Why feed raw food?
To answer this question we have to look at the current beliefs/myths/advertising and question their validity.
Balanced Diet

This phrase leads us to believe that a diet for dogs must trend towards a center or norm. This is true in itself; however that is not what the processed manufacturers really mean. Their version relates to the chemical make-up of their product. In their view a balanced diet is combination of base protein, heat separated fats, and mineralized vitamin compounds that try to duplicate the daily requirements for pets.

Why would this be an effort? Because the products they start with do not represent the base diet for pets. The protein is typically, base animal protein from a separation process known as rendering, grain based, or both. All other basic vitamin and mineral compounds must be added to bring the base material into line with the daily intake requirement.

Surplus to the dogs diet are the carbohydrates and non-digestible fiber from the grain. This material is not counted in the diet ratings because they do not represent parts of the basic daily requirements. They do contribute to the pets intake though, sometimes with negative results.

Natural Diet

Somehow natural foods and diets went from base products found in gardens and pastures, to packages being delivered from large mills. A Natural diet is a Raw Diet. If the products the processed manufacturers were producing was a natural diet, why would they need to supplement with calcium and other mineralized compounds?

How many "Natural Diets" have a shelf life of a year? Natural diets do not have masses of preservatives to keep bacteria from forming on its surface. Why would I feed my pet, as a staple, something that bacteria would not eat?

Diet variability is not healthy...

This was a marketing ploy to be sure. Nothing could be further from the truth. What is known, is that if you feed a monochromatic diet to a puppy in the early stages, its ability to digest or metabolize a variety of food as an adult is reduced. This usually shows itself as diarrhea condition which may not be as bad for the dog as it is for the owner. This lack variability is self serving, in that once the pet is "hooked", moving to a different food causes a reaction that the owner sees as a problem (maybe even a trip to the vet) then a move back the original diet. At the end of this is typically a pet with some sort of condition requiring ongoing medical help, due to and overabundance or missing part in the dietary make-up.

A raw diet demands variability. Variability is not only good for the dog, it is good for the owner. The variability should include the vitamin sources as well as protein sources. Poultry as a base with meaty beef bones to chew on, and liberal addition of vegetables and some fruit provides a lot of room for variability. Grains are not a requirement but can be added on occasion. A little whole fish, or fish oil, is always good as well.

Feed at different times of the day within a 4 hour window (example: between 6:00 and 10:00 PM) and vary the amount. Tend to under feed for 2 days then "top it up" on the 3rd day. This will keep the pet guessing as to when and where the next meal is so they finish it up all at once. Plus you have control over the consumption not the animal so the end result is a leaner healthier pet.

Canine and Feline Dentistry

This whole problem is directly built on the commercial dog food industry. The plaque that builds up, has it's origins in the carbohydrates in the food. When the saliva begins the digestive process, the carbohydrates breakdown into sugars, that the plaque causing bacteria feed on. As the bacteria reproduce the plaque production increases. If the food has no carbohydrate component, the pets are chewing on raw bones to break up the lowered amount of plaque, dentistry is not required. Even the commercial pet food industry recognizes the effect of raw bones when they try and sell a dog bone replacement as a dental aid.

Don't feed your dogs bones...

We bought into this for years. It took a lot of convincing to get us to believe that feeding a raw bone was OK. Now we can't believe why we were so intimidated. Granted this saying does have some merit... do not feed cooked bones of any sort! This distinction is very important as raw bones have both the elasticity and dietary component. Cooked bones, through the heating process change chemically, making them brittle and leaches out or recombines most of the vitamin and protein components. These cooked bones have no nutritional value and can became lodged in the intestine. Raw bones are both nutritional and flexible, but most of all digestible releasing the calcium and other components both in the right quantity and the right time in the process.

Dogs and cats have been domesticated and need a different diet than their wild relatives...

This is a 20th century load of poor science. If that were true the dentition and digestive systems would have adapted to 'grind up' and 'digest' the carbohydrate laden 'briquets' being produced. Your dogs and cats would have evolved teeth closer to humans or ungulates like goats, not the ripping and chewing teeth they possess. What your pets need is a diet that reflects their heredity not one based in the refuse of human consumption.

My vet says ________...

While the tendency is for us to believe implicitly the advice from our vet, as with our own health we should always seek other opinions from the medical establishment. As with the human medical establishment, most effort is devoted to the treatment of disease not prevention, so a lack of understanding on their part lies in the training not the science. The truth is that most vets have little training in nutrition, with most of it based in animal production for the food industry. Very few have training in feeding pets over a longer life span. Any nutritional training they do get is typically based in testing done at the labs for commercial pet foods. This testing has life of about 3 to 12 months and uses dubious criteria to determine a successful outcome. The fact still remains that we need our vets. If we can get them past the crisis intervention thinking of their training, to look to the long term health management you will probably hear a shift in the tone and information delivered. Most will reconsider their thinking if approached in the correct manner, or at the very least give you (or your pets breeder) due consideration in the matter.

Writer's Opinion

As a dog breeder for nearly 20 years, we suffered the criticisms of all those who would make us (and our work) out to be this uninformed, indiscriminate, production of animals purely for profit, with little regard for the genetic or physical well being of our animals. While I would suppose this is beneficial to some of those in our society, it is a simple fact that without us many peoples lives would lack that companion animal. It is very interesting that those who seem to shout the loudest are those who profit from, feeding the animals, or treating the animals. We started our little adventure in production of raw frozen foods to augment the results seen in our kitchen counter production. Since then we have seen a dramatic improvement in our dogs; but also an increase in the level of objection to what we are saying and doing.

We recently received an e-mail with a dubious address, unsigned and unclaimed, trotting out all the hyperbole and fear mongering typical of the commercial food sellers. The angry tone of the e-mail was disconcerting enough; but when they went on to blame problems in purebred dogs on the indiscriminate breeding practices and poor genetic considerations of the breeders it made me think about what was being said. It has occurred to me that maybe the breeders are not entirely to blame, in fact I take exception to that view. Maybe we have done genetic damage to our purebred dogs; but not from breeding practices, rather a hereditary build up of poor dietary practices has finally shown through in the health of the animals. What leads me to this conclusion is that the same maladies that affect the purebred animals are also present in the mixed breed populations where breeders have not influenced the genetic outcome.

We will continue to feed the raw food in our dogs and encourage our puppy buyers to do the same. Given the results seen since 1997 we expect continued improvement and a long healthy life for our dogs.

Dean and Tracey Ricard