Table of Contents
- Holistic Dog Food: Dogs Need A Balanced Diet Too
- What Is Holistic Dog Food?
- What’s the Difference Between Holistic Versus Low-Quality Dog Food
- Is Holistic the Same as Grain-Free?
- How Much Does Holistic Dog Food Cost?
- Benefits of Holistic Dog Food
- Where Do I Buy Holistic Dog Foods?
- Our Favorite Holistic Dog Foods
- Is Holistic Food The Way To Go?
- The Days Pet Food Manufacturers Took Over
- Then, Consumers & Dog Owners Became More Educated
- Holistic Dog Food Is (Not Just) About The End Product
- Each Ingredient Must Benefit The Dog
- The Raw Dog Food Diet Primer
- The 10 Simple Raw Feeding Rules
- Rule # 1: The Raw Dog Food Diet Must Have Calcium
- Rule #2: Organs Are The Multi-Vitamins
- Rule #3: Muscle Meat Is The Foundation
- Rule #4: Watch The Fat
- Rule #5: Don’t Get Hung Up On Fruit and Veg
- Rule #6: Keep It Starch-Free
- Rule #7: Variety Counts
- Rule #8: Balance Over Time
- Real Life Raw Meal Examples
- Rule #9: Feed Fish Once A Week
- Rule # 10: Relax
- When To Feed
- How Much To Feed
- Raw Feeding Guide
- What dogs eat (and don’t eat) in the wild
- What dogs eat in the wild
- What dogs don’t eat in the wild
- Basic Homemade Dog Food Recipe
- History Of Medicine = Food
- Food Therapy
- 9 Healthy Foods For Dogs To Support Health And Promote Healing
- Human Foods Dogs Can and Can’t Eat
- How I Got to Raw
- The Transition
- Raw Food Isn’t Scary
- Crunching the Numbers
- Traveling with Raw Food
- Real-World Results
- Canine Acupuncture
- Chinese Herbal Medicine
- Magnetic Field Therapy
- Canine Massage
- Herbs & Supplements
- Diet Therapy
- Home-prepared Meals
- Holistic Training
- Current Medical Model
- 10 holistic pet care tips you can trust
Holistic Dog Food: Dogs Need A Balanced Diet Too
To sustain this free service, we receive affiliate commissions via some of our links. This doesn’t affect rankings. Our review process.
As pet owners become more discerning about the nutritional content of their dog’s food, they are increasingly turning to holistic dog food as the solution. But what does this mean? We will help you answer this and many other questions around this somewhat confusing category including what makes a dog food holistic, the difference between holistic versus grain free, and why holistic foods may be better for some dogs. We will also provide our recommendations for the best holistic dog food brands for you and your furry friends.
What Is Holistic Dog Food?
Holistic dog foods are foods that are balanced. Not only to provide dogs with optimal nutrition, but also to support overall well-being. Ingredients are selected with their unique purpose in mind. Whether it is to provide high levels of fatty acids or to include more digestible proteins. Since every individual dog has different nutritional needs, there is a significant degree of variation among types of holistic dog food blends.
What’s the Difference Between Holistic Versus Low-Quality Dog Food
Feeding a dog a holistic food versus feeding a low quality “kibble” (aka dog food) is akin to eating at a nice restaurant versus eating at a fast food chain. Lower quality dog food options focus on low-cost production costs which result in lower quality ingredients. And similar to people, when poor quality food is consumed, overall nutrition is poor and general health suffers. So when dogs are fed diets filled with poor quality ingredients and excessive fillers, the results will soon begin to show. Dogs fed low-quality kibble may appear to have dull eyes, a flat non-shiny coat, a lack of energy, excessive defecation, flatulence and digestive complaints. These symptoms (when not caused by another mitigating factor) result in a dog not receiving adequate levels of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Excessive defecation can also be the result of excessive levels of food fillers or an inability to process specific carbohydrates such as corn or wheat. On the other hand, a dog that is being fed a high-quality kibble (whether holistic or not) will be much happier and healthier (we’ll discuss more specific benefits of holistic dog food below).
Is Holistic the Same as Grain-Free?
Not all holistic foods are grain-free foods and not all grain-free foods are holistic foods. Many people are under the assumption that all grains are bad for their dogs, this is not the case. Grains can be beneficial in limited quantities. (The exception to this rule is, of course, dogs with grain allergies, in which case grain free foods are the best option). Learn more in our Grain-Free Dog Food article.
How Much Does Holistic Dog Food Cost?
Just like human food, you get what you pay for in most circumstances. Holistic foods are made up of higher quality, and more often than not, human grade ingredients which often times makes them more expensive. Lower quality kibble often includes ingredients that are not fit for human consumption, including insects and mold. To add to the low quality of ingredients, quality control is generally less important overall which can lead to mass food recalls such as the dog food recalls of 2007. While you may pay more for this dog food, you will likely pay less in veterinary bills and medications for food induced illnesses and health conditions. In addition to better health, dogs that are fed better food often experience a much longer lifespan – something that no money can buy.
Benefits of Holistic Dog Food
With the added expense that often comes with feeding holistic dog food, most dog owners want to better understand the benefits of holistic dog food. Here’s a list of these benefits.
Better Coat Health
A dog that has better coat health will have a shiny coat (unless their breed standard dictates otherwise) and they will shed less. One ingredient that helps considerably with overall coat health is fish oil and many holistic foods contain added fish oil for this purpose. Even dogs that naturally experiencing shedding will have less hair loss when their food contains healthy supplements and fewer fillers.
Improved Skin Health
Oils that are found in better balanced foods help to keep the skin hydrated and prevent drying. If you have a dog that experiences dry or flaking skin you may find that a holistic diet or a raw food diet works best to reduce and eventually eliminate this problem. Fish oil and vitamin E are great ingredients to look for in holistic foods to maintain overall skin health.
Sharpened Eye Health
Holistic dog foods often contain more antioxidant-rich ingredients which are not only good for the dogs overall health, but are also very beneficial for healthy eyes. As dogs age, many will experience trouble with their eyesight. Additionally, some breeds have a natural tendency towards eyesight trouble. Feeding a holistic dog food that supports eye health can help to minimize these types of concerns.
Greater Heart Health
Holistic dog foods tend to pay particular attention to the quality of the proteins that go into their foods. With leaner proteins, dogs experience much less weight-related issues. Much like humans eating lean meat rather than fatty meat, a dog that eats leaner ingredients will have a stronger and healthier heart.
Superior Intestinal Health
A dog that is fed holistic food tends to have much better intestinal health because these foods frequently contain probiotics. These types of ingredients are formulated to help healthy bacteria flourish in your dog’s intestines which aids in healthy digestion. Dogs that are prone to diarrhea and upset stomach from traditional commercial dog foods quite often experience better intestinal health after being switched to a probiotic-rich natural food.
Fewer Bowel Movements
One common “side effect” of switching your dog to a holistic food (most commonly a grain-free holistic food) is fewer and/or smaller bowel movements. This happens because the vast amount of fillers found in lower quality food contributes to more frequent bowel movements (as this “waste material” is simply passed through the dog’s intestines without absorption). Switching a dog to grain-free holistic food can reduce bowel movements to once or twice a day.
The digestion of a dog on a better diet will be noticeably healthy, while lower-quality dog diets can lead to diarrhea, poorly formed feces and constipation (Assuming that these matters are not the result of other health conditions such as parasites or infection).
This is similar to how humans naturally have more energy when they eat healthier foods. When a dog eats poor quality food, the body has to expend more energy breaking it down to obtain the nutrients needed to function. When more energy is expended in breaking down food, less energy is available for play and other day to day activities. In a higher quality food the nutrients are more readily available for use.
While this is not true for all dogs, some dogs that have allergies thrive more on holistic and healthier foods. This is particularly true for dogs with grain sensitivities that switch to a grain-free diet. These types of allergies can contribute to dry and itchy skin, hot spots, excessive licking, chewing at the skin/fur/feet, hair loss, scaly skin and flaking skin. Finding a holistic food that is rich in fish oil and vitamin E is beneficial when healing these types of skin afflictions that result from food allergies.
Where Do I Buy Holistic Dog Foods?
Now that you’re thinking that holistic is probably the way to go, you might be wondering where you can get your paws on some? If you are looking to save the most money on a holistic dog food, the best option is to shop online. Here are some of our recommended brands which are all available on Amazon (however there are lots of variables including flavor and age/size of dog). If you decide to buy from Amazon, keep in mind that you can save when you sign up for a subscription (“Subscribe & Save”).
Our Favorite Holistic Dog Foods
- Holistic Select Natural Dry Dog Food (packaging to the right) – View on Amazon
- Solid Gold Holistic Dry Dog Food – View on Amazon
- Merrick Grain Free Recipe Dry Dog Food – View on Amazon
- NUTRO MAX Natural Adult Dry Dog Food – View on Amazon
Video: Holistic Select Health Support System
This 30-second video illustrates many of the benefits of Holistic Select’s Unique Digestive Health Support System pet food.
Is Holistic Food The Way To Go?
If you make the switch to holistic food, then you (and your dog) will notice a significant difference, particularly if your dog currently eats lower-quality food with fillers. Not all dogs will thrive on a holistic diet, but many dog owners have been pleasantly surprised by switching their dog from a megastore brand to a holistic product.
Keep in mind that switching your dog’s food should be a gradual process and you may not see improvements in your dog’s health immediately. It can take weeks for poor quality food to leave your dog’s system and for nutrient levels from the new food to reach optimal levels.
We highly encourage you to consider holistic dog food as the additional cost is easy to justify when you experience fewer veterinary bills due to allergy and other symptoms of poor nutrition.
Has your pet jumped on the holistic dog food bandwagon?
The pet food industry has been around for hundreds of years, with the first commercially prepared pet food being made in 1860. It is a growing trade and is extensively used throughout the world, so how did it all start?
The Days Pet Food Manufacturers Took Over
Before the arrival of pet foods, most dogs were fed a combination of grains, meats, table scraps and homemade food from their owners.
The first maker of a dry dog biscuit was inspired after witnessing dogs scavenging along the docks for discarded biscuits. Made from vegetables, beef blood, wheat, and beetroot, this food was originally bought by English countrymen for their working dogs.
Manufacturers caught on and began commercial pet foods aimed at domestic dogs which contained cost-effective ingredients such as indigestible animal parts (feathers, feet, beaks, fur, and hooves for example), 4-d livestock (dead, dying, diseased or disabled), horse meat, euthanized animals and pets, roadkill and dead zoo animals, along with rotten fruit/vegetables and any leftover matter from farmyard feed.
All ‘meat’ sources were sent to rendering plants, where it was ground up and processed, often including plastic bags, metal tags and pet collars which were considered ‘animal waste’. Intestines, blood, ligaments, and bone were often blended with the mixture too, resulting in a sloppy blend called slurry. This concoction was then cooked and processed at extremely high temperatures and pressures, so any goodness in the form of amino acids, vitamins and minerals were destroyed- making the food nutritionally inadequate.
It was therefore sprayed with synthetic vitamins, minerals, dyes, flavorings, and preservatives to make it somewhat enticing to dogs and their owners.
151 Reviews $62.99 Buy on Amazon
Then, Consumers & Dog Owners Became More Educated
In the 1980’s, consumers were becoming more educated about their own nutrition, and as a result started reading the labels on dog food. They became increasingly concerned about some of the ingredients and questioned the use of chemical preservatives and artificial additives.
A small amount of the more developed pet food manufacturers started to eliminate these chemicals from their foods, creating the ‘holistic’ trend that we know today. It has come a long way since then, and there is a growing demand for holistic pet foods.
Brands began using meat sources which were sustainable and human-grade, with no off cuts or by-products. They made themselves different from regular pet foods and used high quality ingredients in a proper formation to ensure improved amounts of nutrition.
Holistic food is believed to have many benefits over other commercially prepared foods, such as the fact it only contains natural ingredients, with no chemicals or artificial additives. Typical supermarket brands will include by-products, wheat, maize and soya into their foods as these are readily available and very inexpensive to make, holistic foods however do not substitute any ingredients for a cheaper alternative, and always ensure strict quality control as to only use the best.
Holistic generally means treating something from the inside out, so fuelling the body with the correct nutrients and good quality unrefined, unprocessed ingredients which is proven to promote good health. It can alleviate digestive issues, bad breath, doggy odour, teeth and gum disease, dull coats, and unpleasant flatulence.
Holistic dog food is a mindset dog owners should cultivate. The beneficial sides will trickle down themselves! (credits: abbeyrosefoundation.org)
Holistic Dog Food Is (Not Just) About The End Product
Holistic is not only about what the end product is like, which a lot of commercial brands focus on. Some of the more independent companies such as The Natural Dog Food Company focus on the ethos of holistic, as well as the nutritional value.
The use of fully biodegradable and even compostable packaging ensures that the holistic approach is carried on, even after the product is gone. They have replanting schemes, so for every tree cut down, 5 more are planted where they are needed.
Air and water that are used during processing is fully recycled and renewable and their carbon footprint is dramatically lower than most due to sourcing local ingredients. These environmental factors all contribute to the product as a ‘whole’, which is what Holistic is really all about.
Their foods create an eco-system, in which the body has everything it needs to run efficiently, naturally and healthily.
Each Ingredient Must Benefit The Dog
Pesticides, insecticides and genetically modified corps are strictly banished from their ingredients, and all come from a fair trade background. Each individual herb and vegetable added is beneficial to the dog that is eating it, no unnecessary fillers or cheap bulking agents are used, along with wheat, gluten, dairy, soy or maize which are often linked to allergic reactions and digestive upset.
It includes only whole grains, fruits and vegetables, which are all selected to benefit the animal and not for enticement purposes. The human-grade meat is perfectly reared and cared for, whether it is grass fed lambs, free range chickens or sustainably farmed salmon the animals used are free of antibiotics, growth hormones, and are non-intensively farmed here in the UK. Their food is gently steam cooked to ensure all the natural nutrients are still present in the end product, and is extremely palatable due to its rich, aromatic taste.
The right balance and variety of all these things will maximise health and vitality by making a dog bright eyed, alert and active, with a shiny coat and small deposits. Skin ailments and allergies will disappear, with the use of quality protein and grain sources of exceptional nutritional value.
Due to the easily digestible ingredients dogs tend to absorb rather than eliminate more of the nutrients they require, resulting in a strengthened immune system that can help illness and sensitivities. Premium quality holistic foods like these are extremely nutritionally dense, and therefore have significantly lower feeding amounts than other foods. This is because it is naturally satisfying so dogs feel fuller for longer which makes it surprisingly efficient to feed, with a very low daily feeding cost.
No corners are cut, price is not a limit and quality is never compromised. Companies like these truly go above and beyond to ensure that every single step is taken to provide a nutritionally balanced, complete diet for every dog.
Years ago, I loved going to the pet store and dissecting bags of dog food. I tried choosing the very best bag money could buy … I hadn’t yet considered raw feeding dogs.
I’d take my expensive bag of food, to the check-out counter thinking … “what lucky dogs I have.”
I can’t remember exactly why I started feeding a raw dog food diet, but I did all the same. There were certainly enough compelling reasons to take that leap of faith.
After just a few months of feeding my dogs kibble, I began to wonder about what I was feeding. How food with an ingredient list that I couldn’t even pronounce was the best choice for my dogs.
Did those companies with big marketing budgets have my dogs’ best interests at heart? But you probably don’t need the details of why I switched to raw.
Because I’m assuming that, if you’ve read this far, you’re ready to do the same. (And if you want a reason, check out this post: Why Feed Raw.)
But if you’re thinking of switching to raw … you’re probably a bit scared.
You might be worried your dog will choke on bones or that his diet won’t be balanced. And those are very valid concerns …I too was frightened about feeding real bones to my dogs … especially back then when nobody else was.
I’ll never forget lying on the floor, feeding my dog a raw chicken wing and thinking “This is it … this is how I kill my dog.” I remember what it was like to start out and if you’re scared, you have every right to be.
Change is scary and I know you love your dog a lot. Otherwise, you’d just be tossing some Ol’ Roy in a bowl instead of reading this post.
But I’m here to tell you, it will be the best change you can ever make for your dog.
If you ask any dog owner who has fed raw for more than a few weeks if they would ever go back to kibble …
… I would guess that 100% of them would say NEVER!
The health benefits are so noticeable and you’ll feel good about knowing what goes into your dog …
… that you’ll forget all about your scary first moments feeding the raw diet.
So if you’re thinking of switching to raw, then I applaud you and I want to make it as easy and not-so-scary as possible for you.
I’ll summarize what I’ve learned from feeding dozens of dogs and puppies a raw diet over the last twenty years. I want to make it as easy as possible for you to get started.
But be sure to read all ten of the rules right to the end.
While they’re easy to follow, each one is important and will make sure your dog’s raw diet is balanced and safe.
Get Instant Access to the Raw Feeding Video Series and start feeding a balanced raw diet today.
The Raw Dog Food Diet Primer
What I’m going to share with you is the result of successfully feeding and raising a lot of dogs. I’m also friends with a lot of really smart PhD veterinarians who’ve helped me along the way… and they know a thing or two about raw feeding.
My dogs are lucky to have this kind of team behind them. And I want to give you the same veterinary-approved plan for your own dog.
That doesn’t mean that my way is the only way to feed raw. But it’s the result of a lot of research and it’s as scientifically sound as I can make it …
… because we really know so little about nutrition and everyone learns more each year.
What follows is what I hope is a very simple explanation of some very complicated science and math.
Let’s jump right in!
The 10 Simple Raw Feeding Rules
Rule # 1: The Raw Dog Food Diet Must Have Calcium
Dogs, and especially puppies, need a solid source of minerals. Especially calcium and phosphorus. Your dog wouldn’t survive without them.
If you feed your dog bones, you’ll mostly get the minerals right. The most important ones to worry about are calcium and phosphorus.
Both dogs and growing puppies need enough calcium in their diet. And they need some phosphorus to go with it because these minerals work closely together.
Bones contain both calcium and phosphorus. Meat is high in phosphorus and too low in calcium. So an all-meat diet will cause bone and nervous system issues in your dog …
… and severe bone issues in growing puppies. So you need bone in the diet.
To get enough calcium and keep a healthy balance of minerals, your dog’s raw diet needs to contain about 12% to 15% bone.
To make things simpler, this means about 1/3 of his diet should be nice meaty bones. Here are some good choices for meaty bones:
- Chicken wings, necks, legs or thighs
- Turkey necks (other bones are large)
- Beef tail bones (great for larger dogs)
- Lamb or goat necks or ribs
You can also feed your dog whole animals such as whole fish, whole rabbit, and whole poultry. These contain just the right amount of bone.
Feeding raw eggs with the shell also offers the right ratio of calcium and phosphorus.
Just be sure they’re from the farm because grocery store eggs have a toxic spray in their shells.
Rule #2: Organs Are The Multi-Vitamins
The number two mistake raw feeders make with a raw dog food diet … I’ll talk about the #1 mistake soon… is not feeding enough organs.
Organs are the nutrient-rich parts of the animal. Without them, your dog could be missing some important vitamins.
You’ll want to feed anywhere from 10% to 30% organ meats. But this depends on how much you can get.
If you can only find liver, just feed 10% organs.
If you can find kidney, spleen, pancreas, brain and other delicious, nutritious organs … then feed them as a third of your dog’s diet.
But never feed that much liver.
Limit liver to 10% because it’s really high in vitamin A and can give your dog some messy diarrhea if you give too much. The same applies to any organ.
No one organ should be more than 5% to 10% of your dog’s diet.
But if you have a few different ones, they can be 1/3 of your dog’s total meals.
Organs would include:
* Pancreas and thymus are both sold under the name sweetbreads.
Just go easy on the organ meat at first because it can cause loose stools until your dog is used to it. If your dog doesn’t like the taste at first, try frying it for a minute or so first.
Rule #3: Muscle Meat Is The Foundation
Once you get your meaty bones and organs in place, the rest of your dog’s diet should be nice lean meats.
That means half to a third of his total food, depending on how much organ meat you can get your hands on.
These are the protein-rich component of your dog’s diet. He needs proteins to build strong tissues.
And it supports the hormones and enzymes he needs to survive and thrive. Good choices for muscle meat include:
- Beef (ground beef, cheek meat, stewing beef)
- Beef heart (but not more than 5% of the diet as it’s very rich)
- Bison (ground bison, stewing bison meat)
- Turkey (ground turkey, boneless thighs, breast meat, tenderloin)
- Lamb (stewing lamb, ground lamb, shoulder or breast meat)
- Pork (pork shoulder or butt, cushion meat, boneless rib meat, loin)
- Chicken (boneless thighs, breast meat)
Rule #4: Watch The Fat
Fat is healthy for your dog. It helps with nerve and immune function and is critical for skin health.
But fat carries a downside …
… fat contains twice the number of calories as protein. And it contains very few vitamins and minerals.
Remember I said I’d mention the #1 mistake when it comes to raw diets? It’s feeding too much fat.
If your dog’s diet is too high in fat, I guarantee he won’t be getting enough vitamins and minerals.
The calories from fat will add up befor he gets enough vitamins and minerals.
And you might start to see some long-term health issues if the fat is too high. The main reason why so many raw feeders give their dogs too much fat …
… is because cheaper meats contain a lot of fat.
But if you watch for sales, you can get low-fat meats at a good price.
Overall, you don’t want the fat to be much more than 10% and certainly no more than 20% of the diet.
But this doesn’t mean you don’t feed fat.
Your dog needs fat but not so much of it that it robs him of other important nutrients.
Here are some examples of some high-fat meats you’ll want to avoid and low-fat meats that are easy to find:
Note: If you’re able to feed your dog whole fish, whole rabbit, or other whole animals with the bone in … they’re already balanced and you don’t need to add extra meat.
But if the carcass doesn’t have organs, be sure to add those back in.
Rule #5: Don’t Get Hung Up On Fruit and Veg
Should you add fruits and vegetables to your dog’s raw diet?
The short answer is it’s up to you.
If you stick to the first four rules … your dog will get a nicely balanced raw diet with enough vitamins and minerals to do well.
But why end there?
Fruits and vegetables carry some unique benefits your dog can’t get from animal products.
And in the wild, your dog’s ancestors ate a reasonable amount of grasses and berries.
And I like to think that they ate them for a reason.
Because animals are very good at sourcing out the foods their bodies need.
So what benefits do fruits and vegetables offer that can’t be found in meat?
Prebiotics are indigestible plant fibers. They 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. It also detoxifies his liver and digestive system and can 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. Things like squash, carrots, papaya, cantaloupe.
Lycopene is another powerful antioxidant. It can play a role in preventing and slowing cancer. Lycopene gives many vegetables their red color. It’s found in tomatoes, 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 signalin. They also have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. In general, the more colorful the plant food, the higher it is in bioflavonoids.
My dogs love eating fruits and veggies and I like giving them for the above reasons. And to get the most out of their fruits and vegetables …
… you can either run them through a juicer or mulcher or lightly steam them first.
Fruits and veggies can be pricey, so help your dog get the most out of them. And always buy organic if you can afford it.
Rule #6: Keep It Starch-Free
Starchy foods like grains, peas and potatoes aren’t suitable for your dog …
… or for you for that matter.
Dogs do have the ability to digest some grain content.
And can include a small amount of grains in training treats …
… but try as much as possible to limit their use.
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.
But the biggest reason to ditch the starch is that it only adds calories to your dog’s diet.
While your dog would die without protein or fat, he has no need for starch or carbohydrate.
Eating too much can disrupt the 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.
When they’re disrupted … your dog can suffer from allergies, yeast, and inflammatory health issues.
In a nutshell, if your dog doesn’t need them, why would you feed them?
There’s no benefit to starch and the risks outweigh the benefits.
The only benefit to starch is it keeps costs down for you … they add no benefit to your dog whatsoever.
Most of the health benefits of the raw diet aren’t necessarily because it’s raw …
… it’s because every other diet is high in starch!
Don’t overlook the importance of cutting that starch out of your dog’s life.
This is the main reason people see so many healthy changes when they switch their dog to a raw diet.
Rule #7: Variety Counts
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!
Feed a wide variety of different foods, including different sources of meat.
Don’t forget to feed some of the “weird and icky things”.
Such as chicken, duck or turkey feet, beef trachea, tails, lung, testicles and pizzles.
Beef trachea and poultry feet are loaded with natural chondroitin and glucosamine.
Which help to build healthy joints and they’re reasonably priced. Adding the icky parts is a win-win.
Rule #8: Balance Over Time
One common concern with raw feeding is that it’s not “complete and balanced.”
This isn’t true for two reasons.
First, nobody knows what complete and balanced is, 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, you’re good.
You don’t calculate the exact percentages of protein and carbohydrates … or the exact amount of vitamins and minerals in each of your family’s meals.
You don’t have to do it with your dog’s meals either. So, you don’t have to follow these rules for every meal.
Let me show you what I fed my dogs this week to give you an idea of balance over time.
Real Life Raw Meal Examples
Here’s what my dogs ate this week …
Monday: Big veal tails
Tuesday pm: Beef (95% lean) mixed with 50% organ meats
Wednesday am: Lamb ribs
Wednesday pm: Beef (95% lean) mixed with 50% organ meats and 5% fruits and veggies
Thursday am: Whole mackerel
Thursday pm: Ground goat with 40% organ meats and 5% fruits and veggies
Friday: Whole rabbit
Saturday am: Lamb ribs
Saturday pm: Ground goat with 40% organ meats and 5% fruits and veggies
Sunday am: Beef neck bone
Sunday pm: Fruit and veggies
You probably noticed that some days I didn’t feed very balanced meals.
And that’s OK! At the end of the week, my dogs will have averaged out to about 12% bone and 30% organ meat. That’s balance over time!
As a side note, I don’t feed poultry to my dogs. The reason I don’t is an advanced idea that will get in your way of learning.
If you’re starting out, poultry is just fine.
But once you get the hang of raw feeding, and you can afford to, you might want to reduce the amount of poultry.
But for now, it’s just fine.
Rule #9: Feed Fish Once A Week
Although a lot of raw feeders do, I never give my dogs fish oil.
It can easily turn rancid (even high quality oil) and cause inflammation in your dog.
It’s not environmentally friendly and it’s a heated, processed product.
I feed my dogs to avoid the unhealthy consequences of heating and processing.
And I don’t want to undo all that hard work and extra expense by slathering fish oil all over my dogs’ meals.
And if you’re feeding poultry, your dog’s diet will be much too high in polyunsaturated fats if you add fish oil.
Instead of fish oil, you can feed whole fish like sardines, smelts, herring, mackerel once or twice a week.
Or you can add a little fish to several meals.
At the end of the week, you’ll want whole fish to be about 5% of your dog’s total diet. This will balance out his fats.
Rule # 10: Relax
If you follow rules 1 through 9, you’ll be feeding your dog a fresh, whole food diet that’s safe and balanced.
It really is that easy to feed raw. The only step left is to start doing it! But before you do, here are just a couple of things to keep in mind.
When To Feed
Most people feed their dogs twice per day. I feed once a day, twice a day and some days not at all.
I like to fast my dogs once every week or two 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.
The dog’s immune system will suffer.
Once a week, I turn my dogs out with a nice beef neck bone to chew.
Or I’ll give them some fruit and that’s their fast day. The exception is puppies under six months of age who eat three times a day in my house.
How Much To Feed
As a starting point, feed your dog about two to three percent of his ideal adult weight.
So, if he weighs 50 pounds, feed him one pound of food or a bit more.
If your dog is very active, you may need to feed a little more.
And if your dog is more of a couch potato, you may need to feed a little less.
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.
Puppies need more calories and nutrition.
So they should also receive about two to three percent of their ideal adult 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 then they can develop bone or dental deformities.
So, throw a few extra bones at your puppies at this age, just for a little extra insurance.
So, there you have it!
Overall, raw feeding is quite easy and you only need to follow those simple rules to be safe and successful.
With time, you will become more comfortable with your dog’s new diet.
And you will start to see that he has a better coat, cleaner teeth, fresher breath and fewer health issues.
Good luck with your dog’s diet.
Feel confident that when you feed your last bag of kibble.
You’ll be joining the ranks of thousands who have made the safe jump to raw feeding and have never looked back!
Raw Feeding Guide
Welcome to the Wolf Tucker Guide to Raw Feeding for Dogs.
We are a family run company based in the UK who cares passionately about the well-being of dogs.
In this guide we hope to provide you with all you need to know about the raw dog food diet (commonly known as BARF which stands for Bones and Raw Feeding or Biologically Appropriate Raw Feeding). We will share with you why we believe this method of feeding your canine companion is the best way to achieve and maintain optimum health and longevity for your dog.
We will explain some facts about canine nutrition and dispel some of the myths you may have heard about a raw food diet for your dog. We will provide information about processed dog food and its connection to common ailments, and we will explain the link between your dog; and its wilder ancestor; the wolf.
And why this link is important when it comes to canine nutrition.
The objective of this guide is to impart our knowledge and passion for natural raw food feeding to enable you to make an informed decision about the optimum diet for your dog.
2. The Truth about Processed Dog Food
The first question you may be asking yourself is what is wrong with processed dog food, and why might it not be the optimum diet for my dog?
To help answer this question it may be helpful to explore the recent history of processed dog food. You will probably have come across the expression ‘as fit as a butchers dog’. This is a commonly used phrase to describe a person (or animal) that is in optimum health. The phrase itself derived from the fact that not too long ago, healthy dogs were fed from the butchers, not the supermarket. It was a well known fact that a dog fed on butchers scraps would be a very lucky (and well fed) dog indeed.
Before the introduction of commercial pet food, invented by an American gentleman by the name of James Spratt in 1860, dogs ate table scraps salvaged from their human companions or anything they could scavenge or kill. There was no such thing as tinned processed dog food or kibble.
We now know that processed convenience foods are not healthy for humans, so why would processed dog foods be good for our dogs?
As a society in general we have become used to eating convenience foods, and unfortunately we have passed this ‘convenience’ on to our canine companions.
It is much easier to purchase a bag of kibble that will last a month from the local pet store, especially if we are told that this includes all the nutrition for our dog’s needs, rather than have to worry about our dog’s nutritional needs at every meal time.
However, health issues that were unheard of years ago are nowadays worryingly common in our canine companions; from obesity to food intolerances, dental conditions and cancers.
Unfortunately this has been on the increase since processed pet foods became the norm.
One of the main reasons that processed pet food is believed to be unbeneficial for a dog, and the hypothesis on which a raw food dog diet is based upon, goes back to how the dog has evolved.
Processed pet foods are unnatural, and certainly not the type of thing your dog would have eaten in the wild. For a start, processed dog food is cooked, and cooking food damages some of the valuable ‘live’ enzymes found in raw meat and vegetables.
These are the very enzymes that your dog needs to be able to digest food properly.
Combine this with the fact that processed foods are full of preservatives and additives, and you come to get a clearer picture of why processed dog food is probably not the best choice of feed to keep your dog in optimum health.
It is not surprising that many of us have considered kibble to be the best food for our dogs. Let’s face it; kibble is convenient, easy to store and relatively inexpensive.
Furthermore our dogs do eat and appear to enjoy it.
Many of us have also been led to believe that scientifically developed pet food ‘brands’ are good for our dog because this is what we have been told by the manufacturers advertising claims.
However these foods often contain products such as rice, wheat and corn.
And this brings us to a very important factor. Dogs are not humans; they have a different anatomical structure and are therefore not designed to eat grains.
Most dry commercial pet foods are at least 50% grain because the carbohydrates are needed to hold the food together. A dog does not need, and certainly cannot properly digest the amount of unnatural carbohydrates found in such feed. This goes a long way to explaining why dogs on a commercial diet have much bigger stools than those fed on a raw diet. It’s the first thing people notice when they move to raw; smaller, less smelly stools due to the high digestibility of the natural food. It can take 18 hours for a dog fed on a kibble-based diet to digest this food, whereas on a natural raw food diet such as Wolf Tucker, the food is digested in around 6 hours.
Such dry foods can also have a relatively low percentage of good quality ingredients. And certainly not the ratio of meat proteins usually found in a good raw food diet.
And this is where health problems can arise.
It cannot be denied that in modern times the dog’s natural diet has been increasingly replaced with highly processed pet foods containing a high level of grain products (as opposed to meats, offal, bones and vegetables).
We are so used to providing our dogs with food out of a tin or packet provided by commercial pet food manufacturers that have employed clever marketing tools that we have forgotten where our dogs originally came from and how they have evolved.
This poor nutrition combined with improper amounts of exercise (or none at all) are leading to serious health problems for our canine friends.
Nowadays dogs suffer numerous problems which appear to be inextricably linked to their modern day processed diet, and unfortunately these conditions are on the increase. The incidence of obesity, cancers, dental problems and allergies bear testament to this.
More worryingly, there has been a recent trend for product recalls with regard to some pet food feeds and treats, due mainly to toxicity levels and other harmful ingredients.
We would not feed our human family food that we suspect could lead to health problems, so the same ethos must apply to our dogs. As our dog’s carers, our dogs rely on us to provide them with love, exercise and correct species appropriate nutrition and diet.
At Wolf Tucker we believe that processed foods are the root cause of many persistent health problems seen today. Fortunately many of these conditions can be quickly resolved by switching to a high quality raw dog food diet
We believe that an appropriate diet for a dog is one that consists of food groups similar to those eaten by the dogs’ wild ancestors i.e., the wolf.
And this is where raw dog food comes into play.
3. Canine Nutrition and the Wolf Within
The key to keeping your dog in optimum health is to give your dog foods that they were originally designed to digest.
To understand what foods a dog is designed to digest we need to take a look at the dog’s most wild ancestor; the wolf.
a. The Wolf Within
If you want to provide your dog with optimum nutrition then you need to think wolf. Why? Because the wolf is the wild ancestor of your dog, and as such, they share the same internal anatomy and physiology.
They are from exactly the same family, the wolf’s Latin name being “Canis Lupus,” and the domestic dog named “Canis Lupus familiaris.” This name classification happened in 1993 due to overwhelming scientific evidence that the gray wolf species is the common ancestor for all breeds of domesticated dogs.
Dogs, like wolves, have short digestive tracts, made specifically for processing raw meat. If you look at the anatomy and physiology of a dog, you will see that a dog is designed to eat meat. From the short intestines to the powerful jaw bones to the teeth designed for cutting and ripping flesh.
Dogs are opportunistic carnivores. And just like wolves in the wild a typical diet would involve hunting (or finding) and eating another animal.
Dogs are of course natural scavengers, and when hungry will eat almost anything. But make no mistake about it, your dog is essentially a carnivore, this means he is a natural meat eater.
Wolves have survived on the raw meat and the pre-digested foods of their prey for thousands of years. This type of diet is high in protein, easily digestible and provides optimum nutrition and energy.
Just like a wolf, you will also note that a dog’s jaw only goes in one direction; up and down, unlike that of an herbivore whose jaw goes from side to side to crush vegetation. As omnivores our jaws can do both. Furthermore dogs and wolves do not produce the digestive enzyme amylase in their saliva which aids the breakdown of carbohydrates. This is another difference between carnivores, herbivores and omnivores.
For carnivores, the burden of digesting carbohydrates is placed entirely on the pancreas.
This is why a dog’s diet, just like a wolf’s, needs to be full of quickly digestible nutrients. Like those found in raw meat.
Since the beginning of their evolutionary history, dogs and their wild ancestors have thrived on diets based on fresh meaty bones as opposed to grains or cereals.
This is why you would not find a dog grazing in a field for food.
In its natural environment the dog’s diet would have been mainly raw, after all nobody cooked the rabbit for the wolf, likewise the chicken for the fox.
This raw meat contained live enzymes, natural anti-oxidants, fully digestible proteins, health promoting essential fatty acids, organic vitamins and minerals, etc. They were definitely not the carbohydrate-filled diets of modern processed dog food of today.
When a carnivore such as a dog or wolf eats an herbivore (for example a rabbit) it generally gets to eat some meat, bone, and organ meats. The carnivore will also digest a small amount of green vegetation found in the herbivore’s digestive tract. It is these components that make up a good raw dog food diet. The vitamins and minerals in these food groups occur naturally.
Therefore mimicking what a wolf would eat in the wild is key to maintaining your dog’s health in a domestic environment.
Just because your domesticated dog appears to be far removed from a wolf in its appearance and behaviour; don’t be fooled. Domestic dogs of today are not only capable of eating the food of their wild ancestors, but actually thrive on it. This is because despite domestication, their basic physiology has changed very little.
Therefore it makes sense that a dog fed a diet which is species appropriate (i.e. the diet which a dogs ancestors have thrived upon for thousands of years) has a high likelihood of enjoying a long and healthy life because it is eating what it was designed to eat.
Remember; dogs and wolves actually struggle to digest grains and despite marketing literature which tells you otherwise, dogs do not require large amounts of carbohydrates.
Furthermore their protein is derived from the muscle meat of other animals as opposed to protein sources such as grains and vegetable.
Unfortunately, despite owners’ best intentions, many domesticated dogs are denied their natural diet. Instead they are fed processed foods which are often unchanging from day to day and most probably do not provide them with adequate nutrition.
4. Raw Food Diet – Dispelling the Myths
One has to consider that if raw dog food was dangerous, dogs would have become extinct many years ago. As we have previously mentioned, processed dog food is a relatively modern invention, dogs have been eating raw for nearly 15, 000 years since they were first domesticated!
There are a few misconceptions around the issue of the raw food dog diet which we hope to dispel here as follows:
An argument against the raw dog food diet is that feeding a dog raw meat can lead to bacterial infections. Bacteria are still present on the meat, and just as worrying it could be passed on to humans through poor meat preparation, or via the faeces of the dog. Some people are concerned that a dog’s saliva could pass on these bacteria. We therefore cook meat because we think it renders it safe for our dogs.
Of course when preparing raw meat one should take the usual precautions that you would when feeding a member of your family, by cleaning the counter, using a clean knife and washing your hands etc. We have written some useful reminders around handling of raw dog food on our website here. As for bacteria being passed on through faecal matter, then again, the normal precautions of hygiene would apply.
However, we need to bear in mind that dogs are natural scavengers so are very well-equipped to deal with bacteria. In any event, they are able to deal with the low level of contamination which may be present in fresh uncooked meat. Their saliva has strong antibacterial properties; and their short digestive tract and powerful digestive juices are designed to eliminate food and ‘kill’ bacteria quickly. The balanced nature of Wolf Tucker dog food also helps to maintain your dog’s immune system in tip top condition.
Don’t forget that dogs have been roaming the wild for years eating a variety of rotten carcasses, fruit, fresh game, grasses and herbs. They even eat herbivore faeces. .
The anti-bacterial juices in their mouth and stomach are highly effective and mean they can eat things which a human cannot.
Unfortunately it is more likely that processed foods will make your dog ill.
b. The Carnivore/Omnivore debate.
Some people think dogs are omnivores, meaning they are designed to eat both vegetation and meat. It is true that dogs do and can eat vegetation, because they are opportunists, we have , but they are anatomically carnivores. They belong to the Carnivora order and therefore in their wild state they are basically flesh eaters with powerful digestive juices.
You only need to look at the anatomy and physiology of a dog, to see that a dog is designed to eat meat. From the short intestines to the powerful jaw bones to the teeth designed for cutting and ripping flesh.
Dogs are opportunistic carnivores with omnivorous abilities. However, their entire anatomy and physiology has been designed for a meat eating diet.
This of course does not mean that they thrive on meat alone, and dogs have proven that they can survive on human dinner scraps and certain vegetation during times of hunger. However to optimise their health we need to recognise that they are first and foremost carnivores with omnivorous abilities.
The raw dog food diet recognises this and the Wolf Tucker meals follow this principle.
What about bones? Despite what you may have heard, dogs do need raw meaty bones. Notice the word ‘raw’. Cooking bones makes them brittle and therefore, more likely to splinter and this is why cooked bones are an issue. Do not feed your dog cooked bones.
Dogs and their wild ancestors have been eating raw meaty bones for a very long time with no ill effect.
You can see by their teeth that canines are purpose built to eat bones.
Chewing on a bone is a very stimulating activity for a dog which also releases endorphins which promote a feeling of well-being.
Perhaps the best thing about bone chewing is that it prevents tartar build up; bones act as a natural tooth brush for a dog.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that dental problems for dogs are not as serious as other ailments, bad dental health left untreated can lead to the death of your dog. So it is important that uncooked bones are provided as an addition to any raw food diet.
Bones have a vital part to play in the dental health of our canine companions.
5. You can’t argue with nature – Why BARF is best
BARF is all about feeding your dog the way nature intended. Wolf Tucker meals take ingredients from nature’s table (and nowhere else).
At the end of the day; nature is indisputable. In other words, you cannot argue with nature.
If you want to feed your dog a BARF diet, it essentially means you cannot feed your dog any cooked or processed food.
An important distinction in the BARF diet from other raw dog food diets is that it does not duplicate but mimics the evolutionary diet of dogs. This means that BARF feeders do not have to send their dogs out to hunt or kill their prey, but can obtain ingredients from the local store if need be.
In the wild, dogs do not have access to veterinary care and are subject to other dangers such as starvation and natural predators; the BARF diet recognises this. This is why the BARF diet does not duplicate, but mimics its wild counterpart’s diet.
BARF allows your dog to be fed a variety of human grade raw meat and bones, fruits and vegetables and supplements with the objective being that your dog will receive a balanced diet.
In the wild dogs eat meat, bones, skin, organs, stomach contents, and an array of other parts. They may feed on fruits, berries, herbs and grasses. Hence the most common BARF diet consists primarily of raw, meaty bones as well as a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, muscle meat and organ meats.
The goal is not to create a well-balanced meal each day, but to create a balanced diet over a period of time
Just some of the physical benefits of a raw dog food diet can be as follows:
- Cleaner teeth and fresh breath
- Better weight control
- Improved digestion
- Shinier, healthier skin and coat
- Reduction of allergy symptoms
- Harder, smaller, less smelly stools
- Increased mobility in older animals
- More energy and stamina
- Strengthened immune system
- Improved liver, pancreatic and bowel health
- Savings due to less trips to the vet
b. Behavioural issues
Aggression and behavioural issues can also be linked to poor diet, so switching your dog to a BARF diet could substantially improve any behavioural issues. Some common behavioural problems which may be linked to poor diet are as follows:
- Chewing – could your dog be trying out items to see if they supply nutrients that are missing from the feed?
- Excessive digging in the garden – again, what is your dog looking for? Is he looking for nutrients in the soil?
- Food theft – is your dog hungry, is he or she lacking in nutrients from their own food supply?
- Jumping up – In the canine world, jumping up can induce vomiting/regurgitation of food. What is your dog trying to tell you?
- Hyperactivity – it is well known that a diet full of chemicals, flavourings, additives and colourings can lead to an increase in negative energy in a dog.
I am sure you can find other examples of behaviour in your own dog which might be linked to a poor diet.
c. Dogs with ailments and chronic conditions
We have previously mentioned that fresh, natural, raw dog food can significantly improve your dog’s health and well being. But, not only this, it can also be of benefit to dogs that are suffering from ailments and certain chronic conditions. We have seen some dramatic improvements in the health of some dogs when fed Wolf Tucker.
The BARF diet has been shown to assist with the following: Obesity, periodontal diseases such as gingivitis, degenerative diseases, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, reproductive health, arthritic conditions, skin allergies, ear infections, diabetes and plenty more.
6. Feeding BARF “The Wolf Tucker way”
We appreciate that in our fast paced modern lives, we do not always have the time to prepare a balanced raw food meal plan for our dogs, and that’s where Wolf Tucker comes into play.
We have done all the hard work for you.
We have a devised a range of healthy raw balanced prepared meals as well as meaty bones and treats for your dog’s culinary delight.
We only work with the highest quality ingredients which we eat ourselves; there are no short cuts when it comes to providing the best food for your dog. The food is made in small batches to maintain the quality in every single one.
We cater for all ages and types of dog.
All our meals contain omega 3 and 6 oils in the form of flax seed oil. This oil promotes good organ function and can also help with inflammatory conditions from itchy skin to arthritis.
The properties of flax oil are generally considered as excellent, as are polyunsaturated omega oils, which have been shown to decrease the risk of cholesterol, heart attack and stroke, slow accumulation of plaque build up in the arteries and lower blood pressure.
Flax oil is also well known to be good for brain function.
a. Our Menu
You can choose from a range of nutritious meals for your Adult dog as follows:
Adult Beef and Tripe
Adult Chicken and TripeAdult Chicken and Beef Primal Chicken
And for the new addition to your family we have a range of puppy meals as follows:
Puppy Beef and Tripe
Puppy Chicken & Tripe
Primal Chicken For Breeders, as well as having some great offers (please contact us) we offer some excellent weaning products:
Puppy Weaning Food Beef
Puppy Weaning Food Chicken
The Wolf Tucker Bone Yard contains juicy tasty bones and treats ranging from marrow bone to ox feet.
b. Suggested feeding guidelines
Feeding guidelines for specific meals are contained on the product pages for each meal. If you are looking for information regarding how much to feed your dog please select either Adult (including senior dogs) or Puppy (Up to 9 months of age) If you have any questions, please do contact us and we will be only too happy to advise.
7. Further reading
For further reading on the raw dog food diet we can suggest the following books:
Give Your Dog a Bone – Dr Ian Billinghurst
Grow Your Pups With Bones – Dr Ian Billinghurst
The BARF Diet – Dr Ian Billinghurst
Raw Dog Food: Making It Work for You and Your Dog – Carina B Macdonald
Raw Meaty Bones: Promote Health – Tom Lonsdale.
Dr Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats – Richard H Pitcairn DVM, PhD and Susan Hubble Pitcairn.
Natural Nutrition For Dogs & Cats: The Ultimate Diet – Kymythy Schultze
© This article is copyrighted by Wolf Tucker Limited and may not be used without permission.
What dogs eat (and don’t eat) in the wild
Every species should eat a biologically appropriate diet, in other words what they would eat in the wild or as close to what they would eat in the wild as is feasible. In the case of dogs there is quite a lot of variety in their natural diet.
What dogs eat in the wild
Dogs are carnivores and the primary component of their diet is prey. This could be small animals – mice, voles, rabbits, birds, insects and so forth – or it could be larger prey caught with the help of a pack. Either way, they eat everything – the internal organs, the meat, the bones… the lot.
Unlike cats, dogs aren’t obligate carnivores. They can and do eat vegetable matter. Wild dogs will search for rotten fruit and will eat the semi-digested contents of their prey’s stomach. Some will dig up vegetables and eat grasses and herbs. Dogs are also scavengers. They eat the leftovers from every animal that is killed or dies. As Ian Billinghurst, a leading proponent of natural feeding, has pointed out, dogs receive ‘valuable nutrients from materials that we humans find totally repugnant. Things like vomit, faeces and decaying flesh.’
With regard to the faeces, incidentally, these contain the dead and living bodies of millions upon billions of bacteria. They are an excellent source of protein, essential fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and fibre. Not wanting to dwell on an unpleasant subject, but if you have a dog that is on a processed food diet he or she may be eating faeces in order to try to stay healthy (although if a dog is eating canine or feline faeces it will probably be because they contain the undigested flavourings used to make dry dog food palatable).
What dogs don’t eat in the wild
Almost as important as what dogs eat in the wild is what they don’t eat.
For starters (as it were), they don’t necessarily eat every day. Depending on where they live, the season, the size of the pack, the available prey and other factors, they may eat as infrequently as every second or third day or even longer without suffering any ill effect. A healthy dog can go a week without food.
Second, and perhaps more important, they don’t eat ‘complete’ meals. Dogs meet their nutritional requirements over time. They will eat what they need or seek it out if their body is telling them they need it. This is referred to as the ‘balance over time’ concept. It is crucial to the way dogs should be fed because there is evidence that dogs fed all the ingredients they need in proportion at every meal suffer increased health problems.
Finally, dogs don’t eat grain. They can’t digest it properly and, even if they could, they can’t convert it into sugar and store it for later use.
For more information and advice please contact Honey’s – we’ll be happy to help even if you never, ever plan to become a customer.
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 01672 620 260
July 28, 2015 Categories:Raw Feeding
Basic Homemade Dog Food Recipe
This will be enough food for one day for an average 25lb dog. A 50lb dog would get twice this amount and a 12lb dog would get half this amount. You can do the math for your dog’s weight.
You will need to feed 4 units of protein per day. One unit of protein is equal to:
- 2 oz meat or fish
- 1 medium egg
- 1/2 cup yogurt (1/2 cup of yogurt counts as 1 unit of carbohydrate as well)
- 1/3 cup cottage cheese (1/2 cup of cottage cheese also counts as 1 unit of carbohydrate)
- 2 oz organ meat you can feed up to 1 unit of organ meat several times a week if desired
You will need to feed 4 units of carbohydrates per day. One unit of carbohydrate is equal to:
- 1 cup vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, greenbeans, peas, cabbage, spinach, squashes
- 1/2 cup fruits such as melons, berries, bananas, tomatoes, apples. Also carrots at 1/2 cup
- 1/4 cup cooked beans, lentils or chick peas
- 1/3 cup of grains such as oatmeal or barley. These are the best of the grains, but note that grains in general are the least favorable type of carbohydrate for a dog. Try to limit this to one unit of the total amount fed per day if possible. You can also use whole wheat pasta or brown rice if needed.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon bone meal
- multivitamin as directed for body weight
- 1 capsule of fish oil unless feeding an oily fish such as salmon
- 500 mg vitamin C
- 400 IU vitamin E
Please note that this diet will not be adequate or appropriate for all dogs. Be sure to check with your veterinarian before beginning this or any other new diet for your dog.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, please don’t hesitate to call us today at (603) 667-6800!
This topic is very near and dear to my heart. Food therapy and food medicine are absolutely two of my passions. It’s what I talk to my patients about every single day.
There are many foods that actually provide specific benefits for your dog’s health. These are foods that can very easily be added to your dog’s diet, no matter what kind of diet you feed.
The nice thing is, no matter where people are when they come to me, and depending on their openness to changing the diet, if they’re not completely ready to move from kibble to raw (which is my ultimate goal), there are some very basic things they can add to the diet that can make a tremendous difference to their dog’s health.
***This article is taken from a talk by Dr Katie Kangas at Raw Roundup 2018. To find out more about Raw Roundup 2019,
History Of Medicine = Food
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
– Hippocrates (The Father of Medicine)
Food is age old medicine. Modern day, conventional medicine has strayed quite a bit from this in the last century or so, but thankfully it’s making a comeback.
Historically, in veterinary school, and even for human physicians, we don’t get much nutritional training at all. Much of the training vets do get is limited and may also be biased. This is why a lot of veterinarians don’t really focus on it.
But that doesn’t mean nutrition isn’t important …
“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
– Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb
Nutrition really is the foundation of health. It’s the body’s fuel and provides the building blocks for the maintenance of health, tissue repair and energy.
That’s why most holistic health practitioners focus a great deal on diet and nutritional supplements.
No matter what my patients come to me for, no matter what the concern is, one of the first things we talk about is diet and digestive health.
We need to be thinking about food as the most important medicine we take every day. Feeding fresh, wholesome, low processed or unprocessed nutrition is paramount in maintaining your dog’s health.
9 Healthy Foods For Dogs To Support Health And Promote Healing
These are some of the foods I recommend for my patients on a daily basis. As a general rule, these are wonderful things that can be added to almost any diet for dogs.
1. Bone Broth
Bone broth provides such tremendous benefits for your dog. It’s literally a healing potion.
What is bone broth exactly? It’s bones, simmered low for several days with apple cider vinegar. This slowly breaks down of all of these nutrients, making them extremely bioavailable to the body.
Benefits of bone broth:
- Improves digestion and helps heal “leaky gut” – All disease starts in the gut (autoimmune, allergies, asthma, chronic inflammation)! Gelatin soothes and repairs the mucosal lining to help seal the gut barrier, which can become damaged and allow toxins into the blood stream. Gelatin assists the breakdown of proteins and fats from food, making them easier to digest.
- Assists in detoxing the liver – Glycine is a powerful precursor for the production of glutathione, a powerful detoxifier. The liver is such a hard-working organ – it does a lot for the body. It’s most important job is to detoxify those things that our dogs are exposed to that the body has to clear. It flushes out chemicals, hormones and waste. It also provides minerals, acids and electrolytes that boost the detox process.
- Reduces inflammation – Glycine and proline are powerful anti-inflammatories.
- Alleviates joint pain – Recent studies show that the components of bone broth can provide relief from joint pain.
- Strengthens bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments – Glycine is important for building muscle strength. It prevents the breakdown of proteins in muscle tissue and preserves it (which helps prevent atrophy in aging dogs). The collagen contains proline, glucosamine and chondroitin which support cartilage and cushion the joints.
- Provides minerals and increases their absorption – Bone broth is rich in macro-minerals (calcium and phosphorus) and trace minerals (magnesium and zinc). Bone broth helps with the absorption of these minerals.
- Boosts the immune system – Gives the body tools to boost antioxidant activity which helps to fight infections.
- Improves skin health – Collagen builds strong skin and protects the skin from aging.
- Supports brain function – Glycine is an important neurotransmitter in the brain. Bone broth helps improve cognition and memory and promotes better sleep.
You can make your own bone broth or buy it from many specialty pet stores.
Want an easy recipe for bone broth? Here it is.
2. Raw Goat Milk
Raw milk (unpasteurized) is one of the most nutrient-rich foods around. Just take a look at the nutrient profile:
- Fat soluble vitamins A, D and K2
- Healthy fats: Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) and Omega-3s
- Probiotics and digestive enzymes
- Protein/amino acids
- Minerals and electrolytes: calcium, magnesium, potassium
There are many health benefits of raw milk. It’s been shown to strengthen the immune system and reduce allergies. Thanks to the probiotics and digestive enzymes it’s great for gut health. It can even help to repair leaky gut and promotes better skin health.
What about cow milk? While there are many factors in cow milk that I like, I prefer goat milk. Goat milk is:
- Less allergenic – lower in lactose content
- Easier to digest and absorb because the fat globules are smaller
- Higher levels of MCTs (30-35% in goat milk vs 15-20% in cow milk)
- Higher levels of vitamin A, zinc and selenium
In general, I recommend about ¼ cup per day for small dogs, ½ cup per day for medium dogs and ¾ cup per day for large dogs. Start out with smaller amounts and work up to these amounts.
3. Organ Meats
No matter what you feed, be it commercial raw, homemade meals or something else, organ meat is a crucial component of the diet. Many commercial diets and home cooks will follow the 80-10-10 rule (meaning 80% muscle meat, 10% bone and 10% organ meats), but I like a bit more than that.
Organs and glands are nutrient dense. This includes the liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, pancreas, brain, stomach (tripe) and heart. Liver and other organ meats are strength builders (also known as blood builders). In Traditional Chinese Medicine they’re called blood tonics. And we know that carnivores prioritize the organs – they go for the organs first.
Here are some of the organ meats that you should try to include in your dog’s diet:
**Try to get organ meats from organic, pasture-raised animals.
Dana Scott covered organ meats – and why you need to add more – at Raw Roundup 2018. Are you making the common mistake she talked about?
Eggs are considered a nutritional powerhouse. They’ve been called the most complete protein and are literally 100% bioavailable. And they’re so easy to add to your dog’s diet.
- High quality protein and amino acids
- Vitamins A, D, E complex B vitamins
- Calcium, selenium, zinc
One of the things eggs are most beneficial for is cardiovascular health, so don’t buy into the hype of the last few decades that say eggs aren’t good for your heart! The cholesterol in eggs actually regulates cholesterol in the body. And the brain and liver rely heavily on cholesterol for normal function. They’re also good for eye and skin health.
Try to find free range (cage-free isn’t the same thing as free range) eggs. They have twice as much omega-3, 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta-carotene, 60% more vitamin A and are 98% less likely to carry salmonella!
Raw eggs are fine. For a large dog, an egg a day is good and for smaller dogs go with maybe half an egg. Or, go with every other day – whatever makes you comfortable.
5. Omega-3 Oils
For omega-3 oils, I recommend feeding small, oily fish on a regular basis.
There are many health benefits to this including:
- Brain food
- Joint support
- Kidney function
- Heart health
- Skin and eye health
Sardines and anchovies, as very small fish, haven’t had time to accumulate the toxins found in larger fish. They’re cleaner and offer an amazing source of omega-3s. And stay away from farm-raised fish.
Oily fish can be rich, so start with smaller amounts first and work your way up. For smaller dogs, you can start with ½ a sardine per day, and for larger dogs work up to as much as a tin every other day.
Other sources of omega-3 oils:
- Krill oil – really bioavailable, but it’s over-fished so it’s not great for the environment
- Calamari oil – this has the highest concentration of DHA and EPA and it’s the most sustainable with the least negative impact
- Cod liver oil – comes from the liver of the fish. It’s a rich source of DHA, EPA, vitamin A and vitamin D
What about regular fish oil? We’re not big fans. Here’s why!
6. Coconut Oil
One of the other medicinal power foods that I like to recommend for all of my patients is coconut oil. Coconut oil carries a tremendous amount of benefits. It’s a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT), a very good fat. It’s thermally stable, so it doesn’t readily oxidize, even with high heat. That makes it great to cook with.
There are a vast array of health benefits:
- Brain food – improves cognition and helps decrease dementia
- Anti-microbial (bacteria and yeast/candida) – lauric acid
- Full of antioxidants and minerals
- Reduces inflammation
- Boosts immune system health
- Good for skin and oral health
As a healthy fat, it also helps to fight cancer. One of the things we know about cancer cells is that they can’t use fats. Cancer cells need glucose, or sugars, which carbs break down into, to fuel themselves. We can help starve cancer by providing a diet that contains more healthy fats and fewer carbohydrates.
Most dogs love the taste. A general recommended daily dose is about 1 tsp per 10-20lbs of body weight. Start slowly and work your way up to that.
One of the reasons kelp is so good for dogs is that it’s full of trace minerals. Our soils are becoming so depleted that they’re mineral deficient, so we need to look for other sources of trace minerals. The ocean is providing these minerals. It’s the lifeblood of the planet.
Kelp seaweed absorbs a lot of its nutrients in its fronds/leaves, not from the roots. Compared to plants that grow on land, sea vegetables have 10-20 times more vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It’s also a powerful source of trace minerals and complex phytonutrients.
Some of the minerals that are rich in kelp are iodine, selenium, zinc and magnesium. There are several health benefits of these nutrients, including:
- Thyroid health
- Metabolic health
- Nervous system health
- Digestive system health
- Immune function
Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods that can be offered on a daily basis. I use them myself every day. Mushrooms contain some of the most unique and potent natural medicines on the planet. They’ve been used in Chinese herbal formulas for centuries because they provide such powerful health benefits.
Some of the best mushrooms include:
- Turkey Tail
- Lion’s Mane
Medicinal mushrooms are packed full of vitamins and nutrients including beta glucans, flavonoids, prebiotics, digestive enzymes and antioxidants. One of the most well-known benefits is the amazing boost to the immune system. Digestive health and anti-cancer benefits are also good reasons to add them to your dog’s diet.
Check out Dr Ihor Basko’s talk on medicinal mushrooms from Raw Roundup 2018 right here.
9. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are a fantastic source of beneficial bacteria (probiotics). They usually contain a wider variety than supplemental probiotics with more concentrated numbers of bacteria. They’re also great for supporting immune functions. Fermented foods assist in detoxing the bowel and chelates heavy metals/chemicals, can help heal leaky gut and IBD.
One of the reasons fermented foods are so awesome is because of all the nutrients. The fermentation process produces:
- Vitamin C, K2 and B vitamins
- Acetylcholine – a neurotransmitter
- Choline – balances and nourishes the blood
- Enzymes support digestion and metabolic activity
- Lactic Acid – represses cancer cells
Some of the best options for fermented foods are:
- Fermented veggies
- Fermented fish stock
- Fermented fish sauce
To feed fermented foods, work up to 1 tsp per 10lbs of body weight per day.
Want to make your own fermented apples? Here’s a great recipe.
**Move slowly when adding new items and try not to add too many new things at one time.
*** Interested in more presentations like this? Come back for Raw Roundup 2019! To find out more about it,
Human Foods Dogs Can and Can’t Eat
Dedicated dog lovers tend to be very kind people. We share our hearts and homes (and for some lucky pups, even the foot of our beds) with our canine pals. Surely there is nothing wrong with sharing our favorite foods with them too, right? Not necessarily. Many of the foods, such as fruits and vegetables, that humans digest just fine can wreak havoc on a dog’s body, causing severe health problems. On the other hand, some of the foods people eat can be introduced to a dog’s diet just fine, and even provide health benefits such as joint strength, better breath, and allergy immunity.
But before giving your dog foods that you crave, read on and learn which foods are safe and which can send your dog straight to the vet.
Safe and Not so Safe Foods for Dogs
Almonds: No, dogs shouldn’t eat almonds. Almonds may not necessarily be toxic to dogs like macadamia nuts are, but they can block the esophagus or even tear the windpipe if not chewed completely. Salted almonds are especially dangerous because they can increase water retention, which is potentially fatal to dogs prone to heart disease.
Bread: Yes, dogs can eat bread. Small amounts of plain bread (no spices and definitely no raisins) won’t hurt your dog, but it also won’t provide any health benefits either. It has no nutritional value and can really pack on the carbohydrates and calories, just like in people. Homemade breads are a better option than store-bought, as bread from the grocery store typically contains unnecessary preservatives, but it’s best to avoid it altogether.
Cashews: Yes, dogs can eat cashews. Cashews are OK for dogs, but only a few at a time. They’ve got calcium, magnesium, antioxidants, and proteins, but while these nuts contain less fat than others, too many can lead to weight gain and other fat-related conditions. A few cashews make a nice treat, but only if they’re unsalted.
Cheese: Yes, dogs can eat cheese in small to moderate quantities. As long as your dog isn’t lactose intolerant, which is rare, but still possible in canines, cheese can be a great treat. Many kinds of cheese can be high in fat, so go for lower-fat varieties like cottage cheese or mozzarella.
Chocolate: No, dogs should never eat chocolate. This isn’t just an urban legend. Chocolate contains toxic substances called methylxanthines, which are stimulants that stop a dog’s metabolic process. Even just a little bit of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can cause diarrhea and vomiting. A large amount can cause seizures, irregular heart function, and even death. Do not have chocolate in an accessible location for your dog. If your dog does ingest chocolate, contact a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline as soon as possible.
Cinnamon: No, dogs shouldn’t eat cinnamon. While cinnamon is not actually toxic to dogs, it’s probably best to avoid it. Cinnamon and its oils can irritate the inside of dogs’ mouths, making them uncomfortable and sick. It can lower a dog’s blood sugar too much and can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, increased, or decreased heart rate, and even liver disease. If they inhale it in powder form, cinnamon can cause difficulty breathing, coughing, and choking.
Coconut: Yes, coconut is OK for dogs. This funky fruit contains lauric acid, which can help combat bacteria and viruses. It can also help with bad breath and clearing up skin conditions like hot spots, flea allergies, and itchy skin. Coconut milk and coconut oil are safe for dogs too. Just be sure your dog doesn’t get its paws on the furry outside of the shell, which can get lodged in the throat.
Corn: Yes, dogs can eat corn. Corn is one of the most common ingredients in most dog foods. However, the cob can be hard for a dog to digest and may cause an intestinal blockage, so if you’re sharing some corn, make sure it is off the cob.
Eggs: Yes, dogs can eat eggs. Eggs are safe for dogs as long as they are fully cooked. Cooked eggs are a wonderful source of protein and can help an upset stomach. However, eating raw egg whites can contribute to biotin deficiency, so be sure to cook the eggs all the way through before giving them to your pet.
Fish: Yes, dogs can eat fish. Fish contains good fats and amino acids, giving your dog a nice health boost. Salmon and sardines are especially beneficial — salmon because it’s loaded with vitamins and protein, and sardines because they have soft, digestible bones for extra calcium. With the exception of sardines, be sure to pick out all the tiny bones, which can be tedious but is definitely necessary. Never feed your dog uncooked or undercooked fish, only fully cooked and cooled, and limit your dog’s fish intake to no more than twice a week.
Garlic: No, dogs shouldn’t eat garlic. Like onions, leeks, and chives, garlic is part of the Allium family, and it is five times more toxic to dogs than the rest of the Allium plants. Garlic can create anemia in dogs, causing side effects such as pale gums, elevated heart rate, weakness, and collapse. Poisoning from garlic and onions may have delayed symptoms, so if you think your dog may have eaten some, monitor him or her for a few days, not just right after consumption.
Ham: Yes, dogs can eat ham. Ham is OK for dogs to eat, but certainly isn’t the healthiest for them. Ham is high in sodium and fat, so while sharing a small piece is all right, it shouldn’t be a continuous habit.
Honey: Yes, dogs can eat honey. Honey is packed with countless nutrients such as vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper, and antioxidants. Feeding dogs small amounts of honey can help with allergies because it introduces small amounts of pollen to their systems, building up immunity to allergens in your area. In addition to consuming honey, the sticky spread can also be used as a topical treatment for burns and superficial cuts.
Ice cream: No, dogs shouldn’t eat ice cream. As refreshing of a treat as ice cream is, it contains lots of sugar so it is best not to share with your dog. Also, some dogs have an intolerance to lactose. To avoid the milk altogether, freeze chunks of strawberries, raspberries, apples, and pineapples to give to your dog as a sweet, icy treat.
Macadamia nuts: No, dogs should never eat macadamia nuts. These are some of the most poisonous foods for dogs. Macadamia nuts, part of the Protaceae family, can cause vomiting, increased body temperature, inability to walk, and lethargy. Even worse, they can affect the nervous system. Never feed your dog macadamia nuts.
Milk: Yes, dogs can have milk. But be cautious. Some dogs are lactose-intolerant and don’t digest milk well. While it is OK for dogs to have a little milk, owners should be cognizant of the symptoms of lactose-intolerance and might want to stick to giving their dogs water.
Peanut butter: Yes, peanut butter is OK for dogs. Peanut butter can be an excellent source of protein for dogs. It contains heart-healthy fats, vitamins B and E and niacin. Raw, unsalted peanut butter is the healthiest option. Read the label carefully to be sure the peanut butter does not contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that can be toxic to dogs.
Peanuts: Yes, dogs can eat peanuts. Unlike almonds, peanuts are safe for dogs to eat. They’re packed with good fats and proteins that can benefit your dog. Just be sure to give peanuts in moderation, as you don’t want your dog taking in too much fat, which can lead to pancreas issues. Also, avoid salted peanuts.
Popcorn: Yes, dogs can eat popcorn. Unsalted, unbuttered, air-popped popcorn is OK for your dog in moderation. It contains riboflavin and thiamine, both of which promote eye health and digestion, as well as small amounts of iron and protein. Be sure to pop the kernels all the way before giving them to your dog, as unpopped kernels could become a choking hazard.
Pork: Yes, dogs can eat pork. Pork is a highly digestible protein, packed with amino acids, and it contains more calories per pound than other meats. Pork also may be less likely to cause an allergic reaction in some pets compared to other proteins.
Quinoa: Yes, quinoa is OK for dogs. Quinoa is actually an ingredient in some high-quality dry dog foods. The strong nutritional profile of quinoa makes it a healthy alternative to corn, wheat, and soy — starches that are often used to make kibble.
Salmon: Yes, dogs can eat salmon. As mentioned above, fully cooked salmon is an excellent source of protein, good fats, and amino acids. It promotes joint and brain health and gives dog-immune systems a nice boost. However, raw or undercooked salmon contains parasites that can make dogs very sick, causing vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and, in extreme cases, even death. Be sure to cook salmon all the way through (the FDA recommends at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit) and the parasites should cook out.
Shrimp: Yes, shrimp is OK for dogs. A few shrimp every now and then is fine for your dog, but only if they are fully cooked and the shell (including the tail, head, and legs) is removed completely. Shrimp are high in antioxidants, vitamin B-12, and phosphorus, but also low in fat, calories, and carbohydrates.
Tuna: Yes, dogs can eat tuna, but only in small amounts. In moderation, cooked, fresh tuna is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promotes heart and eye health. As for canned tuna, it contains small amounts of mercury and sodium, which should be avoided in excess. A little bit of canned tuna and tuna juice here and there is fine — prepared only in water, not oil — as long as it doesn’t contain any spices.
Turkey: Yes, dogs can eat turkey. Turkey is fine for dogs, but be sure to remove excess fat and skin from the meat. Don’t forget to check for bones; poultry bones can splinter during digestion, causing blockage or even tears in the intestines. Any meat with excessive salt, seasonings, onions or garlic should not be fed.
Wheat/grains: Yes, dogs can eat wheat and other grains. Dogs do not have to be grain-free; it is perfectly OK for them to have grains. In fact, grains like wheat and corn are great sources of protein, essential fatty acids, and fiber. If your dog has certain allergies, however, it might be best to avoid grains, but it truly depends on your dog. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
Yogurt: Yes, yogurt is OK for dogs. Plain yogurt is a perfectly acceptable snack for dogs. However, some dogs may have trouble digesting dairy products. If your dog can digest it, the active bacteria in yogurt can help strengthen the digestive system with probiotics. Plain yogurt is the best choice. Avoid any yogurts with added sugar, and skip all yogurt with artificial sweeteners.
It seems like every week a commercial pet food is outed as containing actual poison. First it was a euthanasia drug that popped up in the mass-market foods on the cheaper end of the spectrum. No surprise, I thought, rather smugly. If you feed your dog garbage, what do you expect? Then it was discovered that the stuff I was spending over $200 per month on contained both arsenic and BPAs in potentially harmful amounts. If even the most expensive kibbles contain poison, what are you supposed to feed your dog?
This is how I figured out how to feed my dogs healthy raw food, and do it without going broke.
How I Got to Raw
Late last year, Wiley (our five-year-old mutt) developed a sore next to his mouth. Convinced it was ringworm (a really nasty fungus that’s transmissible to humans), I paid the vet $500 for a battery of tests for both Wiley and our other dog, Bowie (our one-year-old), bought two different types of antifungal dog shampoo that I started bathing Wiley in daily, boiled my bed sheets, and scrubbed our entire house with Lysol. My girlfriend and I started showering with antifungal soap, too. We considered canceling our Christmas travel plans—a road trip to northern Montana, visiting family and friends along the way. We feared infecting someone else’s house. Turns out it was just irritated skin.
Wiley’s always been sensitive to what’s in his diet. When he was a puppy, I started him off on Solid Gold. But that contains grain, and I think the ingredient was to blame for a spate of skin problems he had early on in puppyhood. So, we went grain-free, with Taste of the Wild. That was a lot better—he’d develop only occasional hot spots at the base of his tail. I figured those were just due to flea bites, and I’d treat them with coconut oil as they appeared.
But that ringworm scare had come after a few months of persistent skin irritation. The exposed skin on his belly was dark red and wasn’t clearing up with oatmeal baths or topical treatments. His ears were scabbed and scaly inside. The worst part was that he was visibly uncomfortable and lacked energy. Reading online forums, I saw that a few other dog owners had reported their pets had started to suffer skin problems on Taste of the Wild, too. So just before Christmas, we switched the dogs to Acana Regionals, the most expensive grain-free kibble available at our bougie pet food store here in Hollywood.
That seemed to do the trick. Wiley’s sore disappeared, his stomach eventually went back to its normal color, and his ears were again smooth and clean. Solid result, but he and Bowie didn’t particularly like this new food. To get them to eat it, we had to incentivize them by boiling chicken breasts, then chopping those up and mixing them into the kibble. Even then they’d still never finish a complete bowl.
When the news about Acana broke, I decided I was done trusting other people to feed my dogs. I’d heard other dog owners rave about the positive benefits of a raw diet, so I resolved to try that.
I’ve always given dogs raw, meaty bones as treats, but I knew enough to realize I was ignorant of how to develop a total diet on my own. So I started looking for solutions.
First I went to the pet food store and bought a bulk box of frozen raw patties from a West Coast company called Small Batch Dog Food. The dogs loved the ground-up mix of high-quality meat, bones, and veggies more than anything I’d ever fed them. But after taxes, the 18-pound box came out to about $90. And I calculated it was only enough to get us through four and a half days. At over $600 per month, that was more than twice what we’d previous been spending—it’s an insane amount of money for dog food, regardless of your income.
So I started reading up on how to create a complete diet on my own, at home. A Facebook post asking for help led to a friend suggesting a book by Kymythy Schultze, Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats.
Schultze details stuff I’ve always heard about dogs digestion but never fully understood. They have a short digestive tract and an acidic stomach, factors that combine to make them largely impervious to bacteria prevalent in raw foods, like E. coli and salmonella. She also explains the role that whole foods, like uncooked bones, play in a dog’s health, cleaning their teeth and providing fiber to aid in their digestion in addition to valuable vitamins, minerals, and calcium.
Another thing I’d never understood about “biologically appropriate raw food” (or, charmingly, BARF) diets—where the idea is to feed dogs how they’d eat in the wild—is how that’s still relevant in dogs today, a species we’ve essentially created ourselves, since they were first domesticated tens of thousands of years ago. Schultze explains that commercial dog foods have only been around for about 100 years, and for the thousands of years before that, dogs of all sizes survived on scraps, refuse, and by hunting. In fact, it wasn’t common practice to feed dogs commercially made processed or even cooked foods until the mid-20th century.
Years ago, I made the switch from eating low-quality processed food to cooking most of my own meals at home and considering the source and quality of ingredients in everything I consume. That’s made me leaner, stronger, and fitter. Everyone knows that eating well makes you healthier. So why haven’t the same people made the obvious leap to doing the same for their dogs?
Raw Food Isn’t Scary
Would you believe that a scientific analysis of commercial raw dog foods found that many contained bacteria like E. coli and salmonella?! Wait, they’re made from raw meat…
There seems to be a general opinion on the Internet that feeding dogs raw food is dangerous. I’ll spare you all the hand-wringing and simply skip ahead to the logical conclusion: wash your hands, cutting boards, knives, bowls, and counter tops. Really people, have you never made a hamburger from scratch?
Far more telling is that a scientific analysis of processed and cooked kibble also showed that a bunch of it had listeria and salmonella in it. But that’s not a problem, largely because dogs evolved as scavengers, designed to eat both carcasses and human refuse they found laying around, of uncertain origins, and stuff they kill themselves and consume fresh. Short digestive tracts, acidic stomachs, remember?
Of course, that’s also why raw diets work for dogs. Both cooking and processing chemically alter food. Just like we’re designed to eat healthy, natural food, dogs are designed to eat food in its natural state. Heck, they can even kill it themselves.
The idea with BARF food is to replicate the meal a dog would get from killing and consuming a prey animal—their healthiest-possible food source. A lot of meat, little fat (these being wild animals), plenty of bones, then a few organs and whatever may have been partially digested in the prey’s stomach—a few veggies, basically.
Note that the natural formula doesn’t include grain, soybeans, corn products, or any of the other awful garbage that most commercial dog foods are made from. The other big idea with the raw diet is to feed your dog the healthiest human-grade food you can afford. Meat and other ingredients intended for the dog food industry doesn’t have to pass the same quality or health standards present in the human-food supply chain, so is often just disgusting. Hence all the poison.
Gizmodo reports that the euthanasia drug in all that dog food likely comes from euthanized horses winding up in the dog-food supply chain. That isn’t just gross, it’s also illegal. I’d rather be a little more vigilant about washing my hands after feeding my dogs than feed them illegally sourced poisoned food, thanks.
Crunching the Numbers
Schultze suggests feeding dogs meat with bones in it, along with stuff she dubs “extras” that make up the rest of the nutrients dogs need. So, per-day, my dogs together are eating about four pounds of meat with bones, plus a little organ meat, cod liver oil, hemp oil, alfalfa powder, kelp powder, ascorbic acid (vitamin c), and some veggies. Maybe an egg, too.
To make this attempt at creating an affordable, easy version of that diet as widely applicable as possible, I’m not including any wild-caught meat, or deals available from big-box discount stores like Costco. Instead all my meat has been coming from my local Ralph’s (California’s Kroger chain), and I ordered the extras on Amazon.
Chicken seems to be working best, so using that as an example, I can buy about four pounds of wings, thighs, and drumsticks of reasonable quality for about $9. A week’s worth of chicken livers or assorted organs is about $2. All the extras cost $103.41, and in those amounts should last about three months. I’m going to call the veggies free, since you use so little of them—just a few tablespoons—and I just pull them from whatever meal we’re cooking for ourselves.
So, per day, that’s $9 of meat, 28 cents of organs, and $1.15 of extras, for a total of $10.43. In a 30-day month, that’s $312.90—probably not that much more than what we were spending on kibble when you factor in all the incentives we had to provide, and half the cost of the commercial raw alternatives. It’s also a price we’re very happy paying to guarantee the health of our two dogs.
As a caveat, I should say that a center piece of of Schultze’s advice is that you don’t need to feed your dogs precise amounts of these ingredients, or that you need to feed them the exact same thing every day. In fact, it’s healthy to introduce a variety of animal proteins to the diet. Prices also vary, as do sources. I saved some money last week when friends went out of town and gave me a Blue Apron box that was about to expire. The steaks, pork loin, and chicken breasts I pulled out of it covered one and a half meals.
this one by Dometic ($800 and up) are a big investment. But given that they last decades and allow you to reliably transport frozen food anywhere you can take a vehicle, I think they’re a more worthwhile option than high-end coolers. “> Portable fridge-freezers like this one by Dometic ($800 and up) are a big investment. But given that they last decades and allow you to reliably transport frozen food anywhere you can take a vehicle, I think they’re a more worthwhile option than high-end coolers. (Photo: Dometic)
Traveling with Raw Food
Feeding your dog healthy raw food takes a little more effort than just throwing down a bowl of kibble. Preparing their daily meal (Schultze recommends one big meal, rather than two small ones, for adults), takes me 10 to 15 minutes. And I do have to do more clean up throughout the process, and after, so I don’t get raw meat all over the kitchen. So, it’s reasonable to expect that taking your dog’s new diet on the road is going to take a little more planning, and time, too.
When we leave the dogs at home, with a caretaker, we’ve just been buying the pre-made patties to make their lives as easy as possible. I’ve been keeping a box around just in case we’re crunched on time, having a bad day, or other real world considerations like that.
Driving somewhere with the dogs, it’s a mix of using the premades to keep it easy while we’re on the move, then doing the whole shebang if we’re at a destination (the cabin, say), where we have the time and a kitchen. How do we keep the food frozen throughout a trip? Well, that’s just one of the reasons why I really prefer portable fridge-freezers to high-end coolers. The weight and external size-to-interior volume is actually higher with a good portable freezer. A quality item like our Dometic CFX 75DZW has room for a week’s worth of dog food plus a couple days for us, and it can be plugged into both AC and DC power, meaning you can pull it out of the car at your destination and run it on a normal wall outlet. That will save your car’s battery charge (one night won’t run a quality battery down) and add cooling space in addition to the small fridge-freezer in your room or cabin. The Dometic also has two separate internal spaces, so you can set one to freeze (down to minus seven degrees), and one run above freezing, allowing you to defrost one meal’s worth of meat ahead of time as you travel.
What about camping? Well, the Dometic comes along when we’re car or 4×4 camping, but for a recent backpacking trip I found premade freeze-dried patties to be an ideal solution. Just like human backpacking food, all the weight is sucked out of those, making them ideal on the trail, but they’re easily rehydrated with even cool water in camp. They’re expensive ($30 for about a day and a half of food for one dog), but I really appreciated the weight savings, and Wiley enjoyed eating them.
Bowie and Wiley have been eating a totally raw diet, with zero kibble, for a month now. That’s not very long, but both dogs are visibly leaner and have more energy throughout the day. The quality of both their coats has improved from already excellent to totally flawless. Most importantly, Wiley has had absolutely zero skin problems of any kind. His usual hot-spot area is fully furred and not itchy. His skin isn’t dry or flaky at all.
One other change I was surprised to notice is that both dogs’ sporadic loose stools have given way to healthy, firm poops with 100 percent reliability. Wiley had a couple incidents last year where his anal glands weren’t fully expressing and instead leaked a terrible smell—no more. They also produce considerably less poop overall than before.
The most important change, though, is that the dogs love it. Before, with kibble, you’d hand it to them and they’d look up with a look that said: “Really? This crap again?” Putting down a giant bowl brimming with healthy meat just feels a whole lot better.
Want to learn more about creating your own healthy raw diet, tailored to your dog’s need? Want to know what vets have to say about feeding your dogs raw food? Interested in the science behind this? Schultze’s book is a quick read, but also a very powerful one.
Filed To: DietSkinCampingIndefinitely Wild Lead Photo: Wes Siler
“Holistic veterinary care” is one of those buzz phrases that gets tossed around a lot but can be hard to understand. What does it mean to treat your dog holistically?
Holistic care can help your dog by using both conventional medicine to treat injury or disease, and alternative (or complementary) treatments to aid the healing process. For example, if a dog has surgery to remove cancerous tumors, medication is needed to prevent infection and fight the disease, but a holistic treatment like acupuncture or massage may be added to ease pain and encourage healing.
The holistic treatments listed here are some of the most popular alternative therapies used by concerned pet parents. Some of these treatments are more proven than others, and a good vet can determine the best combination of both conventional and alternative treatment for your dog.
As the American Holistic Veterinary Association explains, “holistic thinking is centered on love, empathy, and respect.” The right holistic treatment can improve your dog’s health and happiness, and maybe even extend her life.
Acupuncture, or the practice of using needles to stimulate pressure points on the body, has been used by humans for thousands of years, and gained popularity in the U.S. in the 1970’s. Acupuncture for dogs took a few years longer to catch on: it was approved as an “alternate therapy” by the American Veterinary Medical Association in 1988 (source).
In ancient Chinese medicine, “needling” along certain points of the body was thought to improve the flow of Chi, or energy, thus promoting better health. For dogs, according to the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture, “needling specific points leads to the release of chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain,” thus stimulating healing.
Although the health benefits are difficult to prove scientifically, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that acupuncture therapy can help relieve dogs of joint and muscle pain, encourage healing after trauma or surgery, and even treat the symptoms of diabetes and cancer.
Acupuncture isn’t cheap; sessions tend to cost around $100, and multiple sessions are needed for best results. But perhaps the best thing about acupuncture is that it has virtually no side effects, and won’t interfere with other treatment or medication.
If you have the budget (and your dog will sit still), it’s a low-risk treatment with potentially huge rewards. Many animal clinics have a licensed acupuncturist on staff, or can readily refer you to a practitioner, so ask your veterinarian if acupuncture is right for your dog.
Hydrotherapy is exactly what it sounds like: physical therapy in water. It’s recommended for dogs who need low-impact exercise, whether they’re recovering from injury or surgery; suffering from joint issues or arthritis; or are simply older or overweight and in need of safe cardiovascular activity.
As demonstrated in the video below, in a typical hydrotherapy session, your dog will be guided into a pool of heated water (the warmer temperature helps soothe muscles and joints) and led through 15-30 minutes of swimming or walking on an underwater treadmill. Depending on your dog’s comfort level and swimming ability, a harness or life jacket may be used to help keep them level and above water.
Hydrotherapy helps build muscle, improve mobility, increase circulation, and decrease stress, and it’s a great workout, to boot. If your dog is suffering from a degenerative condition or could stand to use some weight, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a hydrotherapy pool in your area. You can learn more about the many benefits of hydrotherapy at canine-hydrotherapy.org.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
According to the Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, Chinese herbal medicine “uses herbal ingredients…in particular combinations or formulas to treat particular disease patterns,” and is best used in conjunction with western veterinary medicine to treat chronic conditions. Proponents of herbal medicine claim it can be used to relieve pain, help improve and restore organ function, and strengthen and support the immune system.
As with acupuncture, the benefits of Chinese herbal treatments for dogs are hard to “prove,” but many people have seen their dogs’ health and happiness improve with the use of herbs.
Some herbs are not safe to use alongside medications such as blood thinners and and diuretics, and as is the case with any ingested medication, Chinese herbal treatments do have potential side effects like vomiting and diarrhea.
Modern practitioners of TCVM note that it is most helpful alongside western veterinary medicine as part of an integrative health plan. See the TCVM website for more info, and ask your vet if Chinese herbal treatments might help your dog.
Magnetic Field Therapy
Magnet therapy is the use of magnetic fields to treat illness or injury, and according to Veterinary Clinics of America, it is “most often used to enhance healing from injuries and wounds” or to treat chronic joint and connective tissue conditions.
The bad news is, magnetic therapy isn’t very popular among medical professionals, and you’d be hard-pressed to find solid evidence substantiating claims that the application of magnets can heal your dog. The good news is, magnetic field therapy is inexpensive, non-invasive, has virtually no side effects, and many dog people swear by its healing power.
You can talk to your vet about the possibility of magnet therapy alongside medical treatment, or find magnet therapy collars online.
As with human massage, dog massage encourages healing by improving blood flow, stimulating nerves, relaxing muscles, and relieving stress.
While scientific studies of the benefits of canine massage are few, veterinarians concede that there are a couple major benefits: it feels good, and it promotes bonding between dog and person. After all, who doesn’t love a soothing massage from a loved one?
Of course, if you pay someone to massage your dog, it won’t be cheap. Canine massage therapy runs anywhere from $50-$120 per hour, but you can learn many touch therapy techniques yourself, and one benefit of being your dog’s personal masseuse is that it doubles as preventative care.
Regular rubdowns will help you locate new growths or tender spots (note: if you do come across a strange lump or sore spot in the course of a massage, stop immediately and consult your vet. In some cases, the pressure of a massage can make swelling and pain worse).
While massage itself won’t cure your dog’s cancer or heal a broken bone, when used in conjunction with veterinary care, it is a wonderful way to help your dog relax and feel better.
Not all of the above treatments have scientifically proven benefits, but the majority have no dangerous side effects, and they all have fans who say holistic treatments have helped their dogs feel better and live longer. Just be sure to consult a holistic veterinarian who uses alternative treatments consciously alongside Western medicine and can help you determine the best all-around care plan for your best friend. And let your dog be your guide. Sure, she can’t talk to tell you where it hurts or what exactly helps (oh, how much easier life would be if she could), but her mood, energy level, and response to treatment can tell you a lot.
Has holistic treatment helped your dog? Tell us about it in the comments!
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Top image via flickr/qousqous
Acupuncture therapy has been practiced for many thousands of years in Asia, and is still an important technique used to enhance healing of the body. It works by balancing and moving energy within the living body through a system of channels and acupuncture or energy points located at specific areas. Needles, electricity, lasers, and injections of vitamins are used to stimulate these acupuncture points. Most animals tolerate the treatment very well, and in fact, many settle in for a good nap while receiving acupuncture!
I am certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society, and I’ve been training other veterinarians to perform acupuncture on animals for the past 30 years. Sharing what I’ve learned and furthering the “reach” of holistic therapies is a core value of my practice.
In my practice, we successfully treat the following conditions with acupuncture:
- Allergies / Skin Problems
- Geriatric problems
- Immune system disorders
- Digestive disturbances
Herbs & Supplements
I utilize herbs/supplements to complement the treatments in my practice because they have little or no side effects, and they function to:
- Cleanse and detoxify the body
- Facilitate healing of the immune system
- Control symptoms without the use of drugs
- Improve the functions of internal organs
- Provide micro nutrients missing in the diet
- Strengthen the Vital Force of the body
Many common pet ailments can be alleviated or strengthened by an improvement in the quality of the food the pet is eating. The problem with commercial pet food is that the industry is unregulated and products are not often inspected, thus many of these products contain questionable and harmful ingredients.
These pet foods are often saturated with harmful chemical preservatives, food coloring, pesticides, heavy metals, excess amounts of salt, sugar, rancid fat, over-cooked oils, mold, and meat that has been condemned for human use. Commercial diets stress the animals, by interfering with proper assimilation and metabolism of nutrients and thus cause many degenerative diseases and premature aging. I attribute the high incidence of skin diseases, cancer, and many forms of arthritis to the over-feeding of commercial diets (both canned and dry). Also, because most if not all, commercially prepared diets for dogs and cats have been developed for the “masses,” most of these “scientifically” prepared foods are inappropriate for dogs living in the many different climatic regions of the country.
When I started cooking for my own pets over 35 years ago, it was truly a learning experience for me to discover what works and what does not. I noticed that they seemed happier and had more energy. After a few months, they began to smell better, their coats were shinier and they quit scratching.
Holistic veterinarians graduate from an accredited veterinary school with training in science, and modern conventional therapies. They know how to diagnose, read x-rays, evaluate blood tests, and determine what kind of ailments are plaguing your pet. Many complete extra training in surgery, nutrition, and oncology.
Holistic veterinarians then complement their traditional veterinary expertise by studying modalities of:
- Traditional Chinese Medicine theory and acupuncture theory
- Nutrition therapy, and herbal medicine
- Animal chiropractics, hydrotherapy, and physical therapy
- Homeopathy, energy healing, and light therapy
Current Medical Model
In general, the field of medicine is geared to kill germs and surgically repair parts…like working on a machine or a car. When something isn’t working, you just swap it out with new parts or provide an oil change. I like to call this approach mechanical medicine. While these tactics are sometimes necessary, surgery and elimination of germs don’t address the whole picture, or more importantly, the cause of the issue.
Lots of vets will try to manage pet problems with drugs, steroids, or surgery, but unless the root of the issue is addressed, it will continue to return. For many pets under this kind of care, long term use of pharmaceuticals and costly surgeries are their future. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
10 holistic pet care tips you can trust
For more than 22 years, I’ve been raising and caring for my pets using alternative and complementary methods. In that time, I’ve seen dozens of supplements, herbs and nutritional theories hailed as the one true way to pet health, and then fall by the wayside.
After interviewing dozens of holistic vets, following a lot of tips that sounded promising and undergoing a great deal of trial and error with my own animals in the past two decades, I’ve come up with a list of 10 tried-and-true holistic tips that have worked for my pets as well as many others.
One caution, and it’s a big one: Talk to your veterinarian before trying to treat your pet at home. It’s one thing to give a gingersnap to see if it helps a healthy puppy’s mild carsickness; it’s another to think you can treat a pet’s violent or chronic diarrhea at home. There is nothing “holistic” about treating conditions without a diagnosis.
1. Peppermint and catnip
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and catnip (Nepeta cataria) are wonderful remedies for nausea and car sickness. Peppermint also regulates peristalsis, so it can help with irritable bowel syndrome, and even with symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.
Catnip has similar effects on digestive upsets while being more palatable for felines. Even if your cat doesn’t experience a euphoric reaction to the herb — and 20 percent of cats don’t — it still has digestive benefits and can also serve as a mild appetite stimulant to both dogs and cats. It may help with some forms of vomiting in cats, but it’s important first to have your veterinarian determine the cause of the vomiting.
If your cat is attracted to catnip, you can just put some of the dried, crushed herb on the ground for the cat to roll around in. If not, you can add the dried herb to their food at the rate of around half a teaspoon per pound of food. You can also give cats or dogs a glycerin-based tincture (available at some health food stores), half a milliliter for every 20 pounds of body weight.
Glycerin-based peppermint tinctures are widely sold in health food stores for use by children. Dogs can be given these products dosed by body weight according to the guidelines on the label; those that also contain ginger are especially helpful for car sickness. (And yes, a gingersnap will also often do the trick.)
Because dogs tend to like the taste, they will usually drink a weak peppermint tea given in a bowl instead of water. It should be offered lukewarm or at room temperature rather than very hot or chilled.
Peppermint is contraindicated for pets with reflux, as it relaxes the esophageal sphincter.
2. Medical grade honey
When one of my dogs developed a drug-resistant staph infection, I spent weeks and hundreds of dollars on antibiotics, only to have the infection come back again and again. I finally banished it, hopefully forever, with the aid of an FDA-approved bandage containing medical grade honey.
This honey contains an enzyme that is believed to prevent bacterial growth. It comes from bees that feed on the flowers of the Manuka plant in New Zealand. It’s being used in both human and veterinary medicine to treat and prevent resistant bacterial infections. The product I used is called Medihoney.
3. Glucosamine supplements
Arthritis harms our dogs and cats in many ways. It makes it hard for them to move around and get enough exercise, decreases their quality of life and makes it less likely that they’ll play. It can prevent them from joining us on lap, sofa or bed and can cause all kinds of problems for those living in homes with stairs. And it creates an area of inflammation in the body that is associated with other types of damage, including cartilage destruction.
Most veterinarians usually reach for anti-inflammatory drugs as their first defense, but they often have severe side effects. Consider instead using safer effective supplements and treatments that not only relieve symptoms, but also protect or repair damaged joints. I recommend starting with a good glucosamine supplement which has independent testing and certification insuring that it’s a standardized product. The brand I’ve found to be effective is Cosequin.
If that’s not enough for your dog, there is Adequan Canine, an injectable polysulfated glycosaminoglycan, a sort of cousin of glucosamine. Adequan is not available labeled for cats at this time.
Adequan has been shown to be preferentially taken up by inflamed joints when injected. It soothes and lubricates the joint, naturally reducing inflammation and pain by reducing friction. Even better, instead of just masking pain as anti-inflammatory drugs do, it actually helps to rebuild cartilage in the damaged joint.
For both glucosamine supplements and Adequan, do the full loading dose and then give the full maintenance dose. It makes a difference.
I had a mixed-breed dog with very bad hip dysplasia (a genetic degenerative hip disease) in the days when hip replacement surgery was not as advanced as it is now. I kept her comfortable to the end of her long life first with glucosamine, then with Adequan, and later with the addition of regular acupuncture.
But the first time I took her for a treatment was years before she’d developed arthritis. Suffering from a bad knee injury, she walked into the office of veterinarian Cheryl Schwartz on three legs, and walked out on four. I was hooked.
Of course not all veterinarians are equally adept at using acupuncture. If your pet needs just mild symptomatic relief, particularly from the pain of an injury, a veterinarian with certification from the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society should be able to help. For more serious and chronic diseases, it’s best to seek out a veterinarian who is an experienced practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine and has advanced training from an institution such as the Chi Institute.
Feeding a balanced homemade diet is usually the one thing people don’t want to be bothered with because they think it’s too hard. But I’ve been feeding my pets a homemade diet now for over 22 years, and it’s both easier than most people believe and the closest thing to a “miracle cure” of anything I’ve tried.
While I won’t tell you a balanced homemade diet solves or prevents all health problems — it definitely doesn’t — I’ve seen it turn around many bad cases of itching, digestive problems and other chronic health conditions, sometimes within days or weeks. I’ve fed homemade diets to dozens of dogs and cats of all ages and states of health. I’ve raised puppies and kittens from birth to death in advanced old age, and seen some of them far outlive their commercially-fed littermates and parents.
I first started caring for my pets with holistic methods in 1986, when my cat Chuck, who had struggled all his life with severe allergies, was suffering so much after 10 years on steroids that his veterinarian suggested we put him to sleep. Instead, I put him on a homemade diet I read about in “Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.” His lifelong skin problem cleared up within days, never to return. Tumors in his ears went away, his coat grew back, his bad breath became sweet — even his litter box smelled better.
I immediately switched all my cats, and later the dogs, to the same diet, and discovered that without exception, every one of them was in better condition. Skin, coat, breath, eyes, digestion — all better.
One last word about diet: Particularly for cats, I’ve seen nothing but benefit from feeding them diets that do not contain grains or, indeed, any form of carbohydrate at all. Cats are nature’s strictest carnivores. Grain-based and high-carb diets have been associated with severe health problems in cats, including feline diabetes. Break the cereal habit. Your cat will thank you.
6. Saw palmetto
Does your dog have an enlarged prostate? Let’s first assume you have taken him to the vet and ruled out infection or another problem requiring expert medical intervention, and discovered that he has a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia. I have found that the herb saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) has an immediate and dramatic effect on any and all symptoms, even including bleeding, associated with this condition.
Neutering your dog is your best bet to fully control it, but if that’s not an option (for instance, if your dog is old or unwell), saw palmetto is well worth investigating. Dogs can be given the human dose if they’re large (80 pounds and up); reduce by half for medium-sized dogs, and by 75 percent for small dogs.
Exercising their pets is the other thing people don’t like to do. Hence, the epidemic of fat dogs and cats, which is a shame, because almost nothing is more strongly correlated with longer lifespan than keeping your pet lean.
Fresh air, sunshine and exercise will improve your pet’s mood and health, and it’s good for you, too. It also stimulates your pet’s mind, and improves the bond between human and animal. So get out that catnip toy on a string, take your dog to the park, or see if your old cat doesn’t remember what it was like to wrestle with you when he was a kitten.
Best of all? It’s free.
8. Cranberry extract, d-mannose
I have a dog with a genetic kidney defect that has left him prone to bladder infections. After struggling with this problem for more than a year after surgery to correct his defect, I found a combination of supplements that helped prevent most (although not all) the infections.
Caution: This advice is for pets who have already had the cause of their chronic bladder infections diagnosed. Recurrent bladder infections are always a sign of an underlying problem, and you are putting your pet’s life at risk if you don’t find out what it is. And if your pet has a single, uncomplicated bladder infection, the proper treatment is to have a culture done to find out the infecting organism and give a prescribed antibiotic until the infection is gone. Why not just give him or her the supplements? Because, although they will prevent new infections from forming; they are not adequate for treating an existing infection.
If, as with my dog, the underlying cause of your pet’s infections can’t be corrected, constant infections and a life of antibiotics aren’t the only options. Cranberry extract has been shown in human studies to prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall, allowing them to be flushed out with urination. D-mannose binds to some strains of e. coli, one of the most common causes of bladder infections, and lets the bacteria be washed out with the urine.
Also encourage your pet to drink plenty of fluids and urinate as frequently as possible.
9. Pain control
Pain does not just hurt, it harms. Being in pain suppresses the immune system, interferes with healing, impairs sleep and can delay full recovery from an illness, injury or surgery. So don’t let your fear of modern drugs compromise your dog’s or cat’s quality of life by letting their pain go uncontrolled.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t remedies in the alternative and complementary medicine chest that can’t help with pain or make conventional pain therapies safer. In addition to glucosamine, Adequan and acupuncture, which I already discussed, some conventional medications, such as the human drug Tramadol, have fewer and less serious side effects than the more commonly-prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and are well worth asking your pet’s veterinarian about. (Cats typically do not tolerate Tramadol well.)
If your pets do need to take NSAIDs, there are supplements and even a few drugs that you can use to make them safer. Antacids might make your pet feel more comfortable while taking NSAIDs, but they don’t actually have any protective benefit. Instead, ask your pet’s veterinarian about the herb slippery elm (discussed below), as well as the human drugs carafate and misoprostol.
10. Slippery elm
Slippery elm (Ulmas fulva) is pretty much a wonder-substance for diarrhea, loose stool, nausea and other digestive upsets. This is actually a food rather than a medicinal substance, and there are no contraindications to its use.
My recommendation is to buy the loose powder, available in bulk at most health food stores. You can mix it with warm water and then add it to your dog’s food, or just let them eat it. It forms a jelly when moistened, which can be fed as desired, and also used as a soothing poultice on minor skin irritations.
It’s slightly sweet, so dogs don’t mind it. Cats hate it, so it’s much less useful for them, although it can be given in a tincture form. Animals’ Apawthecary makes a product for pets called Phytomucil that I’ve used for my cats. I don’t find it to be as effective as the powder, but my cats don’t care about that distinction.
Beyond the list
Of course, there are plenty of other useful and reliable holistic care tips. But when you go looking for them, you’ll find there’s also no shortage of really bad advice and information, not just on the Internet, but in pet health books and articles as well. As an antidote to the bad information, have some good:
An online database of scientific research and studies about herbal medicines. It has varying levels of access, but the most basic one is free and available to the public.
“Veterinary Herbal Medicine”
By Dr. Susan Wynn and Dr. Barbara Fougere
Written by two prominent veterinarians, this book is aimed right at the most skeptical and evidence-seeking among those investigating herbal medicine, primarily other veterinarians. It contains guidance on using more than 120 herbs, including information on drug interactions, dosing, scientific research and herbs for treating specific health conditions.
“All You Ever Wanted to Know About Herbs for Pets”
By Mary Wulff-Tilford and Gregory L. Tilford
This colorful guide was written by two experienced herbalists and covers the principles and theories of herbal medicine as well as giving practical information on their use. Its nearly 200-page encyclopedia of Western, Ayurvedic and Chinese herbs includes plant descriptions, information on cultivating and obtaining plants, a guide to the preparation and administration of herbs, beautiful, large, clear, color photographs of the herbs, and information on contraindications and side effects. There is easy-to-understand information about what common maladies can be treated by each herb. An excellent index of ailments, with practical care suggestions as well as references to appropriate herbs, follows it.
Christie Keith is a contributing editor for Universal Press Syndicate’s Pet Connection and past director of the Pet Care Forum on America Online. She lives in San Francisco.