Here, I’m not going to write about how much raw is going to cost to feed your individual dog. That’s an impossible question to answer, but i will comment on why raw feeding costs less in the long run and perhaps make it more justifiable when it comes to pennies spent on appropriate raw feeding. If you are an individual who’s comment on feeding dogs is "it’s just a dog" then this read probably isn’t worth your time.
Firstly, let’s hope we agree, dogs are descendants of the wolf and although our dog’s appearance has changed they still remain biomechanical the same. They still hold 98% of the same genome (if your opinion differs refer to another article as I’ll be writing forever otherwise). Bear with me on this one, but let’s look at our canine as a whole system of mechanical/chemical reactions much like the cars most of us drive from day to day. We'd all expect a new first out the showroom car to run smoothly with no problems or hiccups. If we look after the car throughout its lifetime putting in the correct fuel, servicing and completing all those other mechanical needs the car with today’s technology will run for a respectable amount of years remaining smooth and reliable. If we don’t keep up to date with all the recommendations on how to keep a car running smoothly we will start to see deterioration and problems occur rapidly. Now back to our dogs. Much the same applies when looking to keep our dogs living longer healthier lives. When we feed a species appropriate diet we achieve this by fueling our dogs with what they are evolutionary intended to thrive on. Much like the petrol car, if we try to fuel it on petrol but start to add some water resembling unwanted chemicals and rancid fats in the kibble diet today, we quickly start seeing problems and down the drain goes our dogs problem free longevity.
Dogs, along with most living creatures, have an incredible ability to self-cure and detect such problems which in turn may have poor side effects. These side effects can be avoided, or even cured, when feeding a species appropriate raw diet. I'm talking about Inflammation, which is a response to trauma caused by a wide variety of problems, both environmental and dietary in this case. I'm going to start with the mouth, teeth and gums which in my opinion are where many avoidable problems occur to begin with. Keeping our dog’s teeth and gums clean is vitally important because what a better place than in the mouth for bacteria to grow and cause problems. Because its warm, wet and food for the bacteria arrives frequently causing tartar build up. This is a buildup of bacteria on the teeth caused by not enough cleaning and massaging of the gums. This build up also creates a gateway for the bacteria to leak into the blood stream through the gums and cause ill effect, remember what i said when water is put in the petrol of your smooth-running car. We can easily prevent this with feeding a range of raw meaty bones regularly, which will clean teeth and massage gums, and it really is that simple. I hear people saying my vet said kibble cleans teeth and I use Dentastix to clean my dog’s teeth. My answer would be try eating dry biscuits and tell me if that cleans your teeth. Perhaps looking into how Dentastix are made and the ingredients used might put you off now you are considering a more natural way of life. The stomach of our dogs is where health expires and what you feed your animal speaks to their genome, which impacts gene expression all over the body leading to inflammation. This happens when bad genes are expressed. It sounds complicated and to go into detail is far beyond the scope of this paragraph, but when looking at our car we use the correct fuel to power the engine and the correct oil to keep parts moving for longevity. Feeding our dogs a species appropriate diet, and by this i mean a diet imposed by nature, can only mean great gene expression because its worked that way for billions of years. Another consideration would be your dog’s immune which has been proven to be at optimal performance on a species appropriate diet. They become much more resistant to parasites on the outside and inside, this means less cost when worming or using flea treatment. I don't give my dogs such treatments unless necessary, (by this I mean contracting either worms or fleas which since birth my dogs had neither). I use wormcount.com to test the parasite burden on my dog. Chemicals can also cause horrid side effects and bad gene expression when our dogs are exposed causing ill health later in life.
How much money you want to spend on your dog is not my concern but I urge you to consider thinking about the future and what you will inevitably have to spend when feeding a non-biological appropriate diet. Such processed food will cause bad gene expression and cause inflammation resulting in bad health and degenerative diseases.
In short, yes raw meaty bones are vitally important for your dog’s health. By the end of this article I hope to have dispelled some worries you may have and make your confidence in feeding bones flourish. Bones really are that important.
The risks - As a raw feeder myself I know the risks of feeding bones, but I also know the positives well and truly out-weigh the negatives. This makes my worries no more. Once you too gain an understanding your worries will fade. Let’s talk about some of the risks and managing them.
Vomiting is something dogs do much more than humans and the sound of heaving and the smell can turn many stomachs. Most dogs will happily turn around and eat what they bring up. This is fine for them to do so because some dogs eat fast and gulp their food, leading to them bringing it up for another chew (regurgitation) eeewww I know. Feeding large pieces of carcass is the best option because they need to chew and tear the meat off the bone, this helps them eat slower. If your dog vomits when eating a particular food type, say beef for example, this could mean they have a sensitivity and taking this out of their diet will be beneficial. Although, if your dog vomits and appears unwell or you are struggling to distinguish the difference between regurgitation and vomiting, then please call your vet.
Chocking/Blockages are a big worry for people, and this is a fear I hear a lot. Be at ease, most instances happen because small bones are fed to big dog, for example, giving a chicken neck to a Labrador. The easiest way to avoid this is to give bones that are large and take much tearing and chewing. The chances of dogs chocking on kibble (I’ve witnessed this personally), toys, plastic bones and raw hide are much more prevalent, and in my opinion, should be of more concern.
Constipation is another common question I get asked and compared to sloppy kibble fed dogs stool. The stool of a raw meaty bone fed dog is a third the size and a solid mass the dog finds hard to shift. But be at ease, this struggle strengthens muscles and alleviates anal glands. Feeding offal and vegetable matter will help keep your dog regular. If your dog really does seem to be struggling and you don’t see a bowel movement then please call your vet because a problem might be apparent. I'm glad that’s the negatives out the way and now we can get down to why raw meaty bones are so important to your dog’s health.
Types of bones appropriate for feeding dogs and how - All bones fed to dogs have to be raw, cooked bones are dangerous and should not be fed under any circumstances. Most bones are perfectly safe for dogs to consume. For example, whole carcasses (rabbit, chicken, pheasant, partridge etc.) and non-weight baring bones for example necks, ribs, pelvic or vertebrae are great to offer. These are soft bones and don’t take much for the dog to crunch and are easy to digest. However, dinosaur bones like large herbivore limbs, should only be used for the animals to tear the flesh off (recreational). This is because these bones are very hard and could damage teeth, along with the possibility to cause blockages if the dog swallows large pieces of the dense bone. Dogs should always be monitored when feeding any types of bones and sometimes they may need some encouragement to chew and tear. One way is to hold meat and bones with pliers and let your dog pull and tear to encourage him to consume the raw meaty bones correctly.
Calcium and phosphorus - We all hear a lot about calcium especially when it comes to how much, too much or too little. Calcium is vitally important to our canine and with a diet consisting of around 40-60% raw meaty bones there’s no need for supplementation and your dog will be receiving enough calcium from their food source. Calcium helps with maintaining healthy bones and teeth, activating digestive enzymes, the production of bodily energy, helping blood clots and the transmission of nerve impulses, regulating contractions, relaxation of muscles and the heart also the absorption of vitamin b12. Phosphorous is also vitally important but we see much more imbalances here and dogs with too much phosphorous are seen more regularly. Phosphorous binds with calcium and too much can deplete calcium reserves causing problems. Luckily raw meaty bones are your saviour here and the correct ratio of calcium 1:1 phosphorous are found readily available in natural sources.
Teeth and your canines health – I personally get all excited when I see a canine open his mouth to see a spectacular set of pearly white teeth. Teeth are so important to us all and keeping them gleaming is at the front of the assault against keeping health problems at bay. I think we can all relate to watching a car break a few hundred yards ahead and by the time it gets to you everyone is breaking hard and causing a nuisance. The effect is all much the same with our dog’s teeth. Once you see tartar build up occur it can become a nuisance and cause problems to your dog and his health. Prevention is worth a ton of cure, preventing the build-up of tartar will save your bank account and your pets health.
Your little puppy comes home, I hope no earlier than 8 weeks of age, and should have already lost their milk teeth between 3-6 weeks of age. One set of teeth have shedded but before you sit back, at about 4 months of age your pup will start to attain all 42 adult teeth over a period of a few months. Simultaneously losing their temporary teeth gained weeks earlier and at this time offering an abundance and variety of raw meaty bones is very important and will help no end preventing your new puppy chewing furniture and feeding bowls. Chewing on natural meaty bones aids to help the little carnivore dispel his deciduous teeth. Unfortunately, many little carnivores don’t have this privilege and consume a commercial diet. This will have those little teeth hanging on bleeding gums and will impair on the adult teeth coming though naturally. Keeping your dog’s teeth healthy will keep his body healthy and should always be offered meat on the bone where possible for maximum cleaning action. 75% of dogs on a commercial diet end up with dental problems by the age of 3 years while 100% of dogs over the age of 12 years suffer with some kind of gum disease, minor or serious. This is scary considering the regular dental visits you'll be needing to make and the possibility of dental diseases. Having tartar build up on the teeth can enable bad bacteria to leak up into the gums and pass through into the blood stream inhibiting the immune system which, instead of fighting bacteria cause by a bad diet, should be concentrating on repairing degeneration around the body for longevity and life. Gum disease can also have an effect on the liver and kidneys and often with fatal consequences.
Could you imagine your dentist selling you nothing but the same bag or stew in a can for months on end, telling you this will clean your teeth and create great dental hygiene? Mmmm.... I'm sure I’m not alone when I say I wouldn’t follow that advice.
Raw meaty bones promote health - When you next sit gazing at your dog like some of us do, try to take notice of his nose that protrudes far in front of his eyes with large flaps of skin covering their trade mark tools. These 42 sharp teeth varying in size are perfectly designed to cause optimal damage. They use them for holding, tugging, nibbling and grooming while also being ideal for tearing through hide, tendons, flesh and bone in a scissor like action. This scissor action is proven to clean teeth and even kibble manufactures state the need for bones to clean teeth. While ground bones are sufficient in ready-made “completes” (10%), they don’t offer the cleaning capability of raw meaty bones. Offering chicken, duck, or rabbit carcasses and maybe wings, ribs, necks etc. must be a health promoting addition to most diets. Start introducing raw meaty bones and you will soon learn your dog’s bone tolerances and see gleaming teeth while promoting a healthy mouth.
Thank you for reading
How much do you feed yourselves and how much do you feed your children? I've not yet come across anyone who measures out every ounce of every meal to create the complete and balanced one meal that you can eat every day of your whole life and expect to be healthy. However, balance over time is one option most choose and I believe this is the key. When looking at our dogs, choose to notice their body definition and look towards achieving optimal steady weight throughout their life. You want your dogs to be carrying little fat, have great muscle definition throughout body with silky shiny coat and healthy glowing eyes. When looking over your dog, run both your hands down their sides and over the ribs. Can you lightly feel the ribs over your figure tips? Great. Also, when looking over your dog is there a slight cove between the hips and ribs? Great. The idea is to keep your dog looking sleek and healthy. This will reward you generously later in their life and give you many more years playing. If you have a vet you trust, ask them for their opinion and I’m sure they will be more than happy to advise.
Body Score - The ideal would be ribs easily palpable with minimal fat covering, waist easily seen when viewed from above. Abdominal tuck evident.
Confusion over percentages - Percentages are only guide lines and are there for you to use but not to become obsessed with. When starting out, the 80/10/10 “prey model” approach is a good guide to start with. However, I cannot emphasize enough that this is only a guide line. In my opinion 10% bone is, by far, not enough for many dogs.
The rule of thumb is feed your dog between 2-3% of their desired weight or predicted adult body weight. This is the starting line and you should feed more or less depending on the way your dog performs and looks. I take my hat off to those who seek to feed the entire prey model and include all parts of the prey. This has to be as close as anyone’s going to get to feeding a natural diet. If we look at a fish and its offal, bone and meat content it varies massively compared to something like a large mammal. There is only 8% bone in a rabbit but yet 17% bone in an elephant. Watch your dog’s stools to see if they need more or less fibre. (Bone, vegetables and fruit are a source of fibre for our raw fed dogs). If your dog has sloppy stools you need more bone. On the other hand, if they are white you've probably gone a bit over the top with bone. I feed my dogs approx. 50% Raw Meaty Bones and half my dogs dish will always be filled with carcasses, necks, ribs or wings etc. Offal should be fed at around the 10% mark, and variety is always key. Try to feed as big a variation of excreting organs as possible. Liver is important and should make up half the offal offered. Heart, Tripe, lungs or more muscle meat etc. can be offered at about 15-20% of the diet. 15% can be made up of vegetables, fruits and seeds. If vegetables, fruits or seeds are not in your dog’s diet simply use the 80/10/10 model as your starting point and adjust as needed. Supplements can make up some of the diet but be mindful with supplements because they can cause imbalances. Balance should be created over a period of 2-3 weeks. Feeding all these ingredients and keeping everything varied is your best chance at the Complete and Balanced diet the professionals advise. Keep a close eye on your dog and the amounts you are feeding, making slight changes where necessary.
Over feeding - The number of obese dogs keeps rising and we see the same problem in humanity. I also believe it originates from the same cause and it’s our indulgence in sugar or high starch products which causes huge problems for humans and canine alike. Starch comes from carbohydrates and once broken down (digested) becomes sugar, with the huge amounts of carbohydrates we all eat and give our dogs no wonder we are all ending up with the same metabolic diseases brought on by the stresses and inflammation of eating such a diet. We like treats and I’m sure many of us are guilty of giving in to our dog’s adorable faces and offering a sugar filled treat. Those of you who are strong willed and don’t offer sugar filled treats hang on in there. We will all be following suit soon. Treats should be included in the daily allowance of the dog’s diet and for those of you who clicker train and go crazy treating every positive move simply feed your entire food allowance as meaty morsels throughout the day. Also keep the treats healthy and follow the same guide lines as in your dog’s diet, i.e. fresh, varied and non-processed. I hear too often, “but my dog likes a treat”. I apologise, but no. It is you that likes giving your dog a treat because he does that cute thing if you do. Humanity feels the need to always try to give more than is realistically needed.
Our canine also has the incredible ability to train us. “Fido barks until I give him a treat, he must be telling me he's after a bed time snack so I give him a treat” Fido is actually training his human. If you would like to give him a snack before bed this needs to be included in his balanced, varied diet allowance. If these treats are not included in the daily allowance we will see dogs choosing what they eat and becoming very picky with their food. I personally would much rather have a chocolate bar than an orange but we all know what’s healthier. However, dogs will refuse to eat healthy food and fast themselves for days just to get that salt filled gravy poured over their food or a lovely sugar filled biscuit, which we all know is unhealthy.
I feel like I’m having ago at dog owners who only want the very best for their dogs. But I honestly worship those who try their hardest and feel we do our best with the knowledge we receive. Your canine will thank you later with their health and longevity.
There is such an easy answer to this question and I believe variation in our pets diet is key. However, I feel spending hours in the kitchen preparing meals to obtain the "complete and balanced" theory is unnecessary. Excuse me when I say this but I've never seen a fox in the wild kill its prey and then seek out some exotic vegetation to sprinkle over the top to make its kill "complete and balanced". To this I will add, you do come across conditions a dog may suffer which mean they do need special food types that require preparation time. But on the whole a healthy pet thrives on varied raw meaty bones and organs alone.
I would imagine you are reading this thinking SO, WHAT IS VARIATION if not adding fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates and nuts in various shapes, sizes, colours and flavours? Perhaps its adding different meat sources such as Lamb, Beef, Chicken etc? While there is truth behind the last statement and yes you should feed various meat sources because each one holds various amino acids and trace elements. However, feeding a varied diet runs deeper than this and I mean that quite literally. When feeding muscle meat you are only feeding muscle. Now hold that thought. What else does an animal consist of? Well, there are organs, fur, fat, skin, cartilage, tendons and muscle. So, are we feeding all these vital ingredients?
Next, I’ll explain why these parts are so valuable to our pets as revolting as they sound. Wild dogs eat their prey as a whole including organs, and in many cases the organs are the first thing they aim for. There is good reason for this considering how rich they are in nutrients. A dog who eats organs is a much healthier dog than one that does not. So why not feed our dogs more organ meat than is stated at 10% offal? If you overfeed offal, the effect can be as dangerous as feeding none at all. I would recommend keeping the balance at 10% offal throughout their life.
Liver is very important and a dog’s diet should always contain 5% of the offal content as liver. Liver contains high levels of vitamin A and also has great quantities of vitamins E, D and K. Liver also contains excellent sources of the minerals zinc, manganese, selenium and iron. Liver has an abundance of B vitamins including, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, biotin, folacin, B12 and choline. It is also a source of Vitamin C. Feeding liver also helps detoxify the dogs liver and keep it healthy.
Another fantastic organ for your dog to have. They supply good quality protein, essential fatty acids and many fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Kidneys are rich in iron and all the B vitamins and also are a source of zinc.
Pancreas is another great organ to include and contains many helpful enzymes to help dogs with digestive problems. Pancreas works wonders for dogs with pancreatic deficiencies and helps aid digestion.
Brains are great for supplying protein, fat and water. Brains also contain good levels of vitamin C.
For added punch include these organ meats at an additional 10% of your dog’s diet, making the total offal content 20%. Be cautious, as these can be bowel movers. However, they have great nutritional value and will help your pet thriving even more.
Heart is another great source of B vitamin, iron and protein. Heart contains taurine and this is amazing for muscle repair including rebuilding cells to keep them functioning at optimal health.
Tripe is a source of B vitamins, fatty acids and helps keep the micro-organisms healthy in the gut.
That’s organ meat out the way and now let’s talk a little about natural fibre.
Fur is a great source of natural fibre and although it holds basically no nutritional value it does enable the bowels to cleanse themselves. This is possible because the fur acts to clean the bowels as it passes though. It has been known that animals use this as a natural way to prevent parasites and disarming any sharp objects passing through the bowel by cocooning them in a future mass making them easier to pass.
Fats, are they important? Fats are necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, provide protection from the cold, protect the nerve fibres in the whole body. Fats provide more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein. They improve the palatability of a dog’s food and are an excellent source of essential fatty acids. With all this in mind. your dog needs fats and lots of them. This will come from the meats you feed. The two most important fats are omega-6 and omega-3. However, you won’t need to worry about omega-6 because these are of abundance in meats like chicken, pork and beef. As I’ve pushed so far, variation is key and I’m sure you will be feeding these meats whenever possible. Omega-3 is a fatty acid you will need to add to your dog’s diet and I can't think of any better form than wild salmon oil or whole oily fish.
Skin, Tendons and Cartilage
I'm not going to expand on this one because these will be in abundance when feeding a wide range of food types for example wings, necks, thigh, carcasses and feet. One point I will add; If you have a dog suffering from joint, skin or ligament damage, then adding these types of foods will be of huge benefit.
Muscle meat is the main ingredient in your dog’s diet and will make up most of what you offer your canine on a daily basis. Since dogs are carnivores, it only makes sense they thrive on a diet nature intended. After all, they have digestive systems designed to deal with lots of raw meat and fats. High protein diets in recent studies have proven protein is essential for canine health throughout all stages of life. Protein is essential for good tissue health, a strong immune system and healthy skin and coat.