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Dogs Monthly December 2005
The following article was first published in Dogs Monthly December 2005 Vol.23 No.12

By Debbie Wickham & Jackie Marriott

There is much misleading, inaccurate and positively scaremongering material published about feeding a natural raw meaty bone diet to our pet dogs, cats and ferrets. In this article we would like to address some of the points which have been raised in recent months, particularly in the canine press.

Feeding a natural diet has been described as a fad.  Feeding our pets as near to the way that nature intended cannot in anyway be described as faddish. Thousands of years of evolution have proved that. Processed canned pet food and biscuit first emerged about 140 years ago - processed complete dried food some forty years ago. Now perhaps that could be described as a fad! Dogs, cats and ferrets are carnivores. Dogs and wolves share 99.8% of their mitochondrial DNA (Wayne, R.K. Molecular Evolution of the Dog Family). Dogs are so much like wolves physiologically that they are frequently used in wolf studies as a physiological model for wolf body processes (Mech, L.D. 2003:  Wolves: Behavior, Ecology & Conservation).
Feeding raw meat on the bone has been described as dangerous, positively life threatening. If the people who make these claims really researched the subject properly, they would see that actually the reverse is true. There is now a huge amount of evidence to implicate processed pet food in a large number of potentially fatal conditions which afflict our pet dogs and cats, and which keep a large part of the veterinary profession very busy. Most notable is periodontal disease, which in turn can lead to diseases of the heart, liver and kidneys. Evidence of the life threatening conditions caused by feeding processed pet food - even the so-called ‘quality’ foods - abounds. On the other hand, a raw meaty bone diet produces healthy dogs and cats, with a healthy immune system. Indeed, the connection in human health between processed food and illness has already been made by the medical profession. Two important sources of reference are Raw Meaty Bones by Tom Lonsdale containing 389 pages of fully referenced, peer reviewed evidence, and his latest book (just published) Work Wonders - a super guide for those who are new to raw feeding or who are at the thinking about it stage.(www.rawmeatybones.com)

One of the many red herrings which is produced by the anti raw lobby is the risk of catching or transmitting infection from raw food. Salmonella is usually the bacteria mentioned, so let’s address that. Salmonella in chicken does not cause dogs or cats a problem if their immune system is intact, which it is if fed on a raw meaty bone diet. Having fed our own dogs and cats on raw meaty bones for over ten years, we have NEVER had any instances of Salmonella poisoning. However, if in the future it should happen, that is when we would take our pet to the vet for some antibiotics. Conversely, before our transition to feeding raw, our dogs were fed on a processed diet and were frequently at the vet for various stomach upsets, skin problems, ear and eye infections etc.

Dogs are very well equipped to deal with bacteria. Think about your dog - this is an animal that can lick itself, lick other dogs, eat a variety of disgusting, rotting things and ingest its own faeces and those of other animals with no ill effects! Their short digestive tract is designed to push through food and bacteria quickly without giving bacteria time to colonize. The extremely acidic environment in the gut is also a good deterrent to bacteria colonization. Dogs can shed salmonella in their faeces (even processed fed dogs do this) without showing any ill effects - showing that the dog has effectively passed the salmonella through its system with no problems. Yes, the dog can act as a salmonella carrier, but the solution is simple - don’t eat dog faeces and wash your hands after handling your dog and before consuming your food.

We also read that additives, antibiotics and preservatives in raw meats are “terrifying”. Interestingly, antibiotics, artificial preservatives, and artificial additives are in extremely high concentrations in prepared and processed food. The preservatives are there to extend the shelf life, and to make the food smell and taste better. Additives are there to replace the natural nutrients which are destroyed in the cooking process. Antibiotics are NOT destroyed during the cooking process. If a dog or cat’s immune system is suppressed/compromised through eating processed pet food (complete with the aforesaid antibiotics) then this could cause a problem during post operative or pre-operative treatments.

Neosporosis Caninum has also been mentioned. Neosporosis Caninum, a parasite that affects the brain, may be found in raw mince. This parasite is obliterated when raw food has been frozen. We would mention that on a raw meaty bone diet, we do not feed mince. Further scaremongering tactics have been used regarding the worming concentrations of Anthelmintics (Fenbendazol) in cattle, particularly if you were to feed your dog tripe. Whilst tripe does not feature highly in the raw meaty bone diet, it is worth noting that having spoken to the veterinary surgeon who researches drugs for Intervet UK, he has confirmed that cattle are not allowed to be slaughtered for at least 140 days after dosing with anthelmintic.  Coincidentally, Fenbendazol is used as a puppy wormer by most vets in the UK.

One of the really misleading “facts” quoted is the effect on behaviour when feeding a dog a raw diet. Dogs are designed, both anatomically, psychologically and physiologically to digest a diet comprising approximately 70% raw meat on the bone, with the remainder being scraps and perhaps some vegetative matter. They have little need for carbohydrates. Good quality protein in ‘real’ food does not make dogs hyperactive or cause behavioural problems. The opposite is in fact well known by many behaviourists. Dogs hyped up by the additives and preservatives in processed food, are noticeably calmer when switched to a more natural diet of raw meat on the bone.

Another myth which is occasionally bought up is that feeding dogs raw food will make them become aggressive or bloodthirsty. What does this mean? How can feeding a dog what it was designed to eat make it bloodthirsty? Feeding a dog meat on bone is NOT going to suddenly turn it into a vicious animal that attacks everything that moves! It is interesting to note that herding breeds have coexisted peacefully with the animals they herded without savaging or killing them, even when these same dogs have been fed on a diet of raw meaty bones from the very same animals they were guarding. The dog is, by nature a predator and will chase other animals because it is ‘hard-wired’ to do so, not because it is bloodthirsty or has a taste for meat in the human definition of the words. Feeding raw does nothing to change this.

Next, lets look at the “bones are dangerous” myth. COOKED bones can be lethal. Cooking changes the structure of the bone, rendering it indigestible and prone to splintering. Raw bones rarely splinter and are fully digestible. There is the slightest risk that a bone may become impacted or the dog may choke - this problem is typical if the dog gulps his food and is fed small things like chicken wings. This is easily addressed by always supervising the dog when he is eating and ensuring that the raw meaty bones you feed him are a sensible size. With cats, chicken wings are about the same size as a small bird, so they should not have a problem. Many of the so-called problems associated with feeding bones actually relate to either cooked bones, or the feeding of inappropriate bones - knuckles or femurs. These bones can cause teeth to become cracked or chipped. Ironically, it is these particular bones which some food manufacturers and some vets actually recommend to owners for keeping their dogs teeth clean! Interestingly, these people who mention the danger of choking on bone will never mention the instances of dogs who choke on their dried pellets through gulping the food down, or who have a telescoping bowel, or bloat - all recognised conditions for dogs fed on processed food.

When you next talk to the owner of a dog or cat who has one or more of the following - diabetes, pancreatitis, is overweight, has a severe skin disorder, smelly breath, awful teeth, kidney problems - ask the question “What has this animal been fed?” If we have made you think about your pets diet, have made you think about the numerous health problems which beset dogs (and cats) compared to fifty years ago, have caused you to be concerned about pets who look and act middle aged by the time they are 5yrs old, have dirty, stained teeth (and consequently infected gums) by the time they are 3yrs old - then please investigate feeding your pet on a raw meaty bone diet. If you need help initially, then you can contact us at www.ukrmb.co.uk We don’t sell food, and we don’t charge for advice!

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