|Feeding Your Dog A
by Dr Jeannie Thomason
S.A.R.F. stands for Species Appropriate Raw Food. The Canid species (the dog) is a carnivore by nature and design so they are going to thrive on a natural, raw meat and bone diet such as they would eat in the wild.
The diet I will talk about here, differs from the diet you often hear referred to as the BARF or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food diet, and in several important ways.
Those who feed a BARF diet falsely (although sometimes ignorantly) assume that dogs are omnivores.
Dogs do not need, nor where they designed to even be able to properly digest vegetables and grains, and neither do they need a lot of supplements if fed according to nature. These are not species appropriate and are simply what many feel are "safety nets" just to make owners feel better about feeding raw.
BARFers advocate feeding 50% bone or more in the diet--this can be way too much bone! Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation pg 126; tells us that "the bones and skin of an animal compose no more than 25% of the animal's weight. In the larger herbivores a wolf brings down, not all of the bones are consummable, which means the percentage of bone a wolf actually receives is less than 25%."
BARF diet advocates claim our domestic dogs to have evolved into omnivores However, evolution and nature clearly demonstrate that wolves are carnivorous animals and that no prey animal that wolves eat is 50% bone and X% veggies (wild canines/ wolves don't eat stomach contents, they have been studied and found they first empty the stomach and intestines out before eating). A species appropriate raw diet will model the prey killed by wolves in the wild, recreating this type of diet is a complete and sufficient diet for our carnivore companions to thrive.
Read more about dogs being carnivores here.
It is far better to take the money you would spend on supplements and vegetables for your dogs and buy some whole rabbits or chicken for your dog and if you have small dogs, buy bunnies or cornish game hens. If you can only find larger rabbits and chicken, then simply cut it into appropriate meal sized portions. You'll save a lot of time in not chopping and grinding the vegetables too. If it makes YOU feel better to feed your dogs vegetables, then go ahead. Just be aware and recognize that your dog has no use for them and they will come out in the stools the same way they went in with no real nutrition assimulated from them. In fact, your dog's pancreas will be working over time trying to digest something it was never designed to. If you still want to feed veggies and fruits (many dogs and wild canids enjoy the occasional piece of fruit that has fallen from a tree or berries on the vine) as occasional treats, then by all means do so, especially if they are useful training treats. You can even cut wild,un-treated grass clippings for them if you like but pleas know that the occassional piece of fruit grass ingestion are NOT the same thing as feeding them carrots, squash or brocolli, these are not things a wild dog or wolf would ever go hunting and raiding someone's garden for.
The other prominent difference between BARF and SARF diets are that the SARF diet does not alternate between raw meaty bone meals and meals consisting of ground, lean meat (without bones and skin). All meals are based on RMBs (Raw Meat with the Bone intact) along with the organs and offal of the animal..
Now, all this is not to say that the BARF diet is bad, only that we are going to feed what is natural for our dogs in the wild. The true species appropriate raw food (SARF) diet is, I believe, more nutritionally sound for domestic dogs. It is essential, if we expect our dogs to thrive, that we feed them some form of raw, whole food diet.
Achieving species appropriate nutrition for our Boston Terriers, Yorkies, Poodles, Labrador Retrievers or any breed of dog for that matter, is so very easy.
First and perhaps foremost to remember, is that all ingredients must be fed raw. No species of canine ever cooked its food. That doesn't mean that, in most cases, they can never have table scraps or the occassional treats that have been cooked, only that the bulk of the diet must be raw and is much more nutrient dense when fed in it's raw form. See the article Cooked vs. Raw for more information on what happens when we cook foods
The great majority of the diet (90 to 99%) should consist of RAW meat and bones. Of that, about 10% should be raw organs and offal. In the case of the RMBs (Raw Meaty Bones), I aim for a meat to bone ratio of no more than about 75% meat to 25% bone. While any of these may be fed either whole or ground, optimally, unless there is some special need, we always prefer feeding all RMBs and other meat whole or in meal sized pieces. There are a number of reasons for this.
1- It is simply more natural.
2- It provides much greater exercise for the jaws, gums, neck and even the legs, actually the entire body.
3- It promotes better tooth and gum health.
The only vegetable matter we ever include in this diet is only the rare and occasional (in the spring and only once a month for two or three months tops) is pulverised, sprouted clover and/or other sprouts and dark leafy greens. This constitutes no more than about 1% of the total dietary intake. There are a few other foods such as raw eggs with the shell for example and if no fish is affordably available - wild salmon oil once or twice through out the month, but raw meaty bones and offal (Tripe is fed often) form the bulk of the diet.
Something to remember when feeding this or any raw food diet is that variety is important. Don't fall into the trap of feeding only chicken,
It really is just very simple! If you feed your dog nothing but the above s/he will be far better nourished than s/he would ever hope be on a diet of even the best kibble. Kibble, no matter what organic and even grain free ingredients it may have started out with all ends up the same way - no true, live nutrition at all. Please read Kibble is kibble is STILL kibble
Our Bostons and Standard Poodles are fed a raw, SARF diet from weaning on. They are fed no grains or dairy products.
Adequate Nutrition vs Proper Nutrition
Please note, adequate nutrition should not be mistaken for proper nutrition. A commercial "dog food" can be analyzed by a chemist and assessed as having "adequate" nutrition for health maintenance and growth and still not maintain dogs fed on this diet in optimum health. Why? Two reasons really; one is that pet food companies are not concerned with the actual food in the product they make, rather it is the laboratory nutritional analysis which matters, so they simply spray on a synthetic nutritional formula before sealing the bag of dead, processed garbage.. The second reason is bioavailability.
If the nutritional elements in the food are not from sources which are bioavailable to the dog, (live foods the dog can readily digest and assimilate) even though they are technically present in the food in what are assessed to be adequate amounts, dogs being fed this food will not thrive and much more often than not, they will become mal-nurished and obese..
One prime example of the importance of bioavailability can be found in soybeans. Soybeans are very high in protein. However that protein is not bioavailable to dogs. Dogs have the short digestive tract typical of carnivores. This digestive system makes them unable to digest soy with any degree of efficiency. Therefore, even though the protein is there in sufficiently large quantities to technically meet the dog's needs, it is unavailable to the dog.
All of the above is also true of all grains, although most grains are not nearly so high in protein. Dogs don't digest grains any better than they do soy. In addition, the proteins contained in these items are not complete proteins for the nutritional requirements of the dog.
The proper digestion of grains requires three things which dogs do not have:
an enzyme called amylase in the saliva which starts a predigestion process
true molars for grinding
and the long digestive tract required to fully digest grains.
While these things are all common to you and me, they are definitely not part of our dogs's physiology .
Therefore nutrients contained in grains, simply are not bioavailable to dogs.
The same principles apply to vegetables being fed dogs - they simply are not bioavailable to the carnivore.
Even though a dog may appear from all outward appearances (particularly to the untrained eye) to be quite healthy, if the dog isn't being fed a proper (species appropriate) diet, many of the dog's systems will not be functioning at optimal levels. Evidence for this lies in the fact that dogs fed on the "convenience" diet of processed dog food, will need far more medical intervention and "artificial" protection (antibiotics, vaccines, and the like) from everyday pathogens than the dog fed a true Species Appropriate Raw Food diet.
Again, the most complete, most bioavailable source of nutrition for dogs is Raw Meaty Bones.
The situation with enzymes and minerals is very similar to that of protein. Some forms of dietary minerals are quite different from others, making them more or less bioavailable and it is pretty much impossible to keep any enzymes viable once heated and applied to a food.
The very best way for dogs to get the needed live enzymes and minerals is as natural components of a species appropriate diet.
This is true for several reasons.
1.The natural minerals contained in raw whole foods are overall more bioavailable than those which are added to the food in the form of supplements.
2.The enzymes and minerals occurring naturally in these whole raw foods are more likely to be in proper balance, especially if the meat was raised organically. This is due to the fact that these are the foods which are natural to the dog (species appropriate). This is what dogs have been eating and upon which they have thrived for thousands upon thousands of years.
3.The minerals added to commercial "dog food" are artificial/synthetic substances created in a laboratory that are sprayed onto the finished kibble product (anything that may have been in the meat used is long since dead due the cooking at such an intense heat). There are also many problems with these artificial minerals not the least of which is the fact that they are not as easily eliminated from the body. They may, therefore, accumulate in the body causing a serious excess and/or imbalance over time.
At best, a human formulated canine diet is an attempt to simulate the nutritional makeup of those foods which the dog would naturally eat. At worst it is a convenience product with most of its nutrition coming from artificial additives. A product created to make a profit, not to make a more nutritious diet for our dogs. The only argument that can be made for commercial processed "dog food" is CONVENIENCE. It is undeniably more convenient to throw a scoop of kibble in a bowl or open a can and dump its contents than it is to thaw and if necessary, chop up a part of meat and bone for a whole raw food diet. But do we really want to put convenience above nutrition?
The proper balance of nutrients is important. A dog can be getting all of the basic dietary necessities but getting way too much of some and not enough of others. Calcium and phosphorus, for example, should be present in approximately equal amounts (anywhere from 1-1 to 2-1 calcium to phosphorus is acceptable) if the dog is to be able use the calcium present. The dog can also be getting sufficient amounts of the basic necessities in the right balance but way too much of certain components which dogs do not need in any abundance in their diet. Things like carbohydrates for example. This is invariably true of processed kibble.
So, not only must certain things be present in adequate supply, they must be of the right kind and in the proper proportion to all the other components, and ideally they should not be cluttered with things the dog doesn't need.
A "Balanced" diet is nothing but an insufficient human term, a vague concept that pet food companies employ to make people buy the foods for their pets. When feeding your pet carnivores, always remember the concept of "carcass".
You can logically ask: 'What is balance, anyway?' Balanced vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins? Can we ever conclusively know what balance is? How?
No, this concept of balance is a myth. We hypothesize, guess, and draw up faulty food pyramids in attempts to define 'balanced' diets, yet as a society we are still plagued with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and 'rare' bowel diseases like Crohn's disease that are becoming more commonplace (oddly enough, vets are seeing the same things occurring in our canine and feline counterparts). The food pyramid is always being revamped it appears. How many of you have bought pet food in years past that stated it was 100% complete and balanced? Only to buy the same food a year or so later to see it say "New or Improved"?
The concept of balance in our pet foods is one that needs be addressed. This idea is one that was designed and continues to be perpetuated by the pet food companies: "Dogs need complete and balanced nutrition in every meal." This is nothing but propaganda designed to make people buy into commercial dog food. This is NOT how the canine body (or any other body for that matter) operates! Look at your own diet, for example. Do you eat a complete and balanced meal every time you eat? No, I think not! If you are health consious at all, you eat a variety of foods over a period of time, and yet your body generally does very well and exhibits no signs of nutritional deficiencies. The same holds true for dogs, they do not need "complete and balanced" nutrition at every meal. If they did, then any time they did not receive complete and balanced nutrition their bodies would get out of whack and problems would suddenly develop. This is not how it works. This is where we need to see the concept of "balance over time" developing. This is the principle that I believe is adequate to explain how all living things obtain the proper nutrition. Nutritional needs are met over a period of time, and balance is achieved through time as the animal eats what it needs at the time it needs it or whenever it can get it.
Because the dog is a carnivore, achiving balance over time is really very easy to accomplish. The best way to accomplish this is by feeding a diet made up of whole RAW food.
Although the wild wolves do eat some very small amount of plant matter in the form of seeding grasses, berries and tree bark; when prey is scarse, it makes up an insignificant portion of the diet. There was a time when we fed significantly more vegetable matter than we do now. The primary reason was to add some dietary fiber. My understanding now is that by providing a better meat to bone ratio the need for additional fiber is eliminated.
If you feel compelled to include vegetables in your dogs' diets, be sure you pulverise or juice them. This way the cell walls are broken down while the nutrients and enzymes are left somewhat intact. Just remember that carnivores are not designed to require or digest them.
We've all heard the horror stories about feeding our dogs bones, particularly chicken bones. "Don't ever feed your dog chicken bones or you will kill him. Chicken bones will splinter and puncture your dog's insides."
This is a partial truth. What truth there is to these stories is based on feeding cooked and/or old, dry bones from the garbage which indeed can splinter and potentially injure or even kill a dog. RAW fresh chicken bones, on the other hand, are very pliable and, unlike the cooked bones, will not splinter when your dog eats them.
There are those who say: "The dog food companies have spent millions of dollars researching canine nutrition and developing their formulae. Therefore they know what is best for your dog. Consequently commercial processed dog food is the best food for your dog, as it is based on all those millions of dollars of research and development."
The first of those statements is undeniably true. The second of those statements may very well also be true. The third of those statements, however, is not. The fact that all that money was spent and all that research was done doesn't necessarily mean that it led to a superior diet for dogs.
Why? Because what they were and are developing was and is a convenience product, not a superior diet for domestic dogs. The motive was profit, not improving canine nutrition. What they were and are selling is convenience not better nutrition. They may be advertising better nutrition and or palatability but what they are selling is convenience.
The "dog food" companies have worked hard at, and to a great extent, have succeeded in, convincing the dog owning public that only they (the "dog food" manufacturers) can provide proper nutrition for our dogs. Nothing could be further from the truth.
How is it that we have the intelligence and understanding to feed and nourish ourselves and our growing children, but are too stupid to formulate a nourishing diet for our dogs?
The "dog food" industry would have us believe that each meal must be complete and balanced. This is simply not true.
Granted, complete and balanced nutrition is necessary. However, this balance can be and ideally should be achieved over a period of days, even weeks. Most natural canine nutritionists agree that it is probably preferable to use the �balance over time� approach.
The "dog food" industry also spends millions convincing us that variety is bad for our dogs, and that they should eat the same thing at every meal, every day.
This too is untrue. The reason for telling us this is so that we will keep buying their product. Their products are formulated in such a way as to make changing from one brand to another hard on our dogs' digestive system. However the same is not true for changing from one kind of meat to another.
Imagine how our health would deteriorate if you ate the same thing, particularly a highly processed food, for every meal every day of your life. For instance, Some breakfast cereals tout being 100% complete nutrition and blanced. Would you eat that cereal every day for the rest of your life? If you did would you be healhty???
When feeding a species appropriate diet, variety is desirable, even important to the maintenance of optimum health. Feeding raw meaty chicken carcus one day and raw beef or lamb the next with a few organ meats thrown in every other day or so will not cause stomach upset the way switching from one brand of kibble to another will. So obviously it isn�t variety that is bad for our dogs, rather, it is commercial, processed "dog food".
There are those who would try to convince you that the dog has evolved, or rather that we have evolved the dog, into some human creation capable of digesting and thriving on, even requiring, a highly processed (cooked) diet consisting primarily of grains.
THIS IS ABSURD!
Even if we were to be able to effect such an evolutionary change it would take hundreds of thousands of years not the very few, 60 to 70, that we've been feeding our dogs this kind of diet. Even if one uses the entire period of domestication of the dog it doesn't approach the great period of time required to accomplish that kind of evolutionary change in an organism as complex as the domestic dog. At best we have forced our dogs to ADAPT to this inappropriate, un-natural diet.
For all the changes we've made in our domestic dog they remain relatively unchanged in every way but appearance and temperament.
In spite of the tons of grain, beet pulp, cellulose, animal byproducts, preservatives, and artificial nutrients that we have poured into our dogs in the form of kibble "dog food" over the last 60 or so years, dogs, all dogs, even Boston Terriers, remain carnivores.
The Relationship Between The Wolf And The Domestic Dog
There has been much said recently about the wolf/dog relationship. Geneticists, for example, have found that the DNA of the domestic dog and that of the wolf are so identical that they consider them to be one species. As further evidence of the wolf and the domestic dog being a single species, wolves and domestic dogs can also interbreed and produce fully fertile offspring, something which is generally not possible between different species. If it were, we wouldn�t have different species. By now we would all be members of one species which obviously isn�t the case.
The only part of the wolf/ dog relationship that is pertinent here is that they have essentially identical digestive systems. They both depend on raw meat and bones as the mainstay of their diet if they are to be maintained in optimal health.
The evolution of the dog has made it a scavenger carnivore, what I call an opportunistic carnivore. That is, it can eat and get the needed nutrition from fresh killed prey or old and decaying meat (carrion). It can and does also get some small, insignificant amount of nutrition from raw vegetation. The domestic dog's physiology, just as that of the wolf, depends on these raw foods to maintain optimum health.
To deny this, is to deny a fact of nature.
What About Supplements?
We do not live in a perfect world and it is a well known fact that we can no longer get all the nutrition we need from our food alone.
I have known of many SARF feeders that elimanate supplements for the most part as they feel the dog is getting everything it needs from it's proper diet. I know of other raw feeders that tend to over supplement and that can cause problems as well.
I personally believe in a balance. I only supplement my own dogs every now and again.
I believe if you are providing a good varied diet and using organic meats when ever possible, that you will be providing pretty much what your dog needs - all in a highly bio-available form. My first preference when looking to a certain vitamin/minerals will always be to provide it in its natural form first if at all possible. So if I feel I need to provide more Vitamin B for example, I would consider what foods contain that vitamin first (e.g. liver) rather than reaching for an artificial supplement.
That said, I certainly believe in and see a benefit in supplementing those things that our dogs may be missing in the translation from a 'wild' diet to its 'modern' equivalent. As we don't necessarily feed the whole animal for example (eyes, brains, stomach and intestines etc. etc. as well) the addition of things like EFA's (e.g. fish oil) on occasion can be useful. I would include probiotics in this category too - they are the good bacteria which a dog may otherwise have got from eating the occasional stomach contents/intestines etc. Fresh green tripe fed once a month or so is high in good bacteria needed for optimum intestinal health and a strong immune system.
I personally add a bit of Kelp and/or DE (Diatomaceous Earth) every now and again for its trace elements. Modern soils have been depleted by over-cropping etc. Most of America's soil is lacking and pretty much depleted in selenium and Australian soils in particular are low in iodine. Kelp adds back these trace elements into the diet.
I also add Vitamins C in the form of Wolf Berries (Goji Berry) and essential plant oils in a juice called NingXia Red. Wolfberries contain 500 times more vitamin C by weight than an orange and are known for their antioxidant properties and their value to optimize health - particularly in our modern polluted environment. Vitamin C is particularly good in times of stress and growth of bones and connective tissue in puppies. I am more likely to include it in a puppies diet (until a year of age) or dogs traveling, whelping, showing, etc. then than at other times.
Now, please realize that while I do include these supplements in my own dogs diet, I do not include them every day. I don't believe they are necessary every day except some in certain circumstances and perhaps only for short periods. Of course every dogs and every situation will be different (if I lived in a city I might give more C and E for example to combat higher pollution). But remember you are now providing a much more nutritious diet to begin with with raw natural foods. They are probably getting more nutritional value now out of a varied SARF diet without the supplements than they ever did on kibble.
Antioxidants and Polyscraides
Also called �master molecules� by virtue of their ability to harness the body�s most important biochemical defense systems,I feel the occassional addition of antioxients and polysaccharides are important due to the fact invading free radicals are part of our pets (and our) environment. Our water, chemical pesticides sold by your veterinarian, cleaners we use on our floors, The chemical preservatives in processed pet foods, the very air we breath, anything that is foreign to the body can, potentially, become a free radical.
Since the dog's body is constantly bombarded by free radicals it is virtually impossible for their antioxidant defense system to be consistently at peak performance. To a great degree, immune activity is aided by antioxidants
Antioxidants are substances that act as shields or barriers to prevent the invading free radicals from doing harm to cells. Antioxidents not only increase the number of white blood cells it also enhances antibody formation. The only logical solution is to help the ailing antioxidant defense system through the use of antioxidants.
The Ningxia Wolfberry, (also called goji berry) is the highest ORAC antioxident known. Click Here for the Scientific data.
In an animal study done at a hospital in Beijing in 2002, Wolfberry was found to stimulate interleukin-2 and gamma interferon, two anti-inflammatory substances important in supporting a healthy immune system.
The wolfberry also contains over 20 trace minerals such as iron, copper, calcium and zinc,and are the richest source of carotenoids, including beta�carotene (with more beta carotene than even carrots), in the world.
Another "supplement" I use on occassion is Apple Cider Vinegar.
Of the 22 minerals essential for health, apple cider vinegar contains 19 of these in exactly the right amounts. *Some* of these minerals are potassium, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, sulphur, iron, copper, silicon and pectin. ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) also contains natural malic and tartaric acids which are important in fighting body toxins and inhibiting unfriendly bacteria. There are claims that the additional acidity of ACV helps the digestion process and actually turns alkaline in the body. Some people soak the RMBs in ACV prior to feeding, to aide with the digestion of bones. Again, the option to use ACV is purely another personal choice...some do and some don't. Oh, a teaspoon of ACV (daily) in your dog's food ( or water which is what I will do from time to time instead of putting on the meaty bones) also removes tear stains. Results are usually begun to be seen in 7 to 10 days. (check back soon for more on ACV).
Using Food For Vitamins, etc.
Kymythy Schultze in her book, "The Ultimate Diet", states:
"Alfalfa contains vitamins A, B1, B6, B12, C, D, E, K AND U, plus beta-carotene, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, protein, amino acids, trace elements and fiber. It reduces tissue damage from radiotherapy, helps bleeding disorders, has antibacterial action against salmonella and has a protein with known anti-tumor activity. It's used as a general tonic, to detoxify the body and to treat colon disorders, hemorrhages, diabetes, ulcers and arthritis. Use the alfalfa leaf and stem in powdered or liquid form. Do not use alfalfa seeds as they contain a natural toxin.
Kelp contains vitamins A, B1, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, C and E, plus zinc, viotin, bromine, calcium, choline, copper, inositol, iodine, PABA, potassium, selenium, sodium and sulfur. Its iodine content is very good for glands and organs, especially the thyroid and liver. It can bind with chemical pollutants in the gastrointestinal tract and prevent their absorption by the body. It increases the contractile force of the heart, improves circulation and is often used for hair loss, goiter, ulcers, obesity and mineral deficiency. Equal parts of alfalfa and kelp in your dog's or cat's food provides a vast array of health-enhancing nutrients as a complete vitamin and mineral supplement.
Other green foods you may use include algae (chlorella, spirulina, blue-green), aloe vera, grasses and sea greens. Since these are plants, they should be fed to carnivores in fairly small amounts, proportionately"
Raw meat, fish and eggs provide an array of amino acids/protein, enzymes, antioxidants, Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, biotin, choline, folic acid, inositol, iodine, pantothenic acid, paba, fatty acids, caldium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, potassium, chromium, copper, manganese, selenium, sodium, sulfur, vanadium, zinc and CoQ10 (see pg 26 of "The Ultimate Diet").
Many of us are of the opinion that our dogs, who are healthy, get the vitamins they need from the varied diet they are fed.
I must say here, If you do not feel comfortable feeding a raw food diet to your dog/s, for whatever reason, then you should definitely not do so. However, if after reading this and doing your own research/homework, you find that this, more natural approach to nutrition for your dog/s, makes sense to you, I'm sure you will be as pleased with the results as we have been.
If you feel you need support and help to transition your dog to a raw diet please contact me for a consultation
The information contained on this web site is intended as education/information only. All the articles on The Whole Dog have been researched and reviewed for accuracy. However, they are not intended to be a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a veterinarian or other qualified holistic pet health professional. The Whole Dog does not assume any legal responsibility.