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Food For Thought  -  "Raw Diet"

Whenever a problem is presented to a holistic Vet, usually one of the first questions asked is "What are you feeding him/her?"

The subject of food, especially of "pet" food, is surrounded with controversy regarding which brand provides what; which is better brand x or brand xyz; so called "premium" brands and all the magical things it will do for your animal; the "mythical" all the nutrition in one bag your animal will ever need; and on and on and on!

Probably the most expensive single ingredient in the most popular pet foods, is the dollars spent on advertising the product.

How then, do we go about choosing what diet will provide the best health-or at least do the minimum amount of harm-for our animals?

A truly INFORMED decision can only be made by cutting through all the "hoopla" and red herrings tossed out by the advertising boys and finding out for yourself just what is really going on.

I know I am probably going to step on a lot of peoples toes on this subject but Iím willing to take the flack if it stimulates you to "think for yourself" about this most basic of issues.

If you donít think the following applies to your pet food--THINK AGAIN !!

Lets start by considering ingredients, move on to how they are processed, stored and eventually used.

When I was still using a "commercial" food I was naive enough to read the label and thought I understood the first few ingredients and a few of the additives, then my eye sort of skipped over the unpronounceable "---ites, ...ates, etc." I thought these were just fancy names for various minerals, vitamins and so on. Boy was I wrong! For those of you with a weak stomach I would suggest you skip the rest of this article.

Most of us are aware (although we choose not to think about it) that the primary source of "meat" in all pet foods, is derived from diseased, dead, or deformed animals. Anything not "fit" for human consumption is considered O.K. for "pet" consumption.

For example the National Animal Control Association has estimated that animal shelters kill over 13 million household pets a year. Of this total, 30% are buried, 30% are cremated and the remaining 40%, about 5 million pets, are shipped to rendering factories to be recycled and used in pet food. This may make sense as a scientific "protein source", but emotionally I am disgusted to think of Dogs being used as "Dog Food"--all for the sake of economic raw material.

But what about the injections of sodium pentobarbital used to put pets to sleep you might ask? Or the cancerous tumors and other organs of diseased animals? No problem, says the FDA, such residue would be too small to cause a problem.

Why then did the University of Nebraska researchers confirm the death of an 11-month-old girl from an adverse reaction to penicillin contained in dry cat food she had eaten? The Nebraska investigators noted in "The American Journal of Cardiology" that the penicillin level in the cat food was 600 times higher than USDA limit for human food.

If you were to question the manufacturer on any of this you would no doubt get an outright denial BUT consider that for dry foods "meat" must be reduced to a dry powder in order to be processed through the giant machines used in the manufacturing process. This type of material, originates in a "rendering" plant, that converts carcasses to powder by the truckload. (Incidentally, they donít waste much in this process--I leave it to your imagination to visualize what all is utilized). (see It's In The Bag for details).

The larger the manufacturer, the less chance they have of knowing what the source of their "meat" powder actually was. The truth is, they donít want to know! There is no way they would dare "advertise" the facts behind the label.

Lamb & Rice? Sounds yummy but the same process is being used! Just because it comes from New Zealand does not mean that little elves down there cut up all this meat into fresh little chunks that make up a "Premium" pet food. No dear friends, both Australia and New Zealand had a "glut" of this particular animal and couldnít get rid of it for human consumption on the world markets. Presto Changeo--"Lets make it into a pet food and charge more for it" (same old song and dance from the back room advertising boys).

I donít really have room here to get into the excessive levels of heavy-metal contaminants( i.e. cadmium, Mercury, etc.) commonly found in pet foods. Suffice to say that they are FAR higher than the maximum that would ever be allowed for humans! Is it any wonder that the incidence of epileptic seizures in dogs has risen to alarming numbers?

Try to remember when you read a label, the mind automatically pictures the meat (be it beef, lamb, chicken or whatever) in itsí "raw" form as we normally see it at the grocery store. The advertising boys take this natural tendency and try to enforce it and enhance it with wonderful images of gourmet chefs carefully selecting and preparing your pets next feast. Nothing could be further from the truth! Make an effort to break this conditioning and picture a powder in its place. Some companies are still truthful enough to label the meat as "desiccated"--meaning dry, dry, dry.

So lets see.. we start with diseased meat, convert it to a form we can legally use, now what other "goodies" can we get that are cheap, cheap, cheap.

Livestock-grade grain is usually the main ingredient used. This is not because dogs and cats require large amounts of carbohydrates, but because grains are about as cheap a food as can be found. However, a still cheaper ingredient is the "waste" dust, floor sweepings, husks, the rejects from the screening process for flour, etc. Ideal for our favorite yummy pet food. But we canít call it scrap can we--nobody would buy it! So lets call it "middlings"--nobody will catch on then! (While we are at it lets call the ground up bones, fish heads and other good stuff like feet, feathers --"poultry meal, fish meal, etc."--that sound a lot better than scrap!)

No need to mention that livestock grade really means we donít have to concern ourselves with "allowable" levels of pesticide residue left in the grains.

What else can we get that is "waste", sounds good and of course is cheap, cheap, cheap. I know! Lets throw in some Brewers Yeast. Even many of the "upscale" brands have jumped on this bandwagon!

Are you beginning to get the idea yet? So far we have only talked about the main ingredients. What about all those other long names on the label? Most are added in minute quantities in an attempt to formulate the so called "balanced" diet.

What these "balanced diets" choose to ignore is that not all breeds are the same! Take Phosphate balance as an example. Without enough phosphate there is abnormal gland (parathyroid) function, bone metabolism, intestinal absorption, malnutrition and kidney malfunction. Too much phosphate can cause kidney damage and may affect the absorption of other minerals, causing imbalances of nutritional elements. Combine this with the fact that toy breeds absorb more calories per pound of body weight than giant breeds and ask yourself--how do you know if youíre getting enough, too much or just the right "balance" for your dog.

In natural foods (raw), God does the balancing for us and the body takes what it needs. When artificially added--who knows what is absorbed?

With very few exceptions, the ...ates, ...ites, ...ides, etc. are synthetic forms of vitamins and minerals (cheap) which may or may not be effectively absorbed by a dog or cat. There are a few ingredients however that are banned by the FDA for human consumption but O.K. for pet foods. An example of this would be any of the Cobalt salts used as additives. (Again look at Cobalt Carbonate commonly used in the "upscale" brands).

If you truly are interested in deciphering the ingredient label, a handy reference source is a book titled "A Consumers Dictionary of Food Additives" by Ruth Winter, published by Crown Publishers in New York.

We are all aware of the problems created by BHA, Ethoxyquin, and BHT preservatives but you may want to try and understand the other "goodies" added to your pet food.

O.K. weíve gathered all our raw materials, now how do we stick them all together to make a dry food that has nice little shapes and at least looks like itís good to eat. Obviously we need a method that is cheap, cheap, cheap.

Enter the mass production geniuses and design equipment capable of churning out TONS of finished product every HOUR. Unless you have seen this equipment with your own eyes it is hard to visualize how big these "extruders" are and how fast they work. Imagine if you will, a single machine pushing out enough "food" to fill a 40 lb. bag in about the same time it takes to blink your eyes.

Believe me people, the only way these monsters can run with such efficiency is to make sure the "form" of raw material suites THE MACHINE. You donít change the machine to suit the material--you change the material to suite the machine.

Everything must start out dry, dry, dry! Then its "cooked" with live steam, rammed through tiny holes for the fancy "shape" desired (under tons of pressure), hurried through high temperature drying ovens (to get rid of the moisture from the steam), sprayed with fat and other additives, and hustled through the automatic bagging procedure. What chance does a digestive enzyme have of surviving this treatment? None!

Various size runs of various size bags are made and the finished product is palletized for shipment in truckload or railcar quantities to major warehouse distribution centers.

Depending on demand, it may take anywhere from just a few weeks to upwards of several months before the product finally reaches the store shelves.

But thatís not the end of it. Every place where this is stored is subject to insect infestations. To prevent the public from ever seeing these creepy little crawlers, sooner or later these warehouses must use a chemical insecticide spray to destroy and further deter these "protein" lovers.

Even major Grocery chains are well aware that they must periodically "bomb" these little suckers to get rid of them. They donít talk about it, but it is common knowledge throughout the industry. In warmer regions pesticides are routinely used every week not only on pet "food" but also on biscuits, treats etc.

If you happen to get a bag that somehow has slipped through the spraying and still has live worms crawling in it, consider yourself lucky. This could be the most nutritious protein you will find in the food!

Finally you get your hands on this "fresh" bag of goodies and because it is "convenient" to use and probably well advertised as a "nutritious" food--you foist it off on your animal.

The fact that he survives on it is no credit to the manufacturer or to you. Rather credit must be given to the magnificent digestive system of your animal to be able to consume this stuff and still get something out of it.

When it comes to choosing the "least worst" its a case of "Let the buyer beware". The only ones Holistic Vets are recommending at this time are: Wysong; Precise; and Innova. There may be others available on a local basis but they may not have national distribution to make them readily available.

If you insist on retaining the "convenience" over health factor, and want to keep using your dry food, at least add a digestive enzyme to give your pet a break on his already overtaxed system.

Adding some fresh vegetables and fruits would also help a lot. Even if these too have been subjected to pesticides, at least they are still raw and have more to contribute to nourishment than the highly processed contents in commercial pet foods!

At the beginning of this century pets were fed on "scraps" from our own food. Around the middle of this century , the fast food life style started to make its appearance. As we approach the end of this century "scraps" have taken on a whole new meaning.

I would challenge every national breed club to do a simple survey of the average life span of their breed in 1900, 1950, and now! Has it decreased? Does this correlate with the food we are feeding to our animals? Have health problems in general increased?


 I did mention the quantity of pets shipped to rendering factories to be recycled and used in pet food. However I left it to your imagination to visualize what goes on in a rendering facility. Let me provide you with a few details to assist the imagery!

Firstly let me say that I am glad that these facilities do exist. Without them our cities would run the risk of becoming filled with diseased and rotting carcasses. It's a dirty job that someone has to do. Before World War ll, most slaughter houses looked after their own rendering. After the war, the rendering of slaughter waste became a separate specialty. Consequently the rendering plants were no longer subject to most of the federal inspection regulations associated with meat processing. Thus today we find that the industry is largely self regulated and out of the "public eye."

To even begin to understand this industry we must first look at the "raw material" as it is received at the plant. The slaughterhouse for animal carcasses is one of the main suppliers of material to the rendering industry. To prevent condemned meat from being rerouted and used for human consumption, government regulations require that the meat be "denatured" before being sent to the rendering plant. Nice word, but what does that mean?

Basically it means that first it must be contaminated in some way that would make it virtually unusable for human consumption. Some of the materials used to accomplish this task are: carbolic acid, creosote, fuel oil, kerosene, citronella, etc. Once this stuff has literally soaked into the meat, it's then fit to be sent on to the rendering plant.

Another prime source of raw material is the veterinary community. Not only are dogs and cats received in nice little green plastic bags, but also raccoons, possums, deer, foxes, snakes, etc.

Of course we can't forget the grocery industry, that must somehow get rid of the spoiled meat cuts that are no longer salable and the fat, bones, etc. that we (at home) would consider garbage.

So inside the rendering plant we find the floor piled high with "raw product" consisting of a mixture of whole bodies and animal parts, plastic bags, styrofoam packages, metal tags, pet collars--anything and everything that is considered to be "waste"--but suitable for recycling.

"Rendering" is the process of cooking raw animal material to remove the moisture and fat. Let's take a closer look at how this is actually done.

Inside the plant we find masked men (because of the stench of rotting carcasses) operating mini-bulldozers, loading the "raw" material into a 10 foot deep stainless steel pit. At the bottom of the pit, a giant auger-grinder begins to turn. This converts the mass material into smaller, more manageable chunks. From there it is transported to another auger for fine shredding.

Now you have to realize that this is a business and like any other business, they have to cut costs wherever possible. Consequently they do not bother to take the time to remove the flea collars from pets, the pesticide ear tags from cattle, the plastic bags, styrofoam packaging, etc. All is grist for the grinder! Just push it in with the bulldozer.

This mass of goop is then cooked at 280 degrees for one hour. During the cooking process the goop produces a layer of yellow grease or tallow that rises to the top and is skimmed off. The cooked meat and bone (along with whatever metal, pesticides, etc.) are sent to a hammermill press, which squeezes out the remaining moisture and pulverizes the product into a gritty powder. Once the batch is finished, all that is left is yellow grease, "meat" and bone meal. This continuous batch cooking process goes on non-stop, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, grinding out ton after ton of salable product.

Depending on the dominant ingredient of a particular run, the product now becomes: beef, chicken, lamb, meat meal, meat by-products, poultry meal, fish meal, fish oil, yellow grease, tallow, beef fat, chicken fat, etc.

Never is it labeled, dog meal, cat meal, skunk meal rat meal, or any of the "other" goodies that get mixed in with the everyday batches of "raw material."

Although this processing effectively kills off any beneficial enzymes, it does not get rid of the sodium phenobarbital in the carcasses of euthanised animals. The potential of other chemical contaminants to be degraded by the rendering process is also highly questionable. Perhaps instead of calling them rendering plants it would be more appropriate to call them "toxic waste" recycling plants.

Need we say who are some of the biggest customers of the finished product? You got it--the pet food companies. The primary source of meat and fat in commercial pet food is from this endless process of rendering.

The scary part is that millions of tons of this "food enhancer" is also trucked to poultry ranches, cattle feed lots, dairy and hog farms, fish feed plants, etc. where it is mixed with other ingredients to feed animals and fish that humans will eat.

By the time the pet food boys get through adding their own "enhancers" (i.e. preservatives, food dye, synthetic vitamins,) who really knows what's in the bag?

One of the most common problems I hear about is food allergies. Breeders switch from one brand to another, from beef to lamb, from grain to rice, etc. and find themselves frustrated at not being able to solve the problem. Things may seem to go well for a time and then the same old thing happens all over again.

Changing to lamb from beef would appear to be a logical thing to try, but how on earth do you really know just what you are really getting? Let me give you a hypothetical example of what could be in a run of "lamb" from the rendering plant and still legally be labeled as lamb.

If we were to bulldoze into the pit, say 25% of lamb parts, mix with 20% beef, 20% chicken, say 15% dogs or cats, and say a mixture of 20% of various road kill animal carcasses, we can say that the dominant ingredient of this run is lamb. (For this example we will ignore the % of plastic, metal, styrofoam, insecticide, etc.--all to small to affect the labeling process).

As long as the rendering plant does not misrepresent the % of protein or fat or calcium, etc., they are legitimately entitled to sell the run to you favorite pet food manufacturer as "lamb."

By the way, I should mention that the fat sold by the rendering industry does not all come from animals. Thanks to the proliferation of fast food restaurants, nearly half of the "raw material" is waste kitchen grease and frying oil cleaned out of the traps on a regular basis (another industry all of its own). Again, the pet food people rely on this source for the fat that is usually sprayed on the kibble at the end of the drying process.

Once you understand just what really goes into producing a commercial pet food, you can't really be surprised to learn that many of the health problems we see in our companion animals are directly attributable to a lack of proper nutrition.

When someone asks me "arenít you afraid of salmonella or contamination in the raw meat you use?", I only wish I could take them out to a rendering facility and show them just how bad the commercial goop can be! Never again would they buy a bag or can of pet food without realizing just what they are really doing. Never again would they have any fear of using "fresh" meat in place of what the industry laughingly calls food for pets.

For any of you that have not yet switched to a raw diet, I would urge you to go back and read "Food for Thought," in conjunction with this article. By doing this you should have enough basic information to make a fundamental decision on the type of diet you choose to use for your animals.

As we move into the 21st century maybe it's time we turned the clock back a hundred years and got back to some basic nutrition.



The two most frequently asked questions I get with respect to a raw diet are:

Q: Aren't you afraid of Salmonella or bacterial contamination of the raw meat?

A: Absolutely not! Firstly, a healthy dog is well equipped by nature to handle the "bugs" that we have been taught to fear. How else could the species have survived (both in the wild and domesticated) for thousands of years, feeding on raw foods? If you are unable to get over this fear, the solution is extremely simple. Pre soak the meat in grapefruit seed extract or food grade hydrogen peroxide to kill off any germs. I have never bothered, but the extra step may be worth it if it gives you more peace of mind. (Elderly or weaker animals could benefit from this).

Q: When you feed raw bones, like chicken wings, aren't you afraid your dogs will get splinters, or choke or get hurt from them?

A: Again, absolutely not! If you cook them that's a different story. Cooked bones are brittle and can splinter and cause problems. Raw bones, such as those in chicken wings are actually flexible to some degree and break clean. Dogs and cats are carnivores and have been designed by Mother Nature to consume and digest raw bones as part of their normal diet.



The ingestion of grain and other starchy foods contribute to most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases. Domestic pets should be getting their carbohydrate in a similar manner to their wild ancestors.


A full spectrum of minerals must be supplied in your pet's diet in correct balance and sufficient amounts if he is going to remain healthy into advanced old age. Bones are the storehouse of almost all the minerals your pet requires in perfect balance for optimal absorption.

Who Should You Believe?

The answer to this is very simple. To get the answers you need, you have to ask the pup itself! By understanding what puppies eat in the wild, you will learn valuable clues as to what you should be feeding your domestic pup. You can find out exactly what the digestive system of a puppy is programed to eat.

By looking at young wolves growing up we are actually observing our young pup's ancestors. If we couple that with modern scientific discoveries about diet, health and aging, we are able to produce a realistic, health promoting, evolutionary puppy diet. From studying the eating habits of wolf cubs which are seen to be perpetually hungry, subsisting on raw food consisting mostly of bones and being forced to scavenge a wide variety of foods, we get vital clues about successful puppy raising.

  • The bulk of a puppy's diet should consist of raw meaty bones
  • All or most of the rest of their food should also be raw
  • Puppies should always be kept a little hungry
  • They should never grow at their maximum growth rate
  • They should be kept slim, lean and hard. Not roly poly, fat, young puppies
  • Puppies should learn to eat everything

When we consider how wolves/dogs were raised in the 'pre-pet-food' era and compare that to our modern methods of husbandry, we can only conclude that the changes we have made to feeding and exercising have indeed been dramatic, and that their effects on puppy growth have been traumatic. The degree to which modern dogs experience ill health reflects the degree to which they are subjected to biologically inappropriate methods of feeding and exercising. Let's look at those biologically inappropriate forms of puppy management so rife today.

All the food a modern pup eats is cooked...

For the first time in its evolutionary history we are asking our dogs to eat nothing but cooked food. This is biologically unacceptable and a very dramatic change. It is most often processed food, usually either canned or dry food. The cooking process destroys many of the life enhancing factors found only in raw food. These include enzymes, many natural antioxidants and other anti-degeneration factors.

All the food a modern pup eats is based on cooked grain ...

The vast majority of the food eaten by the modern dog is composed of cooked grain as the most fundamental and major component of the diet. Another dramatic and biologically unacceptable change. Dogs have never in their evolutionary history eaten cooked grain. The results on health are devastating.

Meat meal and rendered fat come next...

The cooked grain is teamed up with meat meal (with its damaged protein) and rendered fat. It is not uncommon to use rendered fat from domestic animals in pet food - and there are reports that this is happening - together with flea collars and other dangerous chemicals such as the euthanasia solution in some of these deceased and rendered pets.

Aside from the dangerous chemicals it contains, that rendered fat contrasts strongly with the healthy fat so full of essential fatty acids that our dog's ancestors ate. These heat destroyed components are biologically unacceptable. They do not support healthy growth. They do not support a healthy life or contribute to a healthy old age. The meat meal bears very little relationship to the healthy raw meat eaten by a wild dog.

Now add the chemicals...

Add loads of refined sugar, loads of salt, chemical colorings - dyes, to make the product look like something it is not. Add artificial chemical flavorings to make it taste like something it is not. Add flavor enhancers to make sure the animal eats something it ought not to. Add chemical antioxidants (known carcinogens) to ensure the product does not become obviously rancid.

Now add the legally required nutrients...

These are the currently known to be essential vitamins and minerals. The legal constraints on commercial pet foods do not require them to include vitally important biologically essential antioxidants and anti-degeneration factors present only in whole raw food. As a result, these products do not contain many of the essential factors we do know about such as enzymes, nor do they contain many of the essential factors we don't yet know about, the ones yet to be discovered and only present in whole raw natural foods.

The modern puppy diet omits bones...

The omission of raw meaty bones from the diet of the modern dog is central to the formation of bone disease in pups. Because the modern pup does not eat bones it misses out on all the essential nutrients bones supply including its calcium in perfect balance and form, together with all the other minerals required for healthy bone formation in perfect balance and form.

The result is that the modern pup obtains it minerals in a totally inappropriate form. The modern pup also misses out on its eating exercise. This eating exercise is a vital component of the exercise regime designed to grow healthy disease free bones and joints.

The modern pup does not eat vegetables or fruit...

Instead it eats dry or tinned processed grains. Another complete disaster. The lack of crushed vegetables makes a monumental contribution to the production of degenerative disease in dogs, including problems such as Hip and Elbow Dysplasia. The modern pup does not eat the gut contents of a herbivore or anything like it. As a result it fails to receive a mass of essential nutrients so essential for its bowel and over-all health.

In today's world, special foods, 'designed for growth', have become part of the processed pet food industry. They say that the foods designed for growing animals must have more nutrients that support growth compared to diets designed to maintain a grown animal in good health. This contrasts with a good healthy food where top quality whole food ingredients are used in all the diets. Common sense tells us that our dog's ancestors have grown and reproduced using the raw diet without the benefit of special foods for several hundred thousand years. In other words, our dogs' ancestors have grown properly, survived and reproduced on the same basic foods, no matter what stage of life they were at. Think carefully. Which environment of diet do you want your dog in? The modern environment of biologically inappropriate dog food, excessive protein, excessive calories, fast growth rates, calcium supplements, excessive exercise and bone disease, or the time honored way which produces healthy longevity, abundant reproduction and brilliant health.


Raw feeding is the practice of feeding domestic dogs, cats and other animals a diet primarily of uncooked meat, edible bones, and organs.

Supporters of raw feeding believe that the natural diet of raw meat, bones, and organs is superior nutritionally to highly processed commercial pet food. They mimic a similar diet for their domestic companion, as it is believed that a balanced raw diet has the benefits of giving the animal a healthier coat, cleaner teeth and breath, reduced stool volume and odor, and better overall health.

 As raw diets can range from meticulously prepared and tested to diets composed of a variety of meats and butchers' scraps, the nutritional balance of a raw diet can vary greatly depending on the recipe. However, supporters of raw feeding believe that not every meal needs to be "complete and balanced", and that nutritional balance can be achieved over time by feeding a wide variety of meats, fats, bones and organs from several sources, such as chicken, turkey, lamb, cattle, pigs, fish, rabbits, etc., and even wild game. The general belief among the supporters of raw diets is that pets have no more complex nutritional requirements than humans, and that a variety of ingredients over time will provide the pets with a sufficiently balanced diet.





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