Mother Nature's Prescription For Health And Vitality
My journey as a raw-feeder began with the adoption of an adult cat plagued by inflammatory bowel disease. After months of offering Yung-Dau a variety of quality canned and dry cat foods with little to no success, I finally followed the advice of a holistic veterinary nutritionist and converted Yung to a raw food diet. The results were immediate and amazing. Yung stopped vomiting, her diarrea vanished, she began to gain weight, and her coarse, dingy coat became soft and shiny. Moreover, her attitude changed. Previously shy and reclusive, Yung began to seek attention and affection, and to play with toys and with the other cats.
It wasn't long before I'd converted all of my cats and dogs to a raw food diet. Everyone's skin, ears, teeth, and gums became wonderfully clear and clean. Fourteen-year-old Tug's diabetes went into remission after only two months of raw-feeding, and sixteen-year-old Xena conquered her earlier diagnosis of renal disease within a year of starting raw-feeding.
Feeding Pets As Nature Intended
Dogs are natural carnivores. Cats are natural carnivores. One need only admire their dentition to confirm that status, and nothing humankind has done in the past centuries has changed that clear fact of Nature.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence in the case for raw-feeding is found in the Pottenger study of feline nutrition. At a time well before the influence and control of the mega-million dollar pet food industry, medical doctor Francis M. Pottenger Jr. questioned the effect of dietary changes on the health and vitality of the population of laboratory cats used in his studies of adrenal extracts, and the unique Pottenger cat studies ensued.
What Pottenger's studies revealed between 1932 and 1942 remain true today. Heat-processed diets have deleterious effects on health, vitality, and longevity. Raw diets encourage and increase well-being.
My Veterinarian Says That Raw-Feeding Is Dangerous
In the decades since Pottenger conducted his studies, the multi-million dollar veterinary prescription diet industry has come to hold great power and influence over the education, training, research, and financial success of the veterinary community. The enormous wealth of the veterinary prescription diet industry has afforded it unmitigated opportunities to determine what veterinarians learn and what they don't learn.
Veterinarians who categorically characterize raw food diets as dangerously contaminated, and canned and dry commercial pet foods as the only way to feed a complete and balanced diet, do so under the extreme influence and control of the veterinary prescription diet industry. Those veterinarians have done no nutritional homework beyond that which was assigned by that industry.
Pathogens In Raw Diets
Whether raw meats are purchased for human consumption or pet consumption, pathogens should be assumed to be present, but naturally occurring pathogens such as Salmonella do not pose the same risks to dogs and cats as they may to humans. The natural pH balance of the saliva and of the gut of a raw-fed carnivore is not pathogen-friendly, and the naturally fast transit time of raw proteins through the carnivore's shortened digestive system does not encourage pathogen proliferation. Nature equipped her natural raw-feeders for survival.
Nevertheless, raw meats must be handled responsibly, using the same safe-handling practices employed when raw meats are prepared for cooking for human consumption. Additional safeguards for raw carnivore consumption result from using raw meat diets that have been frozen immediately upon processing. Chilled grocery case meats can be far more susceptible to unnatural pathogen exposure between processing and serving.
The Basics Of Raw-Feeding
Although raw-feeders have adopted a variety of wholesome recipes, the basis for most canine rations is raw ground muscle meat and bone, raw ground organ meat, and ground vegetables. Rotational feeding of a variety of meats is ideal, and consumable raw bones are enjoyed for recreational chewing and to keep teeth and gums naturally healthy.
Cats, as obligate carnivores, have no nutritional need for vegetables and often find their inclusion in raw recipes to be off-putting. Cats enjoy ground whole-carcass meats, and a weekly chew on a whole raw chicken neck helps to keep a cat's teeth and gums in good condition.
Balancing A Raw Meat Diet
In light of humankind's profound degradation of the earth and air, and the known (and presumed) degradation of essential nutrients through the processes of grinding and freezing raw pet diets, it is advisable to supplement raw pet diets with at least a good quality vitamin and mineral supplement.
To keep it simple when raw-feeding dogs, raw-feeders should look for an all-in-one vitamin and mineral supplement that also contains the digestive enzymes, prebiotics, and probiotics that wild carnivores would normally find in the stomach of their prey, and which help to keep the domestic carnivore's gut healthy and working happily. Additional supplementation should also include a bit of salmon or sardine oil, and an occasional raw egg yolk. All of those are easily and quickly added to daily rations.
Most cats enjoy a separate tasty vitamin and mineral treat, used in addition to an enzyme and probiotic supplement added to the daily ration. Any daily vitamin and mineral supplement for cats must include at least 200mg of Taurine, an amino acid which is absolutely essential for feline heart health, but which in its natural state has been found to undergo at least some degradation during the process of grinding and freezing raw meat diets. Most raw-feeders ensure that feline rations are supplemented with 200-500mg Taurine daily.
As with dogs, cats also benefit from the addition of essential fatty acids to the diet, but cats require a somewhat different balance of Omegas than do dogs, so it's better to use an Omega blend specifically formulated to meet the nutritional needs of cats, rather than using salmon or sardine oil. An occasional bit of raw egg yolk is also a nice touch when added to the diet.
How Much To Feed And At What Cost
A dog's ideal weight divided by five (5) should give a good approximation of how many ounces to raw-feed a dog twice daily. A 40lb dog would be expected to need to consume 8oz raw diet twice daily for a total daily ration of 16oz. The cost of locally available canine pre-mixes with vegetables can range from $1.00 to $1.50 per 8oz meal.
A cat's ideal weight divided by three (3) should give a good approximation of how many ounces to raw-feed a cat twice daily. A 9lb cat would be expected to need to consume 3oz raw diet twice daily for a total daily ration of 6oz. The cost of locally available feline rations without vegetables can range from $0.40 to $1.40 per 3oz meal.
The above-referenced feeding guidelines give a new raw-feeder a starting ration with which to work, but metabolic needs will vary from pet to pet, so it's up to the raw-feeder to watch their pet's weight over time to determine if an increase or decrease in the ration is appropriate. As a general rule with dogs, one should be able to count the ribs with gentle pressure over the rib cage, but the vertebrae should not be countable along the topline, nor should the hip bones be obvious to the touch. Cats should look long and lean, but neither the vertebrae nor the hip bones should be discernable when the cat is firmly stroked.
Getting Started With Raw-Feeding
Even if a raw-feeder is lucky enough to be working with a veterinarian who is supportive of raw-feeding and who may even be themselves a raw-feeder, every inductee should find a well-experienced mentor and/or mentoring group with whom to network. Real raw-feeding is still very much a grass-roots movement, and there is much to be learned from the time-honored experiences and wisdom of long-term raw-feeders. And finally, check out www.urbancarnivore.com. Brenda Hagel has done a beautiful job of bringing it all together for raw-feeders.
Welcome to the raw-feeding revolution!
This article by Kristina Dow appeared in the April 2009 issue of 'Our Berkshire Green'.