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Mark's Guide to Natural Feeding

Animal House Bridport are keen advocates of feeding dogs and cats raw food as we have seen the benefits ourselves with our own pets. We do understand however that for some owners who have not discovered these benefits for themselves, changing to a raw food diet can be a little daunting.

So, we have put together some of the information and links to some really good web sites that we think explain the ‘why’ and ‘how to’ in easy to understand ways.

The first is part of Dr. Karen Becker’s advice (you will find a lot of helpful information on her site and this is just a clip):

How to Make Sure You’re Feeding Balanced Nutrition to Your Cat or Dog

There should be four primary components in a nutritional program for your dog or cat, including:

  • Meat, including organs

  • Veggie and fruit puree

  • Homemade vitamin and mineral mix

  • Beneficial additions like probiotics, digestive enzymes, and super green foods (these aren’t required to balance the diet, but can be beneficial for vitality)

A healthy dog’s diet should contain about 75 percent meat/organs/bones and 25 percent veggies/fruit (this mimics the GI contents of prey, providing fibre and antioxidants as well). For healthy kitties, the mix should be about 88 percent meat/organs/bones and 12 percent veggies.

Fresh, whole food provides the majority of nutrients pets need, and a micronutrient vitamin/mineral mix takes care of the deficiencies that do exist, namely iron, copper, manganese, zinc, iodine, vitamin D, folic acid, taurine and Biotin (for cats).”

It is important to remember that what Dr Becker is referring to in this article is appropriate feeding for a healthy animal. Where your animal’s health is compromised in any way you may need to think about other types of food and/or supplements and a good holistic vet should be able to advise on that and there is other information available on-line.

Dr Becker gives her views on the best food for your cat and dog:

The second source of information that we have found helpful comes from the makers of Honey’s Real Dog Food. Below is an edited version of the information they happily share and you can find the information in full at

Dogs should be fed a biologically appropriate diet

Every creature on earth must consume the diet it is biologically most appropriate to eat; otherwise, it will get ill and may (if the diet is inappropriate) die. For the first 4 million years of dogs’ existence on earth they certainly didn’t eat canned food or kibble.

When wolves were domesticated (around 8,000–20,000 years ago), we humans changed their outer appearance through breeding, but not their internal organs or digestive systems.

In the wild, dogs eat prey and not much else. Dogs are carnivores (they do need a bit of herbage and if push comes to shove can survive on it).

Like other predatory mammals they have powerful muscles, fused wrist bones and a cardiovascular system that supports both sprinting and endurance. And there’s a reason why you don’t want to get bitten by a dog: their mouths are positive Swiss Army knives, with five kinds of exceedingly sharp teeth. Leave them to their own devices and they will eat small birds and beasts (rabbits, mice, squirrels &c.) and a share of larger prey (sheep, deer, boar). What’s more, they eat the whole animal, including its bones.

Canine digestion is nothing like human digestion

Dogs have no digestive enzymes in their saliva (unlike humans) and very large, expandable stomachs (they can eat 5% of their body weight at a single sitting, which would be like someone who weighs 10 stone eating seven pounds of food in one go) not to mention indescribably strong stomach acids (strong enough to burn your fingers). Their digestive system is designed so that they can tear off chunks of raw meat, crunch up raw bones and swallow the lot whole. The lack of digestive enzymes in their saliva and their inability to move their jaws from side to side (necessary to grinding food) is why they gulp everything down. The entire digestive process takes place in their stomach.

Give a dog a bone

In the wild up to a third of a dog’s nutrition (including calcium, magnesium, complex fats and vitamins) may come from bones. Bones keep their teeth and gums clean (it has been proven that dogs with healthy teeth live longer) and exercise their upper bodies and jaw. Providing the bones are raw (cooked bones can splinter), they are 100% safe for dogs to eat.

Dogs are extremely indifferent cooks

When food is cooked, its chemical structure is altered and most of the enzymes, amino acids and so forth are destroyed. From a dog’s perspective, about 70% of its nutritional value is thus lost. Dogs need their food served raw in order to digest it properly. There is a reason why dogs are extremely indifferent cooks.

Dog poo

Natural feeders talk a lot about poo. Dogs fed a natural diet produce very little of it, what there is being firm and chalky.

Dogs don’t eat regular, balanced meals

Regular, balanced meals are fine for humans, but not for dogs. In the wild a healthy dog may not eat for up to a week at a time. When they come across an ingredient that their bodies tell them they need, in order to stay healthy (for instance a particular grass containing useful trace minerals) they simply eat it. Dogs are designed to get the nutrition they require over time. This is called the ‘balance over time’ approach.

Dogs can’t digest grain

Dogs must not be fed grain, because they can’t digest it properly. One of the main reasons why dogs fed on processed food produce so much – ahem – waste matter is because of the grain. Grain is also one of the main causes of skin allergies, diabetes and flatulence.

The switch

Natural feeders sometimes refer to the time they moved their dog onto raw food as ‘the switch’. The longer ago you made the switch, the more you will be respected in raw feeding circles. The switch itself can usually be made instantly. A very small percentage of dogs have to be weaned onto raw food but the vast majority take to it immediately.

The only dogs that shouldn’t eat a 100% raw diet are those with a compromised immune system or those that have just undergone bowel surgery.

Honey’s also offer a free download of a really helpful guide to raw feeding which includes detailed information about ‘making the switch’ and some troubleshooting tips if your dog’s digestive system rejects the food (at either end).

Basically they recommend the following alternatives and which works for you dog will depend on how fussy, intelligent (can take longer because they want attention more than food!) or healthy your dog is.

The first and easiest option is to fast your dog and make the switch;

The second, try feeding just green tripe;

The third, slowly mixing your dog’s normal food over 1 or 2 weeks (or more) with raw;

The fourth, cook the raw food in a pan (not microwave) a little less each day until your dog accepts it in its raw form.

It is always crucial to remember two things when switching to a raw diet:

1) Your animal needs a varied and balanced diet (different types of meat including organ meat ; veggies; fruit purees and good supplements of vitamins and minerals) , too much of one meat source or type only will not be healthy.

2) It is raw meat and you will need to observe good hygiene and avoid cross contamination when you prepare and store the food.

We are always on the lookout for better information on pet health and we are happy to share that information with you either on our website or, if you are in the store, by speaking to you, or, if you contact us on our Animal House Bridport website we shall try and answer your question or point you in the right direction if we can.

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