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♥ DIET THERAPY: Raw Food
“The Chinese say that there are seven methods of healing and diet
is one of the most important”.
As a classically trained veterinarian, I was very skeptical of raw food being fed to dogs and cats. I had heard of it and knew that it was being practiced by many breeders but I thought it was unsound. I worried about parasites in raw food, unwanted bacteria like Salmonella and digestive upsets. I have some clients whose pets start vomiting if they eat a tiny piece of hot dog let alone a hunk of raw flesh!
The bad news is that all of the above can and do occur on a raw food diet. There are serious parasites that pets can get from raw meat. Trichinosis, tape worms and Toxoplasmosis to name a few. Pets can and do pass Salmonella when on raw food diets and that is a very serious threat to health of humans. And many pets eating raw food do get digestive upsets. Also, raw diets can be hard to manage nutritionally and may not be as balanced as traditional commercial pet foods. Raw diets may not be appropriate for all patients. Female dogs with pancreatitis have more issues with them. Some dogs can get elevated liver and kidney enzymes on raw food and may have to back off the protein content.
But I am a convert. The proof is in the pudding as they say. The fact is, that many dogs and cats eating a raw food diet just look so great and so many of their medical problems seem to disappear that it is hard not to appreciate the benefits. Raw food is higher in water content so pets will drink less on raw food. Pets with kidney issues will really benefit from that. Kibble is slightly dehydrating for all pets and very bad for sick or old pets because the last thing they need is to be dehydrated. People say, “But my pet always has a fresh bowl of water and he or she can drink whenever they want!” But that is not the same thing as eating a mass of dehydrated food, like kibble. The act of digesting the kibble food draws water from the body even if later the pet tries to make up that loss by drinking. The scales never really balance and the pet ends up always a bit dehydrated.
In my opinion, the good news for feeding raw food far outweighs the bad. And there are “fixes” that can be implemented to minimize the above risks. There are some dogs who may have a hard time with a raw food transition. Dogs with pancreatitis are very difficult to switch over and some may just never be able to. Raw food is not particularly low in fat as a rule and dogs with this condition are sometimes quite sensitive to fat. Some cannot even stand to have omega 3 fats in their diet without a pancreatic flare up.
Cats do great on raw food. Even cats with pancreatitis seem to do better. Cats are just really suited to being raw food carnivores. Even if you can’t switch your cat to all raw, at least try to have the rest of the diet be low carbohydrate canned food. (For a list of commercial cat foods and their carbohydrate contents please look at www.catinfo.org) Dry or semi moist food is horrible for cats. It leads to most of the old age problems we see in cats: diabetes, kidney failure, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.
Now about those “fixes”. Freezing at -12degrees C for 5 days seems to kill most of the more serious parasites. So freeze your raw food first, or buy it frozen from a company that sells USDA inspected raw food. Avoid raw pork products unless they have been treated first for trichinosis or screened for it or unless the company uses pressurization or fermentation or some other method to rid the meat of that parasite.
Salmonella will be in some raw meats and pets will pass it. But dogs and cats are pretty resistant to that organism and certain types of Salmonella and other harmful- to- human bacteria are normal residents of the dog and cat intestine. And yet we don’t see people getting rampant infections from having pets. But, just to be safe, be extra careful how you and your children handle the stool of dogs and cats who are eating raw food.
( Iguanas and other reptiles and birds also pass Salmonella routinely in their stool and yet we do not see that they have been banned from pet stores.) Use common sense hygiene. When handling raw food, wear plastic gloves or wash your hands well before and after. Your hands may have bad bacteria on them to give to the raw meat or conversely, you may pick up something from the meat that is bad for you. Dogs and cats have a gut much more able to handle bad bacteria.
If your raw food smells or looks odd, don’t feed it. Most retailers will give you money back or exchange if you have some food that is not quite right. If your dog or cat has an “off day” when eating raw food, just stop feeding for a day. If the pet has no fever and is not dehydrated or painful, give ice cubes to lick or feed clear soup and water for a day. Most mild digestive things will pass that way. Some may not and if the pet is vomiting frequently, seems tired or depressed, then go to the vet right away. If your pet experiences weight loss or conversely too much gain on raw food, connect with your vet.
To start a raw food diet, best to start very slowly. You can start by feeding a little raw goat’s milk with regular foods, maybe just a teaspoonful at first. Or you can just give a teaspoonful of a raw food. Buy some raw food, thaw it out, divide it into tiny portions and feed one portion the first day, like a teaspoon for a small pet or a tablespoon for a big dog. Then the following day, two teaspoons or two tablespoons. Then you just add a little bit more each day till at one week you are half raw food and half regular diet. At two weeks you should be at the all raw point. Or at least mostly raw. I also like to have the pets who are transitioning to raw on a good CARNIVORE Probiotic. Not yogurt or dairy based probiotics. Those are for people. My favorite is CANIOTIC which is a trade name for a product containing Lactobacillus reuteri and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This is an excellent carnivore probiotic. Start this product before you switch to raw to prepare your pet’s gut for it.
If you are worried about nutrition, you can look for prepared raw foods that say they are complete diets or you can feed a little bit of high quality canned food or kibble. (Remember, if your pet has food allergies and if you are trying to give novel proteins and eliminate chicken or beef or turkey or any of the common meats in pet food then be sure to select a kibble that has eliminated those meats, too.) Or give a vitamin pill. Then your bases should be mostly covered. Feeding pregnant or nursing pets or puppies, especially large breed puppies, may take a little more research and care. However, I have seen many breeding kennels feeding all raw diets successfully.
Feeding raw food from the grocery store or farmer’s market can be tricky. Dogs are more resistant to food poisoning from bad meat but they can still get it so you may see more digestive upsets. Remember sometimes raw food can be pretty high in fat like chicken necks and pig’s feet. If you are feeding bones for calcium, remember sometimes bones have a lot of marrow and tissue attached and this is high in phosphorus so that will decrease your calcium phosphorus ratio. Organ meats can vary widely in vitamin D content. Beef liver is usually very high in Vitamin D, chicken liver not so much so feeding a pregnant dog or a fast growing large breed puppy can get very complicated. I usually don’t try to balance the raw diets for pregnant and nursing dogs or growing puppies. Better to feed a commercial pet diet that is labeled for that stage and let them worry about the nutritional content. You can ADD some raw food to your commercial diet for your pups or breeding females and that will be fine.
I hope you will consider a raw diet for your carnivore pets. They will thank you and usually you will see their health bloom. Especially your cats!!!
Raw food diets often help to balance animals’ systems. Cats and dogs are carnivores and naturally eat meat. Cats especially are obligate carnivores (they have to eat meat). You will never see a cat stalking a plant! It used to be difficult and sometimes dangerous to provide a raw meat diet to our cat and dog pets but not anymore, Some good suppliers of raw food diets for pets in our area are: Barkstown Road Pet stores in the Highlands and in the Clifton area and Metzger’s Country Store in Shelbyville.
IS A RAW DIET SAFE?
Dr. St. Germain endorses the products shown on this page. THESE DIETS ARE AVAILABLE AT BARKSTOWN ROAD PET SHOP:
ARE RAW DIETS INCONVENIENT? DO I NEED TO MAKE EVERYTHING AT HOME?
No, we have many raw diets available in our store that are conveniently packaged to suit your time availability. The meat, organs and ground bone are already included in them. In many cases it’s a matter of defrosting the next day’s portion. We have some whole raw diets available at just over $2/pound.
Answers Pet Food
ANSWERSTM Pet Food, manufactured by Lystn, LLC. is a novel approach to feeding RAW pet food. Unlike any other raw diet ANSWERSTM Pet Food enhances the nutritional value of raw food through the process of fermentation. Utilizing kombucha (fermented organic decaffeinated green tea), raw goat milk whey and providing a cultured raw goat milk formula.
Rad Cat Raw Diet
“Cats are healthiest and happiest on a high protein, low carbohydrate diet. As grains have proven to be an allergen for many cats, we decided not to include them in our recipes. This simple philosophy provides a broad range of health benefits including: natural weight control, healthy skin and coat, and naturally clean teeth.” Currently available in five varieties: Free-Range Chicken, Free-RangeTurkey and Pasture-Raised Lamb, Grass-Fed Beef, Pasture-Raised Venison. Sold frozen in 8oz, 16oz and 24oz sizes. http://www.radfood.com
Vital Essentials Raw
Pioneers in RAW Since 1968 Vital Essentials® is a leader in the RAW pet food industry. The family-owned company, located in Green Bay, WI, produces high quality RAW frozen and freeze-dried pet food, snacks, and treats. http://www.vitalessentialsraw.com
Sojos Lamb Complete Dog Food
A wholesome GRAIN-FREE and GLUTEN-FREE dog food that you simply combine with water to create your own fresh, homemade dog food. A wholesome GRAIN-FREE and GLUTEN-FREE dog food that you simply combine with water to create your own fresh, homemade dog food. 1 pound rehydrates to 4 lbs. of fresh, raw food. Made with USDA FREEZE-DRIED raw lamb and other all-natural ingredients.
All other varieties also available.
Instinct Raw Chicken Formula Dog & Cat
Manufacturer: Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Bites
Tripett Original Formula Green Beef Tripe Dog Food
Tripett “Original Formula” is a grain free product consisting of nearly 100% Green Beef Tripe. Green tripe is the unbleached, nutrient rich stomach lining of a grass-fed animal containing essential fatty acids and digestive juices important for your pet’s health.
Nature’s Variety Prairie Chicken & Brown Rice Recipie Dog Food
Manufacturer: Nature’s Variety — Real chicken is the #1 ingredient. Includes hearty whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables – carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, blueberries and cranberries. Omega 3 & 6 fatty acidsfor healthy skin and coat. Freeze dried raw coating on the kibble for pure nutrition and great taste. Natural ingredients with added vitamins and minerals. No fillers, no corn, no wheat, no soy. Complete and Balanced for all life stages and breeds. Perfect kibble size for small to large dogs.
Stella & Chewy’s Surf & Turf Freeze Dried Dinner for Dogs
Manufacturer: Stella & Chewy’s
Stella & Chewy’s® Freeze Dried Surf ‘N Turf Dry Dog Food gives your pup the chance to enjoy a night-out-on-the-town meal right in his bowl. Raw, wild Alaskan salmon and naturally-raised beef are minimally processed, mixed with pumpkin, carrots, squash, and blueberries, and freeze-dried to lock in the nutrition and flavor. It contains no grains, fillers, or artificial preservatives. Organic beets are included to maximize nutrient absorption. 16 oz.