Feeding Fresh Food
It is obvious that if fresh food is best for you it is also best for your dog. My earliest memories of raw feeding were as a pre-schooler. Slaughtering our own cattle, pigs and chooks lent itself to the youngest in the family having responsibilities in the preparation of the pet food. We never had health problems with our dogs. It’s a philosophy that has followed me for 50 odd years. I believe that many of the diseases we see in humans are now being replicated in dogs due to diet (particularly from commercially produced foods).
I have no doubt that you love your family at least as much as your new puppy. I am also sure you do not know the exact nutritional requirements of each member of your family that meals are provided for and do not balance each meal accordingly. Don’t be frightened off fresh feeding by those who suggest your puppy may not be receiving all their nutritional requirements if raw fed (even some vets).
It’s not rocket science! You can either become all technical and feed an amazing weighed and portioned diet or feed your puppy in the same manner you feed your other loved ones. Either way …… your puppy will be better off than being fed a commercially produced diet. The commercial pet foods may outline some of the components of the food, but there are many components not outlined that you do not want your puppy to be fed.
I include a recipe for a complete and balanced fresh food in our puppy packs, that can be prepared in bulk if desired and fed either raw or cooked (although I think raw is best). The only addition I would recommend are some raw meaty bones such as beef, lamb or pork ribs, chicken necks, frames, drumsticks or wings (but wings are fatty) every day. I give my adult dogs a bowl feed of a morning and raw meaty edible bones of a night/afternoon. Variation such as the complete and balanced fresh recipe several times a week with a biologically appropriate raw food diet (as described below) on the other days would be excellent!
A biologically appropriate raw food diet for dogs:
The basic model is:
80% muscle meat
10% edible bone (raw meaty bones) - not the types of bones that aren’t completely eaten
5% other organs
Muscle meat includes: normal meat (best from a variety of animals), fat, heart, gizzards, lung, tongue, uterus, pizzle, green tripe, trachea, gullets, tendons. I like to make 10% of this muscle meat heart.
Raw meaty bones include: (I probably feed a little more than the recommended 10%) chicken frames, wings, necks, drumsticks, thighs, feet, other tails, ribs, raw eggs with the shell, whole fish.
Liver - never cooked (destroys too many nutrients)
Other organs - never cooked - kidney, spleen, brain, pancreas, testicles.
Vegetables - up to 25% - select vegetables high in nutrients and low in carbohydrates - leafy greens are excellent. My favourites include: kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, pumpkin and red capsicum. Blitz, steam or boil, as raw vegetables don’t digest well and are passed out as waste. Dogs can’t digest plant cell walls to release the nutrients unless blitzed or cooked to break down the cell walls. Fermented vegetables are also excellent!
Seeds & nuts - if fed, don’t exceed 2%. Chia seeds can be added to water to form a jelly for feeding. Sunflower, hemp, pumpkin and almond are best ground.
Fruit - include with the vegetables percentage - blueberries, blackberries, raspberries & mulberries are great.
Keep fat at less than 20% of the diet. Too much fat leads to depletion of vitamins and minerals.
Fruits and vegetables are becoming more popular. Their benefits include:
Prebiotics (fiber) are indigestible plant fibers that feed important little bugs that live in your dog’s gut (called probiotics).
Chlorphyll is the green pigment in plants that makes your dog’s cells healthy detoxifies his liver and digestive system. It can also protect against cancer.
Carotenoids are important antioxidants that protect your dog from aging and disease. Carotenoids are found in yellow, orange and red colored fruits and vegetables like squash, carrots, papaya, cantaloupe.
Lycopene is another powerful antioxidant that can play a role in preventing and slowing cancer. Lycopene gives many vegetables their red color and it’s found in carrots, red cabbage, watermelon.
Lutein is another antioxidant that’s known to protect the eyes, skin and heart. It’s found in dark leafy greens and in yellow plants, including kale, broccoli, oranges and papaya.
Flavonoids or bioflavonoids can regulate cell signaling and have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. In general, the more colorful the plant food, the higher it is in bioflavonoids.
*** Keep starch to a minimum. ***
Starchy foods include grains (eg. rice - brown and white), peas and potatoes. Starchy foods cause your dog to continually produce a hormone called insulin. This causes him to store a lot of his food as fat, so if your dog is on the chubby side, avoiding grains will help. This can also lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. Eating too much can start to disrupt the delicate colonies of microbes that live in his digestive tract. These little bugs make up most of your dog’s immune system and even help him produce vitamins … and when they’re disrupted, your dog can suffer from allergies, yeast and inflammatory health issues. If your dog doesn’t need them, why would you feed them? There’s no benefit to starch and the risks outweigh the benefits (and the only benefit to starch is it keeps costs down for you … they add no benefit to your dog whatsoever).
Fish is great for your dog. You can feed whole fish (like sardines, pilchards, herring, mackerel) once or twice a week or you can add a little fish to several or every meal. They include edible bones. Smaller fish are better as the larger ones may have bio-accumulated heavy metals over time.
Bone Percentages in different foods:
Beef rib - 52%
Ox tail - 45-65%
Chicken neck - 36%
Chicken wing - 46%
Chicken frame - 44%
Chicken feet - 60%
Chicken drumstick - 27%
Lamb neck - 32%
Lamb rib - 27%
Just like us, dogs need a variety of wholesome foods to provide them with a wide range of nutrients … not to mention the fact that it’s boring to eat the same foods every day!
One common concern with raw feeding is that it’s not “complete and balanced.” This isn’t true for two reasons. First, the concept of exactly what complete and balanced is, is changing all the time, so it’s difficult to make this claim. Second, balance can occur over time … every meal doesn’t need to be completely balanced as long as your dog’s nutritional needs are met over the course of a few days or weeks.
I feed my adult dogs twice a day until they mature, as they are very active dogs. Usually by about 2 years of age they are on 1 meal a day. Puppies over the age of 8 weeks need feeding at least twice a day (maybe 3 times if they look for it - they are usually on 3 meals when they leave here). Most adult dogs (over 6 months) only need feeding once a day. You’ll work out what your dog needs. Border Collies may need more if active. It is vital to keep your dog from becoming overweight though.
Once every week or so, I am happy to fast my adult dogs for a day. (I don't do this with young, pregnant or lactating dogs.) This is because most immune function is in the gut. If the dog’s digestive system is continually digesting meals, there’s no time for house cleaning and the dog’s immune system will suffer.
Puppies need calories and nutrition ..… so they should receive about two to three percent of their ideal adult weight. Most of Jack & Bessie’s puppies end up around 25kg. Jack & Till's puppies often grow larger. The best way to tell if you’re feeding the right amount is to run your hands over your dog’s ribs. If you can feel the ribs, but not see them, your dog is at a good weight. When puppies are four to six months old, they will need a lot of food and a good amount of calcium because they’re building their adult teeth. If they don’t get enough calcium in their diet at this critical stage, they’ll pull the calcium from their bones and either develop bone or dental deformities. So, throw a few extra bones at your puppies at this age, just for a little extra insurance.
If you make a fist and run your hand over your knuckles & your puppy’s ribs feel like this they are too lean. If you hold your hand out flat & run your hand over your knuckles, this is what your dog’s ribs should feel like.
Overweight dogs have many health issues. Underweight dogs do not. Ideal weight is best. If I could choose between overweight and underweight I would choose underweight.
I often tell the story of a lean red kelpie bitch I had 20 odd years ago. Jessie ate to her maximum, but never stopped all day. Her ribs were very visible and I was often told things like: “Donna, give your dog a pie!”. I had taken on a new horse to rehabilitate and had arranged for a vet to attend to stomach drench him. Of course Jessie was zipping around chasing insects. The vet took one look at her and said: “I wish I could take your dog around with me every day, to show people what a healthy dog should look like. It’s so rare to see a dog in such excellent condition today.”.
There is a free app called “Raw Pet” for mobile phones which calculates how much muscle, edible bone etc is required for particular circumstances. There is also a program called "Pet Diet Designer", which for a small annual fee, allows you to design and perfectly balance diets.
Always remember ……. a little fresh food is better than none …… just do the best you can!