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Nutrition: Why DCSIR chooses balanced Raw Feeding for its rescue dogs

It is important for each dog owner to become educated in and take control of their pet’s health. The first question you may ask in feeding your canine companion is: “What is wrong with processed food, and why might it not be optimal for my dog?”

To help answer this question, we need to look at the recent history of kibble and processed dog food. Commercial dog food was invented by an American named James Pratt in 1860. Wide scale commercial kibble has only been around for about 50 years. Before that, companion dogs ate table scraps, scavenged or hunted their food. We now know that processed, convenient food is not healthy for humans. To achieve optimal health, humans need to eat natural whole foods and not potato chips and meal replacement bars. Does commercial kibble work? Well, it keeps dogs fat and alive. However, we have seen an array of health issues arise that were virtually unheard of since the advent of kibble: from obesity to food intolerances, allergies, chronic degenerative diseases, auto-immune diseases, dental diseases and cancer are now running rampant in our canine companions, and they are continuing to rise.

Proponents of raw diets – educated veterinarians, breeders, rescues and owners who have been feeding a species appropriate diet for some time have seen allergies disappear, weight being shed, shiny white teeth into old age, energy levels increased in older dogs, shiny coats, better disposition, healthy gait, small, non-smelly feces, less infections and disease and an overall healthier dog. In our own rescue, we have seen many ailments that owners claimed were too expensive to manage (being prescribed an array of drugs to mask any underlying issues) disappear in a matter of months. One of our Directors, Rebekah, took in a Shiba who was sick, bald and smelly from years of what her previous owners called “expensive and unmanageable allergies.” They refused to try a raw diet, saying they had gone broke and had spent thousands on medications from the vet. They were done! Well, in just 6 short months and some tweaking in her raw diet, that stinky, smelly discarded Shiba has a lush, shiny, odorless coat with ZERO medication and a high quality species appropriate diet. She also found her forever home with her educated mom, Rebekah, who will continue to give her a drug-free high nutrient species appropriate diet. Individuals around the country have similar stories and experiences.

So why aren’t your veterinarians clamoring to tell you about a biologically species appropriate diet? Some of you may have even been told by your vet that raw diets are dangerous. How could professionals who go to school to care for our pets not advise a raw diet? Well, most veterinarians do not know any better -- on average, veterinarians receive only 8 hours or less of education on pet nutrition (in their 3-4 years of study). In addition, the nutritional education that they do receive is sponsored or even administered by pet food companies (for more on vet’s nutritional education please read "A First Year Veterinary Student Comments" in the April 2004 RMB Newsletter). Moreover, they receive a good deal of revenue by selling special veterinarian-administered only commercial diets designed to "fix" and cover up the problems created by kibble and processed diets in the first place. There are weight control formulas for older or obese dogs, protein formulas for kidney patients, special diabetes formulas for diabetics, easily-digested formulas for older patients or those with digestive problems, hypo-allergenic formulas for dogs with allergies and the list goes on. Much of these expensive prescription diets are made with cheap proteins.

"Carnivores cannot maintain long term production of the quantity of amylase enzyme necessary to properly digest and utilize the carbohydrates. In addition, the proteins in grains are less digestive than animal proteins. As a result, the immune system becomes irritated and weakened by the invasion of foreign, non-nutritive protein and carbohydrate particles. Allergies and other chronic immune problems may develop. The pet’s pancreas will do its best to keep up with the demand for amylase. What does this pancreatic stress do over a long time? I don’t know, but it cannot be good. I suspect that dental calculus may be another problem promoted by grain consumption." -- Russell Swift, DVM

These days, many dog owners have gotten savvy about cheap kibble fillers, such as corn, wheat and soy, which are the top 3 foods to eliminate from a canine’s diet when faced with allergies or a distressed dog because of these unfamiliar ingredients and pro-inflammatory response in the canine’s body. More information on these ingredients, which are eschewed by savvy dog owners, can be found via a simple Google search, and now pet food manufacturers are lining their shelves with “GRAIN FREE” slapped across their bags of kibble. So people buy grain-free and limited ingredient kibble --but there are many issues with even these expensive, high-end kibbles.

Processed foods are unnatural, and certainly not the foods your dog would have eaten in the wild. Most of the proteins in these foods come from cheap plant sources. You can’t expect a carnivore to thrive on an herbivore’s diet or vice versa. Imagine a cow eating rabbits or a tiger grazing on a bale of hay? Not optimal for either animal. Moreover, the meat that is in the kibble is cooked twice at high temperatures. Cooking meat once at high temperatures have been proven to create mutagenic cancer-causing agents such as heterocyclic amines, and are now proven to have a relationship to cancer [3]. For example, we now know that high heat processing used to manufacture kibble creates heterocyclic amines and acrylamide, which are both potent carcinogens, and that, combined with dead food with questionable additives should be enough for any pet parent to reconsider the pet’s diet [4]. Finally, kibble lacks moisture which, in and of itself, contributes to organ failure in the kidney and/or liver. This is especially the case for cats on kibble.

Looking back on the historical diets of dogs and their wolf ancestors along with the structure of their canine teeth, gut and digestive physiology makes it inarguable that dogs are carnivores. If you were to force feed cows eggs and birds, would they thrive? Why is it that we feed our dogs kibble that is 60% carbohydrate often made primarily of wheat, corn and soy, little moisture and low quality protein? Probably the same reason so many people grab a bag of chips rather than making homemade nutrient-packed kale chips or grab a fast food, factory-farmed antibiotic-laden GMO-fed burger rather than taking the time to make a grass-fed free range organic burger from a local farm. The time, effort and money it takes to put in the preventative measures for your health and your companion animal is well worth it compared to a life of medications and pain lasting into old age. We can’t force individuals to educate themselves about health and nutrition for their dogs, but we can provide information and resources to those people who just know there is something better out there for their pet companion and want their dogs to thrive!

Disclaimer: The information provided is meant to inspire further research into raw feeding and it is not a comprehensive guide to raw feeding. Please consult a professional and conduct your own research prior to beginning a raw diet. Things to consider include: phosphorus/calcium ratio, type of bones allowed, NEVER feeding cooked bones, some meats must be frozen for extended time prior to feeding and a balance of meat/organs/bones. Please see our informational links to educate yourself on raw dog food diets. There are many controversies, beliefs, theories and proven results out there to help you decide whether raw is best for your dog! ~NZA


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12 Benefits of feeding raw, the short list:

  1. No doggy odor
  2. Naturally clean teeth – no need for toothbrushes, de-scaling jobs, or gum disease
  3. The time it takes for a dog to chew a raw, meaty bone gives their stomach adequate time to get the acids moving
  4. Much less stool produced – and they are firm, and turn chalky after a couple of days
  5. Decreased or non-existent vet bills (your dogs are healthier!)
  6. Less cost for dog food – commercial dog foods are expensive
  7. Mirrors what a dog would be getting in the wild – and certainly even the modern day dog has a digestive tract exactly the same as a wolf
  8. Puppies develop at a more appropriate rate – and quick growth spurts are avoided. This puts less strain on developing joints, fewer problems later
  9. Balances blood sugars, lowers hyperactivity
  10. They love to eat raw - no more “picky eater”
  11. Maintains the natural digestive enzymes, aids in digestion (less gas, diarrhea, and constipation)
  12. Anal glands work as nature intended





What are the best and worst pet foods?

Dr. Becker Discusses Raw Food Diet (Part 1)

Dr. Becker Discusses Raw Food Diet (Part 2)

Dr. Becker Discusses Raw Food Diet (Part 3)

Raw Meat Diet for Dogs and Cats

DC SIR recommends a "nutrient-dense, species-appropriate, rotated and diverse, clean raw diet" for all our rescues. Here is just one example of a meal you can feed.

Dr. Tom Lonsdale on the Pet Food, Veterinary recommendations, and Raw Feeding.


Additional Resources
Planet Paws
Raw Feeding Yahoo! Group
Raw Instincts Magazine Raw Food Diet Forum
Raw Chat Yahoo! Group
Rawfeeding Rebels
Raw Cat Yahoo! Group
Carnivore Feed Supplier Yahoo! Group
Facebook: Carnivore Feed Supplier

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DC SIR is a non-profit, volunteer-run network of foster homes in the Washington, DC area.

DC SIR does not have a shelter facility. To meet our adoptable dogs, interested adopters can attend one of our monthly adoption events.