FEEDING AND GENERAL NUTRITION.
We feed our dogs on a natural diet, although we do start our puppies on complete with tripe. This page may be helpful to anyone wanting to transfer to natural feeding or to understand more about what complete food they are feeding to their dog.
There are three basic options for feeding a dog. Dried/'complete' (kibble in a sack), natural - bones and raw meat (BARF – or biologically appropriate raw feeding) and tinned/'wet'. Below is just a generalisation, as not all complete foods are created equal and there are some good complete foods. The most common reason for owners not feeding naturally is a) convenience, and b) being 'worried about getting it wrong'. With over a hundred manufacturers in the UK alone, all using different ingredients and formulas, what makes you think they've all got it right? Even vets don't agree which is right or wrong.
Why feed complete or naturally?
The eating and digestion process of the modern dog is identical to wolves. Wolves don’t sit around a camp fire roasting or boiling their kills, so why do we need to do this for our dogs and why do most dog owners in the 21st Century feed dried kibble to their dogs? Is it just the skill of the slick marketing men with millions of dollars of marketing budgets who convince us that the right food for dogs comes out of a sack of kibble, or are they right that it is dangerous to feed our dogs on meat and bones?
Disadvantages of Natural
Do you remember the way dogs used to be fed – scraps from the butchers, leftovers from our meals, the odd kill they found whilst out walking or hunting and the occasional tin of Chappie? Then came……….. the Men from Marketing! To have succeeded in converting virtually an entire generation of dog owners worldwide, to feeding dried kibble from of a sack is why they get paid so much!
REALLY RETURNING TO NATURE
Vets (who are sponsored by food manufacturers with free gifts, marketing budgets, practice equipment and overseas conventions), promote their favoured complete food to their clients. Some vets, including ours, are fortunately much in favour of natural feeding. It is interestingly often the younger generation of vets who scorn natural feeding. Not of course that I am at all cynical, but could it be at all influenced by the generous sponsorship of their classes through vet schools?! Why otherwise would vets think a carnivore should be primarily a herbivore?
A DOG IS A CARNIVORE
WHITE DOG POOH!
The labels on a sack of food show that it contains maybe between 20-30% meat meal or worse – meat from animal 'derivatives'. What then is the remaining 70% -80%? They are grains and fillers which dogs can’t digest which is why dogs fed on kibble do such large poohs. It is also very wasteful financially as the dog can’t digest that filler. Owners have been convinced to turn dogs into herbivores, omnivores at worst, but certainly not carnivores, by feeding a grain based dried food.
It can be difficult to understand why a £40 bag of food may be better than a £10 bag of food of the same size, and indeed some of the £30 - £40 price range foods also contain a large amount of synthetic preservatives, but learning to read labels is fundamental to good dog health.
The natural food market is tiny compared to that. There are no marketing budgets and it is very easy for dog food manufacturers to slam natural feeding as ‘unbalanced’, ‘too difficult for the average owner’, ‘dangerous’ etc.
A recent advertising campaign for Pedigree Better by Nature shows images of happy dogs next to lots of fresh vegetables. Take a look at this: "Pedigree Better By Nature is a range of tasty and nutritious recipes ... Tender braised meaty chunks with garden vegetables and pasta shells. ... "
Now I’m not anti complete foods, but this is marketing madness - Cooked meat – with all the goodness boiled out, vegetables – it’s a carnivore for heavens sake(!), pasta – wheat which dogs can’t digest! Natural? By no means! ….with EC permitted antioxidants BHA, BHT and preservatives, permitted EC additives: Potassium Sorbate........................mmm, lovely healthy fresh natural NOT!
SCARED OF CHANGING?!
a) bones can get stuck but more likely in the mouth or back of the throat than internally. If the dog chews properly the risk is eliminated. Sharp bits getting stuck or piercing the bowel is another fear. We have never struggled with this and neither has our vet – who is very much in favour of natural feeding. One of Dianne's bitches did have a lamb rib bone caught at the back of the throat, and she now feeds her bones crumbled. Allow your dog to eat grass, and if you can feed whole animals – rabbit for instance, you will find furry poohs wrapped around any sharp bits of bone. When visitors see our dogs eating a whole chicken carcass, they are astonished how well they are eaten. The dogs just think it's natural.
b) there is no ‘balance’ over the short period that dog food manufacturers suggest. Dogs do not balance their foods in a day. A balanced meal to them is a rabbit with jacket (that's it's coat, not a potato!) on one day, perhaps seeds, berries, carbohydrate meal the next, a mouse if they're lucky the next day and maybe a bird's egg etc. If you feed enough variety in the home prepared meal – see below for examples, you will adequately fulfil the natural requirements of your dog.
There is no reason why owners can’t give bones even if feeding a complete food. I’m talking about real butchers bones, not the roast, sprayed with pesticide to stop it going rancid, bones from the pet shop – did you wonder why they smelt so strange? It's that yummy pesticide DDT – always a healthy option!
If owners really can’t feed naturally which many people struggle with for different reasons, this information below explains how to read labels in order to make the right decision about which complete food to give your dog.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT COMPLETE FOOD
If the food you choose does not have an animal protein in its’ first 3 ingredients, discard it. Choose a food listing a ‘meat meal’, rather than ‘meat’.
By law the largest ingredient must be listed first, so you see chicken as the first ingredient, however, water contributes up to 65% of the weight of fresh chicken or lamb. After water is removed during processing, the amount of actual chicken or lamb is far lower than the cereal.
This (Nutro complete food) graph shows why a ‘chicken meat meal’ (ie the dry weight) contains more than ‘chicken’ on a list of ingredients.
There should be no more than 2 grains in the first 5 ingredients and even then the grains should not be corn of any kind. Beet pulp etc are purely fillers - comes out as it goes in with no nutritional benefit.
CHOICES OF COMPLETE FOOD TYPES?
Know what meat your dog needs. If your dog is prone to being overweight (apart from checking his thyroid levels), feed him a fish or chicken based meal not lamb or beef which is more fattening. The opposite is true.
Large Breed was formulated for – guess what, Large breed dogs like Great Danes, Wolfhounds, Mastiffs etc. (not Dobermanns). It is important to grow these fast maturing breeds slowly but with plenty of fats from which dogs derive their primary energy source. The below is from our Aritaur puppy pack.
Growing Pains From 5 months on, you may find your young dog becomes intermittently lame perhaps shifting lameness from one leg to another. This could be Panosteitis (growing pains) and is a temporary condition caused by inflammation in the fast growing ‘long bone’s’ (shin and thigh). You must reduce the protein intake immediately to slow growth down and use a low protein food. Cut any additional meat out and use something else tasty like yoghurt. There is no cure except rest and a low protein intake, but puppy will grow out of it. Rubbing their legs is often comforting for them and keep them warm and dry. In severe cases, your vet may prescribe Metacam - an anti inflammatory. This will alleviate the worst symptoms, but some vets will recommend cage rest – I can’t think of much worse than caging a youngster and Pano’ will pass when the growing is over. If you can slow growth and keep exercise to a minimum of short lead walks, it will help greatly. Be aware that if you consult your vet, they may tell you your puppy has a serious illness – OCD (Osteochondrosis), Hip Dysplasia or other disease which they believe is causing the problem. If a vet did not first suspect Pano’ in a Dobe of 5-10 months on a high protein diet and if he doesn’t ask you what pup is eating and about his exercise or enquire why he has not considered Pano’ rather than something more serious, don’t pay your bill, sack him and change vets. A healthy dog with growing pains is not commercially viable. Vets don’t make money from healthy dogs. To anaesthetise a youngster to examine causes of lameness without considering Pano, verges on malpractice for me. Since feeding naturally, we have had only very minor occasions of growing pains.
I have not investigated every one of the below companies ingredient list. The comments are from our own experience. Please do as much of your own research as you can, as doing your own research is not as daunting as you may think. If you would research what goes into your child's food, so you should be prepared to do the same for your dog. Avoid high cereal or filler amounts, E additives etc, and try to find a cold pressed product.
This website has some very good links for information on food manufacturers.http://www.dfordog.com/food_food.htm
Orijen – recently came across this, genuinely impressed – 70% protein, 30% carbs, 0% grain! Quality ingredients.
Applaws - seems to be a very decent cold pressed food low in cereals.
LEARN TO READ LABELS
ADDITIVES, PRESERVATIVES, SYNTHETIC ANTIOXIDANTS
If a food is synthetically preserved, Burns Pet Foods calculate that the average 25 pound dog will consume between 6 and 9 pounds of chemical preservatives a year. Listed at the bottom are some common food additives in a range of cheap to expensive foods.
The following is a description of food additives/preservatives found in pet food. They are not always named on the food. Sometimes the label may say 'contains EU approved antioxidant' or 'contains EEC permitted preservatives'. One concern is that if a food says ‘no added synthetic antioxidants….etc’, the food could have had those included before processing. This makes identifying exactly what you are feeding very difficult.
WHAT KIND OF BONES?... AS THEY CAME OUT OF THE ANIMAL; NATURAL, RAW MEATY REAL ONES!
Weight support bones - thick marrow bones and knuckle bones; great for gnawing/recreational, but fundamentally inedible
Fully edible bones are - rind bones, brisket bones, lamb ribs, chicken backs, wings quarters, necks etc on the chicken NEVER FEED COOKED bones to dogs).
Ava in Ireland, owned by Jenny & David Patterson.
Recreational bones help keep the teeth clean and give the dog something to chew on but we generally limit our dogs to around 1- 2 hours per session on these bones as the content will turn cement like in the stomach and be very tough to expel. The edible bones also keep their teeth clean but need to be calculated, depending on meat content, as part of their meal.
NATURAL FEEDING EXAMPLES
Our food is delivered from Landywoods who supply all we need. Their meats come in 1lb bags, so once defrosted it’s straight out of the bag into the bowl. The carcasses come in bags of 5-7 depending on the size of carcass. Take off neck if it's too big, or feed two if they're too small for one dog. Another excellent supplier is Natural Instinct owned by the lovely Michael and David (who have the lovely Ruby from Dianne, a Nominator daughter). Their website is www. naturalinstinct.com Landywoods is www.landywoods.co.uk. Aritaur owners or those by our dogs are welcome to call or mail to go over what to order or for advice on amounts and volumes. Sorry for sounding mean; our dogs have to be the priority, but the following may help.
WHICH MEAT TO FEED?
Aritaur Dominatrix (Asia), sprightly 12 year old bitch.
Aritaur Philosophy (Jagger), energetic 4 yr old dog, in sport work.
Aritaur Tarantella (Jenna) very energetic 6 year old bitch.
Aritaur Kalina (Kalina) lean, muscular, 8 year old highly energetic bitch.
Aritaur Nominator (Falk) lean, muscular 8 year old, energetic dog in sport work.
Aritaur Histabraq (Bracco), big, muscular 10 yr old, retired from sport work.
Once every 10 days/fortnight dogs may have a whole rabbit. It will have been frozen for a few weeks to kill parasites but will be fed as it comes - whole. Feeding bones without any covering (jacket) makes it more difficult for the dog to digest. Let your dog eat plenty of grass to aid digestion for the same reason.
Occasionally the dogs all have a fish (entire) – either a salmon head (frozen in summer makes tasty frozen lollies – yard smells like a fish market!), or 5/6 mackerel each. Sometimes they have a pigs’ trotter each.
All dogs have table scraps and any bits and bobs going.
We do feed supplements sparingly – Omega 3, 6, 9. Hokamix (like a keepers mix), Flax seed oil, occasional Vit C, Chondroitin, Glucosamine, MSM and Cod Liver Oilfor the oldies. Dried or fresh garlic. We get a lot of our supplements from the local country stores for horse feeds. Lot cheaper.
Once every couple of weeks, dogs have a meat and bone free day. The kidney's need a day off to rest from producing nitrogen from processing meat.
Di and Martin both laughed at me and said why didn’t I just save the bother and do a ‘fast day’ as they won't eat any of it, but they loved it and there wasn’t a scrap left. Even Martin was impressed. I reckon it was the Pesto!
FEEDING PUPPIES NATURALLY
We wean our puppies on complete and then move them over to natural food from 8 weeks. All young puppies should be on 4 meals a day up to age 12 weeks, then 3 meals daily up to 5-6 months.
An 8 week old puppy at our home would be on 4 meals a day. Three meals of around 3 or 4 oz (1/4 lb) lamb and tripe per meal, with a small amount of mixed veg/biscuit for carbs. Or just tripe with a raw egg, or a little piece of fish with some leftover couscous/rice, for three of the meals a day, with a chicken wing or two for the evening meal.
At 12 week pup may be on around 1lb meat a day split into 2 meals with veg or biscuit above for carbs, plus 3 or 4 chicken wings in the evening.
15 weeks pup would be on around 1.5lb meat daily split over two meals and 6/7 wings. The wing sizes are not the size from the supermarket, but are what Landywoods supply - each fitting flat in the palm of the hand.
I'd avoid table scraps of anything spicy with a puppy, but all other things are fine, especially yoghurt and cottage cheese (watch the salt content in cottage cheese).
Weight wise - learn to judge your own dog. If you can easily feel the ribs and the waist is defined, he is too lean. Pups should have some covering but not be too roly poly. Around 5 months pups will shoot up on the leg and all their energy will go into growing their legs, so you will need to increase their food at this time. Beware from this time onwards of Panosteitis (growing pains) see above. To reduce the effects of Pano', drop the protein levels on the floor and stick to tripe (high fats - needed for energy, low protein), carbs, and a carcass or wings with not too much meat on the bone - chicken meat is a high energy food.
Finally, feeding raw is about getting back to how dogs should be fed - holistic in the true sense of the word - considering the whole animal. We do not use meat for human consumption (which I think is morally wrong when there are children starving in the world and wholly unecessary for a canine). Dogs fed on a raw diet have a very healthy and strong gut capable of digesting raw bones. Do freeze meat even if it's from the supermarket for at least a couple of days to minimise salmonella/e-coli etc, but dogs fed raw will cope with eating all sorts of revolting things which turn our stomachs rather than those dogs fed on a dry complete diet which are devoid of enzymes.
All text and images Copyright Aritaur Dobermanns.