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Variety and the food of life


Dog with Stick

Variety in the diet is essential for your animal’s health. Of course they will have their preferences, and it is important to listen to those too. Raw meaty bones for larger dogs can include pieces of beef, lamb, goat, pork, rabbit and venison, whole fish, and chicken or turkey frames after other meat has been removed. For small dogs and cats, poultry necks and wings can be fed, as well as whole small fish and smaller pieces of the above. Beef can sometimes cause allergy or food intolerance so be aware of that and introduce it slowly. Some very large leg bones (marrow bones) can be too large and hard to digest well, and cause a lot of wear on teeth, so are best avoided.

Raw fat is the major source of energy in a raw diet. It is safe and nutritious to feed it raw, but never cooked, which can cause pancreatitis or liver disease. All fats and oils must be fed raw, and not heated. Cats require more fat in their diet than dogs. It is best to feed leaner meat to dogs, but if they are underweight or very active they too will need more fat.

Organ meat (offal) is an essential part of a raw diet, and provides protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Offal includes liver, lungs, heart, kidney, pancreas, spleen and green (unbleached) tripe. Pancreas and raw green tripe are a good source of digestive enzymes. Feed liver as a meal only about three times a month to avoid excessive Vitamin A. Make sure all offal is inspected for human consumption and parasite-free.

Particularly for dogs, supplementing the diet with extra good quality protein in the form of eggs, cottage cheese and lean meat may sometimes be needed. Eggs can be given raw, with the crushed shell, two or three times a week. Fermented dairy products such as yoghurt or cottage cheese are easier to digest than whole milk for most dogs and cats, although some will still be intolerant of them. Avoid high fat dairy products. Cats will tolerate higher fat in these products than dogs, but the best fat source for them is raw fat in meat.

Vegetable and fruit matter in the diet needs to be fresh, ripe and crushed or partly cooked. Crushing is best as it is closest to partly digested food in a prey animal’s gut. The best way to do this is to select raw vegetables and puree them in a food processor (or preferably juicer). Feed both the juice and pulp. Alternatively they can be cooked lightly and mashed. Ripe fruits, nuts, seeds, and sprouted pulses (beans and lentils) can also be crushed and added to the vegetables. (Feed sprouts fresh and prepare them carefully or they can grow bacteria). The resulting vegetable broth or mash is fed with the meaty bones.

Variety is essential in providing an overall balanced diet. Feed as much variety of fresh seasonable vegetables as possible to provide an essential range of vitamins and minerals. If possible use organic, wash well and keep skins on, but avoid hard-to-digest tough outer leaves and stalks. Avoid onions, potatoes and raw pulses, and avoid corncobs, which can obstruct the gut. It is best to minimise starchy vegetables such as pumpkin and root vegetables, although the extra moisture and fibre can help with constipation. Psyllium husks are also helpful for constipation in dogs and cats.

Fruit is best fed ripe to overripe, in season, and again in wide variety. Remove citrus peel, and stones from all fruit as they can obstruct the gut. Do not feed exotic or unknown nuts, seeds, or flower bulbs, which can be toxic. Some animals react to the preservatives in dried fruit, and chemical sprays on the surface of some fruit. Feed unsprayed organic fruit if possible. Avoid grapes or dried fruit unless unsprayed or organic. Cats need less fruit and vegetables in their diet (about 5%) and these should be mostly green leafy vegetables, with some ripe fruit. Clare Middle’s book has some useful tips for feeding vegetables to cats, and crushed flaxseed is a good fibre source for them if they won’t eat vegetables. Don’t feed soy protein products to cats as they may cause thyroid problems.

It is not necessary to feed grains and cereals to most dogs or cats, as they will get most of their energy from raw fat and protein. Some animals with special digestive or energy requirements may benefit from small amounts. Examples include older animals, those with particular digestive problems, animals adjusting with difficulty to a raw diet, and underweight or very active animals. Soaked or cooked whole grains such as millet, quinoa, barley, oats and corn, and cooked root vegetables, can be added to the diet. Rice, pasta and wheat products are very high carbohydrate and usually best avoided. Raw or soaked oat bran is a good fibre supplement that can be added at about one teaspoon to one dessertspoon per day. Only add carbohydrates up to 10% of the total diet for dogs, and 5% maximum for cats. It is important that some meals are completely carbohydrate free to allow optimum liver metabolism, and it is best to avoid all carbohydrates for allergy and cancer patients.

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