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Wolf in Poodle Clothing

September 27, 2019 in Raw Food

What should I feed my dog? It should be a simple question, but the unfortunate reality is that the answer often gets lost in misinformation and misunderstanding, not only about dog food but dogs in general.

Scientific studies ‘proving’ that kibble can sustain a dog’s life abound. It seems like every brand of commercially processed dog food you can find has been ‘scientifically proven’ to meet all of the nutritional needs of our furry friends.

These scientific studies and feeding trials have very low standards making them an easy pass. For example, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) designation of Complete and Balanced or For All Life Stages only requires a feeding trial of eight animals for 26 weeks.

They only require six of the eight dogs to survive the 26 weeks. The surviving dogs can pass with up to 15% of body weight loss and tested blood values below a specified minimum.

Yet the public puts a great deal of confidence in these designations because, well, it’s science.

It’s no wonder that I often get asked to cite the scientific evidence that leads me to believe dogs should eat a balanced raw diet like wolves rather than processed, commercial kibble.

A Brief History Of Dog Food
As impressive as they may sound, these scientific studies are actually very new and have only been able to look at results over the short term.

This is because processed kibble for dogs has really only been around since the 1800s. In fact, the first commercially produced dog food was introduced by a businessman named James Spratt in 1860. That’s only 160 years ago (that’s 1,120 in dog years). His dry dog food business was extremely successful and extremely lucrative.

Following Spratt’s success, the dry dog food industry and the science that supported it seem to have been driven and shaped more by the market than by any real long-term studies on the impact the new diet had on the health of domestic dogs.

Now, 160 years later, I believe we are seeing the results of processed, commercial kibble. Our canine companions that are eating processed food just keep getting sicker and sicker. Deaths from cancer, diabetes and degenerative conditions are the norm. There are more veterinary clinics than ever before yet dogs continue to die prematurely and suffer from chronic illnesses.

The natural diet stance is based on long-term trials that go beyond a mere 160 years. Humans and dogs have been working and living together for at least 15,000 years (possibly more) and up until the Industrial Revolution and James Spratt’s dry dog food business venture, domestic dogs thrived eating a natural, raw diet.

I say natural because dogs as a species are carnivores, just like wolves. In fact, wolves and dogs are the same species.

Carnivore or Omnivore?
Interestingly enough, proponents of a processed, commercial kibble diet are now questioning the relationship between the wolf and dog. They even suggest a dog is not a carnivore but an omnivore. If dogs and wolves are not closely related then they don’t require the same diet.

If this is true and dogs have the digestive systems of omnivores it would support the idea that we can continue to feed our beloved pooches a processed diet full of corn and chemicals. The difficulty in this line of thinking is that the relationship between dogs and wolves is well understood and well documented.

Wolf-Dog or Dog-Wolf?
Originally dogs were classified as Canis familiaris and Canis familiarus domesticus in 1758.

Science has come a long way and in 1993, the Smithsonian Institution and the American Society of Mammalogists reclassified dogs as Canis Lupus Familiaris (subspecies of the gray wolf Canis Lupus).

In other words, the domestic dog is no longer classified as a separate species, it is a subspecies of the gray wolf and a wolf is a carnivore.

In fact, the connection is so close you can actually breed a wolf and a dog and produce viable offspring. This is an important distinction when it comes to determining species.

The processed food promoters counter this argument by citing the strong genetic relationship that exists between humans and chimpanzees, yet no one would suggest we should eat the same food as a chimp or vice versa. (ironically the chimp diet is probably healthier than the typical North American diet).

While there may be some similarities, humans and apes cannot interbreed in the same way that dogs and wolves can. They are not the same species. The distinction is enormous.

Since a dog’s internal physiology is the same as a wolf, it stands to reason that a dog’s nutritional needs are identical to a wolf.

This means dogs need to consume a balance of meat, bones and organs of herbivorous prey.
Plant matter in the digestive system of the prey is removed and not consumed.

The Difference Raw Makes
Aside from the historical aspect of raw feeding, I have personally witnessed the wonderful healing and restoring powers of a species-appropriate diet.

I have also had the privilege of being in the natural dog food industry for well over a decade and I have received thousands of positive reports of dogs returning to good health after switching to a totally raw diet.

What I and many others have seen and experienced is that many common health conditions plaguing our beloved pets today have roots in the consumption of processed, commercial kibble.

So, see your pet for what he is, a pack oriented, carnivorous friend. Accept him for the little wolf he is and provide him with a diet to match his genes and it will go a long way towards helping your beloved pooch live a long healthy life.

Mixing Raw & Kibble – Is It Okay?

January 3, 2019 in Raw Food

 

A common question that arises from our customers is whether they should mix kibble with their dog’s raw diet. We generally discourage this because of the potential issues that can arise from the practice, so I’ll use this article to outline the ‘why’ behind our answer!

The digestive tract of a dog varies quite a bit from that of a human, but digestion – whether in human or dog – is basically the same process. Enzymes in the digestive tract are proteins that break down and digest the food that you or your dog eat and convert it to energy. Some of these enzymes are found in the stomach and the rest are produced in the pancreas, where they travel to the small intestine to take care of the end of the digestive journey.  We’ll talk about the importance of those enzymes a little more in-depth in just a bit.

The stomach produces hydrochloric acid, and in an amount that makes a dog’s stomach quite acidic – a pH level of 2 – around the same level as raw vinegar. The stomach plays a key role in making the digestive tract run, as well as performing a couple of other functions.  Having a consistent and strong pH level is paramount to so many systems operating properly in your dog’s body, it simply cannot be overstated.

Now, one of the main differences between feeding your dog a raw diet and one that’s kibble-based is the amount of carbohydrates contained in each. Where a raw diet is very low in carbohydrates or starches – ideally 5%-10% through any added fruits or vegetables – kibbles need starch to bind their ingredients together into those little nuggets we’re all familiar with.

So how much starch?  A lot – often ranging from 30% to 60% of the kibble’s formula!

Why is this bad for your dog – especially a raw fed one?

First, carbohydrates or starches increase the pH level of your dog’s stomach (makes it less acidic). This isn’t good because one of the enzymes (I told you we’d come back to them) that is key to digestion is pepsin, and it breaks proteins down into amino acids that your dog needs in the pre-digestive phase. If your dog’s stomach acid falls below a pH level of 2, pepsin isn’t released from the stomach – so proteins aren’t properly broken down in the digestive system.

Second, aside from being an engine for digestion, your dog’s stomach also plays an important role in protecting him from any sort of bacteria that might be consumed along with his food – or through anything else that finds its way in his mouth.

With a less acidic stomach, bacteria like E coli and salmonella have a higher probability of surviving and thriving in your dog’s belly. Dogs have evolved so that their digestive systems are able to neutralize bacteria, but when you start changing the pH level of their digestive tracts by feeding too many carbohydrates and starches, you could be opening a whole Pandora’s Box of problems.

What kind of problems? Well, when partially digested food leaves the stomach and Is ready to go through the final digestive steps, if it’s not at the proper pH level the correct enzymes won’t be released from the pancreas to finish off the process. That means more undigested food particles in the system and this can lead to leaky gut syndrome – where undigested food and pathogens pass through the lining of the small intestine and potentially lead to immune disorders and inflammation.

If any of that undigested food leaving the stomach (with an improper pH level) makes it to the colon, it can wreak all kinds of havoc that will manifest as things like diarrhea and could even progress into Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Third, and one of the most important for dogs, is that if the pH level of the stomach is too low, dogs simply can’t deal with bones efficiently. Since bones are a key ingredient of the raw diet, it’s of the utmost importance that dogs are able to process them and absorb all the minerals that are made available to them. The lower pH levels in an ‘over-starched’ digestive system also don’t allow for the bones to be physically broken down as they should, leading to possible bowel obstruction down the road – something your dog would certainly like to avoid.

If going to a completely raw diet absolutely isn’t an option, there are ways to make the combination of raw and kibble safer; but they involve adding even more to your dog’s diet in the way of probiotics to increase healthy gut flora, or things like apple cider vinegar to decrease the dry food’s pH level and make it more acidic.  For simplicity and safety’s sake, we always suggest that an all-raw approach is the best way to go for your pet, but any fresh, raw food that can be incorporated into a dog’s diet is always better than none at all.

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Information in this article gathered from DNM University’s Raw Dog Food Nutrition & Pet Food Nutrition certification courses.

All Vitamins Are Not Created Equal

December 6, 2018 in Supplements

One of the most frequent questions we get from people who are starting their pets on a raw diet is, “How do I know my pet is getting all the vitamins they need? Do you add anything to your patties to ensure they’re getting everything?”

We always answer the question the same way.

Vitamin content and quality in raw food vs. commercial pet food isn’t simply a matter of looking at numbers and letters on a bag.

Before we get to our answer and the ‘why’ of the matter, though, let’s learn a little about the vitamins essential to your pet’s diet. 

Let’s start with the two main types of vitamins – water soluble and fat soluble.

Water soluble vitamins – like the B vitamin family and vitamin C – aren’t stored in the body long-term and should be consumed daily, if possible. When water soluble vitamins are fed, the body takes whatever it can use from them and the leftovers are excreted through the body via urine.

The fat soluble vitamins – A, D, E and K – are vitamins that are absorbed and stored in body fat and tissues. People generally associate a high quantity of vitamins with good health, but with fat soluble vitamins that isn’t always the case.  When excess fat soluble vitamins are added to food and consumed over a period of time, it can lead to a buildup in the body and possible vitamin toxicity if levels are high enough.

So, let’s talk about the water soluble vitamins for a moment and how it relates to our Totally Raw products.

The Vitamin B family (B1 – Thiamine, B2- Riboflavin, B3 – Niacin, B5 – Pantothenic Acid, B6 – Pyridoxine, B9- Folate and/or Folic Acid, B12 ) is responsible for many of the body’s functions ranging from growth, nervous system development, red blood cell formation, immune system strengthening, and scores of other jobs that are far too numerous to list in this piece. Let’s just say that the B vitamin family is a critically important one and it needs to be present in your diet.

The B Vitamin family is naturally present in chicken, turkey, duck, pork, lamb, beef, liver, heart & kidney – all staples in the Totally Raw menu.  Following our recommendation of including a minimum of three proteins in rotation in your pet’s diet, your pet will be getting all the B Vitamins they need without the need for any sort of synthetic vitamins added.

Vitamin C is crucial to the formation of calcium and iron, prevents the growth of cancer cells, and it’s an antioxidant required for tissue growth and repair and proper functioning of the adrenal gland.  It’s naturally occurring in liver, kidney and heart – all organs included in every Totally Raw patty.

It is worth noting that unlike humans, dogs typically do not need large amounts of additional vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in their diets. Dogs, as well as many other animals, manufacture vitamin C through their glandular systems. A healthy dog typically produces about 18mg of vitamin C for every pound of body weight (for example, a 50-lb. dog produces about 900mg per day), providing a continued concentration of ascorbic acid in the dog’s system.

Some veterinarians suggest additional vitamin supplements, based on a dog’s health, but giving too many synthetic vitamins to a dog can have serious repercussions.  Once again, your pet will be getting naturally occurring Vitamin C and producing enough of their own without the need for synthetic vitamins added to their diet.

So, Totally Raw has your B’s and C covered – but what about the rest?

Let’s talk about the fat soluble vitamins for a moment.

Vitamin A is a crucial vitamin to your pet’s health in the way that it boosts their immune system, prevents vision disorders and skin problems, forms health bones and teeth, and actually slows the aging process.  It’s found in chicken, pork, liver, and kidneys; all part of the Totally Raw menu – and naturally occurring.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that prevents cancer and heart disease. It also promotes hair and skin health, reduces blood pressure, and prevents cell damage in the body. An interesting fact about Vitamin E is that it’s not easily absorbed into the body, and only half the amount found in most foods is available to the body for use.

Fortunately, grass-fed meats are roughly four times higher in Vitamin E than grain fed counterparts, and grass-fed meat is a staple of the Totally Raw menu – along with kidney and liver, also rich in Vitamin E.

Vitamin K promotes healthy liver function, aids in bone development and strengthening, and increases overall longevity of life. It’s largely present and naturally occurring in liver, which is used in our Totally Raw organ blends (10% of every patty).

Finally, we have Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is essential for the body to process phosphorus and calcium appropriately – the building blocks for teeth and bone health. It also helps to regulate the heart, aids in thyroid function, facilitates proper blood clotting, boosts immunity, and helps fight the development of cancer cells. Research has shown that dogs with a Vitamin D deficiency are at a far higher risk of cancer than those who are getting a proper amount of the vitamin.

Food-wise, vitamin D is naturally occurring in the liver and kidneys from an organ standpoint. Unless your meat is from grass-fed animals, however, you’re not going to get the required amount of Vitamin D from meat sources alone. The good news is that if you feed Totally Raw beef, you’re getting it from grass-fed cattle so you’re getting naturally occurring vitamin D from real meat sources.

We left vitamin D until the end for a reason.

Vitamin D is one of the most added synthetic vitamins in the commercial pet food industry and, because it is a fat soluble vitamin, extra care needs to be taken to ensure that excess amounts are not added to the food.

Recently (December 2018) a recall of 8 commercial pet food brands occurred due to excess levels of synthetic Vitamin D in their foods; to the point that vitamin toxicity was a real concern among pets that were consuming it.

Because most commercial pet foods do not contain enough high quality animal protein to fulfill the amount of naturally occurring vitamins your pet needs, synthetic vitamins – which aren’t absorbed in the same way that natural vitamins are – are often added to the formulas. This is frequently to the detriment of the pets eating them. Synthetic vitamins aren’t recognized in the body the way naturally occurring nutrients are and they can wreak havoc with natural vitamin sources as they try to do their work.

Synthetics may provide an initial boost of benefit when administered, but in many cases they can end up doing more harm than good.  There is no substitute for naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, and there are no better sources for them than in whole foods like we use in our product.

So, to answer the question of whether we add any additional vitamins to our products, the answer is a resounding “no”.

The reason is because if you’re feeding your pet a variety of selections from our Totally Raw menu, there’s absolutely no reason for us to do so.  It’s complete nutrition, the way nature intended.