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Forum Discussion (Natural Berners)

16-18 February 2006 - Natural Berners
Discussion with Dr Tom Lonsdale

Q & A Part 1
Questions 1 to 4
Q & A Part 2
Questions 5 to 9
Q & A Part 3
Questions 10 to 16

Date: Wed Feb 15, 2006 3:23 pm
Subject: Please Welcome Dr. Tom Lonsdale

We are honored to have a guest speaker about to join us - Dr. Tom Lonsdale, veterinarian and author of "Raw Meaty Bones" and "Work Wonders." We are fortunate that list member Jackie recently offered to connect us with him and that he is sharing his expertise with us over the next few days.

I am sending out this welcome message today because it is already Thursday where Tom Lonsdale is. So to maximize the time we have with him you can begin sending your questions for him to the list today.

****Please start the subject line of your message with the word "QUESTION:", so that Tom knows the email is for him.****

Feel free to address him as Tom or Dr. Lonsdale - either one is fine with him.

The topic is diet and the role it plays on canine health. Please refrain from asking him questions on other subjects or ask him to diagnose a particular problem or discuss individual clinical needs.

Welcome Tom Lonsdale! Feel free to proactively share with us your perspective on the impact diets (both optimal and not) have on our dogs' health.


Date: Thu, 16 Feb 2006
From: Tom Lonsdale
Subject: Re: Please Welcome Dr. Tom Lonsdale

Hi ...,

Many thanks for your warm welcome. It's indeed an honour to be here talking about one of the most important topics in science in the 21st century.

There are already some excellent questions awaiting my response and I look forward to exploring some of the intricacies.

I'm glad you mentioned Jackie Marriott that most remarkable lady engaged in a most remarkable campaign.

Jackie can tell her own story, but in brief it goes something like this:

Dog owner and trainer for many years. Fed junk food for the bulk of that time. For a period got caught in 'barfmania', but after attending the RMB Seminar in Sussex in 2003 made a full recovery from the barf madness. The next year Jackie and a group of dedicated helpers set up an RMB seminar in Brighton, UK.

What comes next is real important.

Gradually Jackie and her group were realising something needed to be done about the junk pet food/veterinary cabal that dumbs down society, poisons pets and squanders resources.

On 14 July 2004 Jackie and Co convened a further meeting where the UKRMB Support and Action Group was born, funds were raised, website commissioned and tee shirts ordered. A band of tireless mostly female warriors was established. (Vic, Jackie's husband plays a v. important part.)

It gets more interesting. At first UKRMB was much about pet owner support around the dog's bowl and this was reflected in the Group's website.

Within a few months UKRMB had written to every UK Member of Parliament and engaged the veterinary establishment in some rigorous correspondence. It became clear to Jackie and Co the high level ignorance, incompetence and corruption pervading the whole junk pet food/vet charade. And as an aside it became increasingly clear how corrupted the raw food debate had become principally driven by those selling junk raw food and bottled supplements.

UKRMB sought solutions and realised that the first thing needing overhaul was the pet bowl oriented website. In its stead, with the assistance of some very kind and committed web masters, they created the current site. www.ukrmb.co.uk

Nowadays the group works an 8 day week fighting the pet food/vet corruption. They liaise with pet owners, politicians, government departments, medical schools, dental schools, veterinary schools, media and a host of other players in a giant and corrupted game.

As a result of their persistent efforts two Early Day Motions have been tabled in the British Parliament. The British Veterinary Association launched a variously false and misleading counter attack. You can read much of the action at: http://www.ukrmb.co.uk/showcontent.toy?contentnid=17794

It's only the beginning of a mighty struggle. Jackie and Co deserve our utmost respect. They could do with some help and support too.

So if you've got some free time and free cash please consider tipping it towards UKRMB.

Thanks again for inviting me here.

I believe that we can shed some light on complex and fascinating issues and have some fun too.

Best wishes,

Tom Lonsdale

Date: Thu, 16 Feb 2006
From: Tom Lonsdale
Subject: Proactive preamble

Hi All,

XXXX mentions: 'The topic is diet and the role it plays on canine health and for me to 'Feel free to proactively share with us your perspective on the impact diets (both optimal and not) have on our dogs' health.'

Before we begin I would like to sketch something of a framework for our discussions.

We all start from differing positions, but a constant applying to all is that if we want to build a secure understanding we need to build on sound foundations. In the vet and nutrition area this means we need to clear away misunderstandings and level the ground. Much like when we build a house. First get the rubbish removed, level the site and only then lay foundations.

So 'unlearning' cherished beliefs is perhaps the most important and also perhaps the most difficult aspect.

For instance in modern parlance dogs are carnivores (definitely not omnivores as some would have us believe). However carnivore only tells part of the story. Carnivore means meat eater. But meat alone is not a suitable diet for 'carnivores'. Wouldn't it have been easier and more accurate had our forebears described wolves, lions, etc as 'carcassivores'?

Because of the way we divide up the natural world using words we've coined two different words for what we believe are different concepts -- 'food' and 'medicine'. But nature makes no such distinction and for 'carnivores' living in the wild the key to good nutrition and good health is whole carcasses of other animals. In other words carcasses provide food and medicine.

Some of our problems of understanding go back all the way to the creation of language. 500 years BC Hippocrates recommended: 'Leave your drugs in the chemist's pot if you can heal your patients with food.' But most of our problems of pet diets and bogus vet treatments date from the 1860s when Jack Spratt started the junk pet food industry.

As Jackie Marriott wrote to the British Medical Journal

Yes, dogs are biologically hard-wired carnivores and share most of the needs and behaviours of wolves. But the pet-food industry, and in large part a compliant veterinary profession, flood our senses with the tidy notion that happiness comes in the form of:
a.) Cuddly toys/guard dogs.
b.) Daily fuel/ maintenance needs met by grain-based products sold
at the supermarket.
c.) For checkups and running repairs consult the vet.

It's been this way ever since Jack Spratt invented dog biscuits in the 1860's and, then aided by Charles Cruft of the dog show fame, promoted processed pet foods to an unsuspecting public. The vets got in on the act when demand for their farm services declined at the same time the epidemics of junk-food induced diseases of pet dogs created need for sophisticated (and costly) diagnosis and treatment.

So the junk pet food industry and their vet helpers are responsible for a mighty scam. For ease of description I suggest that it can be divided into five facets:

* Cruelty, ill health and suffering of pets
* Misused and abused 'science'
* Blocking of significant scientific breakthroughs
* Economic, human health and natural environmental consequences
* Failure of the democratic, administrative and legal systems to
deal with a cashed-up cabal

During our discussion of the first facet I hope we can keep in mind the other four facets. Each impacts the others and we need to deal with all aspects in a timely fashion if we want to make optimum progress.

Best wishes,

Tom Lonsdale

Question 1
Date: Wed Feb 15, 2006 3:30 pm

Hello and Welcome Dr. Tom!
Thanks for taking the time to help us better understand the importance of raw feeding.

My question:

For those of us who for whatever reason (be it costs, time constraints or just fear of not feeding totally raw properly) who do a 'modified raw diet', i.e., one raw meal a day and one high quality kibble meal per day, are we doing more harm than good? What are the consequences of feeding half and half?? Are there actual benefits to it?


From: Tom Lonsdale
Subject: Re: QUESTION

Hi...and All,

Thanks for the question. It's an excellent way to kick-off discussion but with a couple of provisos.

Because there are several subsections to your question and because this is a huge topic no single email answer can do full justice. Given the importance of the issues I encourage everyone, pet owner or not, to get a good handle on the five facets of the pet food scam. We all need to be well informed and become empowered to take our own sound decisions based on sound evidence.

Junk food poisons in three sometimes five different ways:

Quoting from Work Wonders Chapter 6:

Whenever we stop doing harm, we take the first step towards doing some good. And junk foods harm the health of a majority of the world’s pet dogs in broadly three, sometimes five, different ways.

1. Soft canned foods and grain-based kibble do not clean teeth. In fact food sludge sticks to teeth and feeds oral bacteria. The result: sore gums, bad breath and bacterial poisons that affect the rest of the body.

2. Dogs don’t have the digestive enzymes in the right quality or quantity to deal with the nutrients in grains and other plant material, whether those materials are raw or cooked. When grains are cooked at high temperatures at the pet-food factory the starches, proteins and fats become denatured or toxic in variable degrees. Once in the bowel of a dog, toxic nutrients are absorbed into the circulation and affect various body systems.

3. Poorly digested grain-based junk food supports a large population of toxin-producing bacteria in the lower bowel. The bowel lining, in constant contact with poisons, may be adversely affected. Some poisons pass through the bowel wall into the blood circulation, are carried to other organs and create further problems.

4. Like Morgan Spurlock, some pets show signs of ill health after a short time consuming junk food. For instance, young puppies frequently suffer from bad skin and diarrhea. Long term exposure to the diet-related toxins listed in 1, 2 and 3 lead to diseases of body organs. Diseased organs produce more toxins which enter the blood stream and add to the toxic load affecting all other organs.

5. Pets affected by the above four categories of poison frequently get taken to the vet. Some vets say: Stop! Stop feeding junk food. Sadly, though, most vets ignore categories 1, 2 and 3. Instead they diagnose diseased organs as mentioned in 4. Treatment usually involves strong pharmaceuticals which then contribute another level of toxic insult.

From the above you can see that stopping poisoning your pets is the single most important thing you can do. It's so effective it's why those who feed table scraps only instead of commercial food often see a big improvement in their pet's health -- they stopped some of the worst poisoning. It's the reason barfers and the producers of junk raw food see improved health in the animals on their dietary regimes (but they mistakenly attribute the health improvements to their vegetables and supplements).

But stopping the serious harm is only the first part of providing the right 'food and medicine' for your canine companions. Ideally that would be whole carcasses of prey animals -- although I recognise the sometimes impractical aspects of feeding whole prey and suggest the diet at http://www.rawmeatybones.com/diet/exp-diet-guide.pdf works well.

So your question about half and half:

Insofar as a correct diet provides both food and medicine then I pose a couple of questions.

1.) Would you follow your car maker's instructions when fueling your car? Or would you mix equal parts petrol/gasoline with waste cooking oil from Macdonalds'?

2.) When using medicines, whether in a treatment or preventative role, is it best to follow the prescription?

My belief is that the daily ongoing medicinal aspect of feeding carnivores as close to the makers' prescription as is possible needs to be constantly kept in mind. Watering down or in other ways adulterating the medicine is not recommended.

I do appreciate your question and the desire to do the best at an economical cost and in a convenient way. I understand the cultural and other pressures you experience and the constant bombardment by advertisements and other sales techniques.

By asking questions I believe you are already a long way towards finding the answers.

Best wishes,

Tom Lonsdale

Question 2
Date: Wed Feb 15, 2006 4:56 pm

Dear Dr. Tom,

I have a litter of 5 Bernese puppies, seven and half weeks old now, ready to go to their new homes this weekend. Could you please advise me as to what shall I tell the new owners to feed the puppies - i.e. the four meals per day they are currently having. We are giving them cottage cheese and goats milk for breakfast, raw meaty bones chopped up for lunch, raw meat with pulped veg for dinner (or sometimes tinned sardines), and scrambled eggs for supper (yes, it is cooked food but they just LOVE it...). Is this regime any good and should we advise the new owners to carry on or could you please suggest a better diet?

Thank you so much.


Date: Thu, 16 Feb 2006 13:01:41 +1100
From: Tom Lonsdale

Hi ...,

Thanks for the good question.

Broadly speaking, and for ease of access, I recommend the diet at: http://www.rawmeatybones.com/diet/exp-diet-guide.pdf

For a fuller answer to feeding young pups I've copied at the foot of this email a passage from Work Wonders.

However, at 7 and half weeks pups are better tussling with their litter mates over pig's heads, whole carcasses of other animals and the like.

Pups cut their deciduous teeth between 3 and 6 weeks (variations occur). During the teething and thereafter the pups need to make full use of their working parts. (Use em or lose em)

Wishing you and your pups the best of good health,

Tom Lonsdale

Work Wonders Chapter 4 Switching, Grinding, Breeding

Grinding food, is it necessary?

By ripping and tearing at food carnivores keep periodontal and associated diseases at bay. Take away the tooth cleaning function and you take away a major benefit of raw food. You wouldn’t buy watered down medicine, at inflated prices, for your children and similarly it’s not good policy to ‘water down’ the medicinal benefits of raw food.

But seeing as though we are dealing with complex biological systems then very occasionally we need to modify the rules. For short periods of time carnivores can survive perfectly well without bone in the diet. So if a pet is too young or too sick to eat whole raw meaty bones, then the answer is simple ? feed chopped or ground meat and offal. (But remember, for a short period of time only.)

Before three weeks of age puppies do not need solids and after six weeks of age they have teeth for ripping and tearing whole food. During the transitional phase from milk to whole food feeding, wolf mothers regurgitate part-digested stomach contents for their puppies. Only a few domestic dogs regurgitate food in this way. If a dog has plenty of milk and the litter is small then supplementary feeding may not be necessary. However, if in doubt provide chopped or ground raw meat along with chicken pieces. By six weeks of age most puppies show a preference for food requiring ripping and tearing and feeding ground food should be discontinued.

For longer term feeding the old and toothless may need their food ground. But I say ‘may need’. Even toothless or nearly toothless dogs manage to gum their way through chicken frames. They benefit from the mental and physical exercise and tone the gums. Perhaps in the last few weeks of life an elderly pet may need assistance with eating. Ground or chopped meat and offal work well. At that late stage in life, and for a short period, strict adherence to the need for bone in the diet can be relaxed.

So when do adult dogs need ground raw meaty bones? There is one rare medical condition, megaesophagus, which affects an animal’s ability to deliver food to the stomach with resultant pooling of food in the esophagus.2 Finely ground food must be offered. A rare condition of dogs, pyloric stenosis, may prevent food from passing from the stomach to the small intestine.3 An operation can usually resolve the problem, but
until the surgery is performed it’s best to grind the food.


Let Nature be our guide. Let the breeding season coincide with a good supply of appropriate food. Yes, it’s as simple as that. Wild carnivores breed at the same time there’s a maximum number of easy-to-catch juveniles of the prey species.

Feed your breeding stock on a diet as close as possible to that Nature intended and they will have optimum fertility, fetuses will be carried to full term and the birth process will be as uncomplicated as can reasonably be expected.

The reasons for this are obvious when we stop to think about it. Healthy males have healthy sperm and healthy females shed healthy eggs. A healthy uterus provides the best environment for growing embryos; strong uterine and abdominal muscles provide the best chance for a trouble free birth.

Breeders report fewer caesarean sections in animals fed raw as opposed to processed diets. Newborn puppies and kittens tend to be slightly smaller but more vigorous than the sleepy offspring of mothers fed processed food. Puppies and kittens suckling vigorously stimulate the milk supply and contraction of the uterus which in turn ensures the wellbeing of the mother. Healthy mothers lick and clean their offspring thus reinforcing the maternal bond and stimulating circulation, respiration and the voiding of urine and feces by the young.

Carnivore mothers ‘clean-up’ after their offspring. I was intrigued to learn that ‘cleaning-up’ may continue longer in those litters fed raw food. No bad odors and mess characteristic of the processed-food fed litters.

Three weeks of age is a good time to start puppies on whole pieces of raw food. Chicken
backs and frames make a good first choice providing there is plenty of meat attached to the bones. First the young suck then tug at the meat and by six weeks of age expertly crunch on the soft chicken bones. Whole rabbit and fish carcasses are another good source of food for young animals. Please bear in mind that puppies readily take to a variety of different foods. Introduce a range of raw meaty bones and carcasses early and your pets will grow up with wide tastes.

Question 3
Date: Wed Feb 15, 2006 4:18 pm
Subject: Welcome Tom :-)

I hope it is allowed only to say "hello" ....... without having a question.

Just want to welcome you Tom.
We met each other 3 times in Germany at Swanie's "GH-Treff".
I hope you are well! :-))

Thank you for all you have done for our beloved dogs and their owners, to lead them to better nutrition and health. You are doing a great work.


Date: Thu, 16 Feb 2006 12:39:38 +1100
From: Tom Lonsdale
Subject: Re: Welcome Tom :-)

Hello ...,

Thanks for saying hello and looking forward to the next time we meet.

Swanie has invited me back to Saarbrucken for the 2006 Gesunde Hunde Treff the weekend of 8/9 July.

It's the first time the Treff has been staged at Swanie's new house. If the previous four are anything to go by this should be a terrific gathering of dogs and their owners.

You can probably tell more about the legendary Swanie Simon and the Gesunde Hunde Group. Let me say they are a wonderful community based in Germany with members in Austria, Holland and Switzerland (and one based in Majorca and another who spends a lot of time in Morocco besides others) who come together for an annual weekend of fellowship, learning and good fun.

For photos of the first Treff in 2002 see: http://www.rawmeatybones.com/pics_germany.html

Once we have more details of the 2006 RMB U-turn Tour we shall publish them in the RMB Newsletter and at www.rawmeatybones.com

See you in July.

Best wishes,

Ps. Almost forgot that we hope the German version of Work Wonders will be launched at or soon after the Treff. Cheers, Tom

Date: Wed Feb 15, 2006 6:30 pm
Subject: Questions for Dr. Tom Lonsdale
Some great questions so far.

In your subject line - please put a few words describing the question
after the word Question - so something like:

"Question: feeding young puppies" or "Question: mix of raw and kibble"

That will help us keep everything straight.

Also - if you can't think of questions to ask today that's okay. We have our guest with us for the next 3 days.

Question 4
Date: Wed Feb 15, 2006 8:31 pm
Subject: Questions: Diet change in older dogs, teeth

Dr. Lonsdale,

Have a 9 year old Berner girl, Neala. Overall she is doing a lot better than 3 years ago. Switched her over to Pitcairn and later raw when she was around 2 years of age.

Do you advise to change the diet as the dog gets older? Seems Neala's stool consistency changed as she got older, with the same diet. Wonder if some of this is just a normal aging process, or if the diet should be adjusted as they age.

Neala has only Tartar on her K9's. Bones don't seem to help it as much as I like. Always thought if I did the diet correct, she shouldn't have tartar.

Is growth on gums an older dog common, normal? All three of the dogs I had developed them. Neala is the longest on raw, but the worst.

Thanks for your time


From: Tom Lonsdale
Subject: Re: Questions: Diet change in older dogs, teeth

Hi ...,

Thanks for your question. Glad your 9 year old is doing better than three years ago. It's a familiar tale. Well done.

Apart from when feeding the very old or very sick there's no need to change the basic good diet.

However there's raw and then there's raw -- and getting the basic good diet organised takes time and effort.

You mention:

Neala has only Tartar on her K9's. Bones don't seem to help it as much as I like.

To be frank I used to be of the same opinion. I thought that canines got used for killing prey, not much else and that driving the sharp teeth into the hide of prey was the main if only way they got cleaned. But I was suffering a misapprehension. When watching wolves eating and watching Alison Tyler's dogs eating large shoulders of pork I noticed the 'raking action' carnivores use to tear large chunks of meat from bone. They plunge the canine teeth deep inside the meat and pull. (Previously I'd talked about dogs flossing their teeth and seen several lions on kills and dogs eating rabbits but not made the appropriate observation about the full raking action.)

So to get canine teeth cleaned the natural way give carcasses or large lumps of meat on bone.

Teeth discolour with age and you will inevitably see some gum changes with age. However, swollen gums is mostly to do with chronic periodontal disease.

You are mostly right to assume that if you feed correctly then tartar will be minimised. But even in the best of all possible situations the mouth is always teeming with periodontal bacteria. The least little failure of complete cleaning will result in tartar accumulation.

I brush my teeth twice daily and floss once daily, but still my dentist finds tartar to scrape off at the six-monthly check ups.

For carnivores we need to emphasise the more natural brush, scrub and polish performed by the diet the better.

If however that set of actions is lacking then you can supplement by tooth brushing and otherwise visit the vet dentist and get things restored to as good as possible. Then make a point of feeding as close as possible to Nature's prescription.

Good luck,

Tom Lonsdale

Date: Thu, 16 Feb 2006 07:33:23 -0700
Subject: Re: Questions: Diet change in older dogs, teeth

Hi Tom,

Thank you for your reply.

What you wrote makes sense. Neala gets hardly big enough junks of bone with meat. Will have to find a place where I can get it.

Now that I think about it, her lumps on her gums, started after we had her teeth scaled.

Do you recommend for dogs to be put under anesthetic to have teeth cleaned if they need it or do it without, if the dog tolerates it?

Thank you. Have to rethink how I feed


From: Tom Lonsdale
Subject: Fwd: Re: Questions: Diet change in older dogs, teeth

Hi ...,

Good that you are working on the diet.

Situations vary hugely and it's best not to be too prescriptive about how to clean teeth.

Many dogs and cats and ferrets teeth clean up nicely with a change of diet only. Others benefit from major dental work.

Trouble is it's often difficult to know what's in a dog's mouth until you have the patient under anaesthetic. This should not come as a surprise. Even human dentists refer their patients to periodontists for expert examination. To get the expert examination of a dog depends on a.) the vet or vet dentist being well informed b.) generally requires a perfectly still patient where each tooth can be individually examined.

I know it's difficult, especially during this transitional time when most vets don't understand about diet and often don't know much about dentistry either. Taking your own decisions can help. But better to find a knowledgeable vet and consult him or her as to whether your pet needs to have dentistry under anaesthetic.

Cleaning needs to be carried on daily. Best that the diet does that for you and in the case of Bernese teeth are usually accessible and can be brushed too.

Best wishes,


Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2006 07:45:20 -0700
Subject: Re: Questions: Diet change in older dogs, teeth

Dear Tom,

Thank you very much for your time in answering my question.I will reevaluate how I feed, bigger junks so teeth will get a better work out, then will check into dentistry. Just been scared of putting a 9 year old under for any procedure.

But you gave me something to think about. Signed up to rawfeeding email list and keep on learning.


Q & A Part 1
Questions 1 to 4
Q & A Part 2
Questions 5 to 9
Q & A Part 3
Questions 10 to 16

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