Feeding a Species Appropriate Diet
By Janice L Morgan
With rare exceptions, Natural Rearers, follow as closely as possible a prey model type diet that is species appropriate, that is, raw meaty bones. This type of diet is the healthiest, most natural way to feed your pets. As Tom Lonsdale emphasizes “Prevention is better than cure”. Natural Rearers, who practice all natural feeding and treatment of health issues, are strong believers in preventing the need for medical assistance of any kind, and feeding a species appropriate diet is the first and biggest step in achieving health and longevity.
A species appropriate diet should consist of a variety of raw meaty bones. Chicken, fish, rabbit, pork, beef, lamb, goat, or similar meats should form the bulk of the diet, with organ meats introduced two to three times a week. Never rely on a single type of meat as the staple of the diet – variety is key. As Lonsdale appropriately points out: “Any nutrients fed to excess can be harmful”.
Besides better overall health to the animal there are many additional benefits to feeding a species appropriate diet:
Teeth and gums are cleaned naturally. The enzymes in raw meat and the physical action of chewing and gnawing raw meaty bones, naturally cleans the teeth, making dental cleanings unnecessary.
Feces biodegrade naturally. The process begins almost immediately and takes little time. Feces are less bulky since the animal is utilizing a greater portion of the diet therefore producing a smaller volume of waste.
Animals are given the opportunity to spend time doing what they otherwise do in nature. That is spend time chewing and gnawing on bones. This strengthens jaw muscles, cleans teeth, keeps gums healthy and provides the animal with necessary behavioral stimuli.
Canines, of course belong to the order Carnivora. Members of the family include dogs, wolves, foxes, coyotes, dingoes, jackals and lycaons. All considered true dogs, as their teeth and digestive tracts are truly carnivorous.
No matter what you have heard in the past, or what your vet may tell you, the truth of the matter is that dogs are carnivores, they eat meat and only use certain vegetable matter on occasion to self medicate (grasses, etc.). The teeth of any animal will usually tell you all you need to know about its diet. Dogs have carnassials (tearing and slashing teeth), not a mix of teeth like humans that include flat grain grinding molars. Let’s compare with humans.
Humans are omnivores, or what Anthropologists refer to as generalized feeders. Humans are neither carnivore nor herbivore, and do not posses the dental specializations for acquiring or processing one or the other. They consume both animal protein and vegetation and could easily be considered opportunistic. Keep in mind, that humans have the advantage (or disadvantage – however you want to look at it) of weapons and fire. We no longer have to hunt down prey, kill it without aid, and eat it raw. So, after many millennia of technology and therefore diet change; our teeth, jaws, and digestive tracts have generalized to enable us to eat a wide variety of foods. After many, many thousands of years on kibble, dogs would also undergo certain evolutionary changes in order to survive substandard commercial “food”. 50 years, however, is only a hairs breadth in terms of evolution, and not long enough to change tooth structure, jaw size or digestive systems.
Dogs have very distinct specializations that show us what their diet should be without question:
They have a decidedly larger mouth opening in relation to their head size, this enables them to catch, kill and dismember their prey. But the teeth tell the tale. You will notice that carnivores have space between their teeth to keep meat and gristle from catching in their teeth. They have huge canines, with roots that are as long as the exposed tooth, for killing and tearing meat. Their incisors are short, pointed and prong-like for holding on to meat and shredding it. But the crème de la crème of a carnivore are the carnassials (molars). These complex teeth are designed just like a serrated knife blade. Whereas a human jaw moves up and down and then grinds side to side, a dogs jaw is hinged in such a way as to provide for a back to front motion in order to cut food like a set of shears.
Humans, who possess what some call pre-digestive enzymes in their saliva, must chew their food, work up a good bit of saliva and swallow in small amounts. Dogs, on the other hand, do not possess oral digestive enzymes and very rarely chew food. More often than not, they tear off big chunks and swallow the pieces whole. Saliva, in dogs, is used to lubricate big chunks of food for unimpeded travel to the stomach.
Humans have a complex stomach and long digestive system, whereas dogs have a simple, single chambered stomach, which makes up approximately 65% of the entire digestive tract. The small intestine is where food is broken down and absorption of nutrients takes place. Where humans have miles of small intestine (about 22 feet), dogs, have a short small intestine. Meat is easily digested; therefore a longer length is not necessary.
Carnivores, in the wild, kill about once a week, gorge quickly, and digest at rest. Their digestive enzymes are able to deal effectively with bacteria which make eating decaying flesh relatively safe. Vegetable matter, takes considerable time and a more elaborate digestive tract to break down. This is why feeding vegetable matter in its natural form to dogs makes their digestive system work harder. The diet of a carnivore should consist of mainly meat, organs, eggs, tripe, etc. with some bone. They simply cannot digest complex carbs, grains, and vegetable matter.
So, what do I feed my dog, how much and how often?
The question of all new raw feeders and a good one! The first thing to remember is that nothing is set in stone. In the wild, carnivores often gorge and then go for a few days without food – this is nature. Of course our dogs are domesticated, so we can’t be fasting them for long periods of time. If you are new to raw feeding, it is best to fast for 24 hours, and then dive right in to feeding raw. It is NEVER a good idea to mix or simultaneously feed kibble and raw. Kibble is filled with preservatives, chemicals and rendered (cooked) ingredients; therefore, it breaks down in the digestive tract much slower than fresh raw meat. Feeding kibble in conjunction with raw can cause deadly bloat, as the raw will break down faster, and if trapped behind the processed kibble produced gas that can harm your dog – so make your decision and then commit to it 100%. Next throw out all you ever heard about bone being dangerous to dogs. The only thing you need to know is that COOKED BONES ARE DANGEROUS. Raw bones are perfectly safe.
Variety is the spice of life and many raw feeders follow the 80/10/10 rule: 80% meat (beef, pork, poultry, goat, venison, etc.); 10% organs (heart, liver, kidney, etc.) and 10% bone. Many of us also feed fresh raw green tripe as a standard. For in depth help with raw feeding, we encourage you to read the literature below and also to join our raw feeding yahoo group – RawK9s http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/rawk9s/
RawK9s is designed to help people new to raw feeding get started. There are a lot of veteran raw feeders on the list, whose main focus is to help you learn the ropes and successfully bring your dog to better health, longevity and happiness. Come see us!