Raw Food Diet

Nutrition is finally being recognized as a legitimate treatment modality in mainstream medicine. Many of our modern medical complaints can be directly linked to our poor eating habits; cancer, heart disease, hypertension and adult onset diabetes to name the more prominent concerns. Our society has become dependant on processed foods that are loaded with preservatives to extend their shelf life. Our dogs are no less affected by this lifestyle trend than we are. Our dogs are developing the same health problems we have. Because our dogs generational turnover is shorter than ours, we can see our future in our dogs' health today.

Commercially prepared dog food is a relatively new concept. Processed pet food has only been available a mere few decades. How did our dogs survive so many centuries without it? They ate the same home grown and home cooked meals our forbears did.

If you knew what was in the high priced and over-hyped product you faithfully feed your dog you would be appalled. Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Naural Health for Dogs and Cats (Rodale) gives a detailed description of the pet food process. The meat source can include diseased carcasses that are declared unfit for human consumption by the USDA. A percentage of indigestible body parts, such as feathers, beaks and bills is allowed to be included. Hormones and antibiotics that have been fed and injected into these meat animals to promote greater muscle development are passed on to our pets. This meat meal is then cooked down thus denaturing the protein and destroying most of the nutritive content remaining. Cooking also destroys the vitamins and enzymes which must then be replaced. Fat becomes rancid, so preservatives are added to prolong the shelf life of the food. The cheaper foods are more grain than meat. Read your label, a meat source should be one of the first two ingredients listed. Dyes are added to make the food appear more palatable to our eyes. I could go on and on, read Dr. Pitcairn's book.

I first became nutritionally aware in nursing school. We learned of all the diseases that can result from a deficient diet, but the concept of optimizing our health through diet had not quite caught on. My mother is a health food enthusiast, she began preaching good nutrition before it became the politically correct thing to do. She introduced me to Dr. Pitcairn through his column in Prevention magazine. I bought his book about twelve years ago and fed my dogs his fresh food recipes for several months, then fell off the wagon and fed it sporadically. I tried to feed a "natural" commercial food preserved with vitamins E and C. The dogs did reasonably well, although one dog was definitively diagnosed as hypothyroid, and another had a deteriorating coat with dark skin pigmentation. According to MSU he had normal (though low end) thyroid levels. My vet agreed to try thyroid supplementation and my dog slowly began to grow new coat. I then switched to a new commercial food made with human consumption quality ingredients and preserved with tocopherols (vitamin E). He also received an oil supplement containing the essential fatty acids and zinc. His coat improved even more.

Chris Lynch (Westwind) sparked a new determination to feed fresh food after I heard her presentation on alternative medicine at the Boston National in 1995. The recipe for a 20-25# dog, based on Pat McKay's (Reigning Cats and Dogs) follows:

1/2 cup raw meat (ground poultry, beef, lamb, organ meats)
1/2 cup raw pureed vegetables (variety!)
1/4 cup cooked whole grains
1 teaspoon bonemeal powder (double for puppies and pregnancy)
1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid powder with bioflavinoids (vitamin C)
1/4 teaspoon kelp powder
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic (not powder)
1 teaspoon oil mixture (2 teaspoons with poutlry)

Oil mixture:
11 oz. canola oil (cold pressed)
2 oz. wheat germ oil
2 oz. flax oil
Keep refridgerated in an opaque container.

I spoke with Chris at the Chicago National (1997) and she told me that Pat McKay has refined the recipe. She now eliminates the grains and increases the meat and vegetables proportionately, and only adds the oil if poultry is fed.

The meat must be fed RAW. Many people are squeamish at the idea, but we must realize that our dogs digestive systems are radically different from ours. They are carnivores, their digestive tracts are much shorter and their stomach acids much stronger. Dogs should be fed raw bones (cooked bones will splinter). The vegetables must be pureed or they will come out looking pretty much the same way they did going in. Wild canines get their vegetable matter by eating the digested intestinal contents of their vegetarian prey. Variety is essential to deliver the correct mix of vitamins and minerals.

I now feed Dr. Billinghurst's evolutionary or biologically appropriate raw food diet (AKA as the BARF diet). It consists mainly of raw meaty bones (approximately 50% bone/50% meat) and pulped vegetables and fruits mixed with organ meats (liver, heart and kidneys), yoghurt, garlic and whole raw eggs. Supplements are added to supply the essential fatty acids. These oil supplements consist of cod liver oil (source of vitamin A), fish body oil and/or flax seed oil or ground flax seed meal (sources of omega 3 EFA's), olive oil, and oil of evening primrose (only once a week). Other supplements include vitamins C and E, alfalfa powder, kelp powder, brewers yeast (source of vitamin B's) and apple cider vinegar. The dogs are fed their meat/veggie patties every third day and are fed whole raw meaty bones (chicken backs, necks and wings, turkey necks, pork and lamb neck bones) the other two days. The first advantage to feeding raw meaty bones that I was able to witness was sparkling clean white teeth and fresh breath within a week of starting the diet.

A fresh food diet can be more costly, but if you search for bargains or know someone that raises their own meat animals it does not need to be prohibitive. I know I am paying much less in vet bills as my dogs are in vibrant good health. Their coats are lush and glossy; the fur feels supple and alive, not dead and dry. If a dog is in less than optimal condition it will show in his coat first as the body will sacrifice skin and coat to preserve the more vital organs. Be aware too that skin and coat will look worse when you first begin feeding a fresh food diet as the skin functions as an excretory organ and slowly purges the body of accumulated toxins. Be also aware that you will not have an overnight improvement, it will take several weeks to complete the detoxification process and several months to grow a completely new coat. You should, however, see an immediate improvement in your dog's vitality and zest for life.

Diet is one of the most important things we can change to maximize our dogs health. Our dogs have additional requirements, such as free exercise with room to race and leap and turn to properly condition all of the muscle groups. My fenced back yard is large enough to allow my dogs room to run with many natural obstacles and a gentle slope to build strong muscles. The older dogs are less inclined to exercise themselves so they are walked several times a week. Fresh untainted water is becoming a luxury as our ground water becomes increasingly contaminated. The role injectable vaccines has played in stressing our dogs immune systems and the rising incidence of autoimmune disorders is becoming more recognized. It is frightening how we abuse our puppies immature immune systems by injecting them with multiple watered down diseases.

Indeed, many of the things we currently do to protect our dogs health may be compromising their ability to successfully fight off infection or infestation. Germs and parasites are opportunists, weaker animals are more likely to be affected. By routinely poisoning our animals internally and externally, we are weakening our pets' overall health and positively inviting the pests to take over. I see an occasional flea from time to time, but I have not been overrun with fleas in years. I do not bomb the house or spray my dogs. Flea combing the cats is the only direct approach I take to undermine the fleas. Carpets are ideal breeding grounds for fleas, so I stick with wood, linoleum and ceramic floors. I do use a monthly heartworm preventative, but am uneasy about poisoning my dogs on a monthly basis.

The body's ability to protect us and our dogs is amazing. We should do all we can to assist it and as little as possible to hinder it. For more information, please refer to the following:

The Complete Herbal Handbook by Juliette de Bairacli Levy

Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn DVM PhD and Susan Hubble Pitcairn

Reigning Cats and Dogs by Pat McKay
Oscar Publications
372 Grace Drive
South Pasadena, CA 91030

Give Your Dog a Bone by Dr. Ian Billinghurst

Grow Your Pups Up With Bones by Dr. Ian Billinghurst

Marina Zacharias' Natural Rearing newsletter and health care products
PO Box 1436
Jacksonville, OR 97530
541-899-3414 (fax)
You may send an email message to Marina Zacharias by clicking here.

For more information visit the following links:

How to prepare raw meals for pets

BARF!!! Bones and Raw Food
BARF-Bones and Raw Food/Biologically Appropriate Raw Food
BARF Pictorial
BARF Supplier List
BARF Webring
BARF and Detox
Canine Health Census
Cats and the Natural Raw Food Diet
Detoxification Therapy
Dr. Belfield's Web Magazine for Modern Pet Owners
Lecture notes from Dr. Billinghurst Seminar
Dr. Chambreaus's Healthy Path for Every Animal
Dr. Tom Lonsdale DVM-Raw Meaty Bones
Dog Gone Itchy?
Health and Feeding-Allergies
Homemade Diets
Living and Raw Foods
Mary Straus' Dog Feeding Info
Medicinal Benefits of Whole Foods
Natural Alternatives-Canine Wholistic Nutrition
Natural Canine: Raw Feeding FAQ's
Natural Food
Natural Paws News, Summer 1995-Recommended Reading
Optimum Pet Nutrition
Perfect Health Diet by Wendy Volhard
Pottenger's Cats-A Study in Nutrition
The TRUTH about feeding your dog
The Ultimate Diet
What is Best, Cooked or Raw?

Information on Supplements
Apple Cider Vinegar
Enzymes: The Difference Between Raw and Cooked Foods
Digestive Enzymes
Cod Liver Contaminated by Toxic Chlorine Chemicals per Greenpeace
Netrition.com-Fish Oil
Flax Oil and Cancer - Part 1
In Praise of Tripe
No Guts, No Glory (more about tripe) by Mary Voss
Vitamin C
Vitamin C
Vitamin C-Help Your Dog to Stay and Young and Beautiful by Catherine O'Driscoll

Recipe Sites
Doggie Connection Recipe Page
Dog Food & Treat Recipes
Dog Treat Recipes
Hollow's Hound Recipes
Newf Goodies Dog Treats
Ohio Saint Rescue Recipes
Satin Balls Recipe
Mary Straus' Recipe Page
Dog Treat Recipe Book by Justin Bryce
Winnie Wu's Recipe File

Sources of Supplements and Reference Books
Abby's Herbs
AddALL (book price comparisons)
alibris-source of out of print books
All the Best Pet Care (source for ordering reference books)
Atlantic Spice
B Naturals
B-Natural's Herbs Page
Best Book Buys
Blessed Herbs
Blue Green Algae
Celestial Pets Shopping Page (source for books and supplements)
Doggie Dietician
Dr. Goodpet-Natural Pet Pharmacy for Dogs and Cats
Dr. Kruger's Ultimate Supplement
drugstore.com (a source for a multi enzyme formula)
Frontier Natural Products Coop
HealthQuick.com (an online drugstore)
Holistic Pet Care Products and Information
Home-Health Resource
International Purveyor Index (source for raw meat)
Jean's Greens Herbal Tea Works
Local Harvest-Thyme for Ewe
Missing Link
Morrills' New Directions-Alternative Care for Your Pet
Mountain Rose Herbs
Naturmix USA-All Natural Pet Health Supplies
Nupro All Natural Dog Supplement
NuVet Labs™ Home
Omega Nutrition (flax seed oil)
Puritan's Pride
The Rainbow Ark (source of books)
Spectrum Naturals (Essential Fatty Acids)
Upward Quest Health
Vitamin Shoppe

Sources of Premade BARF Diets
Feed This
Teddy's Freezer
Fresh Food Momma
Halshan Premium Raw Food
Celestial Pets
Grandad's Pet Foods
Carnivore Corporation
Carnique Pet Foods
Halshan Premium Raw Food
Waggin' Tails
Aunt Jeni Home Made
A Place for Paws
Sojourner Farms
Steve's Real Foods
Animal Food Services
Holesome Natural K9 Pet Foods
Fargo FarMore
Natural Pet Food
Raw Connections
Ultimate Diet