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RAW FEEDING FOR DOGS AND CATS
Pet parents today are becoming more aware about their pets health and wellbeing and a large part of that is how we nourish them. There is a significant movement away from ultra-processed foods in favour of a fresh wholefood diet. Research such as that done by Dog Risk at Helsinki University is revealing that replacing as little as 20% of your pets processed diet with appropriate fresh wholefoods can begin to reduce diseases markers in their bodies. Perdue University found the inclusion of fresh green leafy veg and yellow-orange vegetables had the potential to reduce the risk of some cancers by up to 90% and research conducted in New Zealand at Massey University found that diets high in meat were not only easier for dogs to digest but the nutrients were more bio-available and supported a healthier more diverse microbiome. Fresh wholefoods diets have been also been attributed to improved energy, better coat and skin health, easier to maintain a healthy weight and better dental health when consuming appropriate raw meaty bones.
Dogs and cats have both evolved to consume a carnivorous diet, dogs are considered Facultative Carnivores, meaning they have a preference for animal based diets but have the ability to consume and digest some plant matter. Cats however are Obligate or Hyper carnivores. This means they must eat a predominantly meat/animal based diet to meet all their nutritional requirements, cats have also evolved to consume most of their moisture requirements through their food and have a poor thirst drive. Raw diets focus on providing your pets nutritional requirements with biologically appropriate fresh wholefoods, there are two main raw feeding models widely used that aim to emulate a natural wild diet, these include BARF and Prey Model. The major difference between the two is the inclusion of vegetable matter in the BARF diet for dogs, cats are mostly fed a Prey Model diet due to their inability to derive the nutrients they need from larger amounts of plant matter. Both diets include muscle and organ meats, soft edible raw meaty bones and excreting organs but this alone does not meet all nutritional requirements set out by the main guidelines (AAFCO, NRC & FEDIAF). There are a variety of additional foods that will contribute to filling the nutritional gaps.
How do we create a healthy meal plan at home you may ask? Well let’s take a look…
Meat: Both muscle meats and muscular organs fed as meat such as Heart, Lung and tripe provide most of the Amino acids the building blocks of protein as well as fats vitamins and minerals, depending on the model you are feeding will contribute to 70-80% of the diet. Heart in particular is a good source of the Amino Acid Taurine important for heart health and a vital nutritional requirement for all cats, ideally 10-15% of the meat portion of the diet can be heart. Green tripe is good source of manganese. The meat portion should be rotated between at least 4 proteins with at least 50% being red meats, this is even more important for cats to receive plenty of red meats. Suitable proteins can include Beef, Kangaroo, Lamb, Duck, Pork, Turkey, Chicken, Rabbit, Goat, Venison, Emu, Quail etc…
Excreting Organs: These are the equivalent of nature’s multivitamin, packed with vitamins excreting organs are a vital part of a raw diet. Liver in particular is a rich source of Vitamin A and as such needs to be fed in moderation at 5% of the overall diet, a second excreting organ is also fed at a ratio of 5% and can include Kidney, Brains, Spleen, Pancreas etc… rotation between organs and protein sources for nutritional diversity is ideal. Organs from ruminants such as beef and lamb tend to provide the best sources of nutrients.
Bones: Soft edible raw meaty bones (RMB) such as poultry frames, wings, necks, feet, tails and ribs etc.. are another important part of the raw diet providing the main source of calcium along with other minerals, cartilage rich bones also provide joint supportive nutrients such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin. RMBs provide a natural activity to help massage the gums to aid in maintaining good dental health. Selecting the right types of bones will be dependent on your dog’s size and how they approach consuming their meaty bones, always supervise consumption of their RMB’s. If however you are uncomfortable feeding raw meaty bones you can feed raw ground/minced bones some butchers will be happy to mince poultry frames for you or there are speciality raw food suppliers that will usually stock them. Always avoid dense weight bearing bones like marrow bones as these are known to cause tooth fractures.
Eggs: Raw or gently cooked provide amino acids, vitamins, minerals and fats. Eggs are a good source of Vitamin D in a fresh food diet. You may have heard eggs should not be fed due to an antinutrient called Avidin, while this true that the whites contain Avidin and will affect the absorption of Biotin, however if the whole egg is consumed (white and yolk) there is adequate Biotin present in the yolk to not pose a danger of deficiency, cooking will also eliminate this issue.
Oily fish: Including Salmon, Sardine & Mackerel are largely included for their Omega 3 fatty acids important to reduce inflammation in the body they are another great source of Vitamin D. Some fish contains Thiaminase, this effects the absorption of Thiamine and can lead to a deficiency, so raw fish containing Thiaminase is best avoided with cats who have a greater need of Thiamine, cooked deboned fish or canned fish in Springwater is the best option as cooking will eliminate Thiaminase. Raw Salmon sourced from the Pacific Northwest (Canada & the Americas) can also contain a parasite that causes Salmon Poisoning in dogs, so avoid feeding raw Salmon sourced from that region. Raw fish should be frozen for three weeks prior to feeding. Oily fish of usually included in a meal 2-3 times per week.
Steamed Mussels & Oysters: These can be fed in small amounts for a variety of nutritional benefits, in particular Blue Mussels are a fantastic source of Manganese often lacking in raw diets, Oysters are a good source of Zinc and Green Lipped Mussels are a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids and are being used extensively for it’s joint supportive qualities.
Vegetables: Vegetables provide a range of nutritional benefits including fibre, chlorophyll, antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins and minerals. Ideally focus on providing Low starch vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, zucchini, green beans, Brussel Sprouts; Starchy veg such as sweet potato and pumpkin ideally fed in moderation and cooked and mashed; fruits such as Blueberries, strawberries, Goji Berries, banana, cranberries can be included in small amounts. Ideally plant matter should be pureed raw or steamed and mashed to break down the cell walls to make them easier to digest. Cats in general do not require plant matter and in fact have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates, but a small amount of plant matter can be beneficial, leafy greens, grasses like Wheat grass or Barley grass and some ground seeds can be included in your cats diet up to 5% of the overall diet.
Nuts and Seeds: Can be fed in small amounts to help fill in some nutritional gaps. Almonds are a good source of Vitamin E and Brazil Nuts provide a good source of Selenium. Seeds such as Sunflower seeds for Vitamin E, Chia, Hemp & Flax Seeds will help provide Omega 3 Fatty acids with their Alpha Linoleic Acids ideal for balancing fat with poultry meals and Pumpkin Seeds provide some Magnesium and Manganese. Nuts and seeds are best fed ground, you can also pre-soak them. Chia seeds should be soaked but do not need to be ground.
Kelp: Kelp is used in tiny amounts as a source of Iodine and trace minerals, care must be taken when supplementing kelp particularly in cats. Always purchase kelp that includes the analysis of iodine content so you do not overdose.
Bone Broth: Bone broth is not a requirement in a raw diet but it does provide some additional moisture in the diet, particularly helpful in cats diets. Bone broth is also a source of joint and gut supportive nutrients such as collagen, Glucosamine, Chondroitin, Hyaluronic acids. Pet safe bone broth can be purchased, alternatively it is very easy to make yourself at home.
As you can see feeding a diverse range of healthy species appropriate foods aims at meeting your dogs & Cats nutritional needs, no two days need to look identical when rotating through a varied healthy diet. Venturing into making a homemade diet can be overwhelming and even scary, many pet parents worry about not providing all of their pets nutritional needs. While you do need to be mindful especially if you have a growing kitten or puppy that require daily balance, raw feeding is simple once you get the basics covered. It’s always important with a diet change to go at your pets’ pace as well as your own. If you want to start slow, try replacing up to 20% your pets processed food with fresh wholefoods. Some ideal additions to your pets bowl can include some canned sardines in spring water to help boost healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, some pulped raw or gently steamed veggies, blueberries, a couple of Blue or Green Lipped Mussels, some fresh human grade raw meats, bone broth or an egg. When you become more confidant with adding some fresh to the bowl you may feel you are ready take the journey into feeding a balanced raw diet.
Before embarking on any major diet changes do your research and then some more research from a variety of sources, one that we an invaluable resource for me when I started my journey and still use to this day is the Perfectly Rawsome website put together by a Certified Canine Nutritionist, it has a wealth of information to get you started on your journey with choosing the model you think will best fit your pets needs and pages of nutritional information as well as some free recipes for dogs and cats. The Feline Nutrition Foundation is also a wonderful resource of information if you want to learn more about nutrition for cats and how nutrition directly influences their health. I also highly recommend working with a raw/fresh food supportive Veterinarian or Certified Animal Nutritionist that can guide you in the right direction or make up meal plans or balanced recipes that will suit your individual pets needs. Special considerations may need to be made if you have a pet with a medical condition that effects their nutritional intake so working with a professional that can guide you each step of the way is recommended.
Does DIY sound too difficult? There are some fantastic pre-made ground balanced raw foods on the market that can be sourced from pet stores and speciality raw and wholefood stores, always look for quality wholefood ingredients and avoid any that contain preservatives to keep them on the shelves unfrozen longer, these preservatives have the potential to cause health issues. Pre-mades can be a wonderful step into the fresh food world knowing you are feeding a far less processed food that suits your pets needs in a biologically appropriate way and can be a stepping stone while learning to DIY your pets meals, they are also ideal if you have a growing puppy or kitten to ensure they have the nutrients they need for growth without the worry.
Hygiene is always important when feeding your pets no matter what that diet is, when feeding raw meats always aim to source the freshest human grade ingredients you can and handle, store, prepare and clean up afterwards as you would with your own food. When defrosting frozen meats do so in the refrigerator. Always wash your pets bowls after every meal with hot soapy water or in the dishwasher.
About this blog. This blog has been very kindly written by one of our favourite clients and resources for raw feeding for dogs and cats, Ann-Marie Cole. Ann-Marie is located in Brisbane and runs her own business, Pawsitive Instincts and Real Food 4 Pets. Ann-Marie has studied Animal Care, receiving academic awards of Excellence in both years 1999 and 2000, and Agricultural Science in Hight School, as well as being on the High Schools Sheep Showing team for three years. She has done volunteer work for RSPCA & Riding for the Disabled. Ann-Marie also has a Certificate II in Companion Animal Industry Studies and recently graduated the Certificate Course in Animal Nutrition through Holistic Animal Therapy Organisation with plans to continue and expand her study in the future. We thank Ann-Marie for her hard work and dedication and for taking the time to write this blog for us so we can gain further knowledge to help benefit our precious fur babies.
Would you like to learn more about Raw Feeding and how this can benefit your fur baby? Below, Ann-Marie has a listed some recommended reading if you wish to start the journey and referencing to some of the scientific studies mentioned at the beginning of this post.
• Real Food 4 Pets: https://www.facebook.com/RealFood4Pets
• Perfectly Rawsome: https://perfectlyrawsome.com/
• Feline Nutrition Foundation: https://feline-nutrition.org/
• FB Group: Raw Feeding University -RFU- https://www.facebook.com/groups/rawfeedinguniversity/
• The Natural Vets: Diet Library: https://www.thenaturalvets.com.au/library/diet/
• Canine Ascension: https://www.facebook.com/canineascension
• Dog Risk (University of Helsinki): https://www.helsinki.fi/en/researchgroups/dogrisk-health-via-nutrition-epidemiology-and-cancer-detection-dogs/research-by-dogrisk#section-56393
• Planet Paws FB Video on Helsinki Research: https://www.facebook.com/PlanetPaws.ca/videos/1706302086111333/
• NZ dog diet study a wake-up call for animal nutrition: https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/nz-dog-diet-study-a-wake-up-call-for-animal-nutrition
• Evaluation of the effect of dietary vegetable consumption on reducing risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish Terriers: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16013542/
• Give Your Dog A Bone by Dr Ian Bilinghurst
• Unlocking The Canine Ancestral Diet: Healthier Dog Food the ABC way by Steve Brown ISBN: 9781929242672
• Yin & Yang Nutrition for Dogs by Dr Judy Morgan ISBN: 9780997250138
• Natural Nutrition for Dogs & Cats By Kimithy Shultze ISBN: 9781561706365