Thursday, April 26, 2012

Meals: a pictorial

I thought I would post some pictures of meals my dogs have had.

Everyone has their own method of feeding raw. I take a few days worth of meat out of the freezer to dethaw in the fridge. Once dethawed, I get their bowls ready and cut the meats into appropriate sizes for my dogs. I measure everything out as I have not mastered the art of "eyeballing" amounts. Sometimes, they get a little more than their specific amount, sometimes a little less depending on what it is I am feeding and whether it is feasible to cut it. I do not think the amounts have to be perfect every meal. However, if your dog starts to gain weight (like my boy, Sargeant) you need to cut back the food a little. He will not be happy about this. LOL. If they are losing weight, up the amount a bit.
Once it is portioned out, I add any supplements I plan to add and then serve. This meal they got Solid Gold's Seameal supplement. I also give them fish oil and joint supplements. I do not give those everyday though. This meal consisted of pork neck bones, pork chops, and beef chuck roast.

Here they got chicken quarters.

For this meal, they got venison, rabbit, egg, ground beef, and beef kidney.

This meal was for the largest dog, an English mastiff. He got turkey wings, lamb ribs and beef chuck roast.

As you can see, I vary their proteins as much as I can. I shop for sales as I can not feed expensive meats all the time. Some people are lucky and have access to low cost meats and some people are not. I think, if you put some effort into it, no matter where you live you can find SOME way to afford to feed raw.

The rabbit in a previous pic was from a friend who donated their catch to me. The venison was deer I hunted myself. The chicken and beef I found on sale at grocery stores for a very good price. I admit, I splurged with the lamb that I bought from Walmart. The way I look at it, now that I feed raw, I no longer buy my dogs treats. The treats I used to buy were basically junk food and even though they were not good quality, I was spending good money on them. I figure the money I used to spend on treats can now be used for superior dog food instead.

They do still have SOME treats for training (which we rarely do these days). Treats are now given very sparingly at my house. I no longer buy chew toys either. Nylabones and similar expensive chews sold at pet stores are a thing of the past for me. I feel a true chew toy is a bone from an animal.
Make sure bones are appropriate for the dog. This is a picture of Sargeant's meal. The round bone was ok to give Sarge because he could not swallow it whole. I let him eat the bone marrow and meat off of it and then I disposed of it. My mastiff could easily have swallowed that. If a dog is going to have bone they either need to be able to crunch it up to swallow, or not be able to eat it at all. An example of bones not to eat would be beef ribs. My dogs love them. They chew on them but can not eat them. This makes beef ribs a recreational bone that gives them something to do like a chew toy would.

And here is the pay off to all the work of finding, purchasing, defrosting, and portioning all that raw meat. A healthy dog enjoying a natural, biologically appropriate meal.

Sometimes, I give them a whole part of an animal. I find this is mentally stimulating for the dogs to be able to enjoy actually working for their meal. This is a deer ribcage. He did not eat it all at once. Some dogs self regulate and some dogs will gorge themselves silly. I give my dogs a certain amount of time with large pieces like this and then take it away until next time.

I will post more pictures as soon as I have more decent shots.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Why is kibble so bad anyways?

To know why kibble is so bad is to understand how kibble was created. And it starts with the biscuit.

Yes, biscuits were technically the first dog food type product marketed. But, they weren't invented for dogs. They were invented to keep sailors long at sea from developing scurvy and nutritional deficiencies. Back in the day, before the invention of modern refrigeration, there wasn't a safe way to store foods without them spoiling quickly. Those sailors were at sea for long periods of time and needed to eat! So, in comes hardtack biscuits. These hard, dry biscuits were made of flour, water and salt, supplemented with meats, fats, vegetables, and oatmeal.

Eating those hardtack biscuits day and night drove those sailors crazy. They longed for fresh steak and potatoes. So by the time they got to port, you bet they threw those darned biscuits away. Stray dogs at the port would gobble those biscuits up. A starving stray dog is pretty opportunistic and here was free food!. A guy named Spratt created the bone shape and began his own business selling bone shaped hardtack biscuits to dog owners. This business became Milk Bone.

Before all of this, people would feed their dogs home cooked meals or scraps from their own suppers. I am sure a lot of dogs scavenged and hunted their own food as well. With the industrial revolution came big factories capable or manufacturing all sorts of things. Waste products that were not fit for human consumption (hooves, intestines, bones, etc.) could now be canned and sold as dog food. Canning was a cheap way to preserve the meat. Finding a buyer for these waste products (dog owners) meant easy money to the big food manufacturers.

Horses were another source of cheap meat. After World War I, there was little need for so many horses, so off to the slaughterhouses they went, to be canned and sold as dog food. By the time World War II came about, all things metal were needed for the war effort. That meant no more cans for dog food. In 1956, extrusion had been developed allowing the creation of kibble. Basically a recipe is mixed up, then forced through a die cut machine (perhaps in the shape of little bones or nuggets). After the kibble is cooked, it is sprayed with fats and oils to make it palatable. It was treated with preservatives and could be packaged in a box or bag.

That, in a nutshell, is how kibble came to be. Dog food has basically always been made out of waste products since the early hardtack biscuit days.

So why is it bad?

Well in order to answer this question, we need to look at what kibble really is. I don't mean take a handful and look at it. I mean, look at the ingredient list. I will post a common list of ingredients from a popular brand of dog food and break it down:

Whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), meat and bone meal, brewers rice, soybean meal, whole grain wheat, egg and chicken flavor, animal digest, calcium phosphate, salt, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, choline chloride, added color (Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 2), zinc sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin B-12 supplement, thiamine mononitrate, Vitamin D-3 supplement, riboflavin supplement, calcium iodate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite. 

When you look at the list of ingredients, they are in order of weight prior to cooking. So, theoretically, the first ingredients are heaviest meaning there is more of it. But, this is where dog food companies have tricks up their sleeves. I will get to that later. 

The first ingredient in this food is whole grain corn. Do not let the words "whole grain" fool you. It is corn. corn is not the most digestible thing. Most if not all of that corn that your dog eats will likely be passed when he poops in the yard later. So, you are paying for more poop in your yard basically. where is the nutrition in that?

Second ingredient is poultry by-product meal. Let me set this straight in that I do not believe all byproducts are bad. By product is defined as a secondary product derived from the manufacturing process. In this case, it means necks, feet, intestines and other parts not used for human consumption. Necks and feet, which may sound gross, are not really too bad to feed a dog. However, if this is the ONLY source of meat your dog is getting, it is not enough. The meat is lower in quality and there is not enough substantial meat there. Also, because it does not name what of animal it comes from, it could be any kind of bird. Meal simply means it was turned into a dehydrated form of said product. Meals are powders and I do not think that meals are bad either, depending on what they are made from. 

The third ingredient is corn gluten meal. Gluten is the protein (in this case from corn). It is a cheap way to boost the protein levels for dog food. Why are we feeding dogs ( a carnivore) a plant protein? It is not biologically right. Do we feed our cattle fish? I mean, fish is protein too? No of course not because cows are herbivores. They don't eat fish! So why are we feeding our dogs corn? Because it is cheap. 

The next ingredient is a scary one. It says animal fat. Once you get to the fat source of any food, the previous ingredients make up the bulk of the food. Everything listed after the fat source is in much smaller quantities in the recipe. Dogs need fat so I am not put off by the fat. The word animal is the scary part. What animal do they mean? What a generic term. This could be anything. It could be from beef, chicken, raccoon, dog, mouse, horse, llama, whale, monkey, I mean, what exactly is it? It is legal for dog food companies to use diseased, decaying, infected meat from any animal they want to when they do not list specifically what animal they are talking about. There have been undercover videos of euthanized cats and dogs (with euthanasia serum still in the pets' veins and collars still attached) being ground up into meat meal. They pick them up from the freezers at the vet offices and turn them into pet food. If this isn't enough to turn you away from kibble, there is more. 

Meat and Bone meal is next. It is basically the same as what I told you about animal fats, a questionable term for some unsavory truth.

Then we have brewers yeast (a waste product from human rice consumption with very little to no nutritional value but will help fill your yard with excessive dog poos), soybean meal (another by product made from grinding up the left over residue from soybean oil production which has no business being in dog food) and whole grain wheat (another grain? Really?)

This food is starting to sound like a great food....for chickens. 

Then we come to the flavoring agents to this food. Egg and chicken flavor does not mean they use actual eggs or chickens. Artificial flavors are amazing in that they can create almost any flavor in the known world without using the actual thing they are trying to mimick the flavor of. Ever eat a strawberry flavored candy before? I got news for you. No strawberries were actually involved with that candy. And so it is with these flavors in dog foods. 

Animal digest is basically making a giant vat of random meat from anywhere and everywhere (dead zoo animals? fresh roadkill? restaurant leftovers?) and cooking it down into a lovely mess, letting chemical reactions turn it into a flavoring agent. Yum. 

Then the list goes on and on with vitamins that have to be added into the kibble because whatever meat went into the kibble that HAD these vitamins was cooked so much that the vitamins were destroyed. Since kibble company's claim to fame be that every bite is complete and balanced, they have to do just that by adding in artificial, man made vitamins. 

This food uses artificial colorings. Ever wonder why they color dog food? Dogs do not see colors like we do. They can see some colors, but they see them much the same way a colorblind person sees them. Recent studies have proved that dogs see much more than black and white. But, even if dogs COULD see colors like we do, they do not chose their food based on what color it is. They go by smell. So then, why put artificial colors in dog food at all? To attract the ones buying the food, the HUMANS. Humans are a very visual species. The colorful kibbles, the bright shiny bags the kibble comes in, all geared to make us, the buyer of the dog food, buy it. So artificial colors, on top of being unhealthy, are just plain stupid to have in a dog food. 

The last ingredient I will talk about is the menadione sodium bisulfite complex. This is a nasty ingredient and mostly overlooked even by people with a good idea of what to look for in dog foods. This is a cheap way to add vitamin K into a kibble. There are so many bad things about this product I am just coping from the dog food project website (which if you haven't checked out yet, I strongly advise you to)

causes cytotoxicity in liver cells
causes formation of radicals from enzymes of leucocytes, with the consequence of cytotoxic reactions
considerably weakens the immune system
possible mutagenic effects
damages the natural vitamin K cycle
has no effect on coumarin derivatives, which are often present in commercial food due to mold contamination (toxic when ingested)
causes hemolytic anemia and hyperbilirubinemia, not just linked to large doses
disturbs the level of calcium ions (Ca2+) in the body, which is an important factor fibrinolysis
is directly toxic in high doses (vomiting, albuminuria), unlike natural vitamin K
builds up in tissue and has been detected in eggs, meat and milk of animals supplemented with menadione derivatives
causes irritation of skin and mucous membranes
causes allergic reactions and eczema

There is no research as to long term use with this product in dog food. It is so highly toxic that the FDA has banned it from being used in over the counter products. So, why again are we feeding this to our beloved animals day in and day out?

I have made several points about the example (and real) dog food I have shown as an example. There are foods that use ingredients such as BHA and BHT (artificial preservatives known to have carcinogenic properties) and other harmful ingredients as well. 

I mentioned I would explain other tactics kibble companies use to fool us. Here is one. It is called splitting. Food companies are catching on that we as consumers are starting to actually read the labels. I don't think they would even put labels on their products if it wasn't a law. As such, they know we are looking for quality meats to be in the first couple of ingredients. Now remember I told you that the ingredients are listed according to weight BEFORE cooking.

Here is a fake ingredient list and I am going to explain what splitting is:

chicken, brown rice, rice middlings, rice flour, rice, chicken fat, long list of vitamins. 

 So, lets say the first ingredient is chicken. Sounds good right? If it just says chicken, that means it is raw chicken. However, don't get too excited. For one thing, we are not talking about a whole chicken with juicy breast and thigh meat. We are more likely talking about chicken frames, the skeletal remains of a chicken after all the meaty parts are cut off for human consumption. But still, chicken frames generally still have some good meaty bits on them. So lets say we put 5 pounds of chicken into our kibble recipe. After it gets cooked, it loses about 70% of its weight to water loss, as chickens are 70% water just like humans. So we are now looking at 1.5 pounds of chicken. 

Our next ingredient is brown rice. If you are going to have any rice in your food, brown rice is the most nutritional as it is the whole rice without anything being removed from it. So lets say we put 3 pounds in. 

Next we have rice middlings. Here is another form of rice. Lets say we put 1 pound of this in. 

Then we have rice flour, another pound. 

When you look at it this way, you can see that while we started off with 5 pounds of chicken, after cooking it is more like 1.5 pounds. Adding up all the rice products, there is 5 pounds of rice. So in reality, this food has more rice than chicken. But you wouldn't think that by looking at the ingredient list. 

For years kibble companies have been telling us to feed our pets right. And I agree that we should. That is why I feed raw. 

Kibble is dry. Dogs usually do not drink enough water to compensate for the dryness of the food they eat which can lead to many problems (think, kidney issues...etc.)

Besides, if you were a dog, which would you prefer? A dry cereal fed day in and day out? Or a big hunk or beef and a raw meaty bone to chew on afterwards?

The choice is simple. Let's get back to the way mother nature intended these dogs to eat!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Crazy things people tell me about raw

People are brain washed. The kibble companies are evil geniuses. They have people believing their lies. The raw diet movement is gaining momentum and the kibble companies are scared. It is, after all, a multibillion dollar industry. They need your money.

The kibble companies target people who will sell their food for them. Breeders and veterinarians have been doing the kibble company's work for them. Have you ever purchased a dog food based on your vet's recommendation? Guess what? Many vets get paid to sell you that bag of Science Diet or Royal Canin (or whatever brand they are hocking). They get kick backs, free product, etc to tell YOU the consumer, to buy more. Breeders too. I used to work at a pet store and anytime someone would bring in a puppy they HAD TO HAVE whatever the puppy was eating at the breeder's place. A change in diet apparently meant instant death to the new puppy. Many people keep their dogs on this brand for the entire life of the dog and maybe even future dogs. These people become brand loyal. Business at its finest.

They also make you believe each bite must be absolutely balanced. I agree that you have to have balance. But each bite? Tell me YOU eat a balanced meal everytime and that each bite is balanced? This is not natural. But they get that balanced meal schtick embedded in our brains. So when you find out that feeding raw is not completely balanced at every meal, you think "the kibble companies were right." We raw feeders believe in balance over time. Each meal offers something to this balanced diet. But each bite is not balanced. In nature, you do not have a balanced meal in every bite. We have been brainwashed by them. It is time to wash our brains of them.

I think my favorite myth about feeding dogs a raw diet is that it will turn them bloodthirsty and dangerous. How does a healthy meal upset their behavior? This is an old wives tale at its finest and I find it hilarious. My dogs might lick me to death (ewww) but they are no more dangerous than they were on kibble. In fact, I think the sugar they add in to kibble to make it more palatable should be considered dangerous. Sugar is so harmful to pets. It leads to hyperactivity (dangerous), diabetes (dangerous), rotten teeth (dangerous) and who knows what else. So no, giving your dog a species appropriate diet of raw meats, bones, and organs will not make him kill you.

Another one I hear a lot about is bacteria. Well, bacteria is everywhere. We live in a bacteria crazed society these days. Every soap and cleaner is antibacterial. We are on a warpath to wipe out all bacteria from the face of the Earth it seems. We are creating super bacteria that have evolved to survive out blasts of Lysol (no offense Lysol, I use you alot). The bad part is, once these bacteria are immune to our current weapons, we are in trouble because we are out of weapons that can destroy them. I am not saying we should roll around in raw chicken. I just think we are a little hypervigilant when it comes to bacteria. When feeding a dog raw, we should use the same cleaning practices and common sense we use when cooking meat for ourselves. Clean up after preparing the meat and wash your hands. Oh, and don't kiss your dog on the mouth. I don't know if it spreads germs but I do think it is gross. them.

A new one I just heard someone say is that raw causes stomach cancer. I don't even know how to answer this ridiculous accusation. First of all, what carcinogen is found in raw meat that can cause cancer? There isn't one. The myths of feeding can be pretty darn ridiculous. I will say this though. It is not 100% safe. NOTHING is. Kibble, believe it or not, is a risky food option. Kibble can kill (look at the 2007 recall) and can be loaded with bacteria (hello recent 2012 Diamond recall). Dogs can even choke on eating kibble too fast. Nothing is without its risk. And that is 100% true, raw included. Life is full of risks.

I think raw is a risk I am willing to take, at least over kibble. When you feed your dog kibble, do you know what you are giving him? What shape was the meat in? Does the fish contain ethoxyiquin (a preservative known to be harmful usually found in fish containing kibble). I know what my dog food looks like. It looks like chicken, it looks like beef, it looks like pork.

So to wrap this up, raw is balance over time, it will not turn your dog into a ravenous bloodthirsty killer, or give him stomach cancer. It is healthy and natural. If you have any more myths, just comment below. Let's see how ridiculous they can be.

Why I started feeding raw

2007 was a scary year for cat and dog owners. Melamine, a toxic plastic, was somehow put into pet foods leading to the largest pet food recall in history. Many pets lost their lives over that simple mistake. Thankfully, my dogs were not affected by this tragedy. But it got me thinking. What is up with pet food? So I started searching the internet and educating myself.

That's when I found websites like and dog food analysis sites. I joined dog forums and talked to other dog lovers about dog foods. What I learned was astonishing. And so began my road to feeding raw meat to my dogs.

Kibble (that dry cereal we feed our dogs and cats) is not created equally. It's not even regulated. basically, no one is telling these pet food manufacturers what they can and can't do. They have AAFCO, which sets a basic standard of how much protein, fat, vitamins, etc should be in the food. But they say nothing of quality. Big deal, right? WRONG. Without quality control, they can put any kind of protein into the food. There are lots of things that are considered protein. Chicken meat is protein. Yum, right? Well, leather boots are considered protein too. As are euthanized cats and dogs (with the euthanize stuff still in their systems). I am not saying EVERY brand of kibble uses euthanized cats and dogs, but finding out that even a few do made me reconsider that bag of dog chow.

There is a lot to learn about kibble and I am not going to get into that right now. But my prospective on dog kibble has changed dramatically since I found out the truth.

So what can we feed our loving animals if kibble is so bad?

What they are meant by nature to eat, of course. God, mother nature, evolution, whatever it is that created the dog did not make their anatomy designed to digest dry, hard cereals. They were meant to grab, tear, and gnaw on other animals. Sorry vegans, but these animals are carnivores.

There is speculation that these animals are actually omnivores because they can eat non meat products. I disagree. Look at an omnivore, say...humans. We have blunt teeth for grinding and a long digestive system for digesting plant matter. Plants have tough cellular structure and are harder to break down, therefor they need more time in the intestines to break down. Animal cells are much easier to break down and digest. Dogs have sharp, pointed teeth meant for tearing. They have short digestive tracts that are designed to quickly move along food stuffs. And this makes a lot of sense. Meat needs to move along, due to bacteria load. If a human eats raw meat, that meat has a long way to travel before exiting. It also might run into carbs (plant matter) and even get stuck along the way. This allows bacteria to have a party and multiply leading to the human getting sick. Now look at a dog eating raw. The meat quickly moves along, not giving the bacteria a chance to take hold. Also, a dog's stomach acid is more acidic than a human's. So, we need to stop comparing dogs digestion to humans digestion because they are two totally different things.

I like to call dogs carnivores with opportunistic omnivore qualities. They CAN eat plant matter (to survive) but they do not require or seem to like it as much. You don't see wild wolves raiding corn fields (except maybe to flush out the deer within).

Cats are another story all together. THEY ARE CARNIVORES. THEY must have meat. They need taurine. So feeding them kibble is just plain wrong. Kibble cooks the meat ingredients so much it kills off vitamins, so they have to add them back in. If you look at any bag of kibble, the last 20 ingredients or so are the vitamins (artificial?) they have to add back in to meet AAFCO's standards. Raw meat has all that already so its pretty balanced. And most cat foods are so grain heavy loaded with corn, wheat, amazes me cats live as long as they do on the stuff. But not without consequences. I have heard many a story of cat diabetes, obesity and other medical related issues that I know are food related.

My family thinks I am crazy. Yeah, crazy like a fox. I know the truth. I feed my dogs as best as I can because to me, they are family too. I made them a commitment to take care of them the best I can. I don't have a lot of money, but I feel if I give them the best food I can, their health will save me in the long run.

There are a few different ways to feed raw. There is the prey model diet (the one I choose to do) which tries to mimic feeding a whole animal. It is not convenient or realistic to plop down a deer to your dog and say bon appetit. A whole animal has the proper balance of calcium, protein, fat, etc. Prey model uses parts of animals to make a whole animal (frankenprey).

As an example I will tell you what my dogs ate today. They got beef chuck roast, pork tenderloin, beef kidney and turkey necks. They got bones from the necks, fat and muscle meat from the rest, as well as organ. The only thing they didn't get was the fur they would get from a whole animal.

Another method of raw feeding is the barf diet. What a name huh? Barfers (what I call people who feed a barf diet) feel like plant matter is important to dog's nutritional needs. It is similar to prey model, but they incorporate veggies as well. They have to pulverize the vegetables in order for the dogs to be able to digest it.
There is not substantial research for raw diets so no one knows for sure which raw feeding method is better, but we all have our opinions. Pet food testing is always funded by the people who will benefit financially from it, the dog food companies. So who knows if we will ever get raw feeding research. Therefore, I go by anecdotal research. People can see for themselves the benefits of raw feeding by just looking at their dogs. People report better stool quality (smaller stool means more nutrition is being absorbed with less waste products), healthier skin and coat, healthier teeth and gums, improved vigor, and so on.

I choose to feed raw because I know it is better than kibble. It is natural, with no artificial anything (colors, preservatives, flavors, etc.), and I know what is going into my dogs. No melamine here.

I love my dogs. I do it for them.