values were simply amazing.
Read more about Vet’s and Pet Nutrition From Dogs Naturally
Let me ask you this. If you eat a premium cereal everyday of your life would you be healthy? It’s highly doubtful. Kibble is kibble even if it’s “premium.” Here are the top 8 reasons why:
1. It is still a processed food. It has still been heated at such a high temperature that no matter what fresh foods might have gone into this food at the start, it’s all been cooked out not to mention the artificial vitamins and minerals that are added but cannot be absorbed by the pets system.
2. Processed kibble is unnatural food for our pets. Dogs and cats are not designed to eat processed food pellets regardless of how good of quality these ingredients are. A premium kibble isn’t any better for our animals that a premium cereal would be for us if we had to eat it day in and day out.
3. Kibble causes inflammation in our pets bodies
4. Kibble food is high in starch. All kibble must contain some form of starch to allow the ingredients to bind together. Commonly used starches include various grains corn, wheat, oat, rice, millet, pea flour, potato or tapioca among others. These foods are first of all, not able to be digested by carnivores(dogs) they lack the enzyme amylase that omnivores have in good supply to break down these starches.
What’s the big deal about starches? They are converted to sugars in the body, which in turn cause inflammation by stimulating insulin release. High insulin levels over a lifetime can lead to a host of inflammatory processes.
Dogs susceptible to hip problems should steer clear of anything causing inflammation in the body.
Inflammation is the activation of the immune system in response to irritation, infection or injury. Kibble can, in and of itself, cause inflammation. This is because it causes a short-term dehydrated state in the intestines, making the digestive process difficult.
5. Many premium kibbles contain a relatively small amount of meat (usually from ‘human quality’ sources, but then it is rendered into an unrecognizable ‘foodstuff’). Even if meat is listed as the first ingredient, the rest of the ingredients combined far outweigh the presence of the meat our carnivore pets need. Read the labels. Some sort of meat will be listed, but then it’s followed by all sorts of grains and carbohydrates like corn, wheat rice, oats, barley, millet, yams, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, not to mention all the artificial vitamins and minerals that are added. Sounds good right? Think again. How many of these “natural sources” are actually absorbed and available to the dog or cat? How much of these natural nutrients are destroyed and rendered ineffective by the cooking process? Even with foods like EVO that contain a high proportion of meat and no grain (unfortunately potatoes are used, or other starchy foods that dogs can’t process and which cause many other digestive problems), a cooked product is still inferior to a fresh additive free food.
6. Periodontal disease prevails. Kibble creates a bacteria-laden mouth that stinks and provides a gateway for bacteria, toxins, and collagenases to enter the body. This does not happen with a raw diet especially those diets that include unpasteurized green tripe.
7. If you are dishing out premium dollars for a premium kibble, why not feed a raw diet that is proven to decrease allergies and gut issues while increasing overall health and performance?
8. A raw diet has no added ingredients. With kibble there are tons of ingredients. Do you know what happens to those ingredients during the cooking process? Most of these so-called “good” ingredients never get absorbed into your pets body.
Ask yourself this question: How is a processed pet food better for our animals than fresh, whole, raw diet?
A raw diet will require a little more effort. Ask yourself is having your dog on this earth for more years worth it? Is alleviating itching, painful joints and lethargy worth it? There is a price to pay for convenience. What price are you willing to pay?
AAFCO standards and nutrient profiles were established through collaboration between scientific experts in the industry, in academia (such as universities), and in the regulatory commission (National Research Commission, or NRC). These experts looked at the peer-reviewed literature and documented data available to them and then formulated nutrient profiles after collaboration. These nutrient profiles have been updated once and are scheduled to be updated again. At this point I would like to note that Nature’s nutritional standards for dogs and cats has not changed within the past several thousand years since the species’ existence (hundred thousand and even million years if you include their ancestors).
Some argue that AAFCO profiles are the best there is, but others argue that AAFCO profiles are simply ‘better than nothing.’ Indeed, the standards can lull people into a false sense of security about the food they feed their pets. They think it is nutritionally complete, when in reality it may not be truly complete. Additionally, AAFCO profiles have not been tested or reproduced (and one of the biggest principles of science is that the method must be reproducible and the results verifiable.). There are no studies that prove “their adequacies or inadequacies” (Quinton Rogers, DVM, PhD, as quoted in “Alternative Feeding Practices” by Susan Wynn. To see the full article, click here.). It is, at best, an educated guess as to what our animals really need, and is based on less-than-scientific principles.
There are several other things wrong with these standards that AAFCO uses to ensure foods are 100% ‘complete and balanced.’ The standards were developed based on the belief that dogs are omnivores and can be properly maintained on a grain-based diet. They are therefore irrelevant to raw diets. Why? First, to gain nutritional analysis, the food must be chemically denatured, cooked, purified, and otherwise manipulated, meaning that any reading is an inaccurate representation of the raw item. This also means that the interactions between nutrients are overlooked as each nutrient is studied separately rather than in conjunction with the others (and this will be discussed below).
Second, the NRC profiles (which AAFCO used to develop its own profiles) assume 100% bioavailability. However, if a dog is fed as an omnivore, there are good amounts of nutrients unavailable to it that are contained in the indigestible plant matter. Phytates in particular (contained in abundance in grains and soy products—which kibbles often contain in substantial amounts) are well-known for interfering with valuable nutrients like iron, zinc, and calcium. Hence, you have to feed more of these nutrients in order for the dog to get the amount it needs; what the dog actually needs and uses is NOT the same amount of nutrient initially added. This results in skewed and biased standards, as they list the initial nutrient amount added, not the amount absorbed. Thus, bioavailability is less than 100%, and the nutrients in the standards are therefore inaccurate representations of what the dog really needs.
There is a third reason why AAFCO standards are useless for raw foods. This deals with the reason the food is raw and not cooked. AAFCO standards are based on cooked or processed foods (processed in order to be evaluated), foods which already have a decreased nutritional value because of being cooked or processed. Cooking denatures proteins and collagen, destroys important nutrients, and generally makes the food less digestible and less bioavailable (the exception being grains and vegetables, which we have already determined should not be given to dogs anyway). This means essential vitamins and minerals must be added back in. But how much? In what amounts? Research has shown that synthetic vitamins do not work with the same efficiency as those found in their natural state (i.e. in raw foods). Additionally, many vitamins and minerals interact with each other both negatively and positively. For example, vitamin C increases the uptake of iron, whereas Vitamin E inhibits the uptake of iron. Vitamin C also lowers zinc and manganese uptake, whereas Vitamin E helps increase zinc and manganese absorption (www.acu-cell.com/nico.html). Commercial pet foods should contain all of these nutrients, but are they contained in the proper amounts? And just what is a ‘proper amount’? The difficulties for establishing proper amounts have already been discussed. Do they have methods for monitoring the complex interactions of all these nutrients? Since feeding trials simply look at palatability, survival, and the appearance of health, these complex interactions are ignored. Cooking and processing food also kills enzymes that may help with the digestion of the food and the processing of nutrients, so the bioavailability of vitamins and minerals in cooked foods is further reduced (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. Chapter 4.).
Let us also look at the actual AAFCO feeding trials themselves. Are these really the ‘Golden Seal of Approval’ that pet food manufacturers make them out to be? AAFCO feeding trials consist of at least eight dogs being fed the same diet for a mere 26 weeks (approximately six months). During this time, 25% of the dogs (so, two animals) can be removed from the test and the dogs eating the food can lose up to 15% of their weight and condition; the food will still pass the test and be labeled “complete and balanced.” But extrapolate these figures to the number of animals eating this food for much longer than 26 weeks and you will have much more of a problem! If a food caused dogs to start losing condition over the 26 week period yet still passed, imagine how many animals would fail to thrive in real life while being fed this food for years?
As long as the remaining dogs in the trial appear healthy and have acceptable weights and certain blood values, the food passes and is considered ‘complete and balanced’ nutrition for whatever lifestage for which it was tested (puppy, adult maintenance, geriatric, etc.). So it can now be fed to your pet for a period much longer than the six-month test period. However, AAFCO feeding trials were NOT designed to measure the long-term effects of commercial diets. It says so right in their mission statement (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. pg 216). AAFCO trials were designed to ensure that pet foods were not “harmful to the animal and would support the proposed life stage” (pg 216, Raw Meaty Bones.) for a period of 26 weeks. The AAFCO protocols were NOT designed to “examine nutritional relationships to long-term health or disease prevention” (pg 216). If a dog lives for six months with no noticeable ill effects on a kibble, then the food is considered 100% complete and balanced nutrition, even though long-term nutritional deficiencies may occur several years down the road.
These “complete and balanced” and “not harmful” pet foods can destroy long-term health and cause disease and yet still be marketed as a healthy food for your pet. This has been PROVEN true. An example would be the lamb and rice commercial diets that had met or exceeded the nutrient profiles of AAFCO, and that had passed the AAFCO feeding protocol yet created a taurine deficiency in the dogs that ate them (Torres, C.L.; Backus, R.C.; Fascetti, A.J.; and Rogers, Q.R. Taurine status in normal dogs fed a commercial diet associated with taurine deficiency and dilated cardiomyopathy. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. 87 (2003). 359-372.). The dogs suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy; what is particularly distressing is that dogs can synthesize taurine from the readily-available (at least, in raw food) amino acids methionine and cysteine (whereas cats cannot), yet they still developed cardiomyopathy from this AAFCO-approved food! As a result, taurine is added into many commercial diets, but what about the dog owners whose pets became seriously ill and perhaps even died as a result of this oversight? What other “unknown oversights” are waiting to be discovered through more pain and anguish inflicted upon our pets? Other examples of ‘oversights’ would include supplementing cat foods with taurine after cats were going blind and suffering heart problems, or the constant adjustment of calcium:phosphorus ratios in puppy foods to prevent bone malformations and improper growth patterns (which still occur despite all the supplement adjustments). Interestingly, natural calcium in raw bones does not cause these malformations to the same degree artificial calcium does. One has to feed a LOT more natural calcium via bones to get the same degree of skeletal malformations found in commercial fed pets. All the researchers had to do was look to nature for the correct ratios.
When making their commercial processed foods, the pet food companies must often oversupplement their foods with the various vitamins and minerals to fall within the range of accepted nutrient values—the effects of which are NOT monitored past the six months of the AAFCO feeding trials. It should also be noted that pet food companies are not required to divulge the specific results of AAFCO testing of their products; that information is only made public if the company chooses to do so! Additionally, not all foods are required to enter feeding trials (The February 2007 edition of the Whole Dog Journal had an excellent article on this topic as well.). A food can undergo laboratory analysis to determine if it meets the nutrient requirements for dogs and cats. However, those nutrient requirements—expressed as minimum and maximum values—can vary widely! The minimum iron requirement for dogs, for example, is 80 mg/kg. The maximum iron requirement is 3,000 mg/kg! This is an incredible difference, and yet one food on the low end can be just as “complete and balanced” as another food with the maximum amount for iron! How will this affect the dogs over long term? Will one animal show a deficiency while the other shows an excess? The industry does not know, because they have never been required to test this beyond the 26-week mark! Foods can also obtain “complete and balanced” status by being ‘grandfathered in’. If a company can show that one of its new foods bears “nutritional similarity” to one of their own existing products that underwent feeding trials (which allow for the removal of 25% of the dogs and loss of condition up to 15% over the course of 26 weeks), then that food can carry the same claim of ‘complete and balanced’. Yet the actual ingredient combination was never tested! How can this similar yet different food be ‘complete and balanced’ for the *lifetime* of the animal if it was never adequately examined or tested? The entire process is faulty, but it is the best the pet food industry has. If this is the pet food industry’s best, then what does that say about their ‘complete and balanced’ commercial foods? Hopefully one can now see why the AAFCO standards are useless for evaluating raw food diets and why they are incomplete in determining the actual “nutrient standards” needed and utilized by our pets.
Contrast this with a whole prey animal. Raw food’s “best” is a brutal battle for survival over a span of several million years. Species evolved and adapted to their environments, thriving on fresh raw foods. If wolves and dogs have survived the worst of nature while eating fresh raw prey, what does that say for raw diets? A whole raw prey animal (unprocessed and NOT ground), or whole raw foods, contain the exact proportion of fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. One will be hard-pressed to test this in a lab, as the testing itself alters the perfect proportions. Nature’s laboratory is how we know it is perfect. This is the food that keeps wolves, other canids, and felines alive and thriving, even in the face of intense pressures and hardships (many of which are man-induced!). Nutritional deficiencies arise because the animals cannot get enough to eat, NOT because the food is insufficient in nutrients. Who are we to think we can do better than nature? For further reference, please read Raw Meaty Bones.
Nowadays, dogs enjoy a better life, one that is easier and less taxing (except for the great injustices that are kibble and excessive vaccination). They sleep inside with their owners. They enjoy the social status of family companions. People care more about their welfare. They receive the benefits of improved health care—much of which has evolved in the last 50 years because of the ailments caused by processed foods—and the added bonus of people caring about them receiving that care. For example, 100 years ago people would have never paid thousands of dollars to give their dog a hip replacement, or hundreds of dollars to get routine dentals performed on their pets. Nutrition has had a very negligible role to play in increased longevity other than the fact that dogs are no longer starving and do not have to hunt or scavenge (both of which are energetically costly). Instead of contributing to longevity, these “nutritional advances” have contributed to more and more health problems previously unheard of in dogs—diabetes, various cancers, inflammatory bowel syndrome, and bloat, for example. Veterinary medicine has evolved into ‘modern veterinary medicine’ because of the increasing prevalence of processed food-related diseases and the need to treat and fix them (which often involves switching your dog onto a higher-priced “therapeutic” processed diet). Granted, these diseases are diagnosed more frequently today because people actually know what to be looking for, but the amount of dogs suffering from these ailments today as opposed to earlier dogs indicates a VERY strong link to the foods they eat, links that have been proven to exist between humans in developed countries and processed foods.
What about increased longevity? Dogs’ longevity has only recently been determined by ‘research’ performed by the pet food companies. They use these estimates to “show” that their food helps animals live longer. But longer compared to what? No one cared about canine longevity in the earlier days (except the select few concerned with breeding canines), so no one kept records or performed surveys. So this longevity estimate is only valid from when the surveys started. Indeed, kibbled food has been improving from the early prototypes that created a variety of nutritional deficiences (like overgrowth and bone malformations in puppies; this STILL is a problem.), but this “nutrition” has not contributed to longevity in nearly the same manner that increased social status has.
In reality, canine longevity and quality of life has been decreasing for many breeds since the advent of processed food. People who remember the ‘old days’ when dogs were fed raw meaty bones often report their dogs living well through their late teens. Nowadays it is a “miracle” and a testament to the “excellent nutriton” the dog must have received, and vets and pet food companies claim this “miracle” as occurring often enough to become ‘commonplace’. Too bad most of the vets who remember the good old days have now retired or even moved on. It seems this new generation of veterinarians will know nothing but kibbled, processed food and the ailments induced by it.
So they say dogs are living longer. And indeed people can step forward and say they have 16-year-old Golden Retrievers and 14-year-old German Shepherds and 11-year-old Great Danes. But what about the quality of life for these old dogs? They have horrible teeth and rancid breath, severe arthritis or degenerative joint disease, cancerous or benign tumors, diabetes, kidney failure, nasty greasy coats, and soft fatty bodies lacking muscle tone. People say this is just “old age” and that we see this more often nowadays because dogs are living longer. But is this really true? Many of these ailments are caused by or heavily influenced by a lifetime of eating processed food and developing periodontal disease and bacteria-laden teeth (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones.). Those who remember the ‘early days’ remember long-lived dogs enjoying better quality lives until one day they just did not wake up. This slow, accumulating progression of disease is invariably linked with processed foods—something that has been proven time and again in human medicine and is being proven daily by the amount of processed food-fed pets suffering from a variety of these ailments and sitting in vets’ waiting rooms.
If pets are living longer, then why are they being considered “old” at younger and younger ages? A dog is now a senior by the age of 7 or 8; some even say a dog is “old” at 5 or 6. Cats are considered seniors by the ripe old age of 7 (tell that to raw fed cats still going strong at the age of 20!). This premature aging is caused in large part by processed foods (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones.). Cancer, diabetes, obesity, kidney failure, heart problems, and arthritis (among other things) are being seen in younger and younger dogs. Dogs 3 years of age are being euthanized for malignant, systemic cancers! What happened to this “dogs are living longer” claim? It is high time we stop slowly poisoning our beloved friends through commercial diets and excessive “preventative” health care measures!
TIDBIT: The oldest living raw-fed dog is Jerry, an Australian cattle dog-bull terrier mix. He is 27 and lives with his owner in Australia (Outback Mongrel Could Be Oldest Dog. USA Today. 7-13-2004.). To see the full text story, please click here (if this link does not work, please tell me; it may mean the story has moved elsewhere).
Look into your dog or cat’s mouth. Those huge impressive teeth (or tiny needle sharp teeth) are designed for grabbing, ripping, tearing, shredding, and shearing meat (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 258.). They are not equipped with large flat molars for grinding up plant matter. Their molars are pointed and situated in a scissors bite (along with the rest of their teeth) that powerfully disposes of meat, bone, and hide. Carnivores are equipped with a peculiar set of teeth that includes the presence of carnassial teeth: the fourth upper premolar and first lower molar.
A black bear is a true omnivore, as are we. We have nice, large, flat molars that can grind up veggies. Black bears, while having impressive canine teeth, also have large flat molars in the back of their mouth to assist in grinding up plant matter. Dogs and most canids lack these kinds of molars. Why? Because they don’t eat plant matter. Teeth are highly specialized and are structured specifically for the diet the animal eats, and the difference between a bear’s teeth and a dog’s teeth (both species are in Order Carnivora) demonstrates how this can be (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pgs 260.). To see a visual comparison of the teeth of a dog to the teeth of a black bear, please click here. One can logically ask: If a dog (or cat or ferret) has the dentition of a carnivorous animal, why do we feed it pelleted, grain-based food?
2.) Musculature and external anatomy
Dogs (and cats) are equipped with powerful jaw muscles and neck muscles that assist in pulling down prey and chewing meat, bone, and hide. Their jaws hinge open widely, allowing them to gulp large chunks of meat and bone. Their skulls are heavy, and are shaped to prevent lateral movement of the lower jaw when captured prey struggles (the mandibular fossa is deep and C-shaped); this shape permits only an up-and-down crushing motion, whereas herbivores and omnivores have flatter mandibular fossa that allows for the lateral motion necessary to grind plant matter (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pgs 258-259.). Consider this quote from the previously-cited Mammology text:
“Canids, felids, and mustelids subsist mainly on freshly killed prey. These families show correspondingly greater development in ‘tooth and claw’; they also have greater carnassial development and cursorial locomotion.” (pg 260)
This translates to a simple fact: everything about a dog or cat’s body design says they were designed for a carnivorous, hunting lifestyle geared toward killing prey. However, humans have done some major tinkering with this body design (resulting in varying sizes and conformations), but we have done nothing to change the internal anatomy and physiology of our carnivorous canines.
3.) Internal anatomy and physiology
Dogs and cats have the internal anatomy and physiology of a carnivore (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 260.). They have a highly elastic stomach designed to hold large quantities of meat, bone, organs, and hide. Their stomachs are simple, with an undeveloped caecum (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 260.). They have a relatively short foregut and a short, smooth, unsacculated colon. This means food passes through quickly. Vegetable and plant matter, however, needs time to sit and ferment. This equates to longer, sacculated colons, larger and longer small intestines, and occasionally the presence of a caecum. Dogs have none of these, but have the shorter foregut and hindgut consistent with carnivorous animals. This explains why plant matter comes out the same way it came in; there was no time for it to be broken down and digested (among other things). People know this; this is why they tell you that vegetables and grains have to be preprocessed for your dog to get anything out of them. But even then, feeding vegetables and grains to a carnivorous animal is a questionable practice.
Dogs do not normally produce the necessary enzymes in their saliva (amylase, for example) to start the break-down of carbohydrates and starches; amylase in saliva is something omnivorous and herbivorous animals possess, but not carnivorous animals. This places the burden entirely on the pancreas, forcing it to produce large amounts of amylase to deal with the starch, cellulose, and carbohydrates in plant matter. Thus, feeding dogs as though they were omnivores taxes the pancreas and places extra strain on it, as it must work harder for the dog to digest the starchy, carbohydrate-filled food instead of just producing normal amounts of the enzymes needed to digest proteins and fats (which, when fed raw, begin to “self-digest” when the cells are crushed through chewing and tearing and their enzymes are released).
Nor do dogs have the kinds of friendly bacteria that break down cellulose and starch for them. As a result, most of the nutrients contained in plant matter—even preprocessed plant matter—are unavailable to dogs. This is why dog food manufacturers have to add such high amounts of synthetic vitamins and minerals (the fact that cooking destroys all the vitamins and minerals and thus creates the need for supplementation aside) to their dog foods. If a dog can only digest 40-60% of its grain-based food, then it will only be receiving 40-60% (ideally!) of the vitamins and minerals it needs. To compensate for this, the manufacturer must add a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than the dog actually needs.
Is the dog an omnivore? Its dentition, internal and external anatomy, and physiology say it is not. Even its evolutionary history (discussed later) says the dog is a carnivore. So when people tell you the dog is an omnivore, ask: “What about this animal makes you think it is an omnivore?” Make them explain their position to you before you explain yours. Chances are they’ll cite this next myth as “proof”.
Something else to consider when feeding raw. Because of the high content value of the raw food dogs eat less food than when they are on a kibble diet. On a raw diet dogs eat 2 – 2.5 percent of their breeds optimal weight. (See online feeding chart for your dogs feeding guidelines.)
And think about this. What would a major pet illness cost in vet bills? What would a lifetime of prescription medications, due to improper nutrition set you back?
Food is the key to longevity and great health. It is true, good food is more expensive than cheap food (Whole Foods vs. McDonald’s) for humans and pets. But again if you don’t have to go to the doctor or take medications because you eat healthy, in the long run is it really that expensive?
The last thing to consider when choosing your pets food is…time. How many more days, weeks and years do you want to have walking, hiking, getting licks and being loved unconditionally by your 4 legged kiddo? What is that time worth to you?
This has resulted in the emergence of super-bacteria and “super-viruses”, no thanks to the improper use of antibiotics and the plethora of antibacterial soaps and products. Developmental biologists have recently learned that bacterial exposure is absolutely necessary for the development of a healthy immune system, among other things. Humans and dogs have evolved in the presence of bacteria, and insisting on a sterile environment has created more damage than good.
So where does this intersect with raw feeding?
Raw diet critics tout this myth as a main reason for not feeding raw. Yes, there is bacteria in raw meat. Yes, this bacteria can harm you. Yes, this bacteria is sometimes shed in dogs’ feces. So if a raw-fed dog licks you, are you going to get sick? I suppose all things are possible, but on the whole: no, you will not get sick. This bacteria does not persist in the mouth of a raw-fed canine. Canine saliva contains lysozyme, an enzyme that lyses and destroys bacteria, but more importantly, the absence of plaque means the dog’s mouth is no longer a hospitable place for bacteria to inhabit.
A kibble-fed dog’s mouth, however, provides the perfect environment for bacteria growth: plaque-covered teeth with sugary and starchy complexes provide both food and shelter for bacteria. The bacteria thrive in the mouth of a kibble-fed dog because it provides both a perfect atmosphere and a good food source (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones.). Why does a kibble-fed dog have stinky dog breath? Because of the bacteria in their gums and on their teeth (just like the bacteria in our mouths gives us halitosis). A raw-fed dog’s mouth provides neither food nor a viable atmosphere for bacteria, which is why a raw-fed dog has odorless breath. So which dog would you be more worried about being kissed by and contracting disease from? I personally would be quite leery of the stinky-breathed, bacteria-laden kibble-fed dog. If one is still worried about being licked by a raw-fed dog, one has several solutions. Teach the dog not to lick, or avoid being licked. But if you have a healthy immune system, being licked and in contact with a raw-fed dog will not affect you other than boosting your immune system. This is the same thing for kids: being around and licked by a raw-fed dog will do nothing but boost their immune systems and help them grow up into happy, healthy adults.
As for dogs shedding bacteria in their feces: wash your hands after feeding your dogs or cleaning up after them. Handle the raw meat you feed your dogs the same way you handle your own raw meat (which can get you sick if you eat it raw or do not clean up well enough afterward; do the experts really think that people are not smart enough to figure out that they should wash their hands and countertops after preparing raw meaty bones for their dogs? Apparently so.)
Bacteria is absolutely everywhere. You are just as likely, if not more likely, to get sick from your produce or a public bathroom. You do not need to worry about the dog tracking bacteria through the house; there is plenty of bacteria throughout the house anyway, so any additional bacteria a raw-fed dog might add is negligible. Thousands of people—even immunocompromised people—feed their dogs raw with no bacteria issues and with stronger immune systems as a result.
Anti-raw people protest that raw-fed dogs pose a serious health risk to immunocompromised people and people with auto-immune disorders. Oddly enough, it is these immunocompromised people who have a better understanding of the important role nutrition plays in strengthening the immune system.
Use good hygiene practices: clean countertops and utensils used to feed dogs, and wash your hands.
The parasite issue is something than non-raw folk use as a scare tactic, telling you that your dog is going to die if it eats raw meat because it will get a weird parasite. They neglect to tell you the very low incidence of these parasites in meat deemed safe for human consumption; nor do they tell you the most “deadly” of these parasites come from things like infected sheep placentas or stillborn calves. Simple solution—do not feed those things to your dog. If the dog looks like it has parasites, simply get a stool sample or blood sample taken. A dog can be wormed holistically or allopathically (the chemical insecticide dewormers). But generally speaking, if your dog has a healthy immune system, it can deal with the parasites before they even get a chance to establish themselves. Parasites hate a very healthy host.
Freezing meat can help kill many parasites (such as the parasite present in salmon that CAN cause a deadly disease in dogs; freezing fresh raw salmon, steelhead, trout, and other salmonids for at least 24 hours before feeding effectively disposes of the parasite. Cooked salmon does not carry the parasite.). As long as one exercises caution in obtaining their meat, parasites are a non-issue. If feeding fresh salmonids or wild game, it is recommended that the meat be deep frozen for at least 24 hours before feeding for salmonids and one month for wild game.
Do not give in to the bacteria and parasite scare tactics. The suggestion of cooking your dog’s food is actually quite harmful! It is the cooked food that causes problems with the dog’s digestive system and that can result in the nutritional deficiencies vets claim they see from raw diets (in reality, most of these nutritional deficiencies arise primarily from home-cooked diets, since cooking destroys many valuable nutrients).
Complex recipes aside, there are several aspects of cooked diets that pose problems. Tom Lonsdale deals with this in depth in Chapter 4 of his book Raw Meaty Bones.
First, the act of cooking alters the proteins, vitamins, fats, and minerals in a food. This alteration can make some nutrients more readily available and others less available. Cooking can alter fats to the point of being toxic and carcinogenic (The American Society for Nutritional Sciences. April 2004. Meat Consumption Patterns and Preparation, Genetic Variants of Metabolic Enzymes, and Their Association with Rectal Cancer in Men and Women. Journal of Nutrition. 134:776-784.), and cooked proteins can be altered to the point where they cause allergic reactions whereas raw proteins do not (Clark, W.R. 1995. Hypersensitivity and Allergy, in At War Within: The double edged sword of immunity, Oxford University Press, New York. pg 88.). If an animal has an “allergy” to chicken or beef, it may very often be cooked chicken or beef and not the raw form.
Second, cooked food lacks all the benefits of raw food. Cooked food is deficient in vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, because the very act of cooking destroys or alters much of them (exceptions to this are things like lightly steamed broccoli or tomatoes, but these are not appropriate foods for carnivores).
This decreases the bioavailability of these valuable chemicals and makes them less available to the animal. This is why these things have to be added back into pet foods and why a variety of supplements need to be added to home-cooked pet food—and why a variety of species inappropriate items are utilized as ingredients in these meals!
Vitamins and minerals can be added back into cooked food, but finding the appropriate balance is incredibly difficult. Synthetic vitamins and minerals do not always exhibit the same chirality (three dimensional structure) that the natural forms had, which means their efficiency and use to the body are substantially decreased. This is compensated by oversupplementation, which then results in the inhibited uptake of other necessary vitamins and minerals. For example, excess inorganic calcium reduces the availability of iron, copper, iodine, and zinc (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. pg 88). If you are feeding a cooked, home-made diet, can you be sure that your pet’s needs are being sufficiently met if the very act of cooking destroys much of what is beneficial to your pet? Essentially, once you cook your pet’s food you are now guessing which vitamins or minerals have been destroyed, how much of these might have been destroyed (which means you would have to know how much was present in the food in the first place), and how much supplementation your pet needs. Then you run into another problem: no one really knows what our pets REALLY need and use in terms of vitamins and minerals. We only know what amounts are too much and what amounts are too little OVER A SIX-MONTH PERIOD, not over a period of years. Additionally, how can we be sure that researchers have discovered all the nutrients necessary for our pets? This still is an on-going process (such as Eukanuba adding DHA to their foods; DHA is found in raw prey, so any dog or canid eating raw prey has been receiving appropriate levels of DHA), and since cooking food destroys minerals and vitamins and enzymes, researchers may be missing some very important nutrients. Feeding cooked food also causes pets to miss out on these ‘unknown’ nutrients, whereas raw food contains them in appropriate amounts.
People compensate for vitamin and mineral deficiencies without resorting to supplements: they simply add vegetables, grains, and dairy products to their carnivores’ diets. Complex recipes are developed that create a wide range of foods for the dog (or cat) that must be cooked, steamed, blended, etc. in order for the dog to receive proper nutrition. Our carnivores once again have an omnivorous diet forced upon them in order to help them obtain all the appropriate nutrition that could simply be had by feeding a variety of raw meaty bones and organ meats. Simplicity and perfection are traded for complexity and imperfection.
Raw food, however, has the perfect balance of vitamins and minerals if fed as a part of a prey-model diet (i.e. a whole rabbit) (Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. Chapter 4.). Raw food also has unaltered proteins and nutrients, and the bioavailability of these nutrients is very high. And raw food—particularly whole carcasses and raw meaty bones—provide the NECESSARY teeth-cleaning effects that are lacking in any cooked diet. Periodontal disease-causing bacteria are scraped away at each feeding, whereas a cooked food-fed dog has that bacteria remaining, which are then coated over by a sticky plaque resulting from the cooked grains, vegetables, and meat proteins. Some feed raw beef bones to help clean teeth and continue feeding a home-cooked diet. Is this better than kibble? Of course! But is it the best? Those promoting a raw diet say ‘No.’
For more information on cooked food versus raw food, please check out the famous Pottenger cat study:
Kibbled foods (which are cooked and highly processed) have only been around for the last 100 years. Evolutionary adaptations require much more time than this. The evolutionary changes—from gross anatomy down to the molecular level—that would be required for the development of such different digestive capabilities would take MUCH longer than the time that wolves have been living with humans.
So what were pets eating before the advent of cooked, processed, kibbled pet diets? They received hardly any cooked food, as food was a precious commodity that very few people would waste on something like a dog (remember, dogs have not always enjoyed the same social status they enjoy now). Instead, they received the human “waste food”—things people would not use or eat, which may have included a small portion of table scraps. By and large, however, the dogs foraged and scavenged on their own, or hunted small prey animals to supplement what little food they received at home.
And before this? Wolf-dogs hunted with their masters and hung around the camps, knowing they would receive whatever raw meat, bones, and offal were left over (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 472.). Thousands of years ago, people did not cook for their pets. Why should they? The animals were fully capable of obtaining their own food and moreover were a good “disposal” for unused parts of animals. The dogs ate what they were designed to eat, and until the 1950s (some argue as late as the 1980s and 1990s), dogs were recognized as the carnivores they are.
For more about why home-made, cooked food diets are not a completely viable alternative to raw, please read the Cooked Food Is Safer myth.
Dogs are so much like wolves physiologically that they are frequently used in wolf studies as a physiological model for wolf body processes (Mech, L.D. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation). Additionally, dogs and wolves share 99.8% of their mitochondrial DNA (Wayne, R.K. Molecular Evolution of the Dog Family). This next quote is from Robert K. Wayne, Ph.D., and his discussion on canine genetics (taken from www.fiu.edu/~milesk/Genetics.html).
“The domestic dog is an extremely close relative of the gray wolf, differing from it by at most 0.2% of mDNA sequence…”
Dogs and wolves can freely interbreed and produce fertile offspring—even little dogs like Westies and Chihuahuas are capable of this! This is a dramatic indication that dogs and wolves are very closely related and are compatible in terms of genetics (incompatible animals do not produce viable, fertile offspring, such as donkeys and horses. Their offspring—the mule—is a sterile animal.). The genes for different coat colors, lengths, conformations, and structural differences are present in the wolf population to a certain degree (otherwise wolves would not have been able to give rise to the different dogs we have today. In order for a phenotypic change to occur, there has to be a genetic basis off which to work. If the genes are not there, then the phenotypic change is not going to “magically” occur), but are selected against by nature because they are not advantageous to wolf survival. Humans are the ones that manipulated the breedings to “create” smaller dogs and dogs of varying colors, shapes, and sizes.
Additionally, dogs that are left to their own devices in the wild will form packs and hunt other animals, exhibiting a similar range of behaviors like those seen in wolves. Phenotypic differences like size, ears, etc. will often return to a more “wolf-like” state as the animals outcross and breed freely (for example, Chihuahuas will increase in size if left to breed without specific human selection for size); breed characteristics have been specifically selected according to human whim, and in order to retain those characteristics like dogs must be continually bred to like dogs until the genes for those characteristics are sufficiently ‘fixed’ within that population of dogs (which is how we came upon the different dog breeds today). One can rightfully question what dogs would end up looking like if they just bred for generations without human interference. Would they gradually look more and more like their ancestral predecessors?
Lastly, dogs have recently been reclassified as Canis lupus familiaris by the Smithsonian Institute (Wayne, R.K. “What is a Wolfdog?” www.fiu.edu/~milesk/Genetics.htm), placing it in the same species as the gray wolf, Canis lupus. The dog is, by all scientific standards and by evolutionary history, a domesticated wolf (Feldhamer, G.A. 1999. Mammology: Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. McGraw-Hill. pg 472.). Those who insist dogs did not descend from wolves must disprove the litany of scientific evidence that concludes wolves are the ancestors of dogs. And, as we have already established, the wolf is a carnivore. Since a dog’s internal physiology does not differ from a wolf, dogs have the same physiological and nutritional needs as those carnivorous predators, which, remember, “need to ingest all the major parts of their herbivorous prey, except the plants in the digestive system” to “grow and maintain their own bodies” (Mech, L.D. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation).
What about the argument that dogs may have weaker digestive enzymes than wolves? Some argue that dogs may not be as efficient as wolves in digesting raw meat and bones. This argument has been recognized by wolf researchers (Mech, L.D. 2003. Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation.) but is generally not considered in their dog model studies. Why? From mouth to anus, dog and wolf physiology and basic anatomy are almost precisely the same. What is the significance of this? This means dogs should still be fed a carnivorous diet to meet their needs. What does it matter if they don’t have the same digestive capabilities as a wolf? How does that justify feeding them an even harder-to-digest meal of commercial pet food or cooked food? How does that justify feeding them any differently from a prey model diet that has been proven by nature to be completely sufficient?
Let us forget the wolf-dog relations for a moment. Let us just look at the dog itself and listen to what its body can tell us about its diet. The dog has the anatomy and physiology of a predatory carnivore, of a hunter designed to subsist on other animals. It has the skull and jaw design of a carnivore: a deep and C-shaped mandibular fossa that prevents lateral movement of the jaw (lateral movement is necessary for eating plant matter). The jaw muscles are designed for crushing grips and powerful bites, with a jaw that hinges open widely to help gulp chunks of meat and bone. The teeth of the dog are pointed and specialized for ripping, tearing, shearing, and crushing meat and bone. Their saliva lacks amylase, the enzyme responsible for beginning carbohydrate breakdown; instead, they have lysozyme in their saliva, an enzyme that destroys pathogenic bacteria. They have highly elastic stomachs designed to stretch to capacity with ingested meat and bone, complete with incredibly powerful and acidic stomach acid (pH of 1). Their intestines are short and smooth, designed to push meat through quickly so that it does not sit and putrefy in the gut. Their external anatomy also shows development as a hunter. They have eyes situated in the front of their skulls rather than to the side like an herbivore. The body (prior to man-made manipulation of things like size and angulation) is built for chasing down prey, and its senses are acutely developed to help locate prey. By all accounts, this is an animal designed to eat other animals.
Dogs still are carnivores. They still need meat, bones, and organs. They still cannot utilize vegetables as efficiently as meat. Their nutritional needs have not changed much over their years of domestication. Do they need supplemental enzymes, then? The small amount of stool coming out the other end of a raw fed dog clearly indicates that there is no need for extra enzymes (medical conditions requiring extra enzymes not included here). The best, most highly digestible diet for our domesticated carnivores is a prey model diet based on a variety of raw meaty bones and whole carcasses.
The following text is taken from Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, by Wendy Volhard and Kerry Brown. Their discussion of carbohydrates and the functions they perform seem to “prove” that most dogs need additional carbohydrates in their diet, a belief that is very pervasive in most concepts of canine nutrition.
“In addition to providing energy, carbs maintain the health of the thyroid, liver, heart, brain and nerve tissue. They regulate how much starch and fat will be broken down and utilized. Once in the digestive tract and assimilated, they are stored in the liver in the form of glycogen, which controls energy balance. Low carb intake may cause cardiac symptoms and angina. The central nervous system requires carbohydrates for proper functioning as does the brain. The brain can’t store glucose and is therefore dependent on the minimum supply of glucose from the blood. With insufficent carbs in the diet, protein and fat are converted to energy, weakening the immune system and preventing the body from building enough antibodies to fight disease. Poor hair growth and constant shedding are symptoms of carbohydrate deficiency.
Thyroid function is also dependent on the correct amount of carbohydrates in a dogs diet. B compounds found in many grains and strach producing veggies is needed so the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine can produce T3”.
But do most dogs really need carbohydrates? In the Waltham Book of Dog and Cat Nutrition (2nd edition, 1988), we read that
“There is no known minimum dietary carbohydrate requirement for either the dog or the cat. Based on investigations in the dog and with other species it is likely that dogs and cats can be maintained without carbohydrates if the diet supplies enough fat or protein from which the metabolic requirement for glucose is derived.”
How can this be? Let us discuss just how the dog and cat are able to fulfill their requirement for glucose through a diet of raw meat, bones, and organs.
Carbohydrates do provide quick and easy energy. However, it is not ‘carbs’ that maintain the health of the organs listed in the quotes above, but glucose. Glucose can be obtained from both fat and protein through a process known as gluconeogenesis, where amino acids and fat (not fatty acids; those use a different cycle) are “converted” to glucose. If carbs are present, though, they will be converted to energy first before fat and protein because they are easier to use. This is the reason that carbs regulate how much starch and fat will be broken down and utilized. If there is a plethora of carbohydrates, fat will be stored instead of used. If there are not enough carbs to fulfill energy needs, then fat will be converted to glucose and used. If no carbs are present, then fat and protein are used to fill energy needs.
Excess carbohydrates are stored in the liver and the muscles as glycogen AND in the body as fat. However, since carboydrates are not the only source of glycogen (which also comes from proteins and fats through a process known as glyconeogenesis), they are not absolutely necessary. Human athletes commonly perform ‘carbo loading’ techniques where they eat huge carby meals of things like pasta to rapidly replenish their glycogen stores in their muscles and liver before a competition. The carbohydrates, when in excess, are more rapidly converted and stored as glycogen compared to fat and protein. HOWEVER, once again, fat and protein can also be stored as glycogen, which makes carbohydrates unnecessary unless you want to perform ‘carbo loading’. I believe it is Purina that has capitalized on this and now has “energy bars” of complex carbohydrates for the canine athlete to help them recover more quickly between events. But, carbohydrates do not rebuild spent muscle tissue, etc. Protein does that. Fat is also easily utilized for quick energy, too, and provides more energy per gram that carbohydrate does.
It is not low carbohydrate intake that causes things like cardiac symptoms and angina; it is low blood glucose. If there is not enough glucose in the blood system, then you run into many problems including black outs, cardiac symptoms (like arrhythmia), and angina (chest pain). Of course, it is interesting that wolves can go without food for weeks and still survive well enough. How do they do that without eating carbs? Simple: they use up fat reserves and may even dip into their own muscle to get the necessary proteins and fats to provide glucose and energy for their bodies. So carbohydrates themselves are not actually necessary; glucose is necessary, and that can be obtained from protein and fat.
What about the brain? The brain is preferentially given glucose above all other organs. Glucose in its ready form, at that. But does this mean carbohydrates are necessary? Since glucose can be had from fat and protein as well, then no.
What about the claim of protein and fat—when converted to energy—weakening the immune system? This seems to be taken from human research where athletes in intensive training had suppressed immune systems which could be improved by consuming proper amounts of carbohydrate. Additionally, white blood cell production in humans seems linked to glucose production. More glucose present means the body is better able to mount an immune response—until there is “too much” glucose around and insulin spikes and starts suppressing all other pathways in the body except for those needed to force the glucose into cells (fat cells). High amounts of simple carbohydrates and sugars are known to suppress the immune system. If this is the case, though, one could wonder how a diet high in grain affects our pets—overstimulation of the immune system due to high concentrations of glucose from the grain? Perhaps this is why many pets suffer “allergies” while on grain!
One other comment I have here is that as long as the animal is receiving appropriate fat and protein, glucose production will not be an issue. And for carnivorous animals like dogs, I cannot help but wonder if their white blood cells are more sensitive to glucose than ours—meaning, less glucose is needed to “stimulate” canine white blood cell (WBC) production compared to human WBC production.
Using protein and fat for energy does not weaken the immune system unless there is not enough to go around, so to speak. If someone is starving, then using protein and fats for energy—while necessary—is a little ‘cost-intensive’ on the body. But it is not the lack of carbs that is hurting them; it is the simple lack of enough food. Similarly, a human athlete in intensive training may overwork their body to the point that using protein and fats for fuel becomes too cost-intensive to their body.
What about poor hair growth and constant shedding resulting from a lack of carbohydrates? Can these indicate a ‘need’ for carbs? Maybe, but more likely it indicates a need for better overall nutrition. I personally have NEVER heard of ‘carbohydrate deficiency’ in any animal. Why? Because there is NO SUCH THING as a “necessary carbohydrate,” just necessary glucose. Our bodies, and our dogs’ bodies, can do without carbohydrates (although I would say our dogs would fare better than humans, since we are omnivores who do well with fresh vegetables in our diet—except for some cultures that eat mostly meat!). Fats and proteins can be converted easily to necessary glucose. Poor hair growth and constant shedding are linked to an overall poor diet, poor consumption of essential fatty acids, biotin deficiencies, some vitamin and mineral deficiencies, AND a lack of good fats and proteins in the diet. PROTEIN, not carbohydrate, is the building block for hair and skin and all other parts of the body. Carbohydrates do nothing for building and maintaining the body structures except provide easy glucose to fuel the rebuilding process.
What about thyroid function? Thyroid function is dependent upon the correct amount of GLUCOSE produced by the dog’s body, not by the correct amount of carbohydrates in the diet. Too much glucose from easily available carbohydrate energy sources can cause just as many problems as not enough glucose. Since we have already established that glucose can be produced from fat and protein, then it would again seem that carbohydrates are actually unnecessary provided that there is enough protein and fat to go around (and a raw diet has PLENTY!).
B compounds, or B vitamins, are found not only in the dog’s own intestine (bacteria produce some B vitamins) but also in the meat and organs of prey animals. Feeding a variety of organ meats as part of a proper raw diet will cover the B-vitamin requirement quite easily. One has to wonder: how much of the B compounds in grain and starch and veggies is actually available to the dog? Compared to something more bioavailable like liver, then I would say ‘not much.’
For further investigation:
Glyconeogenesis (forming glycogen from non-carbohydrate sources)
Granted, years of selective breeding have resulted in the small size of small dogs AND the increased need for the teeth-cleaning effects of raw meaty bones. But the intensive breeding for smaller size and phenotypical changes like coat length, color, and ear carriage has not changed the physiological needs of the dogs. A small dog is still a carnivorous animal and has the dentition, anatomy, and physiology to prove it. Small dogs and toy dogs CAN be fed a raw diet successfully, as evidenced by the number of small dog breeders and owners who feed a diet of raw meaty bones and whole prey. The key to feeding a small dog successfully is to select appropriately-sized food. Just as one should not feed a dinky chicken wing to a Rottweiler, one should not feed huge slabs of beef ribs to a Papillon or Chihuahua and expect them to eat the entire slab in one sitting. Small dogs (and toy breeds) thrive on foods like chicken quarters, bone-in chicken breasts, whole ducks, rabbits, pork ribs, pork necks, lamb, beef, liver, heart, and other organs. Fish also factor in here.
There is still one primary rule of thumb when feeding small dogs and toy breeds, and that is to feed big! A small dog does not need small food when it comes to raw diets. That means steering clear of chicken necks and wings; these are too small and are too easy for the dog (yes, even a toy dog!) to attempt to swallow whole, which then results in gagging or choking (natural responses, but scary to see!). One of the endearing personality traits of many small dogs is that they think and act like they are much bigger than they really are. This goes for feeding, too. A pint-sized Chihuahua is still going to think it is a huge wolf-like dog when it spots that raw meaty bone. The behavior is ingrained, and the desires to rip, tear, chew, gulp, and swallow (sometimes with emphasis on gulping and swallowing, especially if the dog was fed commercial food before) should still be very strong. So get rid of the lone chicken wing and neck; only feed those if, and ONLY IF, they are attached to half of a breast, half of a chicken, or a whole bird.
An additional reason to feed big food is also one of the primary reasons for feeding raw: to keep those teeth clean and healthy, which in turn will keep the dog healthy by preventing nasty “foul mouth disease” from developing and affecting internal organs. Those little dogs need just as much chewing, ripping, and “flossing” action as the big dogs, and many argue that they need MORE than big dogs because of their unique mouth size. To keep those teeth and gums healthly, little dogs need to have a grand time chewing and shredding their food; of course, the easiest way to allow for this is to feed big pieces that will challenge them and require a workout.
So toss the Pug a chicken quarter. Let the Shi Tzu and Lhasa Apso work on a pork neck. Avoid the temptation to cut their food into smaller pieces; remember, smaller is NOT good, because smaller pieces increase the likelihood of the dog gulping and then gagging on their food. Stick with the big pieces, and your dog will get the hang of chewing its food very quickly. If you need to start with boneless meats at first to get your dog used to the taste and texture of raw food, then do that first. Once they are eating their meaty meal with gusto, add in a bony meal and let the dog figure it out. If the dogs are picky, pick the raw meaty bone up after 15 minutes and put it away for later. Offer it again at the next feeding or at the next day. A little bit of tough love (assuming the dog does not have any health problems or special needs that require it to eat at least once a day) may be necessary to encourage the dog to use its teeth, but it will be well worth it!
Toy breeds and small dogs can be fed in a manner similar to other dogs. Start out feeding about 2% of their ideal, adult body weight—3% if the dog is very active and has a fast metabolism. So if you have an 18-lb dog, you will only be feeding between 1/4 and 1/2-lb of meaty bone PER DAY to start. If you only have a 3 or 4 pound dog, then you must select food carefully and rely on the “touch/look” test to make sure your dog is not getting too fat or too skinny. Monitor your dog’s weight closely; if she starts looking a little fat, cut back on the amount of food. If she starts looking too lean, then increase the amount of food. Most dogs can handle one meal a day; unless your dog has a medical reason for eating multiple times a day (or is so small that it needs to eat frequently, or is still a puppy), start feeding the dog once a day. This will allow you to feed big meals of substantial raw meaty bones. If you are feeding a really big meal (like a slab of pork ribs), let the dog eat as much as it needs for the day and then pick up the food and refrigerate it for the next day. For dogs that are only a few pounds, this ‘eat until you are full (or, if your dog does not have a good ‘stop eating’ mechanism, ‘eat until I say you are full’) and then picking up the remains for later’ method may work best.
Little dogs should have just as much variety in their diets as big dogs. As your dog’s diet branches out into different protein sources, you can start experimenting with different raw meaty bones to challenge your dog and give it a good chewing workout. However, stay away from those big, dense, weight-bearing bones! Beef knuckle bones, beef femurs, etc. can easily chip a dog’s teeth. Or at least don’t let them sit in the yard and chew on those all day!
This myth is quite false. While veterinarians perform much-needed services for our pets, these services should not include a) selling pet food, and b) administering nutritional advice. Veterinarians receive very little nutritional training. The training they do receive is often advocated by or even administered by the pet food companies. Their nutritional training comes from the incorrect view that dogs are omnivores (see omnivore myth) and can safely be maintained on a grain-based diet, even when scientific research has proven that canines and felines have no evolved need for carbohydrates and fiber (see the Carbohydrates myth for further detail). That’s right: dogs and cats do not need the carbohydrates that form the bulk of their processed foods. Perhaps that is why pets today are soft, doughy, and suffering from a variety of ailments linked to carbohydrate-rich, processed food (cancer, diabetes, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, hyperactivity, seizures, etc.
To read more about epilepsy and its relation to diet, please click here.).
Veterinarians are invariably linked to the commercial pet food industry. They advocate and even market commercial foods, receiving substantial revenue and kickbacks. The pet food companies make sure of this by promoting programs in the universities and by giving FREE FOOD to the up-and-coming vets to sell at their practices. For example, Colgate-Palmolive, the company that manufactures Hill’s Science Diet, spends
“hundreds of thousands of dollars a year funding university research and nutrition courses at every one of the 27 US veterinary colleges. Once in practice, vets who sell Science Diet and other premium foods directly pocket profits of as much as 40%” (Parker-Pope, T. 1997. For You, My Pet. The Wall Street Journal. 3 November 1997. In Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. p266).
The very profession is tied closely with commercial pet food companies at every turn. A tour of veterinary teaching hospitals or vet clinics shows equipment, products, and posters sponsored by and endorsing commercial foods and pharmaceutical companies. Vets are, in essence, paid for by the pet food and pharmaceutical companies, and are hardly in a position to offer sound nutritional advice. They are in direct violation of the oath and creed they swore to uphold: “First do no harm.” In spite of this oath they are promoting foods detrimental to animals’ health, advocating a product that will harm their patients and ensure a returning clientele and source of revenue. But remember: this is due in large part to the great lack in the education the universities have administered to them! Nothing but commercial pet food dogma is being repeated in university after university after university; these are institutions of higher learning where people are supposed to be thinking critically and evaluating things analytically, yet in reality are being told to shut off their common sense and ignore the overwhelming amount of evidence against commercial pet foods. Here is one excellent example of the ties veterinary universities and veterinarians themselves have with the pet food industry:
MSU Presents Partnership Award
“Topeka, Kan. – Michigan State University (MSU) College of Veterinary Medicine recently presented the 2004 Partnership Award to Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc.
“The award recognizes the working relationship between the MSU and Hill’s.
“Hill’s provides financial and educational support to nearly every veterinary college in North America, as well as to veterinary students attending those institutions. This commitment to the profession includes Hill’s sponsored teaching programs, residencies and faculty programs in veterinary schools and teaching hospitals all over the world.
” ‘Hill’s is incredibly responsive to anything students or faculty have asked of them,’ says Dr. Lonnie King, dean of the college of veterinary medicine at MSU. ‘Their steadfast support, generosity and collaboration in advancing the college’s mission is recognized as a vital part of our veterinary medicine program.’
“Hill’s has shown its commitment to the partnership with MSU by providing support to many student groups and student activities; covering costs for students to attend the SCAVMA Symposium; providing students with the textbook Small Animal Clinical Nutrition and other various handouts; providing employment to student representatives; and by supporting the awards banquet for seniors graduating from the program.”
—DVM News Magazine, August 2004 (emphasis added)
How are veterinarians supposed to be educated on proper nutritional practices when the very institutions from which they receive their instruction is in bed with the pet food companies? For an example of what occurs in vet school nutrition courses, please read the “A First Year Veterinary Student Comments” article in the Raw Meaty Bones 13 April 2004 Newsletter (scroll down about 3/4 of the way to see the article). For yet ANOTHER example of pet food company/veterinary alliances, visit the Purina.com site and check out Purina’s Other Alliances.
Simply put, vets are not educated on proper nutrition; it was not until recently (past several decades) that pet owners started looking to their vets for advice on diet. Interestingly, this corresponded with the increase in commercial foods. Prior to the advent of commercial foods, people did not request nutritional advice from their veterinarians. Only after commercial foods arose did vets need nutritional training, and early vets also recommended feed fresh whole foods along with the dry ‘biscuits’ of the day (To read how kibble came about, click here.). Veterinarians today cite the nutritional deficiencies they see in their clinics as proof of raw diets being ‘bad’, but if you press them further, these deficiencies typically result from home-cooked diets or improperly formulated BARF diets, NOT prey model diets (which are the kind found in nature!). Interestingly, they may tell you to cook your dog’s food, which will result in the kind of imbalances they see with “natural” diets that aren’t formulated correctly. They then use this “evidence” to “prove” that home-made diets (into which they lump raw diets) are bad for your pets. Or they may tell you that ‘science’ has shown that raw diets are not good for our pets. Ask them: “what ‘science’?” Press them for the answer, and what they tell you will most likely be nothing but pet food propaganda about salmonella poisoning in pets (undocumented in HEALTHY animals) or the ‘reputable research’ performed by pet food companies. Almost all of this research is undocumented, ‘anecdotal’ evidence or evidence that does not pertain to proper raw diets. For example, they will cite that all-meat diets create severe calcium deficiencies. This is true. But a proper raw diet is not all meat. A proper raw diet is a wonderful blend of meat, bone, and organs from a variety of sources.
Most veterinarians are highly qualified individuals; however, their qualifications are for surgery, conventional disease diagnosis and treatment, and conventional drug prescription, NOT for nutrition (although holistic vets are more aware of the importance of fresh raw foods in keeping animals healthy, and are also amenable to alternative therapies). Additionally, veterinarians need to respect their clients’ wishes to feed a natural diet rather than berate them with pet-food company propaganda (also known as ‘nutritional advice’) each time they come in. Veterinarians and pet owners alike need to remember that veterinarians are consultants. A pet owner consults a vet when their pet has a specific problem or need. The pet owner pays the veterinarian’s wages; the veterinarian works for them. A client is perfectly within their rights to deny treatments or request that things be done differently. Additionally, a client is perfectly within their rights to feed their dog a diet different than that which the veterinarian recommends, and a client is within their rights to ignore a vet’s ‘nutritional advice.’ For a veterinarian to bully a client toward feeding a certain way or to blame the diet for every possible illness is unacceptable and demonstrates a lack of professionalism.
Even more unacceptable (downright heinous!) is for a veterinarian to refuse their services to a client because the client does not feed the diet the vet recommends, as is the case with a California Bay Area emergency clinic. During the summer of 2005, a raw-feeder brought her dog to the emergency clinic with a possible case of bloat (bloat is not only possibly genetic and food-related, but possibly vaccine-related as well.), and the attending veterinarian began to berate her for her choice to feed a raw diet instead of attending to her dog’s possibly life-threatening situation. The raw-feeder requested a different veterinarian so as to avoid confrontation and receive an unbiased medical report; this second veterinarian proceeded to check her dog over thoroughly (as the first vet should have done), and came to his diagnosis (which was not bloat, but simple enteritis with no particular reference to diet issues.). Several days afterward, the raw-feeder received a letter from the clinic stating that she was no longer welcome as a client because she was reluctant to follow the advice of the first veterinarian, presumably regarding the raw diet. For an EMERGENCY clinic to act this way is tantamount to animal cruelty; their decision is punishing the dog (who is innocent and has no voice in all of this) for a well-informed choice his owner made to feed fresh foods. This is similar to refusing to treat a person for cancer or a heart attack because they ate processed foods instead of fresh whole foods like the doctors recommended (notice the irony in that what is recommended for humans—fresh whole foods—is the exact opposite of what is recommended for our pets.)! It is an unacceptable act of animal cruelty and an outright denial of the creed veterinarians must uphold.
Pet owners, you have every right to demand that your vet honor your decision to feed a raw diet. Make it known that your pet’s diet is not up for negotiation unless you so choose. Unwarranted nutritional advice is not welcome, nor should it be necessary since you are paying for your vet’s MEDICAL opinion, not nutritional opinion. Be aware that vets have been admonished to sufficiently inform their clients of the benefits and risks of various dietary practices. But considering how feeding fresh, raw foods to pets is NOT taught in veterinary school, their knowledge in this area will be very minimal, and will most likely be restricted to the negative aspects of raw diets (most of which are half-truths and myths, and are dealt with in these myth pages). After all, whenever studies on raw foods are published in publications like the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the negative aspects (such as bacteria) are all that are researched (and not very well, I might add). The studies start out with a distinct bias that is seen in the way they are structured in addition to the topic they are studying, and rarely include good science that should involve scrupulous methods that can be repeated, large sample sizes, and a sound hypothesis.
Veterinarians and vet technicians: please respect the rights of your clients. Respect their wishes to feed a raw diet, and they will respect your skills as a trained professional. Be open to their choice to feed fresh whole foods to their pets instead of letting prejudices get in the way. When it comes to the welfare of their pet, you should be one of their strongest allies instead of one of their harshest enemies, particularly since you possess valuable knowledge and skills in emergency situations