Natural Nutrition for Cats and Dogs

What do you feed your dog?

This seems like such a complicated question.  You might say, there are so many factors to consider, ie: allergies or not, grains or not, holistic or not, grocery store or not (I hope not).

Give your dog a bone...  a raw bone, that is.  That's a good starting place on how to feed your dog.  Dogs aren't alone though.  Cats, ferrets, and any other carnivores that you're keeping as pets fit this prescription.  Fortunately for you, this prescription is filled by mother nature, and can actually save you money and vet's bills, instead of the other way around.  

This is nothing new, no fad or fanatical animal-group thought this one up.  A species appropriate raw diet hasn't been surpassed by any commercial pet foods, despite all the false claims their marketing departments try to push.  There is no commercial dog or cat food that can match the benefits of a species appropriate raw diet.  If this sounds surprising, then keep reading.

Who has heard of some pet-food company recall for one reason or another?  A better question might be "who hasn't".  You might wrongly think that's it's just the cheap pet-food companies.  You know, the ones that are sold in grocery stores.  The ones that have corn, brewer's yeast, and beet pulp as primary ingredients.  You'd be wrong, because it's all the kibble and can-food companies, and that's because it's not the ingredients that are the problem (well, at least for the recall).  It's the process.  The process of combining different foodstuffs, cooking it to death, then adding "flavor/smell enhancing" (if that's what you call it) and mass-producing it through an assembly-line process into bags or cans, is the problem.  Large batches, holding bins, assembly-line troughs and trays, spray nozzles and rubber lines feeding them, all need very regular cleaning, several times per day to stay clean.  This simply does not happen.  It takes too much precious time and money out of the process for it to be profitable.  So it just doesn't happen.  A "clever" solution was to include loads of preservatives into the food mixture, or have it sprayed on at the end of the process.  Although this typically keeps large harmful cultures from becoming overgrowth, a side effect is having your pet ingest loads of harmful preservatives.  Neither solution sounds appealing to me.

You many be asking yourself "why raw?" at this point.  You might even be asking yourself, "doesnt raw food have that same harmful bacteria?"  And you might even be asking, "wont my pet choke on the bones or get an intestinal perforation?"

The answers to these questions and many more are typically just the opposite of what you may have been told or lead to believe.  Is it a concspiracy?  I don't think so.  But is it fear-based marketing? Absolutely!  If you think back to when you were first told that, try to think where you heard it from.  If from a friend or relative, think of from whom they heard it from.  If it wasn't from a pet food commercial, then it was probably from your vet.  Since vets know everything there is to know about animals (?), from surgery, to drugs, to nutrition, to training, to exercise...the list goes on and must be true, right?  Not a chance.  There's a very good chance your vet hasn't had any more professional education on nutrition than you have, except that you have one wasn't provided and written by the pet-food industry, which is certainly looking out for their own best interests-- the profit margin.  I'm not trying to say that all vets intentionally, knowingly tell you false information, but I am telling you that they (many, not all) tell you false information.  They have just been taught that what is wrong is right, and vice versa when it comes to nutrition.  There are some vets that have seen the light, and understand that dogs and cats are carnivores, and should eat a species-appropriate diet.  Many of them found this out after they have worked as a vet for several years, and saw first-hand the damages done and the poor health caused by improper diet.  Then again, there are vets that have capitalized from it, one example is specializing in veterinary dentistry, which is a direct cause from the effect that commercial diets have on carnivore teeth.  In contrast, a raw-fed dog or cat, with plenty of raw, meaty bones in their diet, will typically have clean, white teeth, year after year after year.  No need for a toothbrush or special enzyme toothpaste...raw meaty bones are Nature's toothbrush.  :-)

The Basics:

Feed your dog or cat what they would normally eat in the wild, or at least structure their feeding as closely as possible to that model.  This is what is called the "Prey Model".  A dog or cat would kill it's prey, or possibly find a carcass that's already dead.  From that, they would eat any and all parts that contains the nutrients the body was craving.  Typically, this is going to be meat and bones, some organ, and then some occasional parts like eyes, brain, hide, snouts, and intestinal parts.

This is a bit overwhelming for most, and quite inaccessible from normal sources.  However, it doesn't mean that you can't still feed in a manner that resembles the prey model, and still be convenient, affordable, and healthy for your pet.

While you can certainly buy food (raw meat with bones, organ, fish and eggs) fro a grocery store, you can also look to more affordable food wholesalers who provide to restaurants, and even better yet, from farms that actually raise animals like mother nature intended, free range, eating what they are supposed to eat, not just corn and grains.  Friends and family that are hunters are an excellent source for whatever scraps they don't want as well.  You can also make friends with the local restaurant owner in your neighborhood, or the meat department manager at your local butcher or grocery store.

Of all these ingredients, which are actual food you may be proud to eat, it's classified pretty easily.  Primarily you have meat and bones.  Maybe a little more than half meat than bones, but pretty close.  Next you have organ, like liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, etc.  Eyeballs, brain and sweetbreads (thymus, pancreas) fall into this category too.  Lastly, you have digestive matter of the prey, things like grasses, seeds, herbs, berries, vegetables and nuts-along with lots of enzymes and probiotics.  This accounts for a very small percentage of the diet.  

Do you need to feed this complicated balanced diet every day?  No way.  You are looking for balance over time, much how a carnivore would do over time.  In the course of a week, a dog's diet could vary widely, with more meat and bones for several days, and more organs on another day.  One day a dog or cat might get access to a nest full of eggs, and on another day might be able to get some whole fish from a shallow stream or creek (really great source of food, since they are a whole-prey type of food).  You can be simply creative as you feed your dog or cat from day to day, just keeping that overall prey model in the back of your mind, for the big picture.

Here is a great FAQ from a friend's website, Jane Anderson, whom I am very proud of and look up to.  Jane's website is