With pet cancer on the rise, we need new thinking in terms of pet health. Wicklow canine nutritionist Dr Conor Brady, from Dogsfirst.ie, explains why dog owners today are moving away from cereal-based dry foods and towards DIY, fresh meat ingredients.
Every living animal on earth requires a natural and healthy, biologically appropriate diet. If you think about it, no animal on earth has evolved to eat a highly processed diet, certainly not the stuff we are today feeding to dogs and cats. Most pet foods are designed, manufactured and sold by huge multinationals designed with the bottom line in mind. As a result they are based on cheap ingredients like wheat and spurious animal derivatives, and mixed together with a long list of additives and preservatives to make them last from wherever they are made to your cupboard months to years later.
These products are then marketed brilliantly, through the likes of vets, resulting in the end user paying more for these cereal-based food stuffs than the cost of fresh chicken off the shelf of Tesco’s, for a carnivore. Why does it matter what we are feeding our pets? Because this diet is making our best friend sick.
Chronic illness is on the rise in dogs today. Dry-food-fed dogs are 25-50 times more likely to suffer pancreatitis than humans, and 7 times more likely to get kidney disease. Cancer is also on the rise, along with rotten joints, and inflammation as a result of food intolerance. These ailments are the top reasons for bringing dogs to the vet today, along with perpetual skin conditions, ear and eye conditions, gastrointestinal upset and arthritis, leaving pet owners going down regularly for prescriptions.
It happens that many of these recurring issues are actually a result of inflammation from incorrect diet and very thus easily treated. However modern conventional vets have moved to pharmacological focus on treatment of symptoms and less so the cause of illness, much to the delight of the drug companies which actively encourage such practices thanks to huge profit margins. Historically doctors were paid to keep us healthy! After all why would you pay your mechanic if your car keeps breaking down? Now we pay them only when we’re sick. Vets today believe that the cereal-based products they sell are better than fresh ingredients, something no independent canine nutritionist would ever agree with on their worst day.
So why the difference? In 1997, Tara Parker- Pope wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal called Why the Vet Really Recommends that Designer Chow. It highlighted how the big pet food companies, inspired by their use of dentists to successfully sell their toothpaste, moved into veterinary universities via generous cash donations, a relationship that is alive and kicking to day. This is far from ideal. The truth is you guys are an easy target a very profitable market.
We love our pets deeply, want the best for them and spend money accordingly. The dog and cat customers don’t complain. There 800,000 of you in Ireland, 8 million of you in the UK, consuming £2.1 billion worth of pet food a year, a market that is worth more than the entire UK music industry. So you see a lot of effort, time and money is spent in getting you to buy stuff. This has resulted in you feeding grossly overpriced cereal-based products to what are little meat eaters. You feed expensive junk treats like dental sticks rather than a nice meaty bone. You regularly apply flea and worm control for dogs with no fleas and worms. You are boosting your pets annually for viruses which they were correctly vaccinated for as pups against the advice of the top veterinary immunologists. Think about it, when were you last boosted for your MMR? Do they design them to wear off in your dog? Table scraps. What happened to all these things?
With all these synthetic products going in, the reality is today pets (and indeed people) are more chronically ill than ever before. When we get sick what do we do? We go looking for something else to put in to stop the symptoms appearing. But it’s not about what you put in, rather what you take out that bestows the most health. Americans are not living long thanks to their diet, they are living longer in spite of their diet. The longest living and healthiest communities are not in America. They are in remote areas of Japan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
If your dog is sick you need to tackle the cause of the illness, what is known as the aetiology of the disease. In dogs the main cause of chronic illness is cereal-based dry food. Thankfully many of these issues can be reversed by converting your dog to a raw meat diet. Fresh food immediately benefits a dog’s form and function. A biologically appropriate raw diet is the only diet that will maximise health and longevity. Simply, feed fresh meat for what is essentially a little carnivore, believe it or not!
Left to their own devices and free of human influence dogs pursue a fresh meat diet. They eat small animals and carcasses. They are scavenging carnivores. A dog’s teeth, their acidic gut and short, rapid digestive system is that of a meat eater. Comparative clinical trials of dry and raw fed dogs found raw fed were “significantly healthier.” Which makes sense. Fresh food is chemical-free, pure unadulterated protein and fresh fats.
Ever wonder why there are no dry foods for us? For our athletes? For patients in hospital? For our zoo animals? A funny quirk of dogs is that if you feed them vegetables or fruit as pups they will seek it later on as part of their “normal” diet. But studies show they do not do this in the wild when free of human influence. And just because they can eat a piece of bread doesn’t make it good for them. After all I can eat rum and cookies! Dogs will eat dry food for sure, largely thanks to the high salt content, but do you think you could get a bowl of that down? And even if you could, would you want to eat it every day? Why not? One week’s trial on real food will tell you that your dog is very much in agreement.
SO WHAT SHOULD I FEED MY DOG?
Feeding a dog is as easy as feeding yourself, just more meat. Dogs need a diet based on 5:1:1 which is 5 parts meat on the bone (or mince with 10% bone in it), 1 part fresh organ meat (liver, kidney, heart, with liver being the most important) and 1 part cooked veg (I like a bag of green beans, peas and carrots). The ratio can vary up to 8:1:1 but I personally prefer a little more organ meat. The first noticeable physical change will be in the coat. Lots of fresh meat protein contributes to a thick, lush coat. Then their physique will change. They will shed the carb fuelled pudge and replace it with some muscle mass. Think about human weightlifters and bodybuilders eating meat to bulk up. Good fresh protein also builds organs, skin, hair and joints. Your dog is a carnivore. All they eat is protein (meat) and fat. And he does best on lots of it.
Cutting out dry kibble and offering your dog some fresh meat on the bone improves dental hygiene and reduces bad breath. 9/10 dogs have gum disease by three years of age and 9/10 are dry fed! Does this not strike anyone else as odd? High carbohydrate dry food fuels plaque growth in dogs as they have no amylase in their saliva (which breaks down carb sugars in the mouth). Instead the sugar hangs around their mouth fuelling bacteria growth. On top of this, with everyone scared away from fresh meaty bone, something that appeared in the 90’s in but another marketing step to convince you the dog owner that dog’s don’t need bones. No, no. Best to feed them this thing we invented which looks like a bone, is as hard as a bone, tastes like a bone but vitally is not a bone (and costs €4).
Dogs need fresh meaty bones to clean their teeth. That’s a fact. Cut them out of the diet and you are depriving them of nutritious meal that gives them enormous pleasure. Never ever feed cooked bones though and certainly not the dried out ones you find in pet shops. Fresh, raw meaty bones from your butcher. Dry food is full of salt which rots the kidneys of dogs and cats worldwide, hence they are seven times more likely to suffer kidney disease than us. When you cut out the salty kibble and feed fresh your pet will drink less, and urinate less. There will also be less poo as fresh food is so digestible.
Then there’s behaviour. Dry food fuels poor behaviour by three methods: it is high in carbs which fuels high blood sugar and insulin levels, long since linked to poor behaviour; it’s full of chemicals (just have a look at the back of that packet, if you can’t pronounce it then you should be worried); and it has a low vitamin B content (the mind-soothing vitamins). Starting to sound like snake oil, isn’t it?!
ISN’T FRESH FEEDING EXPENSIVE?
Your average adult dog needs 2.5% of his body weight per day in fresh food. So I hear you asking, “isn’t that going to work out expensive?” Not at all. You can buy ready-mixed meals online for around €3/kg, delivered to your door! That’s the same price as a good bag of dry food but now you’re feeding fillet steak. You can always thin these out a bit by adding brown rice, spuds, table scraps, and cheap meat offcuts from the butcher.
A more affordable option today is DIY dog food. Simply pick up the ingredients and mix them yourself. Online retailers like CarnivoreKellys.ie deliver straight to your door in 24hrs. Your minces will arrive fresh with organ meats separate. Add in some veg and whatever else you want to put in there, mix it all up and bag it in the amount you need. This method will cost you max €2/kg.
ISN’T FRESH MEAT DANGEROUS?
The human food chain is very tightly controlled, reducing the possibility of nasties but not eliminating them, and that’s why you need to cook fresh meat if you intend to eat it. However dogs are scavenging carnivores. They are not susceptible to nasties such as Salmonella and E.coli in the same way we are. Think of the dog that gets a nice meaty bone, eats half it, buries it and digs it up a week later for a chew! There’s more on that rancid bit of meat that should lay them out yet they’re fine. The reason being dog saliva is laced with lysozyme, making their mouth an extremely inhospitable environment for invading bacteria. They have stomach acids of pH 1 (more than ten times lower than ours) so like a wolf or cat, your dog is a raw-meat eating machine. So don’t worry about him. He needs it fresh, and cooking destroys the good stuff.
HOW DO I INTRODUCE IT?
It’s best to introduce fresh meat to your dog slowly, half a teaspoon one day, full teaspoon the next etc. This serves two purposes. Firstly, as we mentioned above, should you rear a dog on dry food he will be unused to fresh meat. While the vast majority of dogs will dive straight in, if you plonk a whole load of it in the bowl he might look at you and say “I’m not eating that.” The first time you have calamari you don’t want to see the squid! It’s the same deal with dogs. This slow introduction also tunes in his gut to his new diet. My recommendation is to cut out the “products” for a week or two and feed fresh food. That’s it. Follow that advice and the hefty majority of reasons for visiting the vet today will evaporate. Meat and bone is where it’s at for your little carnivore. Try it for a week. Boil up a big pot of rice and add some beef mince to it. See if he enjoys it! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Fresh is best, don’t let them sell you otherwise.
For tips on how to make raw dog food, how much they need each day as well as more information on how and what to feed your dog and many articles on dog health, natural parasite control and correct vaccination protocol please grab a cup of tea and check out www.dogsfirst.ie. For tasty fresh meals for dogs at unbeatable prices I recommend www.carnivorekellys.ie. ■