So almost 12 years ago, I was pregnant with my first bub and with my maternal hormones surging, my husband and I decided to really throw ourselves under the bus and get a puppy. Enter Luna, our beautiful black staffy who quickly became and integral and much loved part of our growing family. So when we left the breeder, we were given a bag of ‘premium’ dog biscuits as the very ‘best’ thing to feed her; but not one to accept that a processed diet can be healthy, I wasn’t completely convinced that this was the case. So I asked my local vet, only to be told another brand of expensive premium dog biscuits were best (the brand he sold of course).
Now my Naturopathic food philosophy runs thick and fast through my mind so it, of course, got me thinking of what a dog in the wild would eat. When I further researched this, I happened upon a wonderful vet in Perth (where I was living at the time) who’s dietary philosophy for pets resonated. Her name was Dr. Claire Middle and she introduced me to a bone and raw food diet as the most economical and healthiest diet for little Luna.
It really does make sense that if a whole foods diet is the healthiest way to eat for humans, the same goes for your pets. “Over the last twenty or so years, I have witnessed a significant improvement in the health of many animals coming to my veterinary clinic with chronic health problems with a simple change from processed (dried, tinned or ‘dog roll’) pet food, to fresh, raw food,” said Dr. Claire Middle
What is Wrong with Commercial Pet Food?
Numero uno is that it is heavily processed using poor quality, often genetically modified ingredients, additives and fillers. Like many human processed foods, processed pet food has been heated, treated and then fortified with a heap of ‘essential’ nutrients to allow us to feel we are feeding them a nutritious diet. To my mind, it just doesn’t make sense or feel right to feed any of my beloved pets these highly processed ‘franken-foods’.
According to Dr. Middle “Tinned foods contain cooked meat, and cooking destroys much of the useful nutrients in meat for carnivorous animals. Most commercial dried foods (even premium brands) may contain 25% to 60% carbohydrate. The carbohydrate component is usually present as rice or corn meal. The carbohydrate in dried food makes the food less expensive to manufacture, and gives it a long shelf life. Veterinary physiology textbooks tell us that dogs and cats should have no more than 3% to 5% carbohydrate in their diet, because any more than this reduces the liver glycogen metabolism, thus reducing the detoxification of chemicals and toxins from the liver and fat stores.”
She adds “Full liver metabolism, which can only happen with a very low, or no, carbohydrate diet, will, therefore, reduce the likelihood of degenerative conditions such as autoimmune or infectious disease, liver and kidney disease, arthritis and cancer. It has been shown scientifically that cats are much more likely to suffer diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, bladder stones and hepatitis if their diet contains dried commercial food. It has been shown scientifically that puppies are more likely to develop hip dysplasia on a diet containing carbohydrate.”
So what do you feed them?
Just feed them real raw food, the food they have evolved to eat. This is the food that will provide them with all of the essential nutrients they need to thrive and lead a healthy, disease-free life.
“Dogs are omnivores and cats are carnivores. They obtain their essential nutrients from the raw meat, bone, sinew, offal and fermented vegetable gut contents of the carcasses they eat, plus dogs also eat a lot of dropped, rotting fruit, berries, dung and leaf litter from the jungle floor. Fresh, real food will provide essential nutrients in a more useable form for the animal than as separate additives artificially incorporated into heated and pressurised processed food.” says Dr. Middle.
Meat, Fish and Eggs
Bones from small animals are best – chicken necks, wings and frames, lamb offcuts and roo tails. Dr. Claire Middle recommends fish oil, 1 to 6 gram depending on animal size, or tinned or fresh fish two to three times a week (we feed Luna mackerel intermittently) is needed for the essential omega 3 fatty acids. Whole eggs with the crushed shell 2-3 times a week.
My pets also LOVE bone broth. My dog obstructed her bowel last year (would you believe by ingesting a huge amount of beach sand of all things) and she was so unwell. She was vet treated but even so, was deteriorating rapidly. I was instructed to get her to eat asap but she rejected everything I offered until I got the bone broth out (which I slowly started adding meat and vegetables too). I was so impressed (as was the vet) with her turn around, I often now add a splash to her and the cats dinner (they go crazy for it like they know it’s good).
Vegetables and fruit
Dr. Middle recommends a variety of small quantities of anything that you eat is fine for animals, except onions, spring onions, grapes and raisins. It’s best that they are raw and pulped or grated (great way to use up leftover pulp if you are a juicer). Speak to your vet for more details.
She also adds that cats can tolerate 10% fat diets, so feel free to add cheese, eggs, sour cream, yoghurt, fatty meat off cuts and other fatty foods to taste for cats. No chocolate for pets, it’s toxic.
How to go about it
Because we all live busy lives, it is best to incorporate a feeding routine that best suits. A friend of mine has a small bucket that she fills with leftover fruit and vegetable peelings and pulp or any spoiled fresh produce, to which she mixes though raw meat and bones she gets from her butcher (and then adds kelp and fish oil).
I used to have a similar routine though I now feed my three pets a pre-prepared meat mix containing various ground meats/bone, apples, sweet potato, sugarloaf cabbage, beans, carrots, seasonal vegetables, flax, fish oil, kelp and garlic. The specific producer has lots of variety (meat types and both dog and cat blends) and also an organic range. The one I buy is available frozen in portioned trays and big rolls (for larger dogs).
I also should add that in the past 6 months or so, my now almost 12-year-old dogs digestion just doesn’t handle eating big bones so she only eats them ground (in her meat mix). Just worth remembering for elderly dogs.
Is this an expensive way to feed your pet?
Even with adding in supplements such as kelp or fish oils, this is a very economical and sustainable way to feed you pet. Not to mention the money you’ll save on vet bills!
I feed my pet dry food so they don’t do big poos, will this change?
I can honestly say that my dog and cats, all produce small, how can I say – easy to collect and fairy odour free-poos. My cats are both indoor only so I have a very good idea what they produce (gee that was awkward)!
What will my vet think?
I find vets fit into one of two categories – they will either support you or not. If you live in Perth, Dr. Claire Middle is still practicing (lucky people). I have a vet local to me (Currumbin Fair Vet) who is very holistically minded and only advocates a natural diet (they don’t even sell ‘premium’ pet food there). Perhaps if you know of a vet who supports an unprocessed diet, you could add their name and the area they practice from in the comments below, so others may benefit.
I do use dry food for treats and as back-up occasionally when I have forgotten to defrost their meat. The only dry I feed my pets is grain-free which is not so easy to come by.
I personally don’t ‘bake’ or make treats for my pets because I simply don’t have the time or I feel the expertise. I just prefer to focus on the bulk part of their diet which is raw.
So I have quoted Dr. Claire Middle a lot here because let’s face it, I’m not a vet nor qualified to dispense advice re feeding pets beyond my own experience. I know how insulting it is when I read sketchy nutritional advice written by the internet qualified or unqualified blogger when I have dedicated 10’s of thousands of dollars and 20 years of my life to learning my trade. Nor is this a sponsored post at all.
Love to hear your thoughts and experiences – post a comment below. Also, feel free to link to holistic vets in your area that supports a natural diet.
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My three girls – Mimi and Lola (cats unman image) and Luna (aka Lucy Lou – because everybody loves Lucy).