I first got interested in the subject of canine nutrition when I got my dog, Cooper. He never liked eating. For years I had heard that if dogs won’t eat their food it is because they are picky, or trying to “control” meal time.
But Cooper didn’t seem to be trying to control anything, he just didn’t care much about food, he would wander over to it, sniff, take a couple bites, then leave it for awhile. He never asked for anything else instead.
Then in 2007 around March-April, there was a major pet food recall. Dog and cat food was recalled from dozens of brands, some very “high quality” Vet and pet store brands! Over 5,000 cats and dogs died in those months across America and no one knew what caused it. The problem was widespread and became deadly extremely fast. Within 3 three days of eating contaminated food the pets would go into kidney failure, most of them died.
I was living in Singapore at the time, and although one of the brands I used for my pets was in the recall, the contaminated food seems to have just gone to the US and Canada. This was a huge awaking for me. What was IN our pet’s food?! More than just unintelligible ingredients it turned out that more than one contaminant had been in the affected pet foods including rat poison. On their own, each contaminate would have eventually killed many pets, but probably much more slowly and in such a way that no one would have suspected the food as the direct cause. But the contaminants together reacted and made the food deadly, almost immediately.
Having spent much time working and feeding carnivores in zoos, I had plenty of experience feeding a raw, natural diet to those animals. Were dogs and cats any different? In some ways, yes they are. In most ways they are exactly the same. The biggest difference is in their introduction to a raw diet. Dogs and cats that have been on commercial food their entire life can sometimes become “addicted” to the processed food. For the first week of adding raw food to a dog’s diet they can sometimes get a small amount of diarrhoea, because the natural enzymes used for breaking down proteins haven’t been needed for the processed food, so it takes about a week to build them back up again. Cats will sometimes ignore raw food, the only explanation is that they are creatures of habit, and the new healthier food doesn’t “look or smell” like commercial food, so they don’t eat it.
I still have trouble getting my cats onto raw food. My dogs however, eat it with gusto. I love feeding time actually, the crunching of raw bones is so primal and they seem to have so much fun! Cooper never looks dejected by his meals anymore. Both my dogs have been on a completely raw natural diet now for 1 year. The benefits have been noticeable and include; Clean teeth, clean breath, small faeces that is hard and easy to clean up, their skin and coats are shiny and healthy. A Natural diet also has the added benefits of longer lives with less disease.
However the raw natural diet is not for the feint of heart. It is not overly convenient, and you have to make sure your animals are getting a good balance of many different types of food, including some vegetables prepared properly for optimum digestion. If you are interested in learning more about canine nutrition then I would highly recommend reading up on the subject. Not everyone has the same opinion, although even most pet food companies now admit that adding 1-2 raw meaty bones a week is good for your pet’s dental health. A few books that could help you are Give your Dog a Bone –Ian Billinghurst (how to feed a balanced raw diet), Food Pets Die For –Ann M. Martin(why not to feed commercial), and Raw Meaty Bones –Tom Londsdale (the possibilities that commercial foods actually cause diseases).
I found the Ian Billinghurst book the most helpful if trying to move to a raw diet.