Lew Olson's newly revised edition is filled with an abundance of new topics and information. Whether you are new to home feeding or a seasoned raw feeder, have a senior dog or a new puppy, a pregnant mom or a toy breed, this book presents all the information you need to make the best nutritional decisions for your dog.

Fresh, Raw Diet

Fresh Food Diets for Dogs

By Lew Olson • February 2003 Newsletter
The idea of fresh and raw foods for dogs is not a new idea. As a matter of fact, it is the commercial processed dog foods are the relatively new concept!

Prior to the concept of commercial pet foods, dogs were fed table scraps, raw meat, dairy products, meat with bones and eggs. In several nutrition textbooks that written from the turn of the century through the late forties, showed diets of raw meat and bones as commonplace.

The development of commercial dog food began in the United States after World War II. A market was developed for the slaughterhouse meat that was not approved for human consumption and the waste products from the grain mills. The two waste products were blended together and the market became pet foods. Both farmers and ranchers were delighted to find a market that could use these once unusable items.

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In order to render these commodities fit for dog food, the products were boiled in large vats at high heats for two to three days, and then baked. This process in essence sterilized the meat, killed the bacteria and blended them successfully together.

Other methods of improving the food were quickly developed. They began putting the food product through an extrusion process (a process that pushes the wet matter into a heated device and shapes the product into the kibble shapes we know today). They also began adding some of the nutrients that were lost by high heats.

As the commercial dog food business began to boom, new arguments developed stating that raw meat made dogs aggressive. An even more disturbing argument was that commercial dog food would be economical and you could feed your dogs very cheaply. Thus began the advent of pushing higher and higher amounts of grain, starches and fiber into the feed mixes.

The biggest selling point of processed commercial dog foods has been the idea of convenience. An even more compelling reason pet owners feed processed foods today, is that they have lost the knowledge, confidence and ability to understand canine nutrition and how to feed their own dogs. Dog food marketing has pushed the idea that dog nutrition is a mystery and best left to the professionals, or in other words, the Pet Food Companies.

Most dog owners are filled with fear when they hear about the idea of feeding a raw diet and preparing the food themselves. Pet food companies, veterinarians and friends oftentimes perpetuate this fear when a dog owner inquires about raw diets. They are often met with skepticism, anger, condescending attitudes and even shame on the idea of a raw diet. In this article, I will attempt to dispel many of the myths associated with the raw diet.
Myth: Dogs are omnivores and need a high grain diet. (Dog foods are at least 65% grain and fiber and grain and fiber are necessary for shelf life and for the pet food companies to make a cheap diet)

Fact: Dogs are carnivores and have a short, simple digestive tract designed to eat animal protein and fat. The method for determining what category an animal falls into is by physical attributes. Some typical features common to carnivores are a large mouth opening, a single hinge joint that lies in the same plane as the teeth, and a large primary muscle on the side of the head for operating the jaw. The teeth are short and pointed, made for grasping and shredding. These teeth come together to give a cutting motion and act like shears. The teeth and mouth of the carnivore are developed to swallow food whole, not for chewing or crushing.

Carnivores do not have digestive enzymes in their saliva. Humans have amylase, which helps to begin to break down complex carbohydrates. The dogs’ digestive tract is one-third to one-half the length of an omnivore. This shortness is designed for adaptation for quick, muscular digestion of raw meat and bones. Carnivores have a much higher concentration of hydrochloric acid in the stomach for the break down of proteins and to kill any dangerous bacteria. Their stomach acidity is less than or equal to pH 1 with food in the stomach, while humans have a pH 4 to 5.

This raises the question of what is the best food for carnivores, according to the digestive tract and physiology. Dogs, as carnivores, have difficulty digesting grains and other complex carbohydrates. With the lack of digestive enzymes in the mouth, complex carbohydrates are not predigested, and take a long time to break down in the stomach, and small intestine, if they break down at all. Most of the complex carbohydrates pass through undigested, and create large stools in the dog.

It is interesting to note that dry dog foods are mainly cereal, consisting of a large part of corn, wheat, rice and soy. While dog food companies would have you believe that grains are a good source of protein, the fact is that dogs have a very difficult time digesting and utilizing protein from carbohydrates. Studies show dogs do best on animal protein, and the higher the quality, the better the protein is assimilated. The poorer quality proteins create stress on the dogs’ kidneys and it makes proper nutritional digestion difficult.

Myth: Commercial dog foods are complete.
Fact: Cooking changes the amino acid chains and renders many of them unusable for dogs. Studies in the 1970’s found dog foods lacking in many of the necessary amino acids. It also destroys the digestive enzymes and beneficial bacteria (acidophilus, etc) necessary for good digestion and digestive tract health. High heats also kill omega 3 fatty acids and change fats into difficult to digest material. While many dog food companies do add omega fatty acids and beneficial bacteria, these nutrients do not withstand the packaging or shelf life for extended periods. Dog food companies attempt to make their diets complete by adding synthetic supplements to meet industry sanctions and Nutritional Research Council standards.
Myth: Dogs do fine on grains and starches and they are necessary for good heath and energy.
Fact: If you subtract the protein and fat content from 100, and add back in the fiber percentage, this will give you the carbohydrate amount in your dog food. Add about 5% to 10% more (dog food companies also count plant proteins which are incomplete for canines) for a more accurate amount. Most dog foods will have between 60% to 75% grains.
With the dog lacking starch digestive enzymes in the mouth and a long digestive tract, these nutrients are taxing on a dogs system and difficult to digest. It is also important to note that grains and starches turn right into glucose, which is sugar. Too much glucose in a dogs system can lead to hypoglycemia, allergies, hyperactivity, diabetes and according to Dr. Olgivie DVM’s studies at Colorado State University can lead to accelerating tumor and cancer growth in canines.
Grains and starches also contain phytates, which block mineral absorption. These include calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron and iodine. Many dog food companies became aware of this fact in the 70’s and added high doses of synthetic minerals to offset the deficiency that grains caused.
While carbohydrates can provide an energy source (which is sugars), animal fat is the best source of energy for dogs for stamina and endurance.
In 1985 the National Research Council (who decides the nutrient content of pet food) reported changes were necessary and developed a new requirement list. The NRC stated that the nutrient bioavailability of dog foods needed to be determined after processing, rather than calculated before it was processed. They also called for more thorough testing of dog foods through trials to determine the quality.

It is reported in the Waltham Symposium book, Nutrition of the Dog and Cat, 1989 that the pet food industry reacted with “disappointment and anger”. To date, the pet food industry is still following the old 1974 standard.

Myth: Bones are dangerous for dogs and they cannot digest them.

Fact: Dogs digestive tracts are designed to eat raw meat and bones. The heaviest concentration of hydrochloric acid is on the stomach wall. The stomach churns when food is admitted and the heavy items such as bones are forced to the outside wall. This process easily breaks down these bones. Smaller bones such as chicken wings, necks, and pork neck bones and beef ribs are recommended. Larger bones can cause some stomach upsets and are not recommended. Even when wolves consume their prey, they leave the long bones and skulls.

I often hear time and time again from veterinarians that bones can perforate and cause blockage. I have not seen this in the six years I have been feeding raw bones, nor have I heard it from the thousands of raw diet feeders on the internet, the people I correspond with, or from the throngs of dog show people that feed this diet. I often see stories pointed out by dog care professionals on the dangers of feeding bones but they are confusing the feeding of cooked bones vs. raw bones. Cooked bones are hard to digest, as the fat crystallizes under high heats and renders the bones brittle and difficult to digest. Raw food feeding is about feeding RAW meat and bones.
What about the increase in diseases in dogs on dry food? These include irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, allergies, autoimmune problems, seizures, orthopedic and ligament problems and gastric upsets. They never seem to look at the processed foods currently being fed as being any part of the problem. I have been feeding my dogs raw meaty bones for eight years without any problems and today, this trend is increasing by the thousands. With the fear instilled in most of us when we started, if there had been any problems we would have stopped immediately. While I have heard of many anecdotal cases of bones causes problems, I have only one documented case to date.
My point for writing this article is not to compel anyone to start feeding a raw diet, but simply to dispute the many myths that are out there and to give courage to those who would like to try it. Those of us who started some years ago didn’t begin because we thought it would be a fun or novel idea, but because we had sick dogs with unexplained illnesses. We were desperate to try to increase our dogs’ health and immunity and to quit losing our beloved dogs at too early of an age.

For those interested in pursuing a raw diet, I suggest you buy some books about it, join email groups on the internet with those with a similar interest and find mentors who are already doing this. I also have several articles on my website, b-naturals.com/index.php?main_page=index&main_page=newsletters and I have an email list called K9Nutrition on yahoogroups.com that discusses all aspects of canine nutrition.

I will end this article with this quote: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance . . . that principle is contempt prior to investigation”. Herbert Spencer
Resources and References
Switching to Raw, by Susan Johnson, www.switchingtoraw.com
Raw Meaty Bones, by Dr Tom Lonsdale, www.rawmeatybones.com
Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Dr. Richard Pitcairn D.V.M
API Report: What’s Really in Pet Food?
Case, Linda P. MS, Carey, Daniel P D.V.M. and Hirakawa, Diane A, Ph.D., Canine and Feline Nutrition, Mosby Press 1995

Cohn, Jeffery: How Wild Wolves Became Domestic Dogs, Bioscience, Vol. 47, December 1997

Ewer, RF: The Carnivores, Cornell University Press, 1977
Kronfeld, DE Ph.D. Dsc MVSc: Home Cooking For Dogs: Pure-Bred Dogs American Kennel Gazette, July, 1978.
Kronfeld, DS Ph.D. Dsc, MVSc: Protein Quality and Amino Acid Profiles of Commercial Dog Foods: Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, July/August 1982.Vol 18
Londale, Thomas D.V.M.: Pet Foods Insidious Consequences
Mestel, Rosie: Ascent of the Dog: Discover, October, 1994.
Mills, Milton R MD.: The Comparative Anatomy of Eating
Simpson, JW SDA BVM&S Mphil MRCVS, Anderson, RS BVMS Ph.D. MRCVS and Markwell, PJ, Bsc, BvetMed MRCVS: Clinical Nutrition of the Dog and Cat, Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1993
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