Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Feeding Your Carnivore

  Many times we are asked what we feed our dogs and cat. Simply stated, we feed a Species Appropriate Raw Food diet (SARF). We first heard about it just prior to getting our first English Shepherd puppy, Eoin. When he started having digestive issues, and changing commercial feed wasn't helping these, we decide to make the leap into raw. We have been thrilled with the glowing health of our pets and would never go back! And it fits very well into the plans for our sustainable ranch. We are impassioned advocates for the natural care of all animals we share life with. 

  This is a rather long post filled with the basics. So grab your favorite beverage, sit back, and enjoy the read! And be sure to do more research later on.   ;)

* We now know Eoin's symptoms were also related to adverse vaccine reaction. His system was overloaded with toxins! For more information on the dangers of vaccines, please visit our Canine Health and Further Research pages.


What Is a SARF Diet?

    A Species or biologically Appropriate Raw Food (SARF) diet is one based on the physiological needs of any given animal. For our discussion here, we are talking canines. Dogs are facultative carnivores meaning they are largely carnivorous, but have the ability to digest small amounts of plant matter. In order to thrive and not simply survive, they need primarily meat, organs, and bones. According to the Smithsonian Institute, dogs were recently categorized as Canus lupus familiaris, this came on the heels of DNA testing that confirmed dogs are more closely related to the Grey Wolf, Canus lupus, than previously realized. The canine digestive system cannot truly digest grains such as corn, rice, and wheat since they do not produce the enzyme Amylase in their saliva which is specific to the digestion of carbohydrates. Along with putrefaction, an over abundance of yeast can establish itself in a dog's digestive tract due to these products, causing bloating and discomfort at the very least, but also contributes to disease and both internal and external parasites. Commercial dog food manufacturers use grain as fillers to help the dog feel full. These are less expensive than protein sources and help keep their production costs down. Eating foods high in fillers means more to be eliminated as unused waste. This, in turn, means lots of stinky piles to clean up!
    Take a close look at your dog's teeth. Their teeth and jaws were designed for ripping and tearing, not chewing and grinding like the flat molars of humans, although their molars are suited to some grinding action. The teeth are all pointed or jagged to shear, cut through, and nibble-off meat; and their jaws are hinged to crunch through bone and swallow large pieces of meat. Although some do feed their dogs ground meat, we don't feel it's quite biologically appropriate. We feed whole pieces, with bone in. This is where it comes into play that they are benefited mentally. To see your dog truly enjoying his food, perhaps for the first time in his life like our Eoin, the look of contentment on his face, is a beautiful thing!
    Feeding a SARF diet does take a bit of extra time and thought. By feeding your dog only natural foods that are biologically active and species appropriate, his internal and external body condition is increased. The likelihood of him developing disease is greatly reduced. Visits to the veterinarian due to problems are all but eliminated, in fact, 'wellness visits' will be the norm instead! After all, one should have an allopathic veterinarian on your dogs health care team - who knows when he'll need stitches or break a bone. When you choose to feed a SARF diet, your dog will be healthier and happier!

Benefits of a Species Appropriate Diet

  • Improved quality and length of life due to greater health.
  • Improves mental and physical well-being, love those bones!
  • Stronger immune system, less money spent treating disease.
  • Sparkling white teeth, healthy gum's, fresher breath.
  • Organ health reduces incidence of chronic disease.
  • Fewer, small stools with little or no odor.
  • Shiny coats with less shedding and body odor.
  • Eliminates/reduces skin allergies.
  • Full control over preservatives and chemicals.
  • Ideal for weight management.
  • Balances energy.
  • Live enzymes in real food enhance digestion.
  • Fewer parasites, parasites do not thrive on or in healthy animals.

Raw Basics

    There are no absolutes to feeding your dog raw. It's highly adjustable according to your dogs needs- more bone, more meat than bone, more/less based on activity, etc. After you've been feeding raw for a couple weeks, you'll get to know your dogs needs. Here is a basic formula to follow as a starting point:

  • 45-50% Raw Meaty Bones - meat with edible bones like fish, poultry necks, backs, wings, etc.
  • 45% Muscle Meat - meat without bones- heart
  • 5% Organ Meat - liver, lung, etc.
  • 0-5% Miscellaneous - whole raw eggs, raw milk, green tripe (not the bleached white stuff!)

    Our dogs get 2-4% of their body weight in ounces per day, monitoring weight to adjust amounts is important. More or less depending on how he feels in the 'hug test'. We also adjust amounts according to activity level- less in fall/winter, more in spring/summer. Here's a handy calculator to aid in determining how much to feed your dog or puppy!

    Remember to supply a nice variety of raw food each week. Every meal does not have to be completely balanced... balance is achieved over time. So go ahead and give your dog chicken three days in a row, red meat for a couple days, and then lamb to round out the week. Each type of meat contains different nutrients and amino acids, so this variety will give him superior nutrition for life. 

   So, what exactly do we feed our pets? They get a wide variety of human grade raw meat, bones, and organs- fish, chicken, beef, rabbit, pork, lamb- much of it in its whole form or chunks large enough to really gnaw on and clean those pearly whites. Occasionally whole egg, plain organic yogurt, and raw goat milk. The dogs enjoy apple and windfall plums, as well as vegetables they pilfer from my kitchen garden. They also enjoy large beef and buffalo bones as a treat, never rawhide which can block up their systems and be a choking hazard. Some folks also give supplements, although this isn't absolutely necessary. Our pets get a good variety of healthy meats, organs, and meaty bones for a naturally balanced diet.

You Can Do It!

    Depending on your dog, you can either switch over 100% immediately, or transition gradually. Paying attention to how your dog's body responds will be the main determining factor. Some dogs may experience loose stools the first couple days. For this, simply give him a couple tablespoons of organic, plain pumpkin puree per day until it firms up again. Yep, the kind you find in a can at the market!

    Do try to keep the diet simple to begin with, starting with one type of meat for a couple days, adding another type, and so on. Feeding meat with smaller bones and in 2-3 small meals will help your dog adjust to the exercise his jaw is receiving. Trim off excess fat and hold off on giving him any of the Miscellaneous items until it seems his system has fully adjusted, maybe 2 weeks or so.

    There may be a day here and there that your dog doesn't want to eat. That's okay! Canines go for almost a week without food in the wild. Some folks practice a 'fast day' for their dogs each week, only making water available. Eoin and Greer have a semi-fast day once every week, consisting of raw milk or bone broth, and two whole eggs. They seem to enjoy this special meal and we have seen firsthand how the toxin cleansing benefits have helped them.

    One thing to definitely be aware of -  dogs not accustomed to eating raw meat and bones can sometimes choke. Their jaw, facial, and esophageal muscles aren't used to it. They seem to eat faster in general on raw, most times Eoin is finished in far less than 5 minutes. I do wonder whether a dog thinks his incredibly delicious new food may be one he's not 'supposed' to have, so he scarfs it down even faster before it's taken away! Just watch him for the first week especially, while he eats. Trust me, it's not like you'll have to stand and watch for a very long time! You can also teach your dog to slow down by hand feeding - have your dog "sit and stay", then hold the chunk of meat while he eats. He will eat slowly and carefully with you holding it. Once you see him slow down, go ahead and let go of the meat. It only took a couple times for Eoin and Greer to learn with this method.

    In your dog's enthusiasm to eat the tempting morsel you offer, he may accidentally nip your hand. We found it extremely helpful to train Eoin and Greer to "sit" or "down" and "stay" while we placed their dish on the ground, then give the release command "okay, go eat". This technique will also eliminate any tendency toward food aggression. Their routine comes in handy for the pet sitter, too!

    Some older dogs especially, may not take to raw at first. Go even slower, do what you can. Be patient. Above all, keep at it! Every little bit is one step closer to a healthier, happier dog!

    Also, keep in mind that a raw fed puppy develops very strong jaws and teeth. Translation, they can tear up furniture and toys in a flash. We liked the rubber puppy Kong for Eoin, so got one for Greer, too. Needless to say, we were quite surprised to see shreds and chunks taken out of it! Caution and supervision are in order.  :)

    Where to feed your dog? Well, eating raw meat is a messy affair, believe you, me! Unless you don't mind thoroughly sanitizing your floor after each and every feeding, go ahead, feed your dog in the house. I'm all about ease and simplicity, so its outside on the porch for our dogs. Next, we do try to be considerate of our neighbors. Observing a dog through the fence gnawing on animal parts could draw the unwanted concern of a neighbor. So, we opted to train our dogs to take their pieces of meat from a dish, in one location, instead of strewn all around the yard, as they instinctively will do. It's a helpful practice while traveling, too. This does not mean, however, that we don't find the odd bone buried here and there, or see the neighbor dog gaze longingly as Eoin relishes a big bone, but we can all live with that!

    Whether you go 'cold turkey' or gradually transition, by all means do give it a try. We haven't regretted it for an instant and will never go back!


offgridbob said...

One thing I have noticed is there is a lot of road kill in the curlew area. I plan on contacting the game department and find out if I can gather some up for the dog.

The Beers said...

Venison is an extremely healthy meat for carnivores. This is a terrific idea, Bob! Here on the coast it isn't allowed (I actually looked into it a couple years ago!). Let us know what you learn about out there. We would absolutely love to have a source for healthy venison for the pets!

katlupe said...

My dog only likes raw meat. If she can have it wild, that is what she likes best. I get venison for her in hunting season when the hunters gut their deer along our road. We got one for her this past year, that was a big waste of meat that the hunter left behind. It kept in the snow and she ate on it for a long time.