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 dogfoodproject.com 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, soy...it 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.