Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Feeding raw: Scary and inconvenient?

I never understand why for so many pet owners, raw food diet is such a scary subject. Frequently I hear of claims like “There is so much work and knowledge that is involved, not to mention all the health factors to take into consideration for both you and your pet.” Sometimes I wonder: Who put all that in their heads? Is this what your vet and mainstream media may lead you to believe? If it doesn't come in a bag with feeding instructions on the back then first of all it is not very convenient and secondly, can it really be trusted? True, there may be feeding instructions but there are also typically endless lists of ingredients. Lists, which to many of us sound like they are written in a foreign language. One that we don’t understand and unless we have a PHD, we are lost. If we are lucky, we may know half of their meaning. I also wonder, don’t the countless recalls make people wake up? True, good and healthy pet food is expensive, but so is human food and living. It is just a fact of life. Certainly not a fact justifying to feed sickening food to our pets.
Just yesterday in my comment on this log I talked about nutrition related diseases. Beneficiary of this situation is the veterinarian community. Illnesses like diabetes, thyroid disease, obesity, dental disease and plenty of others are more and more becoming the norm. Vets are not going to make a great effort to change this picture. Just like doctors, they make money by keeping their patients sick. Whether or not they are doing this intentionally is a different story, but they are keeping their patients sick. If you ask a vet what pet food they would recommend after they tell you your pet has three teeth that need to be removed due to dental disease, they would generally recommend a kibble or wet food that they also sell at their clinic. If your pet is obese they tell you to cut calories. Who can sit there and watch their poor animal, their responsibility, pout and beg for food because they are hungry? There are some enlightened veterinarians and technicians out there but for the most part they repeat what the pet food reps told them. Dr. Wysong, D.V.M. in one of his books once wrote that he had a total of a couple hours on pet nutrition while he was studying for his doctor’s degree. Once he went into real life, he makes no secret out of that he did exactly what I just said: Repeat what others vets told him to say without back then really knowing what he was talking about.
So what are our options? Isn’t it time for us responsible pet owners to take our companion animals’ health back into their own hands?
When taking a closer look at our options, raw food diets come to my mind. They are a way to get your pet back to a simpler way of eating. Dogs are omnivores, cats are obligate carnivores and they require species specific food. Dogs benefit from a diet of predominantly raw meats. They do not need grains in their diet. Vegetable nutrients are best absorbed through pulverized vegetables, which can be achieved by using a high speed blender to make them vegetable juice, consisting mostly of fresh greens, or giving them tripe. Dogs do not have the required teeth for grinding plant material making it difficult for them to get the nutrients and enzymes out of whole vegetables and greens. Cats need meat; their little systems are designed to eat meat. Their teeth are designed for slicing through meat and breaking small bones. Cats do not have any flat teeth for grinding herbaceous material.
But here we go already and I will have plenty of people going: “But that is exactly what we are complaining about: Too much work.” Well, so don’t grind your own mix, buy a readily available pre-mix. All you have to do with these, is soak them in water for a few minutes and you are ready to go. No peeling, cutting, grinding and best of all, in most cases the makers of these mixes are experts enough to provide just the right and needed balance of all nutrients to be made available in such a mix. Throw in a piece of raw meat and you are ready to go. Still too much for you? Get a frozen pre-mix including the meat. There are plenty of good options out there, and again, the well established manufacturer of such can be trusted to provide the best possible food and solution. Frozen too messy? Buy freeze dried or dehydrated. You see, with me you can’t win. There is simply no excuse not to go raw.
Let’s move on to other concerns you doubtful pet owners and raw critics may have:
One of the concerns I hear most of are parasites, bacteria and salmonella. If you are conscious of the type of meat you are buying, parasites should not be a problem. The biggest problem really and the main reason for salmonella infections is usually the hygiene practices of the handlers. So follow any safe handling procedures, use common sense, be clean and neat and treat the pet meat just like you would treat your own. Remember that salmonella and bacteria are more of a concern for yourself then for your pet. A dog's digestive system is much shorter than that of humans and also becomes very acidic when food is introduced to it. The stomach acid kills off any bacteria that may be present on the meat.
Make sure that you are purchasing meats from a reputable source. If you can swing it, meat from organic grass fed animals is the best choice. Though those usually do get pricey.
Pay attention to any salt content in the meat you buy. It is a common practice of stores to inject salt water into meat for a prolonged shelve life. Kind of like a preservative. High sodium levels tell you that the meat has been packaged with preservation being the main concern and therefore may not be the freshest option available. If you are unable to feed organic, there are a lot of meat companies use radiation to preserve their meat. (With regards to radiation stay tuned for a comment to be forthcoming on this blog dealing with this issue because of the recent problems Orijen had in Australia). See if you can buy from a local farmer or raw food co-op. Even if they aren't getting organic product you normally get higher quality of meat. There are also a lot of on-line stores that meat can be ordered from, an option a little more expensive but convenient. Tip: Buy bulk and spread cost of packaging/shipping over higher volume.
Another concern for many pet owners is stomach or intestine perforation. Alright, you got a point. And at the same time: Not. I would say your pet can also choke on dry food. How about chicken bones being dangerous? Cooked ones, and as a matter of fact any cooked bone regardless of its origin, are the problem. Raw not so much. Dogs systems are designed to process bones. Softer bones are best for consumption but a lot of people also feed recreational bones, such as marrow bones, to keep their pet busy or to promote dental hygiene. My safety tip number 1 when feeding bones: Supervise your pet.The bottom line is that raw food has many benefits for your pet. They say “You are what you eat.” This applies to animals too. Our pets just have different requirements. Give your pet a chicken wing or leg a day and you will help promote a healthy lifestyle, more energy, healthy coat, teeth and smaller bowel movements. And this is just the beginning of a wonderful development in your pet. It is as close as we can get to mimic nature. Isn’t it time to quit making excuses?

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