Spring has finally arrived here in the Gatineau Hills and I have been having a very busy year so far. I can’t believe it has been months since my last post! Today I am sharing some thoughts, briefly, on my position regarding raw and cooked diets for dogs; I often hear, both professionally and on my Facebook group, that I am “anti-raw”, and I wanted to make this clear… nothing could be further from the truth. Since there seems to be a little misunderstanding, I will try to clear this up today as well as in future entries. I’d like to devote much more time in all my writings, to the correct use of raw diet as a tool for healing and an excellent option for feeding dogs. Right now, I’m hoping just to make a statement that will clear up some of the misperceptions I frequently hear.
To start off with a simple statement: I am not in any way, opposed to raw diets for dogs.
I use them all the time in clinical cases, although not as frequently as cooked.
The reason I use cooked diets has to do with the client, the dog I am working with. I use cooked diets for therapeutic reasons, on occasion because it is the client’s preference (or the vet’s). Many people believe raw diets are always superior and always appropriate. This is simply not the case. I use cooked and raw diets as indicated.
Many of the clients I work with have come to me via veterinary referrals or as a “last chance” to help a dog who has been on prescription diets, numerous commercial foods, various types of raw and all kinds of internet recipes, and now the owner is seeking professional help. The condition(s) the dog presents with; her symptoms, veterinary treatments, age, oral health and many other factors often simply indicate a cooked diet as a better choice.
I use the NRC (National Research Council) Guidelines for all recipes, whether raw or cooked.
This doesn’t mean I totally dismiss the value of prey model feeding, or BARF diets, it’s simply that I feel precision nutrition is the most powerful for therapeutic purposes. and if it works so well for dogs with health issues, doesn’t it make sense that careful formulation is probably the way to go proactively, too?
I actually see many more egregiously unbalanced COOKED recipes for dogs on the Internet than I do raw. Raw feeders – some raw feeders – hold beliefs I would vigorously dispute, but they still have done their homework and are attempting to provide all the nutrients required for health through muscle and organ and bone. These home cooked recipes make me actually cry (yes, I’m emotional about my work). The fact that anyone who cares about dogs would promote cooked recipes without supplemental calcium, Vitamin D, zinc – or whatever is indicated (it varies according to the foods used) MYSTIFIES me. I have focused to a certain extent on enlightening those who home cook about the dangers of feeding without correct supplementation. Rhetoric like “it balances over time” simply does not apply here.
There are many voices for intelligent raw feeding. There are not as many for careful and precise home cooked feeding. Because I use these diets so much clinically, I have fallen into that role.
But it in no way means I “oppose” raw diets. When my own dog developed a mast cell tumour (thankfully not aggressive) my first choice would have been a raw diet. Danny had chronic mild colitis and is sensitive to food changes, to fats, to specific proteins, and raw was a digestive disaster (yes, I did it correctly). He is thriving on his cooked diet, and is typical of the kind of dog I work with – sensitive, more than one condition.
Danny being cute in his little winter coat
My philosophy is simply this; that to be truly optimal a recipe needs to cover the nutrients we know, scientifically, are required by the body in specific amounts, to prevent illness – the “essentials”…and, it must use the best quality foods to provide them and supplement what food cannot cover…lastly, the diet must suit the individual, so if it looks good on paper but the dog gets gas from it, for example, it’s not ideal.
Three things as a foundation; essentials, quality, individuality.
Note that those are foundations only – critically important, but good health continues to develop from so many places -the abundance of non-essential but incredibly beneficial compounds found in plant foods and herbs…from access to chemical free environments, from clean drinking water, forcefree training – exercise – the list goes on. My point is that many home feeders, and even those who do this work for a living, place all kinds of emphasis on the ingredients, especially so-called “superfoods”, and much less on the nutrient content. I don’t know why that is. But my approach is to work with the three foundations, and that includes when I do raw diet.
Because many of my readers here at the blog are followers of the Facebook Page, and members of my group (where this topic comes up regularly) I want to make one point more. On occasion I have removed links, or even members who were aggressively posting about raw diet. It makes sense that this action on my part would lead you to believe I don’t support the practise. However, when I have done that it is almost always because the specific source the member was linking to was unreliable. There are thousands, tens of thousands – more? websites now, all about raw feeding dogs. Tens of thousands of yahoo and Facebook groups, courses and consultants – and you can bet they are not all created equal. I want to close with a few things I have read on many of these sites (no names! it’s the principle here, not some attempt on my part to be ‘right” or in any way belittling to anyone). The point of my sharing these (all false) statements is; when I disallow a link on my group, it’s not because I’m a nasty person. It’s because these statements are false, potentially harmful, and dogs deserve better. So do my readers. Have you been led to believe any of these?
A small sampling just from today.
1)”No Veg/Carbs/Fruits/grains are needed as dogs are carnivores and carnivores and cannot digest them; it stresses the pancreas and could also cause yeast which will cause skin problems”. (Note: this is three fallacies in one…)
2) “There is absolutely no need to supplement a home made diet if sufficient variety is utilized “(nope, nope and nope. I can prove this one)
3) “Why would anybody cook food when we all know it removes all the nutrients?” ( I hardly know what to say when I encounter this)
4) “Supplements are all toxic. Wolves don’t take supplements”. ( this followed a recipe low in everything except calcium and phosphorus, which were much higher than the RA)
5) ” When switching a dog over from commercial dog food to BARF, the dog’s body may begin the process of ridding itself of toxins and impurities as it adjusts to the intake of proper nutrients. This process is called detox. Depending on the overall health of your dog, detox may last one week, one month or even several weeks…or not even at all. The most common symptoms of detox include vomiting, diarrhea, bad breath and itchy skin. It is normal for any of these detox symptoms to get worse before they get better…just don’t give up and hang in there. ”
(right, I am going to watch my dog VOMIT, scratch and have diarrhea for a month while transitioning to raw diet. This is one of the most absurd things I’ve read in a while.No transition should involve any of the above.)
6) “ACV stands for Apple Cider Vinegar. Of the 22 minerals essential for health, apple cider vinegar contains 19 in exactly the right amounts. ”
This one calls for a meme.
Ok – I have to stop. There are plenty other myths that get touted about as factual. I’m going to post about this in more detail over the next while( yeah yeah, I can hear you say, promises promises. But I really am setting more time aside for the blog. ) What I see all over the internet confirms for me that myths about canine nutrition are RAMPANT and have become accepted as factual, much as we once believed that yearly vaccinations were important and that the dominance paradigm was accurate. I’m going to do my best to address some and add herbal posts and recipes and lengthy Plant Healer articles, too. Please feel free to ask questions here or at the group. Oh yeah – here’s the group! We are friendly and open-minded, even if we do have to say no to a link from time to time.